Friday, January 20, 2012

Neal Morgan Releases In The Yard: A Review


I love melodic pop music. I also love out there stuff, stuff that takes risks.

Luckily for me, Neal Morgan has covered both bases by releasing the drum-and-sample-based In The Yard.

The Joanna Newsom and Bill Callahan collaborator has produced this unique record that veers between moments of quiet introspection ("Kicking The Ball") and clanging-and-clattering workouts ("Thinking Big").

In The Yard is a tough record to describe; roughly similar to Todd Rundgren's A Cappella (1985), the record is entirely Neal's. He played the drums, sang, and did all the vocal bits that you hear sampled and looped in the background.

But where Rundgren was interested in studio trickery, Neal is interested in something else.

It's an odd, but lovely, mix here of bold, audacious, and loud moves. Drums and cymbals crash and clatter while Neal practically croons the vocals.

In what could have easily been a record-length drum off, the sort of thing that only Neal Peart could enjoy, In The Yard is, instead, a rather melodic record.

Neal uses the drum riffs and patterns to find the melodies and then his vocals, or lyrical improvisations, come in over the track.


Neal's vocals here remind me of Paul Simon's, for some reason. And, sometimes there's this nice feeling that you're hearing some new genre of rock music as those lovely vocal moments float in over a racket of drums-and-cymbals. On the title cut, there's even a sense of peace as the backing vocal samples chirp and Neal sings/speaks the lyrics, the drums sort of punctuating the ideas in the lyrics.

It's an interesting combination of forces at work on In The Yard. Fans of US indie rock will find the vocals warm and inviting, while musicians will dig the drumming which covers a gamut of styles beyond rock-'n'-roll.

What remains here is a record that has no peer. In The Yard will most likely turn out to be one of the boldest releases of 2012 and I can only imagine the thrill of seeing Neal Morgan perform these tracks live.

There's a new genre somewhere in here, something futuristic but not keyboard-heavy, something that relies on a very human use of samples.

Loud-and-pretty. Maybe that should be the name of that new genre that Neal Morgan is creating on In The Yard?

Accessible and wildly inventive, this is a thoroughly bold and interesting record.

I think my difficulties in writing about it should illustrate how different this release is.

Get it now on Drag City.

Follow Neal Morgan on Facebook here.

Jack Kirby's Kamandi: A Link To Check Out


I'm a big Jack Kirby fan and I recently read the reprints of Kamandi from the King and DC Comics. The first few issues were still very exciting and Kirby's inventiveness remained something to marvel at.

Diversions Of The Groovy Kind has a whole bunch of scans of the first pages of these Kirby issues up for your perusal.

Any Kirby fan should go check this out for a quick fix of that Kirby magic.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Where Are All These Shaw Brothers DVDs Coming From?


"You don't go out looking for a job dressed like that? On a weekday?"

Let's be clear about one thing: there is no way I'm about to rebuy my entire Shaw Brothers DVD collection now that I'm here.

Frankly, I've got little interest in rebuying most of the DVDs I sold back in America, SB titles or otherwise.

(Though I needed that Manics 2CD/DVD combination and the title you see rocking out on the TV here!)

That said, I sometimes scan a few shops here to see what's up and I was greeted with a very pleasant surprise today when I strolled into that HMV on Park Lane in Causeway Bay.

In a store that usually has less than 20 Shaw Brothers titles in stock, there were suddenly dozens -- is it something special for Lunar New Year? -- on the shelves.

I had to get back Hong Kong Nocturne (1967) as it's incredibly rare and a great film in many ways. And I also grabbed Hong Kong Hong Kong (1983) as it's a film that I really enjoyed and one that I'd like to rewatch in the context of being here in Hong Kong.

And, in case any of you SB junkies are wondering, there were a lot of formerly rare titles on the shelves at this HMV. I can only imagine the stock at the other HMVs.

Maybe I could make a living by buying these up and reselling them on eBay and Amazon?

Shipping would be enormous, I'm sure.

And, yes, there were about 6 copies of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (1983) on the shelf too!

The Ignominy Of Eating At Burger King In Hong Kong


It's not that I'm homesick or anything but every since they screwed up my order last week, I've wanted a Mushroom-n-Swiss burger at BK.

That journey comes with a price: Shame.

Invariably, there's always some other -- thinner! -- Westerner in there and he's usually got the same look your boss would have if you saw him coming out of a strip-club as you were going in.

It's a look that says, "Hey, I'm only human. Cut me some slack."

