CD Reviews


Weezer Hurley (Epitaph)

Blame for the increasing emasculinization of American rock lies squarely at the Snuggied toes of Rivers Cuomo, who has stripped away the darkest, animal-like parts of guitar-based music, replacing them with irony, false intellect and horn-rimmed glasses. That said, dude writes a catchy tune, even if the Pinkerton-worshipping emo crowd hopes for a return to autobiography. His band, Weezer, releases its eighth album on punk indie Epitaph; nothing has changed. Hooks are massive, commercial. The usual, cloyingly shallow, nerd-uplifting lyrics, even more so. In the self-celebration of “Memories,” Cuomo waxes nostalgic about a quirky career spent hackysacking with Audioslave and lying to music journalists. The song struggles to make Weezer cooler than they were. “When I’m looking at the night sky/I can see my soul,” Cuomo reveals on glockenspiel-kissed “Run Away.” Annoying, since he’s 40. Shouldn’t he stop staring skyward and start writing songs for adults? Not if an album cover featuring Lost actor Jorge Garcia is any sign. ★★☆☆☆


Blonde Redhead Penny Sparkle (4AD)

It’s rare that a rock band starts out atmospheric and continues to push pop structures into richer, more seductive environments. But New York City’s Blonde Redhead is far from your average American group, especially given its European/Asian roots. Redhead comprises Italian-born Canadian brothers Amedeo (guitar) and Simone Pace (drums), and Japanese singer/musician Kazu Makino. Together they deliver an always-interesting sonic mashup that appeals to avant-pop fans of, say, Björk. The noisy, videogame-bleeped, spy-guitar ballad “Love or Poison” is lethally intoxicating, bringing to mind Julie London trapped in a Krautrock cabaret, its gorgeous melody enveloping the listener like a CIA-sponsored honeypot. The electro-galactic hiss of “Will There Be Stars” (sung by Amedeo), meanwhile, is a gorgeous slow-groove ornamented with layers of eerie keyboards. But it’s the spare “Oslo,” which conjures a dreamscape of frozen love, that drives home the point: Blonde Redhead is at the moment the top band specializing in this kind of smeared, delicate pop. ★★★★☆


El Guincho Pop Negro (Young Turks)

This sophomore effort by Spanish musician Pablo Díaz-Reixa (a.k.a. El Guincho) is so damn good it’s downright frightening. Nine tracks of Spanish-sung, dub-stricken, rocked-up, Afrobeaten, Tropicália-crazed exotica pop, Pop Negro never fails to amaze, each track delivering a different studio nuance, whether it’s subdivided hi-hats blistering across what sounds like a cut-up salsa loop, or blown-out kick drums blasting their way into a ’70s funk-bass sample. It’s as if El Guincho has somehow absorbed every old hi-fi hit record—from Roxy Music’s Avalon to Quincy Jones-era Michael Jackson—and re-interpreted them all into an album’s worth of supercharged Caribbean and Brazilian pop. Every song here’s a winner, but I definitely find myself spinning the hypnotic “FM Tan Sexy” most often, its glissando of electronic keys and gaps of silence between slamming drum-machined beats making for inspired music by which to soak in the sun. Few records make you want to embrace life poolside—this one of them. ★★★★★

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Movie Review

Documentary Demons

More a sketch of an idea for a horror movie than a fully formed film, The Last Exorcism is a yawn-inducing attempt to cash in on a combination of exhausted genre tropes. Following in the shaky-cam, found-footage footsteps of The Blair Witch Project, Daniel Stamm directs an incompetent script about an evangelical con man, Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian). Cotton carries on his family’s well-established business of conducting exorcisms for illiterate backwoods types who traditionally respond well to the power of material-supported suggestion.