November 26, 2010

Sleater-Kinney – The Woods
hard-rock, noise-rock, riot grrl

At one point during “Let’s Call it Love,” The Woods’ 11 minute psych-rock behemoth and one of the most imposing odes to sex I’ve ever encountered, Corin Tucker’s wailing vocals spiral out of control, and the guitar starts to bend and contort into some sort of agonising guitar-Sleater-Kinney - The Woodsslow-death, and it just sounds awesome. Awesomeness has always come naturally to Sleater-Kinney, and they’ve been shredding speakers with their brand of visceral, urgent rock music since the mid-90s, but none of that could ever prepare me for their final release. The Woods sees them pulling out every last stop and upping the swagger factor to create the most colossal, thunderous, everything-turned-up-to-eleven sounding guitar-rock album to emerge in years. It’s laden with massive hooks, self-indulgent guitar solos, Janet Weiss’ percussive thunderstorm and a killer vocal combination that alternates between Carrie Brownstein’s punchy, confrontational delivery and Corin Tucker’s joyously noisy, trademark holler (or as the band like to refer to it, the “secret weapon”). At times it feels a lot like a combination of 70s arena-rock and early 90s noise-rock, paying equal homage to Jimi Hendrix and Sonic Youth, while coming dangerously close to – and I’m tempted to say succeeding in – surpassing both with self-assured ease. “Let’s Call it Love” is the obvious highpoint, but it certainly gets plenty of support: “Entertain” and “Rollercoaster” are both huge, punked up arena-rockers; “What’s Mine is Yours” features a cool, jagged-edged, dual riff and amazing mid-song guitar freakout, which branches back into the following verse via one of the heaviest basslines I’ve ever heard; “Jumpers” has one of the album’s most exciting choruses, with a guitar riff that’s simply explosive; “Wilderness” packs that same furious grunt while blending in some fantastic psychedelic touches; while opening track and total distortion-fest “The Fox” bursts out of nowhere with such massive firepower that it’ll singe your eyebrows. Heck, even the album’s less immediately obvious picks like the bluesy “Steep Air” and streamlined album-closer “Night Light” would probably be the coolest and most rocking thing on any other album. Despite the beefing up of their sound, the album still comes across like vintage Sleater-Kinney, just perhaps a 50 ft tall, building stomping, take-absolutely-no-prisoners version thereof, and the way they lay waste to everything around them before switching out the lights makes for one of the greatest career-finales any band has ever delivered. I’m running out of ways to describe just how much this album will kick your ass, and just how much you’ll treasure the experience – to put it simply, after listening to The Woods, everything else sounds tiny by comparison.



November 10, 2010

Comets on Fire – Comets on Fire
psychedelic-rock, noise-rock, hard-rock

Comets on Fire’s debut is admittedly a collection of somewhat “simple” pleasures, but it’s executed oh so very well. Right from the start, the band lays down a riotous storm of psychedelic garage-rock, blanketed with huge, fuzzed-out riffs that are played hard and heavy, effects pedals left, right and centre, and vocals so raw and rocking they’ll shred your speakers apart and melt your brain. When it comes to pure, floor shakin’, foot stompin’, air guitarin’, jumping-around-like-a-madman hard-rock perfection, there’s few albums that deliver on this level, and the blissed-out psych leanings mean that every single track reaches for the sky only to overshoot Comets on Fire - Comets on Fireand end up in the depths of space. Highlights include the uptempo “Graverobbers” and “One Foot”, the sprawling title-track plus the bluesy “Let’s Take it All”, but “Ghosts of the Cosmos” in particular has revealed itself as a major personal favourite, and I’ve listened to it so many times since I discovered the album that its every moment has become permanently seared into my brain. The band went on to create some more tidy, mature and ambitious releases after this, all of which are excellent albums well worth your time, but their rough and simple debut, with all of its noisy, heavy-psych glory, is the one I keep coming back to. It’s the sort of music that inspires you to want to play it in your car with your windows down and the volume up, despite the knowledge that people who do this look a bit silly. To sum up, Comets on Fire isn’t exactly a complicated album, but believe me when I say it’s a hell of a lot of fun.



November 3, 2010

Boris – Heavy Rocks
hard-rock, stoner-rock, metal

Perhaps the most appropriate album title ever? Heavy Rocks is heavy, and good lord does it ever rock. I’ve always found that Boris are at their best when they keep it relatively simple, putting aside the longform drone and experimental detours so they can focus purely on red-raw guitar-driven power and layers of speaker-destroying bass, delivering explosive, psychedelia-tinged rock music better than pretty much anyone else on the planet. That’s exactly what you get from this album – chunky guitar riffs so crushingly massive they sound like they could level whole buildings, maniacal, rip-roaring percussion and layer upon layer of distortion, all topped off with some truly epic, visceral singing that kicks the adrenaline up to a previously unfelt height. Opening track “Heavy Friends” is an absolute beast of stoner-rock perfection, alternating between Boris - Heavy Rocksgraveyard-bass and gleeful meedly-mees for a murky showcase of sheer attitude, and it’s followed by the one-two punch of “Korosu” and “Dyna-Soar”, easily two of the best rapid-fire rockers the 2000s have to offer. The sonic barrage never really lets up after that – barring the gorgeously soulful instrumental interlude “Soft Edge”, an unexpected highlight – making Heavy Rocks an incredibly consistent joyride from beginning to end. Boris are the kings of larger-than-life rock bliss, and this might well be their finest hour (well, finest 45 minutes, at any rate). I only wish this album wasn’t so damn hard to find!