It's good to know that the new Burger King french fries have not reached these shores as the ones here are the familiarly awful BK kind that we've all been suffering with for decades.

There's not a huge budget menu but you can get some chicken tenders for $1.50USD more on top of your meal.

Oddly, and I could be wrong about this, but it seems like there's only one dipping sauce available for those bad boys. In this city of nearly unlimited dining options, why would Barbecue be the only sauce available for your chicken tenders?

A few pork sausage sandwiches on the non-breakfast menu aroused my curiosity, as did the mango parfait, but I held back.

The taste of good/bad American fast food was what I wanted on this day of errands.

And that overcooked burger gave me the strength to lug my laundry home down Hennessy Road.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Out Of Sight, Out Of Town: A Review Of The New Album From Standard Fare


Man, I haven't liked something this much since that debut album from Pull In Emergency.

(Though it's worth noting here that this trio from Sheffield has already smoothed their rough edges in ways that that London group hadn't back in 2010.)

Out Of Sight, Out Of Town, out now on Melodic, features 12 carefully crafted indie rockers that veer between youthful exuberance and more mature moments of introspection (see the lovely "Darth Vader").

There's so much energy here that one can't help but be happy when playing this record. I mean, it's the sort of thing that reassures even the most jaded rock snob -- ahem! -- that there's still life in the old beast yet.

The slow-burner "Look For Lust" opens the album in fine fashion.

(I found myself replaying this collection sometimes out of sequence so my review follows that pattern.)

The rush of "05 11 07" charms with Danny How's vocal harmonies matching Emma Cooper's lead ones. There's a trumpet here too that adds something else to this cut. For some weird reason, the song reminded me of fellow Sheffield band Pulp.

Mind you, it sounds nothing like that band; with guitar and drums (Andy Beswick is ferocious at times) roaring up and slowing down, the lyrical concerns here and the way they were expressed reminded me of Jarvis in some way. He can sing with an air of above-it-all detachment or outright emotion and Emma does that too on this record. It's a unique talent.

Familiar single "Suitcase" -- an earlier fave of mine -- is here too and things only get better as the album goes along.


It's the ghost of C86 on "Dead Future" with those "ba ba ba ba" vocal bits. The guitar slows down for some Vini Reilly-esque lines and then things rev up again. Danny and Emma share lead vocal duties on this cut that recalls The Primitives (that early stuff).

The shared vocals and ending thrash-and-bang of "Call Me Up" recall bands as varied as Yatsura and Shop Assistants but the sound here is so assured, so forceful, that one stops trying to pin references on the track as it races by you.


"Darth Vader" is really stunning. Where single "Suitcase" was strumming catchiness about a serious subject, "Darth Vader" uses a silly pop culture figure for the title of what is a touching relationship song. The track unfurls with Johnny Marr-like figures on the guitar. Emma's vocals are gentle and imploring and the drumming from Andy grounds things.

It's the sort of push-and-pull dynamic that I liked about The Delgados. It's not quite as dark as their best stuff was, but that's okay. It's shimmering and bright even if a bit forlorn.

The child of The Sundays and The Delgados: how could I not love this band?

Play "Suitcase" and "Darth Vader" back-to-back and you'll see why I'm so excited about Standard Fare.

"Kicking Puddles" reveals the influence of The Wedding Present even if the track features a few moments of shoegaze-ready guitar roar. The call-and-response vocals work here and the song revs up and slows down to achieve its effect.

"Bad Temper" shoves a lot of guitar noise into a tightly constructed gem that sounds like the first generation of bands who picked up guitars after hearing those early Buzzcocks records.

The marvelous "Older Women" highlights the wit of Standard Fare. Slightly cynical, the lead vocals from Sarah alternate between sarcasm and a certain kind of poignancy. Really, there are very few people who can sing like this -- maybe Chrissie Hynde -- and Emma Cooper may be one of them too.

The cut hurries along like an early Arctic Monkeys track but those vocals are just sublime. There's the sound of youthful optimism being crushed by mature awareness here that adds something touching to the tune. It's a lovely track and it highlights the things I already love about Standard Fare.

"Older Women" is the track that shows how the guys and gal in Standard Fare are moving things forward. There are loads of bands with similar influences, but on a song like this you can hear something new being done with that C86 template.


