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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Fall Out Boy, Patty Griffin and more

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, February 4, 2007

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Fall Out Boy, “Infinity On High” (Island) ***

The easy course for Fall Out Boy’s fourth album would be to maintain the mosh pit by hewing back to the adenoidal pop-punk of its double-platinum 2005 triumph, “From Under the Cork Tree.” But the Chicago quartet has ambitions to be more than just “poster boys in the scene,” and “Infi nity on High” is as much a breakout as “... Cork Tree” was a breakthrough. It’s an exercise in fullon pop auteur ambitions that generally works, even — and perhaps especially — when the group takes things way over the top on dramatic stomps such as “Thnks fr the Mmrs” and “I’ve Got All This Ringing in My Ears and None on My Fingers.” There’s still plenty of slashing, staccato guitar rock and metallic overtones on tracks like “Don’t You Know Who I Think I Am?,” “Fame < Infamy” and “The Carpal Tunnel of Love,” but not unlike Windy City mates Smashing Pumpkins’ “Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” most of “Infinity on High” shoots for

the sky, whether it’s Jay-Z’s exhortative introductory rap on “Thriller,” the cascading theatricality of the fi rst single, “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race,” the earnestly cheeky Leonard Cohen reference injected into “Hum Hallelujah,” the “American Girl” meets “Helter Skelter” attack of “You’re Crashing, But You’re No Wave” or the lush, string-fueled arrangement of “The (After) Life of the Party.” Horns, mandolins and stacked, operatic chorus vocals show up as well, while “Golden” is a slice of piano schmaltz that will have the cell phones waving at the group’s concerts. Fall Out Boy certainly gives plenty of ammunition here for those who already have a negative ’tude toward the band, but the group deserves props for breaking out of its own box and heading towards “Infi nity ...” — and beyond.


Patty Griffin, “Children Running Through” ATO ***1/2

Deep into her sixth album, Patty Griffin notes that “I’m no kid/In a kid’s game/But I don’t give up.” And thank goodness for that. Since her debut in 1996, Griffin has been one of our most consistently intriguing and often downright excellent singer-songwriters, and “Children Running Through” — her first release since 2004 — continues to push the bar upward. This time out, Griffi n incorporates strings and horns into her sound and weaves more soul and gospel infl uences into her songs, particularly on tracks such as “You’ll Remember,” “Heavenly Day,” “Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)” and “I Don’t Ever Give Up.” Add that to the forceful attack of “Getting Ready” and “No Bad News” and the plaintive prettiness of “Crying Over,” “Someone Else’s Tomorrow” and “Railroad Wings” and we have another winning set that extols the virtues of her perseverance.

New and noteworthy:

The Agency, “Turn” (Perch/Eulogy) — The third album by the emo all-star trio featuring members of Dashboard Confessional and Seville.

The Apples in Stereo, “New Magnetic Wonder”

(Simian/Yep Roc) — The indie rock heroes’ first album in fi ve years also is the fi rst release on actor Elijah Woods’ Simian Records label. Go Frodo!

Barenaked Ladies, “Barenaked Ladies Are Men” (Desperation) — The second release in fi ve months from the Canadian quintet, featuring more songs from the same sessions that produced last year’s “Barenaked Ladies Are Me.”

Bloc Party, “Weekend in the City” (Vice) — The sophomore release from the British band that enjoyed considerable buzz with 2005’s “Silent Alarm.”

Jason Michael Carroll, “Waitin’ in the Country”

(Arista Nashville) — Jewel and longtime John Mellencamp collaborator Don Gehman assist this country up-and-comer on his debut disc.

Danny Cohen, “Shades of Dorian Gray” (Anti-) — The third solo release from the idiosyncratic former frontman of the punk band Charleston Grotto.

The Colour, “Between Earth & Sky” (Rethink) — The anxiously awaited fulllength debut by the Los Angeles rock troupe that stirred up interest with its 2006 EP “Devil’s Got a Holda Me.”

Joe Ely, “Happy Songs From Rattlesnake Gulch”

(Rack ’Em Records) — The rockin’ Texas icon celebrates his 60th birthday with this album and an upcoming book of his tour journals, “Bonfi re of the Roadmaps.”

Rickie Lee Jones, “Sermon on Exposition Boulevard” (New West) — The most direct and rocking album of the singer-songwriter’s lauded career.

Sondre Lerche, “Phantom Punch” (Astralwerks) — The Norwegian singer-songwriter takes a more traditional pop route on his fourth album, though he considers the title track a “disco waltz.”

Yoko Ono, “Yes, I’m a Witch” (Astralwerks) — The most famous Beatles wife teams with the Flaming Lips, Cat Power, Peaches, the Apples in Stereo and others on her latest outing.

Jordan Pruitt, “No Ordinary Girl” (Hollywood) — Debut set from the Disney empire’s latest teen singer.

Ashley Tisdale, “Headstrong” (Warner Bros.) — The debut solo album from “High School Musical’s” “villainous” Sharpay Evans.

The Used, “Berth”

(Reprise) — A live CD/DVD set that includes a preview of “Handsome Awkward,” the tentative first single from the group’s next album.

John Waters, “A Date with John Waters” (New Line) — The celebrated fi lm director gets in a Valentine’s mood on an offbeat collection that features the likes of Ray Charles, Ike & Tina Turner, Dean Martin, John Prine and ... Josie Cotton.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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