New CD Reviews: Dave Davies, Gogol Bordello
Dave Davies”Fractured Mindz,” KochThe back story of Dave Davies’ first album since suffering a stroke in 2004 is unavoidably inspirational. Struggling to regain his ability to sing and play, the Kinks’ guitarist managed to complete “Fractured Mindz.” What’s truly heartwarming, however, is that while Davies’ brain may have been fractured and rebuilt, the resultant music reflects much of what’s always been good about Davies’ solo work.It reflects his weaknesses, as well. Davies has always had a bent for broadsides like “Free Me,” an anti-war stomp short on new ideas, and the title track ventures a bit far into the mystic, with its synthscapes and spoken admonitions.However, the first half of the disc features several rockers reminiscent of latter-day Kinks’ gems like “Low Budget,” on which Davies’ blues riffing was a crucial element. The snarling “All About Me” and “Giving” could have come straight out of that fertile period.Meanwhile, the humanism that has been Davies’ lyrical saving grace also resurfaces. “Remember Who You Are” is a sweet affirmation on the order of his “Trust Your Heart,” a pop song with a heart of gold that counsels, “Just do the best you can.” It seems to have worked for him.- Dan LeroyGogol Bordello
“Super Taranta!” Side One DummyEugene Hutz and his Gogol Bordello band mates are in search of “the ultimate,” and they’ll gladly traipse across the globe until they’ve found it.Loosely defined in the song “Ultimate,” the object of the group’s desire is a mindset that frees one up to “go forever crazy with it” and drink in the world’s many flavors.Finding this feeling is a mission Gogol Bordello is uniquely qualified for. On “Super Taranta!” the New York City band with Eastern European roots cultivates a boisterous, celebratory international sound often referred to as “gypsy-punk.”The term doesn’t tell the whole story, but it’s a good place to start. When not playing their violins and accordions at breakneck speed, the musicians slow things down and filter Jamaica through the Balkans via dub-reggae grooves.For all its inventiveness, though, the band is likely to remain a novelty, as Hutz’s singing voice falls somewhere between Borat and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.While he’s clearly having some fun with his culture, Hutz is more than just a pointy-shoed joker in striped circus pants. The self-proclaimed “Wonderlust King” has a real message of global unity, even if it’s overshadowed by shtick.- Kenneth PartridgeStraylight Run
“The Needles the Space,” Universal RepublicLong Island’s Straylight Run started in 2003 as the new project for John Nolan and Shaun Cooper when they bolted Taking Back Sunday. The band has since established its own identity with emo-style tunes dressed up in distinctive, highly decorative backdrops. That remains a calling card on its second full-length CD, “The Needles the Space,” which brims with rangy musical energy even when it veers into haphazard.Nolan and his sister Michelle DaRosa set the band’s primary tones with their vocal approaches: he by couching perceived truths in barks that burn a few degrees hotter than the tunes into which they are placed, she with the mildly detached delicateness that colors the galloping “The Miracle That Never Came.” What they share is an environment that maximizes ornate arrangements, rapidly shifting landscapes more abstract than the lyrics they support on the scattershot “Still Alone” and the texture-splattered, insistent cry of outrage “Who Will Save Us Now.”The band sounds unfocused when the repetitive musings on “This Is the End” show less work than the accompanying music, and there is little insight in the frustration that oozes from the finicky “The First of the Century.” The anguish on “Take It to Manhattan” is forceful and so direct that the atmosphere and raw sentiment are complementary, but tunes that balance development of music and lyrics are exceptions rather than the rule.- Thomas KintnerPatrick Cleandenim”Baby Comes Home,” Ba Da BingPatrick Cleandenim hit 21 just as he finished recording “Baby Comes Home.” That’s slightly disturbing, given how mature the album is. The ambitious Cleandenim dishes out stately, orchestral pop like a young Burt Bacharach, though he’s more likely to cite David Axelrod and Phil Spector as influences. Using University of Kansas music students for string and horn sections, the album boasts an unlikely alchemy of spirited Motown and baroque confessionals, imbued with the playfulness of bubblegum.Yet darkness often descends, whether Cleandenim is crooning about poisoned cognac and caviar (with a sassy backup singer to boot) or pondering the difference between the drugs in various cities. Without a trace of emotion he sings, `I didn’t have a clue what we were coming to / Until you said `I’m gone.’ ” That this all happens over such a classic-sounding backdrop makes it more unnerving still.
Cleandenim holds court from the bench of his piano, delivering pitch-black lyrics in the smoothest of voices as flurries of instruments sweep around him. That the album was recorded during the graveyard shift may explain its sinister vibe, but it’s harder to fathom how a no-name 20-year-old crafted a stunning debut with eerie depth.- Doug WallenBishop Allen”Bishop Allen & the Broken String,” Dead OceansAfter releasing 12 four-song EPs in 2006, Brooklyn four-piece Bishop Allen’s first full-length since 2003 starts with a whisper on the opening track, “The Monitor,” and steadily builds until it’s an all-out circus of la-da-das and orchestral flourishes. Save for the slightly off-key backing vocals on the chorus, the song immediately establishes Bishop Allen as an indie band aiming high.With lyrics that show mastery of the English language, the musicians appear to have scored themselves advanced degrees in retro-pop on an album full of tight, cute arrangements that inspire wonderment — that is, you’ll find yourself wondering: Is this band the best-kept secret in indie-rock?Take the infectious “Click, Click, Click, Click” (the sound of “your” camera in the song, if you were wondering), which channels the sun-kissed classical-guitar lick of Chad & Jeremy’s “A Summer Song,” married here to a foot- stamping beat. Or “Like Castanets,” a Mexicali-spiced ditty complete with trumpet solo and poetic lyrics that have a certain extra zing.With songs this good, Bishop Allen won’t be kept secret for long.- Will Levith
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