"Half Sister" charms with Emma's yearning and heartfelt vocals, while "Early That Night" is languid and warm, the sound of The Sundays without all those guitar effects to get in the way of the emotions on display. It's another shining moment on Out Of Sight, Out Of Town. With the instruments betraying a hint of "Reel Around The Fountain" from The Smiths, Emma sings the direct lyrics. Vulnerable and heartfelt, "Early That Night" is another example of this band's strengths in creating memorable and touching indie rock.

"Crystal Palatial" has a touch of Britpop to it but Emma's vocals make it so much more.

It's not just catchy Brit-made guitar-based jangle-pop on this album!


Standard Fare deserve to be as big as the Arctic Monkeys.

And not just because they are also from Sheffield.

(Do they have a special lab for guitar bands hidden away there?)

No, it's that mix of youthful exuberance and the beginnings of mature self-awareness that so charms.

There's something here that I've not heard before.

And, just like with those Monkeys, it's the mix of familiar influences into something fresh that I so much enjoy here.

Out Of Sight, Out Of Town (2012) is out now on Melodic.

Follow the band on their official website:
StandardFare.co.uk

Or on their Bandcamp page:
http://standardfare.bandcamp.com/

Or on their Facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/standardfare

A Two-Word Review Of The Viral Factor (2012): Stay Away


Why do I feel such a need to warn potential viewers about how awful Dante Lam's The Viral Factor (2012) is?

Is it a sense of disappointment that the guy who made The Beast Stalker (2008) is now slipping in his game?

No.

It's because 10 years ago, I got into Hong Kong cinema because directors here were creative and they managed to get a lot of action onto the screen for a small amount of money.

Sure, the plot machinations and action scenes were frequently over-the-top but those moments remained ones of audacious film-making.

Whether from a sense of economy, or a new director's desire to take a risk, the stuff that so defined the cinema of this city was always fun and exciting.

The Viral Factor (2012) is neither fun nor exciting.

Dante Lam has achieved the dubious distinction of having made a shitty Hollywood film in Hong Kong.

To add further insult, except for a shoehorned sentimental epilogue, the entire film takes place in Malaysia and Jordan and elsewhere. Sure, as The Golden Rock pointed out, there are practical plot-driven reasons for this.

Still, it's an odd feeling to be in Hong Kong because Hong Kong action cinema originally inspired me to visit, and then move to, this place and be watching what amounts to a very amateurish spin on a Hollywood blockbuster with the obligatory Middle Eastern villains and muezzin-soundtracked desert action scenes.

To what end? I mean, what's the point?

Sure, I reckon that the fanboys in America who buy their Asian cinema on DVDs from the shelves at Best Buy and Walmart will eventually gravitate to this film; it's marketable to them, clearly.

And, admittedly, I'd probably buy this DVD from YesAsia and watch it in America as some sort of example of the skills of the Hong Kong film-making community.

I don't want to have multiple standards, or have to watch something from that perspective. I want a good film.

By any standard, The Viral Factor (2012) is a pretty bad film despite having expertly constructed and staged action set-pieces.

But let's not embrace this thing simply 'cause it's from Hong Kong and, thus, different.

It ain't.

It's crap.

And crap is crap no matter where it's produced.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Night At The Wanch


It was acoustic night at The Wanch. Three acts and no cover.

I love the decorations at The Wanch, especially the decidedly inappropriate Christopher Lee as the Asian villain in Hammer's 1961 schlock classic Terror Of The Tongs...

First up was Cougar Bait. The band did a set of rousing covers including "Just Like Heaven" by The Cure, "Mr. Brightside" by The Killers, and "Bad" by U2 (see the video below).

"Bad" by U2 as covered by Cougar Bait...


I liked the sound of Cougar Bait. They managed to do covers with traces of their own personality. Rather than render note-for-note covers like most of the bands in Wan Chai clubs, they did a little something different.

And their taste in tunes was quite good; their rollicking take on Crowded House's "Weather With You" was a bit like Hothouse Flowers. They managed to add a lot of energy to the classic tune. Respectful of the original, but more energetic somehow.

Good stuff!

Follow the band on their website here:

http://www.mycougarbait.com/Cougar_Bait/Home.html


Next up was Yanyan Pang and her brand of folk rock.


Then Aileen Alonzo closed out the evening with a set of original tunes (plus one cover). "Car Crash" was particularly bracing.

Aileen Alonzo managed to prove how much can be done with just a set of strong tunes and an acoustic guitar. Not really folkie, her style is somewhere closer to indie that just so happens to lend itself to an acoustic performance. A song like "Alice" recalled late period Siouxsie and the Banshees in a very general way; think something off the Peepshow album only with more of an immediate pop sense.

