CD Reviews


The Walkmen Lisbon (Fat Possum)

This is one of those ramshackle though much ballyhooed NYC indie-pop acts that never did much for me. But Lisbon takes a different, more accessible tact. “Juveniles,” for example, boasts guitars that are effects-laden in a way that makes them hit like steel drums, all of it over a swinging bass-and-clanging drumbeat that’s full of raw, loose emotion. “Angela Surf City” hurtles forward, again with an interesting rhythmic pattern leading textured, layered guitars across a simple but powerful chord movement. From there, things get even better. The brief, sweet “Follow the Leader” plays to the band’s strengths—nifty six-string attack and fractured lyrics—so that hearing the song feels like dipping into someone else’s afternoon fever dream. By the time the spare, lovely ballad “While I Shovel the Snow” arrives, it’s clear: The Walkmen have fashioned a minor opus. If, like me, you’ve dismissed these guys, give Lisbon a shot. (The Walkmen perform at Beauty Bar 11 p.m. Sept. 19 as part of the Neon Reverb Music Festival.) ★★★★☆


The Thermals Personal Life (Kill Rock Stars)

Five albums into a mostly celebrated discography, this Portland trio seem more determined than ever to outdo Green Day and compose the best punk concept album of all time. Hell, they almost succeeded with 2006’s near-masterful The Body, the Blood, the Machine, which despite its rousing energy fell short in the lyrics department. Personal Life succeeds mainly because it doesn’t try as hard and simply lets the brilliant melodies carry the message of relationships and their inherently flawed purpose—the fostering of intimacy through constant (ugh!) intimacy. A doomed enterprise that vocalist/guitarist Hutch Harris really delves into, especially on opener “I’m Gonna Change Your Life,” where, addressing a lover, he imagines he “wants to know your feelings/I want to know your shame.” There’s requisite Thermals-style full-throttle tracks, such as “I Don’t Believe You,” this time Harris in creepy denial that his attentions are suffocating. But it’s the pounding, anthemic “Power Lies” that sums up the problem: “How did I find myself on top?/How will I ever know when to stop?” Obvious answer to the latter: You’ll never know. ★★★★☆


Boris & Ian Astbury BXI (Southern Lord)

The announcement of a team-up between The Cult frontman and Japanese drone-metal trio Boris raised eyebrows, sure, but it makes sense once you consider Ian Astbury’s roots in the discordant British goth-punk scene. Still, it’s a long step down from cock-rock to dirty, experimental doom, which is what (Dave Grohl’s Probot project aside) the L.A. label mostly focuses on. BXI is an intriguing four-song teaser EP for what will hopefully develop into a larger, sustained endeavor. One track in particular, the transcendent crescendo of “Magickal Child,” opens up a whole new vista—call it ambient torch-song doom, call it whatever, it’s brilliant. Astbury steps back to let Boris guitarist Wata assume vocals for an old Cult classic, “Rain,” pushing it into a definite shoegazer direction. “Teeth and Claws” and “We Are Witches,” meanwhile, provide conventional rock foundations for Astbury to unleash his usual Ian Curtis-meets-Jim Morrison post-punk shaman persona. While not mind-blowing, BXI is definitely momentous. (Astbury performs with The Cult Sept. 16 at The Pearl in The Palms.) ★★★☆☆

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