Bloc Party, Silent Alarm - I held off on listening for a while, because all the Franz Ferdinand/post-punk revivalist comparisons threw me off. But these ain't no Kaiser Chiefs; what distinguishes them from the pack is their vastly expanded ambitions. The constant comparisons to Franz are misinformed about both bands, but I'll make one anyway: if Franz's goal is to pare every song down to its most vital elements and play through as tautly as possible (see their redone version of "This Fire," which cuts the running time by something like 30 seconds), Bloc Party is expansive. This has a lot to do with the drummer, a maniac who would've flourished in an 80s metal band just fine and adds a lot to the party here. The opening 1-2 of "Like Eating Glass" and "Helicopter" are galvanizing brilliance, building from one guitar sound to a bunch of swooping, anthemic guitar lines building to a chorus that actually can live up to the promise of the verse. Bonus points for making the slow songs the equals of the fast ones: "This Modern Love" has one of the saddest, most realistic come-ons I've heard lately ("Do you wanna come over and kill some time?"). The album's unwieldy at 53 minutes, far too long to support any non-killer songs, so I cut three for my iPod. But these are a promising group of guys; believe the hype, more or less.
Bright Eyes, I'm Wide Awake It's Morning - yeah whatever fuck Conor. This is a perfectly respectable album of psuedo-country, featuring lots of acoustic finger-picking, soulful back-up vocals from Emmylou Harris, etc. But frankly this shit will not fly: a Bright Eyes record filtered through any other style is still a Bright Eyes recording, and the transformation here is not on par with what, say, Beck would have done if commanded to go rustic. There is still a retarded introduction as with every one of his goddamn albums (although, to be fair, the nightmare story he tells gives me legitimate chills provided I have the patience to listen all the way through), it is still too long (even at 49 minutes), the songs have a typical lyrical mixture of the insightful ("And if you swear that there’s no truth and who cares/How come you say it like you’re right?") with inane self-loathing ("Well I could have been a famous singer/If I had someone else’s voice/But failure’s always sounded better/Let's fuck it up boys, make some noise!"), and the boy still can't write a hook to save his life most of the time. And frankly I resent having to spend my time slogging through this album just because he can't write a start-to-finish song that works without coating it in some kind of arrangement. And there aren't nearly elaborate enough arrangements here.
Final thought: a few weeks ago, for reasons that are none of your goddamn business, I was in a hospital thinking I was going to die. And you know what song was in my head? "First Day Of My Life," that's what. It's a sweet song as Conor falls in one quick glance for a girl ("This is the first day of my life/Swear I was born right in that doorway), but I resent having my unconscious on tap for this guy. So very uncool.
Final final thought: I've made this album sound better than I think it is, mostly because I've listened carefully and tried to find things that I like about it. But though they're there in my more detached-type opinion, it's still kind of a joyless slog for me. Fuck you Conor.
Crooked Fingers, Dignity & Shame - in which our hero Eric Bachmann ditches the expansive strings of Red Devil Dawn for generic "Spanish" touches - an opening instrumental, flamenco guitars, trumpets, etc. Bad move, dude (not that Bachmann hasn't mastered the arrangements, which sound OK; they just don't bring much to the party); worse move writing lyrics like "Why's everybody act so tough when all anybody wants to do is find a friend" (answer: to avoid people like you). The two songs you need: "Call To Love" and "Valerie." The rest is decent but undistinguished singer-songwriter fare. Bring back the strings.
More updates forthcoming throughtout the day probably.