My 1000th Post: An Earned Look Back


Here I am in Hong Kong, doing my 1,000th blog post.

(Well, that's not entirely true as I deleted a few posts this year. One or two early political posts bit the dust. Additionally, I deleted all those posts from last spring where I was attempting to sell off my Shaw Brothers DVD collection. And, just last week I deleted all of my old Anthony Bourdain posts, the ones that were simply regurgitations of marketing copy from The Travel Channel's PR firm. So, technically, I've already done more than 1,000 posts!)

Admittedly, it took me a while to find my blogging voice and move beyond simply copying the bloggers that inspired me in the first place.

I'm not a great writer but I know my voice and I feel comfortable blogging about certain things.

For example...

MUSIC

Yes, I've being doing a lot of music posts lately.

This all started when I asked for, and received, some album I wanted to hear but couldn't find in America. I just wanted a copy and figured that reviewing it would give me a chance to get it. It certainly proved easier than ordering the CD from Amazon.co.uk (it wasn't on US iTunes, and I don't do illegal downloads for various reasons, namely because I want to know I've got the real thing when I load it to my iTunes).

My whole little hobby of reviewing albums started that way.


Then, through some weird chain of events I can't even recall now, I got some MP3s to give away from Gwenno of The Pipettes.

That post helped me to get my hands on the marvelous debut album from ex-Pipette Rose Elinor Dougall. Not only did I get it for free, without having to order it from England, I got it early. My review of the record convinced me that I could begin to write about music on my formerly film-centric blog.

(It's also worth mentioning that I'm happy to have an album as a download. Having sold off my CD collection in 2008 -- after spending 2 weeks loading the stuff to iTunes and a portable hard drive -- I am now comfortable having an enormous digital collection with no more CDs to schlep around.)

In 2010 - 2011, I managed to get for free nearly all the big releases I wanted to hear including Sophie Ellis Bextor's Make A Scene, as well as the Beady Eye record, and the Noel Gallagher album.


In case anyone was wondering, I decided more than a year ago to only write about music that I enjoy.

I now get stuff sent to me via e-mail and there are plenty of things that I don't bother to listen to, and certainly don't want to write about.

I just feel like my limited talents can be better utilized by championing the things I enjoy. That's something I can do pretty easily.

Me being critical about all the hipster bands that I hate is something best left to conversations with my friends offline.

MOVIES

Yeah, despite being in Hong Kong now as a result of my love of Chinese cinema, I'm sort of sick of modern Chinese stuff now.

This city is so exciting and fun that it seems even more of a tragedy that local cinema is so awful now.

The rare gems -- see below -- are outweighed by dozens and dozens of truly atrocious, inept, and amateurish productions.


I really admire the stamina of The Gang of Film because -- let's be honest here -- the glory days of local cinema are over.

It's work sitting through some of this crap.

Too many films are co-productions with the Mainland and, thus, targeted at Mainland audiences, and not local Hong Kong ones.

There are still some interesting titles but they seem more of a rarity now.

Luckily, I'm now here near Lunar New Year which means that some (hopefully) fun and silly titles will be coming out in the next few weeks.

Additionally, these movies might feel more local than some of the other titles I've seen here lately.

It's a sad era indeed when the presence of the perky Charlene Choi is something to look forward to. But even she can't save some of this recent crap. Case in point...

So I've been watching more old stuff -- Chinese and Western -- lately. And I feel like I provided some sort of public service by reviewing more than 125 Shaw Brothers DVDs -- check out those links at the top of the home page.

And, thanks to some prodding by friends, I began to branch out and review other stuff.



By doing this, I sort of reminded myself of how much I used to enjoy stuff like the horror films of England's Hammer studios.

And I went back to some of the old Godzilla titles that I watched in horrible dubbed and edited versions when I was a kid.


Those films gave me just as much pleasure as an adult as they did when I was a kid and I used my nostalgia for my monster movie-infused youth to try to capture in words the joy of watching something fun.

Hopefully, my enthusiasm has come through in those posts.

I've barely scratched the surface of the non-Chinese stuff I love. I grew up on movies and there are so many titles that I'd love to write about in the future.

COMIC BOOKS

I can't afford to keep up with comics the way I did in the past. Besides, where would I get those trade paperbacks over here?

No, now there are a few things I can read online and all the comic book-inspired films to keep up with.

Still, don't be surprised if you find me posting about Jack Kirby or George Perez again.


