Vol. 2, Issue #16 August 31st - September 13th, 2007

CD Reviews: Forty Minutes of Hell, Pinback, and Aesop Rock
By: Graham Lee Brewer

Forty Minutes of Hell: Gimme Some Delay

I think I can sum up this record in three words: balls out rock. Or perhaps: need new eardrums. The most surprising thing about Forty Minutes of Hell is that I have no idea how to describe their music. It shreds like stoner rock, but screams like Ozzy on crack, which isn’t too hard to imagine. Aside from calling it what I already have, I guess the best way too put it is to say they sound like a big steaming pile of bloody rock.

I decided to give Gimmie Some Delay a spin while making a long drive up north. By the end of the trip the highway had transformed from the dull, green-laden roads of northern Oklahoma into a fiery pit of destruction that must be what a demolition derby in hell looks like. I felt like spontaneously wrenching the wheel left and right to smash all the cars in my vicinity and make the dark lord himself gasp in horror.

Guitarist Quentin Bomgardner makes every punk band I’ve ever seen look like a punch of whining pussies with his incendiary shredding. Frontman Brandon Kistler’s vocals are like a drunken psychopath who crashes a party in your head and takes a piss on your brain, all the while laughing maniacally. Dirty, hardnosed bass and steady drums pound away furiously, filling every possible dead space with irritable, sadist-friendly rhythm.

I would’ve taken the time to interview the band members about their album, but frankly, after listening to it they scare the shit out of me. From what I gather from lyrical content they have a disdain for the law, a love for alcohol and drugs, and a fucking death wish. In fact, I’m afraid that if I give them a bad review their cocaine-rotted brains will devise a plan for my destruction.

But luckily for me, I don’t think they know where I live. So, I’ll allow myself a little room for criticism. Gimmie Some Delay is a fast-paced, raw punch in the ear, and I loved every bit of it, but after a while I found myself wanting more, lyrically. While often grin-invoking, the vocals were somewhat repetitive. Fortunately Kistler’s stammering delivery paired, with the band’s in-your-face-style, validates the said lack of lyrical flare. Gimmie Some Delay transported me back to being a 15-year-old skateboarding punk who loves a good mosh pit, a period that, sadly, I seldom revisit.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to throw Gimmie Some Delay in my stereo and break some shit.

Pinback: Autumn of the Seraphs

On this much-anticipated and way overdue release from San Diego indie rock stars Pinback, the core duo of Rob Crowe and Armistead Burwell Smith IV (better known as Zach, oddly enough) stick to what they know: complex and intricate song structure, precisely timed rhythms and deep, insightful lyricism. The California duo made a name for themselves and gathered a large, dedicated fan base by incorporating these elements and making smart, well-built songs without the use of catchy hooks or candy-coated lyrics. They make their art and let it speak for itself.

In some ways it’s Pinback’s lack of shimmer and flare that makes their music so good. They write songs that are straight forward and honest with a definite absence of bells, whistles and gimmicks. That being said it was hard for me to listen to this album and not like it. I’ve come to really appreciate Pinback’s stoically earnest approach to song writing. However, after their previous release, Summer in Abaddon, it’s also hard for my expectations of this album to not be high.

All together, Autumn of the Seraphs is delicately woven and, like their past albums, dark one moment and poppy the next. But much like the latest release by The Shins, it is a record that will only help Pinback sustain their reputation in the eyes of their fans, not further it. I found parts of it toned down and almost tiresome. Not many parts, mind you, but they were there nonetheless. Now, a strong argument could be made that this is simply Pinback’s style. But as a true fan of the group I am forced to feel slight disappointment in the fact that there doesn’t seem to be much growth or experimentation on their part. Perhaps it’s that it isn’t easy to mature an already mature body of work.

That isn’t to say there are no singles on the album. Tracks like the current single being pushed by Touch and Go Records, “From Nothing to Nowhere,” and “Good to Sea” have fan favorite written all over them. And even if those diehard fans don’t find this one as indelible as the chapter in Pinback’s story that first touched them, perhaps the new fans will, seeing as how this is undoubtedly going to end up as the band’s most well distributed and noticed album to date. Even though Autumn of the Seraphs isn’t the band’s most impressive output, it will almost certainly find its way into my CD player many times in the coming months and years.

Aesop Rock: None Shall Pass

In the realm of hip-hop, Aesop Rock is the mouth of the suburbs, weaving tales of rural catastrophes, seedy deals, and of course, emotional frailty. It wouldn’t be the burbs without some melancholy. Aesop pulled out all the stops on this one and dives head first into the tales he unravels with fervor and enthusiasm creating his best album yet.

From the very beginning of None Shall Pass, Aesop shows you that he’s more than willing to try some new things to expand his sound. Incorporating rock and jazz guitar riffs, conscious expanding ambience, new-wave style funk, and his patented intoxicating verbose, the album is non-stop head-bobbing beauty.

Tracks like “Citronella,” with it’s dusty horn intro followed by deep, ominous bass rumbles leaves you wondering if you may have accidentally slipped a Parliament Funkadelic CD in your stereo. While “Getaway Car” harkens back to the golden age of 80’s hip-hop via the old school verbal delivery mixed with electronic keys that sound like an old pawn shop Casio.

Much like on his previous records None Shall Pass boasts an enviable guest list of diverse artists such as El-P, Cage, DJ Big Wigz, John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats, and of course long time homey and beat maestro Blockhead. Such a deep ensemble gives the listener a veritable cornucopia of musical tastes to choose, pick bare, and lay back satisfied and full.

With his eclectic beats and never disappointing lyrical magic, Aesop Rock is etching his name in the ever changing world of hip-hop like a child shifting drying cement with a stick, leaving his mark forever. There’s no doubt in my mind that the name Aesop Rock will grace the cracked cement of sun bleached, worn sidewalks for years to come.

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