THEE HEAVENLY MUSIC ASSOCIATION
SHAPING THE INVISABLE
Thee Heavenly Music Association,Shaping the Invisible (Rehash) Rating: 9
This act utilizes the various modus operandi behind such acts as the Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and Radiohead to make some pleasing, sublime and strong pieces of music. Led by the vocals and guitar of Manchester native and former Fluffy member Helen Storer, you get the impression that this band was on the cusp of landing all the songs inLost in Translation but the courier screwed up along the way. "Synesthesia" speaks of a perfect day while guitars, keyboards and drums create a lush wall of sound that never goes overboard. Each song, including "Suffer My Angel", tends to close as dreamy as it opened, but others are more succinct, especially "The Absolute Elsewhere" which has that trippy, psychedelic haze over it thanks to guitarist David Hillis and Storer. It does tend to sell itself short though with such a rushed ending. "Alain" is simply gorgeous with its slight Smashing Pumpkins-ish hue while "Angelic Disorder" is, well, angelic with its guitars and atmosphere. This continues with a grander scope on "Jiji Crycry" and the brawny "Say Something". Well, say something... brilliant. [Amazon]
PRODUCED AND MIXED BY DAVE HILLIS
lambchops's Full Review: She Loves You by The Twilight Singers
PRODUCED BY GREG DULLI AND DAVE HILLIS
|Ah yes…the mysterious cover album. Where does it come from? Why does it exist? How is it that they draw me in? Tori Amos (Strange Little Girls), Duran Duran (Thank You), Guns n’ Roses (The Spaghetti Incident), and John Lennon (Rock n’ Roll) have all recorded one of these rare specimens. The good thing about cover albums is that when done right they are brilliant, entertaining, and immediately engaging creatures. However not all the songs are usually that great—there always seem to be clunkers in the bunch. |
In 2004, Greg Dulli’s (Afghan Whigs) side project The Twilight Singers released a third album. While the first two were originals, the third was chock full of covers. The choices are by and large unusual and run the gamut between classic jazz to R&B and from classic rock to electronica. It’s an odd mix to be sure, but as with the band’s 2003 album Blackberry Belle I can’t stop listening. I admittedly miss Dulli’s writing but I also appreciate his keen ability to re-interpret familiar songs. Along with vocalist Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees) and a host of less-known musicians Dulli crafts a provocative and creative album. He steps back for a moment and recognizes great songs written by great songwriters. In a way I see albums like She Loves You as the ultimate artistic dedication. You know you’ve “made it” when your song is covered.
By its very nature, She Loves You is about the music. It’s not about Dulli nor is it even about The Twilight Singers. It is about those songs which have been inspirational and entertaining. While touring, the band covered many of these songs which in turn explains the creation of this album and their resemblance to earlier material. Here as on other releases, Dulli creates dusky tones and melancholic sounds. While I do enjoy the slow, mysterious sounds of Feeling of Gaze and Too Tough to Die it is Bjork’s Hyperballad that really catches my attention. Dulli takes a beautiful yet insane song and creates something new. It doesn’t even vaguely sound like the original which makes it even more fascinating. Replacing Bjork’s yowls and growls with smooth and emotional vocals and instruments instead of synthesizers Hyperballadmorphs into something surprisingly lovely.
Strange Fruit is another outstanding song. Best known as performed by legendary vocalist Billie Holiday the song takes on new shape and meaning when reinterpreted as a rock ballad. Dulli’s voice is stirring and as backed by Mark Lanegan’s guttural voice the song proves to be both deep in meaning and in thick in emotion. The first real change of pace comes with a reinterpretation of the Fleetwood Mac track What Makes You Think You’re the One. Atypically upbeat with waterfalls of guitars and pianos, it comes as a pleasant surprise.
Like Hyperballad, the popular Mary J. Blige song Real Love is also an unexpected choice. Dulli replaces the hip R&B/dance beats with droning guitars and pleasant percussion. The melody is still very recognizable though I still quiver as the artist sings that familiar chorus. I can’t help but be drawn to the upbeat melody paired with a dark, obtuse bass guitar. Breaking things up, we are next greeted by the lovely blues track most famously performed by Buddy Guy, Hard Time Killing Floor. It’s so simple and beautiful that for just a moment Dulli is no longer an alt-rock god. Instead he’s a genius classic bluesman. Continuing on in a blues direction, A Love Supreme from John Coltrane is next on the docket. Sensual, stylish, and subtle the song is easily one of the best on She Loves You.
Dulli’s work doesn’t fade away as the album draws to a close. His rendition of Please Stay is heartbreakingly gorgeous. The traditional Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair is updated into a pensive alt-pop opus. It works beautifully and helps to bring She Loves You to an end. Summertime puts an unnecessary exclamation point on this already incredibly album. The slow, tragic track leaves the listener with senses of emptiness and awe.
I waited a long time to buy She Loves You for fear that it would tarnish my opinion of The Twilight Singers. Fortunately, Dulli has once again proven that his side project may be even more relevant than his main musical venture. This is an outstanding covers album. It belongs in every collection of alternative music and should be appreciated by fans of Dulli, his Twilight Singers, or his Afghan Whigs.
