Posts Tagged ‘indie


Robert Pollard – Space City Kicks

On this very special January the 17th, we at Ears are Tourists have decided to give you, our special reader, the possibility to speak up about a new release. Since announcing the album at issue, Robert Pollard’s new effort Space City Kicks, we have recieved plenty of opinions. What follows is a compendium of thoughts on the lastest work by the indie magician of Ohio [sugary description required as to tone down the overall editorial agressivity of most reviews posted on here]

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“I’d like to raise a question about Robert Pollard’s wardrobe and his general image. We know he likes to wear shirts with awkward roses sewed on ’em and that he used to party dressed as a washed up country dope; but this is too much. A shirt with a red heart stitched on its breast pocket? That’s painful. I guess he just stepped off his Carpet of Love. Quirks aside, I reckon this is the most decent Pollard photo in any of his covers yet. See, it wasn’t so hard not to look like a 60-year old man dying of cancer or like a cocky posh suburbs dad. The cover for Space City Kicks is quite decent, at least they put some effort into it, something that cannot be said of last year’s Moses on a Snail, a terrible sight, worthy of being sold in the filthiest of gas stations. I’m confused though by the placement of a suitcase next to Pollard. I thought he had already gone off to business in a previous release? What about” [text cut off due to severe hyperlink masturbation; also, writer confessed not having heard the record yet]

Amy Joubert, Massapequa, Long Island, NY

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“What the heck, Bob. Man must be getting older becuz I barely required a dictionary to understand the song titles this time around. LOL. Thankfully the record is filled with good stuff. Not very obscure, but accessible material. There’s a couple of generic misfires (a tradition of Pollard) but it is solid. The Elephant Jokes album is still the best thing he’s done in the last several years. Now Bob since you’re such a rock star get your ass on a plane and tour the world, we’ve waited long enough to see your spacey karate-kicks!”

Macedonio Fernández, Buenos Aires, Argentina

“Bob’s been a good ole pal of mine for quite a few years now. Besides being the master of American ale drinking, the man can rock. He’s one of those 60s kids who grabbed the guitar at ten and started composing stuff right away, you know, same for me, I couldn’t contain the urge to play all by myself, but then I hit the road and went to Seattle. Bob however decided for reasons that are unknown to me to stay and rot in a shoddy town. No offense to Bob or anyone but you ever been to Montgomery County, OH? Place’s a friggin’ shit-hole. Oh and by the way, once, when pumped after a show (his body cannot get really intoxicated anymore), Bob confessed to me most of the songs he comes up with are in fact instilled into his brain by swift UFOS surrounding the Dayton area. Anyhow the man’s extraordinary as he showed in last year’s Moses on a Snail, which, as I already stated elsewhere, is a masterful recording full of substance and finesse. Bob continues to be a tremendous musician in his new album Space City Kicks. He succeeds best when he gets into a heavy metal vein – listen to the title track and don’t tell me you don’t dig those whamming guitars. Or in “Sex She Said”, he conjures up a decaying milieu which becomes progressively intense once more shredding guitars come in. “Picture a Star” is also ominous and hard, and “Getting Going” is one groovy rocking song. There’s some other tunes that I don’t particularly recall right now but that’s not important really, after all Bob’s at his best when being himself. I guess you have to meet him to experience that, his anima, such a great guy. That time we both went on stage and ripped The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” up was a personal milestone.”

Eddie Vedder, Seattle, WA

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“Sigh. Here we go again, the quarterly commentary on the new Robert Pollard album. I really wish he would stop fucking around and trying to ruin his mostly creative songwriting. The man’s motivations are fucking murky, something which puzzles me to no end. I mean what the fuck, you’ve got brilliant melodies such as “Something Strawberry” or “I Wanna Be Your Man on the Moon” but you interrupt them to take pleasure in disjointed, unpleasant wrecks such as “Picture a Star” and “Children Ships”. The lo-fi charm of GbV is longtime gone, you hack. Not that I’m much of a fan of GbV, it seems there’s assholes who dig “Kicker of Elves” and other jokey cuts of theirs. I tried to swallow those Suitcase compilations and nearly puked. Preposterous stuff. Pollard should save the dark weird nonsense for his Circus Devils albums (which in truth nobody listens to) instead. In those GbV days if Pollard fussed about his 767 lo-fi bathroom guitar compositions I guess they either gave him a beer or let him place a couple in an EP or even in album (who cared, you knew you were going to skip that track anyway) but now there’s no Tobin Sprout or Doug Gillard or whoever to hinder his thirst for shenanigans and we get this mess. Nobody wants to hear “Spill the Blues” or “Into It”, it’s boring. Material like “Mr. Fantastic Must Die” or “Woman to Fly” prevents me from entirely giving up on Pollard but I feel like kicking him in the face.

