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Githead, "Art Pop"

Githead's debut Headgit EP and subsequent full length Profile brought angular post-punk at a time when, quite frankly, everyone else was doing it. That Wire frontman Colin Newman served as its voice and postmodern lyricist did surprisingly little to differentiate it from the fresher crop of youngbloods. Both releases had their respective moments of memorable majesty, such as the subdued tech-house of "To Have And To Hold" and the slogan expropriating screed "Option Paralysis," though neither produced the anticipated excellence of a collaboration between Newman, his wife Malka Spigel, and Robin "Scanner" Rimbaud.  With Art Pop, their latest for the Swim ~ imprint, the trio (now a quartet) finally delivers, taking their sound to a level that demands attention from indie rock dweebs and PBR-guzzling hipsters alike.

 

Swim ~

From the opening guitar chug of "On Your Own," an immediate wind of change breezes through, and continues to do so as a jangly pop groove with Newman's unique pipes keeps things in perspective.  As expected, Newman's lyrics are still as bizarre as ever, with choruses about overloaded email inboxes seeming just a bit too heavy handed, though his rediscovered sense of delivery excuses him of such habitual excesses.  As he did so successfully with Wire in the '80s, Newman consummates the sordid wedding of accessible music and theory-laden message, from the complex spittle-flecked diatribe of "Drive By" to "These Days," a deceptively simple lament of numbness.  

Spiegel and drummer Max Franken's rhythm section not only keeps everything in order, but also creates elaborate, brilliant grooves that are impossible to ignore. On "Space Life," Spiegel's bass line bursts through the guitar fuzz with a insatiable vitality, while Franken methodically accents every snare.  Even the tracks where Newman takes a backseat still shine, though for entirely different reasons.  "Lifeloops" detours from the rock n roll for a plucked guitar ballad awash in dreamy synth, with a coolly monotonous Spigel taking on the vocal duties throughout, as does the vocoded "Jet Ear Game," with lyrics cut-up and reassembled from media reviews of Profile.

The material here is anything but homogenous, ranging from the gravely pastoral and somber "Live In Your Head" to the slow and sleazy psych-funk of "Drop," though it all comes together in nearly perfect unison.  Of course Wire fanatics and those who have continuously followed Newman’s solo career will enjoy Art Pop, but additionally it has the potential to reach entirely new audiences as previously mentioned.  Finally, Githead has made good on its promise with this essential release.

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Review of the Day

John Rifle, "Fracas Nurture"
Rabbit Surgeon Musics
And from the "What the fuck is this?" file comes this CD from John Rifle. John Rifle is an enigma. He's obsessed with rabbits, as the album artwork shows, and pop culture, as the music shows. He's not happy with the way things are going in this world of ours, and he's taking action. Mostly minimal piano and drum-created music with sound samples on top, "Fracas Nurture" is a pretty strange and frightening listen, completely devoid of warnings or clearances. Most samples are taken from television source material like ABC News and VH1 Behind the Music, and the CD is assembled like one long radio broadcast from inside the mind of a lunatic. It's socially conscious, it's got its sights set on many different targets, including the music industry, fame, drug use and the media, and it's completely and totally out of its gourd. Never has sound collage music sounded this urgent, this driven, or this insane. It's like Negativland making the soundtrack for a reality TV/horror movie. Bob Weston recorded this music, and he has done an admirable job given how this material could drive anyone involved over the edge. Tom Waits once created a track like this with samples of Dan Rather, and this is like the dream that track touched upon fully realized. Occasionally the music takes on a real structure, like on 'Intercom', but not often. Mostly, it's spoken word performances, with a little music for good measure. It's a message, not exactly for the faint of heart, that has some music with it. It's a good project (can't really call it an album because it defies even that moniker), but needs to be absorbed in doses. This is too much for one sitting. Try it out, though, because it needs to be heard to be believed or understood.

 

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