Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Critical Beatdown: Round One

A new feature, indebted to The Singles Jukebox (not a dating service) and Kool Keith.

Them Crooked Vultures, "New Fang"
AM: There is something crooked and predatory about this loud and limber jam. The participants bring their A-Games, but it's not quite the sum of Zeppelin, Nirvana, and Queens of the Stone Age. 4/5

NS: Might sound cluttered at first, but several listens yield a blocky groove of many variable genius parts. Oddly Franz Ferdinand-sounding (especially the fat guitar sounds), this song proves once again that the magnificent Dave Grohl is never better than behind the kit. Love the slide/strings/whatever that noise is. I want more. 4.5/5

Grant Hart, "School Buses Are For Children"
AM: Astoundingly similar to Ziggy-era Bowie, with a low-budget baroque kinda sound. It could sound like shit and it'd still make me happy Grant's around, but it's better than that. 3.5/5

NS: Firmly ensconced at this point as the fifth best songwriter to come out of Minnesota, Hart chooses to indulge his more introspective singer-songwriter chops. The best thing about this song for me is Hart's keenly affecting wail, virtually unchanged since the Husker days, but the song's whole lilt is supremely pleasant and uplifting. 4/5

Charlotte Gainsbourg and Beck, "IRM"
AM: Unlike Gainsbourg's recent film work, "IRM" is actually quite tasteful, perhaps too polite. Nathan's right to draw a comparison with the digital ramshackle of Beck's The Information, though this is tidied up. On initial listens I thought "IRM" had the sterility of its titular subject, now I think I mistook that for the rhythm. 3/5

NS: You can tell Beck (especially Beck-circa-2007) is all over this track. Gainsbourg's vocals are less effective, but at least they aren't textbook throwback French pop sort of coos, which one might expect from the kid of Serge Gainsbourg. Extra points for the drums, but this still doesn't feel like a completed song. 2.5/5

Girls, "Lust For Life"
AM: A youthful, adrenalized jolt that marks the entrance of a rock and roll true believer. Like if Jason Pierce spent more time in the sun. 5/5

NS: I'm predisposed towards blocking out these sorts of songs redolent of pastoral indie-ness, so maybe I'm missing out on a great pop song under all this. I was personally pretty bored by the guitar-work until maybe the 52-second mark. Songs like this are liable to make me really sad, because I'm pretty sure whatever Girls is trying to talk about is something I've never experienced and never will. 2.5/5

Miley Cyrus, "Party In The U.S.A."
AM: "Party In The U.S.A.," more than the Bush presidency, makes me ashamed to be an American. Trite, pap-rock, focus-grouped bullshit--all accurate descriptors, but they fail to penetrate the horror of the song's maddening buoyancy. 0/5

NS: While I appreciate Ms. Cyrus' willingness to try and mend a bitterly divided nation, I am completely incapable of relating to even a word of what she's talking about (something about culture shock and visiting LA). The worst thing about this song is the awful, awful canned drums that seem straight out of the dregs of the 80s. The paeans to Jay-Z/Britney hurt my ears. 1/5

Brother Ali, "The Preacher"
AM: Rap's foremost humanist takes a break to remind you he's a also a next-level MC. A retread of "Whatcha Got," but who cares? It's Ant who ups his game this time. 4/5

NS: While the uncharacteristically straightforward horns 'n' guitars courtesy of Ant are certainly cool, Brother Ali's lyrical abilities can't help but command attention. Just your good old-fashioned soul-classic rock-rap mishmash, with the Brother taking it to the next level. This is the one I'll probably end up listening to the most. 5/5


  1. Let's see...fifth best after Prince, Dylan, Westerberg, and Mould? In that order?

    For me Alan Sparhawk is up there too.

  2. That order seems about right. Sometimes I'm inclined to appreciate Hart more than Mould but I can't deny Mould's far more prolific body of work.

    Forgot about Sparhawk but he might work at 6 or so. I'd also give a shoutout to Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum.

  3. Anyone seen Antichrist?


  4. I'm embarrassed to say I no longer have the stomach for Von Trier. Or at least coming out of Dogville I felt as if he was making films to punish the people who were inclined to watch them. This is not a healthy way to work.

  5. I haven't seen "Antichrist," but if art cinema enthusiasts worldwide agree that a LVT film is tasteless, and not in a good way, I'm willing to take their word on it.

    The first 2 sentences of A. O. Scott's review were pretty great.