Perfect Pitch Black
RCA pressed enough copies of Cave In's much-maligned Antenna to enrich a Massachusetts landfill, though the quartet's attempt to recreate OK Computer brick-by-brick fell on largely deaf ears. Bassist Caleb Scofield has had no problem rolling with the punches; in the interval since Cave In drew rings around the world on 2000's Jupiter, he dropped back into the ranks of indie-metaldom with Old Man Gloom and fired up the ol' Cave In mimeograph as an in-demand producer. Vocalist Steven Brodsky—more of an Elliott Smith than a Kevin Shields, anyway—is still nursing his battered heart and bruised ego in the corner, waiting for the next generation of Internet message-board addicts to recognize Antenna as the moment hardcore went pop without devolving into parody. Judging by the song titles ("Down the Drain," "Tension in the Ranks") on Cave In's follow-up, the quartet wasn't able to make the best of a dire situation—Perfect Pitch Black pretty much wrote the band's epitaph as major label modern rock radio hopefuls. So those hoping for a return to form should prepare themselves for a little O. Henry irony: The more intriguing raw material here begs for an ounce of Antenna's tighter focus. The results are ferocious when Cave In's pre-millennial selves drop by for a visit ("Off to Ruin" and "Trepanning"), but the dismal stuff (the meandering instrumental "Ataraxia") casts the group as some kind of parallel-universe Deftones. That's to be expected with a collection of studio experiments and house-cleaning rarities, but this one's more odds than ends. NICK GREEN
Cave In play El Corazon with Doomriders, Lorene Drive, and Playing Enemy at 8 p.m. Mon, Dec. 5. $10 adv./$12. All ages.
Any Kind of Pretty
In a 2004 interview with Seattle Weekly, Kuma guitarist Dave Dayton said "We know what we're doing is not cool in Seattle right now . . . We like what's around the corner." Now the members of Kuma have all rounded different ones, with frontwoman Bre Loughlin going solo this summer as Daylight Basement. After starting as a lo-fi way to set her neglected songs free, she hooked up with Maktub drummer Davis Martin, bassist/vocalist Dejha Colantuono of the Silver Apples, Jeunes guitarist David Bos, and Secret Civilains keyboardist/programmer Joey Veneziani. What could become a supergroup if they stay together keeps Loughlin's sass intact—with Kuma, she defied indifference with an exuberant, theatrical delivery and stage style. On Pretty, her ongoing tendency to turn up the last syllable of words recalls early punk icons like Siouxsie Sioux and X-Ray Spex's Poly Styrene, making the playful "Honey Bees" and closing lullaby "Fate" equally affecting. Musically, she's allusive—an almost mariachi vibe filters through the upbeat electronics in first single "Godspeed Girl"— and lyrically she's direct. On "Just Kiss Me," she sings, "I don't need a modern hero/Chivalry doesn't help my ego/Just kiss me," while on "Any Kind," she notes, "I don't mind rubber or leather/I don't care what you want to tie together on my bedroom door/Don't leave so soon/Come back for more!" Good idea. RACHEL SHIMP
Daylight Basement play Chop Suey with Mountain Con and Mercir at 9 p.m. Fri, Dec. 2. $8 adv.
In certain rock-crit circles it's a foregone conclusion that authenticity as a lyrical quality in pop music is a bugbear at best and a futile pursuit worthy of ridicule at worst. That is, listeners are advised not to read into, much less trust, the machinations and maneuverings of musicians and their lyrics. So how does one respond to Tanglewood Numbers, knowing of Silver Jews frontman David Berman's drug-abetted suicide attempt, as recently related in The Fader? Do Berman's more-than-messy ordeals account for the darker mood of the album? Berman, also a published poet, has made—by his own account(ing), in a recent Pitchfork interview—a decent living writing the sort of cute faux-country aphorisms that wouldn't sound too out of place in that old Phil Hartman Saturday Night Live sketch, where the late comic actor sang songs like "I Just Found a Fifty-Dollar Bill" and "I'm Drunk (Again)." However, in Tanglewood Numbers there's an undeniable love-soaked yet bleak melancholia twisted in with the cleverness that, even without knowledge of Berman's gossip-page backstory, rings as "true" as any set of pop lyrics can. Album opener "Punks in the Beerlight" sets the tone, with Berman for the first time sharing the microphone with his wife, Cassie, whose poised vocals offer a counterpoint to his growling drawl (to Berman's credit, his singing is also more assured here). When they sing a cheesy line like "I love you to the max," it's easy to believe that they believe it. JOEL HUNT
Good for What Ails You: Music of the Medicine Shows 1926–1937
Everybody loves a jingle. Well, maybe not, but try getting the damn things out of your head. So it's little wonder that the catchiest compilation in recent memory is dedicated to songs intended to sell your great-grandparents things they didn't need. Unless, of course, one of them happened to have suffered from the two-pronged curse best treated by Kapoo Indian Oils and Salves—a "worm killer and cough cure," according to the sign sitting above an archetypal pair of traveling minstrel-salesmen in the jam-packed booklet of this two-disc reissue.
