album reviews: Congratulations Thrice, you get zero stars!

Kevin Dean, and Ross Whitsett


The Violet Hour

Occasionally, I’ll feel like sinking into a giant silky cushion and vanishing for a week or so, like in that scene in Trainspotting, where “Rent-Boy” shoots up and lolls onto a furry red carpet, then gets submerged and transported across the city. Yeah…something like that, but without Mr. Brownstone (don’t wanna get too indolent, do we?). And after listening to the Clientele for numerous hours, the mood’s been tempered down to a melodic lethargy that has come to envelop this depleted body. Man, my eyelids are getting heavy…

Don’t fall asleep though because this London trio creates dulcet psychedelic pop that gently caresses your ears, but shuns the corny imagery of multihued dreamscapes, a la Puffy AmiYumi. Instead, The Violet Hour, the band’s debut album following 2001’s Suburban Light EP, invokes pictures of misty blocks of streets overcome by sorrow and cascading autumn leaves. Guitarist/singer Alasdair MacLean, drummer Mark Keen and bassist James Hornsey polish their numinous riffs with reverbed vocals and ghostly airs that linger like herb smoke in your bedroom.

As the first track, “Violet Hour,” sets the tone, MacLean’s soured lyrics (“That summer […] I became cold”) and layered voice echoes throughout the tunes that smoothly meld with each other like butter and bread. While “Porcelain” is the only track that gets a bit rowdier with a pulsing bass pickup, “Lamplight” makes you turn your head at night and hear hallowed sounds emitted from a specter in the dark or, even more, “The House Always Wins,” with its fuzz guitars droning in doldrums, has an ethereal elegance that just won’t let go.

It’s not that these guys are doing anything new, but rather how they’ve been able to credibly emulate distinct sounds of ’60s groups like the Velvet Underground and The Byrds. It would be tricky to see them in concert though since this music is conducive to a drowsy, but pleasant state of being. Just don’t overplay this record and lay in bed all day like I do because you may never find a way out.

-Omar Sommereyns


The Artist in the Ambulance
No stars, as in 0 stars

Cody was the white trash James Dean of my fourth grade class. He never bathed, spat on girls and let his unkempt hair grow long and free in the back. Then, one morning, in a shocking series of events, Cody unknowingly launched a sting operation against the class’ most popular boy-toy, Keith. Scrawled across all of the bathroom’s stall doors was the message, “I did not do this. Keith did – Cody.” I was stunned, not because of the brilliancy of the smear campaign, but because the message had been written in purple fountain pen. Not just any purple fountain pen, though, but mine!

Cody eventually gave the pen back to me days later, but it didn’t matter, the energy and inspirational power of the pen had been stolen by Cody during his mission and it was never coming back. I never used it again after that day. More than anything, I wish Cody had stolen my pen, moved to San Diego, CA, and given it to the budding members of Thrice. They could use it to actually pen some decent songs, or to shove it up their stupid emo asses.

On their newest major label release, Virgin’s The Artist in the Ambulance, cluttered with guitar riffs and unnecessary screaming, they try to mask the fact that most of the songs were probably written while trying on some Etnies in the back of Pac Sun.

In the made-for-MTV-single “All That’s Left,” lead singer Dustin Kensure whines, “We tried to bleed the sickness / But we drained our hearts instead / We are the dead.” You’ll wish Kensure was getting fisted when he starts giving love advice. On “Don’t Tell And We Won’t Ask,” he offers, “If you’re a smart kid, you’ll stay the hell away from love.” Trite, nonetheless, but hopefully this is our guarantee that Thrice isn’t getting laid.

Nowadays, Cody probably listens to this album while cleaning his shotgun and planning for the day when he will finally shoot the President.

-Kevin Dean


Lost In Translation

I got handed this disc with some excitement since it’s the soundtrack to the new Sophia Coppola film, her first since 1999’s Virgin Suicides. While Air created all the songs for that film, Lost In Translation features some British noise pop bands of the past and present. Soundtracks are unusual entities since they have to work with the film, but here, as a mix CD, we can consider this album on its own.

Let me now go on to tell you that this is one of the most disappointing pieces I have heard in quite a while. It’s all a mellow drawl of sparse ambiance with the most rewarding moments being just a few familiar songs. My Bloody Valentine’s ’91 classic “Sometimes,” “Just Like Honey” from Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy and the gorgeous spatial crescendo of Death in Vegas’ “Girls” from the completely ignored electronic maelstrom that was Scorpio Rising are the cheap moments of worth here, with little saving grace in the original pieces of the album.

The main contributor is Kevin Shields, proving here with his first original work since MBV, which was about 10 years ago, that he is the British version of Axl Rose and just about as relevant in this day and age. Since he’s been collaborating with Spacemen 3 burnout Sonic Boom in his ambient noise project Experiment Audio Research, I don’t know if he was sharing Sonic’s shrooms or just hid himself in his own stoned haze, but the work produced here is some monotonous dribble. “City Girl” tries to be his single, but just drones on like an MBV song that got left on the editing floor. “Goodbye” and “Are You Awake?” are tracks that Richard James (Aphex Twin) wouldn’t whip his ass with, especially with the latter utilizing some pathetic beats that can be gotten from any DJ computer program marketed today.

Damn it Kevin, what the hell were you doing all this time, did you listen to any music? On another end, Air gives a taste of what’s in store for Talkie Walkie, their proper follow-up to 10,000 Hz Legend due this January, with “Alone in Kyoto” – slow and atmospheric mood music with little payoff in attempts to make the song run like a roller-coaster with highs and lows about as satisfying as a ride in one of those kiddie trains in malls. I’m gonna stop here. See the movie, it kicks ass, but if you want a shoegazer/noise pop mix, try Creation Records: International Guardians of Rock & Roll, and leave this where it belongs – on the shelf.

-Ross Whitsett