When The Breeders released the classic Last Splash in 1993, the band still was congealing into a new state. Begun as a side project by Pixies bassist Kim Deal in 1990, the rock quartet was transitioning to being a primary focus, and twin sister Kelley Deal had joined the band just a year prior, taking the place of guitarist Tanya Donelly (Throwing Muses) despite limited six-string experience.
Together, however, the Deal sisters made something special that capitalized on their vocal-and-guitar interplay. Aided by their history, Last Splash was a minimal, quirky rock gem. (“Do You Love Me Now?” dates back to 1970s, when the teenage Kim and Kelley played cover songs in bars.)
Taking noisy and experimental music out of the basement and into the mainstream has been a long journey. From Brian Eno and Lou Reed popularizing it in the 1970s to the current generation performing at large festivals, we’ve reached a point where it’s not only critically praised but a genre with a serious following.
Dan Friel and Brian Chippendale (Lightning Bolt, Black Pus) — creative souls each with challenging yet accessible new solo albums — recently sat down and talked about the freedom of solo work, performing on the street in the United Arab Emirates, and drunk viking synthesizers.
Brian Chippendale: You just made a super pop record that opens with a 12-minute song, and you didn’t have to bounce the song order or album direction off any band members! Do you feel mega-liberated by that? Or trapped because you had to make every decision?
Dan Friel: 100% liberation. Zero trap. And the track order was an especially fun call to make. With that said, I always end up bouncing ideas off of the same few helpful friends as my solo-project research panel (even if I reserve the right to then do whatever I want).
A couple of years ago, Staten Island-based Cymbals Eat Guitars released Why There Are Mountains, an arresting, noisy display of off-kilter rock songs mixed with a few hooks and left turns. For many listeners, the album came out of left field. Its raucous guitars, crashing drums, and frantic vocals made Cymbals Eat Guitars an instant sensation in the indie-music scene, and soon, it was one of the most respected bands — and one of the best surprises — of 2009.
Now, two years later, the band that’s often touted as being “on the rise” has returned with its second effort. Lenses Alien, the band’s first offering since signing to Barsuk, looks to establish the band as a staple in indie rock.
Lenses Alien picks up where Why There Are Mountains left off, and builds indispensably upon the recklessly nurtured garage rock that the band has seemed to perfect in its short career. Pinpointing the band’s sound is a tad difficult — the music has elements of the Pixies, Pavement, and Pinback — but it keeps in step with tried-and-true lo-fi methods. Indeed, with Lenses Alien, Cymbals Eat Guitars has added another chapter to the musical styling of its solid debut. With album opener “Rifle Eyesight (Proper Name)” clocking in at more than eight minutes, and riveting tracks like “Keep Me Waiting” and “Shorepoints,” the band seems intent on hitting listeners with the full force of its grunge-meets-pop capabilities.
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It wasn’t too long ago when Tapes ‘n Tapes was indie rock’s next big thing. And there certainly was reason for the hype. The Minneapolis-based quartet’s 2006 effort, The Loon, is chock-full of raw pop hooks and a DIY sensibility that has often propelled forward the best that the genre has to offer.
And back in 2006, Tapes ‘n Tapes certainly seemed destined to become one of the elite. When the everyday no-namers decided to self-release a bad-ass concoction of Pixies-style rock songs that were just as upbeat and catchy as they were introspective and self-exploratory, something new and refreshing was at hand. The band came out of nowhere, really, garnering a buzz that thrust it onto a major label, and it was crowned as indie’s great new hope.
Then, like many heavily hyped bands, Tapes ‘n Tapes fell victim to the dreaded sophomore slump. Its first effort on a major label, Walk It Off, in 2008, fell short of reviving the youth and vivacity that dripped from every track on The Loon. Gone were the rough edges and hook-laden pop songs; instead, the album featured a collection of songs that seemed intent on missing the mark. Aside from the album’s standout track “Hang ’Em All,” Walk It Off seemed unable to capture what The Loon did.
It lacked that same freshness, that same energy that the band was somehow able to bottle on its first album. The band no longer offered its sparse yet frenzied melodies that helped each song gleam. Each song purged on gluttonous arrangements and instruments, an indulgent examination of what the band should have done with a major-label budget. And so Tapes ‘n Tapes became another victim of hype — so much promise, but so much pressure. And it fell to the wayside, for better or worse.
Hard-hitting jazz trio The Bad Plus knows how to pen pieces of proprietary gold. But its three members are also known for their genre-leaping renditions of rock songs, propelled by the chops of pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson, and drummer David King. Here are the group’s ten best covers.