CD Reviews: Self Abuse, Panic! at the Disco and Elton John

Punk Rock

Self AbuseSelf Abuse, Punk Snot Ted (SquidHat)

Las Vegas label SquidHat seems determined to spotlight every obscure punk band (Peccadilloes, Guilty by Association) in town with a retrospective. Here’s the latest release—an affordable ($5) digital download offering 20 remastered tracks by Self Abuse. (Frontman Todd Sampson died in 2010.) Recorded from 1982 to 2009, the songs run the gamut, from the 40-second-long, crotch-sniffing primitivism of “Dog’s Life” to the more grown-up, musically sophisticated “World of Fear,” a timeless anthem protesting man’s tireless evil. For hardcore completists only. ★★☆☆☆

Emo Pop

Panic at the DiscoPanic! at the Disco, Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! (Decaydance/Fueled By Ramen)

These Mormon synth-rockers favor energy over articulate songcraft, but it’s still surprising how deliciously overwrought and deliriously scatterbrained their fourth effort is. “Girl That You Love” mimes Pretty Hate Machine-era Nine Inch Nails, and “Girl/Girl/Boys” comes on like A-ha on a Ritalin bender. But it’s only when frontman Brendon Urie strikes up his best Adam Levine impression for love-stained club-thumper “Nicotine” that we realize Panic! is a preamble to the singer’s hit-making future. ★★★☆☆

Adult Contemporary

Elton JohnElton John, The Diving Board (Capitol/Mercury)

Mega-producers push classic rockers to make retro albums in an effort to recapture early mojo. Just as Rick Rubin secured grittier takes by Black Sabbath, T-Bone Burnett (who helmed Elton John’s 2010 collaboration with Leon Russell) bottles the Red Pianoman’s earthy lightning. Co-writer Bernie Taupin submits poetic lyrics, resulting in John’s moodiest melodies. The bluesy, New Orleans-shuffling “Mexican Vacation (Kids in the Candlelight)” is a bittersweet highlight. So’s beautiful ballad “Oceans Away,” about seeing off gray-haired loved ones to new lands. ★★★☆☆

Disc Scan

Upcoming albums on Jarret’s radar …

JAN. 14: Brooklyn retro-funk/soul outfit Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings return with their sixth album, Give the People What They Want, recorded and then delayed while Jones was diagnosed with cancer. The singer sounds fully recovered on the disc’s first single, a Detroit-charged stomper called “Retreat!” FEB. 4: Ever-prolific indie-tunesmith Mark Kozelek unveils Ben ji, the sixth album under his Sun Kil Moon moniker. With guest spots by Will Oldham and Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley, the LP will be released on Kozelek’s own Caldo Verde imprint and features eerie talking blues (performed on nylon-string guitar) “Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes.”

Suggested Next Read

Bunkhouse Held Up, Guitar Center Goes Union


Bunkhouse Held Up, Guitar Center Goes Union

By Jarret Keene

News bits: The Downtown Project’s Bunkhouse Saloon renovation hit a snag. If you remember, the live-music venue closed on July 1 for remodeling. The idea was to reopen the bar 60 days later. Well, it’s been more than 120 days, and still no beautified Bunkhouse.