» 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
Violence Is Golden
Dim Mak

Rating: 7/10 ?

September 25, 2006
Warning: existential crisis ahead. Abort, abort! The mission is not worth it!

Resisting the darkly hypnotic guitar figures of Scanners' dreamy, "what's it all about" stunner "Changing Times," a highlight of the band's stylish art-punk debut, Violence Is Golden, is easier said than done. Alternating between glassy, intertwined guitar parts and steel-wool blankets of distortion, "Changing Times" is as urgent as a sinking ship's S.O.S. and Sarah Daly's clear vocals ring out in the night with passion and clarity. If only she had more to say. Essentially, "Changing Times" can be summed up thusly: the earth orbits the sun, "now is always in the past," death is inevitable, make the most of your time here, thanks for playing. Feel free to use that on your Philosophy 101 mid-term if you want. Just don't expect anything above a C. Even that would be generous.

Grading "Changing Times" - and the rest of Violence Is Golden - isn't so cut and dried. Scanners score big for building tension and releasing it in a satisfying climax, and lyrically, it's not all platitudes and pointing out the obvious. As a flash-flood of layered, processed guitar fills your ears, Sarah Daly reads off a list of what "it" is like - "it" meaning life, if I'm not mistaken - and the first thought I had was, "'Isn't it ironic?' and whatever happened to Alanis Morissette? and is she ever going to live down the ridiculous histrionics of 'It's like rayyyy aaainn on your wedding day?'" Daly doesn't have to worry about that. Her performance is tasteful, yet affecting, and lines like "It's a bird that's flown through an empty room ... it's a speed of light/it's a golden rule ... it's a wonder drug/it's a bitter pill/it's a remedy" have a little more depth and far-ranging impact than "It's a free riiiidde when you've already paid." Advantage, Scanners.

If the game is angular, urgent punk rock, then I'd say, "Advantage, Pretty Girls Make Graves." Though the playing is solid, Violence Is Golden lacks the sharp turns, the dizzying chops and melodic swoops and dives that made New Romance such a winner. And if we're laying all our cards on the table, Daly's vocals, though sweet and dangerously cutting in the black ballad "In My Dreams," are too restrained in swaggering rockers like "Bombs." Striking a balance between wanton hysteria and delicate nuance is her homework assignment for Scanners' next record.

Leaning heavily on grunge-lite guitar riffs and squeaky clean synth lines, Scanners is the cyber-punk child of the 80s Garbage never wanted and wouldn't you know it, the girl's turned out just like mother. In the sex-teased "Joy," over a moody miasma of bass and sparse White Stripes-like bass drum thud, Daly coyly expresses her love for her " ... digital toy/my joy machine always there to enjoy" like Shirley Manson on ecstasy. When the guitars kick in, they feel heavy and somewhat menacing, but a little too simple and straightforward, as does the bittersweet Echo And The Bunneymen pop of "Lowlife." That's not the case with "Air 164," a vertiginous slam-dance of quick-changing rhythms and guitar dogfights, or "Evil Twin," a mind-bending bout of acoustic psychedelia.

All in all, the sonic crunch of Violence Is Golden is too good to ignore and it is a sleek machine. But unlike in the 1981 sci-fi movie of the same name, these Scanners are not equipped with psychic, or sonic, powers that can cause heads to explode. And punk rock, as watered down as it is today, needs to create that sense that it is capable of sudden decapitation or destruction. The Sex Pistols wanted to destroy everything, and that kind of nihilism isn't healthy, but when directed at diseased institutions and systems, that energy is a smart-weapon.

Though wickedly fun and somewhat edgy, Violence Is Golden throws hand grenades when it should drop atomic bombs. And that goes the same for the chordal riffing of Matthew Mole and Amina Bates as it does for the band's lyrics. They're holding back, playing it safe. But at the same time, Scanners' aim is directed at more personal targets like psychoanalyzing bad dreams, stating independence, taking stock of relationships and their places in the universe. And that takes a more thoughtful approach to songcraft. The unresolved, push-pull conflict of "Changing Times," not to mention its sculpted, polished beauty, gives a glimpse of what they're capable of in that department. And if they don't want to blow up shit, that's cool. It's pretty juvenile anyway, but if Scanners does become more explosive, look out.

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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