Harnessing a potent combination of Dischord label punk (think Fugazi or Nation of Ulysses) and college-circuit noise collagists (Sonic Youth, the Pixies), Massachusetts' Read Yellow have accomplished more on their sophomore release than most bands hope to do in an entire career. Radios Burn Faster literally bristles with energy, building on the post-punk pastiche popularized by bands such as And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead and Unwound. It's easier to describe the distinctiveness of Radios Burn Faster than it is to pin down Read Yellow's aural philosophy. They don't subscribe to the emo school of rock, nor are they overtly political, although the album's opening track, "The Association," references a relationship gone wrong, and "Model America" discusses the current scene in Washington, D.C.
Musically, it's another matter. Evan Kenney's and Jesse Vuona's dueling guitars cut in and out of the sonic maelstrom on "Fashion Fatale," my nomination for the hardest rocking love song of 2004, while bassist Michelle Kay Freivald and drummer Paul Koelle kick out the jams on the death-trap rattle of "Modern Phobias." Meanwhile, assorted voices and diverse rhythms add complexities throughout the album. Those searching for the future of rock should pause and listen: This quartet just might be it. Andria Lisle
Read Yellow perform with Your Enemies' Friends at the Caravan on Tuesday, July 27th.
You Are the Quarry
Despite the tommy gun he cradles on the cover and his recent Dixie Chicksstyle presidential smackdown, Morrissey sounds benign, harmless, and strangely avuncular on You Are the Quarry, like a paler version of his old self. He lives alone in the not-very-English city of Los Angeles, settled into a closed-off life that his Smiths songs always made seem inevitable.
The two lead tracks are called "America is Not the World" and "Irish Blood, English Heart," giving an idea of the bluntness of his attacks. Such large targets make for dull lyrics, lacking the Moz's famous wit: "The land of the free they said but where the President is never black, female, or gay." An interesting point to get hit over the head with.
Fortunately, Morrissey is just as self-absorbed as ever, and songs such as "How Could Anyone Possibly Know How I Feel?" stand out. On one of the album's better songs, "I'm Not Sorry," he looks back in, not anger exactly, but the gentle jadedness he's perfected over two decades.
His voice is still strong, effortlessly hitting the high notes on the choruses of "I Have Forgiven Jesus" and "Come Back to Camden." Unfortunately, the music that accompanies that voice is dry and unimaginative. Alternating between generic guitars and tired programmed beats. The music never overwhelms Morrissey's voice or words, but it never adds any drama or emphasis either. It's merely aural wallpaper.
The son of two music-biz veterans (his pop, Bob Montgomery, worked with Buddy Holly, while his mom sang back-up for Elvis), Kevin Montgomery seemed a likely candidate for country stardom. His major-label debut (1993's Fear Nothing) failed to hit its mark, however, and he was banished to indie-label obscurity. Lesser men would've given up, but Montgomery took the setback in stride.
Accompanied by such veteran players as Robert Reynolds and Paul Deakin (both of the Mavericks) and vocalists Trisha Yearwood and Lee Ann Womack, the melodious Montgomery comes up aces on these 13 tracks. Songs run the gamut from Gram Parsons-esque country rock ("Tennessee Girl," and "Melrose") to above-standard singer-songwriter fare ("Red Blooded American Boy"). An organ keeps things interesting on "Thank You Very Much."
All in all, 2:30 AM is a perfect album for roots-music fans unfamiliar with Montgomery, although old fans might be slightly disappointed: A few of these tracks already have seen the light of day on earlier CDs such as Fear Everything, released in 2000, and Bootleg, a U.K.-only album, which came out in 2002. AL
Kevin Montgomery performs at the Hi-Tone Café on Wednesday, July 28th.