section by: Jeb Delia


The Dead Weather


For pure glorious noise, you won’t find a better choice among this week’s releases. Granted, it’s perverse of White to front a band with his earnest-if-eccentric vocals vocals more than with his his guitar, but he joins in with Alison Mosshart and Dean Fertita with some nicely layered work. I particularly love the James Jamerson-style bassline that anchors “Hustle and Cuss,” the sass that Mosshart brings to “The Difference Between Us,” the funky organ groove on “Gasoline,” and every gritty second of “I Can’t Hear You.” I leave you to find your own favorites.



The National


Mortality’s long been a favorite topic for rock musicians, but maturity, and its price, are a tougher call, and it tends, at its best, to be the province of your rootsier plain-spoken souls like Dave Alvin or John Hiatt. Matt Berninger takes what might be indie rock’s best stab at it yet, and emerges as Cincinnati‘s electric, and slightly elliptical, answer to John Updike. Vocally, he seems to be moving out from under Nick Cage’s shadow (though I don’t know that I find David Sylvain a preferable model– still, I guess that’s progress in a way). Musically, I continue to find this band impressive song by song, and often outright beautiful, but over the course of an album their po-faced earnestness can wear on me, in much the same way that U2’s well-intentioned sincerity often does, and this time out, I don’t hear a “Mistaken For Strangers” or “Lit Up” to give it that slightly trashy “Desire” / “Get On Your Boots” injection that can keep Bono and company from becoming insufferable. But that’s a minor point: if you devour this band whole, rather than in small bites, this may work even better for you than Boxer.


Jackson Browne and David Lindley


Browne bores the shit out of me, but Lindley’s a hell of a player, and on his own can be one of rock’s genuinely fascinating madmen. He’s also been Browne’s sideman for… well, for a helluva long time, and I was hoping that his co-billing on this live set might mean that he’d leaven Browne’s earnest tedium with off-the-wallisms like “El Rayo-X” or the raunch of “Mercury Blues.” Well, both songs are here, but presented in tame, tasteful versions that have almost none of the energy of Lindley’s originals. Elsewhere, it’s mostly Browne sensitively strumming and murmuring his way through his catalog with Lindley gamely tossing precisely-executed guitar and fiddle licks to complement the boss’ caramel vocals. Go back to sleep, fellas.


The La’s

The unreleased and live stuff that has emerged since their near-perfect first (and only) album tends to make me wonder if that perfection wasn’t as much a stroke of luck as of genius, but that time has passed, so we’ll never know. The 95 tracks on 4 disks here include more than twice as many alternate versions as there are songs on the original album, plus the singles and b-sides that have been collected before, as well as two full CD’s of live stuff. Most of the alternate mixes and live recordings haven’t been released before… but they sound pretty much like the ones that have been. My guess is that anyone who feels like dropping fifty bucks on this band probably has the rarities included here already, but if you REALLY can’t get enough of The La’s (“I Can’t Sleep” alone appears seven times in the set), it’s the way to go.


Stereophonics, Keep Calm and Carry On. Yeah, we’re a little behind the curve here in the States, just getting this now. “Stuck In A Rut” is an unfortunate song title, particularly when the track is closer to Bon Jovi than anyone would regard as prudent. But about half of it rocks pretty well, which is more than, say, Oasis is going to deliver this year.


Hoodoo Gurus, Purity of Essence. They left the garage behind a while ago, and there’s a whiff of indie solemnity on stuff like “Are You Sleeping?”, but most of the album’s pretty tough and, naturally, hooky as all hell.


Jon Lord, To Notice Such Things. Well, here’s something I noticed: Deep Purple’s organist has composed an orchestral piece in honor of the late John Mortimer, creator of Rumpole of the Bailey. Haven’t heard it yet myself, but David Coverdale says it’s “sensitive accompanying music to enhance your mornings, afternoons & evenings.” So there.


Meat Loaf, Hang Cool Teddy Bear. No. Just… No.


Keane, Night Train. So, wait– these are the piano guys, right? It’s not impossible to play rock n roll on the piano, but for every Jerry Lee Lewis you get about ten Billy Joels. And with three of them in this band, I’d say the odds are not in our favor.


As I Lay Dying, The Powerless Rise. Death and plague and suffering and anger and… apathy. I know which one I choose.


We Are The Fallen, Tear The World Down. You’re kidding- two members of Evanescene and an American Idol loser? Young people of today, Universal Music is fucking with you…


Elizabeth Cook, Welder. Remember the chick in Flashdance? Wasn’t she a welder, too? I don’t recall her being as confused as this young woman seems to be… or as chirpy.


Taproot, Plead the Fifth. The press release for this album reads “Plead The Fifth combines all of the elements that their fans have come to expect from the band.” That is one lazy motherfucker of a press agent.


Crash Test Dummies, Oooh La La. 1993 called and it wants your ears back.