TRAVELS (AND PERSONAL STUFF)

I haven't traveled much in my life but, prior to 2012, I had been to Hong Kong 5 times for a total of 77 days.

Now I live here.

As I look for a job here, I've been doing some justified and necessary soul-searching.

I'm going to keep the navel-gazing to a minimum here, but I just want to say that it's now apparent that so much of who I was was wrapped up in my reactions to things I hated at home that it's odd to be free of those things now.

I'm glad that I'm not that guy anymore. I don't miss being that guy who was always complaining about his commute, or griping about the annoyances of his job and the people he worked with.

I escaped. That was a start.

Now it's time to plot my future.

And while I have been a bit too honest in some posts in the past, I don't regret it; it's liberating to write about yourself and not care if anyone will ever read the posts, or care what they will think when/if they do.

Believe me, I've got loads of stories that I'd never post on this blog.

But it's all about the future now.

Despite feeling a bit dejected at the moment, on the whole I'm optimistic.

I shed the things that were depressing me back in the States and, hopefully, with a little luck, I'll be able to have a new life here.

A life closer to the one I've wanted for such a long time.

Here's looking forward to the next thousand posts.

The first sign of a blue sky here in almost 6 days...

Monday, January 16, 2012

More Good News About The Avengers (2012)


I'm excited about the upcoming Avengers film but, at the same time, I don't want to get too amped up only to get disappointed.

That said, 2008's Iron Man ended up being a near-masterpiece as far as comic book films go (apart from that final and somewhat clumsy action set-piece), and last year's Captain America: The First Avenger (2012) was surprisingly good, heartfelt even.

Joss Whedon is a talented man -- I used to watch "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" religiously -- but does he have the ability to write about the odd plight of Steve Rogers in modern America?

His comments in Entertainment Weekly last week gave me a bit of hope.

I'm not sure if the general public will dig it, but I'm thrilled to hear that the story in The Avengers (2012) will be told through Steve Rogers' unique perspective.

Even though I've been an Avengers fan for nearly 40 years, I don't care much about who is the leader of the team in the film; sure, there's drama in the jockeying to be the boss, but it was never my favorite part of the book.

So I guess what I'm saying is that I don't care who they make the leader of the team in the film but I do care, and am very happy to read, that they seem to have grasped that an essential part of the drama be the poignant plight of the unfrozen World War II hero named Steve Rogers.

I look forward to the character moments between Chris Evans' Steve Rogers and Robert Downey's Tony Stark almost as much as I look forward to the big action scenes.

Luckily, I think Joss Whedon is the sort of guy who knows that the fanboys dig those little moments almost as much as they dig the CGI-stuff, and the big explosions.

New Music From The Dirty Three - Free MP3!


The Dirty Three have not released an album in 7 years. They are back with Toward The Low Sun on Drag City on 28 February.

Frequent collaborators with Nick Cave and his cronies (among many others), the 3 in The Dirty Three have become masters at making their own brand of music too. Like The Durutti Column (in approach only) this is instrumental music that defies easy categorization.

The lines are being moved. Is this jazz, or rock, or some take on classical? Not quite sure but it's a shambling and scorching affair.

Download "Rising Below" here

On 28 February Drag City will be releasing Toward The Low Sun from The Dirty Three.

Great Sushi One Door Over: A Sort Of Photo Essay


I left the apartment very late this afternoon as something related to my search for employment came up.

So I grabbed a quick snack at Okonomi next door.



Everything I got was barely $9.00USD. The roe was great and the sea urchin very good without being overpowering.


Of course, I got hungry again a few hours later, after my trip to the tailor shop, so I had to go to Pizza Hut.

Pizza Hut is a bit upscale here and -- a miracle! -- it's the first place I've been to in Hong Kong, Western or otherwise, where drink refills were included!

Nice view too.

Black Bananas: A Review Of The Debut Album From Jennifer Herrema (ex-RTX) And Crew


This record, like most stuff from Jennifer Herrema's earlier Royal Trux, makes me want to run shirtless through the streets like Ronnie Dobbs.

As that's a frightening prospect, it's better if i just sit down and try to wrap my head around this mindfuck and write something coherent about Rad Times Xpress IV, the debut record from Black Bananas, out 31 January 2012 on Drag City.

Forward thinking and backwards looking, Rad Times Xpress IV is a sick stew of influences, techniques, and styles. It's a record to rock out to, a record to soak up with headphones, and a record to party with in a room of your hipper friends.

