Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Jemina Pearl - Break It Up

Jemina Pearl
Break It Up
Ecstatic Peace

For those of you who may not know who Jemina Pearl is, she was the lead singer of the short-lived and wonderfully exuberant Nashville punk band Be Your Own Pet. BYOP was raucous, fun, and had songs about food fights, safety pins, and zombies. While a very young band (members were in their late teens and early twenties), they had boatloads of attitude and the chops to back it up. The first release by any of the members since the break-up, Break It Up (purely coincidental and unintentional) continues Jemina Pearl's slow vocal maturation a la Karen O becoming less of a yeller and screecher and adding more actual singing to her repertoire. What happens is a bit of a mixed bag.

In BYOP tradition, there is a classic song title recycled for a brand new, lesser tune. Like BYOP's "Stairway To Heaven,", "Band On The Run," doesn't come close to living up to the original but it is entirely unrelated. While this doesn't quite live up to the efforts of her previous band, Break It Up does have some real gems like the duet with Iggy Pop and "Undesirable," which lead me to believe that Miss Pearl does have a future on her own. The album as a whole, while not spectacular, is really fun and has some truly enjoyable moments.

Track Grades

  1. Heartbeats – 8.5
  2. After Hours – 7.4
  3. Ecstatic Appeal – 8.6
  4. Band On The Run – 8.2
  5. I Hate People (feat. Iggy Pop) – 9.0
  6. Looking For Trouble – 7.2
  7. Retrograde – 7.5
  8. Nashville Shores – 6.6
  9. No Good – 7.7
  10. D Is For Danger – 7.3
  11. Selfish Heart – 8.4
  12. Undesirable – 9.2
  13. So Sick! – 7.9


Built To Spill - There Is No Enemy

Built To Spill
There Is No Enemy
Warner Bros.

Built To Spill has always sounded to me like a Neil Young-fronted Pavement. But being a relative newbie to the canon of Built To Spill, having only heard their major label efforts (and finding them mostly uneven or lackluster), I am extremely impressed with There Is No Enemy. This is easily one of the most consistently great albums of the year and that has not proven to be a strength of most of their albums. The pattern I have noticed with Built To Spill is that the success (not commercial but musical) of an album is largely dependent on how much of an iron fist founder/guitarist/vocalist Doug Martsch rules with. His stranglehold of the songwriting provides a clear vision and this one is a message of reflection. Whether this was a conscious effort or just what happened to be on Martsch's mind is not clear but, with the longest layoff between albums in the band's history, it is hard not to believe it is intentional. The result is a resounding success that proves again that Built To Spill is worthy of their loyal fanbase. If anyone has jumped off the bandwagon in recent years, it's time to get back on.

Track Grades

  1. Aisle 13 – 8.2
  2. Hindsight – 9.5
  3. Nowhere Lullaby – 7.8
  4. Good Ol' Boredom – 9.6
  5. Life's A Dream – 8.3
  6. Oh Yeah – 8.6
  7. Pat – 7.6
  8. Done – 8.5
  9. Planting Seeds – 9.2
  10. Things Fall Apart – 8.4
  11. Tomorrow – 8.3


Thursday, October 01, 2009

The Entrance Band

The Entrance Band
The Entrance Band
Ecstatic Peace

This, the fourth full-length album from guitar virtuoso Guy Blakeslee, is a revelation. I had the good fortune of seeing Entrance, now The Entrance Band, with full-time contributors Paz Lenchantin (ex-A Perfect Circle, ex-Zwan) on bass and the ├╝ber-talented Derek James on drums open for Sonic Youth earlier in the year. In the months following, I found myself trying to hunt down all of the albums I could and was largely disappointed in what I had gathered.

I first acquired 2004's Wandering Stranger and based on the covers that Blakeslee chose, I expected an effort the likes of Chris Whitley and instead heard something far more amateurish. Then there was Prayer Of Death and it contained at least a hint of the brilliance that I had seen in concert, including the track, "Grim Reaper Blues," (which has been changed a bit for this album with more clear sound). There was still something missing here and I do believe Blakeslee has found it with a now full-time collaboration with Lenchantin.

With Lenchantin and James in tow, Blakeslee concentrates on actual songcraftsmanship more than just guitar improvisation and the results are startling. Or they would have been had I not seen it before me months ago. The standout tracks that they knocked out that night ("M.L.K." and "Lookout!") are no less impressive on record and there are some welcome great new tunes as well ("Lives" and "This Is Why"). The presence of the Entrance Band is understandably missing from their live performance but not the power. Definitely a band on the rise and a force to be reckoned with.

Track Grades
  1. Lookout! – 9.0
  2. M.L.K. – 9.2
  3. Still Be There – 8.1
  4. Sing For The One – 7.5
  5. You're So Fine – 6.3
  6. Grim Reaper Blues (Part 2) – 8.8
  7. That Is Why – 9.2
  8. Lives – 9.3
  9. You Must Turn – 7.3
  10. Hourglass – 7.9