Luna

Also: Rise Against, Greenskeepers, Mannie Fresh, Midnight Movies, and The Go! Team.

LUNA

Rendezvous

(Jetset)

Luna have always been laid-back—that's why they're cool. But there's a difference between chilled out and lazy, and Rendezvous, the seventh studio album by the veteran New York City band, is so sluggish it practically falls asleep on itself. Maybe that's on purpose: Frontman Dean Wareham, who formed Luna after the collapse of his legendary (yet overrated) drone-pop group, Galaxie 500, has announced that Luna will disband following the tour to promote Rendezvous. For an outfit so devoted to dreaminess, going out with a snooze makes perfect sense. Every trademark Luna element is present: spidery guitars, barely there bass pulses, brushed drums, Wareham's croaked post-beatnik musings. It's a formula the band perfected on mid-'90s albums like Bewitched and Penthouse and has been coasting on ever since. "Cindy Tastes of Barbecue" is a dead ringer for the sparkling 1994 single "Tiger Lily," except when Wareham recites lines like "Your purple mouth says snicker snack/I'm turning round I'm turning back," he sounds stupid, not beguiling. The music plods along at the pace of an antique car out for a Sunday drive, breaking a sweat only on the shuddering "Astronaut," which previously appeared on the 2002 EP Close Cover Before Striking. Rendezvous is the sound of a band that knows it's time to quit. They're going through the motions to please the faithful, but the magic is gone. As Wareham states on "Motel Bambi": "We don't belong here/We can't compete/We don't belong anymore." AMY PHILLIPS

Luna play Neumo's with Midnight Movies at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. (sold out). Fri., Feb. 11. $15 adv.

RISE AGAINST

Siren Song of the Counter Culture

(Geffen)

Give politically engaged punk rockers Rise Against credit for having the good sense to outfit their dependable lefty aphorisms with a big alternative-radio crunch that gets them over at a moment like now. Siren Song of the Counter Culture, the Chicago band's third album, is about America's abuse of its superpower status, protesting "facedown in the dirt with your foot on my back," and the fear of dying without having done something worth being remembered for. Sadly, Rise Against almost certainly won't be remembered alongside their idols Minor Threat and Bad Brains. For one thing, frontman Tim McIlrath can't sing to save a baby seal's life, which doesn't prevent him from effectively yelling his head off, though it does make him nearly indistinguishable from any other hoodie-wearing guy in a punk band. And as songwriters, these guys could use a hook or five. But with crucial assists from producer GGGarth and mixer Andy Wallace—pros who've punched up records by Rage Against the Machine, Slayer, and Kittie—the sound of their fury is titanic: Opener "State of the Union" bulldozes into view with a rumble of compressed riff-shard; "The First Drop" is Bad Religion after a case of Red Bull; "Paper Wings" pulls power from a humdrum emo-rock chord progression. In "Dancing for Rain," GGGarth even gets guitarist Chris Chasse to haul out his acoustic for an eye-of-the-storm interlude. Dudes, maybe Avril's people next album? MIKAEL WOOD

Rise Against play El Corazon with Tsunami Bomb, Alexisonfire, and Only Crime at 6 p.m. Mon., Feb. 14. $10 adv./$12.

GREENSKEEPERS

Pleetch

(Om)

On Pleetch, Chicago's Greenskeepers take a right turn from their DJ-centric back catalog and twist the tired formula of "home listening" dance music into a monster-piece of personality that ignores the conventions that have doomed other producers' attempts to go beyond the faceless. They're not putting on a sleazy drag musical or making love to their robot friend; instead they write quirky, funny, and rather pervy songs, ranging from a funky vocal trip through the mind of Silence of the Lambs' Buffalo Bill to an earnest—and shockingly good—cover of Christopher Cross' "Sailing," sung by Chicago house legend DJ Diz. In between, there's a healthy stash of garage-punk songs about prankster ghosts and sexy Filipino midgets—basically the kind of fare you expect from very talented musicians who might have been hitting the hash pipe a little too hard lately. There's also a handful of straightforward, well-produced deep house, downtempo, and Italo-influenced tracks that wouldn't sound out of place on a Thievery Corporation compilation. But this schizoid arrangement works somehow—after a few spins of Pleetch, you don't feel the least bit weird humming to yourself about serial killers as you shimmy around the house. MATTHEW CORWINE

Greenskeepers play Catwalk at 9 p.m. Fri., Feb. 11.

