Galactic -- ya-ka may
For anyone who's followed, Galactic hasn't been so much a band as a sonic experiment. Always cutting a new swath and reinventing itself, the group has always had its roots firmly placed in its hometown of New Orleans and pulsed with a heartbeat in tune with its jazz underpinnings. Throughout the past few albums, however, the band has become more experimental, becoming a favorite on the jam circuit and breaking even those unspoken boundary lines.
Forays into mild funk (CrazyHorse Mongoose) and electronic (Ruckus) have given way for an infusion of hip-hop in recent years. For as much as the band had good intentions and visions with its last disc, From the Corner to the Block, incorporating a slew of New Orleans artists and rappers, the end result was joyous but uneven. With ya-ka-may, Galactic has found the balance that they were looking for.
Part jazz, part funk, part R&B and hip-hop, this is the the direction and future of Galactic (at least for now) and the strongest and most coherent disc the group has released in years. Its easily as strong as Ruckus, and personally reaches back to the satisfaction of CrazyHorse. New Orleans is fully represented here with cameos by Rebirth Brass Band, Allen Toussaint and Cheeky Blakk, amongst others as the band fully embraces its city and a sound that is no longer defined, though is still affected, by its jazz heritage.
This is still Stanton Moore and Robert Mercurio's baby. This is still Galactic and perhaps Galactic at its finest to date. Joyous, fun and celebrational of the band's New Orleans ties and lack of boundaries, if you want know what Galactic is all about or what modern New Orleans really sounds like, this is the place to start. --G.K. Hizer
Walk on the Dark Side
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Beat the Devil's Tattoo
With the arrival of Beat the Devil's Tattoo, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club returns to action with a revised lineup and a renewed energy that still walks a fine line without crossing over to the dark side.
Bassist Robert Levon Been and guitarist Peter Hayes have teamed up with a new drummer, Leah Shapiro, and the resulting chemistry has brought the band back to life.
At its heart, I believe BRMC has always been a rebellious, garage band, struggling to bridge the gap between UK indie rock sensibilities and the rawness of an unrefined L.A. practice pace. At least that's the vibe the band has always put off to me, and it's worked on a multitude of levels -- mostly in the urgency and emotion that seeps through the band's songs. Somewhere along the line, however, the band got off track and following the band's last disc, Baby 81, it was time to retune the BRMC lineup.
With Beat the Devil's Tattoo, we're back to raw emotion and controlled sonic chaos. The jangle and influence of indie Brit-pop still floats in the background of tracks like "Conscience Killer" and "Bad Blood," while the distortion and growl of "War Machine" hints at a conglomeration of Jack White, Jimmy Page, Flaming Lips and Black Sabbath run through a food processor.
There's a swampy backwoods tone that ties most of this disc together, from the twangy guitars and stomp that open "Beat the Devil's Tattoo" and "Conscience Killer" right down to the haunting piano line that opens "Long Way Down," which also channels late Beatles.
Even as the band experiments sonically, moving into a more surrealistic and psychedelic sound near the end of the disc, it all ties together as a glimpse into BRMC's own "Heart of Darkness".
Indeed, there's a dark overtone throughout the disc, but Been and Hayes manage to look their demons in the eye with this disc and walk away unscathed, even when those demons remain undefined. As a result, it's a haunting and visceral listen, a sonic roller-coaster ride of sorts.
While old fans of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club will rejoice with Beat the Devil's Tattoo, the disc should also win over a whole new segment of fans that might have overlooked the band thus far. Anyone that identifies with honest, raw emotion paired with gut-wrenching guitar rock needs to put Beat the Devil's Tattoo on the 2010 "must buy" list. --G.K. Hizer
Tip: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club will be performing at Cain's Ballroom Sunday night, March 21 with Band of Skulls and Pretty Black Chains opening the show. Tickets are $21 in advance and $23 at the door.
It seems like every time a band that hit its apex in the '80s or '90s puts out a new album of any decent quality, its fans start clamoring that the new work is a return to the glory days or "the best since..." You can definitely put Bon Jovi in that category. And while the band's latest disc isn't by any means a return to the '80s hair-metal glory of Slippery When Wet or New Jersey, it's also a far cry better than the majority of its output during the past decade.
What Bon Jovi has managed to do is continue to develop and move forward while tying together its history. It's a wise move that should satisfy both fans of the band's classic '80s work and the current fanbase the group has added during the past few years with its more contemporary work and latest experiment in Nashville.
"We Weren't Born To Follow" follows the phrasing and hooks that garnered the band's its biggest hits in the late '80s, but marries it to contemporary production and guitar tones. Definitely a wise move for the lead single and first cut on the album.
Throughout, there are hints of the band's past work, all updated for the current decade. Perhaps the most indicative of what's really going on here, however, is "Bullet," which hits with a hard driving rhythm and crunchy guitars at its opening, yet ultimately proves to have more in common with the band's 1992 release Keep The Faith than Slippery or New Jersey.
Throughout the course of years, it might be hard not to argue that has become more of a mid-tempo ballad band than a group of hard rockers. Jon Bon Jovi's writing has taken center stage and the only real glaring omission on this disc for classic fans is the inclusion of more of Richie Sambora's harmony vocals. Even so, it only takes one spin to identify this as a true Bon Jovi record.
Even the mid-tempo ballads build to an anthemic climax, with "Thorn in My Side" and "Love's the Only Rule" proving the point as stronger cuts on the album. Still, for my money, "Bullet" and "Superman Tonight" are the high points of the disc. "Superman Tonight" in particular is nearly definitive of the Bon Jovi juggernaut: achingly sincere, nearly painfully clichéd at times and still a hook that sticks in your head and won't let go. It's the definition of "guilty pleasure," which is what Bon Jovi has always proven to be: a band that you enjoy, perhaps secretly, even when it's uncool.
With The Circle, Bon Jovi hasn't returned to form. The group has simply tied all the loose ends of the past decade together. In the process, the group has also pulled together its strongest album since Keep the Faith in 1992. Surely, this is one that will satisfy fans from all decades. --G.K. Hizer
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