CD Reviews

LOVE AS LAUGHTER

Sea to Shining Sea

(Sub Pop)

Sometimes the truth hurts.

There is a certain ugliness involved with reviewing local music. You wanna be supportive of the scene you have to live with. Blushing in print with unabashed kudos for the bands you see all the time seems like normal Seattle tabloid behavior, and why not? It's fun to make people happy—they buy your drinks and introduce you to their cute friends. Yet this sometimes means publicly stretching the truth with little white lies. That said, Sea to Shining Sea isn't bad: "Coast to Coast" opens the set with energy and a powerfully driving melody. Some clever guitar interplay on "Put It Together" and the intensity of "My Case" (even if the main riff is accidentally borrowed from a Freeze song) add some nice flavor, too. But in the end, there isn't much that differentiates this album from the trillion other CDs vying for bin space at your local record store. The rock formula on Sea drips with familiarity the first time through, sounding like the Stones and a little Skip Spence performed with mid-'90s D.C. eagerness. Maybe that's not so much a critique of Love as Laughter but of the current state of rock music, where the mindset seems to be that, if everything sounds "right," then it's worth recording and selling. Ms. and Mr. Record Buyer end up with a bunch of professionally performed songs that hang around their player for a week and then, replaced by the next CD, never get heard again. Love as Laughter have made a perfectly competent record here, but honestly, I want more. Looks like no free drinks for me. Mark Driver

Love as Laughter play I-Spy on Wed., Sept. 26.

HEAVENLY

Versus Satan

(K Records)

Twee to the nth degree, Heavenly's t괥-୴괥 with Beelzebub is a victorious debut.

Like Garbage, Heavenly's name begs for the obvious one-word review: Indeed. The Oxford, England, quartet's shimmering sweetness can't be encapsulated that easily, of course, but their debut—1990's influential and infectious Versus Satan—is nonetheless an otherworldly indie-pop masterpiece. Originally pressed exclusively in England and Japan (and having since gone out of print), the highly sought-after album has been plucked out of the hands of overzealous eBay auctioneers by K Records and reissued for the music-lovin' masses, along with three singles tacked onto the end (1990's "I Fell in Love Last Night" and "Our Love Is Heavenly" and 1992's "She Says"). Write the quickly dwindling and downsizing Olympia-based label a thank-you note, too, 'cause the eight-song Versus Satan deserves to be heard by more than just the record-collecting elite. Sparkling with all the perfection of a gorgeous summer day, the band's guitar-pop bop clearly made its mark on some of today's best musicians (notably the Aislers Set's Amy Linton), but it's Amelia Fletcher's light and lilting vocals that have always defined the band's hauntingly angelic sound. And with Versus Satan, Heavenly prove that they've always been the cream of the indie-pop crop. Heavenly, indeed. Jimmy Draper

MATTHEW RYAN

Concussion

(Waxy Silver Records)

Nashville songwriter strips down sound, revs up stories rich with characters and virtue.

"I'm inclined to give up this time/I'm inclined to drift," Matthew Ryan rasps in the chorus of the opening cut on his third record. Ryan uses the tale of a pensive drifter bent on self-reinvention to introduce the first in a cast of dozens of average Joes and ordinary Janes, and "Drift" works to perfectly establish Concussion as a stirring and sobering 21st-century re-excursion through Springsteen's "Nebraska," by way of Ryan's adopted Nashville. Most of the record finds the 29-year-old ex-Pennsylvanian alone with a guitar and a murmuring, plaintive voice. Whether musing the terror and persecution of a real Tennessee manhunt ("Rabbit"), contemplating the merits of love and theft ("Chickering Angel"), or witnessing the last breaths of life being sucked from a relationship ("Devastation," which features Lucinda Williams on co-lead vocals), Ryan tends to raise the issues he cares about through his character sketches. Though he's scaled back musically from the richer sounds of last year's East Autumn Grin, Ryan's lyrical observations remain, chronicling the best and worst in the world spinning under us—and the world that lives in his dreams. "Where is my autopilot?/Hope it didn't forget about me," he begs in "Autopilot." Three minutes later, as the song fades, Ryan contemplates having to face the obstacles himself, despite his hints of desperation. No worry; after all, today can always seem a bit imposing. But there's always tomorrow. Scott Holter

MODEST MOUSE

Everywhere and His Nasty Parlour Tricks

(Sony/Epic)

Ancient melodies of our future.

Though it contains just eight songs (a couple of them reworked tracks from past releases), the latest Modest Mouse EP stands up to the bar of indie rock excellence set by 1999's singles collection Building Nothing Out of Something (Up) and blows the K-compiled Sad Sappy Sucker out of the proverbial salty waters. For many of us, it's nearly impossible to extricate our own stories from the drums-as-junk pound, the trip-trap of production noise, the relentless brain-tapping of the guitar notes, the home-is-where-you-hate-yourself ache of Modest Mouse's anti-anthems. The release commences with "Willful Suspension of Disbelief," a quiet, lulling track that does, in fact, defer disbelief to the point of near-submission before track two, "Night on the Sun," takes over. The eight-minute Moon and Antarctica outtake evokes a signature Modest Mouse mood. Isaac Brock's gravel and grovel push the building momentum of Jeremiah Green's clash and Eric Judy's pacing, taking roughly four minutes to burst into the song's rallying cry, "If there's one thing I know about this town/not a person doesn't want me underground." Later, in "So Much Beauty in Dirt," Brock's boyish charm shines through as he weaves a quick tale of drunken Sunday afternoon bike rides, chanting, "So much beauty it can make you cry." Another fine document of life in these times. Laura Learmonth

 
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