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The Victoria Lucas – Self-titled

December 31, 2012 Leave a comment

No No No Records, 2006victoriaLucas

When presented with the opportunity to buy a brand new, unwrapped record for less than a dollar, there are a few things that may pass through your mind.  For instance, you may get some kind of inner seizure when the phrases “new album” and “one dollar” collide.  Wha-a-a-a-t?!  If you somehow can ignore your impulsive buying habits, you may also catch that the album is swathed in colorful art that features houses and people in berets.  Forget that the phrase “The Victoria Lucas Hit the Ground Running Fast” is manically scratched across the album cover, or that the band comes from a foreboding record label; this is an album that demands one to take a chance on it.  Okay, maybe I’m the one.  The only one.  Fine.

Based out of Brooklyn, this quintet has a fine, digestible pop rock sound.  Early songs like “Tucson” and “Back to Junk” remind me a lot of some mid-to-late nineties indie rock.  I hear a lot of Breeders in “Back to Junk” with the quivering main guitar lick, while “Tucson” just sounds like a collection of low key, jangling guitar types of bands from those days.  The guitar riff from “Allegheny/Monogahela”, as well as the combination of Juan Stacey’s and Kathy Horne’s unflashy vocals, give an air of earlier Pavement.  Note that these three songs, aside from a bit of strings, are pretty much straightforward pop rock.  I like that these tunes don’t try to get too quirky for the sake of being different, which topples most rock efforts with the ‘trying too hard’ label.

The record rolls along very nicely before it runs into its first skippable tune of “Wheels of Commerce”, which qualifies as such mainly because it is overly long and strays away from that easygoing guitar sound by incorporating noisy horns and a prolonged ending.  I know that eventually a band feels the need to mix things up a little, but man, it was going so well up to this point.   Thankfully the following tune, “Finely Street Hooker Song” , has the upbeat pep of the Modern Lovers’ “Roadrunner”, which probably has something to do with the inclusion of a bouncing organ sound.  The ending guitar bit tears it up excellently.  “Narcissus”, the last track, eases out the record like Pavement might during one of their ‘fast’ songs during “Wowee Zowee” (which is to say, not fast at all but with enough energy to move it along well).  I’m glad the Victoria Lucas decided not to get too mushy in the end, which usually makes for a dull impression after an otherwise exuberant effort.

Despite not being able to find anything about these guys on the Internet aside from a minimal bit at Allmusic, the Victoria Lucas still have a MySpace page to hear some of their music.  Also, check out their charming video about their busted van and Pep Boys.

The Victoria Lucas have proved that at a mere dollar one can hear a very good pop album from an obscure band.  I knew it could happen!  Sure, it takes a lot of gambles, but I found that nearly every track on this record is worthy of a spin at least once.  It’s too bad that despite the glut of pop rock acts already out there that no one has heard (or heard of) the Victoria Lucas.  It might be partially due in fact that these guys were finished after one record, but if they bothered to make a follow up I think that with their abilities they would have made a blip in a few people’s minds.  Maybe they found that there was a better career in album cover art …

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MU – Out of Breach (Manchester’s Revenge)

December 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Output Recordings Limited, 2004mu_outofBreach

Hey alright, an angry Japanese girl with a knife.  She’s also wearing the Hamburger Helper mascot as a hat and thinks a sheer, white skirt with polka-dotted leggings are valid accompaniment.  Then there’s the bright pink logo, which causes a conflict.  Is this a fun, quirky pop album or is this a deadly noise effort by a batty songstress?  I was crossing my fingers for the former when I picked this album up for less than a dollar, but you probably already know what it turned out to be.

There is no Japanese pop on this record.  Forget anything cute, either.  MU, otherwise known as Mutsumi Kanamori, is one truly aggressive Japanese chick.  She may have some fun-lovin’ photos throughout the enclosed booklet, showing her in a witch costume or smiling happily in front of a peaceful audience, but every song has a sharp edge. Call it noise, art rock, or a violent stream of consciousness, but “Out of Breach (Manchester’s Revenge)” is a teeth-grating assault.

In the opening track of “Haters”, Kanamori screams and yelps about those who, of course, hate her music.  It’s not hard to imagine who consists of this hater group, since it likely encapsulates most of the listening public.  However, although Kanamori does confess that “Yes, I might have no talent” that does not mean that a woman is not allowed to express herself artistically.  It’s just a rough venture to sit through twelve tracks of “no talent” noise that’s the rub.

The tune “Stop Bothering Michael Jackson” is another shout out to haters, except this is to those who complained about Michael Jackson’s success back around 2004.  No mention of Jackson’s eccentricity or child-based accusations can be found within this six minute epic piece of confusion, for Kanamori is an angry fan.  Kanamori comes across as angry in other places, like on “Tigerbastard” (“I’m holding you by the balls/Every time you restrict my freedom I’ll squeeze this hand tighter”) and “So Weak People” (“I’ll kick hard into your face/Put handcuffs and hold your neck”).  Then there’s “I’m Coming to Get You”, which sums up that album cover nicely, eh?

There are some decent moments here and there, whether it be lyrics or the music (essentially, when she’s not singing the album is tolerable).  On “Throwing Up”, there’s a solid instrumental bit at the end of the song that Boof (aka Maurice Fulton) puts together.  Unfortunately, he’s also responsible for the manic background to Kanamori’s abrasive delivery on each song, so he doesn’t really get a pass.  Kanomori, for her part, reconciles with her heavily drunk self on the tune after reflecting that the toilet is her best friend too often.  There is something to learn here if you can get this far into the record.

If you want to hear the equivalent to a brick to the face, head on over to Kanomori’s MySpace page.  She’s been updating it.

I got a bit of a headache listening to this album by MU, most likely because there was utterly nothing to grab onto.  None of the electronic, thudding beats were cohesive and Kanamori’s vocals were like an ice pick to my ears.  Unless you want to hear what the other side of the J-Pop spectrum sounds like then there is no reason to pick up this album.  The album cover’s curious lure only serves to punish those who approach the lady with eclectic style.  Still smarting from the audio ambush, I gotta throw this one in the Can.

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