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Soundcheck

[Garage Rock]

The Raveonettes

Lust Lust Lust

**

The Danish duo’s fourth U.S. release once again sports their trademark fusion of the ’60s Spector sound with a wall of fuzzy guitars, but they infuse Lust Lust Lust with all the excitement of a trip to the dentist for that long-awaited root canal—sure, it’s “important,” but is it fun? Not so much.

Despite similar sonic approaches, the new album is a dramatic departure from 2005’s Pretty In Black, on which Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo sparkled with the epic “Somewhere in Texas,” the deliciously sleazy “Love in a Trashcan” and even a cheeky cover of “My Boyfriend’s Back,” songs that winked at you as they slipped out the speakers.

But on Lust Lust Lust, The Raveonettes trade smiles for sneers on a series of mid-tempo rockers that seem to blend together the more you listen. Only a handful of songs cut through the gauze—most notably the bubblegum punk of “You Want the Candy” and the surf-twang grunge mash-up “Blitzed.”

However, all too often the melodies are lost amid the heavily textured atmospherics. The album-opening “Aly, Walk With Me” lays hypnotic vocals over an ominous hip-hop drum groove, but soon enough a distortion-laden guitar riff shreds the mood and sets the tone for a remarkably uneven set to follow.

The lyrical themes should be obvious from the title, but this is a look at the deadly-sin side of lust, where flirtation leads to grief, and no obsession goes unpunished. Call it dramatic, call it realistic, call it what you want—just make sure you’ve got a handful of Zoloft nearby and something strong to wash it down when this Danish downer is over.

– Patrick Donnelly

[Groove]

Mike Doughty

Golden Delicious

*** 1/2

Mike Doughty will never be able to shake the shadow of Soul Coughing, the eclectic beat-poet/jazz/hip-hop/soul-rock band he fronted in the 1990s. (Blame his laid-back, droll-as-a-professor singing voice, which has influenced everyone from Dave Matthews to Jack Johnson.) But Doughty has carved out a nice solo career for himself since those cool cats dissolved in 2000, thanks to some fine collaborators (BT, They Might Be Giants) and a consistent body of intelligent, evocative tunes.

The engaging Golden Delicious is no different. Produced by Dan Wilson of Semisonic, Delicious features warm grooves, jazz-cabaret organ and campfire-funk guitars. Wilson’s production is occasionally too mannered, which renders a few songs (the Hair-quoting hippie-funk “Fort Hood” in particular) far too meticulous. But his care to detail benefits the gorgeous “Wednesday (No Se Apoye)” and “Like a Luminous Girl,” the former a beatific funk-soul gem sprinkled with frosty piano, the latter a sunlight-bathed urban-folk gem. (And barnstorming “27 Jennifers”—which at times oddly resembles the Broadway-rock of Rent—is an earworm on par with anything on Top 40 radio.)

Still, Doughty’s best when he’s keeping things loose, as on the Stones-do-a-poetry-slam jam “Put It Down” and “More Bacon Than the Pan Can Handle,” a too-brief hip-hop duet full of downtown-NYC sass. While less gritty (and urban-sounding) than Soul Coughing’s oeuvre, Delicious is just as stubbornly funky—and unique. –Annie Zaleski

[Roots]

Gary Louris

Vagabonds

****

   

How Gary Louris never became as revered as his pop-punk-rock counterpart Butch Walker is one of the great musical mysteries of the age. The singer/songwriter has achieved moderate success in The Jayhawks, as a member of Jeff Tweedy side project Golden Smog, as a songwriter (Dixie Chicks, Dar Williams) and as a producer (far too many alt-country and alt-pop bands to name), yet he’s never, for example, been named Rolling Stone’s Producer of the Year or served as a reality-contest judge.

Louris deepens the mystery on his first solo album, a surprisingly mellow, hushed affair considering the more mainstream direction The Jayhawks took under his lead. Scarcely a twang or double-time tempo surfaces; instead there’s an abundance of open-road wistfulness, cautious optimism and “I Wanna Get High,” the best My Morning Jacket song never written. There’s even an undercurrent of gospel harmony courtesy of the Laurel Canyon Family Choir: producer Chris Robinson, Jenny Lewis, Johnathan Rice, The Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs and someone named Farmer Dave. It’s a collection both gorgeous and timeless, one exemplifying the “less is more” adage. On second thought, perhaps it couldn’t hurt for Louris to retain his under-the-radar cult status just a bit longer. –Julie Seabaugh

[Rock]

Kula Shaker

Strangefolk

* 1/2

Remember Kula Shaker? That English neo-psychedelic rock band that brought a slice of Sgt. Pepper to Generation Grunge? The group that nodded to Jimi and Jerry with “Grateful When You’re Dead” and almost outdid Deep Purple with their flawless cover of “Hush”? They broke up in 1999 only to regroup in 2005, and now their first post-reformation album has hit the U.S.

Although this is the original lineup, with their casserole of instruments and passion for poppy cover art, the album doesn’t sound a thing like Kula Shaker. Gone is Crispian Mills’ Vaishnavi-centric spiritual direction; dead is the modern reinvention of ’70s psychedelia. Assuming its place is a dated modern rock band, so generic and uninspired that it sounds like there has been no evolution since their 1999 disconnect.

“Out on the Highway” riffs like a reject from James. The title track is an insulting soliloquy that finds a Stephen Hawking-esque voice synthesizer babbling about the meaning of life. Alice in Wonderland references litter “Second Sight,” a failed lyrical attempt at reclaiming their psychedelic roots. In fact, the only track that resembles Kula Shaker of yore is “Song of Love/Narayana,” but even that owes partial thanks to The Prodigy. Their kitsch—once inspired homage—is now lazy sampling and mimicking.

–Kristyn Pomranz

[Alt-Country]

Allison Moorer

Mockingbird

*** 1/2

Like her sister Shelby Lynne, Allison Moorer has done time both as part of the Nashville machine and on the outskirts of it, and has often mixed other genres in with her country sound, even if she’s stayed closer to her roots than Lynne has. And like Lynne’s recent Just a Little Lovin’, Moorer’s latest album is a collection of covers, in her case a range of songs written by women, including names you might expect from the alt-country siren (Gillian Welch, Julie Miller and, yes, Shelby Lynne) and ones that are a little more unconventional (Patti Smith, Cat Power). Moorer makes all of them her own, though, returning to a more countrified sound after flirting with punchy power pop on 2006’s Getting Somewhere.

Moorer’s powerful voice, smoother and richer than her sister’s, anchors songs like her forceful, haunting version of Welch’s “Revelator”; a slowed-down, eerie take on Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” (which was written by June Carter Cash); and the album’s lone original song, the lush title track, complete with smoldering sax solo. Beyond country, Moorer proves herself quite the blues mama on versions of Nina Simone’s “I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl,” Ma Rainey’s “Daddy, Goodbye Blues” and Miller’s “Orphan Train.” A few selections (including a serviceable rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”) feel superfluous, but overall this collection proves Moorer as talented an interpreter of others’ work as she is a writer of her own unfailingly beautiful songs. –Josh Bell

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