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
Let's get full disclosure out of the way right now: I did some freelance promo work for Electropolis's label earlier in the decade. Still, as Innova stopped leaving shoeboxes full of banknotes and cocaine on my doorstep long ago, I have nothing to gain by claiming that the guitarless, keyboardless jazz-funk quartet's first album boasts quite a bit more animal magnetism than most of the highbrow nonprofit's releases. But it does, as well as offering far more body heat than the band's handle suggests. Much of the totally improvised recording's feral appeal lies in its free and easy way with effects processors, to the extent that, on the up-tempo stomper "Sailing the Flat Earth," you can't always tell exactly who's doing what. Given that bassist Michael O' Brien and drummer Steve Roehm are occupied with providing velocity and punch enough to keep saxophonist Michael Ferrier's foamy buzz and trumpeter Kelly Rossum's abstract mute attack afloat, the track's sinister surf-spy riff is clearly the handiwork of some sneaky-pants engaged in pitch-shifted double duty. Creepy-crawly "Recliner" finds the band's machine work considerably less ghostly, with Rossum wailing in the upper register, then twiddling the delayed output until it resembles a chorus of Tyrannosaurus rexes. --Rod Smith
Beat-driven electronics and live instrumentation, like Ewoks and Freemasons, belong to intrinsically different domains. Attempts at interbreeding between the realms often generate grotesque offspring, more lopsided than a partially fallen soufflé and considerably less satisfying. Luckily, Moodfood principals DJ Free and Peter Schimke made sure all their musical chromosomes were properly aligned before hauling in a posse of luminaries, local and otherwise, to put the glisten on their first non-soundtrack collaboration. Even as a simple augmented duo, the programming whiz and keyboardist-around-town slide across genre boundaries with Olympic-caliber grace, mixing "Martin Houses"' potentially unwieldly elements--shuffly house-music tectonics, serious jazz piano, and high-disco string pyrotechnics--as though they were water. The funky, hand-drum enhanced ballad "Butterflies" finds them aided by the likes of Dave Matthews woodwind champ Richard Hardy, bassist Billy Peterson, and breathy chill-compilation veteran Julia Messenger in a quietly spectacular display of down-tempo seductiveness. Granted, the album doesn't exactly break new, uh, frozen water; Masters at Work first skated the same terrain nearly 10 years ago, while the similarly far-reaching efforts of Cold Cut and S-Express began in the '80s. But as an act of global consolidation, Ice's cup runneth over very nicely indeed. --Rod Smith
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