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LITERATURE

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

MUSIC

 » 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]

MUSIC

 » 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
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Frank Lenz
Conquest Slaughter
Velvet Blue Music

Rating: 8.5/10 ?


March 29, 2005
When the songs become more "about" how to write the perfect pop song than anything else, a really good pop album becomes a truly great pop album. The reason that we'll always listen to Summerteeth and Here Come the Warm Jets - the nearly intangible quality The Shins a wholly different and better beast than Arcade Fire - and the beauty of Frank Lenz's music all boils down to the fact that, rather than attempting to express a specific emotion or set of emotions, make any sort of life-changing Statement, or serve as a soundtrack to anyone's day-to-day activities, this music establishes a dialogue with its forebears and endeavors to find its own place within the canon.

Just as Spenser and Milton had to prove their competence with the conventions of Greek and Roman epics to immortalize their English reinterpretations of the epic, Lenz creates a striking intertextuality between this record and key pop records from the past. Often, he gives us passing glimpses at cues with which we're all too familiar. There's a "Great Gig in the Sky" chorus on "Circus Cat"; "Tree Swinging Hippies" takes a stab at recreating the pastoral feel of some of Eno's early solo pop work, with its subdued percussion sound and voice-as-another-instrument quality drawing attention to the idyllic guitar picking; "Lonely Handy Chap" invokes images of mid-'90s slack rock via a rising melody reminiscent of Pavement and the archetypal post-undergrad quandary of splitting up the record collection with the ex-live in lover. Whether these moments were intended to pay as much direct homage as they could be read to do is debatable, but they still serve to establish a degree of familiarity and comfort that asks listeners to consider this album in the same light as the great albums it tips its hat to.

This is an audacious move, really, but Lenz has the songwriting mettle to pull it off. For a man best known for adding pinches of ridiculousness to fairly straightforward songs (see his work on Starflyer 59's Old, in which he threw a little T. Rex and Pink Floyd into Jason Martin's Kool-Aid), Lenz has an uncanny knack for lonely Neil Young melodies. It's these melodies, crooned in Lenz's terribly nasal, immediately loveable, thoroughly unassuming voice, that allow the album to sound just as fresh on the thirtieth listen as it did on the first listen.

The only thing keeping Conquest Slaughter from becoming the stuff of legends is its lack of experimentation. Though Lenz is willing to twist and monkey around with pop conventions, Wilco have already cornered the market on his bellowing guitar solos, and his Bacharachian fits of grandeur are by no means boundary-pushing, as unexpected as they may be. While he takes perhaps the most highbrow approach to melodic rock and roll possible, Lenz remains content to find his own voice within an existing framework, preventing him from creating a work as powerful as the artists he emulates but placing him firmly ahead of the pretenders, emoters, and OC rockers.

Reviewed by Phillip Buchan
A one-time music director at WUOG in Athens, Phillip is into college radio, literature, writing, buying records, going to shows, talking to friends, learning -- pretty much the same stuff that all of us priveledged, (pseudo?)intellectual Americans are into.

See other reviews by Phillip Buchan

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