Summer 2007 Review Roundup

The gloves are off, and the hosts have stepped into the ring for another round of Kot vs. DeRogatis music reviews. Tune in to hear them discuss new summer releases from Spoon, Art Brut and T.I., plus many more.

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00:03:00 Review: Art Brut

It's a Bit Complicated

This week is an all out reviews blowout beginning with the sophomore album from British rock act Art Brut. Jim and Greg were both Art Brut fans from the get-go. They saw them at last year's SXSW Festival and invited them on the show. And once the band's debut album Bang Bang Rock and Roll was released in the States, it immediately soared to the top of both critics' Best of 2006 lists. So it's no exaggeration to say that this follow-up has been highly anticipated. On It’s A Bit Complicated, the band sticks to their three-minute garage rock formula that, ironically enough, isn't very complicated at all. But, Jim and Greg explain that Eddie Argos and the band have stepped up their game and amped up the hooks. Argos' earnest and self-deprecating lyrics are still there, making his stories completely relatable, especially for fellow rock obsessives like Jim and Greg. It’s A Bit Complicated gets two Buy Its.

Era Vulgaris Queens of the Stone Age

Era Vulgaris

Era Vulgaris is the fifth album from rockers Queens of the Stone Age. Ever since Josh Homme left the stoner rock group Kyuss in 1995, he's been celebrating and satirizing heavy metal as the lead singer of this band. He's often joined by a revolving door of musical guests, which this time around includes Trent Reznor and Julian Casablancas. Jim thinks that Homme and the band have done a great job of bringing brains, melody and psychedelia back to heavy metal. But, he hasn't loved the last two records. He worries that Homme is beginning to phone it in and only gives Era Vulgaris a Burn It. Greg has always been struck by how sensual Queens' music sounds. They embrace using sexy rhythms when most heavy metal acts abandon them, creating a completely unique sound. He calls Era Vulgaris a terrific record and recommends listeners Buy It.

Time On Earth Crowded House

Time on Earth (Deluxe Edition)

Next up is the first Crowded House album in 14 years. The New Zealand/Australian pop band had two big hits in 1986-87 with "Don’t Dream It’s Over" and "Something So Strong." The group disbanded a few years later, and then in 2005, drummer Paul Hester committed suicide. Jim and Greg discuss how much Hester's death looms over the new album called Time On Earth. In fact, this album was supposed to be a solo album from the group's front man and chief songwriter Neil Finn, but the lead singer was so moved by the death of his friend that he wanted the record to be identified as Crowded House. But, Greg questions how much Crowded House contributed as a unit. He describes the drums as completely buried and the bass playing as placid. Greg wonders if he missed the memo asking for a new Crowded House record, and gives the "mediocre adult pop sound" a Trash It. Jim doesn't really get Finn's songwriting, describing it as too "fussy." He had a really hard time not tuning out while listening to Time On Earth, and also gives it a Trash It.

T.I. vs. T.I.P. T.I.

T.I. vs. T.I.P. (Instrumental)

One of these new releases that is sure to be a big summer hit is T.I. vs. T.I.P. Rapper T.I., born Clifford Harris, was the top selling hip hop artist of 2006, so you're sure to hear some of his new singles on the radio. But, the question is whether or not the album is worth your money. After displaying his acting chops in ATL and the forthcoming American Gangster, it's not surprising that his new set of songs would take a dramatic turn. T.I. vs. T.I.P. is a concept album that pits the rapper's former thug self against his current mogul self. Jim finds this concept interesting, but a failed opportunity. He welcomes rappers who want to do something different, but T.I. uses the same old hip hop clichés that were discussed on the hip hop panel a few weeks ago. He doesn't hear a big difference between T.I.'s two personas, and while he enjoys some of the production elements, he has to give the album a Trash It. Greg agrees that the album is largely a failed experiment, and thinks the idea of alternate identities is a played out one in hip hop. He thinks T.I. is an interesting person and wishes he showed that more. Greg also instructs listeners to Trash It.

Excellent Italian Greyhound Shellac

Excellent Italian Greyhound

Up next is another band that knows how to make its fans wait. Chicago-based indie punk group Shellac has a new album called Excellent Italian Greyhound, and it's only been a mere seven years since the last one. Guitarist and singer Steve Albini is best known as the utilitarian recordist who has captured the sounds of everyone from Nirvana to the garage band next door. He's joined by drummer Todd Trainer and bassist Bob Weston for a sound that is as real as you're ever going to hear in a recorded work. There are no fancy tricks here, just a minimalist approach. And with what Greg describes as a "tongue placed very firmly in cheek," the band makes powerful punk music with a sense of humor. However both Greg and Jim admit that not all of the tracks are winners, and therefore Excellent Italian Greyhound gets two Try Its.

Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga Spoon

Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Bonus Track Version)

The final album up for review is Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga from Spoon. That's right: five Ga's. The title gives us a tip to the band's attitude. As Greg notes, it seems like they're "intentionally screwing with us." Taking a cue from Wire and The Talking Heads, Spoon has always specialized in a minimalist sound that is heavy on the rhythms and keyboards, and easy on the frills. That sound continues on Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, but Jim was pleasantly surprised to hear the band striking out by including a Stax/Motown sound. He's really excited about this album and gives it an enthusiastic Buy It. Greg agrees, adding that it's how the band uses different elements that makes the sound so special. Nothing lingers for too long, and nothing lacks that all important groove. He also gives Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga a Buy It.

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