Author: Matthew Barlow

Noah Smith — Long Cut

Noah Smith Long Run Gargonia Records Something interesting is happening in country/American music of late.  Artists like Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson have clearly and purposely turned their backs on the Nashville industry, focusing on songcraft and story-telling.  Those two are the leaders of a new kind of outlaw country, minus, of course, the ultimate bad-assery of the likes of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and company.  My problem with this is I can no longer declare that I love all forms of music, but country.  And into this new country tradition comes Brown County, OH’s Noah Smith. Smith is drawn to the narrative, claiming that back in the day of mixtapes, it was always the lyrics that mattered to him.  He also sees his home state as the American melting pot.  Long Run is his first long-player and it bristles with rollicking songs, his clear voice and an energy that is the key component of his live show.  His songs are carefully constructed and he avoids the slickness of the Nashville sound.  His songs are all stories: love, small-town life, and the alienation of trying to go home again. And even if they fall into the tropes familiar to listeners of pop music today, between his musicality and ear for small things in his songs (like buried guitar licks, Edge-like shimmery guitars, cute little fiddle licks) give him both a familiarity and...

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Let’s Eat Grandma — I’m All Ears

Let’s Eat Grandma I’m All Ears Transgressive I love Let’s Eat Grandma’s name.  I love even more that Let’s Eat Grandma are two teenage girls.  First, the name.  It’s a comment on the importance of punctuation, noting the difference between ‘let’s eat Grandma,’ and ‘let’s eat, grandma.’  As an educator, I can tell you, I appreciate it when the younger generation gets it.  The two young women behind the band are Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth.  Walton and Hollingworth are 19 now, and have known each other since kindergarten. Their first album, the absolutely bloody brilliant, I, Gemini, came out in 2016 and was close to the greatest thing in music that year.  It was deep and dark, and twisted.  It also prompted Walton and Hollingworth to purposefully cultivate a public image based on what music critics and journalists read into their music.  This just makes me like them even more. So, two years on, they come back at us withI’m All Ears.  My first go through of this album, I wasn’t all that impressed, I have to admit.  I was listening to teeny-bopper music. But, I went back.  I gave it another chance, which was a smart move.  I’m All Earsis both musically and lyrically more accessible than was I, Gemini.  It’s also more mature.  They note the mundanity of life, but they also challenge gender and femininity, particularly...

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Container — LP

Container LP Spectrum Spools I’ve been digging on Container now for a few years, Ren Schofield, the man behind the name, makes some immediate, in-your-face, pounding electronic music. Schofield is from Providence, RI, but has spent a long time in Nashville, which makes me just like him more. Nashville has a burgeoning, exploding music scene, as anyone can tell you.  But Nashville’s music scene is more attuned to country and roots rock, not techno. There is, of course, a thriving scene in the city, but it’s underground.  Way underground. Schofield is getting clever with LP. This was also the title of his last release, in 2015.  It was brilliant, by the way.  Reviews of that album talked about moshpits and hard-rocking beats, like I was reading reviews of the Crystal Method c. 1997.  That does Schofield a disservice.  He is most certainly not the second coming of the Chrystal Method, nor even of the Chemical Brothers.  He is something else entirely. On 2018’s LP, he ratchets it back just a tiny bit.  There is more melody overtop of the fuzzed out, syncopated beats.  The distortion remains just as heavy.  On some tracks, though, like ‘Peppered,’ he even slows things down a bit to give us a bouncy, loopy and even trippy beat, over which the distorted noises skitter and dance.  But, for the most part, it is the same unrelenting battering. Container are...

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From the Vaults: The Charlatans — Tellin’ Stories

From the Vaults: The Charlatans – Tellin’ Stories The Charlatans have long been one of my favourite bands, if not my outright favourite. Though they’re not from Manchester, they burst onto the scene with the Madchester Sound in the late 80s/early 90s, together with the Happy Mondays, the Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets, and the like.  Unlike all those bands, which imploded/broke up/etc., the Charlies have kept on trucking for the past 30 years.  They recently celebrated their 30thanniversary in their hometown of Northwich, hosting the North By Northwich festival. This summer, I was living in an extremely rural area, no cell service, and about a 20 minute drive to find a signal.  The car is where I do my serious music listening; I usually just stream it. Not an option that far in the boondocks.  So I dug up a bunch of CDs and threw them in the car.  But the one that remained in the disc drive (my car model year was the last to have a disc drive) was the Charlatans’ 1997 album, Tellin’ Stories. This album is a moment in time for the band.  Founding member, keyboardist Rob Collins, died in a car accident whilst recording the album in Wales.  But it was also the band’s most successful album, hitting #1 in the charts in the UK and Ireland and yielding 3 Top-10 singles in the UK,...

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Nine Inch Nails — Bad Witch

Nine Inch Nails Bad Witch The Null Corporation  Trent Reznor is 53 years old, a long-time removed from the viciousness, self-loathing and anger that drove his break through albums back in the early 90s.  I have to confess that back in the day, I thought NIN was a sad rip off of Ministry and Skinny Puppy, the gods of industrial music in the 80s.  So they weren’t my bag.  That changed with the 1999 double album, The Fragile, which gave us a slightly more mature, still angry and self-loathing Reznor.  His music had become less self-indulgent and more worldly. For the past couple of decades, he’s carried on, as well as doing soundtrack work with his partner-in-crime Atticus Ross.  And then there’s his project, How to Destroy Angels, with his wife, Mariqueen Maandig and Ross.  He’s kept himself busy, as NIN have also pumped out albums. Bad Witchis the culmination of a cycle of three EPs, though Reznor (at least in the email I got from the NIN listserv) says it’s a proper album.  At 6 songs and 31 minutes, you can be the judge of that.  At any rate, this is the best music Nine Inch Nails have released in the past two decades. Opening track, ‘Shit Mirror,’ hits like a tonne of bricks and keeps up with the repeated kicks to the gut throughout.  We start of...

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