Like some unholy mix of Eighties-era Zappa and Dokken -- no kidding -- "TV Trouble" rides in on a wave of noise, studio effects, and snarled vocals from Herrema. Funky, wacky, and oddly catchy, it's like "Sleeping Bag" by ZZ Top as mangled by the Reid Brothers up in Scotland.

(I should add now that I'm sure this review is going to make Rad Times Xpress IV sound a bit fucked up. And it is. But it's also very accessible -- melodic, even! -- and it's a fun listen. For all the menace here, the record is a blast!)

"Acid Song" is closer to older Royal Trux stuff, sort of a blues-y spin through familiar turf.


"Hot Stupid" is a funky and malevolent thing, like early Prince covered by one of those C86 bands. Fuzzy and crunchy, sleazy and catchy, this is one of the many highlights of the record. As Jennifer sings what sounds like some mutant take on 1970s soul, the feedback screeches and burns through the speakers, and the guitar wails like "Brother Louie" by Seventies stalwarts Stories.

For a real trip, try "RTX Go Go" which is a warp of Jennifer's vocals, loads of studio tricks, and guitar squall. Put your ear-buds in and freak out to this.

Back to the immediate with the George Clinton-styled "Do It" which sounds sinister and sexy. Punchy and direct, "Do It" has the effect of a less haphazard Royal Trux. There'a precision here where Jennifer Herrema's earlier band favored a casual, offhandeded approach.


After the trippy title cut, there's the AC/DC vs. Aerosmith stomp of "My House" -- think "Back In Black" being sampled while "Back In The Saddle" plays in another room. The keyboard figures here add a bit of nuance to proceedings -- it's not all stomping and rocking -- and Jennifer's vocals have never sounded so forceful and assured.

"Earthquake" adds a touch of Sabbath to the record. Not quite metal, the cut reminds me of that music that plays on the soundtrack during some Kenneth Anger films: hypnotic, violent, and sexy.

Scorpio Rising redone as a pop song, signifiers of leather-clad menace couched in an indie tune, Sonic Youth's "Purr" ripped apart and stepped on by Lydia Lunch in heels.

"Nightwalker" is nearly a ballad, a sort of electronic gloss on Joan Jett in some weird way. It's heavy but gentle. Herrema's vocals are buried in the mix, the lyrics somewhat unintelligible, but the song works. It's melodic in a way that the rest of the record isn't.

Almost catchy, it's Suzi Quatro in hell, strumming a guitar as the flames race up around her leather pants.

"Killer Weed" closes things like Slayer trying their hand at some funky Seventies jam. The electronic bits wash over the cut making it less metal and more...something else.

Like most of Rad Times Xpress IV, this is music of a 'hole new genre.

Sure, you can tell it's somehow associated with that gal from Royal Trux, and RTX, but it's a new, rough beast here.


There's something about Royal Trux, and Jennifer Herrema in particular, that always makes me think of Primal Scream and Bobby Gillespie.

Gillespie seems to have a fondness for the same eras in rock history and he manages to ape The Stones convincingly when he wants to.

But, in my estimation, his risk-taking is less adventurous than what's on this record.

If we're going to judge Jennifer Herrema on risk-taking, she buries Bobby Gillespie on Rad Times Xpress IV.

There's more than a passing similarity in approach but, frankly, Herrema seems more invested in what she's doing. Gillespie, though a master in his own way of this sort of thing, seems to always be a tiny bit detached from whatever genre he's hopping into.

Herrema here is really creating something all her own. It's music of its own genre, touches of the past mixed with a sort of retro-futurism.

It sometimes sounds casually tossed off but, if you listen carefully, you'll notice so many pieces and layers here in the 13 cuts on Rad Times Xpress IV that you'll be a bit surprised.

Here, on Rad Times Xpress IV, the former half of Royal Trux seems more at home than ever before. Jennifer Herrema pummels her doubters with this record that manages to be both wildly out there and willfully catchy in spots.

To further that Gillespie comparison for a moment: it's like when XTRMNTR (2000) dropped and it suddenly felt like you were hearing the perfect Primal Scream record.

Well, in many ways, Rad Times Xpress IV is the perfect Jennifer Herrema record. Less blues-y -- thankfully -- than Royal Trux, it's a masterpiece in its own fucked up way.

Black Bananas are monsters.

Crank this up now. Crank it up often. Spread the word.


Follow Black Bananas on Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/blackbananasband

Or on their label Drag City:
http://www.dragcity.com/artists/black-bananas