Reviews of the new CD from Tampa band The Washdown, plus Beck, Little Feat and Kahil El'Zabar Trio.
The Washdown The Washdown
In the space of roughly a year, five local guys (most of them veterans of Tampa's posthardcore scene) and one local woman instigated more hype than a score of death metal bands managed to drum up a decade ago.
The five guys went from being a sloppily entertaining garage act named The Dead America to being a manic live juggernaut called The Washdown.
The woman, Megan Blackburn, went from being the bass player in a local groovecore outfit to being a New York City resident with a killer job booking shows for the Mercury Lounge who's acquired a ton of connections.
And Hillsborough hipsters went crazy with anticipation as the rumors flew around, the lawyers and the publicity guys flew in, and The Washdown flew out to NYC for meetings.
While hearsay has the band still entertaining major-label offers, they've cannily introduced themselves to the world via cred-intensive indie label Lookout Records (Green Day, Operation Ivy, Screeching Weasel) with a self-titled five-song EP.
The material on The Washdown is at least somewhat similar to the moddy, retro-tinged blast-rock acts currently rising up from the underground (or Scandinavia, as the case may be). Unlike, say, The Hives, however, The Washdown's slinky grooves incorporate an uncommonly high hip-shaking factor. It's a welcome, sexy, dated danceability reminiscent of The (International) Noise Conspiracy gleefully rewriting the Stax catalog.
Granted, that's not the world's most original rock 'n' roll notion, but when The Washdown welds that loose, around-the-pocket drive to some truly inventive single-note tandem guitar work, it's more than enough to make them stand out from the crowd a bit. Caligula, with its ass-inspiring rhythm and memorable riffs, best puts the pieces together. At five songs, the disc as a whole never has a chance to sink into redundancy.
Overall,The Washdown is a superior first look, raw but clear and eager to put some emphasis on the elements that set the band apart in a genre that's sure to be crowded with soundalikes soon.
The coming months will undoubtedly find both the local scene and the national airwaves chock full of bands that bear more than a passing resemblance to The Washdown and the bands to which they'll obviously be compared. But I don't think many, if any, of them will be able to bring the shimmy and swing like the Tampa quintet. (Lookout Records, www.lookoutrecords.com)
Beck Sea Change
On first listen this sounds like a lackluster collection of whiney breakup songs. Beck moans monotonously throughout, apparently about the recent real-life loss of his longtime girlfriend. Though musically it most resembles his brilliant, folk-tinged Mutations album, the best aspects of that release are missing. The production shimmers from time to time, but not nearly as brightly. The surreal poetry that made up Mutations' lyrics is here replaced with moping complaints like I'm tired of fighting for a lost cause, Time wears away all the pleasures of the day, and It feels like I'm watching something die. To be fair, closer inspection reveals some nice, subtle musical shifts and production tricks, but not nearly enough to redeem the disc. Ultimately Sea Change will satisfy neither fans of Beck in party mode (Midnite Vultures, Odelay), nor fans of the more folk leaning material (One Foot in the Grave, Mutations). A frustrating album. (DGC)
Little Feat Waiting For Columbus
Allman Brothers Band, At Filmore East. The Band, Rock of Ages, The Who, Live at Leeds, the live sides on Cream's Wheels of Fire, Hendrix's Band of Gypsies, Little Feat, Waiting For Columbus. My six best live rock albums of all time — excluding box sets and posthumous stuff. After this half-dozen, I gotta really start reaching. Rhino has rescued Columbus from the purgatory of a half-ass first CD pressing — for several years it was a single disc with a couple of songs edited out for length — and put a halo on it. Two discs, two hours and 18 minutes, a big chunk of unreleased stuff, an excellent remaster. One line in the notes says it all: This release now contains all the songs that were performed at the series of shows recorded for this album. The most revelatory material for Feat fans is a sequence of seven songs that were left off the original double LP, probably for space reasons. What a list: One Love Stand, Rock and Roll Doctor, Skin it Back, On Your Way Down, Walkin' All Night, Cold, Cold, Cold and Day at the Dog Races, all versions that easily match the rest of the album's quality. Feat-o-philes, the cosmos has regained a bit of its balance. (Rhino)
Kahil El'Zabar Trio
Love Outside of Dreams
This is an album of harsh, rugged beauty. For this '97 session, El'Zabar, a Chicago-based drummer/percussionist, enlisted two aces for a free-ranging blend of post-bop and avant-garde jazz. Prodigious reedman David Murray brings his brawny work on tenor and bass clarinet, ranging from drones to rasps and cannily melodic honks and smears. With a deep blues foundation, he effortlessly slides from lyricism to the dissonance, all the while managing thematic continuity. The other member of the ad hoc trio is the late bassist Fred Hopkins, a mainstay of Association for the Advancement of Creative Musician's (AACM), a Windy City jazz institution for decades. His woody tone and percussive playing provide the perfect complement for El'Zabar's limber groovemanship. (Delmark, www.delmark.com)