Devil in the Woods
Eleven years have passed since My Bloody Valentine dropped Loveless on us, and anyone still holding out for a follow-up from Shields & Co. better take a number and get in line behind the folks waiting for the Second Coming, light rail, and the Cubs taking the World Series. Plenty of bands have taken stabs at usurping MBV's throne, and they usually either head for space or the dance floor. A few of my favorites -- Medicine and Th' Faith Healers -- ran into the garage and came out with a hotwired rockin' take on shoegazing, and that's what KaitO does winningly.
Montigola Underground takes a few of the best tracks from their pretty-good debut CD and fills it out with four newbies for a perfect 25 minutes of sugar 'n' shards -- no room for redundancy or remix-itis. The songs are insanely catchy, lots of "la la las" and the like. The rhythm section pushes everything along at a bouncy clip, and the band puts twin guitars to great use, with clipped rhythm and paint-peeling scree in brilliant counterpoint. One of the catchiest tunes on the CD, "Shoot Shoot," ends with 15 seconds of what sounds like the guitarists rubbing sandpaper across their pickups. I haven't noticed any deep, quotable couplets yelled out by the ever-gleeful Nikki Colk, but I'm here for sonics and forward motion anyway. Go!
The Beginning of the End, The End of the Beginning
The Lord High Fixers
In the Red
Great, record your definitive statement and then break up before anyone gets to hear it, ya bastards. The Fixers doggedly made basically the same record over and over again: heavy twin-guitar garage rock with lots of covers and an ear for a very broad definition of "soul music," wrapped in a White Panthers Go to Dischord House ideology. And the new CD is no exception, just angrier, more varied and yet more cohesive than its predecessors.
Beginning starts with a yelling little boy, followed by the Fixers' "Godzilla vs. King Baby," followed by a savage cover of Mudhoney's "You Got It," followed by the fine hip-hop excursion "Smile ... the whole world is watching ... " And so on. There's some wailing free-rock, more "A Love Supreme," than "Black to Comm," with guest sax yowl from Ken Vandermark. And the other originals will singe your sideburns. The only stinker is another cover, Phil Ochs' "I'm Gonna Say It Now," inexplicably showcasing Mike Carroll's vocal limitations. But one weak song outta 14 won't ruin my day -- that's why CD players have skip buttons.
In the Red
The Horrors hail from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, of all places, but jeez, we're in Colorado Springs, so we should empathize. Heck, they're at least one scorching rock band ahead of us, maybe more -- we should be jealous. If any readers care to close this gap, please do; I'll buy you a whole case of beer.
While we wait, we've got The Horrors to tide us over. For the most part, nothing earth-shattering here, but their take on classic Pussy Galorestyle pound is quite fine, and their artful use of screwy fidelity manipulation pricks up my ears every time. But there's this one song (no song titles came with my LP, maybe someone forgot the insert) -- side one, song two -- that's got absolutely jaw-dropping, outta-control twin slide guitars and blown-out overloaded sound that threatens to fall apart every second -- rock 'n' roll at its apex. Now they just need to make a whole record of that caliber, eh?
The Hands of Caravaggio
MIMEO's my kind of orchestra -- the cream of the European free-improv circuit (and token American beardo Kevin Drumm, who can do no wrong), armed with crude electronics, the inevitable laptops, and even a few things actually designed for use as musical instruments. On "Caravaggio," they've added AMM's excellent pianist, John Tilbury, and let Cor Fuhler loose inside the piano with a bunch of toys, playing Cage to Tilbury's Tudor. The results are sublime, remarkable for how noisy the orchestra is not. They do let loose with some racket, and even then it's not a free-for-all or a volume war; rather, the whole is impressively controlled and beautifully detailed, turning on a dime from spacious to claustrophobic. The only recognizable instrumental sounds are those of Tilbury's piano and Jrme Noetinger's amplified camera flash. Caravaggio shows the contemporary avant-garde at its finest; a rigorous pure-sound work that rewards repeated listening.