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Spot Check

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DANIELSON FAMILE 3/2, SCHUBAS Sometimes they sound like King Missile sans sarcasm or Bongwater sans sex, sometimes like a church youth choir gone horribly awry and sometimes like pure weirdo-folk-rock genius, but it's their overt Christianity as much as their loopy sound that qualifies this New Jersey family act as "outsider rock." Because their approach bears so little resemblance to either traditional gospel (which it very occasionally references) or saccharine contemporary Christian pop (which it occasionally seems to satirize), their hipster fans are forced to deal with active, engaged belief as an essential part of a daunting creative process. Secretly Canadian has recently reissued a handful of their late-90s releases and will release a new album, Fetch the Compass Kids, in April--making it clearer than ever that they're not a novelty act but a major talent. ABILENE, CANYON 3/3, EMPTY BOTTLE The forecast for this evening is moody and partly beautiful, with flurries of intensity developing later. Abilene and Canyon are celebrating new releases on the Slowdime label. The former is a local trio of former emo and math rockers who apparently got tired of all the loudness and the yelling: guitarist and singer Alex Dunham was in Hoover, bassist Craig Ackerman was in Lustre King, and Scott Adamson also drummed in Chisel Drill Hammer. Their bio goes so far as to guarantee that there are "no abrupt or jarring elements in the songs," but I like them most when their roiling brooding builds into a Dinosaurish moan. Canyon is a D.C.-based quintet that at its best sounds a little like Calexico playing Exile on Main Street outtakes--dark, delicate, and spacious arrangements of vocals, guitar, bass, drums, harmonica, harmonium, accordion, lap steel, and electric piano. DOVES 3/3, DOUBLE DOOR OK, I'm in that freaky-geeky 2 percent of American households with no TV, but I do occasionally glimpse music videos at chez boyfriend, and what I'd seen of these new Astralwerks signees had me all set not to like them much--more indistinguishable modern techno rock. But when I actually sat down to listen to their album, Lost Souls, I entered a rich and complex little world of lush pop, stunningly orchestrated and stirred from within by crisp piano and crying guitar. Context counts--no band can shine like this from behind the glass. HONEYDOGS 3/3, SCHUBAS As we've lost both Iannis Xenakis and John Fahey very recently, I really wanted to honor their memory by not listening to any dull rock-by-numbers this week, but I blew it. The Honeydogs' Here's Luck (Palm Pictures) was recently rescued by former Island honcho Chris Blackwell after two years languishing in Polygram's vaults, and its competent unremarkableness sounds all the more depressing today. PUNCHY, BLEARY 3/4, BEAT KITCHEN Indie rock is least interesting when it carefully emulates the big-league stuff. The Austin band Punchy does a decent job updating the working-loser rock of the Boss and early Tom Petty, but nothing on its second album, Just My Type (Pinch Hit), is as catchy as "Refugee" or "The Waiting" or as eloquent as "Born in the USA"--why bother? The brand-new four-song demo from the local quartet Bleary is a rougher and rawer synthesis of classic sounds--a la the Dream Syndicate, whom they occasionally sound like. MARILYN CRISPELL 3/7, HOTHOUSE Inspired in her youth by A Love Supreme and Cecil Taylor (and her playing still shows Taylor's influence, though she has a lighter, clearer sensibility, water to his fire), pianist Marilyn Crispell got her first big break in a long stint with Anthony Braxton in the 80s and 90s. In recent years she's led her own trio as well as contributing to recordings by Evan Parker and Paul Lytton, among others, and lent her talents to the stunning Nothing Ever Was, Anyway, ECM's tribute to avant-garde jazz balladeer Annette Peacock--which doubtless played a role in luring Peacock out of hiding last year. Crispell's a HotHouse favorite, and the feeling seems to be mutual every time I see her there, no matter the turnout.

--Monica Kendrick

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Mary Scanlon.

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