OFF! & Reviews of Cat Power and Bob Mould

The punk supergroup Off! performs live in the studio.

OFF! band photo
Download Subscribe via iTunes

Music News

Hal David - one half of the classic songwriting duo David and Bacharach - died last week at age 91. A lover of show tunes, he wrote nuanced, emotional lyrics in the sixties and seventies when rock n’ roll was ascendant. By retrofitting the Tin Pan Alley aesthetic for the rock generation, he became one of the most charting songwriters of the second half of the 20th century. Ever sung along to "What’s New Pussycat?" or "Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head"? You have David to thank. David and Bacharach's most fruitful collaborationwas with Dionne Warwick. She started singing demos for them in the sixties. Frustrated that she never got to record their hits herself, she stormed out of the studio one day snapping "Don't make me over!" a line that inspired David and Bacharach's first hit song for her "Don’t Make Me Over" in 1963.


We at Sound Opinions thought it wise to send a noise alert to our colleagues the day OFF! visited the studio. This punk supergroup doesn't hold back, delivering minute long bursts of tightly structured punk anger. OFF! is the project of four veterans of the LA punk and hard rock scenes. They are Keith Morris of Black Flag and Circle Jerks fame, Dimitri Coats of Burning Brides, Steve McDonald, and Mario Rubalcaba of Rocket From the Crypt. Since getting together in 2009, the foursome has released two full-lengths: First Four EPs and this year's official debut, OFF! Their sound harkens back to the heyday of LA  hardcore, the genre Morris helped develop in the late seventies with Black Flag. But the band firmly rejects the hardcore label. Steve explains how the term came to be associated with violence and the boneheaded, testosterone-addled teens "who were the reason I got into punk in the first place." So what does the band prefer to be called? "We're a rock n' roll band" says Morris. "Just crank it up."

Sun Cat Power


And now for something completely different. Indie darling Chan Marshall, who goes by the stage name Cat Power, has a new album out called Sun. Sun is not what one generally associates with Cat Power. Over eight solo albums Marshall has developed a dusky, lonesome sound whose pure melancholy is often intensified in concert (she's been known to curl up in a fetal ball onstage, so overcome with anxiety that she is unable to continue playing). Marshall wrote Sun as she was breaking up with her actor boyfriend Giovanni Ribisi, so one might ask, how sunny can Sun possibly be? Jim says it's all relative, but he likes this album better than Marshall's previous efforts. Instead of wallowing, Chan seems to be in self-help mode, reminding herself in "Ruin" that some people "don't have s*** to eat." And Jim likes that she's traded in the dirgy guitar and piano for more upbeat synths on this record. He gives Sun a Burn It. Like Jim, Greg has found Marshall hard to take on previous albums, but he's come to appreciate Sun. Chan, he says, is in a dancier mood here - she's even got a fun little pop number in "3,6,9" - so he gives Sun a Buy it.

Silver Age Bob Mould

Silver Age (Bonus Track Version)

Next Jim and Greg review the new solo album from an artist they affectionately call "Uncle Grumpy": Bob Mould. If you were a music-loving kid coming up in the alternative '80s, Jim says, Mould's band Hüsker Dü, was a revelation. The band imploded too early to cash in on the nineties alternative gravy train, so Mould founded another band, Sugar, in 1992. He also put out a prolific series of arty solo albums. Lately, Mould's moved away from music to pursue writing. He published an autobiography See a Little Light last year (and discussed it on Sound Opinions). He says writing about his life inspired him to make Silver Age, a record he's called dumb rock fun. Is that true? Jim says Uncle Grumpy's just putting the critics off the scent. Like Mould's book, this record is all about dark and light, highs and lows. It's also got a wicked sense of humor. "Star Machine," he says, is one of the most vicious eviscerations of the corporate rock machine he's ever heard. Jim gives Silver Age a Buy It. Greg agrees. He says Mould can be a bit meticulous and fussy in his solo work, but here he's letting it fly. Plus, he's got Superchunk's Jon Wurster playing drums on his record. So how could it be bad?

Dear Listeners,

For more than 15 years, Sound Opinions was a production of WBEZ, Chicago's public radio station. Now that the show is independent, we're inviting you to join the band and lend a hand! We need your support more than ever because now we have to do all the behind-the-scenes work that WBEZ handled before (like buying insurance and paying for podcast hosting, ugh). Plus, we have some exciting ideas we'd like to try now that there's no one to tell us no!