album reviews: Can Vue dig it? A.R.E Weapons and Pest bury garage rock

babies are for petting

Recently plastered on the cover of the Fader as, “The best band you’ve never heard of,” Vue have managed to annoy the indie set with lots of flamboyant posturing and a blatant predilection for rock stardom. After two lackluster LPs on Seattle’s Sub Pop label, they peeled out for a suitcase full of cash at RCA, which also shelters the Strokes, and “babies are for petting” is their first bid for Jacuzzi-in-a-limo dreams.
A band that has never hesitated to sound sexed in exchange for unoriginality, Vue kick start this five-song EP with the pleasantly airy, “Look Out for Traffic,” in which front man Rex Shelverton doesn’t, “worry about anything here.” With its Trail of Dead summertime vibe, the song is worth downloading.
But the proceeding four tracks are stillborn. You’ve heard this twang-y voice in so many better generic bands, and this time it can’t go the distance across an EP, let alone another album. The faux-blues harmonicas, the dirty garage sound with a glob of mascara – it’s all so blah. Drink a six-pack to this and it’ll give you a headache; a Rolling Stones knockoff (a suitably cliche description of Vue) should never do that. On the total miscarriage of a title track, Shelverton sings, “Now if you are for real, show me more if you are.” If he obeys his own lyrics, Vue will soon disappear, leaving behind plenty of leather and feathers, but none of the drugs, groupies and rock ‘n’ roll they make music about.
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– Hunter Stephenson

Necessary Measures

By the time you figure out what’s going on in each of the cuts on Pest’s album, Necessary Measures, you’ll be retired on a fat farm. Not to say that this album, the group’s first LP, is confusing. Your head will drift effortlessly through its 10 tracks, only bumping into a couple buoys along the way.
With beats backed by twang-y guitar licks, rich cello and keyboards, the five members of Pest have concocted a very soothing formula where (unlike last week’s Mr. Scruff LP) even the English rapping (which is growing on me as of late, scary) provides a decent compliment to the up tempo electronic beat that guides “Dr Umz.”
The true triumph of this album is the musical talent of Pest’s constituents, relying on live instrumentation that pushes the sound slightly away from trendy iBook noise. “St Pest” slows down the beat just enough for the rest of the album to seem fast by comparison, with vocals that sound like earthworms, well… if they could talk. Floating back and forth between electronica and jazz is not an easy task, and sometimes the beats don’t do what they could to highlight the instruments. Maybe I’m talking out of my ass here but sometimes (even halfway through a song) things don’t seem quite right.
Once again, Ninja Tune has sought out and released quality talent and music (continuing a tradition that includes Kid Koala, the Herbaliser and Mr. Scruff). Tracks like “Murda” mix in offbeat vocal samples like a 9-1-1 phone call, while the refreshing closer “Relief” soothes your mind with broad experimentation. Regardless, there’s something else going on here and I’m not sure I can quite nail it. In the meantime, if you see Mr. Scruff, tell him to break one of my stars in half and return it.
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– Sven Barth

A.R.E. Weapons

Back home there’s a kid my brother used to run with before he started stealing cash from our mom’s purse. He was perma-hungover from the age of 13. When he wasn’t swallowed by a hoodie he was wearing strangers’ T-shirts. He also had a suspect perma-smirk, as if each tooth unseen represented a scam you knew nathan about.
But there were countless amiable details that softened the bigger, more important picture. For instance, someone would bring a new Clue mixtape to a smoke cipher and he’d already memorized the AZ and Big Noyd freestyles. Street prescience fills a room with urgency and “realness.”
On weekends his mom smoked crill in a park with random men, so he never aspired to hustle with businessmen. Instead, the people he befriended-then-got went off to college and he stuck around getting drunk with skinny high school girls.
A.R.E Weapons extract stellar project-blow anthems from stories about juvenile delinquents similar to that one. Embracing thug loser imagery and refusing to shave, this NYC trio’s debut LP milks a crime-prevention electro concert for fame and trim. But it’s all an in-in-in-joke. These guys are reluctant Paper glitterati managed by Chloe Sevigny’s brother, so, “It’s a good time to be a Weapon, it’s a good time to be alive.”
They call themselves Bad News Bears and “sympathize” with Columbine stress aboard drum machine beats implanted with 8-bit cartridge noise, safety pins, cheap Casios, gangster bandanas, and pawned copies of Smells Like Children. Front man Brain cheers phrases like, “Let’s hear it for America,” and “You gonna be ok kid, you gonna be alright?” that grab your attention like rotating lotto numbers. “Hey World” is a kiss-off epic to parents that is thriftily neurotic, nostalgic, embarrassing and awesome. File the entire disc under a new disorder of too much too soon.
Nonsensical Rant: Why Rolling Stone hasn’t put A.R.E. Weapons on the cover while Entertainment Weekly is labeling this disc their pick of the week/month/whatever is a cooler of mainstream magazine ooze poured over my head until it forms a full-body cast and I break out of it and jump off a tall building.
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– Anthony Golden