As expected, ex-Screaming Trees frontman still dreary and depressed.
Mark Lanegan records gravel-voiced ruminations for nights of drinking 'n' driving. Which ain't the wisest way to spend an evening of heart-heavy contemplation, but the ex-Screaming Trees frontman never claimed that listening to Field Songs would be the best method for coping with life. Not that any of this should be surprising for longtime fans. Extraordinarily similar to his previous solo outings in sound and style, Lanegan's fourth Sub Pop album is full of romantic revelations and haunting heartache, with no relief anywhere inside these dozen narratives of desolation and introspection—just like his devotees love it and live it. "One Way Street" opens the album announcing that "I drink so much sour whiskey I can't hardly see," and by the time the albums creep to its close, he's going in circles and resigning himself to the fact that there's "Not a thing in this world to do except be alone in it" ("She's done too much"). Sure, the pain can be overbearing—think Chan Marshall on one helluva bar crawl—but that's exactly the point, and so Field Songs is never anything less than another one of his gravely beautiful and emotionally intoxicating trips down life's lonely highway.—Jimmy Draper
Sunshine AND showers? Stabbing's latest is more erratic than erotic.
I could laud this record as a bittersweet, introspective reaction to 1998's corrosive Darkest Days LP, but it's really just shrink-wrapped pop pap. Stabbing Westward have exchanged the savagery of giving love a bad name for slick studio guitar wankery and daisy field pinings like "I swore you'd be the girl that I would marry." Unjustly branded with a scarlet NIN their entire career, Stabbing persevered with metal of resounding despair; for all of the band's "industrial" conventions, frontman Christopher Hall's shriek was acutely personal and acidic. Here, with the exception of bitter delights like "Wasted" and "So Far Away," he whimpers emasculated tales of regret with unwelcome light at the end of the tunnel. The band have apparently tired of the dark aesthetic that was so intrinsic to earlier albums. While I applaud growth, this release does little more than strip away Stabbing's teeth (particularly the throbbing bass and keyboards), leaving emaciated acoustic guitars to shoulder the tunes. "High" is at least a fine, punishing apex, culminating with the chorus "I've never been as high as I was with you." I, personally, have never been as low as I was listening to Stabbing Westward; I wish I could get that feeling back. —Andrew Bonazelli
Bleed It Dry
Portland's spunky Pinehurst punks: Viacom storm troopers and critical wet dream.
In a self-conscious MTV2 spot, Portland's Pinehurst Kids sit in a diner poking fun at critical genre standbys, notably "pop-punk," "emo-core," and "college rock." The terms probably saturate most reviews of their work, so I'll do the band the service of forcibly ejecting said generalizations from this one. Instead, let's defy good sense and make matters simultaneously more proletariat and esoteric! Bleed It Dry covers a spectrum from "perceived crapola" to "actualized bitchin' rock." The former surfaces in fragments, upon first or second listen only, before one realizes that Pinehurst Kids never intended to conform to the many conventions of modern indie rock. They just kinda do, and they don't give a shit, and it's (ultimately) glorious. Once one acknowledges that the sonorous laser tag of "Spinning Out" and "Rollover" just kills, one quickly reaches the other end of the rainbow. Head P-Kid Joe Davis crows about all sorts of pain in a staggered whine that sounds true and right. Bassist Caleb Gates and drummer Rob Duncan knit tight security blankets for him and guitarist Devin Morrow to bounce spiraling riffs from. Either MTV2's powers of subliminal suggestion have peaked (hope not) or this is, indeed, the rock.—Andrew Bonazelli
(We Put Out Records)
Peppy New Jersey band look for twangy hooks in all the right places.
They say some come from a land Down Under; Cropduster come from a land way down under, and it's called New Jersey. Known more for blue-collar guys who could put someone six-feet under Sopranos-style, or Jersey babes who listen to the Boss, most of Cropduster's neighbors probably aren't familiar with the joyous band's special blend of peppy indie rock with a boot-scootin' twist—but that's their loss. An album that's goofy in all the right places, Drunk Uncle shows its country roots with an effortlessness that's sunny and engaging. Songwriters Marc Maurizi and Tom Gerke sparkle on the twangy numbers ("Nothing's Gonna Change,"), but they truly shine when their outer smartass (the incredibly amusing "People Person" is a cynic's must-have) is eclipsed by an earnest love for catchy poetics (the gruff balladry of "Golden Sunsets"). There is a definite dose of the familiar here: Marc's manly vocals venture into Archers of Loaf territory on the jaunty "Milkman" and "And Then There Was You," and the band manage a Flaming Lips-style freakout at the end of "Golden Sunsets." Still, Drunk Uncle builds on those influences to flesh out a music that's lovable for its dirty guitar sound, wiseass attitude, and hell-bent mission to have a good time—just like, well, a drunk uncle.—Kristy Martin