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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: The Stooges, the Arcade Fire and more

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, March 4, 2007

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The Stooges, “The Weirdness” (Virgin) ***

Early on the Stooges’ fi rst full album since “Raw Power” in 1973, Iggy Pop laments that “the leaders of rock don’t rock/ this bothers me a lot.” But he and his mates are doing their part. “The Weirdness,” which follows four new Stooges songs on Pop’s 2003 solo album “Skull Ring,” does rock, mostly in that Cro-Magnon way we’ve come to associate and celebrate from the group, which blasted out of Ann Arbor in the late ’60s and reached an iconic status as punk progenitors — even if the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame can’t seem to get it together to honor their influence. “The Weirdness” offers exactly what we want from the Stooges, even 34 years on — Scott “Rock Action” Asheton’s muscular drum attack propelling brother Ron Asheton’s arsenal of guitar riffs and Pop’s pointed, inyour-face vocals, plus Steve Mackay’s occasional sax honks, combining for a spartan, garagey assault deftly captured by famed “anti-producer” Steve Albini. It’s a tightly woven scheme that sounds deceptively simple and still leaves room for sophisticated (but still fi erce) arrangements such as the doo-wop style swing of the title track, the Bo Diddley groove ’n’ roll of “Mexican Guy” and the jazzy dynamics of “Passing Cloud.” Pop lets loose with plenty of socio-political beat poet commentary on such tracks as the particularly buoyant “Free and Freaky,” “Greedy Awful People” and “The End of Christianity,” but that will register mostly after you stop stomping and pumping your fists to the likes of “Trollin’,” “My Idea of Fun,” “She Took My Money” and “I’m Fried” — which could take awhile.


The Arcade Fire, “Neon Bible” (Merge) ***1/2

The Montreal avant-rock sextet’s 2004 debut, “Funeral,” generated a buzz strong enough to sustain for its successor — which more than delivers on the anticipation. There’s just enough quirkiness left in “Neon Bible” to maintain the band’s rep, but the 11-song set is overall a much more accessible and even radio-friendly work, like an edgier version of the Killers that references David Bowie, Talking Heads, the B-52’s, plenty of new wave and a bit of Americana. The sound is much bigger than “Funeral,” particularly on densely instrumentalized anthems such as “Windowsill,” “No Cars Go” and the political “Intervention” and on the buoyant, shimmering “Keep the Car Running,” but group leader Win Butler and company still display a flair for dramatic ambience on tracks such as “Black Wave/ Bad Vibrations” and the album-closing “My Body is a Cage.” It’s a “Bible” that inspires repeated listening, if not outright worship.


Air, “Pocket Symphony” (EMI/Virgin) — The French electronic duo’s first “pop” album in three years harks back to the atmospheric edge of its early recordings.

Mary Chapin Carpenter, “The Calling”

(Zoe/Rounder) — The aftermath of Katrina and the 2004 presidential election are among the topics the fi ve-time Grammy winner tackles on her 10th album.

Cheeseburger, “Cheeseburger” (Kemado) — The full-length debut by the hard-rocking New York band steeped in the Stooges and MC5 tradition.

Chimaira, “Resurrection” (Ferret) — The Cleveland headbangers switched labels and overcame internal turmoil en route to making their fourth album.

Ry Cooder, “My Name is Buddy” (Nonesuch) — The eclectic mastermind’s latest tracks the journey of a cat (as in feline) who travels the world. At least some of us are still in the ’60s ...

Finger Eleven, “Them vs. You vs. Me” (Wind-Up) — The Canadian quintet wrote and recorded more than 100 songs for its fourth album in an effort to mean more than “One Thing” to its fans.

Albert Hammond Jr., “Yours To Keep” (Scratchie/ New Line) — The Strokes guitarist’s first solo album features guests such as Sean Lennon, Ben Kweller and Fountains of Wayne’s Jody Porter.

Jonny Lives!, “Get Steady” (Eleven Seven Music) — Debut full-length from the New York trio who we’ll forgive for being part of “Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj.”

Korn, “MTV Unplugged”

(Virgin) — The extreme hard rockers generally speak (and play) loudly, but on this one they carry a soft(er) stick, with the Cure and Amy Lee of Evanescence as guests.

Jesse Malin, “Glitter in the Gutter” (Adeline) — The former D-Generation frontman’s third solo album features guest appearances by Bruce Springsteen, Ryan Adams, Jakob Dylan and members of Queens of the Stone Age and Foo Fighters.

Wynton Marsalis, “From the Plantation to the Penitentiary” (Blue Note) — The trumpet great takes a politically charged course with help from singer Jennifer Sanon.

Relient K, “Five Score & Seven Years Ago”

(Capitol) — The Ohio quintet still loves its punk but also gives us a massive-sounding, 11-minute closing track and an a capella rumination on Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. That’s so punk.

Sevendust, “Alpha” (7 Bros./Asylum) — The veteran hard rockers unveil their own label with the release of their sixth album.

Shaw Blades, “Infl uence” (VH1 Classic) — Styx’s Tommy Shaw and Night Rangers’ Jack Blades offer harmony-heavy covers of hits by the Mamas and the Papas, Orleans, Simon & Garfunkel, the Zombies and more.

Son Volt, “Search”

(Transmit Sound/Legacy) — Former Uncle Tupelo principal Jay Farrar’s band follows 2005’s rocking “Okeman and the Melody of Riot” with a broader and more eclectic set of songs.

The Tragically Hip, “World Container”

(Universal Fontana) — The veteran rock troupe makes a long overdue pairing with producer and fellow Canadian Bob Rock, recording this set in Maui and Vancouver.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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