Five Minute Record Reviews: Pet Shop Boys, EmptyMansions, Daughn Gibson, Court Yard Hounds, and Chicago's Own Trouble!


EmptyMansions - snakes/vultures/sulfate

If you're anything like me, the fact that it's been AGES since we've heard any new music from the likes of Interpol or the Secret Machines is enough to keep you up nights.  While Interpol drummer Sam Fogarino and Secret Machines' singer/bassist Brandon Curtis aren't able to kick start their respective bands at the moment, the two like-minded musical souls have done the next best thing by teaming with Jesus Lizard guitarist Duane Denison to form the blissful psych-rock side group EmptyMansions and record the cryptically-titled snakes/vultures/sulfate.

Unlike most side projects that tend to sound like rockers killing time until their more famous full-time bands return to active duty, EmptyMansions has all the earmarks of an endeavor with enough fire power of its own to become a growing concern for all involved.

Released on the fledgling indie label, Riot House Records, the album has thus far managed to fly under the radars of most taste makers.  Sadly, if you were to put this same album out under the name "Black Rebel Motorcycle Club", every rock magazine on the planet would be knocking each other over to sing its praises.


Daughn Gibson - Me Moan

If I've told Brad Roberts (Crash Test Dummies) and Peter Steele (Type O Negative) once, I've told them a thousand times, if you insist on singing in such a deep, affected vocal style. you might inspire somebody somewhere to copy your style.

Needless to say, Daughn Gibson seems to have been taking copious notes during each bands' brief '90s chart run.  While Gibson's new album, Me Moan, is jam-packed full of memorable melodies and imaginative arrangements that recall prime-era XTC, whether you like the album will hinge largely on whether you like Gibson's vocals or not.  We suggest you start by listening to the baroque charmer "Phantom Rider".


Pet Shop Boys - Electric

While contemporaries like OMD and Human League continue to draw raves for returning to the stellar form of their '80s heydays, Pet Shop Boys continue to do everything they can to move beyond their considerable past by making records that are staggeringly ambitious and not beholden to the whims of fairweather fans who want every song to sound like "West End Girls".

In that respect, the PSB's could have just as easily called this album "Pigeonhole This" because they obviously have no interest in making a career of retracing their past for immense financial gain.  How else to explain a song like "Love Is A Bourgeois Construct", which recalls both ABBA and Sparks while, at the same time, sending fans running for their dictionaries.


Court Yard Hounds - Amelita

Remember when Pat Benatar got pregnant and suddenly a band called Quarterflash popped up out of nowhere to fill the void, scoring two hits and promptly disappearing the minute Benatar returnedto active duty?  Well, with Sheryl Crow taking time off from her music career to be the latest spokesperson for One-A-Day vitamins, the Court Yard Hounds (aka the two-thirds of Dixie Chicks not named Natalie Maines) have set out to fill that void by doing their darndest to give people the Sheryl Crow album that they didn;t know they wanted.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_n6vF9nhux4

Seriously, close your eyes and listen to the title cut.  Within the first minute, you will feel your jaw slide from its rightful place at the bottom of your face and hit the floor with an incredulous thud at the uncanny similarities.  Hell, "Rock All Night" sounds like it came straight from Crow's breakthrough album Tuesday Night Music Club.


Trouble - The Distortion Field

Okay, I'm just gonna come right out and say it, how come Soundgraden get all the critcal adulation and fanfare when Chicago's own metal gods Trouble are forever relegated to the no-zip-sorting bin called "Doom Metal" despite both bands sharing a host of stylistic similarities and influences?

Of course, the fact that they've undergone a host of personnel changes in the singer department since oriuginal screamer Eric Wagner first left the band in 1997 and then again in 2008.  Current vocal shredder Kyle Thomas returns after a four-year hiatus, during which time he was replaced by Warrior Soul's Kory Clarke, and the band sounds positively re-energized by his return.

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