CD Reviews

Ghost, Pretty Ricky, Cougar, Dead Child

Dead Child

Dead Child EP

(Cold Sweat)

David Pajo's role in rock music could be compared to a guitar-playing kid with a serious case of ADD. One minute he's jamming with Billy Corgan in Zwan, the next he's reuniting with the legendary post-rock group Slint, then he's wandering solo on an aimless mellow as Aerial M/Papa M and, most obviously, Pajo. Now he's a Dead Child, along with guitarist Michael McMahan, drummer Tony Bailey, bassist Todd Cook, and vocalist Dahm. On the Louisville, Ky.–based metal band's debut EP, they keep their brand of metal short, sweet, and classic—packing fearsome (and somewhat clichéd) lyrical punches, heavy, head-churning riffs, and ass-whooping percussion beat-downs in under 17 minutes. While it's a fine morsel of early-'80s-influenced metal, it's far too brief, leaving you salivating for more of the bloody rare steak that you only managed to get one bite of before the waitress took your plate away. TRAVIS RITTER

Ghost

In Stormy Nights

(Drag City)

The only problem with Ghost's In Stormy Nights is the big, craggy mountain you hit six minutes into the record. That mountain is 30 minutes of drone and improv that really goes nowhere. It seems that the Japanese acid folkers cut and pasted snippets of noise from several live shows and strung them together in an attempt to form a seamless half-hour meditation. This has obviously been done before as it was a fundamental method for experimentation during the 20th century's avant garde. But no matter—just hit fast forward and forget it was ever there. The remainder of the record is a mix of warrior marches ("Water Door Yellow Gate") and blasts of psych guitar ("Gareki No Toshi"). "Caledonia," the second-to-last song on In Stormy Nights, is the culmination of what the band is all about. Ghost take the Cromagnon song and pummel it into submission with timpani, recorder, and wall-of-fuzz vocals and guitar. It's savage and unrelenting. But there is a prettiness and restraint that undercuts the song's intensity. This softness is brought to the forefront for the acoustic album closer "Grisaille," which gently lulls listeners with Masaki Batoh's trembling vocals and nimble finger plucks. BRIAN J. BARR

Cougar

Law

(Layered)

When Cougar's Law came out in the U.K. in early '06, the Madison, Wis.–based quintet's debut earned a spot as one of Maxïmo Park's top 10 albums of the year. While Cougar sound nothing like Maxïmo Park, a motley assortment of post-rock influences and the mixing savvy of Tortoise's John McEntire assures that fans of the band's self-proclaimed style of "epic emergency rock" will be equally varied. The wandering, Tristeza-esque instrumental landscapes "Lifetime Ranger" and "Your Excellency" are warm and soothing, leading to sparse, urgent crescendos. Comparisons to the Album Leaf and Explosions in the Sky are indeed apt, but the group branches its elements and influences beyond mere multiguitar attack. Witness the folksy sounds of "Interracial Dating," the bells and strings on "Black Dove," and the numerically titled, Four Tet–esque electronic interludes. Even with some Bring In da Noise–esque percussion, Law never jars or becomes shamelessly eclectic; it's an unexpectedly soothing, cohesive trip through post-rock wilderness. KARLA STARR

Pretty Ricky

Late Night Special

(Atlantic)

Valentine's Day is almost here, which means it's time for the sophomore album from Pretty Ricky. The leadoff single, "On the Hotline," finds the Miami foursome in full grind, fantasizing about flying a MySpace conquest back to the bachelor pad, where she's ordered to "Take them granny panties off/And put a thong on." Ah, romance. But considering that the most prominent females mentioned in hip-hop these days are exotic dancers and porn stars, it's hard to grant the four brothers of Pretty Ricky the "outrageous" tag they're jockeying for. As was the case with Bluestars, the group's 2005 raunched-up debut, they're as nasty as they wanna be—it's just that the decline of Western civilization has rendered such sticky slow jams as "Love Like Honey" kinda tame. Heck, there's only one girl involved! Meanwhile, "Peer Pressure"—with its titular double entendre (get it?)—feels endearingly quaint. If the quartet's tuneful hybrid of hip-hop and soul were a bit more distinctive, Late Night Special might have been a valentine worth sharing . . . with your favorite stripper, at least. DAN LEROY

 
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