THE LONELY H
(The Control Group)
A lot of young Northwestern rock musicians may not want to be stars, but at EMP's annual SoundOff!, underage groups like Port Angeles' the Lonely H, who kinda dig the idea of fame, vie for industry boosts that battling bands in Nowheresville merely dream of. Placing second in 2004's SoundOff! (between Cake's Mon Frere and Warner Bros.' Idiot Pilot), the Lonely H turned their won studio time into Kick Upstairs, a celebration of classic rock, endless-summer melodies, and unabashed nerdiness. Rivers Cuomo wasn't embarrassed to sing about D & D, and though vocalist Mark Fredson sounds most like him on upbeat tracks "Don't Worry" and "Ken," the H pace their influences on a thoughtfully wide-ranging album, hoisting the geek-flag on the final song, a self-described "epic ballad" named "Zelda" after, yes, the video game. Kick surprises along the way, the first quarter oddly evoking the guitar/vocal syncopation of ultra-indie '90s groups like Braid—who you can't imagine these laid-back, Dogtown and Z-Boys–styled kids ever listening to—on "Time," before switching gears on "Lullaby Lane," the first of four mostly love songs graced by Fredson's piano. On Kick's accompanying DVD, Fredson is charmingly candid about ripping off Brian Wilson for "Lullaby": "At the end, we do an a cappella 'doo-be-doo-ya' thing, which I think is pretty radical." It's not, precisely, but it is a nice touch, and while some of Kick's lyrics could catch up with the musicianship, when Fredson dons a Freddie Mercury falsetto on "Simple Love" ("Everything's a blur/Everything but her"), you can sense the band has the W's figured out, with the H soon to follow. RACHEL SHIMP
The Lonely H play the Vera Project with the Cops at 8 p.m. Fri., Feb. 3. $7. All ages.
Change It All
The best part about the rainbow-airbrushed booklet on this CD isn't the children of different races and backgrounds playing ring-around-a-rosy on a beautiful sun-filled day. It's the stacks of money growing on trees—now that really would change it all. You have to purchase the CD to see that part of the picture though, not to mention the "Free Mumia" graffiti on the back of the concrete building also depicted. Presumably, the Pennsylvania death-row inmate's voice is the one we hear in a recorded call from a correctional facility at the beginning of the title track saying that "change it all" makes him "think of revolution"—a statement that acts as more of a plug for the album than an elaboration on what needs to be changed. Goapele's chorus from the album's title cut, a basic R&B ballad, isn't any more specific aside from noting that "There are people left out/From living comfortably/Can't we figure this out?" The verses espouse bourgie ideals like better teacher pay, more libraries, and support for small businesses, but not exactly a revolution—her gesture toward politics, though nice, borders on distraction. The rest of the disc, meanwhile, doesn't even change a little from what you might expect from a quiet-storm album. Since Goapele's strength is the demure love song, that's fine as far as it goes: "Different," featuring rapper Clyde Carson, is reminiscent of her biggest ballad, "Closer," which for some reason is rereleased on this disc. But on an album that generally lacks spark, it's odd that Change It All's standout track is the up-tempo rock song "Love Me Right," where she sounds brighter timbered and more energetic—a welcome change to her usual lounge malaise. MAKKADA B. SELAH
New York Noise Vol. 2: Music From the New York Underground 1977–1984
A few years ago, reading about and hearing reissued music from New York's early-'80s post-punk era was beguiling—what do you know, a great scene that hadn't been canonized to death, that could still surprise you with its moxie and nerve. But the vaults had to empty eventually, and this volume is ample demonstration of its limits. Sure, there's little on New York Noise Vol. 2 that'll outright embarrass you if your roommate walks in on you playing it. Sonic Youth's "I Dreamed I Dream" is the best cut from their first album, before they began making their oddly tuned guitars roar full time, and Y Pants' "Favorite Sweater" and Glorious Strangers' "Move It Time" are amateur punk and/or amateur disco at its most falling-apart fetching. But there's an excellent reason most of these songs are obscure: They're ordinary when we're lucky, and usually worse. Avant-disco producer Arthur Russell may have been a genius, and Nicky Siano a hugely important early club DJ, but their collaboration as Felix, "Tigerstripes," is so halfhearted you'll wonder why anyone bothered remembering their names. The Del Byzantines' "My Hands Are Yellow," Jill Kroesen's "I Am Not Seeing That You Are Here," and Mofungo's "Hunter Gatherer" are definitive proof that herky-jerky art-funk could be every bit as stupidly formulaic as the grossest disco. And if you need to, you can locate more engaging noise-skronk than the Rhys Chatham and Static (Glenn Branca) cuts here. Nostalgia—who needs it? MICHAELANGELO MATOS