Here are some reviews of albums I bought at the music store last week. They’re all by artists I already liked, but who don’t quite make into my list of all-time favorites (if I were to make such a list).
Fountains of Wayne, Sky Full of Holes – On this new release, the band sticks to what they do best, which is upbeat power-pop with lyrics often centered around various characters. I can’t say I have any problem with it. My two favorites are “Richie & Ruben,” about two guys who waste money on crappy business ventures, and the closer “Cemetery Guns.” If you like the latter song, here’s a version of Karla performing it.
Michael Ian Black, Very Famous – This was actually recorded at a show in Philadelphia, and while I wasn’t there (probably something to do with my work schedule), Beth was. You can see occasional glimpses of her in the Comedy Central special that was also recorded there. While the special cuts out a few bits and bleeps curse words, however, the album seems to have everything intact. Topics Michael covers include how strangers don’t find him funny and how he annoys people on airplanes. There are also parts on how disappointed he is in his kids, and while they’re obviously sarcastic, I have to wonder if some people would think he was crossing a line there. Personally, though, I like his comedy.
Mountain Goats, All Eternals Deck – I like the Mountain Goats, but a lot of their songs are pretty similar, and the titles often have nothing that I can see to do with the songs, so it’s sometimes hard to pick out favorites among their output. That said, there are some that strike me considerably more than average. On this, their latest album, I’d say the song that stands out for me “High Hawk Season,” which has some good harmonization.
Mountain Goats, The Life of the World to Come – This one came out last year, and is a concept album based on various Bible verses, which I find intriguing. I looked up the verses (which are used as the titles of the songs), and the influence of some of them is pretty obvious, while on others it’s a little more difficult to figure out.
Smiths, The Queen Is Dead – I actually got into the Smiths fairly late in life, and until I picked up this one, it was pretty much entirely through their Singles collection. The impression I sometimes get, which is probably somewhat accurate but not entirely complete, is that Smiths fans can be more or less divided between those who think Morrissey verbalizes their pain and the ones who concentrate more on his comedy. I lean more toward the latter, but I think both sides have valid points. A lot of the fun of the Smiths is, I think, how over-the-top it all is, with Morrissey’s exaggerated voice and witty lyrics complementing the jangly guitars. That said, there are some lyrics that I really do identify with to some extent. I guess I can generally identify with people who use humor to deal with depression, which I suppose also applies to the Mountain Goats. “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” resonates with me, for instance. As for songs I didn’t already know from Singles, I quite like “Frankly, Mr. Shankly” (does its exclusion from the collection mean it WASN’T a single, and if not, why not?) and “Cemetry Gates.”