Review: More Wily Veterans!

Got some great albums coming out to rock the rest of the summer … let’s jump right in and take a listen:

Street Sweeper Social Club is a rap-rock outfit led by guitarist Tom Morello and vocalist Boots Riley, created in the mold of Morello’s angry Rage Against The Machine.  SSSC blew us away with a live set at SXSW this spring, and now they have The Ghetto Blaster EP, their second album which is really an EP (but you knew that already).  Only seven tracks long, the EP features three covers – including an incendiary version of L.L. Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out” as well as M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” and “Everythang,” a song from Riley’s other band The Coup.  But the best things here are the title track and the riotous “The New Fuck You,” as well as a lengthened version of “Promenade,” which happens to be the best track from the band’s debut.  This EP is a great way to get introduced to a terrific new band – but if you get the chance to see them live, do it.  They’ll knock you out.

Video: “Mama Said Knock You Out” from SXSW 2010

Vodpod videos no longer available.

With a lineup that has been pretty much intact for an astounding 36 years, Los Lobos still manage to put out music that sounds as fresh as their major-label debut in 1983 (which was also an EP).  Tin Can Trust opens with the stomping “Burn It Down,” and takes you on a journey with the 10 songs that follow.  Long-time fans will notice the album seems like it was put together from the Los Lobos template: a couple Spanish songs (“Yo Canto” and “Mujer Ingrata”), some tasty blues rock (“Do The Murray,” a cover of the Dead’s “West L.A. Getaway”) and some experimentation (“Jupiter Or The Moon,” which reminded me of Steve Winwood).  Most ambitious is “27 Spanishes,” which is a history lesson set to music, and the simmering “All My Bridges Burning,” which also resembles the Grateful Dead (it was co-written by the Lobos’ Cesar Rosas and Robert Hunter, the Grateful Dead’s lyricist).  The musicianship is top-notch, and the atmospherics are just right.  Tin Can Trust is a very satisfying album.

MP3: “Jupiter Or The Moon”

Marc Cohn is the honey-voiced singer who gave us the hit “Walking In Memphis” and he has recorded an album of covers called Listening Booth 1970.  I was ready to give this thing 50 lashes with a wet noodle for being so, well, wimpy: Cohn smooths down songs like “The Letter” and “Maybe I’m Amazed” then manages even to torque down already slow tunes like “Into The Mystic” or “Make It With You.”  Don’t listen to this while operating heavy machinery!  But the more I listened, the more I got into Cohn’s relaxed groove, and his choice of material: John Lennon’s “Look At Me,” Paul Simon’s “The Only Living Boy In New York”  and the Grateful Dead’s “New Speedway Boogie” work best because the songs are not so familiar that they instantly evoke the original artist.  “After Midnight” is too close to ultra-mellow Clapton, and covers of Badfinger and Smokey Robinson are just wrong.  Still, Listening Booth 1970 will work for just about anyone who wants a mellow good time, especially if you pass up the caffeine when you purchase this album at Starbucks.

MP3: “The Letter”

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