Staff Trax: Sleigh Bells, Against Me!, Velocity Girl, Sugar and Pere Ubu
Ladies and gentlemen: Allow me to present to you the most debated-about song in the Observer offices in some time. I'm not even lying: Half the newsroom is literally groaning out loud right now as I play Sleigh Bells' "Crown on the Ground" for the umpteenth time since the band became all the rage back at South by Southwest, where the above clip was filmed.
Their knocks are as follows: "It's repetitive." "It's annoying." "It doesn't sound like The Band, which is the only thing I like." "Did they write this specifically for the next Scion commercial?"
Oh, and then there's my personal favorite: "It sounds like a hipster, female Kid Rock."
That last one was offered up by someone who was at the very show at which the above clip was filmed. And, credit where it's due, that, indeed, is a very clever, and even possibly fair, knock.
But me? I dig the crap out of it. Mostly because it's something new, which I, as someone who sits around and listens to music all day, know isn't something easily found in today's music landscape. The repetition is a little grating, sure; but the brawny guitar riffs, blown-out bass and simple vocal melodies make this song an absolute winner in my book. Groans be damned. Really, the whole album, Treats, which was released yesterday, is pretty awesome. Stream the whole thing right here. If nothing else, I can confidently say you haven't heard anything else like it in a while. --Pete Freedman
Once upon a time, there was a punk band from Florida called Against Me!, and, in 2007, the band released New Wave, an album that set its original fans ablaze with cries of its heroes selling out. Here's the thing about that disc, though: It's the best thing the band's ever done. Filled with stinging social and political commentary, the album smartly turned the mirror back on the society that breeds bands like Against Me! in the first place. A fine example: The biggest hit off that album, "Thrash Unreal," which finds frontman Tom Gabel employing his trademark vocal grit to the tale of a girl's future lost to drugs and alcohol. Screw Jersey Shore; this is real fist-pumping music. On June 8, after having taken a break so Gabel could release a solo disc (the very underrated Heart Burns), the band will release its New Wave follow-up, White Crosses. Based off early leaks, fans are again crying "sellout!" Oh well. Worked out OK for the band last go around. Catch them opening for Silversun Pickups on July 21 at the Palladium Ballroom. -- Pete Freedman
I love the Copper Blue LP. I was living in Atlanta when this came out, with my college roommate, who would just blast this in the morning to wake up. The CD, somewhat R.E.M.-inspired but with a holy-shit wall of loud guitars thrown in, opens with the apartment-wall-rattling "The Act We Act," an excitedly-told love story called "A Good Idea," the speedy, alterna-jangly "Changes," and then onto "Helpless," which is more of a reflective piece. Bob Mould really threw himself into this one (some say significantly damaging his hearing in the process), and it's a very motivating, inspiring, college hard rock LP--if there even is such a thing. Sadly, the only single to really pop from the LP was "If I Can't Change Your Mind," a slightly clever, but otherwise pale effort in comparison to the opening-assault sequence at the beginning of the disc. --Alan Ayo
I saw Pere Ubu in Salt Lake City in 1993, along with about 100 other people. The band was on tour supporting one of its more pop-oriented releases, Cloudland. A lot of folks gave Pere Ubu shit for making more accessible music, but I always thought Dave Thomas and crew were masters of subverting pop's conventions for the greater good. Anyhow, Thomas is one of the greatest frontmen ever. Check out this wonderful--if a bit dated--video for proof. Thomas still leads some form of Pere Ubu, and it's well worth the effort to check out anything this band produces. --Darryl Smyers