Press Play – CD Reviews

You know what’s great about Portland? Not only does it breed great indie-rock bands like Menomena, but it also cultivates awesome heavy bands like Prize Country.

Prize CountryLottery of Recognition****

You know what’s great about Portland? Not only does it breed great indie-rock bands like Menomena, but it also cultivates awesome heavy bands like Prize Country. Lottery of Recognition, Prize Country’s debut, is a dense, catchy conglomeration of sounds that walk the line between noise-rock and bombastic post-hardcore. The guitars are heavy, but angular, with a nice dose of distortion over the top. The vocals rage and yell, but sound bitter as opposed to directly angry. It’s a nice approach. The best part of Prize Country’s sound is the bass presence. It rumbles and roars, but stays put exactly where it should in the mix. Nothing about the album is overpowering, because each instrument gels perfectly with the rest of the band. The songs themselves are just plain well written, and honestly, the experience of the band members (who played in loud Portland metallers Shamelady) is really evident. It’s not often that a debut sounds this polished and complete.

-Ed Johnson

Dub TrioCool Out and Coexist*

Reggae is not a musical genre that mixes well with others. Is ska really that great? No. Is dub-based techno awesome? Definitely no. So why on earth would a group of so-called musicians-the Dub Trio-think it’s a good idea to mix metal and dub? I have no idea, but the results are at times annoying, at times bizarre, and mainly just downright terrible. It’s bad heavy-rock backed by really bad dub-reggae. I imagine that really stupid stoners love this shit, but nothing about it rings true at all. The guitars aren’t heavy enough to be awesome and the reggae isn’t Bob Marley, so Dub Trio has nothing going for them. DO NOT LISTEN.

-Ed Johnson

50 CentCurtis**

“Nigga, my gun go off!” So echo the first lyrics of gangsta-rapper 50 Cent’s Curtis. What follows is almost an hour of classic 50 Cent rapping, which means that there is almost an hour of middle-of-the-road flow and rhymes, with a questionable (but ultimately OK) Justin Timberlake appearance (that guy should stay away from rap albums). Akon also makes an appearance, and as one of the most annoying singers in modern music, he doesn’t add much to the proceedings. I have to believe that 50 Cent doesn’t understand the metaphor of gun-as-phallus, because not only does he rap about them constantly, but the album art features 50 taking a (literal) bite out of a pistol. You can fill in the blanks (gun equals penis, penis in 50’s mouth). It’s all right though, because the album art also features a picture of a woman with her hand down his pants (showcasing his surprisingly well-manicured pubic hair). Curtis is just another 50 Cent album, and is all-around a mediocre effort.

-Ed Johnson

Baby Elephant Turn My Teeth Up!**

Turn My Teeth Up! is the first album from Baby Elephant, an all-star collaboration that melds 1970s-sounding electro-funk with modern hip-hop beats-and it’s boring. There is pedigree to the album, for sure. Baby Elephant is Prince Paul, Don Newkirk and Parliament-Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell. But Turn My Teeth Up! does not add up to the sum of its parts. Essentially, the band is a vanity project for Worrell and the album is a collection of funk jams, ridiculous lyrics and idiotic skits. It feels as though the once-brilliant keyboardist Worrell is now going through the motions, trying to relive his glory days as a keyboard innovator. Guest appearances from George Clinton, David Byrne and Yellowman help flesh out the album, but it never feels complete. Instead we get song after song of repeated keyboard riffs and jokey sound effects that never quite coalesce.

-Stover E. Harger III

Luna HaloS/T**1/2

Luna Halo sounds like a band that wants to be everything to everyone. While staying firmly rooted in the modern rock genre, they jump between emo-punk, grungy ballads and fuzzed-out Weezer-esque rock all in a tight 37 minutes. While Luna Halo isn’t quite sure what they want to be, they do show promise. The band has a good sense of how to write an interesting rock song-soaring vocals, alternating tempos and triumphant guitar solos. What sets the album back is its randomness. Singer-guitarist Nathan Barlowe’s voice goes all over the place, and some of the songs are dead on arrival. When it works, like in the song “Untouchable,” Luna Halo seems like a band that could develop quite a following.

-Stover E. Harger III

Sixx: A.M.The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack*1/2

So Nikki Sixx, bass player for Motley Cr퀌_e, did a lot of heroin in the 80’s. Now he’s clean and sober and has written a book called The Heroin Diaries about how he did a lot of heroin in the 1980s. That’s it. Oh, and he started a band and released a soundtrack to his ramblings. Each song on the soundtrack is based on a chapter in the book. His diaries are an exercise in vapid filth and the soundtrack manages to remove any intrigue or voyeuristic interest, leaving behind songs about doing smack sung with Creed-style vocals, clunky guitars and gratuitous orchestral arrangements. The album doesn’t even work as a joke. It’s essentially the ramblings of a washed-up rock star trying to stay hip, while preaching about the horrors of drug abuse. If doing drugs makes you eventually turn out this irritating and dull, consider me as clean as Kirk Cameron.

-Stover E. Harger III

Andy DitzlerSongs from Yes and No**

I like maps. Especially aesthetically pleasing ones, like the cover of Andy Diztler’s debut Songs From Yes and No. Unfortunately, this audio map is riddled with conceptual clich퀌�s and musical dead-ends. The first song showcases meandering show tune melodies with cringe-worthy speaking verses and singing choruses fairing no better. After five monotonous minutes the songs bursts into a Sufjan-esque frenzy of punchy horns and a group chant-along. The album goes on like this for its nine tracks, with some decent parts being ruined by Andy’s voice. Only one track is listenable, the jazz/electronic hybrid “Manifesto,” probably because it’s an instrumental.

-Talmage Garn