MANNIE FRESH

The Mind of Mannie Fresh

(Cash Money/Universal)

The mind of Mannie Fresh seems to be the site of a schizoid soundclash between old Michael Jackson ballads and old Geto Boys demos. You have to credit Cash Money Records, where Fresh is the house producer, for sticking to what works for seven years now: boobs, rims, money, and the boobs and rims that money can buy. But Mannie's also a sensitive soul, like a Buddha-bellied Tupac with the political conscience of a gnat: "No merkin', no shootin'. . . . This is some beautiful, wholesome, loving, kind-type stuff." He's wiped the clutter out of his hard drive, and the strobing snares and prog-dense blurts and blips of his sound circa '99 went right along with it. What elevated Cash Money past their Crescent City rivals No Limit was Mannie's endless conveyor belt of elastic, overstuffed beats. He's a multi-instrumentalist who doesn't get all show-offy about it, as well as a dewdrop plangent guitar player, a rhythm programmer who'll crush all middlebrow electronic comers, and an assembly line Prince who wouldn't ask to be someone's girlfriend or, thank God, wear assless chaps. He's got a solid grasp on the inherent ridiculousness of modern rap's playa poses, and he even includes a megamix mash-note to his spiritual mentor, Kurtis Mantronik. "Lady Lady" swipes some Little Stevie harmonica, and the guitars spread rose petals while R. Kelly gently weeps in the background. "Nothing Compares to Love," he pleads—except maybe the incongruity of a Men at Work piccolo over knee-deep 808 bass drops. The album's best line, sadly if inevitably, belongs to Lil Wayne: "I gargle gumbo and spit jambalaya." Meanwhile, catfish-fried guitars grind behind him, more roadhouse than block party. You gotta keep it greasy, so it goes down easy. JESS HARVELL

MIDNIGHT MOVIES

Midnight Movies

(Emperor Norton)

Remember 2003? Back then, you couldn't go a week without hearing about some new two-person noise band emerging from a warehouse squat in Providence, R.I. Last year's version of that was the three-person space-rock group, a trend that awarded us agreeably trippy major- label debuts by New York's Secret Machines and L.A.'s Autolux, both of whom made up for an occasional shortage of tunes with loads of epic guitar squall and MTV2 smoke-machine ambiance. Like Autolux, Midnight Movies are from L.A. and feature a sexy female singer/drummer and two nondescript indie dudes on guitars and keyboards. But on their self-titled debut, the Movies rein in their peers' moody Sonic Youth-opening-for-Neil Young intergalactic-grunge sprawl. Instead, they point their cleanly buzzing guitar chords, metronomic Krautrock lead lines, and going-going-gone drumbeats toward a more controlled goal—a sort of rock-band version of English-French synth fetishists Stereolab. Singer Gena Olivier leads the charge; vocally, she's a dead ringer for 'Lab's leading lady, Laetitia Sadier. It's hard to believe she's not reciting Stereo-typical socialist philosophy in "Blue Babies," though she may be, since it's anyone's guess what she's actually going on about. Her bandmates don't massage a groove as well as Sadier's partner, Tim Gane, or even the Secret Machines, but they hit the occasionally sweet spot: "Human Mind Trap" is rich with minor-chord wow and flutter, and in "Strange Design" they finally cut loose a little and let it rip. MIKAEL WOOD

Midnight Movies play Neumo's with Luna at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. (sold out). Fri., Feb. 11. $15 adv.

THE GO! TEAM

Thunder, Lightning, Strike

(Memphis Industries, U.K.)

Brighton, England, is known for many things: a collapsing seaside, crappy weather, urban blight, and, inexplicably, big beat pills 'n' pilsners frat techno. The city's Bolshi label added some of that Ol' Blighty quirk to big beat's phat-beats-and-acid-noises template, nicking guitar riffs from the Mekons and sound bites from daft old BBC broadcasts. Now the Go! Team, a mysterious group that lurks under the piers of Brighton, appear as the indie-rock equivalent to the Bolshi sound, all itchy winsomeness and scratchy rap samples. Records like Thunder, Lighting, Strike make a mockery of hi-fi. People keep comparing the Go! Team to Avalanches, but there's none of the Australian alchemists' slickness. (Besides, compared to most big beat's Sam the Sham spirit, the Go! Team's idea of "rock" is much more akin to the Sea & Cake.) They sound like they record on a condenser mike in the bathroom of the noisiest club in Brighton—that is, when they don't sound like they're playing four records at once in different rooms, as on "Ladyflash," a soundclash between a sliding rock groove, Roxanne Shanté, Mantovanni, and the Latin Rascals. If people told me this album was a bunch of demos that Marley Marl had produced for Primal Scream right before Screamadelica and had subsequently lost behind the radiator for a decade, I'd believe them. (Bonus beat: They forgo their own vocals altogether.) But, despite the meaty, beaty, big, bouncy, buzzy veneer, there's a drizzly undercurrent of melancholy to the album. Maybe it's the muted and distant quality all that static imparts. Or maybe it's just the English weather. No wonder they all started dropping E. JESS HARVELL

 
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