Deerhunter "Microcastle" Review

Opening with the comparatively quiet "Cover Me (Slowly)," Deerhunter's Microcastle quickly evolves into something less abstract and inherently more familiar than the band's previous offerings. While 2007's breakthrough Cryptograms was applauded for its abrasive intangibles, Microcastle sounds harnessed and reflective of, rather than in conflict with, the band's inspirations. But rather than just sounding like Sonic Youth or the Pixies, Deerhunter transcend a culture dying for immediate nostalgia and creates an album suggestive of rock's illusive "next wave."

It's odd to think of obscurity as an advantage, but whereas bands were once given the ability to hone their sound over a matter of years, today's modern climate demands immediate evaluation and categorization, allowing for little time to develop. Microcastle's second track, "Agoraphobia," reflects a sound characteristic of what was once termed "slacker rock" and a casual lyrical style reminiscent of that of Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore. But while Deerhunter avoid the noisiness often associated with the art-rock trailblazers, uncharacteristically leaning toward sounding like a "rock band," they base the core sound on something that took years to develop. Likewise, "Little Kids" sounds as though the band inherited a sound the Pixies lost somewhere between internal conflict and addiction. In attempting to expand upon a variety of influences that took years to cultivate, in a very short time the question that arises isn't "what's next?"—it's "is next possible?"

The curiously self-debasing lyrics of the album's closing track, "Twilight at Carbon Lake," evolve into Microcastle's increasingly dramatic and intricate conclusion. What becomes the loudest song on the album is also the most telling of what might become of the brilliance that the band generously exudes. With guitars twisting and sounds colliding, the album peaks before fading out into silence—and if that looming "next wave" of rock 'n' roll is ever to materialize, part of its success will lie in bands such as Deerhunter not similarly fading away into silence.

[This article was first published by City Pages.]

Eagles of Death Metal "Heart On" Review

In a promotional video released weeks before Eagles of Death Metal's new record, singer Jesse Hughes exuded joy as he described the current state of his hometown: "Hollywood feels like this opening sequence to Saturday Night Fever. Everyone seems like they're ready for action—and the action is go." If only that sort of abundant energy translated to the band's new release.

A decade after being merely a Josh Homme side project, Eagles of Death Metal has taken the role of being one of rock 'n' roll's loudest, cockiest, and cheekiest bands. Between the group's first two albums, Peace, Love and Death Metal and Death By Sexy, EoDM created its own universe; one which focused almost exclusively on hard rocking, innumerable double entendres, and the devil. With Heart On, however, the luster is gone, the rocking isn't as hard, and the sexual innuendo isn't nearly as fierce as it once was (album title aside). Whereas Jesse "The Devil" Hughes once sang about the mixed emotions associated with diving into the depths of questionable sexual eligibility, the band now takes a thematic higher ground, often focusing on "emotions" and "relationships." Hughes himself asks the question late into the album: "How can a man with so many friends feel so alone?"

Things aren't entirely blasé with Heart On, however. The album's lead single "Wanna Be in L.A." sounds like a reckless, beer-soaked surfer, barely hanging onto a repetitive flow before wisely fading out. "Secret Plans" prominently expels much of the record's tired sound, adding the tight-fisted chorus "I want what I want, what I want, what I want, what I want." And if repetition and the occasional suggestive lyric could save the album, Eagles of Death Metal would be solid gold. Instead, Heart On sounds far less like a vivacious representation of the city, and a lot more like the cliché that Hollywood has become.

10 Biggest Anti-Bush Songs

In the eight years he's been in charge of the nation, George W. Bush's approval ratings have hit all-time lows. That sentiment has, of course, been manifest into song, as well. To help us prepare to say goodbye to eight of the most disheartening years in the country’s history, here are 10 of the biggest anti-Bush songs of the era.

Beastie Boys: “In a World Gone Mad” / Internet Exclusive [2003]
"But you build more bombs as you get more bold/ As your mid-life-crisis war unfolds/ All you want to do is take control/ Now put that 'axis of evil' bullshit on hold."
Released in 2003 via sites including MTV, and Win Without War, Beastie Boys' "In a World Gone Mad" takes aim at the Bush administration's resolve to send American troops to Iraq. It may include one of the most ridiculous Beastie Boys lyrics of all time ("George Bush, you're looking like Zoolander/ Trying to play tough for the camera"), but it also has one of the most poignant: "Now how many people must get killed/ For oil families pockets to get filled/ How many oil families get killed/ Not a damn one, so what's the deal?"

LL Cool J &Wyclef Jean: “Mr. President” / Exit 13 [Def Jam, 2008]
“Mr. President, truth or dare/ Terrorist is hiding. Do you know where?”
Released on LL Cool J’s 13th and final Def Jam album, “Mr. President” finds the MC taking a nonpartisan look at the reality of the past eight years, ultimately asking for the truth on where the country stands. For the most part he uses nonaccusatory statements, something that is a rarity on this list, but ultimately “Mr. President” paints a similarly bleak picture: “I’m not Republican or Democratic/ I’m independent; I want the facts/ When are the soldiers come back?/ Are we prepared for a terrorist attack?”

Pearl Jam: “Bu$hleaguer” / Riot Act [Epic, 2002]
“He’s not a leader, he’s a Texas leaguer/ Swinging for the fence, got lucky with a strike/ Drilling for fear, makes the job simple/ Born on third, thinks he got a triple.”
Roughly two years into the Bush administration, Pearl Jam released “Bu$hleaguer,” a wordy chop at the faltering president. Comparing his competency as leader of the nation to the ability of a minor league baseball player, Eddie Vedder criticizes Bush’s credentials and path to the presidency before fading off into a wasteland of poetic commentary. It’s a little easier to make the squad when your dad runs the team.

