Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rin Tin Tiger, Adam Balbo, FWFW


“Ghost Door”

* * * 1/2

The first official single from the new incarnation of the Sullivan Brothers’ Westwood and Willow project, is a reworked version of a fairly nondescript song from Westwood and Willow’s Doorways, Vehicles, and Markets album. However, the addition of drums (courtesy of the insanely prolific Mr. Andrew) gives the tune a whole new dimension. Kevin Sullivan seems happier and more engaged than ever, his distinctive sing-chuckle vocals bounding playfully around the harmonicas and acoustic guitars in the background. It’s not a drastic reworking of “Ghost Door,” but it’s an immense improvement. Plus, “Ghost Door” was probably the group’s best choice as a first single--it’s short, catchy, and leaves you standing in its dust before you’re quite sure what just went speeding by.


Refried Nostalgia

* * * 1/2

Most artists who poke good-natured fun at classic rock do it the Jack Black way, propagating the stereotype of the obnoxious, long-haired, devil-horns-flashing dinosaur. Adam Balbo does it by writing classic rock-style songs and deadpanning nonsensical and confrontational anti-folk lyrics over them (“if you can’t deliver me from evil, how ‘bout a pizza?”) as well as the obligatory highway analogy here and there (the aptly titled “Obligatory Highway Analogy”). The gritty production, courtesy of Girl Named T, George Rosenthal, and others, heightens the humor by making it ever-so-subtly more difficult to discern what’s going on. Refried Nostalgia is funny, ironic, and above all, a good time.


Fights Without Fears Within

* * *

Fights Without Fears Within is one of the few reasonably well-known ambient rock bands from the Bay Area. This enigmatic group assimilates influences from nearly all the different forms of “post-rock,” from Sigur Ros-style soundscaping to Mogwai bombast to Pelicanesque post-metal, and combines them into a derivative but interesting form dominated by soft-loud dynamics. While the quieter sections are beautiful, the transitions to the louder sections are often unwieldy, not to mention ill-advised. One shift from this structure is the excellent “Deep Sea,” an intensely beautiful, Kranky Records-inspired composition marked by glistening drones and jazzy drums. This album rates highly on the strengh of that particular song.

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