PS: Also this review can be almost exactly applied to any of his post 2001 solo releases.”

Edward Bast, New York City, NY

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“Pollard continues his streak of brilliant releases. One has to admire his guts, a rare trait in the music business nowadays. His records are quite the expedition into the realm of nonconformity, in which anything is valid, music is startling besides quality, there’s room for nakedness and for fury, for all kinds of human emotions. No current band is able to come up with hooks so sweet as those in “Something Strawberry” (psychedelic pop perfection) or “Touch me in the Right Place” (so instantly memorable) and sound so unforced and natural. The DIY, lo-fi quality of the recording implies honesty and lack of bullshit and benefits the quieter, folkier cuts (such as the beautiful “Gone Hoping”). His musical taste is clear and all over the place: from the Kinks to Judas Priest. The sonic assault these eighteen cuts represent screams for repeated listens: all Pollard albums seem harmless at first, take a while to get into your skin. Then you find yourself humming songs whilst cleaning your toilet or having sex with your wife or attending other bands’ concerts, tunes you aren’t able to place or recognize, until it hits you: they’re off the new Robert Pollard album you chose to dismiss. You ungrateful bastard. You know that since your turntable lost its virginity to GbV there’s always a Pollard song stuck in your head; they can morph, they can evolve, they can change, but he’s always there forcing you to purr. So shut up, put on hold your exciting new Destroyer and Deerhoof releases and give Space City Kicks another spin.”

Vezetett vélemény, Budapest, Hungary

“Pollard continues his streak of subpar releases. The blatant lethargy displayed in many of the songs, particularly the “more intimate” cuts (“Gone Hoping”, “Into it”), is discouraging. “Tired Life”, for instance, is such a tiring tune, drags on forever. I know he’s not even trying (has he ever?) but does that disinterest need to be so obvious. Also Bob, lay off the hard-rocking numbers, you don’t play in crowded arenas, only hipster-flooded shitty ass redneck bars, and you always will, even if youre “followed by losers” haha. Bleh this.”, Raleigh, North Carolina

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Space City Kicks is the new album by Robert Pollard, the lead singer of a band you maybe know called the Boston Spaceships. Although it has guitars this is pure indie music, made from the soul of a man who wants to manifest his passion of music to the listener’s soul. Even if the record is dominated by the pop, that doesn’t make it more light, instead, there is many rockings parts in the disc. It is produced by Todd Tobias (Sleeptalkers, Circus Devils, Kramies) and recorded in Ohio, in the USA. Interesting soundscapes are evoked: please try it and maybe you will enjoy this very special music.”

EsteladaSempre, Barcelona, Spain

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“GENIOUS! Bob Pollard has done it again folks, he’s tricked us into believing he has recorded a new album when in fact he’s rehashing old material! People will argue it’s all about his genius. Albeit his brain must be shiny, over the years he’s set himself up as this “gimme a guitar and I’ll write you five songs in two minutes” kinda guy, which he really is not! He certainly is hyperactive, thats fo sho, but in his best interest! By putting out half a dozen records a year, there’s no way to re-listen to the albums and let them mature as they should! That way, he guarantees his releases will not be too strictly judged! The only folks who’ll listen to them again and again are jerky fanboys who are bound to love the hell out of it! Nice try Mr. Pollard!”

Nedra Carp, Surrey, UK

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Thanks to everyone who took part in our little feedback project! Unfortunately no special prizes (a flock of dying seagulls) will be delivered to those who sent in their comments, as it had been announced, since they were eaten by one of our editors, who then proceeded to burp and die simultaneously. Our sincerest apologies.

