Besides hailing from the currently very hot scene of Brooklyn, Interpol has singer Daniel Kessler going for it. Kessler, above all, captures what made Joy Division great Curtis' moving vocal power.
Good bands are made great by their frontperson. We've heard the repetitive guitars and the droning bass of Interpol's post-punk rock before, and even some of "Turn on the Bright Lights" repeats itself. It's the unsettling resonance of Kessler's voice that grabs us and keeps us coming back regardless. Wayne Melton
Guy Clark "The Dark" (Sugar Hill)
Whether he is writing about squishing toes around in the mud or staring mortality in the eye, Guy Clark is one of America's premier singer-songwriters, and on "The Dark" he again lays out all the reasons why. Granted, 11 of the tunes were co-written with songwriter friends and one was penned by the late Townes Van Zandt. But the songs all reflect Clark's world of rowdies, misfits and good times amid the storms.
Clark's songwriting strength since the mid-'70s has been his ability to write lyrics that mix life's little joys with harsh realities, always facing the facts with a twinkle in his eye. "Homeless" could easily be a shallow tale of desolation row, but Clark crafts his story with a proud resignation that sheds not one condescending tear. His turn on Van Zandt's tune for friend Rex Bell, "Rex's Blues," also captures humanity at its lowest, loftiest and most honest.
Released Sept. 10, this project's title might lead the unsuspecting to anticipate songs of despair and sorrow, but that is not the case. Thoughtful, playful, wise and humane, Clark has crafted another masterpiece. A.A.
Bright Eyes "Lifted, or The Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground" (Saddle Creek) hhh
The Omaha, Neb., bands that have coalesced around 22-year-old Conor Oberst and his Saddle Creek label are producing some of the most interesting music around, ranging from the dark new-wave of the Faint to the literary folk-pop of Oberst's Bright Eyes. Oberst is also in the Desaparecidos, a visceral rock group whose debut, "Read Music/Speak Spanish," is among the year's best albums.
Bright Eyes' intensity is emotional, not musical. The Dylanesque first track, "The Big Picture," is seven minutes of Oberst front-and-center with an acoustic guitar, singing in a quavering voice that sometimes soars. Nostalgia and self-doubt run through the album's dirges, pop songs and barroom singalongs, which are fleshed out with horns, strings and choirs.
Oberst is too clever for his own good sometimes, tripping up his artistic high-wire act. On "False Advertising," as he sings the word "mistakes," the band purposely hits a bum note. It's a fake moment; you know it; he knows you know it. But he goes through with it anyway.
It's only done to prove a point, but the contrivance rubs off on some of the other tracks. As Oberst brings his songs and stories to Technicolor life, I'd rather pretend there's no one behind the curtain.
Camper Van Beethoven "Tusk" (Pitch A Tent)
In 1987, even as Camper Van Beethoven was falling apart, it embarked on one its strangest musical projects: a front-to-back cover of Fleetwood Mac's 1979 album "Tusk."
But the band split, frontman David Lowery blasted to success in Cracker and the "Tusk" tapes collected dust. Years later, the songs have been painstakingly pieced together with new dubs into a sort of improbable final CVB release.
On one hand, it's easy to see why Lowery and crew may have been drawn to the album, the Mac's ambitious follow-up to their hit "Rumours."
But, on the other, if the Mac were anything, they were sincere. CVB so heavily underlines everything with irony that you have to wonder, for all their work, what they are up to?
Are they taking shots at "Tusk" for its pretension? They comically run the title track off the rails by adding even more excess. They only seem to add an arched eyebrow to the classic "Sara."
But "Think About Me" somehow mixes the Mac's easygoing vibe with CVB's evil streak, so they sound like admirers after all.
It probably doesn't matter. CVB cultists will be happy just to have a new disc. Fleetwood Mac fans, well, they'll only see destruction. David M.
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