Reviews: Le Butcherettes, Howe Gelb, Fan Modine, more

Post Author:

Americans In France, Crawling (Odessa)
The press release for this album cites Dick Dale, The Doors and Black Flag as jumping off points for the band’s sound, and while I can’t argue with a sales pitch like that, I will say there’s also a bit of The Fall in the music of AIF, and singer Josh Lajoie’s “soured-milk voice” does share something in common with the great Mark E. Smith at certain times. That curmudgeonly quality can only take most bands so far, however.

While they get away with it on the aggressive “Success,” where they invoke early post-punk, and sound like early PIL, they’re at their best when the rein in their most atavistic tendencies. “Sylvia” is weirdly post-new wavey and it works, and “Uneducated Fingers” dances with a number of interesting sounds going all the way back to the 80s. When they get tuneless like The Shaggs on “Electric Tulip” it just doesn’t hold together. Maybe that’s because we’ve all heard so much of that kind of thing since those halcyon days. I like their attitude, perhaps they just need to do more work on the details.

Anti-Social Music, Is The Future Of Everything (Peacock)
Let’s begin by stating that the title of this album is obviously tongue-in-cheek because Anti-Social Music is, most definitely, not the future of anything, musical or otherwise. ASM is a non-profit NYC-collective of numerous composers and performers, co-founded by former Hold Steady member Franz Nicolay, which has included members of World Inferno Friendship Society, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Ida. It began as a one-off concert performance in 2000 wherein those involved would combine multiple styles of music into a cross-genre experiment.

This collection celebrates their tenth anniversary with an eclectic, off- the-wall, cut and paste pastiche of discovered sounds, bad notes and half-baked ideas. I totally get what they’re going for, with the incongruous sounds breeding their own brand of dissonance, but, to be frank, this kind of thing has been done to death in the last twenty years of post-punk existentialism and post-modern experimentalism. The “songs” amount to little packets of aural glop that stick to the walls (and your hair) in small chunks, but ultimately serve as nothing more than masturbation. By the end of this ride it feels like you were just banging your head against the aforementioned wall. Sorry.

Fan Modine, Gratitude For The Shipper (Daniel 13 Press)
Gordon Zacharias is Fan Modine, and he recorded this pleasant offering with the help of producer Chris Stamey and R.E.M. family member Jefferson Holt. The homemade/hand-numbered CD comes in a fold-over silk-screened cover, and is limited to 350 copies. “Yanzhong Lydi” is a decent opener, suggesting a few different points of reference like the English countryside and old dark-wood libraries, and this paves the way for the sleek chamber rock of the estimable “Wormwood Scrubs”. The percussive dance-pop of “M.O.I.” shakes off the shackles and takes off on its own, as does the slow burning “The Dream and the Dreamer”. “Waiting for Distant Light” evokes a smoky Tindersticks-like presence. Some of the vocals may waver at times, and not all the arrangements crackle as they might have, but overall it’s a pretty damn good showing.

Howe Gelb/A Band of Gypsies, Alegrias (Fire)
Howe Gelb, quasi-legendary troubadour and democratic leader of Giant Sand, is a visionary and a music industry survivor par excellence, having recorded more than 30 albums in all his various guises for a mostly uncaring world. Restless and surly, bemused and bewildered, Gelb has managed to incorporate all manner of discomfiting, earthy, dark-hued, non-commercial/non-rock elements into his music while enjoying lots of critical praise in the indie rock world, and zero recognition in the mainstream. This album was recorded in Andalusia, and Howe’s maybe a little more focused than usual here, with a definite central musical concept at work. There’s a group of flamenco players involved, and they stay quite consistent in tone throughout, holding firm to that overall concept as each song holds hands with some cross-cultural something or other. The southwestern/Latino roots-rock motif shares some space with like-minded brethren Calexico, and it also dances to the edge of Neil Young & Crazy Horse, a few times, briefly. The album loses a little steam in the second half, but it’s dotted with numerous artful moments, as are all of Gelb’s records, regardless of the other parties involved.

Le Butcherettes, Sin Sin Sin (Rodriguez Lopez/Sargent House)
Le Butcherettes, which started as a duo in Guadalajara, Mexico, is captained by 21-year old singer/guitarist/pianist Teri Gender Bender, and mentored by Omar Rodriguez Lopez, who also plays bass on the album. After settling in LA in 2010, Gender Bender joined forces with drummer Gabe from The Locust and bassist Jonathan from Hella and Le Butcherettes USA was born. The songs on this debut album grab you by the throat right away, with jagged garage punk edges and dirt in the amps, and just eye-balling the song titles it’s clear there’s a fixation with philosophers and writers. The question is, can they sustain the intrigue of the first few bars?

“Henry Don’t Got Love,” referring to that master of vocabulary Henry Miller, is promising, as is “The Leibniz Language,” name-checking philosopher Wilhelm Liebniz. After that things get sketchy, but “Mr. Tolstoi” lands in close proximity to the Dresden Dolls theatrical, art-damaged neighborhood, as Gender Bender’s vocals cross paths with the Dolls’ Amanda Palmer and she shows some range. They’re at their best when they get revved up/fucked up as they do on “Dress Off.” There’s a raw Babes In Toyland quality to that song and more of that would be welcome. The hilarious tray photo that depicts a child-aged Ayn Rand sitting on the lap of Karl Marx as Friedrich Nietzsche an Virginia Woolf look on is a nice touch.

That’s all for now. Keep on keepin’ on…