Album Reviews: Neil Young, !!!, and the Joggers

The Joggers
Solid Guild
With a first glance at the album artwork and an intent listen to the opening track “Loosen Up,” all dreamy waltz with minimal rhythmic interruption, I’m thinking this group is gonna put me to sleep soon, with a 12-track dose of lilting Americana.
The next batch of songs knock down any preconceptions with a sharply produced dose of…drum roll please: old school, slum city livin’ rock ‘n’ roll. Up to the album’s conclusion, the Joggers combine yesteryear’s vacuum tube twang, hard panned guitars on either side of the speakers, and some well-plotted vocal harmonies to create a rather decent version of so many indie discs that have come out over the past few years – One Time Bells by the French Kicks being most similar.
On tracks like “Oriental Alarms,” the loose drumming and bouncy guitar interplay bring to mind a group like Oneida, but here the lead vocals constantly get in the way, bringing to mind a less respectable throwback group like Hot Hot Heat. Not to say that the vocals ever irritate to the point of turning off your boombox. All in all, an honest effort that stands up strong-and-able next to the groups this band is likely to tour with.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Remember that Neil Young song in Philadelphia? That was a really great song. Bruce Springsteen took the cake with his contribution, but it was Neil’s track that captured the film’s somber heartfelt theme.
Too bad he doesn’t have any good songs like that anymore. I’m pretty sure Neil Young thinks it’s the 1970s again. This ode to the environment and love and whatever other nonsense is full of so many embarrassing lines I’d hate to quote them for you. Oh, but Young does quote John Lennon on this record and then promptly sings to you that he is quoting John Lennon and then he reminds you of how important love is, which is pretty important. Sure, there are a few moments here that one can listen to and enjoy, like the soft and sweet “Bandit,” but mostly this is one of the lest ambitious recordings in Young’s career.
Couple that with the fact that the work is produced like a live radio broadcast, lacking any lo-fi charm and instead sounding like a dead piece of wood and you’ve got something only hippies-turned-lawyers can love. Greendale does come with a bonus DVD in which you can watch Young perform this album solo. Young is really ugly and weird, so I didn’t watch the DVD, so maybe it’s awesome and makes the whole album worthwhile, but I doubt it.

Me And Guiliani Down
By The School Yard ( A True Story)

The Sacremento born !!! (pronounced Canes! Canes! Canes! or any other triple threat of vocabulary) is on a roll. Their last LP was chock full of deep grooves like “Intensify” and “Hammerhead,” bringing the funk to the underground house party crowd.
Live, they can make any number of intense butts shake, and singer Nic Offer can’t be truly appreciated until you’ve seen what he can do with a clump of arm-crossed hipsters.
With some time off, and one killer side project (OutHud) the octet return with more heady jamming skills than most bands could dream of, whether they be a crowd of NYC artists playing dance music or a legit soul funk group from back in the day. The spaced out guitar work developed in OutHud is the first thing noticeable on the A-side of this single. For nine minutes the group jumps from Afro-beat percussive stomp, to an epic sing-along chorus, and back into the chanting and skronking that we’re accustomed to.
The song is a call to arms of all New York politicians and all suits to leave their work at home and put down the briefcase. Nothing serious, but seriously infectious. The B-side, a remix of “Intensify” is mostly about layering vocals over an electro beat, and while it is a nice compliment to the single, it’s certainly just a bonus offering. !!! has a full length in the works. Until then, be sure to check out this single.

Michael John Hancock can be reached at