CD reviews: The Flaming Lips, Steve Earle & The Dukes (And Duchesses), Dawes
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
The Flaming LipsThe Terror/Warner Bros.
For the past decade or so, The Flaming Lips have earned a reputation as a dynamic live band.
Anyone who has seen the band live since the release of 2002’s “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” knows that a Lips show usually will include, in no particular order, fans in costumes dancing onstage, giant weather balloons being tossed about by the band and crowd, a giant UFO landing on the stage, enough confetti to make Mardi Gras choke and lead singer Wayne Coyne rolling around on top of the audience in a giant plastic bubble.
If you weren’t fortunate enough to see one of those shows, which catered to the visual senses just as much as the aural ones, then it appears you may never.
With the release of “The Terror,” it seems that Coyne and the rest of the Lips have reinvented themselves once again.
While the band never really stopped delving into more experimental regions of rock music, there was a period where the band came very close to mainstream, at least as close as a psychedelic band from Oklahoma City could.
On “The Terror,” though, the band veers wildly away from that semi-mainstream path.
Comprised almost totally of electronic synth music and percussion, this isn’t “The Soft Bulletin” or “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.” Instead, the band once again has seemingly wiped the slate clean as to what its musical intentions might be. It’s a bold move, and the album both succeeds and fails depending on what song you’re listening to.
There are interesting moments such as “Be Free, A Way” and the gorgeous “Try to Explain,” but there are also moments that will test the faith of some of the less open-minded Lips fans.
This isn’t an album recorded with hit singles in mind. Instead, like the Lips four-part experimental album, “Zaireeka,” “The Terror” is meant to be experienced, not just listened to.
Key Tracks: “Be Free, A Way,” “Try To Explain,” “Butterfly, How Long It Takes to Die”
Steve Earle & The Dukes (And Duchesses)The Low Highway/New West
When they finally do make a movie out of Steve Earle’s life, and it will happen eventually, at least they won’t have to go far for soundtrack material.
One of the founding fathers of the Americana music movement, Earle truly has seen it all in life, from the highs and lows of substance addiction to the equally addictive ups and downs of stardom.
This past decade, Earle seems to have excised most of his demons, and in the process, the guy is releasing one great album after another.
Earle’s latest, “The Low Highway,” kicks off with the album’s title song, a beautifully wistful tune sung over acoustic guitar, fiddle, accordion and pedal steel.
“Calico County” is a piece of honky-tonk rock ’n’ roll so catchy that you almost don’t realize the song is about cooking meth.
“After Mardi Gras” is another one of the album’s better tunes, and was inspired by a character on the HBO series “Treme,” on which Earle stars.
By far the best and most powerful song of the album, though, has to be the final track, “Remember Me,” which is sung from the point of view of a father asking his child not to forget him no matter where the child’s life may lead.
It’s devastatingly powerful and easily one of the best songs that Earle has written in recent memory.
If you’re a Steve Earle fan and have enjoyed albums such as “El Corazon” or “The Revolution Starts Now,” then “The Low Highway” is definitely required listening. It’s also further proof that Earle is experiencing one of the most creative periods of his long and illustrious career.
Key Tracks: “Calico County,” “After Mardi Gras,” “Remember Me”
DawesStories Don’t End/HUB
What does it take for a California band to get its new album to sound just right? Sometimes all that is needed is a bit of Carolina air.
When the Los Angeles-based band Dawes was searching for a suitable place to record its latest album, “Stories Don’t End,” it ended up at Echo Mountain Recording Studio in Asheville, N.C. Apparently, that mountain air was good for creativity because the resulting collection of songs makes for a near perfect album that deserves to be listened to from beginning to end.
Lead singer Taylor Goldsmith has a voice that sounds as if it should have been making music 40 years ago among folks such as The Eagles, Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne. Goldsmith’s voice is reminiscent of Browne’s — smooth and melodic — and most of the song arrangements have that great ’70s California AM radio rock sound to them.
Among the best of the lot are “Most People,” which sounds like Browne himself could have recorded it alongside “Running On Empty”; “Something in Common,” which is a slower, more plaintive tune; and “Just Beneath the Surface,” a beautiful song that both opens and closes the album.
For folks who like their rock fairly straightforward and slightly on the Americana side of things, Dawes is right up their alley.
Check them out live when they open for Bob Dylan on May 4 at the Family Circle Magazine Stadium on Daniel Island.
Key Tracks: “Most People,” “Something in Common,” “Just Beneath the Surface”
By Devin Grant