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Everything Broad Ripple HomearrowRandom Ripplings Homearrow2010 04 16arrowColumn

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Converted from paper version of the Broad Ripple Gazette (v07n08)
Rick On The Records - by Rick Zeigler
posted: Apr. 16, 2010

Rick on the Records header

GORILLAZ-PLASTIC BEACH
Of all the major Britpop figures of the nineties, only Damon Albarn continues to put out work of the highest quality. While Blur, his original band, split and is now re-forming (for a reunion tour, possibly more), his Gorillaz side-project has become his main musical vehicle, with Plastic Beach being their third album. Similar to previous Gorillaz' efforts, the album features a variety of vocal guests spread across it's tracks, from Snoop Dogg to Mos Def to Lou Reed. And like their previous two albums, this formula works very well. While the disc is supposedly a sort of eco-parable, with its title variously attributed to a Pacific Island beach full of plastic throw-aways or to the Pacific gyre that is a pea-soup of plastic microfilaments, there is no sermonizing and, essentially, no way you would know this without reading the press releases. No matter, as the music is what is central here, and it is excellent. Starting off with a quite beautiful orchestral piece featuring strings and French horns, the orchestra builds to a crescendo that then yields to a slinky, slow bass line and a very spare beat. Over the top of this comes a synth hook which parallels the bass line, followed by the laconic rapping of Snoop Dogg. The slow pace and spare sound perfectly complements Snoop's wordplay. The next tune, and album centerpiece, White Flag, starts with middle-eastern percussion, plucked strings, and flute, courtesy of the Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music. The song then moves into playful, almost toy-like sounds that, along with the rapping of guests Bashy & Kano, becomes integrated into the middle-eastern motif. It is simply brilliant. Rhinestone Eyes follows, with a light-as-air rap by Albarn over skippy pop hooks. Stylo is another superbly constructed number featuring the alternating vocals of rapper Mos Def and soul man Bobby Womack. The contrasting styles of these two are woven together superbly. The album continues with guest spots from De La Soul, Lou Reed, Little Dragon, and Mark E. Smith (of the Fall), never flagging in its ability to whip up playful, poppy songs with plenty of hooks and complimentary vocals. While there is no one track that stands alone as a sure-fire "hit," there are also no duff songs marring the flow of the album. In sum, Albarn and his Gorillaz crew have once again put together an unerring amalgam of pop melodies and hip-hop beats, topped with a varied cast of vocal collaborators. Highly recommended.

SURFER BLOOD-ASTRO COAST
Astro Coast is the debut album by Surfer Blood, and it is one great album for lovers of rock heavy with guitar hooks. Drawing from the wells of both classic rock (AC/DC, Tom Petty, surf/biker music) and indie rock (lots of Pavement and Pixies influences are evident), Surfer Blood have crafted a solid batch of songs that never skimp on the melody or on the number of hooks present in each song. Opener Floating Vibes sets the template right out of the gate, with the first notes being a simple, solid guitar line, backed by a four-square beat, then joined by another, interlocking guitar line. Handclaps, a brilliant bridge, and three vocalists harmonizing complete the treat. Swim follows in nearly epic fashion, sounding like a stadium shout-along that has not been dumbed down. A catchy power chord progression is joined with "oh oh oh" background vocals and a number of great guitar hooks to make this the album's most memorable song. Take It Easy has a motorik groove with sharp, staccato-like guitars and playful percussion, while Harmonix uses two simple, chiming chords as its centerpiece, around which the band builds a great melody over a bouncing bass line. Twin Peaks shows off the band's indebtedness to Weezer, but contains bigger chords and a more powerful chorus than anything Rivers Cuomo has put forth in ages. Slow Jabroni, as its name implies, slows things down, layering fuzzed-out guitars and vocals over a largely beatless melody. But the group picks up the tempo again for the final pair of songs, both flawlessly melodic and full of spare, catchy guitar lines. Throughout, there is always a melody to hum along to or a guitar line that will stick in your head, with most songs containing numerous instances of both. For this rock junkie with a sweet tooth for pop, it is one of the year's best debuts.


Rick Zeigler, along with his wife, Jeanne, owns Indy CD and Vinyl at 806 Broad Ripple Avenue. Back in his musician days, his band opened for the likes of U2, XTC, Gang Of Four, The Pretenders, Los Lobos, and, um, Flock Of Seagulls, among others. You can read all of Rick's reviews at www.indycdandvinyl.com. Email your music questions and comments to rick@BroadRippleGazette.com




rick@broadripplegazette.com
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