Being an invested music fan is an affair that involves repeated existential crises that come without warning and may linger with you for the rest of your life. Anyone who spends enough time paying attention comes up with their own preferences, guilty pleasures, and yes, an inevitable smugness that comes with loving one thing and hating another. There are always bands and albums you love, hate, love to hate, and hate to love, and those lists are always getting longer, shorter and revising themselves with age. The constant is two-fold: a love for the craft, and ostensibly more immediately, a love for how the music makes you feel. Continue reading
Long-time masked men Clinic released their new album, Free Reign, this past Tuesday, and after listening to it straight through two or three times, I am woefully underwhelmed. It’s hard not to have a good deal of respect for the band, who has managed to straddle the line between known and unknown for the last decade-and-a-half. It’s also especially difficult not to marvel at their image — colorfully-matched, surgical mask-wearing, freak-popsters — which is still such a rock-solid look and concept after 15 years that it often (unfairly) defines them to new listeners.
But the album: it’s boring.
Clinic is good at writing songs that sound like their came so far out of left field that they might as well have been sunstroked into oblivion on the bleachers, and while Free Reign is a good attempt at turning the lights out and flipping the synths/drum machines into “Suicide” mode, that energy is all but gone.
Still, the while the album doesn’t come close to the breakneck rawness of sawtooth psychedelia proper (Suicide or Moon Duo might satisfy that craving), tracks like “Seamless Boogie Woogie, BBC2 10PM (RPT)” or “For The Season” achieve a more downtempo, blissed-out kind of high, akin to late-period Spacemen 3. Those two selections also highlight what I’ve always thought to be the band’s secret weapon: the syllabic cadence and wavering delivery of vocalist Ade Blackburn.
Looking at Free Reign as the dark side to Clinic’s last album, 2010’s Bubblegum, which has a similarly light feel, except with a brighter and cleaner sound, lends the album a more completeness. On its own, however, the album comes off as a good effort, but not fully committed. Me, I’ll stick to Internal Wrangler.
This week, Probably Just Hungry is featuring a hidden gem of the ’90s, Cornelius’ Fantasma.
Cornelius, otherwise known as Keigo Oyamada, is a sculptor of pop music, and his tactics have garnered comparisons to Beck. It’s going to be strange listening to him at first if you’re unfamiliar with his body of work, but it’s undeniable that the man knows how to put together a hook and a harmony. He’s one of those brilliant but understated artists whose work seems to vibrate a part of your ear that sends sunshine down your spine.
Click the link below to read the post on Fantasma and listen to samples from that album, and check out the video to Cornelius’ remix of Salon Music’s “Galaxie Express” too. (If you grew up playing that shameless [and terrible] clone of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater called Grind Session, the song will sound familiar to you.)
You might get strange flashbacks when you listen to the Soft Moon’s newest album, Zeros. Flashbacks to a dimly lit dance floor in the early 1980s, surrounded by black lace and purple eyeshadow — and that’s just the guys.
The Soft Moon is the alias of Luis Vasquez, whose shrieking synths and pummeling beats tip-toe back and forth across the line between clipped distortion and eardrum horror, though that’s not a complaint by any means. Fans of early 80s post-punk will revel in these tracks, and maybe even remember the point in history when the Cure was a perfect mixture of angry and angsty, instead of just annoyingly mopey (*cough cough Disintegration cough*).
Amazingly, Vasquez dodges the pitfall of so many like-minded acts by making each track sound similar enough to be aesthetically consistent without driving the concept into a repetitive 30-minute funeral dirge snoozefest.
Listen below and get ready to swoosh around your black velvet shirttails.