James McMurtry: “We Can’t Make It Here Anymore” / Childish Things [Compadre, 2005]
“Will work for food/ Will die for oil/ Will kill for power and to us the spoils/ The billionaires get to pay less tax/ The working poor get to fall through the cracks.”
A commentary on the state of the nation, James McMurtry’s “We Can’t Make It Here Anymore” is exponentially true four years after he first wrote the song. Throughout the story McMurtry delivers examples of things that break his heart — eventually pointing the finger at the source of the trickle down, “if the president wants to admit it or not.” In 2005 the economy was relatively solid compared to today’s, but now more people are hurting and more fingers are being pointed. A lot of people are looking at the administration and saying, “We can’t make it here anymore.”

Bright Eyes: “When the President Talks to God” / [iTunes, 2005]
“When the president talks to God/Are the conversations brief or long? Does he ask to rape our women’s rights/And send poor farm kids off to die? Does God suggest an oil hike/When the president talks to God?”
Conor Oberst’s poetic protest, “When the President Talks to God” caustically chastised Bush for the conflicts between his outspoken Christian beliefs and his administration’s policies. Oberst performed the acoustic song on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in May of 2005, pausing momentarily before stepping into one of the song’s most infamous lines, “When the president talks to God/Does he ever think that maybe he’s not? That that voice is just inside his head/When he kneels next to the presidential bed/Does he ever smell his own bullshit/When the president talks to God?” While Oberst faded the song out of his live rotation by mid-2006, the track would still go on to win Song of the Year at the 2006 PLUG Awards.

Zack de la Rocha and DJ Shadow: “March of Death” / [2003]
“Here it comes the sound of terror from above/ He flex his Texas twisted tongue/ The poor lined up to kill in desert slums/ For oil that boil beneath the desert sun.”
For the many looking for a glimpse of some (even then) long-overdue Zach de la Rocha solo material, “March of Death” was a gift. Distributed for free via, the song focused de la Rocha’s anger and frustration into roughly four minutes of pounding beats. Co-opting a one of the last solid tracks DJ Shadow produced before his dreadful The Outsider album, “March of Death” is as much a banger as it is a fierce commentary.

The openly outspoken de la Rocha accompanied the song’s release with this message: “Lies, sanctions, and cruise missiles have never created a free and just society. Only everyday people can do that. Which is why I’m joining the millions worldwide who have stood up to oppose the Bush administration’s attempt to expand the U.S. empire at the expense of human rights at home and abroad. In this spirit I’m releasing this song for anyone who is willing to listen. I hope it not only makes us think but also inspires us to act and raise our voices.”

NOFX: “Idiot Son of an Asshole” / Rock Against Bush, Vol. 2 [Fat Wreck Chords, 2003]
“Cocaine and a little drunk driving/ Doesn’t matter, when you’re the commander in chief.”
A B-side from 2003’s War on Errorism that was also released on the Rock Against Bush compilation, “Idiot Son of An Asshole” doesn’t hold back in explaining how Fat Mike and NOFX feel about George W. Bush. It isn’t poetic, it isn’t overly thoughtful and it’s a little too dense for its own good. But then again, all of those characteristics apply to Bush, as well.

Green Day: “American Idiot” / American Idiot [Reprise, 2004]
“Well, maybe I’m the faggot America/ I’m not part of a redneck agenda/ Now everybody do the propaganda/ And sing along to the age of paranoia.”
“American Idiot” was released as the lead single for Green Day’s 2004 politically focused “rock opera” of the same name. The hugely successful single propelled Green Day back into the spotlight, raising the profile of the band not just because of its energetic hooks but also because of the political leanings of the songs. Criticizing the administration’s stance on gay rights is nothing new, but to call a conservative minority out on its own sickening rhetoric was a step in the right direction.

Neil Young: “Let’s Impeach the President” / Living With War [Reprise, 2006]
“Let’s impeach the president/ For hijacking our religion and using it to get elected/ Dividing our country into colors/ And still leaving black people neglected.”
The Grammy-nominated song was released on Neil Young’s Living With War album, primarily taking focus on the Patriot Act, Al Qaeda, New Orleans and the seemingly innumerable contradictions made by George W. Bush during his presidency. Blatantly calling for his impeachment, Neil Young closes the song by chanting “Thank God,” poking at the skepticism behind the President habitually putting his “born again” values ahead of the law, the nation and the world.

Eminem: “Mosh” / Encore [Shady/Interscope Records, 2004]
“Rebel with a rebel yell, raise hell we gonna let ’em know/Stomp, push, shove, mush, Fuck Bush, until they bring our troops home.”
The single from Eminem’s 2004 album, Encore, proved controversial for both its lyrics and the accompanying Ian Inaba-directed video. Opening to a sequence depicting Eminem surrounded by newspaper articles condemning Bush’s administration, the video depicts a nation lost and angry and on the verge of an uprising. “And assemble our own army/ To disarm this Weapon of Mass Destruction/ That we call our president, for the present/ And mosh for the future of our next generation.” The closing scene of the video, which accompanies those words, depicts citizens standing in a voting line, all bitterly wearing masks of dissent. Here, four years later, the only thing that has changed is that the line is a lot longer.

[This article was first published by Prefix Magazine.]