Friday, June 1, 2007

(maybe) worth spending money on, volume two

stop the presses: illinois is (probably) fucking awesome.

it's such a revelation, i know. certainly no one else has caught on to how (potentially) good their what the hell do i know? ep is, released march 6 on ace fu. so no one is tired of hearing about how they're from pennsylvania, not illinois, how they use (possibly) bitching banjo samples, and how they're touring with the hold steady as we speak (technically, we're not speaking, but it's a phrase, so lay off). oh, and i almost forgot - they're playing with labelmate man man on july 1 at mccarren pool in brooklyn. for free.

so since you didn't know any of that, you might also not be aware that what the hell do i know? is (maybe) absofuckinglutely brilliant. it starts on a solid, if unoriginal tack, with"alone again"'s whiny guitar and ba-ba-ba harmonies, but you, the listener, are thrown a knuckleball (not a curveball, mind you...this is better than a curveball) with the next song, "nosebleed." it comes out of left field (sorry for all the baseball references, but my team is 13 1/2 games up and i'm pretty effing excited) with a distinctly sampled-sounding banjo, on loop, which is then reinforced by a drum machine and lilting bass, before chris "arch" archibald busts in with seriously fuzzy vocals about how bad someone needs a good nosebleed. the song is perfect for hipsters - it has the exact rhythm that you can cross your arms and bob your head to without looking like you're doing it deliberately because you can't dance/you're white (<- not a legitimate reason to not dance, for the record). come to think of it, all of what the hell do i know? fits into that category. it doesn't detract from the overall good-ness of the record, which is generally characterized as plain, simple, indie rock. it feels like a long time since any band has tried to do that, though, with the same ease that illinois pulls it off with. unsurprisingly, "screendoor" evokes a lot of uncle tupelo-esque feelings for me, beginning with a rocking acoustic guitar and keeping that energy throughout the song, underlying archibald's slightly twanged vocals. "headphones" borrows from, of all people, the flaming lips, namely "fight test." listen to both songs again, and tell me i'm wrong. "headphones" is a good song, driven by a strong guitar melody and fuzzy vocals, which, as you might be realizing, is a device frequently used by illinois.

do you remember king missile? there's no reason to, except that they wrote the best song ever*, "detachable penis." well, with illinois' m.o. of borrowing sounds, king missile are probably the least recognizable, and, trust me, i had to do some serious thinking in order to remember them. in any event, illinois's best song, "bad day," chiefly borrows king missile's deadpan, spoken vocals, though, as is their wont, illinois makes theirs fuzzy and layer it under the music. it's also the only track with dirty language...naughty, naughty, illinois. archibald's vocals are buried beneath a heavy curtain of fuzzy bass, massively distorted guitar, and rumbly drums, so you lose most of the words anyway.

most of what the hell do i know? is excellent; where illinois falls apart is in their sameness. on "nosebleed," illinois shows off their original songwriting chops, but their influences, though varied, are too obvious in their other songs. the promise evident in their work is profound, and whatever comes next from illinois will definitely be worth spending money, volume whatever. thanks to the hype machine, you can test drive nearly all of what the hell do i know? and decide for yourself if its really worth spending money on.

illinois - "headphones" (auralfitness)
illinois - "screendoor" (berkeleyplace)
illinois - "alone again" (instrumental analysis)
illinois - "nosebleed" (under the rotunda)
illinois- "bad day" (me!)

buy what the hell do i know? here and fine independent stores nationwide (disregard the itunes, amazon, and b&n links).

1 comment:

Stu said...

You should check out http://www.berkeleyplace.wordpress.com - he did a post on Illinois about a month ago, and I remember him posting a few mp3s.