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Morrissey, The Vacant Lots, and Street Eaters 

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click to enlarge Morrissey

Morrissey

World Peace Is None of Your Business

Harvest

File next to: Pulp, Nick Cave, Peter Murphy

Since some vocalists, like Leonard Cohen and Mark E. Smith, are expected to be morose, why does Morrissey take such flak for being lonely and bitter? Maybe it's because of his pointless tantrums that dissolve tours. Or maybe listeners would expect him to have made peace with the world by now. But with World Peace Is None of Your Business, Moz gives us the most specific catalog of angst in his career. Lyrics in the title track claiming that Tasers "are what governments are for," merge with music rich enough to recall The Smiths in songs like "Staircase at the University." At least Morrissey can name-check folk heroes like Neal Cassady while moping. Some critics admit World Peace could be Morrissey's finest work, but argue it's an unlistenable catalog of bile. Screw that. This is a testament to mean-spiritedness, made for repeated listens, though its party potential is decidedly limited. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge The Vacant Lots

The Vacant Lots

Departure

Sonic Cathedral

File next to: Ty Segall, Television

Along with releasing their first full-length album, The Vacant Lots have put out a split single with Alan Vega and secured a U.K. tour with their West Coast doppelgangers: the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Frontman Jared Artaud cites Native American drumming, Indian sitar music, and early American blues as influences — not the normal spices in a psych-rock stew. The two-piece Vermont duo also serves up a unique mix of 12-string Vox played through a 1960s Silvertone, drone and plenty of punk spirit. Departure is an alternate reality accessible with a mere hit of Mary Jane, even when Artaud's lyrics are nonsensical and violent. On "6 AM" the singer is a fiend for codeine and wants to kill his mother, while "Paint This City" recounts a night in slow motion. Each song, based usually on montone synths and hazy guitar riffs, draws the audience deeper inside their own minds. — Hannah Fleming

click to enlarge Street Eaters

Street Eaters

Blood::Muscles::Bones

Big Cartel/Nervous Intent Records

File next to: X, L7, X-Ray Spex

Mere mention of a lesser-known male-female duo will raise eyebrows among those convinced that White Stripes, Royal Trux, and Harry Pussy have already covered the waterfront. Think again. Megan March and John No bring years of punk experience from Berkeley's Gilman Street scene to a harmonic aesthetic as fresh as any 2014 manifesto. Street Eaters have released a full-length and a few EPs since forming in 2009, but Blood::Muscles::Bones is where it all clicks with precision. Those unfamiliar with late-'70s punk might fixate on the unrelenting anger, but there's actually an East Bay aura of hope and liberation recalling early Dead Kennedys. While tracks like "Waxwing" carry the sense that good punk can be glorious, there's more than tent-revivalism here. Check out the video for the opening song, "Reverse," with its nods to Nijinsky and Man Ray, and you'll realize Street Eaters are also street-smart. — Loring Wirbel

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