Tomorrow Forever (Honeycomb Hideout/RED)
Making up for a six-year hiatus of solo releases, Matthew Sweet gets back to business with his latest album, issued by his own newly launched, crowd-funded Honeycomb Hideout imprint. Tomorrow Forever clocks in at over an hour and includes a whopping 17-tracks of catchy, musically challenging and often-thought-provoking material.
Although influenced by Sweet's return to his native Omaha and the recent loss of his mother, the songs still chime with the upbeat, memorable hooks he's utilized since his days in the burgeoning Athens music scene of the mid-'80s. His craftsmanship quickly outgrew the limits of the Classic City clique and his subsequent solo releases have all contained a plethora of pop gems - including of course, his biggest radio success, "Girlfriend." Here he bookends that effusive 1991 hit with "Trick," opening the new package with his signature crunch and the perfect candidate for a new single. It finds Sweet comfortably at home doing what he usually does best - slinging bowls of chunky garage rock stew, seasoned with clever, repetitive lyrics.
The only complaint with Tomorrow Forever is that this much material could easily spread across two albums, giving a bit more breathing room to some of the more standout selections on each. Still, that's only a minor problem and in this case the set serves as a long summer soundtrack, with new favorites emerging with each new listen. "Pretty Please," "Music For Love" and "Carol," often rate as repeat-worthy highlights but the entire record is perhaps his most consistently satisfying collection since his commercial alternative radio heyday.
In addition to a few guest musicians, he's joined by his frequent collaborators Paul Chastain and Ric Menck (both of Velvet Crush) and Bangle Debbi Peterson on drums. For all the aging hipsters and shade-tree historians, a keyboard cameo from The Zombies' Rod Argent is a not-so-subtle reminder of Sweet's unapologetic connection to - and unabashed love for - classic '60s rock.
Matthew Sweet plays July 26 at City Winery with special guest Tommy Keene.
āLee Valentine Smith
Peter Hook & The Light
Unknown Pleasures: Live in Leeds 2012; Closer: Live in Manchester 2011; Power, Corruption & Lies: Live in Dublin 2013; Movement: Live in Dublin 2013 (World Records)
The likelihood of the full New Order line up getting back together is somewhere between another Replacements reunion (possible, but doubtful) and a Smiths Reunion (Morrissey is just as likely to start eating meat and showing a bit of humility). But this collection of live albums from Peter Hook, founding member of both New Order and their precursor, Joy Division, is bound to serve as some solace to lifelong fans of both bands.
Since 2010, Peter Hook & The Light has been touring the globe playing a mix of originals as well as Joy Division and New Order songs live. Four of those shows have finally been released on CD covering Joy Division's two albums, Unknown Pleasures and Closer, both recorded live in England and the first two New Order albums, both recorded in Dublin in 2013. And each is an impressive addition to the cannons of both bands.
All of the album includes rare, and in some cases, never released singles to round them out. For the Unknown PleasureĀ set, recorded on November 29, 2012 in Leeds, the band runs through the complete album along with stellar versions of "Transmission" and "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and the never-recorded "Ceremony." The Closer album was recorded in front of an enthusiastic home town crowd in Manchester on May 18, 2011. Both of the New Order sets, theĀ Movement and Power, Corruption & Lies, were recorded in Dublin on November 22, 2013
Yes, there are bound to be some folks who scream blasphemy at the fact that Hook was the only member of those two bands now playing these songs, but going into this with an open mind these sets really are impressive. Decades later Hook and crew still manage to give life to classics like "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and "Blue Monday" and despite the fact the Hook never sang these songs originally, he does a stellar job with the material. Hearing the music of these two classic bands live again, spread across these four albums, is a reminder of just how punk their music really was.
The Dustbowl Revival
Self-titled (Signature Sounds)
Venice, CA-based band The Dustbowl Revival roll deep; like Arcade Fire deep. But all eight members clearly serve a vital role as the band has managed to turn in one of the most exciting records in years regardless of genre by deftly mixing soul, Americana, swing, bluegrass and the funkiest brass heard outside of the French Quarter.
From the very first line, a knowing "Aw yeah," bellowed seconds into the opening track "Call My Name," the band grabs your attention and gives you no reason to look away for the next 45 minutes. Along with having an amazing collection of musician to prop up the music the key to The Dustbowl Revival is the dual singers; Liz Beebe bringing a soulful/jazz vibe and Zach Lupetin, with the perfect pipes for Americana, trade off duties fronting the band with masterful results. One moment Beebe has the dancefloor crammed with a number like "Good Egg" and just a few songs later, Lupetin is tugging at your heart with "Got Over."
The Dustbowl Revival has been gigging around LA for years, pulling in accolades and crowds with each show. This eponymous effort proves they are ready to take on the rest of the world next.
Me First And The Gimme Gimmes
Rake It In: The Greatestest Hits (Fat Wreck Chords)
It's been 22 years since punk rock's greatest supergroup cover band first formed and shockingly the joke still hasn't gotten old. Comprised of members of NOFX, Lagwagon, Swingin' Utters' and Foo Fighters, the band started off with a 7" of two John Denver covers (their version of "Country Roads" is included here in this greatest hits collection). The group put out a few more singles over the next years and pulled together their first proper album in 1997, with Have A Ball. It was a great album, but with a somewhat loose theme of hit songs from the '70s and '80s, riffing on folks like Billy Joel, Paul Simon and Kenny Loggins. Over the next decade, they tightened up the themes, with records comprised of show tunes (Are A Drag), R&B songs (Take a Break), Country jams (Love Their Country) and songs from Australian artists (Go Down Under), among others.
Pulling together a "greatest hits" album for a indie punk band has always been almost entirely selective as very few radio stations are playing the genre nowadays and so it's hard to define what a "hit" actually is. That being said, the band does an excellent job picking songs from their catalogue to fill out the 17 tracks here. There are one or two questionable choices ("Summertime" is probably the weakest track off Have a Ball but somehow earned a spot here), but the rest of the album is crammed with fan favorites like "I Believe I Can Fly," "Desperado" and "End of the Road".
Here's hoping the band sticks around long enough to have enough material for Volume II.
The Moonlit Fables of Jack the Rider (CEN)
Founded by former Starlight Mints frontman Allan Vest and his wife Barb, doubleVee is just as quirky as you'd hoped they would be, based on his track record.
Just as odd his earlier offerings, The Moonlit Fables of Jack the Rider is addictively goofy pop, not that far removed from fellow Oklahomans the Flaming Lips. The record is clearly a concept album, but what exactly that concept is was not obvious enough for me to figure out. Regardless, it's a fun record with Barb and Allan sharing vocals duties though out. The piano, guitars and often strings and brass vacillates between ominous on tracks like "Bumper Car Parade" and dreamy, like on the sublime "Jose's Aspirations." There are some spots that drag here and there, but overall a wholly original and enjoyable offering from a voice that's been missing for nearly a decade, when the Starlight Mints decided to call it a day.