» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Ninja Gun
Smooth Transitions
Barracuda Sound

Rating: 5.5/10 ?

October 1, 2004
Certain bands can pull off a dynamic. There are lots of country bands, for example, that can heat up a great, rollicking rock song when they want. Others can try, but fall a little short. Ninja Gun is so close, they basically scrape their chin on the diving board while attempting a backflip.

With a punk-pop/emo sneer to his voice, a love of all things Wilco, Jayhawks and Varnaline, and a reach just beyond his grasp, singer Jonathan Coody can't really pull it all together, but there are times when he sounds good trying.

There's plenty of documentation on Smooth Transitions, both of his band's failures and their successes. Largely, the album feels too by-the-book. The opening "The Cold War Is Colder than Ever," for example, features vocals too emo/punk for the band's greater good, and its brand of country feels lazy, in the sense that the band isn't trying to do any more than average work. And when, on the title track, Croody spits "God bless me" through snarled teeth, it does not come off as revolutionary or profound - it just sounds sort of juvenile and repetitive.

Throughout most of the album, even tracks are ballads and odds are rockers - it becomes sort of comical how they bobble back and forth so predictably. Their attempts at slower, more twangy affairs are much more successful than their rock efforts. The relaxed pace gives those moments a back porch feel, more relaxed and sincere, not trying as hard to fit a volume or a formula. There are intones of the Beatles and Neil Young, softened edges, and more latent emo tendencies, but the outcome is a little more favorable. It's easier to take tracks like "Losers Talking" than, say, their punchy knock-off, "Jessie," where the band lifts quite heavily from "Barbara Ann" in its intro (word for word, note for note, for an instant) in a Lemonheads-styled pop number that doesn't venture very far from the ordinary.

In fact, it feels like Ninja Gun is taking more strides not to rock the boat than they would to push things further. It must require a lot of work to take things so easily, to make sure the envelopes aren't pushed. Smooth Transitions becomes very, very rote by its conclusion, which is perplexing in a way, because it's still enjoyable. If one were to sneak one of Ninja Gun's crunchy country rock singles into a mix tape, it would fit quite nicely, to be sure - but, after hearing their exclusive album, filled with unassuming, predictable sameness, you can't help but want something extra. Close, but no home-grown tobacco.

Reviewed by Sarah Peters
A former music editor and staff writer for LAS, Sarah Peters recently disappeared. Perhaps one day she will surface again, who knows.

See other reviews by Sarah Peters



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