Thursday, May 21, 2009

Album Review: Art Brut - Art Brut Vs. Satan

Art Brut
Art Brut Vs. Satan
Rating: Satan wins.

I really, really wanted this album to be good. I absolutely adore Bang Bang Rock & Roll and like many other admirers of that album I was very disappointed by its follow-up, It's a Bit Complicated. I knew that it would be tough to capture the lightening-in-a-bottle spark of BBR&R on a second album, but Complicated came off as more stale and half-hearted than I expected it to be. I also knew that it would be tough for Art Brut to make a return-to-form third album because such a large part of their "form" was novelty, and, by definition, you can only have that once. Art Brut Vs. Satan, recorded in Portland with Black Francis, is an improvement over its immediate predecessor, but drives home that Art Brut is a one (very good) trick band.

One listen to "Alcoholics Unanimous" tells you pretty much all you need to know. It's a fine song and features a hung-over Eddie Argos demanding caffeinated beverages while explaining why he feels like shit. There's a nice little structure, some well-placed backing vocals, and an excellent use of the word "et cetera," but it just seems like the same old same old. What was it that Eddie said of songs about sex, drugs, and rock and roll years ago? Well, three albums in, he ended up being right. "DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshake" is also a nice, even sweet song, but if you replace the titular items with "Emily Kane," you have an almost identical and far inferior version of the BBR&R highlight. The rest of the album continues along those lines: they're all objectively good songs, but they all seem like worse versions of songs we've heard the same band play before.

Although I'm disappointed in the album, I still love the band even if they can only be enjoyed by listening to a five-year-old record and by seeing them live. I think the songs on Art Brut Vs. Satan will take on new life and be best enjoyed in concert because Art Brut is still the most fun live band on the planet, and Eddie's delivery works best when you can see his sublime ridiculousness in person. I'll report back after seeing them in a few weeks.

--Jim Powers

Monday, May 18, 2009

NQL: Where No Posts For Nearly A Month Happens

We have suffered through a horrible hiatus of no posts. The reason: We’re now exclusively on Twitter where the pressures for long, thought-out posts are much less demanding. And for all of you that have been following the NQL Twitter feed, I hope you enjoyed my recent review of the new Wilco album, Wilco (the Album). But in case you missed it, here it is:

If your dad liked Sky Blue Sky, then your grandpa is going to love this! LOL!!!

So, what are you waiting for? Subscribe! Subscribe! Actually, that’s a joke (the Twitter part, at least). We are not on Twitter. And I wish I had a decent explanation as to why we took a three-and-a-half week vacation, but I really don’t. Part of it may lie in the fact that of the regular contributors, we have three lawyers, one doctor, one editor, and one guy studying to be a Unitarian Minister with a son due in July. We’re busy, but still, we’re not that busy.

In fact, I was more distracted than busy. Often this last month, I would get home from work with every intention of writing about an album I was listening to, but would get swallowed up by sports and the evening would be history. The Bulls’ epic playoff series with the Boston Ninnies may have taken five years from my life, but it was completely worth it--even in defeat. And to reciprocate, it gave me an irrational hatred for the Celtics and Rajon Rondo which I foresee lasting for some time, and I couldn’t be happier about it. (For better or for worse, music doesn’t tug on your emotions like this. Sure, there are some hip-hop feuds, and Wayne Coyne was mad at the Arcade Fire for about five minutes, but that’s about it.) In trying to think of the musical equivalent to Game 6 of the Bulls-Celtics series as it pertains to my life, all I could think of was seeing an unknown-to-me Okkervil River at Subterranean in the summer of 2005 right after taking the bar exam, and not many hours before I was set to head out west on a road trip with one of my childhood friends. Both were comletely unexpected, and both won't be forgotten. That night in 2005 got me back into music, and Game 6 got me back into pro basketball.

Furthermore, baseball began and so did my first venture into audio, where you can get every baseball game on the radio streamlined to your computer for $14.99. There are 30 major league baseball teams, and each is scheduled to play 162 games this year. I don’t feel like doing the math, but that’s a lot of games...all for only $5 more than what Wilco (the Album) will cost when it comes out next month on iTunes. (If my fake Twitter post was any indication, I find one of these to be a much better deal than the other.)

And as it stands now, I am engulfed in the Blackhawks’ Western Conference finals series with the Detroit Redwings. I haven’t missed a minute of the Blackhawks last five games even though, with an exception of Patrick Kane, I learned most of their names two weeks ago. Does this make me a bandwagon fan? Probably. But I am not alone, and I genuinely like playoff hockey. Like the intensity, and I love the crowds. Also, am I the only one that has always had a problem with that (otherwise fantastic) song “Nothing Better” by the Postal Service for the following lyric alone?

I can’t accept that it’s over…
I will block the door like a goalie tending the net
In the third quarter of a tied-game rivalry.

Huh? Hockey doesn’t have “quarters.” Even the most casual sports fan knows this. There are three 20-minute periods and that’s it. I love sports too much to have ever been able to get past this. Maybe Ben Gibbard was trying to be ironic, but I have never been one to give him the benefit of the doubt before so why start now. (And I just did a Google search, and I am definitely not the only one that has always had a problem with this lyric.)

Oh, and on top of all these other distractions, some girl won the Preakness.

Anyway, I apologize for the lack of posts. I would like to say that it won’t happen again, but it will. Nevertheless, with good weather upon us, and summer festival season just around the corner, we will try and step up our game. There is a lot of exciting stuff going on in rock music at the moment (Japandroids, for one), and if we can analyze and scrutinize even a fraction of it, I will be happy.

In the meantime, please subscribe to our Twitter feed.

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