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October 12th, 2005 WW Editorial Staff | Album Reviews
 

REVIEWS

     
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menomena - Cough Coughing (Director: Jonnie Ross)

menomena - Cough Coughing (Director: Jonnie Ross)

After what seems like an eternity for Menomena fans (three years since the release of the band's debut, I Am the Fun Blame Monster!, whose name is an anagram of "the first Menomena album"), they now have what is billed as "The First Menomena Video"—and like just about everything this Portland band does, it's a marvelous first go. The band and L.A.-based director Jonnie Ross take us through the song "Cough Coughing" with a Sisyphean tale of a never-ending task. It goes like this: An otherworldly creature made out of shredded trash bags bounds through neighborhoods distributing gifts wrapped in newspaper. While everybody seems upset that this thing has careened into their homes (or hot tubs), they smile when tossed the mystery package. But when they open their gifts, those smiles fade and the recipients are left holding garbage—decomposing tape players, rotted fruit baskets, rusty Rollerblades. The unhappy giftees march out en masse to chase the Trashquatch through the streets back into the forest in a scene that is awe-inspiring in its execution. The handheld camera and frenetic editing match pace with the action, and the video, overall, is in perfect sync with the music. The pulsating snare beat provided by Danny Seim accompanies the Trashquatch (played with an excellent gimpy gait by Gravity and Henry's Matt Sheehy) through Portland's neighborhoods. When the music switches into Brent Knopf's understated piano interlude, Ross employs slo-mo shots and slow zooms. And the chase scene through the forest where the Trashquatch manages to outrun his assailants and return to his dumpster lair for more gifts is simply eerie. Leaving the angry humans behind, he fills up his bag and starts anew. This is a super-fun video, but I hope I don't have to wait this long for another. JESSI KRAMER.

See the video for at www.coughcoughing.com.

Helio Sequence Oct. 7 at Doug Fir

Beaverton boys shut the crowd up before shutting the party down.

[PSYCH POP] Maybe it was the tandem spotlights shooting into the sky from the front of the Doug Fir Friday night. Maybe it was the energy surrounding the club's one-year anniversary. Or maybe the Helio Sequence was just feeling it. Whatever the case, everything clicked for the band at this sold-out show.

Following a strong, if somewhat subdued, set of folk-pop from Chicago's Fruit Bats, the hometown boys in the Helio Sequence kind of snuck up on a crowd consumed with chatter. Within moments of its opener, everyone seemed to stop talking mid-sentence and look over their shoulders to see what that beautiful racket was. And just like that, the crowded room was hooked. By the time vocalist-guitarist Brandon Summers was bending and blurting his mouth harp in the first measures of "Harmonica Song," the band had officially reached "the zone," eliciting howls of response from the crowd after every squalling stanza.

For all the harp, guitar and vocal prowess shown by Summers, the real credit for Friday's show goes to the energetic Benjamin Weikel. The drummer played every beat with such wild abandon that it was amazing he was able to keep time. He had the look of a possessed man, as if he were controlled by his kit, his body nothing but a conduit for this insane rhythm to pass through. With his eyes glazed and arms flailing madly, it seemed nothing could stop him. And then, just as abruptly as they had started, the Helio Sequence left the stage. They came back and played a two-song encore, but at that point my attention had drifted to the girl with the big hoop earrings and ass in front of me. The magic had already happened. And, as the stunned crowd filed out, conversation returned to those big spotlights, which somehow made more sense now. DAVID MULLER.

five-song EP - Heroes & Villains (Lucky Madison)

[PARLOR POP] The cover of Heroes & Villains' new EP looks like a sad, repackaged budget-line Glenn Miller CD. Don't look at it, or at least don't judge the band by it.

The music behind the mustache and top-hat facade is warm and very much alive, as evidenced by the laughing children who usher in the Decemberists-esque opening track, "Color Coded." "The cops and the preachers aren't looking out for you," Adam Raitano sings to the kids warningly, with macabre, impeccable pronunciation. Talk of shanties and motels follows, then a scampering, mischievous instrumental and a saddening conclusion. It is an epic, if slightly awkward, introduction to an ambitious and impressive little release.

After the uncomfortable getting-to-know-you phase, the band really opens up on "Bleed," where sweet boy-girl harmonies compete for attention with sweeter, heartbreaking Dixieland-style instrumentals. Heroes & Villains successfully incorporate their varied influences (ragtime jazz, Ennio Morricone, etc.) without sounding too derivative.

The band takes on Tom Waits' "Tom Traubert's Blues" with the Beach Boys clearly in mind. Raitano and company contribute a spot-on three-part vocal harmony that is partially overshadowed by its perfection. That impeccable pronunciation sometimes lessens the emotional impact of these songs, and it is especially jarring in contrast to the crustily beautiful Waits original. Nonetheless, Heroes and Villains' re-imagination of the song is pretty damn cool. The same "damn coolness" applies to the EP as a whole, and if the band's live show is any indication, this release still only hints at Heroes & Villains' potential. CASEY JARMAN.

Heroes & Villains play with Nick Jaina and Loch Lomond Saturday, Oct. 15, at Mississippi Studios. 8 pm. $8. 21+.

honey, take your whiskers off - flat mountain girls (Self-released)

[OLd TIME] It has been a good few years since the soundtrack to the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? solidified old-time folk and country music as a vital sound with the capacity to find a new audience. Much as the folk-revival of the 1950s found beauty and authenticity in old Appalachian folk songs, the people who bought the O Brother soundtrack found something refreshing (and exotic) about banjos and yodeling, especially compared with the current climate of overproduced pop and synthesized rap beats. And while the O Brother renaissance may have passed its peak, the ripples made by that movie created a new core audience for the music of the mountains.

That is the audience the Flat Mountain Girls' new album, Honey, Take Your Whiskers Off, taps into, digging up music from a bygone era, summoning up the image of sisters singing in a county fair. All the usual suspects of old-time music revival acts abound: twangy harmonies, jaunty banjo and guitar playing, and a high-lonesome fiddle, played beautifully by Lisa Marsicek.

But by releasing an album of mostly covers, the Flat Mountain Girls have made the songs the real stars. Thankfully, they've picked mostly great songs, including the revival-tent revelry of the Carter Family's "Meeting in the Air," the Celtic-sounding traditional "Boatman" and the Louvin Brothers' Hank Williams-esque ballad "When I Loved You." There are a few duds, including the Hee Haw-ish "Riley's Henhouse" and the rodeo romance of "Real Cowboy Girl," but the successful songs feel as raw and as fresh as when they first leaked out of a dusty living-room radio. DAN KROW.

The Flat Mountain Girls play with the Michael Jodell Band Friday, Oct. 14, at the White Eagle. 9:30 pm. $8. 21+.


See the video for at www.coughcoughing.com

Heroes & Villains play with Nick Jaina and Loch Lomond Saturday, Oct. 15, at Mississippi Studios. 8 pm. $8. 21+.

The Flat Mountain Girls play with the Michael Jodell Band Friday, Oct. 14, at the White Eagle. 9:30 pm. $8. 21+.

 
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