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This week: Dashboard Confessional, Joe Hendrick and The Mudflaps, Greg Graffin, Dixie Chicks

Music reviews - 7.19.06 

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DASHBOARD CONFESSIONAL
Dusk and Summer
Vagrant

It’s a crying shame --- emphasis on crying shame --- that The WB canceled Dawson’s Creek three years ago, since Chris Carrabba’s latest batch of songs seem tailor made to accompany moony-faced Joey Potter and Dawson Leery as they mope endlessly about how hard it is to be a pretty white kid. Boo freaking Hoo. In truth, Carrabba does what he does very well, which is make Muzak for the modern-day Heartbreak Hotel. Let’s call it “mewl rock.” Here is song after song of musical melancholy that occasionally swells into pissed-off growls, reminding us that love really can be a bitch. Sensitive New Age Guys (SNAGs), people who enjoy crying themselves to sleep, and fresh break-up refugees will find plenty to identify with on Dusk and Summer. Everyone else should listen to Ben Folds’ “Song for the Dumped” and get over it already.


--- Eric Rezsnyak

 

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JOE HENDRICK and THE MUDFLAPS

Self release

Not unlike The Blasters or Steve Earle, who infuse a little country bop into roots rock, Joe Hendrick slings some sweet rockabilly guitar within an array off roots styles. The curveball, however, is the new wave-y strain of some of these tunes, like the track “Radio Talk Show” that reminds me of a less-weird Television. But in keeping with roots rock’s affinity for storytelling goosed with a humorous twist, cuts like “The Eyes Of Tammy Faye” or “Rock ’N’ Roll Aisle” are sure-fire crack ups. The guitar is tight and clean, sharing the spotlight with Hendrick’s casual vocal style. Hendrick, who previously twanged mighty for Krypton 88, also plays bass on this disc. The whole platter rolls solid and steady, and like so many pleasant evenings dancing and romancing to this type of music, is over way too soon.

--- Frank De Blase

 

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GREG GRAFFIN
Cold as the Clay
Anti-

While late-career roots-music albums by punk rockers might come off as contrived or vain, it’s difficult to imagine Bad Religion singer Greg Graffin doing anything on a superficial basis. The author of two decades’ worth of searing political lyrics --- not to mention a Cornell doctoral thesis on evolutionary theory --- Graffin made Cold as the Clay with the express intention of honoring traditional “old-time” folk. It may surprise you, but this music belongs to him. It has always influenced his punk songwriting and is a fundamental aspect of the family heritage that Graffin has been steeped in since childhood. Even in this unexpected context, though, Graffin shouldn’t sound like a stranger to Bad Religion fans. As he explains, Bad Religion songs often start acoustically, and Graffin employs the same incisive intellectualism here that has become his trademark. With such a focused gaze, he almost can’t help but bring stark authenticity to this fresh take on a historic artform.

--- Saby Reyes-Kulkarni

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DIXIE CHICKS
Taking the Long Way
Columbia Records

It’s easy to dismiss Natalie Maines’ controversial in-concert criticism of George Bush in 2003 as just poseur politics, especially since she made her comments in London and later offered a half-hearted apology. However, music fans might not comprehend the magnitude of Maines ’ stand. The Chicks became country music pariahs whose very livelihood --- and lives --- were threatened.

It might seem similarly easy to dismiss the Chicks’ latest effort, Taking the Long Way, as simple country-pop aimed at as diverse an audience as possible. But this dismissal, too, would be wholly unfair, because with this CD the band has successfully merged its politics and its music into what is essentially a powerful “fuck you” to the Nashville establishment, and those who doubted and hated them. For the first time, the Chicks helped write all the songs on the album, and the result is somewhere just south of Sheryl Crow, ranging from caustic declarations of independence to heart-tugging tales of lost love.

In essence, dismissing the Dixie Chicks is dismissing all of modern country music, because Taking the Long Way might be the best mainstream country album in a long time.

--- Ryan Whirty

 

  • This week: Dashboard Confessional, Joe Hendrick and The Mudflaps, Greg Graffin, Dixie Chicks

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