The Kingsbury Manx
The Fast Rise and Fall of the South
The Kingsbury Manx’s new album, The Fast Rise and Fall of the South, is a rainy afternoon album. Not that it can’t be listened to at other times in other weather, but it’s bound to sound best when you’re locked indoors watching the rain run down your window. Most of the arrangements on the album are stately, though the majority of the songs have a faint sense of unease and sadness running through them. Most of all, the album feels reflexive, as if this “fast rise and fall” has come and gone and the band’s been left to ponder over it. At its best moments, The Fast Rise and Fall of the South sounds like a beautiful psych-country-chamber pop hybrid, but those moments are so gorgeous you don’t spend them dusting each arrangement for genre fingerprints. Songs like “Harness and Wheel,” “And What Fallout!” “Zero G,” and “Greenland” combine a Southern Gothic creepiness with the pastoral psychedelia of the ’60s English folk scene. “And What Fallout!” is a spiraling waltz augmented by delicate piano line and sweet low harmonies. “Zero G” begins with a church organ as lead singer Bill Taylor sings a melody that closely mirrors Simon and Garfunkel’s “April Come She Will,” until the song’s end coda crescendos in a choir chorus of “we have us our own clear understanding.” While that line is clearly ironic, Kingsbury Manx do seem to have a clear understanding of how to make serene music that still manages to stay dramatic. Or at least they do on the album’s better songs. The album’s weaker moments suffer from a dramatic deficiency, with neither the song’s arrangements nor Taylor’s vocals able to capture the complex and strange images found in the lyrics. A song like “10008” contains references to “ghastly thoughts” and “uneasy whores” but doesn’t do justice to those disturbing images until a wave of distorted guitar washes over the end of the song. This is unfortunate, since there are few bands that make such delicate but rich music so well.
Welcome to Jamrock
When the title track of this album showed up this summer as a single, I couldn’t contain myself. I played it every chance I got. It made it’s way into every car ride, every mix tape, and every house party I participated in. It made reggae feel vital, and somehow justified my stacks of staccato dub records and my beat-to-death video copy of “Rockers.” “Welcome to Jamrock” was a reggae song so angry and spared down it belonged next to Paris or Dead Prez for its singular, driven message. It was a single so good that I almost forgot that a Marley made it. But the album reminds me over and over again: a Marley. I bought, with my own money, an album by one of the offspring of the man who is (accidentally) responsible for reggae’s bad rep. It even has Bobby Brown on it. And Eek-A-Mouse and I still bought it, and I still thought it would be good. I am so stupid. “Welcome to Jamrock” is the still the hottest track on the album, and while “Confrontation” and “Road to Zion” (with Nas!?) are actually pretty powerful tracks, the rest of this album plays like a ’99 R & B flashback with Sly and Robbie effects.
Playing the Angel
When I was 15, I met a girl. It was that awesome “first love, first time” experience that lasts about 20 minutes and fucks everything up romantically for years. I just remember lying on the grass at the Gasworks in Seattle, each of us with one headphone plugged into her tape player, listening to “Personal Jesus” and feeling amazing. One night, years later in a drunken fit of self-pity, I tracked her down, waking her and her live-in boyfriend with my long-distance regret and my professions of revised love. Heroically, I told her I was wrong to move away and stop writing. That what we had was perfect and we could have it again. She asked me what the hell was wrong with me thinking I could go back all those years, why I hadn’t grown past that, and demanded to know if I was really that pathetic. Then she hung up.
The press release with the promo CD reads, “Depeche Mode celebrates its 25th year of making music with the release of Playing the Angel.”To that I say, “What the hell is wrong with you thinking you can go back? Why haven’t you grown past that? Are you really that pathetic?” Click.