Let it Come Down
With his band's fourth album, the long-awaited Let it Come Down, Spiritualized's Jason Pierce proves once again that he's this generation's Brian Wilson. All the key Wilsonian qualities are there: tireless pursuit of the perfect sound, rampant drug use, self-imposed bouts of isolation, and a dictatorial attitude that led him to fire the entire band after 1997's Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space. Let It Come Down may best be described as a real heartbreaking work of staggering genius. The opening track, "On Fire," franticly kicks everything off, but then Pierce smoothly downshifts into such unapologetic tales as "The Twelve Steps," where Pierce proclaims his mental state by admitting, "I was very nearly clean, y'know/'Cause I only have 12 steps to go/The only time I'm drink- and drug-free/Is when I get my drink and drugs for free." By the time he socks you with ballads such as "I Didn't Mean to Hurt You" and the orchestral "Stop Your Crying," you feel you've been trudging through Pierce's psyche hip-deep in mud and surrounded by clear sound, intrigued just enough to sit through the next four years to see what he surprises us with next. (Jeremy Scherer)
The Aqua Velvets
Surf music hasn't changed much since the '60s—but then, there's no good reason why it should. Surf perfection was the Chantays' "Pipeline" and the Surfaris' "Wipe Out." Surf revivalists the Aqua Velvets don't try to mess with such archetypal work, but they have the most ingenious ways of pushing those salty surf crescendos a little further through modest experimentation. Take this album's rockabilly noir of "Swampabilly Hop," a little Roy Orbison mystery mixed with the shimmering reverb of Dick Dale's guitar. They try country twang on "Hawaiian Blue," and at one point, they even fiddle with some jam-band noodling (though any step toward typical jam-band sloppiness would be too out-of-character for this Northern California quintet). They're surf traditionalists who bring a seasoned, almost jazz-like musicianship to what's admittedly a confined style. Instead of the one-note feelings of dopey fun and wave shredding, the Aqua Velvets bring a cinematic, even tragic quality to such compositions as "Gringo" or a bracing stoicism to songs such as "Beauty and the Beach." But the music's tight guidelines ultimately keep the band on a tight leash. When they try a cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit," it sounds more like '60s standard "Gloria." When they inject new wavy keyboards on songs such as "Nervous On Neptune," it comes off like a trippy idea that didn't quite work out. It's clearly time for the Aqua Velvets to move beyond this genre; these guys have lots to say. (Andrew Asch)
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