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 » 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.
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 » 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!
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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
Blood Meridian
Kick Up The Dust

Rating: 6.5/10 ?

August 7, 2006
Exhausted and disillusioned, Blood Meridian songwriter Matthew Camirand lays out the terms of surrender to those that would kill and maim in the name of religion. Tired of war and flimsy theocratic justifications for arbitrary military action, a weary Camirand sings, "Soldiers of Jesus Christ, throw down your arms/We've had enough tonight" at the start of the slow-burning, southern-fried rock anthem "Soldiers Of Christ," from Blood Meridian's debut full-length Kick Up The Dust. If he'd asked for an "Amen" from the choir he's preaching to, he'd surely get one from me.

More of a plea than a command, Camirand's words couldn't be more timely, considering what's going down around the globe. Though in "Soldiers Of Christ" he's clearly directing his anger and frustration at Christian hypocrisy and a morality born of convenience rather than scripture - hence, the Christian allusion - it's not much of a leap to suggest he'd be willing to level the same condemnation at the warring armies of Judaism and Islam if given the chance. Not that it would make any difference.

That kind of topical discourse is the exception rather than the rule on Kick Up The Dust, a murky, sinister mix of hard-drinking alt.-country and brooding blues inspired by Cormac McCarthy's bloody vision of the Old West and Flannery O'Connor's tortured Southern Gothic character sketches. Ultimately, however, Kick Up The Dust is in keeping with the anti-authority vibe Camirand tries so hard to cultivate. In Blood Meridian, Camirand, a veteran of varied projects like Black Mountain and Pink Mountaintops, is joined by drummer Joshua Wells, keyboardist Shira Blustein, bassist Kevin Grant and guitarist Jeff Lee. Together, the assemblage of Vancouver rock mercenaries have crafted an album that's as black and viscous as oil and more bleak than the life of a West Virginia coal miner. The quintet plow onward and upward through lead-footed, Confederate-flag-toting rockers and bloodshot ballads with great intuition for creating mood and atmosphere, yet the total package still somehow falls short of what it should be. Camirand's vocal shortcomings are part of the problem.

Swimming in whiskey and sick with loneliness and despair, the fictional cast of Kick Up The Dust has booked passage on a voyage of the damned. "In The Forest, Under The Moon" is a murderous lament written for a killer who fully expects to "hang from a tree" for the cruel death of his love, buried in a spot in Leadbelly's woods. Gentle whistling and spindly acoustic guitar capture feelings of isolation and depression in "Try For You," a story of "Star-crossed lovers, midnight cowboys and passing ships/Walk of shame, one-night stands, wedding bells and booty calls," while "Work Hard, For What?" is a sardonic commentary on the futility of menial labor. A pair of nihilistic alcoholics, described as "God's little joke," are on a mission in the swaggering, Waylon Jennings III-style title track, with interwoven male and female vocals putting it plainly, "Let's drink/Let's cuss/Let's fight and let's fuck." And then we'll have cake.

Lyrically, Camirand gets right to the heart of the matter with coarse but concrete language and dark imagery that sets an ominous tone. The arrangements and melodies of Kick Up The Dust are just as simple and honest, though the trudging, narcoleptic pace of cuts like "Most Days" - despite its lovely piano moon glow - and the affected Allman Brothers drawl of "Let It Come Down" make you wish Camirand and company would get the point quicker musically. Made up of ramshackle percussion, smoky organ, silvery flecks of banjo, single-minded acoustic strum, carefully plunked piano, and meaty electric guitar bravado, Blood Meridian's drawn-out sound can be as sinful and savory as prime rib or exasperatingly one-dimensional. Occasionally, the band suffers from the same listlessness and aimless wandering that stops alt.-country compatriots Knife In The Water dead in their tracks, like in the Spaghetti Western swirl of "Good Lover" or the agonizingly slow amble of "Try For You" and "Get Someplace Else."

Camirand's dull vocal treatments and trite trailer-trash expressions don't help. More geared toward gradual build-ups and delayed emotional releases, Camirand's weaknesses - that half-sung, almost-spoken style he has - are exposed when the instrumentation is sparse and he's got to carry the day. But when the guitars step on up for the rising, Camirand has the muscle to pull the rest of the band along with him up that hill.

Depending on the mood, Kick Up The Dust will either drown a listener in darkness, or consume them with its gradual build-up, simmering tension, hopeless desperation, black humor and taken-away-in-handcuffs rebellion. Either way one thing is for certain - no one is tossing out life preservers. It is either sink or swim with Blood Meridian, and when that sinking feeling sweeps over us, it's probably already too late.

Reviewed by Peter Lindblad
Peter Lindblad lives in Appleton, Wis., and bleeds green and gold just like all the Packer fan nutjobs in the area. He does draw the line at wearing blocks of chedder on his head, or any other body parts for that matter, though. His professional career has taken weird twists and turns that have led him to his current position as an editor at a coin magazine. He hopes his stay there will be a short one. Before that, he worked as an associate editor at a log home magazine. To anyone that will listen, he\'ll swear that Shiner was one of the greatest rock bands to ever walk the earth. Yet he also has much love for Superchunk, Spoon, DJ Shadow, Swervedriver, Wilco, Fugazi, Jawbox, ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Modest Mouse, among others.

See other reviews by Peter Lindblad



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