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October 6th, 2010 WW MUSIC STAFF | Music Stories
 

CD Reviews: Jealous Butcher Records, Climber

     
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From the Land of Ice and Snow: The Songs of Led Zeppelin


(Jealous Butcher)

[ZEPPESQUE] Playing with lightning is dangerous. So when you fuck with the Gods of Thunder, you risk getting struck. Led Zeppelin tributes are always difficult, but the folks at Jealous Butcher Records have nonetheless birthed From the Land of Ice and Snow: The Songs of Led Zeppelin, a collection of 33 tracks by everybody from the Portland Cello Project to Kelly Blair Bauman and Loch Lomond. With such a diverse lineup personalizing the Zep canon, it’s no surprise that the ambitious double-disc collection is a bit of a mixed bag.

Some groups offer faithful interpretations, including a garage-rock “Whole Lotta Love” by Fukd’uptight, featuring Thee Headliners’ Holly Morgan on warbling vocals, and Weinland’s thumping “Hey Hey What Can I Do.” Others stumble. The ever-amazing Nick Jaina strips “Your Time Is Gonna Come” down to a Rufus Wainwright-style piano lament that saps the song of its heartbroken arrogance. Kaia’s “Fool in the Rain,” already a piece of Zep bubblegum, is a sugary, vibraphone-heavy soundtrack to a Tropical Skittles commercial, while M. Ward and Arch Cape both reimagine the rowdy “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” without any stomp.

Yet, for every misfire, there’s a bull’s-eye. Portland’s Tu Fawning nails “The Battle of Evermore” as a nightmare funeral anthem composed by a Psycho-era Bernard Herrmann. Mike Johnson’s Parks & Recreation explodes with a Latin jazz/surf-rock “All My Love,” and Knock-Knock ditches John Bonham’s legendary “Moby Dick” drum solo in favor of a scratch session by Lifesavas’ Rev. Shines and studio goofing by Decemberist Chris Funk (complete with Herman Melville audiobook samples).

Fortunately, nobody here attempts to impersonate Robert Plant. Unfortunately, Zeppelin fans will be livid when tracks like Super XX Man’s “Out on the Tiles” take hard-rocking songs and reshape them into the hipster equivalents of a kids’ singalong CD. Ice and Snow produces lightning, but the thunder too often whimpers when it should rumble. AP KRYZA.

Climber The Mystic


(Sparklet Records)

[BIG ROCK] Three albums and eight years into its career, Portland quartet Climber has perfected its spacey organ pop, and it’s only sensible that its fourth album, The Mystic, follows suit while showing musical maturity.

The Mystic is something rare in the era of disposable downloads: an album with definite A and B sides flowing together in tone and concept. It starts with the steady groove of “The Simian Speaks” before hitting driving orchestral swells on “The Risk of the Middle Way” and jackknifing into “I Have Seen Everything,” a piece of playful bliss prodded along with dot-matrix pop perfection.

Then Climber grows up, and in its second half The Mystic simply loses spark and control of its tone. “We Are the New Man” explodes from hard-rock riffs to melodic space-outs, but it soon morphs into a “Paranoid Android” clone as vocalist Michael Nelson transitions his unique cadence to fit a Thom Yorke mold. Were it a fleeting change, it wouldn’t be distracting, but The Mystic’s B side sounds suspiciously like a Radiohead B-side collection mixed by a sedate Muse. Even the introduction of a kids’ choir seems a bit forced, as though the band is aspiring to put out its own synthy Dark Side of the Moon.

Still, The Mystic is beautifully crafted, and the group melds the playful elements of the album’s first half and the epic drive of the latter half perfectly on the trip-pop of “Integration!” But Climber has honed such a solid, original sound over the years that it’s a downer when the band sounds like anyone else. AP KRYZA.


SEE IT: Threads, Portland Cello Project, Loch Lomond, Laura Gibson, LKN, Tahoe Jackson and many more play a release show for From the Land of the Ice and Snow on Saturday, Oct. 9. 9 pm. $10. 21+. Climber plays Someday Lounge on Saturday, Oct. 9, with the Ro Sham Bo’s and Viper Creek Club. 9 pm. $10. 21+.
 
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