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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
Cerberus Shoal
Mr. Boy Dog
Temporary Residence Ltd.

Rating: NR/10 ?

October 1, 2004
There is an intimidation factor that accompanies Mr. Boy Dog, and it's one that I have succumbed to for quite awhile now, seeing as how the album was released back in the first quarter of the year and I have just now mustered up the gumption to write this review. The lingering sight of the double disc set from a band with a penchant for making heady, difficult, and what some would consider down right unnerving music was enough to cause me to cast it aside each time it wriggled its way to the top of my review pile, but now that I have plowed through it and come out the other side, I have to admit that my findings were rather surprising. Mr. Boy Dog wasn't as avant-garde as I had suspected it to be and this proves to be both a strength and a weakness.

Though Cerberus Shoal blends a vast array of instruments, both of standard and foreign tunings, into a mish-mash of Eastern melodies and syncopated rhythms, the album is tracked in such a way as to never fully drain or alienate the listener. While a track like "Nod" does manage to run eight minutes long, the shifts in pace and style convey the feeling of many different songs and musical ideas interwoven together. The song is also set-off by two interludes, fittingly named after symbols which my keyboard will not reproduce (one of which looks like a little garrison replete with a lofted waving flag. It's something that you might imagine sitting outside of a jousting arena; you know, knights, chivalry, maidens in distress, that whole thing) which aren't particularly compelling but do manage to give the listener a chance to clear his palette before moving onto the next musical "trip".

You shouldn't write Cerberus Shoal off as being over your head though. There are songs, especially littered throughout the first disk, that are straightforward enough to be comprehended by the musical layman. "Nataraja", in particular, is a straight ahead post-rocker whose main motif consists of guitar, bass, and horns, ascending and then descending a scale in unison. Still, it's the balance between the comprehensible and the truly bizarre that Mr. Boy Dog lacks once it sprawls across two discs. For instance, "Tongue Drongue" would be the what-the-fuck-was-that song the first disc really needs if its pulsing low end and matching drunkards burp vocal didn't carry on nearly un-abetted for a curiosity ending six minutes before relinquishing its foot hold on the track to the jazzy post-rock that follows it.

It is a bit of a curiosity as to why this album is divided into two discs seeing as how a particular thread of musical ideas would be so tenebrous they would be virtually impossible to trace, and neither of these discs runs more than a few minutes over a half hour, which would mean they could be easily squeezed onto one. Whether or not much of this album is filler is the real red flag the double-disc stratagem sends up, and while I wouldn't go so far as to say that any of the tracks here are not worthwhile seeing as how each disc does maintain a sense of forward progression, it would still seem that the album has a whole would have benefited from culling the best tracks and segues presented here and limiting them to one disc.

While I'm sure that there is better world music and better art music available elsewhere, Cerberus Shoal offer up an interesting concoction of the two for the ears. With their discography continually expanding it shouldn't take long for this collective from Maine to make a truly outstanding album, and some may argue that they already have. However, I doubt most people will find much appeal in Cerberus Shoal, though it would be hard to imagine that there would not be a certain contingent of the music listening audience that will eat this up like a rare confection.

Reviewed by Mark Skipper
Mark Skipper currently resides in Nashville, TN where he can be found skipping shows, drinking Guinness, making bad home recordings, and complaining about how much music sucks these days.

See other reviews by Mark Skipper



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