November 10, 2003

"i've been keeping a dream journal, i'll let you read it" - new radiant storm king

Just got back from Room 514 at Mount Auburn Hospital where I saw Juan Gorni's day-old son Leo, who was born 24 hours and 2 minutes ago. 8lbs, full head of hair. Cute and small and warm and baby-like, as you'd imagine. More on that later.

In the past few weeks I have had solicitations from small indie labels asking if I'd review their records (some of my Junkmedia reviews are posted at and I guess people actually read em - whoulda thunk it). Of course I obliged, tho I have no "official" outlet for reviews what with Junkmedia's hiatus and general unwillingness to run reviews of less popular releases. But in an effort to keep writing I have been writing 200-word capsules of the stuff and I will run them here for you to ignore or read or whathaveyou. So without further ado:

Up Here For Thinking, Down There For Dancing
Ninth Wave Records

You can hear the ambition in Macondo's Up Here For Thinking, Down There For Dancing, but ultimately the record's biggest success is also its most evident failure. The UK-based synth-pop duo goes too far in paying homage to the pillars of '80s New Wave (as well as almost-also-rans such as Anything Box and even Information Society) and don't go far enough in creating a real identity for themselves. Up Here For Thinking's opening cut, "Something's Got to Happen Soon" is intoxicatingly similar to Low Life-era New Order (particularly due to singer Wayne's Sumner-esque pipes) and contemporary efforts by Depeche Mode, but the impersonation gets old halfway through the record. Macondo's tunes are upbeat and pack plenty of hooks, but the one-dimensional bass and percussion tracks sound even more canned than those that drove the tunes of real-deal '80s acts. Unfortunately, Macondo doesn't have the excuse of first-generation equipment, and the production shortcomings suggest the project was recorded in a bedroom. That aside, Up Here For Thinking... suggests better records are yet to come from the duo, particularly if they can hook up with a solid producer to give them a bigger sound.

The Collisions
Talk is the New Action
Windjam Records

That the Collisions rock is readily apparent after a single listen to their new long-player, which boasts bright, tight production throughout its 11 songs. But it is also all too clear that these guys could use a hook or two. The slinky, bass-heavy numbers on Talk is the New Action are fraught with a zesty tension, particularly the stand-out slow-groover "Gasoline Can." But bassist and primary songwriter Dave Tatelbaum seems uninterested in providing much in the way of melodic relief. The line-drive guitar playing carries a hard, textural character that only begrudgingly colors much of the steadily chugging material here. The sole exception to this is the violin-studded waltz-rocker "Your Gun," the strongest cut of the set. Even so, inside the groove, where the Collisions seem to thrive, is not exactly a bad place to be, and in fact most bands would do well to follow the Collisions' lead now and again in that regard. However, the dark, surgical rock of the Collisions ends up even clouding over some of the more unusual numbers on Talk, including the psycho-ska of "Amateur," another album highlight.

That is all.

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