Amid the mountains of recent weakness, I'm digging Star Destroyer by Alex Delivery, maybe an album and maybe an EP, although I vote for the former, since most tracks are seven to ten minutes long, and so chock full of ideas and peaks and valleys that some deliver an album's-worth. Few albums, at least lately, seamlessly integrate analog and digital instrumentation to the point where I can't discern one from the other, and so this reminds me of both Califone's Roots and Crowns and the Notwist's Neon Golden.
And yet Star Destroyer reminds me of neither; risking hyperbole, it's the sound Jeff Tweedy wishes he could create from Wilco, and almost did on A Ghost is Born: krautcountry. Star Destroyer embeds simple melodies and harmonizing, almost lullabys, inside sprawling and sometimes chugging mini-symphonies of clanging bells, mellotron, organs, moogs, bass/drums, guitars, atonal buzzing, and whirring noises; never cloying, never busy, but rather pretty and logically evolved. There's no kitchen sink feeling, as on Califone's worst moments. To be lazy: Wilco meets Can meets Notwist meets Neu meets the Raincoats.
Don't tune out if you hate, at first. At least fast forward. There's parts in them parts.
It's out next week on the now-legends-in their-own-time label Jagjaguwar. Get tour dates here. I mean to catch them in May in NYC. I hope that TBA means Brooklyn, because I hate the Merc. It makes me miss Brownies, big time.
In other news: And while I suppose some will dissent, and while I truly thank Rich Girls are Weeping for the downloadable, I found Voxtrot's new track "Kid Gloves," stunning for their absolutely wrong decision to pursue an Interpol-esque arrangement that I hope, for their sake, is a one-track deal. This didn't work and, may I say it, sounded oh so 2002. Someone needs to pour a bucket of Kinks and Housemartin records over those kids' heads. You can find those in Texas.
Perkins has been the recipient of plenty smart promotion, and his father was (among other great performances) Hitchcock's Psycho, so he's got legacy and therefore connections. And it seems Pitchfork holds it against him by vaguely dismissing these facts early in their review; or are they ignorant? Any review of Ash Wednesday has to consider that while Perkins' father was famous, he was no Jimmy Stewart, having been a magnificently-talented actor and married father yet tortured and closeted man who died of AIDS in 1992. That-there's pain for Elvis to mine, and he does, here.
But that's peanuts compared to the review not mentioning that Perkins's( step?)mother Berry Berenson was killed while on one of the planes that hit the Twin Towers on 9/11/01, an omission that should have killed the review in editorial. To miss this is unconscionable, because it provides context to almost every song. Ash Wednesday wasn't exactly released yesterday, so it's not like there wasn't time for research. Heck, the title is a direct reference to 9/12, ashes blanketing everything, trucks, hair, my lungs included. It would provide context for lines like "I made a death suit for life / for my father's ill-widowed wife" ("While You Were Sleeping"), among others.
So while the album is a tad repetitive and sometimes stylistically derivative, but it's also an intriguingly surreal take on 9/11, and much deeper than politics. Whatever its faults in execution, Ash Wednesday might be one of those rare times when art has been created without any intention of becoming commerce. And I'm sick of less talented people, especially those with less personal connection to the tragedy, sermonizing on 9/11. It's been common, recently, hasn't it? From Don Delillo to Ted Leo to Oliver Stone to (cue me spitting) Adam Sandler.
Along with many others here, I saw and heard Elvis Perkins's mother die in person, although I didn't particularly know it at the time. Ash Wednesday might not solve that memory for me, but unlike recent snuff-entertainments that can bring jingoist midwesterners oogling through the lingering shock of my six-year-old memory, it has the only viewpoint that doesn't exploit, even considering Perkins's presence by extension. I need that semi-purity for any 9/11 art. I'd suspect anyone else who was there that morning might feel the same way.
And anyway, back to music-geekdom: Perkins is all about Jeff Mangum, not Dylan. Reviewers ought not let their own preferences cloud their judgment. Gimme extreme clear, yet still.