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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

A SMALL GOOD THING, "SLIM WESTERNS VOL II"
Leaf
A Small Good Thing have unveiled the follow up to an 'imaginary soundtrack' for a movie we're supposed to run in our heads for the adventurous benefit of fictional outlaw Gerry Melody. Not having heard the first part, originally released in 1994, I can't compare, but if you rush out and buy the limited edition it's included as a double CD or triple album. 'Slim Westerns' are very much in a spaghetti style and although there's a relaxing dust swept ambience and some good ol' cowboy guitar twang that Calexico might be at home with, a certain Britishness peaks through and mars the illusion. Dogs barking on the last track just sound like English dogs (not the old 'punk' band) and the repeated vocal refrain, "Hey Mister, is this train headin' south?" sounds so put on and false it muddies up the widescreen desert feel the music effectively evokes. These are perhaps minor quibbles with an otherwise enjoyable but inessential recording that mixes up slow dusty guitar twang with creeping dusk ambience. May this trio of former O Yuki Conjugaters sleep well undisturbed by English dogs (punk or canine).

 

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