CD Reviews


Steven Drozd The Heart Is a Drum Machine (Twinkle Cash Co.)

It’s no secret that much of the Flaming Lips’ sonic punch derives from the edgy, accomplished efforts of multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd. So it seems natural for Drozd to attempt a documentary film score, especially for an intriguing project such as The Heart Is a Drum Machine, which explores man’s organic and technological connection to music. The score, just released on CD, comprises 11 instrumental tracks (but with plenty of wordless vocalizing by Drozd), plus an interesting, atmospheric, interstellar, synth-laden cover of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” with Maynard James Keenan singing. It’s easily the highlight. The rest is Brian Eno-grade experimentation, but with a hallucinatory pop instinct. Check out the blissed-out, garage-rock guitar stomp of “Quaalude Youth” and the corrosive glitch-electronica of “Last Dose.” Fans of Krautrock and art-cinema soundtracks will dig this immensely. ★★★☆☆


Charles Bradley No Time for Dreaming (Dunham Records)

Sixty-two is a ripe age to begin a musical career, but Brooklyn’s Charles Bradley, when not toiling as a chef, has been ekeing out an existence as a James Brown impersonator for many years. Inspired by seeing his hero perform live at the Apollo in the early ’60s, Bradley has mastered raw, passionate vocalizing. Still, Bradley’s full-length debut for Daptone (home of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings) imprint Dunham Records is no imitation. “The World (Is Going Up in Flames)” burns with the intensity of life experience—it’s an authentic and searing piece of hard-core soul. Backed by the crackerjack Menahan Street Band, Bradley unleashes every R&B-singing trick in the book, from the sweaty voiceover of “The Telephone Song” to the Motown-style maneuver of letting female background singers carry the chorus in “I Believe in Your Love.” The revivalist soul movement has delivered another excellent disc. ★★★★☆


British Sea Power Valhalla Dancehall (Rough Trade)

Brighton, England’s indie-rock torchbearers have always been a quirky bunch. And British Sea Power’s fifth album, which was recorded in an old Sussex farmhouse, sounds like a band stretching itself to a breaking point. The moody piano-based ballad “Georgie Ray” goes from intimate to epic, offering the kind of mystery and menace that will likely earn BSP critical much acclaim, while bleak, speedy rocker “Stunde Noll” (a German military term) spills over with shards of spiky guitar noise and frighteningly futuristic sound effects. This isn’t aiming-for-five-stars Radiohead aping, however, but rather a grand and desperate statement of purpose by a group of musicians who simply won’t accept being mediocre in an overcrowded genre. The joie de vivre with which BSP delivers “Thin Black Sail” is real. The song’s lyrics—“It’s not psychedelic/It’s got many merits”—describe this entire album just as well. ★★★☆☆

Suggested Next Read

Mapping a Fool’s Paradise

Book Jacket

Mapping a Fool’s Paradise

By M. Scott Krause

Fool Me Once: Hustlers, Hookers, Headliners, and How Not to Get Screwed in Vegas (St. Martin’s Griffin, $16) by Rick Lax isn’t exactly what it appears to be. And that’s both good and bad, maybe even a little ironic. Out-of-towners might pick up the book thinking it’s a guide for surviving Sin City. Instead, Lax, a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly, has delivered a memoir that chronicles his move to Las Vegas and his obsession with avoiding deception. Fans of his previous effort, Lawyer Boy: A Case Study in Growing Up (St.