Hot off the presses: new music! Better said, new music that is worth your time.
Interpol – A Fine Mess (EP) – 5 tracks / 18 minutes
This collection of material from last year’s dark and brooding (and excellent) Marauder brings a more upbeat version of their trademark sound.
The popular refrain on this band is that their sound is stuck in a rut, producing a frozen-in-time and static sonic palette that no longer works. Although I readily admit that Paul Banks (bass and vocals), Daniel Kessler (guitar), and Sam Fogarino (drums) have a formula that they stay fairly close to, it is one that I adore. In fact, their last two records (El Pintor and Marauder) are two of my favorites of the last five years. This EP is a collection of tracks recorded during the Marauder sessions but left off that record. In interviews Paul has made it clear that this material was planned to be released separately all along, and was re-recorded earlier this year.
“You and me, make a fine mess; you’re always shattered” – this unusual way of expressing love is a line that Paul sings repeatedly on the leadoff title track, over a slick riff and tight drumming. If there is any complaint about this recording it would be that the vocals are at times difficult to pick out over Dave Fridmann’s heavy production (the same could be said at times on Marauder). “No Big Deal” seems like an attempt to minimize an inability to connect, with the chorus “in the days of all out mansions, I had the perfect feel for my life; and I made you feel outstanding, but there was no place for you inside”.
“Real Life” has the finest riff on the EP and finds Paul asking “is this real life for a change? Are these concepts still the same?” and hoping to “beat the priestess to the beach tonight”. It would be lazy to call this more of the same, although many reviewers surely will. There is a more dance-ready, upbeat tone to this group of songs, but it certainly has that familiar Interpol flavor. If you’re a fan of the band, you’ll surely enjoy this. If you aren’t familiar with them, give this and last year’s Marauder a spin.
Key Tracks: “A Fine Mess”, “Real Life”, “No Big Deal”
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/7EfYlulYFz6MrhzQY66PWr?si=RZHR9ttaRRWbOZPfdYi2wQ
Dommengang – No Keys – 9 tracks / 40 minutes
These SoCal rockers continue to bring the goods on their third proper LP.
Spoiler alert: this is music made not to inform, provoke deep thoughts, or change the world: this is music made to rock to. Guitar riffs rule the day throughout, and even where there are vocals, they are not the centerpiece of the amalgam. This is desert rock that conjures up imagery of riding into the sunset with the top down on a desolate highway surrounded by cactus or sagebrush, a la Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age, Fu Manchu, etc etc. What I’m saying is this is pure rock and roll and absolutely perfect driving music for that long road trip you have planned this summer.
“Earth Blues” is one of the most drum-heavy tracks on No Keys, and is where the album truly gets going. “Wild Wash” has that relentlessly simple and plodding guitar riff style that QOTSA perfected on their debut album (somehow that was over twenty years ago). “Stir the Sea” sounds more like a five minute jam session than a coordinated song, which I mean in a very complimentary way.
The high-pitched wail of Sig Wilson’s guitar in between verses of “Kudzu” is an album highlight and harkens back to rock’s glory days, making four minutes fly by. The instrumental “Arcularius-Burke” is the most complete composition here, with over three minutes of guitar noodling, sparse drums with some cymbal and chime work before the song’s true riff is finally exposed in all its glory. “Happy Death (Earth Blues II)”, complete with organ flourishes on the back half, is simply wonderful and the finest song on No Keys.
These guys are proud of their sparse production, with all tracks recorded live and minimal overdubs employed, which gives this music a raw and authentic quality. Here’s hoping they keep it that way, and continue to pump out a steady stream of badass records like they have so far in their young career.
Key Tracks: “Happy Death (Her Blues II)”, “Earth Blues”, “Arcularius-Burke”
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/0y9hkPgvzVbADihORm8Ghv?si=9pvYglUzQXC43rG80I_ZsA
The National – I Am Easy to Find
This sprawling (perhaps a bit too long) and mostly mellow record has its high points, but for me they were too few and far between. After the crown jewel that was 2017’s Sleep Well Beast, this one surely is bold but mostly feels like a letdown. However, there are worthy songs, such as the gorgeous “Roman Holiday” (I dig how Matt Berninger delays the last two syllables of holiday) and “I Am Easy to Find” which is so full of longing that it hurts (“I’m still waiting here every night with ticker tape”). “Hairpin Turns” is one of the most directly accessible tracks here and served as one of several singles leading up to this album’s release.
Rammstein – RAMMSTEIN
By now, you ought to know where you stand with this German industrial/metal outfit. I have always enjoyed them more than most of my friends, although I am far from a hardcore fan. More of the same for me here, with a couple jams that break through the language barrier and simply rock, amidst a pile of others that for one reason or another don’t quite make the grade for me. The choir at the beginning of “Zeig Dich” makes for a nice juxtaposition to the relentless attack that follows, and “Was Ich Liebe” is a slow build that could almost be called an anthem, at least when compared to most of their work.
Wu-Tang Clan – Of Mics and Men (EP)
This quickie is a sample of music found on the new Showtime documentary about the band on the 25th anniversary of their seminal Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). After skits and fluff, there are really only four tracks here, but “On That Sht Again” is dope as fuck and finds Ghostface Killah and personal fave RZA in great form. (Side note: if you love RZA and haven’t heard Banks & Steelz yet, go check that out).
The Head & the Heart – Living Mirage