Mask Era, Looking Like Keith Richards Circa '72 Makes Me the Rock (Substandard Pop) I'm not gonna write this like a rock critic, because we all know how full of shit rock critics are, like the way they actually do stuff like describe the music or how it might fit into the larger scheme of things. And let's face it, nobody reads record reviews to find out anything about music, they read them to find out what I drank with all my favorite bands at the Chit-Chat Bar. Two vodka tonics and a couple of tap beers: That's what I drank last weekend with Mask Era, my favorite new group. They look like mods with denim jackets and think they've got the rock because they're ripping off the Stooges. Of course, what I drank doesn't even begin to compare with what they drank, which would've been fine except that after the drummer bit me in the ass, they didn't even give me the ride home they promised. So I think their record sucks. It is mannered, creepy, unengaging, sycophantic, predictable, overproduced, trendy, mainstream, disingenuous, condescending, and pretty much exactly what you'd expect from the kind of losers who would bite me in the ass and then leave me stranded at the Chit-Chat Bar. You guys really suck!--Erin Wilson
Glooey, What's That Over There? (Huh) Portland indie rocker Luke Tickwood, who made even Modest Mouse fans despondent with his whiny irritability and onstage moodiness, has finally left his band Thumbnail Screw in order to go full time with his electronica side project, Glooey. And instead of simply relying on the usual off-time two-note organ riffs and sound bytes from '50s TV commercials, or recycling the same fucking beats that every other indie rocker with a sample-based side project has used already, Tickwood has taken a major extra step. In order to separate Glooey from the pack, he's hired Swan Hummingbird, a breathy, off-key female vocalist who looks like a heroin addict. The result is a CD that is much better than all that shit people dance to at clubs with DJs who can actually match beats and build sets. That'll never happen with Glooey because Tickwood has no real idea how beats work—which is fine by me because I only listen to dance music that you couldn't dance to if your life depended on it. See, it's not about having good rhythms, it's about the authentic baring of one's soul via the hissy, scratchy textures that you can only get if you record on a four-track. Thank God Tickwood, an artist of scrupulous integrity, hasn't sold out to the gods of commerce. He still speaks to us, his real fans.—Ethan Marshall, Jr.
Clarence, That's Some Nice Perfume You're Wearing There, Sugar (Brothas Makin' Dollas/Interscope) Hey, baby, how you doin' tonight? Oh, is that right? Well, let me tell you something—I think that tonight you need a man who wishes very much to satisfy your every need. Oh, you don't believe me? Well, I got just what you need, starting with the music: Clarence, that singer who used to be with the Lovemakaz but just put out this beautiful solo joint. Man, when he hits that high note in the middle of "Things That Go Bump in the Night (Like Us, Darlin')," it damn near makes me cry. And it's been a long time since I've been as moved by a song as I am by his righteous jam, "Violence Is Wrong (Now Climb Into Bed With Me, Honey)." What's that? Yeah, it's good, ain't it? Now let me just light some scented candles . . . and run us a nice li'l bubble bath . . . oooh yeah, I can feel that water pouring down into the tub . . . and the bubbles rising up . . . just like my love for you . . . and Clarence's voice, risin' up over those phat drums . . . you feel that, baby? Yeeeaaahhh. . . . —Sweet Willie Jack
Afro-Wuss All-Stars, At Long Last (Surrealworld) They got that title right: This is the record I've been waiting years to hear. It's a can't-miss concept: Take the toughest, most rhythmically fierce musicians in Africa and team them up with their counterparts from America's wussiest emo bands. The result is one of the most startling cross-cultural collaborations ever laid to tape. You've never heard Fela Anikulapo-Kuti's classic "Zombie" until you've heard Duluth, Minnesota, slo-core trio Low sing it like zombies, their wispy crooning all but drowned out by former Fela drummer Tony Allen's wood-block. Palace guru Will Oldham wraps his gnarled tonsils around Solomon Linda's "Mbube"—the song that later became "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"—and the musicians stop playing altogether when he sings that famous octave-skipping melody in his trademark deadpan monotone. But the album's unrivaled highlight is the epic, 20-minute version of Manu Dibango's Afro-beat classic "Soul Makossa," flaccidly intoned by Sebadoh's Lou Barlow. The final 18 minutes of the track are the complete, authentic, in-the-studio sounds of the backing band—including members of the Drummers of Burundi and Femi Kuti's Positive Force—kicking the singer's lily ass for mocking the song, complete with Barlow pleading between blows: "But I wasn't mocking it—it's just the way I talk." Essential.—Anthony DeChurlish