All Relatively Quiet On the Indie Front
Last entry before I’m off. I have a few rough pieces on Wu-Tang’s single-copy album, police violence, Charlie Hebdo and the controversy concerning the PEN award, and some projects concerning top ten lists. Don’t know when I’ll post any of them.
THE MAGIC WORDS – The Day We Ran Away (Bandcamp download): Eleven more Lisa Walker demos, murkier than last year’s batch: one song repeated twice (“Watch Yer Back,” also on last year’s), one feat. Chuck Cleaver (“Nomenclature”), a recycled drum loop on “Losing Streak” from “Loaded for Bear,” and little of the magic in these words that sparked Junk Train to life. Though I’m more familiar with the cuts presented, these demos don’t offer reasonable alternatives to originals; Junk Train’s soft arrangements let Walker’s equally gentle singing highlight her emotional honesty without washing her out with reverb, which The Day We Ran Away does. That’s not to say it’s without some nice arrangements; it’s got ‘em, especially “Nomenclature.” But “Rigor Mortis” is too heavy metal to make the transition. B PLUS (**)
THE MOUNTAIN GOATS – Beat the Champ (Merge): John Darnielle’s stories about B-level wrestlers, their lives in and out of the ring, and the fans that adore them bounces between the comical nature of greased, overweight men and the sad circumstances that led them there. A man reminisces how his childhood idol Chavo Guerrero stood in for his absent father whose ashes he spreads in an unknown place. On “Heel Turn 2,” a beloved hero goes to the dark side—both theatrically and personally—to the disbelief of his fans: “Throw my better self overboard / Shoot at him when he comes up for air.” So yeah, it can be quite soft and somber, but not without comical bits like “Foreign Object,” the best song here with its brass toots, where an unnamed wrestler, relishing the rush he gets performing for the audience and cameras, steadily heightens his rhetoric in the chorus about how he “will personally stab you in the eye with a foreign object.” Another interesting case study from one of alt-rock’s better yarn-spinners with production more lush than is usual. A MINUS