Medicine shows picked up in America during the 1880s, when the patent medicine industry was in full swing, and its hawkers brought entertainment troupes through small towns to entice sales of Kerr's Famous Snake Oil and Hunt's Remedy (whose package showed a man about to hit a skeleton—you know, death—over the head with a bottle). Because the singers had to get and keep a neighborhood's attention, they aimed blessedly low.
All of Good for What Ails You is forthright, and plenty of it is sensational—Pink Anderson & Simmie Dooley's "Papa's 'Bout to Get Mad" and Charlie Parker (not that one) & Mack Woolbright's "The Man Who Wrote Home Sweet Home Never Was a Married Man" both make domestic violence sound merry, while Grant Brothers & Their Music's "Tell It to Me" makes a party chant out of "Cocaine's gonna kill my honey dead." And plenty of it is just silly, like Parker & Woolbright's "Ticklish Reuben," whose chorus goes, "Oh, hee hee hee ha-ha-ha/Oh, hee hee hee ha-ha-ha/Oh, hee hee hee ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha hee!"
I probably ought to mention that a lot of these songs were sung by white people wearing burnt cork. As academia continues to pry open American show business' minstrel past, Good for What Ails You is a fascinating illustration of its musical, if not social, appeal. As much as anything, what these singers were selling was an illusion of the easy life—the freedom to ride the rails and "sit in the graveyard eatin' beans" (Beans Hambone & El Morrow's "Beans"). Black, white, and blackfaced alike, they were misfits who found a scam that worked— a pretty good definition of American culture, then and now. MICHAELANGELO MATOS
A Time to Love
Hating Stevie Wonder is like hating your mother. She's so good to you that she gets on your fucking nerves, which fits a man capable of writing and performing a song with rivulets of feeling as subcutaneous as "Visions"—and who can also shovel an "I Just Call to Say I Love You" onto the plate faster than it will take you to hum either song. A Time to Love will never challenge Wonder's run of mid-'70s albums—there isn't even the delicious bad taste of a minor hit like 1987's "Skeletons," a bad taste he should indulge more often—but the undimmed strength of Wonder's melodic tide can still make us shake our heads at how this smiling fool has conned us yet again. Ersatz funk of a very high grade doesn't get better than "Please Don't Hurt My Baby"; likewise "Positivity," a Norman Vincent Peale ode whose airheaded if not stupid pronouncements inspire Wonder to thwack his drum kit with welcome vigor. Then there are the ballads ("How Will I Know," the heady swirl of the epic nine-minute title track), which prove yet again how this master quietly implicates the audience: If we resist a voice as guileless as Wonder's, then who's the bigger fool? ALFRED SOTO
The two-piece indie prog pummel of Lightning Bolt has been inspiring closed-compound neologisms for 10 years, and the title of their third album, Hypermagic Mountain, could just as easily work as a description of their press-clip pile. But as all those write-ups would say, it's not just on record that Bolt's got it—their furious shows and fierce DIY ethics have made them the band to be(at) in the noise-rock playoffs. Nearly every song on Mountain is about an imaginary place or creature, picking up from "Dracula's Castle," the killer track from 2003's Wonderful Rainbow, and barreling restlessly down the mine shaft to fantasyland. What else would you do if you'd been evicted a million times in Providence, R.I., like Bolt's two Brians have? For drummer Chippendale and bassist Gibson, the solution is to get leaner, cleaner, and a little less anthemic than in the past, 'cause now they're really pissed. "Dead Cowboy" gives one clue why, misquoting Cracker ("What the world needs now, is another . . . "); put it together with Rainbow's "Assassins" and you've got one hell of an FBI file for a band who only rarely hurtle vocal incitements over their mangled din. The future's bleak in "2morro Morro Land," a brutal lead track that pauses only briefly for Hendrixian feedback genuflection. Hypermagic Mountain ascends a nightmare hill as if Lightning Bolt were building a hellish roller coaster over the yuppie sprawl of their chosen homeland. In the midway is "Megaghost," which has both a quiet opening and L.L. "Headsprung"–style syncopation—well and truly the funkiest thing these dudes have ever done. In their 2002 documentary, Power of Salad, the Brians wondered if they're destined to be the classic rock of noise: Mountain puts them in that hall of kings. DAPHNE CARR