The fact is, Burmese is a live band, and their ungodly amounts of bass growl, monkey screech, and drum crashing really need to be experienced from three feet away to get the point, the point being that the world is a supremely fucked up and evil place and that music should always hurt. Honestly, their records have never spent a whole lot of time in rotation for me, because of the live thing but also because they usually don't sound real good. Listening to Men I can say one thing for sure: This one sounds, like, five zillion times better than any of the other stuff I've heard by them. The band has two drummers now and those drums are perfectly panned into each ear, creating a psychedelic effect. And the basses and vocals come right down the middle, so as a result, the record sounds like Fly Like an Eagle-era Steve Miller Band--which means awesome. So imagine the Steve Miller Band is on the radio, you're doin' tokes, sucking back Miller Lites, your girlfriend or boyfriend is at the wheel, and you're headed home after another great night at some stadium. Then the car flips over and the broken windshield shaves your face off and while you're lying there with your face gone, the Night Stalker comes by and starts fucking your eyehole. That's Burmese's new album. MIKE McGUIRK
(Sea Note/Drag City)
Underfed is an "official bootleg" of Plush's Japanese-only 2002 release, Fed, whose exorbitant recording costs made it impossible for Drag City to issue. Christ, if Underfed is a stark demo of a more lavish production, then Fed must make Smile seem like the crudest of bedroom recordings. Plush (perfectionist auteur Liam Hayes plus bassist Matt Lux and drummer Rian Murphy) create songs that hark back to the early '70s when songwriting giants like Nilsson, Harrison, Wilson, and Chilton commandeered studios and arrangers like Jack Nitzsche and Van Dyke Parks arranged. In other words, Plush be lush. "Sound of S.F." typifies Plush's M.O.: It's an absurdly rich orchestral pop ballad with horns, million-dollar strings, and Hayes' mellifluous, sensitive white-guy vocals blending into a luxurious tapestry of sound. With Underfed, Hayes enters the pantheon of obsessive geniuses--with the financial debt to prove it. DAVE SEGAL
Sometimes You Have to Work on Christmas (Sometimes)
To address the conflict-of-interest issue immediately, not only does Harvey Danger frontman Sean Nelson work at The Stranger, but he sits a couple spots down from me. Which means that I pass his desk on the way to mine many times a day, and also that I'm one of many editorial staffers who have heard him singing daily in the office (although I'm not sure if I've actually heard material from this particular EP). But, honestly, I wouldn't be writing about Sometimes You Have to Work on Christmas (Sometimes) if I didn't like it, even if that meant re-routing my path through the office for a few issues.
The five songs on this EP display a broad range of lyrical issues--from the territorial war of opinions in "Pike St./Park Slope" to the gorgeous live rendition of "Jack the Lion," a touching ode to an aging father ("He's having trouble breathing and he's not the only one"). My favorite song here, however, is the seasonal title track "Sometimes You Have to Work on Christmas (Sometimes)," a sweetly humorous ballad to those making holiday wages while everyone else is unwrapping new iPods. More than Nelson's clever wording, though, one of his greatest offerings is his voice, which sounds strong and ebullient even when the subject matter hinges on the melancholy--that and the swelling piano melodies add increased emotion to these songs. For fans of Nelson's work both as an individual songwriter and the ringmaster for Harvey Danger, this EP is a nice taste of what's to come. JENNIFER MAERZ
Harvey Danger performs two shows on Sat Dec 18 at the Crocodile.
Are Amateur Wankers
In late '70s England, the Prefects were derided by peers including Johnny Rotten and Joe Strummer (the latter complained that the quartet played too fast for him to dance to). Judging from the recordings compiled on Amateur Wankers, though, they deserved a better legacy than a bad rap and one posthumous single (a catchy anthem, "Things in General," backed with the mesmerizing dirge "Going Through the Motions"). These 10 songs, ranging from the seven seconds of "VD" to "Bristol Road Leads to Dachau," a 10-minute epic of wheezing harmonica, scratchy guitars, and rumbling drums, reveal a clutch of youngsters unafraid to experiment. And they certainly had a sense of humor; "Escort Girls" celebrates being the proud offspring of a whore. Screw what the Pistols and the Clash thought: The Prefects were good enough for the Slits, the Buzzcocks, and the Fall--all of whom shared stages with them--and they're good enough for you, too. KURT B. REIGHLEY
Tiger, My Friend
How to describe this most charming, otherworldly record? Folktronica simply won't do it, conjuring up a blokey image of genre fundamentalism, too close-minded to encompass this magic. Carim Classman and Galia Durant weave together skittish but coherent rhythms from rattles, scrapes, and shimmering cymbals, clothing these bare bones in warm organ and primitive synth and voices only just louder than a whisper.
There's echoes of the beatnik-jazz of Erykah Badu, Cocorosie's patchwork folk-soul, Everything but the Girl's urbane composure, even a little of Fun Boy Three's eerie gumbo ("King Kong"). But mostly, this wonderful album sounds like it was conjured up by pixies, pieced together from a yard sale of oddities, sorbet-light and lagoon-deep. The icy, piano-led mourn of "The Counter" grounds proceedings with a potent darkness, while "Chapter" has a heady, urban lilt that almost recalls Beck, were he still an outsider artist. Tiger, My Friend is an album where kittens mewl and pad as violins sigh and sleighbells ring, the kind of fantasy world Durant dreams up for her pencil-sketch album sleeve, of synths with switches and dials to determine how "fun" the tunes they play will sound, of pussycats and ants dancing the flickerswitch waltz. Though their understated lyrics find them tangled up in most adult complications, Psapp's art thrives with the energy and innocence of a child, embroidered with the stuff of dreams. STEVIE CHICK
YING YANG TWINS
My Brother & Me
Until crunk's rap-world reign ends its domination of BET, radio, and Dirty South streets, citizens will continue to be soiled by tracks bearing lyrics crudely littered with "muthafuckas" and "niggas" and strip-joint commands: the booty/coochie-ogling and booze-hyping all barked in voices broiling with toxic testosterone. Excuse the killjoy stance, but crunk lyrics lead to brain rot; plus, they confirm conservatives', racists', and feminists' worst fears about black males. Musically, crunk boasts a punchy electro aura bolstered by video-game FX, hammy synth lines, and sluggishly funky beats that only make sense in titty bars while blasted on Grey Goose. On this remix companion disc to 2003's Platinum album, Me & My Brother, Atlanta's Ying Yang Twins milk the admittedly catchy formula epitomized by "Salt Shaker" and "Georgia Dome." YYT do this crunk shit well, but to praise them makes you feel like you're commending a prostitute for spreading gonorrhea. DAVE SEGAL
Colossal Vol. 2
Take's latest and fifth effort for the local Buttermilk Records label is by far his most accomplished. What separates Colossal's 10 original and remixed tracks from earlier works is that they're stuffed with more soul, inventive coloring, and structural details. The tracks on earlier releases by this L.A.-based producer, particularly his full-length CD Third Story, weren't bad, but they lacked compositional complexity and often had a beauty that was too easily recognized and absorbed. The art of Colossal isn't direct but atmospheric. One enters the music as one would the vapors of Venus; a warm, textured orb of fragmented melodies, echoed samples, soft scratches, and electric interferences surround the sodden ground of each beat. Hiphop instrumentals are rarely as enchanting as the ones encountered on Colossal. CHARLES MUDEDE
**** Four calling birds *** Three French hens ** Two turtle doves * Partridge in a pear tree