I'll Take It
Jon Landau, eat your heart out.
While it was flattering that a quote of mine ("I've seen the future of rock 'n' roll, and it is Brooklyn's Mink Lungs") wound up stickering this, the second Lungs album, it was disheartening to be pilloried for that same quote, in a recent New York Press feature on rock hackery, as an example of bad music writing. I mean, any clown (except those at New York Press, apparently) knows it's a goof on the old Springsteen-hype tag, right? Kinda like shouting out "Freebird!" at a show. Still . . . am I prepared to stand behind my verbiage, ironic or otherwise? Fug, yeah. The Better Button (2001) was a dizzying enough trip through rock's back pages, crossing Moby Grape with Flamin' Groovies, Soft Boys with Neu!, and Athens, Ga., with Hitsville, U.K. Its follow-up is even weirder and cooler, a high-cholesterol tune buffet that bravely employs four songwriters while still maintaining some semblance of order and sanity. From the laser-beam riffs of glam-slam opening cut "Black Balloon" and the loony, three-chord Nuggets garage stomper "Men in Belted Sweaters" to the Breeders-like fizz pop of "Awesome Pride" (with bassist Miss Frosty on vox) and the Bowie-meets-Flaming-Lips sci-fidelica of "Flying Saucer Home," there's nothing remotely similar to this in the bins right now. (That's a compliment, ladies and germs; no irony from this scribe.) Having seen the Lungs pull off their kitchen-sink thing including an improbable instrument-switching segmentin concert, I'm convinced the band is deadly serious about its craft. The future of rock 'n' roll? Uh-huh. Past and present, too, all rolled into oneI'll take it. FRED MILLS
Mink Lungs play Graceland at 9 p.m. Wed., June 18 with Dolour and guests. $6.
Lonesome, On'ry and Mean: A Tribute to Waylon Jennings
Not a bad tribute, hoss. . . .
Dave Alvin once noted that tribute albums are invariably sketchy prospects, particularly when the feted artist wasn't just an important talent, but a definitive one. Waylon Jennings, surely one of the definitive talents of American country music, receives respectful tribute on Lonesome, On'ry and Mean. Perhaps a bit too respectful: It should be said that none of these performanceswith the exception of Carlene Carter's "I've Always Been Crazy" and Robert Earl Keen's "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?"even attempts to replicate the swing and swagger of Jennings' original renditions. Still and all, the guest list is estimable, ranging from W.J.'s own contemporaries (Kris Kristofferson and the Crickets) to roots powerhouses (Nanci Griffith and John Doe) to younger guns (Allison Moorer and the now-ubiquitous Norah Jones). If the best introduction to Jennings is still the source materialcheck out Buddha's reissues of 1973's Honky Tonk Heroes and the following year's The Ramblin' ManLonesome, On'ry and Mean remains eclectic enough to be an enjoyable listen in its own right. ERIC WAGGONER
YO LA TENGO
The 10th album from Hoboken-based indie-rock perennials.
When it's said that a band reduces everything to a yawn, the line is usually meant to pock their integrity. But when the band is Yo La Tengo, that statement is more often intended as a compliment. And why not? There's always been something inherently lazy, if not laid-back, about them, and they have the rare ability to turn a drowsy murmur into a soul cry. The idea that 2000's pokier-than-usual And Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out was some kind of major stretch from YLT's usual sound has always been bewildering. Getting loud and speeding up is not the same thing as rocking out (not with that rhythm section, at least)even when guitarist Ira Kaplan does his best "What Goes On" impersonation or drummer Georgia Hubley picks up the fucking pace already. So meet the new Yo La Tengo, same as the old Yo La Tengo, only slower and quieter. Way slower and quieter: Summer Sun contains a 10-minute song with the no-argument-here title "Let's Be Still," and frankly, you have every right to be worriedThere are flutes on it, and they belong there. But that track is only the most sustained example of the way the album accomplishes plenty without seeming to move a muscle. "Beach Party Tonight" sets the tone, with three minutes of lambent sound bubbles finding their way to the music's surface, only to pop prettily upon contact. The nearly Hawaiian slide guitar and sleepy vowel-exercise vocals of "Today Is the Day" form the backdrop of the group's latest ode to first shy, then enduring, companionship: "I was gonna spend the night/Could've been OK/We were gonna talk all night/Till I went away. . . . A minute later, I'm older/And can't stay away." So, instead, they opt to lie in bed and cuddle: They watch TV with the sound off and read each other the newspaper and watch the summer sun turn to twilight. MICHAELANGELO MATOS
Yo La Tengo play the Showbox at 9 p.m. Fri., June 13 with the Clean. $17/$15 adv.