Spoon, the Authors, Mercers, Lennings, and We'll Go Machete
Reviewed by Austin Powell, Fri., Aug. 7, 2009
Leave it to Spoon to clinch the feel-good hit of the longest, hottest summer. The title cut to the underdogs' latest, Got Nuffin (Merge), retraces the steps of 1998's A Series of Sneaks, Jim Eno's resilient Krautrock percussion grounding a No Wave groove streaked with jagged guitar tears as Britt Daniel spits with confident dismissal, "I got nuffin' to lose but darkness and shadows, got nuffin' to lose but loneliness and patterns." The B-side pales in comparison; "Tweakers" dices looped percussion and sonic drivel then gets remixed on the hidden fourth track, while the rough draft garage-pop "Stroke Their Brains" coats Daniel's laryngitis with ghostly vocals. On the other end of the fidelity spectrum, the Authors' eponymous debut continues the trend of locals polishing 1980s New Wave into indie rock (see the Lemurs, New Roman Times). Opener "Lions" sounds 12 steps of recovery removed from the Strokes, with Justin Prater's assured croon and staggering guitar lines grounding the more upbeat "Put It On." The Mercers' second effort, Hovercraft, flutters even higher than 2007's Pretty Things Walk, following distinctive vocalist Peter Wagner through a batch of solidly scripted pop that, with the noted exception of "All She Wants/Monsters," never sounds overwrought. Standout "Ring Inside a Ring" embraces Arcade Fire's funereal glow; "Disco Nixon" captures Spectorian pop via the Shins. The sophomore outing from the Lennings, Geographic Tongue, is another scattershot EP of dusty, alt-American vignettes. The mid-fi aesthetic mirrors the bleary-eyed pop of "I Need a Ride," Jason Lenning's vocals bubbling atop the murk, but the locals could've used a more hands-on approach from producer Erik Wofford, especially in light of the stark subtlety of the Elliott Smith-esque "Laundromat." Named after a Lester Bangs line, Austin's We'll Go Machete comes out swinging in all directions on its self-titled six-song introduction, produced by the Bubble's Jason Buntz. Jagged and unrelenting, Machete launches post-hardcore tantrums in an early Dischord Records vein on opener "Red Maddens the Bull," while "The Old Beast Will Crumble" teeters toward sludge metal. It's a promise and a threat.