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    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Album Review: Maximum Balloon "Maximum Balloon"

    by: Maggie Luckadoo

    With names like Karen O, David Byrne, and Katrina Ford on the track listing for Maximum Balloon’s debut self-titled release, it’s difficult to set the bar low for the album. And, after listening to said tracks, Maximum Balloon did not fail to meet my expectations. Best known for his role in TV On the Radio, Maximum Balloon is a side project of David Andrew Sitek.

    It is clear from the beginning that this project is a complete departure from TV On the Radio’s sound for Sitek. The opening track, “Groove Me,” featuring Thelophilus London, is heavy on synth and sets off the rhythmic, dance-like tone which flows throughout the entire album. With Katrina Ford’s vocals on “Young Love,” the dance club feel continues and doesn’t stop until TV On the Radio Kyp Malone lends his voice to the track “Shakedown,” which has a slower, jazzier tempo. But even when Sitek reunited with Malone on Maximum Balloon, the end product sounded nothing like tracks on TV On the Radio’s albums. Also standing apart from Maximum Balloon’s dance tracks are “The Lesson” featuring Holly Miranda and “Pink Bricks” featuring Ambrosia Nicole Parsley, which have more sultry vocals. Karen O’s contribution to the album, “Communion,” was not reminiscent of anything she’s produced with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but is pleasantly surprising and one of Maximum Balloon’s strongest tracks.

    Despite the wide range of vocals and sounds on each track, which vary with each contributor to the album, Maximum Balloon achieves a certain level of consistency. Those expecting to hear an album similar to TV On the Radio’s most recent releases, Return to Cookie Mountain and Dear Science, will be disappointed by Maximum Balloon. However, Sitek’s first solo venture can definitely be considered a success. Unique and upbeat, this album is full of solid dance tracks and unique rhythms. Hopefully, this will not be Sitek’s only release of this kind. 7/10

    Album Picks: "If You Return," Communion," "Young Love"

    Album Review: Street Dogs "Street Dogs"

    by: Ashley Burdette

    Boston-based Street Dogs (fronted by former Dropkick Murphys singer, Mike McColgan) released their fifth album at the end of August, which has been a great soundtrack for the beginning of the school year. It will draw you in from the very first riff and shrill of the bagpipes, making you want to drink green beer, slap on some Mardi Gras beads and have a Boondock Saints marathon in your dorm room. Following the traditional punk format, none of the tracks are longer than three minutes and roll right into each other with perfection. They’re the kind of songs on your iPod that make you walk, or tap your hand on the steering wheel, a bit faster to keep in time with the music.

    There is a balance though, if you want to listen to something a bit slower and more ‘ballad-y’, check out “Bobby Powers”, “10 Wood Rd.”, or “Poor, Poor Jimmy”— as opposed to “Punk Rock and Roll”, “Ghosts”, or “Portland”, which will definitely wake you up in the morning and get you going. Interwoven between the rather catchy beats and raw energy are political messages about the economy, something we all hate to talk about but deal with every day, making the members of Street Dogs seem like guys you could see yourself hanging out with in a garage somewhere on Route 421, not ‘rockstars’. This album could easily become a staple in every punks’ music collection, especially if you’re into Flogging Molly, Rancid, Dropkick Murphys, or (dare I say it?) ... Good Charlotte. So, I raise a toast to Street Dogs: may the next album be even more awesome, sláinte. 8.9/10

    Album Picks: "Yesterday," "Harpo," "Ten Wood Rd."

    Friday, October 1, 2010

    Album Review: Grinderman "Grinderman 2"

    by: Clint Frost

    Say what you will about Nick Cave; you can’t say that he conforms to any popular music trends. Cave (Lead singer of Grinderman,‘80’s-to-now indie stalwart, of Bad Seeds fame), interestingly enough, is probably furthest away from conforming to the general mindset of today’s top “indie/alternative” music-by which I mean, high pitched vocals and lyrics that either induce sympathy from the listener or act as some sort of rallying cry to a legitimized cause (i.e., The Shins, Arcade Fire, respectively)- with Grinderman.

    Cave’s deep, preacher-at-the-Church-of-Satan- voice croaks lyrics that create dark stories about characters who far from inspire sympathy. Take for example the crazed siblings in the opening track “Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man;” who are most likely holding a woman against her will and defiling her as the cops arrive at the door. Or the man in “Worm Tamer” who bluntly justifies running around on his wife by saying he “just loved her too long.”

    The music on Grinderman 2 is blues indebted rock and roll in its most raw and primitive form, except with tastefully precise modern studio touches. The band gives fresh new life to the archetypal Bo Diddly blues beat employed by “Worm Tamer” just by playing the hell out of it on what sounds like a cheap Wal-Mart guitar and amp, and by placing bits of snake charmer-esque synth noises in just the right places. So the music is just as brutal and relentless as the stories the lyrics tell, with their careless embrace of vilest depths of human desire. However, there are times on the album, though rare, where the smoke clears and the narrators feel a tingling of self-awareness and regret, such as on the heart-breaking “What I Know.” In this ragged acoustic number, Cave steps away from the pulpit, breaks down, and all but sobs about the cruelty of human nature’s inability to be sexually content.

    In the end, Grinderman 2 is a great album, though what casual listeners may find hard to digest is the fact that the album’s merits are in the raw beauty in which it exposes the dark, animal impulses that are bottled-up deep in the core of most humans, and what happens when those impulses gain control over all else. 8.1/10

    Album Picks: "Worm Tamer," "What I Know," "Palaces of Montezuma"