“Warterloo to Anywhere”
Dirty Pretty Things
Ex-Libertine Carl Barat says the songs on his band’s debut aren’t about former best friend, band mate and partner-in-crime Pete Doherty. Uh-huh. Much has been made of Doherty’s spiral of self-destruction, and Barat has been relegated in the public imagination to the role of mere witness to the downfall of the most important British band since the Clash (sorry, Oasis).
The truth, though, is that Barat’s knowing sneer drove the band just as much as Doherty’s wasted sighs did, and “Waterloo to Anywhere” is full of references to a deep sadness that won’t go away (“Well I gave you the Midas touch/Oh you turned around and scratched out my heart”- ouch).
Make no mistake, there are drunken rollickers here, with Cockney aphorisms tossed off like gems in the gutter, and taken out of context, this record comes across swaggering. Barat’s output is all about context, though — the Libertines weren’t just going to make great music, they were going to discover Albion and take us all with them — so it’s hard to listen to this record without a sense of melancholy for what might have been. To these ears, even the anthems sound like eulogies.
“Fox Confessor Brings the Flood”
The first time most people heard Case, she was earning MVP honors on the New Pornographers’ “Letter from an Occupant.” Jaws dropped at the prospect that a human being could produce something that pure-“clear as a bell and sound as an old engineer” was no longer just a throwaway Ryan Adams line; it was a description of Case’s pipes.
The New Pornos create practically perfect power pop, so when diving into Case’s past solo material, jaws dropped again. Could this be … country? It was indeed, of the torch singer variety, and it was done damn well.
“Fox Confessor Brings the Flood” continues Case’s winning streak. The disc opens with the heartbreaking “Margaret Vs. Pauline,” bringing to mind ghosts that are never mentioned and longing that’s only hinted at. The record doesn’t let up after that, with the Devil and God, car crashes and tolling bells. Quite simply, Case blends the Gothic and the country like Edgar Allen Poe and country singer Emmylou Harris’s red-headed stepchild. The arrangements are stunning, the songwriting divine, but ultimately it comes back to that voice, that inexplicable voice which is a force to be reckoned with.
The Black Keys
The Black Keys do a decent Delta bluesmen impression, but they’re mining territory that was stripped bare 40 years ago. The Ohio band has been compared to the White Stripes for a while, for both their influences and, well, for the fact that there are two of them, but it’s not quite right.
There was always something fun about the Stripes, as if they knew quite well that they were aping blues legend Robert Johnson, which allowed them to somehow transcend said aping. The Black Keys, on the other hand, go about their business with the seriousness of pallbearers, which lends them an air of mere competence, and they end up sounding like Stillwater from “Almost Famous.” A few of the songs on the record are nice – notably “You’re the One,” which lets down the fa?ade just long enough to be sweet – but for the most part, they just aren’t very interesting. Incidentally, despite the title of this section, this record does not come out until Sept. 12, and as such will not be in stores or on sale for a few weeks.