Tonal Irreverence: White Stripes, Art Brut, etc.

Posted on June 19, 2007 Under Music

Tonal Irreverence is, in short, a weekly summary of new (and new-ish) music releases, the print and e-buzz surrounding them, followed by our honest opinions…without the pretentious crap that often accompanies in unneccessarily long reviews. We’re not music journalists…we just love music. Period.

This week: The White Stripes, Art Brut, The Polyphonic Spree, Battles and Rihanna.


The White Stripes: Icky Thump [Warner Bros]

New Musical Express says: "[Icky Thump] was recorded over the course of a practically-gargantuan three weeks in Nashville’s Blackbird Studio, and addresses the problem most people had with its predecessor by dispensing with the sombre piano balladry and replacing it with snarling, hellbound guitars and a healthy dollop of gleeful perversity."

New York Times says: "The White Stripes aren't preservationists; they're magical utilitarians. Authenticity, in and of itself, seems to bore them. They're on a far more selfish mission, smelting down favorite bits of English-language culture for their own ends. Here these include Led Zeppelin, perfumed '50s pop, Celtic folk song and the blues, which Mr. White plays with an electronic pitch shifter. (The White Stripes' junk cart would have spinner rims.)"

Tiny Mix Tapes says: "People gawk at the monuments The White Stripes construct. Loitering teens vandalize them with aerosol spray and gum wads. Others take photographs in front of them, smiling and with thumbs-up. In the end, no wear-and-tear will tarnish these monuments. They are sturdy, virtually indestructible testaments. They are impressive, breathtaking at turns, and everlastingly present. They will go on to rival D.C., Greece, Rome, Egypt, and even Led Zeppelin."

We say: "God, just shut up, already. This is rock and roll, motherfuckers."


Art Brut: It's a Bit Complicated [Downtown Recordings]

Rolling Stone says: "Whenever [Eddie Argos'] lyrics get fuzzy, there are enough well-modulated garage guitars or heartfelt choruses to keep you tuned in. It all adds up to something lovably unpretentious "“ and pretty unique."

LA Times says: "Mostly [the album is] slapstick and social sketches, perfectly complemented by Art Brut’s music "” a spiky, guitar-centric sound that’s bright and catchy (especially on the giddy chorus of “Direct Hit”) but never out to upstage the star."

Prefix Mag says: "At its best, It’s a Bit Complicated reveals glimmers of its predecessor’s glory. At its worse, it sinks into blasé monotone."

We say: "Three noisy guitars, one typically Brit-snotty lead singer, and a bunch of verse-chorus-verse, boy-meets-girl lyrics. Complicated? Dude, a five-year-old with autism could figure it out."


The Polyphonic Spree: Fragile Army [TVT]

Pitchfork says: "The Fragile Army is an all-out orchestral and choral assault for optimism in a turbulent era, but only infrequently are the Spree’s songs as memorable as their numbers (and changing wardrobe)."

PopMatters says: "There's something viscerally appealing in the naïveté of a musical philosophy that invariably champions the "bigger is better" aesthetic."

AllMusicGuide says: "The Fragile Army is about the many places we are alike collectively, but find ourselves alone, and in that realization we may come together to form a new community."

We say: "Peace, love and other "˜post-hippie' bullshit "“ please, somebody get us a quaalude."


Battles: Mirrored [Fusion]

Stylus Magazine says: "They manipulate"”better than any band I can think of"”the tension between the ecstatic, undisciplined glossolalia of the imagination and the voice that makes those raw materials stand to and march."

Blender says: "Seemingly plotted on graph paper, the twisting riffs, inverted drum patterns and origami"“intricate structures can seem overly flashy "” like maybe these guys spent too long poring over musicians' technical mags."

Drowned in Sound says: "Each and every piece "“ pieces that truly do flow into one another quite magically "“ sinks into the listener's synapses silkily, short-circuiting them through disbelief rather than a simmering intolerance."

We say: "Crying in your Pabst ’cause all your less cool friends just discovered LCD Soundsystem? Well, dry your eyes and re-apply your glitter. This glam-metal-electro-whatever shit is nower than now, so you won't have to worry about losing your edge for at least another month."


Rihanna: Good Girl Gone Bad [Def Jam]

Fluxblog says: "Rihanna’s cold, aloof voice lend her songs an opportunistic, ruthless tone that comes closer to the aesthetic of last year’s Clipse album than your average R&B starlet. There’s a relentless self-serving nihilism that carries through all of Good Girl Gone Bad, including her weak attempts at sappy balladry." says: "Rihanna knows exactly what she wants and is in total control at all times, even when she’s throwing things and proclaiming "˜I’m a fight a man' amid marching percussion and synthesizers set on "˜scare' during "˜Breakin’ Dishes'." says: "This act of calculated sensuality is more than a simple hiking of hemlines "“ it's adventurous reinvention."

We say: "She may not be able to belt it like Béyoncé (or even, say, Ciara), but the girl can stretch the word "˜umbrella' into sixty-four freaking syllables. Serious props."