Link in comments.


kristin hersh – cats and mice

’tis a live set from Kristin Hersh, whom you might primarily know as Tanya Donelly’s stepsister. The earliest solo album Hersh released was also a recorded concert, in which she went through Throwing Muses material; from that very first display of naked awesomeness she made quite clear she’s don’t need no band to rock out. It’s not nonsensical to prefer raw, solo Hersh over bandmate-crowded Hersh; in fact, I believe most pseudo-unplugged lone guitar Hersh songs sound way better than their polished studio counterparts, including Muses stuff. My first encounter with bare Hersh was this epic live version of “Sundrops”:

Dazzling. That guitar is just a strummed stream of chords. And Kristin’s black hair beats her most extended blond hair any day. SUN DROPS DOWN! When I saw Hersh live, she had this song written on the setlist as possible encore, yet she did not consider it. The only song she played solo was a mediocre Muses cut about she and her sister in a lesbian bar. The rest was violin-abusive and “pretty”. You might notice in that video her head side tilting, or sideways head-moving, which is one of Hersh’s most cheered trademarks. It seemingly got worse over the years, as this 00s video shows:

It’s almost as she was undergoing demonic possession or was an electric-singin’ robot. Even if the “tilting” was anticipated in her early Muses days. Fuck headbanging, go head side-moving (for lack of a more consecrated indie term)! The point is, Hersh live is the cat’s pajamas. Close listeners will have noticed the progressive coarsening and drying of her voice over the years. This must be related to her more punkish waste of vocal cords in that other group of hers, 50 Foot Wave. She’s never had a pristine mermaid voice, but it’s evident her tone’s become a tad rougher (and she doesn’t strike me as a smoker). It’s all displayed in this here release, Catz ‘n’ ratz, in which, coincidentally, neither of the two songs I’ve illustrated can be found. This greasy voice is perfect for her version of “Banks of Ohio”, which opens the album, a murder ballad popularized by Johnny Cash; or in “Fortune”, which would not work as well if her guts sounded more clean. And that’s just the first two songs. When she does a Muses song she obviously goes for a more Muses-y vocal style though, which is quite interesting. Let’s do a breakdown of the cuts featured, by album.

House Tornado (Throwing Muses) 1
Red Heaven (Throwing Muses) 1
Hips and Makers 4
Murder, Misery and Then Goodnight 1
Sunny Border Blue 1
The Grotto 2
Learn to Sing Like a Star 2
*new stuff* 4

So you’ve got quieter songs (“Deep Wilson”), furious guitar-acing songs (“Spain”, though Hersh says it’s “whiny”) and folksy old yarns (“One Train”), as well as nice chit chat. It’s a pretty neat overview of Hersh’s facets. It just further demonstrates how she doesn’t need no studio ornamentation, tricky over-producing or puke-inducing violin bedizenment. “Winter” for instance sounds way more heartfelt here than its Learn To Sing Like a Star version. The setlist is intriguing to say the least; she chooses an obscure Muses song (“You Cage”) and a slightly known one (“Pearl”) instead of going the easy way (and playing whatever off the self-titled album); she relies on yet unreleased cuts and trad jaunts rather than classics (no “Gazebo Tree”, no “Sundrops”). Nevertheless she bases the whole album finale on “Hips and Makers”, which I guess it’s her most well-regarded album. Well, at least she ignores “Sky Motel”, which sucks. Many of the unreleased cuts can be found on her CASH music project online, which gathers acoustic demos of songs off her upcoming new album (which I’m not sure if it’s gonna be solo or Muses). Presented this bare, the new tunes inspire darkness. Spooky bliss. Though certainly this release isn’t precisely cheerful. Hersh seems on despair-ridden mode. Near the end there’s a comment of hers about Vic Chesnutt (who apparently considered “Your Ghost” to be a “girly” song), which adds to the somberness. Kristin also mentions Chesnutt being able to knock things out – I suppose this was recorded before his ultimate death. The album concludes with the bluesy “Tuesday Night”, which is a fitting closure.

Clocking at one hour twelve minutes this holds up pretty well, not being monotonous. Well, after a while it might sound a bit samey, but only because you’d wish to be there instead of blindly listening. Both longtime Hersh nuts and puzzled noobs will probably enjoy the set.

Link in comments.


