After the Flood
How many times have you bought a CD after a show that had you dancing and sweating your face off at the bar, only to be vaguely embarrassed by the same music the next day? There are many telling similarities between listening to music while drinking and cruising for action while drinking (beermuffs being the auditory equivalent of beer goggles), and they all point to the consequences of impaired judgment.
But here’s a record to change that sinking next-day feeling: Not only are the Clumsy Lovers a terrific live band, you’ll be just as happy to wake up with After the Flood cutting off the blood to your arm the next morning. Ballads like the title track offer more than just crocodile tears for weepy drunks (and equally lachrymose hangovers); even the real rip-snorters display a quality of songwriting that’s better than it really needs to be live—but which is exactly what will make you keep listening the next day.
Irish pub rock tends to be a lot like Irish pub food in that respect: greasy and delicious when served hot, greasy and disgusting when warmed over the next day. Not this one, though: The Clumsy Lovers are the live soup that eats like a sit-down record-listening meal long after your ears have stopped ringing. I practically insist that you get drunk and buy it. (Andy Smetanka)
The Clumsy Lovers play Sean Kelly’s Thursday, Jan. 27.
A couple of months ago I picked up Destiny’s Child’s Survivor. What a great album. I got hooked, and friends who share my skepticism about the latest bubble-gum, pop-chart product with a pretty face (singing songs written by market experts and engineered to be popular among certain teen demographics) would chuckle whenever I pulled up with the heavy bass line of “Independent Women” rattling my car. I don’t particularly identify with the lyrics, but, let’s face it, the lyrics aren’t particularly deep to begin with. Still, I became a Destiny’s Child fan, and I got pretty excited when Destiny Fulfilled came out.
Until I heard it. Not much there, really. I was looking at the picture on the inside of the album, with the three of them barely wrapped in white cloth spread out on the floor in seductive poses, and listening to the lyrics: “There you go comparing me, to every little model on the TV screen.” You’d think they’d recognize themselves as poster-girls for the forces that use sex to sell everything from hot dogs to music in our culture. And you’d think that, with that kind of sex appeal, this album would be better than it is. (Colin Ruggiero)
Ancestry In Progress
Zap Mama is Marie Daulne, the creative and fearless purveyor of Afro-European groove.
As she is one of my personal musical heroes, I give fierce attention to everything she releases, convinced that if I don’t like it at first, it must be my failing. After listening to her latest album, Ancestry In Progress, I’ve come to a conclusion: Daulne has changed directions, as fearless and creative divas sometimes do. After growing up in the Congo and then launching her career from Belgium, she moved to New York and began working and collaborating with musicians from major cities around the U.S.
This latest release is music inspired by urban America featuring collaborations with several hip-hop artists, including ?uestlove, Talib Kweli and Erykah Badu, and most of the songs are sung in English. The music here is still worthy of admiration, but Daulne’s signature interplay of acoustic sounds and vocals has been replaced with a much more synthesized and programmed feel.
My advice, if you’re new to Zap Mama, is to go buy A ma zone first and listen to it until it’s your favorite album—it won’t take long. You’ll need that devotion behind you to get through this new one. (Colin Ruggiero)
The Great Destroyer
It can’t just be coincidence that new Low records always seem to come out in the dead of winter: The Duluth, Minn., trio—husband/wife guitarist and drummer Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker plus bassist Zak Sally—play the musical equivalent of snow. Their first five albums (this is the seventh, and the first for Sub Pop) are almost like prayers, all glacial tempi, close harmonies and melancholy triads. If you’re listening to them and it’s not winter out, you better at least be sad and lonely. Low is a winter state of mind.
Yet their last few albums have also shown some vernal stirrings. A few up-tempo numbers poke out of the The Great Destroyer like green shoots out of dirty snow. Yes, really: Low actually almost rocks out a few times! It’s rock in a dour sort of way, you understand, but the slightest bit of ruckus is still a drastic change from the mesmerizing stillness of earlier records. The Great Destroyer is as stately and beautiful as anything Low has recorded so far, and no less lovely for incorporating a few new sonic elements. If it’s still peace and quiet you’re after, though, you’ll find plenty of the old austerity in songs like the “Silver Rider” and “Cue the Strings.” (Andy Smetanka)