Three Album Reviews – They Might Be Giants, Marriages, Elephant Rifle

They Might Be Giants, Glean

Glean_album_coverThat sacred pantheon of “all time favorite” bands has a way of drawing the most pointed and insightful criticism. Not necessarily just insightful about the band either. They serve more as views into you as a listener.

My contention has always been that They Might Be Giants peaked somewhere around the second side of Flood. I liked all of the subsequent albums. I liked, however, I did not exactly love them. They possessed all of the customary flavor, but the two John’s, while always unique, seemed to take two big steps back from a certain brand of off kilter songwriting from that famous moment they killed Jason off and countless screaming Argonauts.

My curiosity about They Might Be Giants is insatiable though. It always will, and out of this terminal curiosity comes my specific point of access for Glean. Their seventeenth and newest record is ostensibly a collection of tracks from their newly re-started Dial-A-Song service (for those who aren’t familiar with Dial-A-Song, shame on you, but here is a brief description). The band’s whip smart lyrical playfulness remains on display, in fully humorous force on favorite tracks like “Good To Be Alive” and “Hate The Villanelle” which prove that simply no one else on this green and spinning planet could possibly imitate these songs.

They Might Be Giants used to craft a fair number of odd ball bits though, little one off ditties that felt like improv but became a Rorschach test. You could always tell what kind of TMBG fan someone was by which of those struck their fancy (mine has always been, “The Day”). However you view this type of song craft, its necessary for me and the band has largely chosen to move away from it in recent albums. Glean is packed with great songs, swinging blues numbers “End Of The Rope” bouncy pop “All The Lazy Boyfriends” and the weirdly morbid, “Let Me Tell You About My Operation”. The closest they come to that old expectation experimentation is the title track but that feels like “Space Suit” from Apollo 18 more exit music to the greater show.

They Might Be Giants were my access point to modern rock, the first cultural figures that validated the neophyte geek brewing inside me. For that, I have a place in my heart that can only be theirs. Would I be such an acolyte if Glean were my introduction? No. Or, probably not. If you’re asking whether or not this gets repeat listens, I give you an enthusiastic, yes.

Marriages, Salome

Marriages "Salome"I cannot get enough of Marriages’ new album Salome, a nine track collection that has moved the needly on a moribund post-rock conversation. The Los Angeles three piece summons a hypnotic effect in their back and forth vacillation between the heavy and ethereal, playing off on one another.

Some have called them a band to be on the look out for, but it couldn’t be any more obvious to me: they’re already here.

The record opens on a warbling guitar effect on “The Liar” before breaking into Emily Ruth Rundle’s haunted vocals. Her chanteuse vocals are part Siouxsie Sioux, and in case you were wondering, that part is the vulnerable and alluring vocals. But Rundle, who also provides guitars, is also something of a rock goddess bringing heavy metal riffs to the storm cloud constellation of “Southern Eye” and the morbidly contemplative, “Binge. The title track is a tad abstract, even for my taste, huge metallic crashes punctuating that negative space, but even then, I’m willing to listen.

It’s difficult to draw a single star from the Marriages constellation, but the staccato percussion, provided by Andrew Clinco is outstanding. The fills are jarring, and unlike other heavy albums, they’re not brought so far forward in the mix that they distract from the elements.

Early mover for album of 2015. You can find out more about Marriages here at their site.

Elephant Rifle, Ivory

a2601398538_10Reno, Nevada is a pretty tough town off the tourist stripe. At least, that’s what the blistering riffs on Elephant Rifle’s newest record Ivory seems to indicate.

The album opens with a brief tonal interlude but that introduction is about the only reprieve, a relentless torrent of thrash metal and punk pouring out on “Bone Voyage”. Elephant Rifle’s sound is pretty straight forward: a flurry of violent guitars, low gutteral vocals, buried so far in the mix that they border on indecipherable, with scarce few songwriting nuances to show. There are some curious fades and deconstructed arrangements, but Ivory isn’t on the turntable to show off its curious mien.

Of course, there are favorite tracks, the filthy riffed “Frank Black” in which I presume the lyrics serve as tribute to the Pixies, or something, but who cares. Their “Clones & Clones” is downright apocalyptic, the screeching miasma snuffing out all hope and sunlight. The closing two songs are more experimental (perhaps showing future orientation?) from the turgid, swirl of “Skeleton Key” to the closer, “Horses” which is easily the longest at six minutes that showcases the ability to haunt with a slumbering guitar line opener and frighten, as the thrash shatters the silver sky into a million glittering bits of heartbreak.

Are you ready to run out and get a copy? Here you go, Elephant Rifles site.

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