Rating: 5/5 stars
As evidenced by over five million records sold as Candlebox's frontman in the 1990s, Kevin Martin has developed an affinity for writing hook-laden rock-and-roll. After temporarily disbanding in 1999 due to multiple line-up changes and the ever-popular explanation of "record label politics," Candlebox's hiatus allowed Martin to pursue other endeavors. Beginning in 2001 and ultimately ending in a Summer 2003 release, Martin began writing and collaborating with multiple artists, from Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson to the eclectic Space, Kevin Martin & The Hiwatts' The Possibility of Being came to fruition. In a sense, "Possibility" is a Martin solo endeavor, but he and The Hiwatts - along with the other musical collaborators and contributors - sound like an authoritative, mature rock-and-roll group.
Essentially, The Possibility of Being is a breath of fresh air in the genre. It is a spirited rock-and-roll album that encompasses the tenets of rock-and-roll in every sense of the term. Kevin Martin & The Hiwatts are not a Candlebox: Revisted group. While elements of his first group's bluesy, grungy sound can be heard at various points of the album, "Possibility" distinctly incorporates a multitude of genres that can be heard quite clearly; however, it's best to discover that Kevin Martin & The Hiwatts embrace the zeal and gusto of rock-and-roll throughout the album.
From album opener Amedia, which opens with a cymbal crash and a solitary guitar chord, Martin's distinctive voice asks instantly, "Who said you kids are all alright?" This simple vocal intro gives way to a roaring verse with crunching guitars and effective drumming, beginning the album on a masterful note. The main riff is insanely catchy and the lead guitar playing almost inconspicuously underneath it is stellar; the drumming, courtesy of Terry "T-Bone" Rowe, is strong and assertive, with crisp cymbals and a powerful snare. Amedia also offers an incredible vocal performance from Martin, as well as shedding light into his overall themes he explores on the album. "Amedia, Amedia, we are the monsters that feed your head with our senseless alternatives... we are all faceless in the end, over-sold and the newest trend," sings Martin with his signature voice in the verses and chorus, who may be alluding to his previous record label issues with Candlebox. After a blistering guitar solo and a more abrasive turn from Martin, the track delves deeply into the heart of rock-and-roll. The back-up vocals on the track, especially in the reprised chorus, are also truly magnificent; all told, Amedia is a perfect opener that effectively sets the tone of the album.
The album opener is only trumped by If We Could, which is without question the best track on the album. The track is also the first on the album to feature an orchestral accompaniment. Lush lead guitars, courtesy of Space, who also collaborated with Martin on Enemy andTelepathic Rock & Roll, are complemented with a mellow, running bassline underneath in the song's intro, which precedes an introspective Martin in the verses. Martin, who concerns himself with stopping global warming and genocide prevention, can provide rather scathing social commentary at times. Take for instance the chorus' anthemic "If we could see ourselves, would we get it right? If we don't feel at all, how can we feel alive?" or the bridge's "If we never fall... and if we want it all, who would we want to be?" From this point, the orchestral accompaniment and a fantastic guitar solo elevate the track to an explosive concluding final chorus and conclusion. The orchestra also shines wonderfully on the exceptionally beautiful, heart-wrenching album closer, The Lovers, with heartbreaking lyrics such as "We left the gates wide open, love, but locked away our souls / Who we are is all I know, and I miss you still / Today, tomorrow, and yesterday: walk with me, share this world with me, I love you still." Martin's repeated "Set free the lovers!" is one hell of a conclusion to the album.
Another intriguing aspect of The Possibility of Being is the wide array of genres heard on the album. Identify exhibits punk roots, Telepathic Rock & Roll as the rollicking pro-rock anthem (while indeed a song that pays tribute to his musical heroes, see Martin's incensed lyrics, which include "So don't you gimme no more transparent rock & roll stars, gimme no more transparent rock & roll" and " I define what's credible; it has a bit to do with telepathic rock & roll / I got Lennon, got Janis, got Lou, and Bob Marley knew telepathic rock & roll"), and Isounds stunningly Tool-like in character, yet exhibits its own individuality. Also of interest on "Possibility" is the inclusion of samples to facilitate the music. For example, Enemy features American countercultural figure Peter Honda uttering his infamous "We need a real uprising" quotation, where he cites dictators like Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, and other "fanatics of filth, famine, and atrocity." Inherently, Martin's social commentary emanates throughout.
In the end, The Possibility of Being is a bona-fide rock-and-roll album that encapsulates the spirit of rock-and-roll to an amazing degree. Martin's voice is distinguished, but not easily accessible at first. His clean vocals are superb, but at times he sounds like he uses a lot of his throat rather than his diaphragm, which sounds like it has a lot of phlegm in it from smoking. This quality, however, adds a ton of character into his delivery and to The Hiwatts' instrumentation. "Lyrics and melody have always been important to me," says Martin. "That's one of the best ways I communicate." He undoubtedly delivers on The Possibility of Being: with caustic social commentary (If We Could, a track that Martin states "deals with humanity, being humane to one another, asking yourself, 'What am I doing here? What is life all about for me?'" is an authoritative example of this) to heartbreaking lyricism (Walk Away, The Lovers) to anthemic rock-and-roll numbers (Amedia,Telepathic Rock & Roll, Enemy), Martin is absolutely brilliant. The instrumentation is excellent as well - the guitars have an eclectic and electric crunch and Space's contributions are certainly noteworthy, the bass rumbles when heard, and the drumming provides an unwavering backbone to the Hiwatts' core sound - altogether, it certifiably encompasses the spirit of rock-and-roll. Listeners seeking a straightforward and incredibly awesome rock-and-roll record would do well in giving The Possibility of Being a spin.
KEVIN MARTIN Possibility of Being
PRODUCED BY KELLY GRAY AND DAVE HILLIS