CD Reviews

Eclipse, We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves and Wayward Fire


Journey Eclipse (Nomota)

No less than the greatest of ’80s power-ballad bands, Journey, is down to self-releasing albums (Nomota is guitarist Neal Schon’s label) exclusively via Wal-Mart, which should tell you something about the messed-up state of the music industry. That’s OK, because the 12 tracks here make for ideal background patter during your next visit to a giant warehouse filled with Chinese-manufactured crap. To their credit, the musicians comprising Journey (still minus Steve Perry, whose replacement again is Filipino singer Arnel Pineda) don’t even attempt to recapture soft-rock majesty. Instead, Eclipse is a safe record, with touches of metal and prog to shore up the band’s audience in Europe, where heavy music remains popular. Sure, songs such as the driving “Ritual” and the arty Hendrix homage of “To Whom It May Concern” resemble some of the edgier, synth-fueled moments on 1983’s Frontiers. But overall Eclipse is an overindulgent, ultra-glossy, meant-for-the-masses monster that fails to eclipse classic Perry and Co. ★☆☆☆☆


John Maus We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves (Ribbon)

I don’t need to meet or watch a YouTube interview of 31-year-old Austin, Minn., composer and philosopher John Maus to know he’s nuts. Like peer Ariel Pink, Maus is so unwavering in his determination to push electropop to its breaking point that the results sound like brilliant madness. Context is everything, and unless you’re aware of the fact that this music is constructed by a highly intelligent, very sensitive person, you’d mistake Maus’ third full-length for a karaoke tape boosted from a teen goth club in dour old England. The Human League and Joy Division provide the foundation, which is evident in songs such as the melancholy, synth-cascading “Streetlight,” akin to a morsel of bright candy pulsing in the darkest alley, and “Quantum Leap,” its moody bass guitar underscored by gauzy vocals transplanted from someone’s psychedelic nightmare. Indeed, Pitiless Censors lingers like a dreamy new wave flashback that can’t be explained. It simply must be felt. ★★★☆☆


The Chain Gang of 1974 Wayward Fire (Modern Art)

You have to respect a musician who cites as his most profound musical experience the final scene of Real Genius, when Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” starts blasting. Or maybe singer/multi-instrumentalist Kamtin Mohager should be reproached for copping the vibe of so many Reagan-era artists. The epic rock anthem “Taste of Heaven” sounds like its title suggests—the sexy bastard child of the Psychedelic Furs and The Cure. The dirty-ass, keyboard-kissed funk of “Devil Is a Lady,” meanwhile, will have you sifting through your vinyl in search of Purple Rain and wondering why the album is missing this incredible tune. The effortless disco pop of “Matter of Time,” on the other hand, smacks of a credits-rollin’ song from a forgotten John Hughes flick. Sure, striving for the magic allure of an ’80s teen-comedy soundtrack seems dodgy, but no one does it better than The Chain Gang of 1974. Wayward Fire burns with singular, if strangely retro, intensity. ★★★☆☆

Suggested Next Read

Too Cruel for School

Movie Review

Too Cruel for School

When I told my husband that I was going to see Bad Teacher, he paused for a moment and then said, knowing my love of wordplay, “The title of your take-down will write itself!” And while it is true that I love it when movies unwittingly review themselves, the presence of the word “bad” in the title isn’t always a giveaway. Breaking Bad, for instance, is a really good show. The Bad Seed is a classic. Even Bad Boys, the 1995 Will Smith-Martin Lawrence cop caper, has its charms. That said, Bad Teacher is pretty bad.



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