The National – High Violet

Let’s see what critic-darlings The National have for us this year. The cover is a pretty accurate representation of what can be found in this album: some chimney spilling badly written garbly words! Still, it’s worth admiring, since it’s probably the best thing about this sorry excuse for a record. I tried to be patient and understanding, to put my woes aside, yet that wasn’t enough. Let’s do a song-by-song breakdown which will hopefully illustrate the problems of this album. “Terrible Love”, a cut about a guy who METAPHORICALLY walks with spiders and is lovesick etc., features heartfelt marching drums/guitar dynamics with some howling at the background and of course the affected-yet-passive vocals. The song ends in a mess of ugly noise. Kind of a downer, to realize that the first song already resorts to snoozing violin crescendos. This, worry not, will be the pattern for the whole album: and by pattern I mean structure, spirit, goal. “Sorrow” starts things off promisingly by stealing Black Sabbath’s “Supernaut” drum riff yet it notably begins to suck 20 seconds in. Once again a mawkish guitar goes along two notes while the Berninger fella sings about not wanting to get over a girl by saying, precisely, “I don’t want to get over you”. The lyrical genius astounds me, once again. Seriously, how are these guys not considered to be a parody of themselves? Sheesh. The tempo is as tedious as in the first song, and the violins surely appear in a most predictable fashion. Soon joined by a sugary choir. Aural massacre. I keep waiting for something to happen, but it doesn’t. It’s just the same mediocre constant of “notes” over and over. “Anyone’s Ghost” attemps a groovier, post-punkier mood, emphasis put on bass and drums. I guess is supposed to be catchy, yet it’s disstressingly formulaic. I can’t help but notice the drums in most these songs. They’re maybe the “best” instrument in this release, at least their treatment is not insulting, yet whoever mixed this put them on the foreground and they mostly end up being excessively noticeable and annoying. As if they were telling you how to bang your head or tap your feet. Honestly, I can’t get over how lazy this “songwriting” is. It’s not even memorable. I have 8 songs to go and I already know none of them will remain in my head for more than two seconds. All I’ll recall is some twingly mushy guitars, violins galore and some asshole babbling ’bout his penis, repeated again and again and again. What’s the point? Eh well, here’s “Little Faith”. It begins with the pseudo-sound of an orchestra tuning with an ugly electronic lo-fi beat over it. The mess soon evolves into a gentle obvious piano pattern followed by an obvious bass pattern. It’s the same song as before, only more “spacey”. Same development, only something DOES happen after two and a half monotnous minutes; the guitar and strings are left alone with the voice before the full band kicks in YET ANOTHER crescendo. Here the lyrics become more creative, even if they’re full of lies (‘All the lonely kids are getting harder to find’, that is not true. At all). Dunno, reminds me of a fully instrument fleshed version of “Such Great Heights” by the Postal Service. Actually, this album sounds very 2003. I cannot understand how some people can consider this sound to be hip, but more on that later.

