erasing clouds

4 Music Reviews

by dave heaton

Boyracer, Acoustically Yours (555)

On Acoustically Yours, the punk rockers in Boyracer let down their guard and show their sensitive side…just kidding, they wear their hearts on their sleeves at all times, whether they're blasting feedback, rocking full-blast, or stripping things down to the barest essentials, as they do on the 22 tracks on this cassette. The songs here are played with gentler instruments, perfect for those of you with sensitive ears, but the melodies and feelings come across as perfectly as ever. Great pop tunes about love and the workaday life and friends and loneliness and all that stuff, played in that slightly ragged, loose punk way and recorded on whatever was around. The songs come from various years and places, and Stewart (Anderson, the lead singer/songwriter) lays out all of the details in the folded-up piece of paper that serves as liner notes. A fantastic, inexpensive little recording that's literally filled with great songs that rock, roll, and touch your heart at the same time.

DJ Ordeal, "Song 4 U"/"Przeczucie" 7" (Spartacus Stargazer)

Another otherworldly oddity from DJ Ordeal, the enigmatic mastermind who no doubt spends hour upon hour searching for pieces of golden-era songs and movie scores he can splice into new, lovely but strange compositions. "Song 4 U" and "Przeczucie" live in a world where R&B ballads and 70s soap opera themes are beginning and ending at every second. On "Song 4 U" piano melodies intended to shed a tear or touch a lover's heart keep interrupting each other, together creating something pretty but ominous. But if "Song 4 U" is all interrupted beginnings, its counterpart "Przeczucie" is all endings, as if the final scenes of a million melodramas and romances are all battling for the same couple minutes of space on a side of a record. Lovers are reuniting, romances beginning and ending while the quiet-storm radio show serenades the silence. The mood is hopeful and bizarre, artificial and real at the same time, like a sci-fi version of a romance novel. Are the women on the 7"'s cover pin-ups from the 70s or robots? Only the songs know, but they're not telling.

Harris, New Morning Pulse (Urinine)

On the Boston band Harris's first EP, New Morning Pulse, they have that clean-guitar, sort-of sung-sort-of-screamed punk-ish rock thing ("emo") down pat, recalling in places the music much better bands like Braid were creating years ago. On one track ("Burn This Mother Down") they veer more closely to hardcore (and even then come off more like good students than wild rock animals), but for the most part this is play-it-by-numbers music that's been heard a million times before. If their formula is one you fall for, this might be up your alley. But to me all six songs are too bland and familiar for rock music, which in its best moments has always been about shaking the foundations. If the songs communicate no real emotions and there's nothing new to the sound, then what's the point of listening?

Mark Robinson, Origami and Urbanism (Teenbeat/Tomlab)

Where the movies that are released near the end of the year tend to be the ones that awards-givers and critics slave over, in the music world it's easy for albums released in November or December to get lost in the shuffle while everyone slaves over their holy best-of lists. One of the best albums from last year that I never found the chance to write about was one of those, Mark Robinson's Origami and Urbanism. Released on CD by Teenbeat, and then in an entirely different mix, with different titles and song order, on LP by Tomlab. Both rank as some of Robinson's best recordings yet; they neatly blend his sense for a great pop melody with his increasing interest in the atmosphere of ambient music, the stark beauty of minimalist compositions, and the freedom of experimental electronic music. His songs, as always, feel both like intimate confessions and art projects/exercises in style - that's not as incongruous as it sounds, but a unique balance. Sex, politics, fashion, food…they all enter into the equation lyrically. The LP version flows in a looser, more overtly experimental way (making its release on Tomlab appropriate), but both versions of the album showcase Robinson's impressive songwriting and album-crafting skills, as well as singing voice, which I've always loved…when he sings he comes off like a pop crooner and a smart-ass, a shy eccentric and a performer who was born to be in the spotlight.

Issue 21, March 2004

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