Hey, There’s a Bird in This Mirror!

Diversion Enthusiast Society, est. 2007

Music Marathon 2007, Part 15 (Paramore – Plant, Robert and Krauss, Alison)

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Once again, I’ve gotten way, way ahead of myself (about 12 albums’ worth), so I’m playing catch-up.

Paramore – Riot!

I mentioned, at some point, that I have no illusions about Paramore. They’re basically a 14-year-old girl’s idea of the most rocking band ever, but I have to admit listening to Riot! (or at least parts of it) far more than a 33-year-old man should be comfortable with. I absolutely believe that the band members (all in their teens or early twenties) think they’re carrying on in the spirit of Sunny Day Real Estate and other nineties emo-before-it-became-a-dirty-word (or a dirtier word, at least) acts as their Wikipedia entry suggests, but this is far more teen diary than teen Diary. Really, they’ve effectively carved out a niche between Bleed American-era Jimmy Eat World (far more pop than anything considered emo in those days) and pop star-cum-neo-Benatar rocker types like Kelly Clarkson, Pink, and Avril Lavigne. While I suspect a major difference between Paramore and the latter is that the band presumably writes all of its own music, I don’t think it’s a particularly bad niche to carve out, especially when you assume that Clarkson has to wait for someone else to give her a “Since U Been Gone” to hit her full potential and Jimmy Eat World seemed to blow their pop load on Bleed American.

In any case, Riot! is a big, shiny rock album with simplistic lyrics that sound (quite forgivably) like they were written by a teenager. But, most importantly, the highs and lows hit where they should, the melodies are seldom less than hummable, and singer Hayley Williams has a powerful voice that can at least compete with Lavigne’s and Pink’s, if not Clarkson’s. It says something that her voice demands to be compared to pop stars, since, let’s face it, there are pretty few frontwomen in this spic-and-span, but still well-conceived punk-pop genre (seems to me that Fall-Out Boy would be a very rough comparison point given the guilty pleasure choruses, but I don’t think I’d want to hear one of their albums all the way through). Despite the lyrical simplicity, there’s an intelligence behind the compositions – Paramore seems to understand the push and pull of great pop rock. And they’re young*. There may be a day when we’ll hear them cop Fugazi or PJ Harvey moves, but until then, it’s hard to complain over “That’s What You Get,” “Misery Business,” and “Let the Flames Begin.”

* And, oh, was this made clear in their “360” deal, which gives their label a cut on touring, merchandise, etc. And then Steve Albini’s head exploded.

Panda Bear – Person Pitch

Have you ever had a personable, easy-going, intelligent friend who was just fine on a one-to-one basis, but, upon socializing with a group of friends, he became just another douchebag giant lion-robot in a retarded Voltron of annoyance? Person Pitch is the sound of that guy on a good day, with his buddies off doing whatever the hell it is that Animal Collective members do on their downtime (securing field recordings of castrati bluesmen or bunnies shitting – whatever).

Perhaps not the landmark recording some of the press is making of it, Person Pitch still manages to take the samples, repetition, and melody that define Animal Collective at their best and strip out the shrill quirkiness. Panda Bear achieves a wonderfully layered serenity here that takes the Beach Boys off the beach and places them in a rain forest with dense, looped percussion samples and wisely applied reverb. The 12:30 “Bros” may be one of the flat-out prettiest songs of the year.

A Place to Bury Strangers – s/t

There’s a music venue here in Milwaukee called the Rave*. For many years, it was the only venue of the appropriate size to host touring bands with large followings, and, in some ways, it was the bane of the picky music fan’s existence. You see, the Rave is a deep room with a wide ceiling, which means getting a good mix is nearly impossible. Of the countless bands I’ve seen there, there are only a few I can remember that weren’t buried under the wash of echo bouncing off the walls. The only explanation for the sound of A Place to Bury Strangers is that the band played the Rave at some point and decided that they’d try to approximate those acoustics on their debut album. But with more distortion.

I’d like to write more about this album, since the songs don’t sound half bad, but the production makes it so thoroughly unpleasant that I guess I’m just going to have to wait for the follow-up.

* The Rave is actually a big building with multiple venues, including the even-bigger Eagles Ballroom, and the Rave Bar, where a band of mine once performed and were treated as if it were our privilege to be playing there. Forget free beer – I had to pay for a plastic cup of water. Luckily, there are far better places for bigger touring acts to play here now.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss – Raising Sand

This was a last-minute addition to the list, so I’ve honestly only heard it once, but it made a good impression. Plant is nearly unrecognizable, and the overall vibe is far more latter-day Emmylou Harris than one might expect from the guy who sang “No Quarter” (or even “Tall Cool One”), but I guess that’s not as much of a surprise when you consider that T-Bone Burnett produced it, it’s full of covers by tasteful and respected songwriters, and it features a stable of dependable, but slightly idiosyncratic session guys like Marc Ribot. It does have that slight whiff of “interesting producer helps washed-up, aging rock star achieve relevancy,” but, hey, it worked for Johnny Cash, and I’m not one to slam the Rick Rubin albums. Plus, Krauss has a nice voice and serves as an interesting foil to ol’ Percy, when he’s not serving as one to her. It tends to rely a little too much on a muted drum and tremolo guitar sound that’s essentially Mid-Period Tom Waits for Dummies, but it’s nice to hear Plant do something I’d actually want to listen to for the first time in years.


Written by Dave

January 5, 2008 at 8:49 pm

Posted in Music

Tagged with ,

6 Responses

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  1. I actually listened to Paramore a couple weeks ago. I forget exactly how I got there, but I was watching their video on youtube and I had the same thought “If I was 14 years old, this would be cool as shit”.

    Patrick Ripoll

    January 6, 2008 at 2:39 pm

  2. Just curious – did you listen to the album Rubin produced for Neil Diamond way back when?*

    * – yes, I know it was only a couple years ago.


    January 13, 2008 at 11:12 pm

  3. Nope. I read very good things and very bad things about it, but passed, since I’m not the biggest fan of Diamond’s old work, anyway.


    January 14, 2008 at 8:50 am

  4. All summer/fall I felt kind of dirty for liking “Misery Business” so much. This brings validation!


    February 7, 2008 at 10:16 pm

  5. […] fandom I saw.  Yet that same year, AC’s Panda Bear released Person Pitch, an album that took all of the stuff that I liked about Feels and did it better – wonderfully, even.  I was convinced that Mr. Bear (Noah Lennox to his friends) was the key to all of the good parts […]

  6. […] New Eyes So help me, I’m a sucker for this band.  As I wrote about their 2007 album, Riot!, “They’re basically a 14-year-old girl’s idea of the most rocking band ever, but I have to … Update those references by a couple years, and you’ve got my blurb for Brand New Eyes.  […]

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