CD Reviews

Love & War, Return to the Ugly Side and Little Me Will Start a Storm


Civet Love & War (Hellcat)


All-female punk rock lost its vagina dentata in 1976 when The Runaways released a self-titled record. For those who didn’t pop a “Cherry Bomb” the first time, jailbait act The Donnas arrived in the ’90s to moisten the pens of male critics masking boners behind fancy terms like “empowerment.” More recently, to their benefit, all-girl L.A. rockers Civet lost its rhythm section in November while touring with Nashville Pussy and with a fourth CD, Love & War, in the can. Singer/guitarist hotties Liza Graves and Suzi Carmichael have replaced their AWOL bassist and drummer with dudes, so the gimmick’s dead, but a fine studio performance remains. “We’re all bad girls/living in a bad world,” the ladies gang-chant on “Sunset Strip,” coming on like Courtney Love fronting Motörhead. Nothing new, but when Graves commands a lover to kiss her under the suicide solution of the Golden Gate Bridge and over a din of guitars in “Summer of Hate,” you’ll get a stiffy. Don’t hide it. ★★★☆☆


Malachai Return to the Ugly Side (Domino)


Bristol U.K. duo Malachai made a quiet yet singular splash last year with the eerie beats and ’60s British Invasion singing that comprise full-length debut Ugly Side of Love. Since then, Scott (music) and Gee (vocals)—no last names—have kept busy, recording a follow-up and even releasing the hourlong Herbal Elixir mixtape last month to tease psyche-rock hounds sniffing out something different. That something is Return to the Ugly Side, a 14-track sonic mindbender chock-full of crepuscular atmosphere and ebullient hooks, like the rousingly sinister “Mid Antarctica (Wearing Sandals),” which builds from the stupidest, most broken guitar riff into a frolickingly phantasmal stomp. “Let ’Em Fall” is a nightmarish pop nugget, a marriage between The Zombies’ baroque atmosphere and pressurized, retro drum-kit rhythms. How these guys manage to evoke Disney film songs and Pink Floyd Moon-scapes and dub-smeared go-go clubs is a mystery. I love ’em for it.  ★★★★☆


Loch Lomond Little Me Will Start a Storm (Tender Loving Empire)


Delicate and ornate and enigmatic to a beautiful fault, the exquisite symphonic chamber rock of Loch Lomond has earned the Portland, Ore., coed sextet (which boasts an expanded live lineup) critical acclaim yet subdued popularity, even after touring extensively with much-adored peers The Decemberists. That should change with the release of Storm, an engaging song cycle of innocence and wonder compromised by loss. Indeed, “Elephants & Little Girls” opens up like a lavishly illustrated pop-up children’s book, each verse bringing the listener closer to the limits of a figurative wooded area, where kids watch the skin around each other’s eyes, holding each other’s hands, living life the way it was intended—blessed. “Egg Song,” with its layered and cavernous vocal harmonies and a simple waltz of acoustic guitar chords, is nothing short of transcendent, pulling you into an unfamiliar yet beguiling realm, even as singer Ritchie Young laments the “monsters [that] ate all my friends.” Just as spellbinding as standing on the shore of a certain famous Scottish lake.  ★★★★☆

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By Andreas Hale

New York Hip-Hop