Hot off the presses: new music! Better said, new music that is worth your time.
Deer Tick – Mayonnaise – 13 tracks / 48 minutes
This grab-bag of covers, reimagined versions of previously released songs, and new material delivers the goods.
Ladies and gentlemen, one of my ten favorite rock bands in America is back, with a vengeance! After Deer Tick released the phenomenal Negativity in 2013, the guys from Rhode Island disappointed with a decent but inconsistent double album two years ago. Mayonnaise is a compilation record of sorts, featuring five new songs along with four re-imaginings from the aforementioned double LP and four covers that they played frequently on their last tour. While the mellower “Limp Right Back” is a nice touch, the other three alternate versions here (“End of the World”, “Cocktail”, “Doomed from the Start”) don’t really add much value. However, the new music and covers are where the band shines, and this record shows me that there is still plenty of life (and fight) in these boys.
The in-your-face guitar riff of “Bluesboy” gets the proceedings off with a bang – this is angsty and raw, yet still plenty catchy. In other words, it’s John MCCauley and his mates at their best, and music to my ears. “Every day I hear the calling, you got me searching for a profound nothing” John yells over some solid guitar riffage and Dennis Ryan’s madman drum clanging. This one and the album’s other raging rock track, the excellent Pogues cover “White City”, are reminiscent of the raucous bar-stomp of Divine Providence.
Things mellow out a bit with “Old Lady”, a heartfelt medium-tempo number that does remind one of the band’s magnificent debut album, as well as their cover of George Harrison’s “Run of the Mill”. The simple yet effective trademark Deer Tick sound is back in all its glory on “Hey! Yeah!”, another new track that brings the goods. What follows is pure magic: The seven-minute cover of Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes”. This is my highlight of the album because it remains beautiful and interesting for every single second and is a nice reminder of how great that band (and the late Lou Reed) was.
“Memphis Chair” is a mellowed-out piano and horn driven instrumental that leads nicely into the final cover on the album, Ben Vaughn’s “Too Sensitive for this World”. John even breaks it down towards the end, inviting everyone to “sing it one time for your friends”. Sure, this is a mish-mash collection and of course isn’t quite up to the standard set by War Elephant or Negativity, but Mayonnaise brings the goods in spades. This makes a fine starting point for new Deer Tick listeners, and is a welcome reminder of the band’s capabilities for long-time fans.
Key Tracks: “Bluesboy”, “Pale Blue Eyes”, “Hey! Yeah!”
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/1MCVLdAvbgfbbHt2q53MuE?si=RGm8iVmGRpqCH7WpLYI0Dw
Mandolin Orange – Tides of a Teardrop – 10 tracks / 42 minutes
Even with central themes of loss and loneliness, this is beautiful music that is far from a bummer.
After toiling in relative obscurity for over five years, Mandolin Orange made quite a splash with their hit “Wildfire” from their fourth record, 2016’s Blindfaller. That disc was the best effort yet from the wonderfully-named duo and opened my eyes to them. When their live-in-studio cover of Isakov’s “Amsterdam” was released last year, their star shone even brighter: the track has garnered over 11 million streams on Spotify. Well, good news, Treefort ticketholders – this band has just released their most melodic and strongest set of songs yet.
This duo from Chapel Hill, NC (Andrew Marlin on vocals, mandolin, and guitar with Emily Frantz on guitar, violin, and mostly backing vocals) give us their most consistently worthwhile effort yet on Tides of a Teardrop. It might be just me, but most of their previous work showed promise but never fully delivered – that ends here. From the first verse of “Golden Embers”, it is clear that this is the real deal. The majority of the album lives up to that opening track’s greatness.
“The Wolves” is my pick for the prettiest song here, and that is really saying something considering the beauty found on this effort. The subtle chorus ends with the line “everything’s so great, can’t get better, makes me wanna cry, that I’ll go out howlin’ at the moon tonight.” “Mother Deer” has some spectacular mandolin playing from Andrew and Emily’s backing vocals towards the end of the song are a sublime compliment. “When She’s Feeling Blue” has the most heartache and sorrow of any of these ten tracks, as Andrew laments a one-sided love that he can’t stop himself from being a fool for. “My baby only holds me in her arms when she’s feelin’ blue, she calls me up and tells me, ‘honey I need you’, and I come runnin’, like I always do”.
Another highlight is the countrified “Lonely All the Time”, with its electric guitar, mandolin, and light percussion. “If the feelings that I’m feeling, could bring you home this evening, long before the sun gives way to another lonely night; I would shout and I would cry, I would bid bad times goodbye, cuz I’m so tired of being lonely all the time”. Once again, we have Emily singing behind Andrew to great effect – I think their best sound is when they sing together. Ironically, this song of loneliness is actually the most upbeat musically on the album, and has an almost honky-tonk twang to its lament. Give this record a listen if you are a fan of Americana or folk music, or just enjoy hearing two really talented Mofos do their thing.
