Monday, October 22, 2012

The Winter Sounds' Runner on CD


Nostalgic trends usually take about two decades to bloom. In the '70s we became obsessed with the '50s (Happy Days, Sha-Na-Na), in the '80s we started waxing rhapsodic about the flower children and in the '90s we started making jokes about the downright goofy excesses of the '70s. At the end of the century we started putting the '80s on a pedestal--or under a microscope, depending on your sense of irony--especially in the world of music. Bands from every genre seemingly re-discovered synthesizers and drum machines; the sampling techniques that were employed were merely subtle winks to the audience that we were still in the 21st century, but twenty-year-old music is just as cool as ever. So let's all nod knowingly in unison.

It's seems like I've said all this before. So many alternative bands these days are defined by the dates they type into their time machines, and over the last year I've heard the resurrections of everyone from The Ventures to Kiss to the Smiths. The Winter Sounds--a quintet that alternately claims New Orleans, Nashville and Athens, Georgia as its home--has pulled off an interesting time travel twist in its new CD, Runner. They've ventured into that gray area of nostalgic tribute that comes when enough time hasn't passed for homages to become obvious. Think about that we're in the 2010s, what are we going to start saying about the '90s? Will we start growing goatees (I haven't shaved mine since 1995) and start wearing flannel and knit caps (I can't wait since I found both incredibly comfy)?

I remember 1990, and how all the alternative genres started to merge and everything felt simultaneously cool and possible. A band could blend punk, metal and synth-pop and still sound fresh, and the Manchester Sound was absolute theft, albeit a swashbuckling one. The Winter Sounds still holds onto the late '80s with its earnest anthems filled with synthesizers and electronic drums, but it can also borrow from the fullness and honesty of the early '90s, stripped back and returning to the rock and roll basics that would lead to bands as good as Blur and as bad as Oasis. Throw in an equal measure of Anglo-folk from The Waterboys and maybe Big Country--lead singer Patrick Keenan will remind you of a half-dozen British singers from the '80s--and your time machine is set and ready for adventure.

Where this band winks to the audience is in its decidedly modern production (executed brilliantly by Scott Solter, who has worked with Spoon, St. Vincent and Okkervil River, all personal favorites), and its willingness to shift suddenly out of a song for a sudden lyrical tangent. The Winter Sounds is an exceptionally ambitious band, and exceptionally well-oiled as well since they boast about the 500 shows they've performed in the last five years. It's a trademark of these times that a new band like this can sound so accomplished in its beginnings, something bands weren't generally doing in the '80s and '90s. It will be fascinating to see what the Winter Sounds will do next.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Love Dimension's Forget the Remember on CD


I gotta admit that on most days, the idea of a psychedelic blues garage band from San Francisco sounds like a great idea. The Love Dimension, with its heavy helpings of reverb-saturated vocals and farfisa organs and a plethora of other fifty-year-old artifacts, easily meets this challenge on their new CD, Forget the Remember. Not only does Celeste Obamsawim effectively channel Grace Slick without the arrogant attitude (she relies heavily upon her Native American heritage to add another layer of mysticism), but the entire band commits to the idea that you can still sound like you're playing rock and roll in a small club in the Mission District circa 1966 without winking gratuitously to contemporary kids.

When's the last time you heard a recorder solo in a rock song, as you do here in "Uma Coisa Linda"? When's the last time you heard a lead singer such as frontman Jimmy Dias ask where do we go? and sound so ruthlessly sincere and eager for an answer, ostensibly from someone older and wiser? When's the last time you heard the admonishment, "You gotta live your life" (from "Live Divine") and you thought yeah, you do have to live your life! In these respects, the Love Dimension has done its homework. They get all of these lyrical details down, the wide-eyed-wonder t-boned by a growing sense of cynicism in troubled times. The superficial gee-whiz moments are thrillingly undercut by a sense of liberated sensibilities, which goes some way in explaining the band's fondness for such influences as Johnny Cash and the Velvet Underground--two acts that had to stand outside the mainstream to capture a loyal and more appreciative audience.

I may be overstating The Love Dimension's intent; first and foremost Forget the Remember is, superficially, a fun listen. I hear a lot of modern musicians who can capture that magic '60s garage band sound without too much effort--although I do have to admit that the grungy sound quality of Forget the Remember takes this commitment to quite another level--but if The Love Dimension's success here seems cautiously calculated, it's only because they're crafting something very specific here. It's one thing to sound like a '60s garage band, and another thing to pay homage to '60s garage bands (a la B-52s) while being slightly sardonic about it. What we have here is a group that sounds like a '60s garage band who just cut its sixth or seventh studio album and suddenly wants to grow and evolve into something more complex. That's not an easy trick to pull off, which is why The Love Dimension deserves some attention.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

CD REVIEW: The Love Dimension - Forget The Remember

The Love Dimension - Forget The Remember (CD, Warrior Monk, Pop)
To quote directly from the band's web site: "The Love Dimension is an ever expanding sacred psychedelic music group from San Francisco (Originally from the lost city of Atlantis) that creates sonic architecture for the benefit of all sentient beings across the multi-verse. The Love Dimension is currently using their musical sound waves to open up hearts and spread the vibration of love on Planet Earth to assist in the quantum shift of the collective consciousness of humanity." Right about now you may be thinking you're in another decade...or century...but fear not, the year is still 2012. But the folks in The Love Dimension are bringing back ideals and values that will definitely remind folks of the progressive 1960s when it was all about peace and love. That said, this band's songs are more current and lighthearted than you might guess. The tracks on Forget The Remember are more pop than rock...and more about moving feet than moving mountains. Pretty cool sounding stuff here. Our favorite cuts include "True Love Comes 'Round Again," "Where Do We Go?", "Tierra Nueva," and "Outer Space."