By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
By Zach McCormick
By Jeff Gage
By Reed Fischer
Crow River Records
You'll hear Keith Richards and Paul Westerberg on Dan Israel's nineteenth (seventh) album, but Bob Dylan is his polestar, and that's fine. For Dylan freaks such as I, the fun can come from deciding which of the maestro's tunes are being honorably ripped off. This time out, Israel, stuck in his basement with the Tom Thumb blues again, recorded alone, playing all the instruments. One typical product of singer-songwriterly pursuits of the one-man-band path is inferior drumming. In that respect, Dan Israel isn't atypical. It is atypical in that it's soulful and unself-conscious, never especially deep but never overreaching. Lefties, take note of "Plenty," a chugging damnation of a clean-cut, feed-the-rich, presumably Minnesota-based politician, a "child of the '60s who learned nothing in a whole decade."
Luke Zimmerman, who is Bob Dylan's nephew, covers similar ground on Twilight Waltz, a moody collection of folk-rock tunes most reminiscent of John Wesley Harding, Velvet Underground ballads (a nearby ballpark), and Tom Verlaine. The focus stays on Zimmerman's lonesome, romantic quavering, but guitarist Randy Casey's textures, leads, and fills often steal the show without, you know, actually stealing the show. --Dylan Hicks
DAN ISRAEL CD-release show; SATURDAY, DECEMBER 3 at the TURF CLUB; 651.647.0486
LUKE ZIMMERMAN CD-release show; FRIDAY, DECEMBER 2 at the 400 BAR; 612.332.2903
The Bootlegs Vol. 1: Celebrating 35 Years of First Avenue
Less like First Avenue's catholic booking policy than its nearly monochromatic decor, this 16-track compilation of tunes recorded at the state's finest live-music club is all rock (plus one rocky rap offering from Atmosphere), mostly played by punk-associated folks in relatively advanced stages of maturity. (On the subject of advanced age, it took me several days to figure out that City Pages is one of the CD's five sponsors, despite the fact that our logo appears on the back cover.) Considering that all but four of the performances date from 1998 or later, the compilers might have been justified in saving Joe Jackson or Kristin Hersh for a future volume and throwing in a few acts whose careers began in the current century. Then again, old punks are a pretty good bunch. Patti Smith, for instance, who's represented here by a 1998 version of the punk-reggae classic "Redondo Beach" that's cool like one of those frizzy shoulder-length-black-hair-plus-bangs dos I see a lot of young women wearing this season.
Of greatest historical interest or perhaps simply greatest are the Replacements running through "Love You Till Friday" in '81 and Hüsker Dü doing "Books About UFOs" in '85. Both performances are fast and include the F word. The Suburbs, Atmosphere, and the Jayhawks, however, aren't heard in peak form, nor are Ween. Actually, Ween probably are heard in something close to peak form, but that's bad enough. Pretty fun, though, all in all, and I've already concocted a little wish list for subsequent volumes. --Dylan Hicks
This World Fair
So Is Death & Love
The Ben Folds Five comparison is one of rock writing's laziest and most hackneyed devices, a tool used to describe any band involving a piano. That said, I was reminded of BFF before the piano ever made it to the foreground of This World Fair's debut EP. So there. Like any modern rock band that doesn't consider musical theater a serious influence, the locals favor clean guitars and save the ivory chords for understated accents. But while the two bands have only minor sound traits in common, they share a sensibility, a way of telling stories about doomed couples, where the guy's weakness for the gal leaves him recalling the details in a vulnerable falsetto (paging Dr. Freud...). But when This World Fair's Chris Kalgren keeps his voice in the lower register, it has an edge that harbors something gutsier than Folds' Southern goofball charm. The difference comes to light in "Waiting for You," as Kalgren belts out the pounding chorus as if it were the climax in an '80s power ballad. The moment feels overly cheesy, but it gets the point across without trading in the machismo. --Lindsey Thomas
The Icy Shores
What You Get and How You Get It
What you get: an easy but artful exploration of that common ground between the Foo Fighters and Sunny Day Real Estate, a well-meaning place where catchy hooks and hollered lyrics are never far away, and if by chance you trip on a broken beat on the bridge, there's always a big, fuzzy chorus waiting just below to catch you.
How you get it: through 13 tracks that zigzag between poppy toe-tappers that will bob far more noggins than they'll scratch, and down-tempo, heartfelt numbers readymade for lakeside teenage romance (contrary to what the Icy Shores' name implies, the overall tone of What You Get and How You Get It is really very warm). This debut album rarely forgoes the easy songwriting answers--quiet verses that crescendo into loud choruses, guitar solos that squeal down the fret board into place. When it does, as in the extended but restrained outro of "Tragedies in Threes," the effect is as relieving as it is revealing of the Icy Shores' potential. As it stands, What You Get is mashed-potatoes rock, with a few gravy moments. --Chuck Terhark