Once We Were Diamonds EP
Remember how killer those old Thin Lizzy records sounded the ﬁrst time you dropped the needle on "The Boys Are Back in Town"? Recall the chemistry that spun those intertwined twin guitar attacks into gold while Phil Lynott gave the working class anthems of sentimental soul? For too long it felt like the closest you were gonna get to touching that magic again were Supersuckers' live covers of "Cowboy Song." But, buddy, that was before the release of Once We Were Diamonds.
This Diamond Nights EP is the best modern music has to offer for anyone keeping their "Jailbreak" ﬂames burning bright. The Brooklyn band's debut disc is a ﬂawless paean to the classic Irish rockers-although the Nights don't grab their inﬂuences in a white-knuckled grip. "Buddies" ventures into Yes territory, bits of Rick Springﬁeld occasionally sneak into the choruses, and "The Girl's Attractive" delivers the Nights' best Billy Idol sneer, popping up the hard-rock stance with synthesizers and lyrics like, "Lord I can't contain myself, please tie me down." The theme of indomitable excitement ignites most of these ﬁve songs, and even when it's slightly tongue-in-cheek, the music never stalls in the ironic. "Saturday Fantastic" extols the workweek's most vital party time ("Let's get it started when it's got to start and not just whenever, the sooner the better, another moment and I might be gone") while the rock-solid vocals waver among deep sighs, heavy-metal falsettos, and barnstorming group choruses. This is the good shit, my friends, and Diamond Nights are hands down one of the best new bands of 2005. JENNIFER MAERZ
THE PSYCHIC PARAMOUNT
Gamelan into the Mink Supernatural
Consisting of two former members of the late, great Laddio Bolocko (guitarist Drew St. Ivany and bassist Ben Armstrong), the Psychic Paramount play instrumental rock music... that just happens to have the ﬁssional power to reduce mountains into molehills. Whereas Laddio Bolocko were more about sparse, scathing, This Heat-like dynamics, the Psychic Paramount revel in noise-rock pyrotechnics that both split open and expand your mind. Gamelan into the Mink Supernatural, the New York trio's auspicious debut album, immediately hints at the extremity of its agenda with "Megatherion," a blast of torrid, backward-guitar air that pins your ears against the wall. It follows with "Para5," which channels High Rise's noise torrents into more linear Deep Purple propulsion, as St. Ivany's viciously strummed guitar glints like a dozen scimitars in the desert sun. "Echoh Air" ﬂares into a conﬂagrant cacophony, with drummer Jeff Conaway going Billy Cobham boombastic on his kit, as PP reimagine Mahavishnu Orchestra as a metallic thresher come to bloody your third eye. The ornery oscillations and winds-of-Saturn turbulence of "X-Visitations" atomize Hendrix's soul and disperse it into deep space. The 10-minute title track begins with St. Ivany's crystalline guitar Möbius strips-like 'luded Frippertronics-before evolving into the obliterative symphonic discord Glenn Branca's taken to the art-house circuit. Gamelan is powerfully masculine (not macho) rock that handily beats Comets on Fire at their own incendiary game. DAVE SEGAL
Mary Timony's art-rock band Helium were one of those cornerstone '90s outﬁts with sharply deﬁant lyrics and angular, fuzzed-out songs. She came across as the smart, slightly messed-up collegiate roommate/friend/ex with whom everyone had at least one falling out. Then she walked away from Helium to embark on the often-dreaded solo career. But it made sense; she was Helium. Unfortunately, her debut, Mountains, was whimsical and diffuse. Worse still were the lyrics. Where Timony had been confrontational and gritty, playing the sweet swoop of her voice against anger and recrimination, solo she sang about wizards, witches, and Tolkien-esque bullshit. She had gone from an everywoman with an anger-management problem to a Dungeons & Dragons loser. Her subsequent album, The Golden Dove, continued in a similar vein. Though more musically interesting, the album lacked tension and the lyrics were impossible to endure.
Timony has made something of a return to form with Ex Hex, stripping the music back to basics-no zither, pan ﬂute, or harpsichord-and returning (mostly) to earth from Middle-earth. These 11 songs offer fuzzy stompers, prog riffage, and clattering, frantic drumming from Devin Ocampo. The lyrics burst with pent-up dread and sinister sensuality. Producer Brendan Canty (Fugazi's drummer) keeps the sound lean and tough, and Timony sounds vital and perturbed again. NATE LIPPENS
Careen know the rules-if it ain't broke, don't ﬁx it. So instead of trying to break new ground, rewriting all the rock wrongs, this Portland, Oregon, outﬁt borrows little pieces of familiarity from all that they do like in the world of rock and rework the fragments into a sparkly new sound all their own.
The standout track, "Come Back Baby," starts with slow and lonely guitar strumming behind forlorn vocals singing, "I hate that the only one who touches me is the one I cannot touch." A few pretty and melodic "ooohs" build the song until it explodes into an aggressive chorus, à la Foo Fighters. And while what follows offers a few moments a bit too reminiscent of Dave Matthews Band or Counting Crows' squeaky-clean sound, Careen also offer strong alt-country vibes paired with keyboards and catchy pop hooks that recall Wilco.
You'd think that such a mixed bag from one band would sound messy and unfocused, but Careen pull it off well, showing less confusion and more versatility. MEGAN SELING
★★★★ Darth Vader