Key Tracks: “The Wolves”, “Golden Embers”, “Lonely All the Time”
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/3Z2WGCFNGlAJgiyG2tOkjs?si=TZIQVB35TXGVfia-ntc-Vg
Tim Heidecker – Another Year in Hell: Collected Songs from 2018 (EP) – 6 tracks / 18 minutes
This singer/comedian is back with more smart, funny, and not-so-subtle Trump protest music.
OK, this is not a legitimate contender for best album of the year or anything, but it is entertaining as all get out. This music works on a few levels, and just like on his first anti-Trump record (last year’s Too Dumb for Suicide) the songs are actually pretty easy on the ears even if you take away the snark and humor. Oh, and his Springsteen impression on the album closer “Ballad of the Incel Man-Nebraska Version” is so spot-on that it alone is worth the price of admission.
Leadoff track “Tobin and the Judge” finds Tim crooning about our newly appointed Supreme Court justice over acoustic guitar and overly dramatic strings. Although he never mentions Mr. Kavanaugh by name, if you pay attention it’s not all that subtle: “Dad says keep track of it, memories they fade away, get a calendar write it down; too many nights I can’t recall, too many girls, forgot them all, they get away and run down the hall”.
If you don’t know what an incel is, good for you – look it up if you so choose. Let’s just say “Ballad of the Incel Man” is about a stereotypical young male Trump supporter getting ready to attend the big rally coming to town. It has, again, some hilarious lines: “well I’m gonna take a shower, and shave so I look good; wear my Hillary for Prison shirt, like a good boy should” and “got my picture of Obama, which we’ll burn in effigy; and I hope I find a like-minded girl tonight at the Trump rally”. My favorite line here is “sometimes he scares me, when he goes on one of those rants; sometimes I don’t know what he’s talking about, but it makes them liberals shit their pants, oh it makes them shit their pants”. Mic drop.
“Rake the Floor” skewers The Donald’s idiotic photo-op visit to Paradise, CA in the aftermath of that disaster, where he infamously recommended that the solution to the wildfire epidemic is to rake the forest floor. This is the catchiest tune on the record musically, with a truly tasty guitar riff and bass groove, but the highlight is the humor, such as: “he knew exactly what we needed to do, separate the hoaxes from what he knows is true, and if you wanna help well you can too; pick up a rake and rake the leaves off the floor, aint gonna have no forest fires anymore”. Folks, this is childish, of course it is – but it is also a good listen and if we can’t laugh about this utter nonsense, what else do we have?
Key Tracks: “Rake the Floor”, “Ballad of the Incel Man-Nebraska Version”, “Tobin and the Judge”
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/1PkYWRDkvjsgMXyzUAhc7w?si=1TzUElUYT5-CGHV2xNRshA
Bonus link to Tim Heidecker’s fantastic “Trump’s Private Pilot” (sung by the great Father John Misty himself):
Metallica – Helping Hands… Live & Acoustic at the Masonic
When the fellas recently played a charity gig for their All Within My Hands foundation, they decided to release the recording as a double album. Over $1.3 million was donated to two worthy foundations as a result of this night of music and auction, and the band should be applauded for being so bold as to step out from behind the electricity and amplifiers for no monetary benefit of their own. Unfortunately, the music is mediocre and James’ vocals are strained and not up to the task. Their altered take on “Disposable Heroes” is a fun listen, but after that things go downhill quickly.
Even the covers don’t satisfy: “When A Blind Man Cries” – Deep Purple, “Veteran of the Psychic Wars” – Blue Oyster Cult, “Please Don’t Judas Me” – Nazareth, and Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page” (which they made even more famous on 1998’s Garage Inc. covers album). As I said, this was an honorable venture for the guys to try to pull off at such an advanced age, but the recording doesn’t lie: the more sound behind them, the better.
It also doesn’t help that the Metallica-primadonna stereotype gets further evidence, as after each of the first few songs, James has complaints for the sound guys: lower the bass, close some of the mics, at one point saying “I just wish it sounded better for me, that’s all – I‘d have more fun”. He says it with a chuckle, but it seems fitting that Metallica can come across as pretentious and uppity even as they perform a charity gig.
Cheery Glazerr – Stuffed & Ready
This album has a couple worthy tracks (the down-tempo and full of loathing “Isolation” and the peppy album opener “Ohio”), and has piqued my interest in the pop-rock trio enough to try to catch their Treefort set next month, but there is also a lot of filler here.
Spielbergs – This Is Not the End
“NFL” is a fun song, “Distant Star” isn’t’ bad, and I can hear the raw attacks of Deleted Scenes, Japandroids, and others in some of this music – but there is not enough here. I’ll be keeping an ear out for their future work, however.
Blank Range – In Unison
After thoroughly enjoying their opening set at Big Head Todd & the Monsters’ recent gig, this one disappointed me.