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  Listen Up! 2/25/03 Listen Up!

Tuesday, Feb. 25

The Libertines, “Up the Bracket,” Rough Trade Records. These guys are getting tons of hype as the next big thing to come out of the dirty-garage-New Wave-punk revival movement. They do remind me of the Strokes, only with much stronger melodies, and less herky-jerky style. I was prepared to be blown away; a lot of people I trust and respect have praised these guys. But, the sound is just a little too amateurish for my ears. It’s all a bit shamblish, without strong enough hooks or tunes to overcome the problem. The title track is pretty cool, though, kinda like if the Beau Brummels were around in 1977.

Waco Brothers, “New Deal,” Bloodshot Records. On the one hand, each individual song on this record is a jaunty, uptempo, fun little alt-country romp from Jon Langford and his buddies. On the other hand, each individual song on this record blurs together. They’ve got the form down, they don’t have the ability to use the form to achieve something unique. So, pleasure is found, but meaning is lost. Which is a shame, because all indications are that Langford and his buddies have some really interesting things to say.

The Gibson Brothers, “Bona Fide,” Sugar Hill Records. I have to confess as I get older, I find my patience for merely good bluegrass records to be increasingly wearing thin. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with this record, but there’s nothing right with it that isn’t right with a few thousand other equally decent albums by equally capable groups of musicians. I don’t hear any personality, any expression, anything to set this music apart from the pack. Yet, I know, if I’d never heard anything else in the genre, I could use this as a perfectly acceptable introduction to it.

Various Artists, “Electric Jazz Volume.01,” Globe Records. Lots of grooves, most of them nice to hear and tap feet to, none of them worthy of being remembered after the drugs wear off. Oh, wait, I don’t even have drugs. What the heck am I doing listening to this stuff? There are micro-levels of difference between tracks – one cut may have a vocal hook, one an electric piano solo – but the essential reason for any of them to exist is exactly the same. They don’t reward close listening, but they are fine in the background.

--Steve Pick

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