All of these were intended for the Metro Times but left unused for reasons never really explained to me. I think they’re all awesome, even though comparing a Kills album to Hemingway is a pit pretentious.
The Kills “No Wow” Rough Trade
There is no single wow on the latest Kills record. An understated album, it lacks the brash attitude of their previous disc “Keep On Your Mean Side” and leans more subdued.
It reminds me of Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. Upon the first few chapters, there’s anxiousness about the idea of blowing up a bridge. Seems like a great way to get the story going. After another twenty chapters, you slowly realize that blowing up the bridge is the entire book, that it is the climax. And listening to “No Wow”, I found myself with that same feeling. Kept waiting for the hit, for a song to blow me away, for the moment. Then the realization, “Maybe this is it? Maybe there is no explosion?” Bummer.
There are inspired moments, but more often than not the reader/listener is preparing for a letdown. While a song like “The Good Ones” brings to mind a mess of pill poppers crowding over a pile from the latest pharmacy knocked over, “I Hate the Way You Love” gives the feeling that such a guitar sound should be placed in a museum, because its tone is so rare, exotic and beautiful. A handful of slow Velvets-y ballads help end the album on a contrasting note.
“No Wow” will cause either inspiration or abhorrence, much like “…Tolls”. After blowing the bridge, protagonist Robert Jordan finds himself badly injured, guerrillas approaching and machine-gun in hand. That’s where it ends. Infer what you wish, but I felt a glimmer of hope. And in that way too, I feel hope with the Kills. The lack of one single explosion on “No Wow” makes the entire thing so explosive, almost decidedly so. There is no letdown. Realize that “No Wow” is one catastrophic, protracted explosion with ebbs and crests. Do not ask for whom the Kills wow, they wow for thee.
Queens of the Stone Age “Lullabies to Paralyze” Interscope
Why does giving a Queens of the Stone Age album a good review feel like rooting for the jocks in a 1980’s teen movie? Because it’s dude rock…the brand of band that’s usually described as “Dude! They rock!” With an album title like “Lullabies to Paralyze”, you can easily imagine that phrase lovingly etched on the cover of a spiral-bound notebook as those same jocks marvel at how “deep” it is.
With “Lullabies” the Queens dish out the same riff-fueled rock that’s become almost irrelevant with their previous three albums. The oft-repeated tidbit that bassist Nick Oliveri has left the band makes absolutely no change in the band’s sound. The contributions of razor boycotter Billy Gibbons gives a juicy nugget that looks good on liner notes, but does not add anything that’s lacking on any previous Queens record. The fact that Dave Grohl has left the Queens’ drum throne has failed to evolve the band, but it does make me feel uneasy. The world just seems a better place when Grohl is on drums.
So does that mean that Queens of the Stone Age is pretty much all the effort of lead singer/guitarist Josh Homme? For the most part, yes. The only thing that keeps this record a step away from turning into a flashback of getting shaken down for lunch money and shoved into a locker are the heartfelt skeletal vocals added by Mark Lanegan. The former Screaming Trees front man could make a statue cry and by lending his talents he also lends the album the only shred of respectability that “Lullabies” can muster.
Somewhere, John Hughes is writing a scene where a nerdy kid with glasses gets a swirlie from a guy like Josh Homme. “Lullabies” will be the album playing in the background.
Autolux “Future Perfect” DMZ/Red Ink
“Future Perfect” starts strongly with drummer Carla Azar’s to-the-T Mitch Mitchell homage of stuttered hi-hat/snare/bass drum brilliance. Soon guitarist Eugene Goreshter’s vocals appear, crisp yet wispy. Slowly, slyly, Greg Edward’s bass slips in behind your back before you know what bit you. Suddenly, it all breaks down for a precious call to “…shake the clouds now,” And with that, Autolux catches everyone off guard when the bass catches on an undeniable synth-y hook and just starts lurching. Damn.
This is it. No questions asked…Autolux nail the target and nail it hard. It sounds like I’d always thought My Bloody Valentine was supposed to sound like. But MBV always came off as too wimpy, too fey, lacking that wallop they’d been described as having and over-reliant upon now-dated production values. In the end, My Bloody Valentine was just too British.
With that, Autolux are far from big burly and manly or British. Their depth lies in their simple, breathy vocal melodies. Soft and foggy, they wrap the listener long enough to disorient them. And then…the payoff.
The bass-drum-guitar triad slays. They’re beyond being on the same page, they’re detailed and in-synch to last little note that squawks out the amplifiers. And amidst the brief bursts of calculated, harmonic noise, Autolux intersperses perfectly punctuated pauses. It’s almost as if the song is the equivalent of pushing someone’s head in the toilet and the majestic, fragile pauses are saying “I’m not gonna stop, but I’ll let you breathe for a second.”
When rumbling at full tilt, they sound heavy and full of tension. The safe distortions of bass and guitar are pleasing. Goreshter’s lyrics specifically lack pretension. Curiously, he sings, “you know lately I’ve been worrying that everything might be okay.” If Autolux can keep their magic working, there will certainly be nothing to worry about and it will all surpass being “okay”. It will be grand.