“Afraid of Everyone” starts off with Berninger groaning and just plain chord strumming and high-pitched howling. After some of this boring shit they realize they’re going nowhere and decide to go for a more dancey tempo. The song is about a pussy individual, a former junkie, who has the bad taste of owning an orange umbrella. Yey. At a certain moment, it appears as if the vinyl was scratched or stuck (that is, if you owned this garbage on vinyl, something for which I’ll toast) since Berninger starts repeating “soul” to a nasty, disturbing effect. Following that awkward, eerie situation, they go all post-rock on us with an “agressive” guitar wanking up and down in the most unimaginative fashion coupled with swarms of hammering drums. Man, this is so INTENSE. Like, rabid! Reminds me of myself watching the DUSK and confronting my OWN ghosts! “Bloodbuzz Ohio” surely can’t be bad, since it features “Ohio” (which for sum reason I always relate to good times). Wimpy drums and approaching walls of gayish feedback stick around for a while and then Berninger presents us the most easy of vocal melodies. It’s hummable! A peculiar piano and some horns – or synth, the mix is so garbled I cannot at times distinguish the instruments, they all sound as coming from the anuses of the Dessner bros (which they probably are) – provide a triumphant echo for Berninger. After five minutes of this, which feel like fifty, the guitar gets all scratchy and offers a rockin’ riff and then more horns and then fuck it. Again, this ending suffers from saturation of noise. I guess they’re trying to “hardcorize” the tediousness of the song before it concludes with this method, but it doesn’t work at all, since we can see it coming three miles away. In “Runaway” they bastardize the guitar riff from Drake’s “One of these days”, but oddly enough the song is pleasant. There’s another strumming guitar and a piano. A neat ballad. I’m very surprised at this, it’s nothing special, but well constructed, harmless, not bad at all YOU SON OF A BITCH. They HAD to put motherfecking violins and horns to ruin it! Assholes. The National, you are evil. Let me explain this. I do not dislike violins. I think violins are super. That’s not the point here. It’s about their treatment: they have no range whatsoever. They could’ve possibly put the same sweeping string piece in each of the songs and nobody would’ve noticed any difference. Same with horns. If you hear one song with omnious horns or violins crowning over the vocals or guitars, it’s acceptable, even if it’s manipulative (yes, they’re telling you to feel all inspired and fuzzy inside). When EVERY song resorts to this, you got a problem. It’s evident these guys know nothing about classical music, and are unable to addecuately invent sounds inside this “chamber music” range they dwell in. I’m not fond of comparisions, specially since they rarely can be justified (and this is not an exception), but for the sake of it, take Van Dyke Parks. He does chamberish baroque pop the way it should be done. I might loathe that music style, but at least I can appreciate his inventiveness, its intelligence. There are actual compositions. But this, is is just so CHEAP. Yes, that is the word. Cheap. I get it the first time. Now fuck me!

“Conversation 16”, which features Berninger telling the harrowing tale of him being a bad person, further consolidates The National as masters of continiously unoriginal snoozefests. This might very well be the most decent song in here, even if it resorts to the same pattern explained above; boring guitar (“nee-noo-nee-noo”) gets abandoned by the rest of instruments, the singer utters something trascendental and then the band kicks in in a beautifully vomitive amalgam of sugar-coated noises. Listen to this choirish howling, it sounds as if a killer whale was having its dick chopped off. Still, it’s not awful. If I was at home, taking a shit, and heard this on the radio, I’d probably laugh ’til my nostrils hurt at its pretentiousness, but I wouldn’t shut the fucker off, it’s the kind of music that can be pleasantly ignored. “England” features the same tempo as all the songs above it, and for this special occasion, The National crank out a particular, exotic instrument for y’all to enjoy. More violins. The record should have been titled Here’s Where the Strings Come In (apologies to Superchunk) instead of Hay, Violated, that is, High Violet. Still, they must’ve been high on Barney the dinosaur’s semen in order to release this (apologies for this gross image, the saur is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of violet). Speaking of which, Coldplay have a song named “Violet Hill”, which is fortunate, since it could’ve perfectly fit in this National album. Oh yes, I just compared both these bands. Actually I’d rather listen to Coldplay, they’re more consciously mainstream and not as convoluted. Hey! You know what’s violet and also sucks? Yer mama’s lips!

Okay, you get the idea, I wouldn’t want to get crass. It all comes down to wheter you “enjoy” this sound or not. It’s just that I happen not to. I am mostly angry a The National for attempting to shove this album up people’s minds. And it seems as if most are loving it, something which I cannot, in any way, understand. I know many other popular acts nowadays (such as the Tindersticks or the Antlers, which I don’t like much) resort to this so-called “chamber pop” crescendo-based music with obnoxious vocals. Yet it’s just so unoriginal, so uninventive, I feel as if I’m dumber after suffering through this. I’m frustrated and annoyed at the fact that some might consider this to be “teh shit” of todays indie pop/rock. It’s not rocking (shows absolute lack of balls and the guitars are used to sleepy effect), and it’s not poppy (unmemorable melodies, half-assed instrument interplay), it’s just a stream of very mellow and derivative drone. Honestly, you can’t expect much from the guys who did “Boxer”, but supposedly they should be getting “better” as musicians. This shows otherwise: they resort to formulas, un-inspired cliches and lazy songwriting. I believe “Alligator” has a couple of decent songs (with potential) but this is just offensive. Humdrum pedestrian manipulative diarrhea for young adults.

‘Come with your ears… leave with your ears!’

June 2018
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