2016 Rock Round-Up: White Lung, Ty Segall, Suede

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White Lung: Paradise Emerging from the acclaim of 2014’s Deep Fantasy and annoyed at the constant comparisons to other, older bands, White Lung enlist producer Lars Stalfors for a more modern sound on their newest album Paradise, and up the ambition by releasing their longest record yet—10 songs at 28 minutes. While this sort of economic chords and vocal/guitar/bass/drum hardcore punk rock record is easy to come by, what’s rarer is when its aggression—not necessarily just in the vocals and lyrics—comes from someplace genuine; the lyrics of “Hungry” are generic enough that it can apply to any sort of hunger, but Mish Barber-Way has dealt with body image issues in the past, which contextualizes the song into something more poignant. That, and there’s something hooking you in just about every song here: the guitars throughout often shimmer like synths or cut like razors, sometimes simultaneously. Then there’s stuff like the flaying bass throughout “Narcoleptic” (something the album could’ve used more of); the title’s command throughout “Kiss Me When I Bleed” (whose sheer coolness in the song’s last line reminds me of Kim Gordon; a compliment, even if the band doesn’t want to be compared to anyone else anymore); the choruses of “Hungry”; just about every line in “Below,” where they slow down a little without lightening up on the power; the guitars underneath the choruses and relentless drumming of the title track. Not every song’s a winner: “Sister” slows down into a vaguely psychedelic section that drags on for a bit too long, not to mention that the lyrics in the song are grotesque (which might’ve been the point, given the subject matter of singing through the eyes of Karla Homolka). Elsewhere, Mish Way can’t help herself from being a little negative on the album’s most romantic song, ending the title track’s “run away with me” theme with a self-deprecating “This is all I want / So desolate.”

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Ty Segall: Emotional Mugger His first proper studio album over a year—a wait that’s basically forever in this prolific artist’s language—trims the fat away from Manipulator and trades that album’s T. Rex-inspired tunes for something dirtier and something more experimental. As experimental as a straight-shooter guitar rock lover like Segall gets, anyway: “Californian Hills” jerks you through sudden changes of pacing; he smashes two different songs into one entity on “Emotional Mugger / Leopard Priestess”; “W.U.O.T.W.S.” is a sound collage by way of the Velvet Underground’s “The Murder Mystery” (interesting but ultimately annoying). I still think he’s a make-your-own playlist artist: I can get down to the noise-drenched choruses of “Squealer” but I find the verses anemic; the climax of the cover of the Equals’ “Diversion” feels mechanical despite drummer Charles Moothart’s best efforts (though the rest of the song is just fine: the Beatlesque “na-na-na” adding a melodic component to the noise propelled by Moothart’s hi-hat). The main two highlights are the strutting “Mandy Cream” and the bass-heavy closer “The Magazine,” with rapid-fire handclaps coming in during the choruses and a sustained falsetto melody recalling Yes’ “We Have Heaven.”

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Suede: Night Thoughts Suede’s comeback so far circumvents the more embarrassing moments of their discography by aiming for their self-titled debut sans the tune or the orchestral drama of Dog Man Star without the darkness; taking absolutely zero chances in between because they’re smart lads who know their fans want to hear the old sounds a second time. See also: Mazzy Star; Boards of Canada; Guided by Voices; My Bloody Valentine. Truthfully, only the orchestrated late-night wandering of “When You Are Young” with its big bombastic drums does anything for me. The band certainly knew they had a solid sound there—they repeat it for a reprise and reference it again in the closer. Does anyone hear anything that resembles a distinct melody? I certainly don’t, not even in the two singles; most of the songs here scrape by with a loud guitar tone; “No Tomorrow” has a well-intended chug. On the other end of the spectrum, they soak “Pale Snow” with reverb and by the time “Learning To Be” finally gets started, it just ends and you realize you’ve listened to a 3-minute interlude. Add production issues that have marred the bulk of their discography to the lack of tune and we have something that never lifts off: everything sounds mixed at the same level, resulting in mush. Nostalgia’s easy; it’s also useless.

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