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Album Review: Made for Walking by Pink Punk Boots

Made for Walking, the new debut from Pink Punk Boots, opens sounding like Seattle-flavored John Oates on ditchweed,  drawing influences from DJ Spooky and Radiohead, with a knowing nod to  (the criminally underrated) Jandek.

Made for Walking is the avant-grunge-ers’ attempt at esoteric, haunting, art school sequencing rock.

Made for Walking tries too hard to break new ground—for good reason: Cristy Scoggins was writing this music in a tent. Thus, Made for Walking marks a musical turning point, á la the Beatles’ White Album (except if Ringo wrote every song).

“Hands off my Product” echoes strains of a MC5-esque epic, with a penchant for  dazzling guitar epic and raw vocal vibe, while the more  jaded ”Curly Girl” moves at cloud speed, reminiscent of Alex Chilton on beer.  However, Pink Punk Boots speeds it up with ”Estrogen Rage”. But such lack of design has its own charm. The result? wounded,  haunting, lissom. alt-folk. Perfect for contemplating oblivion during a  breakup at an abandoned meat-packing plant.

3 stars. RIYL: Serge Gainsbourg.


It was gratifying to see Janelle Mon´e on the same stage where I saw Funkadelic. Though her music comes to us through a time tunnel from an altogether different millennium, like George Clinton she frames physically persuasive, danceable music with complex, cerebral narrative.

Monae was radiant. She had an electric, formal stage presence — post-Victorian Gibson girl meets Grace Jones — with a dignity and drama worthy of her muse Fritz Lang. Above the stage, her image reproduced in black-and-white on two video screens had a grainy newsreel quality, as if we were in the future watching footage of the historic events of the present.

The acoustic space was filled to bursting by a sharp trio playing guitar, drums, and keyboard. The stage was haunted by costumed extras: wraiths, birds, buccaneers, fallout survivors, jet pilots, and queens. Crowded by these ghosts of her nightmarish imagination, Mon´e performed a fantastic set.

I have seen the future: it’s a strobe-lit, amplified, dangerous time… but very stylish.

After a steamy Janelle Monae left the stage, the Canopy Club was a hot and fetid tropical locker room. Few bands could have followed her into that sweatbox and pleased me.

Of Montreal gets credit for using some of the best performance ideas of David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, the Residents, Prince, and Pink Floyd (Alan Parker). While a surplus of eight musicians underlined the beat (or just waved their arms in the air), impressively costumed dancers elbowed their way to the edge of the stage. This unwieldy ensemble made even the generous Canopy stage seem unmanageably cramped, with randomly-attired stage hands (one in white t-shirt, one in shirt and tie) dashing back and forth to maneuver into place various large props.

Some of these apparitions that wandered in from stage right were majestic and terrifying, though the best costume designs of any concert I have seen had apparently been given no script other than contorting sexually with two blonde women in gold bikinis.

It’s good to see a young band try so hard to do something other than play great songs. I admire the effort to add a dimension of spectacle to alt-disco music. Frontman Kevin Barnes tried to push his magnetism, charisma, and beauty past its limits to lead the crowd into a rave atmosphere of unrestrained sexuality. But in the end this felt less liberating than shallow.

I applaud the effort to have a stage show, am impressed by the disturbingly surreal costumes, but found it all undermined by haphazard choreography and question whether the thin foundation of dance music can support the art they try to build on top of it.

Midway through the set was a moving performance of two newer songs, including “Casualty of You.” With a stripped-down instrumentation, disturbing animation, and a biting electric violin solo, this moving ten minutes of the show showed me what the band could accomplish if they did more serious writing.

And then for an encore they did the song about how the singer can “do it.” I clapped loud for another encore. From Janelle Monae.


Eels, End Times
Wunderkind Mark “E” Edwards has released six albums as Eels. E’s often-autobiographical songs are heartbreaking — he lost his father, mother, and sister in a relatively short time span — but he usually adorns them with experimental, beautiful sounds (see 1998’s Electro-Shock Blues). End Times is still lovely, but the instrumentation is sparse, which makes the songs even moodier. There are a few uptempo tunes: the funky garage of “Gone Man” and “Unhinged.” E’s voice has grown raspier over the years, so songs like “Line in the Dirt” and “I Need a Mother” are especially melancholy. Beware: Not recommended after breakups, rainy days, or more than three glasses of wine.

The Scruffs, Conquest
Supergroups—with few exceptions, they disappoint. It’s what I like to call “The Traveling Wilbury Syndrome,” where all rights make a wrong. The Scruffs is a Scottish supergroup that I had high hopes for, featuring members of Teenage Fanclub and Belle & Sebastian. I was expecting a gorgeous, distorted jangle-meets-twee masterpiece, but it’s just a bunch of dudes playing slick, straight-ahead rock (“Conquer Me,” the cheesy “iPod Girl”). The harmonies are decent, though, and the album has afew bright spots, including the pretty “Days of Silver and Gold.” For die-hard fans of Scot-rock only.











Woodpigeon, Die Stadt Muzikanten
This is a mellow, unassuming gem from Woodpigeon, an eight-member Calgary band led by singer-songwriter Mark Hamilton. It’s a sweet album, tailor-made for listening in the dawn of spring, with pleasant strings, bells, horns, and organ. Standouts include “My Denial in Argyle,” “Duck Duck Goose,” and the layered, 7-minute “Such a Lucky Girl.” At 16 tracks, Die Stadt Muzikanten‘s tinkling preciousness might get a bit repetitive for some, but if you’re into boy-girl orchestral harmonies reminiscent of the Decemberists or Sufjan Stevens, you’ll probably dig this.