album reviews

Placebo: Sleeping With

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UK-based trio Placebo return to the limelight with their newest album, "Sleeping With Ghosts." Following their disappointing previous album "Black Market Music", this new release has the melancholy and power for which Placebo are world-famous.

Combining elements of punk, pop, ambient electronica, rock, various sound effects and noises, and Brian Molko's haunting voice, Placebo creates a versatile and focused work.

Careening rockers like "Second Sight" and "The Bitter End" are balanced out by spare and lonely ballads such as "Centrefolds" and "Sleeping With Ghosts."

As an ode to past loves and past mistakes, "Sleeping With Ghosts" is a fantastic album and a worthy followup to their 1998 masterpiece "Without You I'm Nothing."

Grade: A -- SB

Interpol: Turn on the Bright Lights

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New York City-based band Interpol creates a post-modern New Wave-tinged melancholy masterpiece with "Turn On the Bright Lights." Tracks such as the moody "NYC" and brisk "PDA" show the artistic focus and skill of this captivating band. Twin guitars, the vocals of lead singer Paul Banks (which evoke those of Joy Division's Ian Curtis), driving bass melodies and powerful drumming create a New Wave-Alt-Pop hybrid that seems both nostalgic and breathtakingly novel at the same time.

Grade: A --SB

John Brodeur:Tiger Pop

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Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist John Brodeur presents "Tiger Pop"--a combination of quirky power-pop and sentimental acoustic songs. Brodeur's earnest, high, fragile voice makes the songs feel very personal--but it may not be for everybody.

The lyrics are clever, the melodies are smart and the arrangements seem simple but are surprisingly complex when you sit down and listen closely. You can tell he spent a long time on this release. In the middle of a guitar-driven song he'll put a marimba solo or a brief sax riff, providing a rich palette of tones for the entire album. What's even more impressive--Brodeur plays pretty much every instrument on this album.

The 11 tracks on this versatile record span the range between earnest acoustic guitar odes to lost love, jumpy jagged They-Might-Be-Giants ditties, and tongue-in-cheek witty melodies.

Think of John Brodeur as sort of Jason Faulkner (of Greys/Three O'Clock/Jellyfish fame) meets Beck. Check him out with his new band, the Albany-based "Suggestions", as he restores the virtue of "pop music" and takes back the term from the current herd of mass-produced pop cardboard cutouts.

Grade: B+ --SB

The Calling: Camino Palmero

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When I listen to this album by the Calling I am teleported to a the following parallel universe:

In this other universe I am a 20-yr old college student, at a crowded frat party, and this CD is BLARING through the speakers in the frat house's dingy basement packed with people. The room is hot and sticky. I feel a little itchy and I'm bored. I have been chatting half-heartedly for half an hour with a girl who is totally hammered and not very attractive. I can't really hear much of what she's saying over the loud music, so I nod and smile at the proper pauses in her words. I think she just screetched "you're such a good listener!" but I'm not sure. She could have said "I love James Mitchner" It doesn't really matter.

There is a really hot girl about 15 feet behind my homely conversation partner and I try to steal glances at her when I think my new friend won't notice. Someone bumps into me and spills a little bit of skunky beer on me: "Sorry dude..." "no problem, bro."

I return to chatting with the girl in front of me and I notice she is smiling at me and leans over and whispers "my (hic) roomates...are...gone...for the...weekend... wanna leave?..." I mull over the opportunity for a desperate hook-up but then excuse myself and leave the party.

When I get outside and start my walk home, I look up at the infintely cold black 2 a.m. sky for a minute, than go back to my dorm, have some cold pizza, and crash.

Thats what this album makes me feel. It is flawlessly produced whitebread sensitive college rock, and the lead singer's voice is perfect albeit cheesy in that American Idol sort of way. But all the shiny perfection and sensitive maudlin lyrics seem sad underneath. Even when The Calling rock out (and some songs do rock in a restrained sort of way) there is so much sentimentality underneath that it just seems depressing.


#1: If you are a FEMALE college freshman: B+ (the songs are catchy, the lead singer is DREAMY, and I think this song has like been used on Buffy or Felicity or some show like that.)

#2: If you are a MALE college freshman: B (next time Britney-who-flirts-with-you-sometimes-but-never-puts-out from across the hall is alone with you in your room, put on track #3 and right before the first chorus kicks in, lower your head slightly, then look up at her and say "you know, I always try to be, like, tough and all most of the time but I must admit when I first saw you, I thought you were so beautiful that I was a little nervous to talk to you. But I am sure glad I did...I feel like I can talk to you about...anything, ya know?...." You'll get some ass for sure.

#3: And for the rest of us: C (This album is your standard college rock of the Matchbox 20/Three Doors Down variety. A little catchy, overproduced, sappy yet inoffensive.)

High point: The Calling shed some of their sappy-ness in track 8 "Things Don't Always Turn Out That Way", a song about obsession and unrequited lust. --SB