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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
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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
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Fat Possum
Temporary Residence Ltd.

Rating: 8.5/10 ?

March 14, 2005
The press materials that came with Louisville Kentucky's Crain made me feel like an ass because their name didn't ring my indie rock credibility bell.

Sure, I am familiar with the sound that was connected with the scene in the early 90s with Slint and Rodan, but the pretentiousness of the self proclaimed "Holy Grail of Louisville art-punks" press clippings include the lines: "Legendary status" and "the myth surrounding Crain has grown to near-absurd proportions". Some people sure do think a lot of themselves.

Recorded in 1991 by Steve Albini on Analog 8 track, the first vinyl pressings of 1,000 copies didn't sit for long after a 1992 release, and it has taken 13 years for this gem to finally arrive into the right hands: Temporary Residence. Crain's remastered analog tapes, now on CD, certainly fit in nicely into the edgy post-punk/post-hardcore sound that helped fuel the flame for a whole new math style that countless others have followed since their inception in 1989; frankly I am pretty impressed with the results.

Like Spiderland and Rusty, Speed encompasses a raw emotional dynamic that is almost non-existent in today's brand of sonic assaults, and the sound they created is well before its time. While Nirvana was blowing up during the time of the first pressings of Speed, a more calculated formula to aggression was forming in the underground. A combination of post-rock guitar interplay infused with angular, complex building blocks, punk rock's urgency and shouted vocals all contributed to the blueprint associated with the Louisville sound.

While Crain has more in common with heavier bands like Helmet, Quicksand and Shellac, the obvious comparisons to their counterparts are certainly evident and one of these instances comes with the fourth track, "Kneel". Its pre-grunge quiet versus loud frame closely resembles a cut from Slint's classic Spiderland, complete with spoken lyrics and power chord meshing. The length of the track passes the 7-minute mark with most of the chorus and verse repeating themselves. The song is mildly amusing, but Crain's strongest points show when they are hammering out huge guitar riffs, not the sedated drones that erupt into frantic overblown distorted rants.

In the opening moments of Speed, Crain provides an instant assault with "Car Crash Decisions" - a mix of hardcore guitars and impeccable drumming that grooves along with a heavy bass line, mixing Fugazi's shattering aggression and Garden Variety's bombastic punk rock hustle. The band is tight and sure of their purpose even when the most technical parts of the song begin. The flow is smooth and the guitar arrangements are smart and challenging.

"Skinminer Pastel" also chugs with a heavy guitar style - in more of a metal vein - as does "Fuckerman," which starts out with a build into a heavy guitar interlude and turgid drum interplay,y with screams from singer Joe Mudd. It is one of the weakest songs because it lacks of any sort of melody or properly placed vocal lines. Most of the song seems to be rushed, and the music is a bit sloppy compared to the rest of the album.

"Stabilizer" completely changes gears, as far as structure goes, and probably has a lot to do with the fact that it wasn't released on the first pressing of Speed. Recorded in 1992 at Inner Ear Studios, the song shows maturity. The aggression is still evident, but the musical framework is marked by intellectual quickness and acuity as the band draws a fine line in distinctions between pure chaos and a pleasing succession of sound and overall song arrangement. There aren't any tempo changes or metallic breakdowns, which helps the pace of the record - changing it up from an excessive onslaught to an offering that includes a better quality and a more developed sound.

Three other songs were included in the re-release of Speed that weren't on the original vinyl, including "Blistering" and "Breathing Machine". These two offerings are more in the unruly style found in the body of the album, but show a significant maturity of rhythmic and harmonic variations.

Speed definitely has a lot to offer. In the days before grunge became mainstream, it was almost unfathomable what was taking place in underground music. As a byproduct of Nirvana mania in my youth, I hadn't properly been introduced to the genre until a few years after its hey-day. The appreciation level for such bands, and the music they played, is becoming more important; to recognize the influences that the mentioned bands have had on current indie groups is undeniable. This, along with the fact that the members of Crain have gone on to other influential musical offspring like Shipping News, Papa M, Matmos, and even Slint, is affirmation that Crain was not a one trick pony but a collective ingredient to an important genre that produced some of the finest guitar rock of the early 90s.

Reviewed by Mark Taylor
A senior LAS staff writer, Mark Taylor is a 29 year old father of a 5 year old son and husband to a wife of 6 years, living the simple life in a small suburb of Charlotte, NC.

See other reviews by Mark Taylor



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