Saturday, May 08, 2010

Heaven is Whenever We're Together

Two new albums have been receiving non-stop rotation on my CD player/iPod.

Together, the new one by The New Pornographers, is an improvement over 2007's Challengers, and the extensive use of cellos makes it sound a bit like mutant ELO at times. The refrain in the opening song "Moves" I assume is "These things get louder" but I swear it sounds like "Bee stings get louder," the kind of elliptical lyrics that wouldn't be beyond A.C. Newman. There are the usual complement of looney Dan Bejar songs, although they're less looney than, say, "Jackie, Dressed in Cobras" from Twin Cinema, or anything on the last Destroyer album (Bejar's own band, whose last album featured songs titled "Foam Hands," "Leopard of Honor," "Shooting Rockets (From The Desk Of Night's Ape)", for example). But then with tracks called "Valkyrie in the Roller Disco" and "A Bite Out of My Bed" ("Someone took a bite out of my bed"), Newman can be pretty odd, as well. This is one of those records where, after a play or two, you feel like you have known these songs for years. (And with lines like "Honey child, you're not safe here..." someone's been listening to The Smiths.) And only Neko Case's harmonies can make lines like "I wear my Sunday suit to walk the streets/That would feel Byzantine" sound sensible. "Up in the Dark" ("What's love but what turns up in the dark?") is classic NP. Great record; I highly recommend it.

On Tuesday, Heaven is Whenever, the new one by The Hold Steady, came out. They may never make a record as good as 2006's Boys and Girls in America again, but this one is far superior to 2008's Stay Positive. You have to like a song ("The Weekenders") that begins with the line "There was that whole weird thing with the horses." (Actually, it's the return of the characters from the song "Chips Ahoy!" about a girl who can psychically pick winning horses. Hmm...anyone got her number?) "She said the theme of this party is the industrial age/You came in dressed as a train wreck." THS's keyboard player quit, so there is more guitar on this one, which is fine by me. It's not hard to imagine "Rock Problems" being sung by Ray Davies on a Misfits/Low Budget-era Kinks record. The opening song, "The Sweet Part of the City" ("the parts with the bars and restaurants"--indeed) begins with a little riff that is unfortunately vaguely reminiscent of Jefferson Starship's "Find Your Way Back," which I hope was unintentional. In the title track, "She said Hüsker Dü got huge/But they started in St. Paul/Do you remember 'Makes No Sense at All.'" (I do, actually--it was on Flip Your Wig, as well as a 1985 EP which also included Hüsker Dü performing a cover of not only The Byrds' "8 Miles High" but also "Love is All Around"--yes, the theme to The Mary Tyler Moore Show--which has to be heard to be believed.) The song continues, "Heaven is the whole of the heart/Paradise by the dashboard light/Utopia is a band/They sang 'Love is the Answer.'" And that pretty much sums up the bulk of THS's influences. Great record; I highly recommend it.

There's no video up for any of the songs yet, but who needs video when you have audio anyway?