Buckcherry, Tindersticks, And Gym Class Heroes Get Graded


Black Butterfly

(Eleven Seven/Atlantic)

Buckcherry's Josh Todd has a two-track mind, and you can bet the author of "Crazy Bitch" and the cocaine anthem "Lit Up" ain't thinking about puppies and Christmas morning. On the Los Angeles rockers' fourth album, Black Butterfly, the skinny, heavily tatted singer declares, "I got so many women coming after me, I put someÊpussyÊon layaway," but he's also "too drunk to fuck." And there you have Buckcherry's twin, and sometimes conflicting, passions - getting hammered and getting laid - summed up in one four-minute slice of routine sleaze-rock. These guys rock the strip like it's still 1988 and Guns N' Roses have a long, trouble-free career ahead of them. They occasionally slow things down on pleading power ballads like "Don't Go Away," but don't be fooled by the hollow sentimentality - it's just another route to the bedroom after a long night of drinking. - Michael Gallucci


The Hungry Saw


Frankly, I'm shocked there's a new Tindersticks record at all. It seemed like they were on one of those hiatuses that would become permanent, especially after vocalist Stuart Staples titled one of his solo records Leaving Songs. Then the original lineup played a "Don't Look Back" show in 2006 that was read as a farewell by fans and critics, and it seemed as though that was that for the band. Instead, the change turned out to be in membership, as Staples jettisoned half the group (including Dickon Hinchliffe, the multi-instrumentalist who was often regarded as a major architect of the band's sound). The resultant The Hungry Saw is surprising first for its very existence, but also for being an incredibly vital and superb rebirth. With only half its original membership present for these sessions, we get a leaner, meaner Tindersticks. Gone are the lush orchestrations of their earlier work, replaced by the more rock-leaning title track and the stripped-down "Mother Dear." Staples' instantly identifiable voice is still the group's greatest weapon, and he wields it to fine effect on the soulful "Yesterday's Tomorrows" and the melancholy "All the Love." The record is populated with the band's strongest songs since 2001's underrated Can Our Love. The Hungry Saw is a great statement of purpose for Tindersticks Mach II, regaining some lost passion and providing a lot of promise for a band that recently appeared to have no future. - Chris Drabick

Gym Class Heroes

The Quilt

(Decaydance/Fueled By Ramen/Atlantic)

Upstate New York's Gym Class Heroes have come a long way since they self-recorded their largely unheard debut … For the Kids in 2001. In fact, the band has come a long way since the rough but compelling The Papercut Chronicles came out on Pete Wentz's then-fledgling Decaydance label in 2004. Four years later, it's released its second major label-backed album, clearly with a larger budget than before, with all the edges smoothed over. Gym Class has always walked a fine line between several genres (and confused hip-hop fans by cavorting with Fall Out Boy and playing the Warped Tour), but here it leans further toward hip-hop than emo, punk or rock. That's particularly true on songs like "Peace Sign/Index Down," which features some fairly prominent guest vocals from Busta Rhymes and is one of several tracks produced by hip-hop production team Cool & Dre (who share credits with FOB's Patrick Stump). Between singer Travis McCoy's fast-talking vocals and guest spots from Estelle (on the insanely catchy "Guilty As Charged") and Lil Wayne, Gym Class manages to still keep listeners on their toes, especially when Daryl Hall shows up near the end of the album on "Live Forever (Fly With Me)." - Emily Zemler

Blitzen Trapper


(Sub Pop)

Portland, Oregon's Blitzen Trapper digs that dusty '60s sound. Post-jangle Byrds, pre-freakout Grateful Dead and every-period Bob Dylan are all reference points for this nostalgic sextet that acts like Watergate, 9-11 and Billy Bob Thornton's alt-country records never happened. Occasionally, the guys betray their ties to modern times on their fourth album, Furr: Gurgling synth farts pass through "Gold for Bread," "Fire + Fast Bullets" breaks for a bit of studio wizardry and mic tricks, and the high-pitched ghostly hum that haunts "Black River Killer" could only come after too many years of faux-atmospheric music videos. But on standout cuts like "God + Suicide" and "Not Your Lover," Blitzen Trapper evokes a mythical past of quick-loading pistols and moonwalking cowboys. For the most part, this is starry-eyed Americana, with harmonicas, acoustic guitars and singer Eric Earley's stoned-but-never-sleepy drawl hitting the trail for another wild-West adventure. - Gallucci


Knowle West Boy


Not sure anyone still gives a damn about Tricky, the trip-hop sensation who stormed out of Bristol (alongside acts such as Portishead and Massive Attack) to garner critical acclaim and whatnot. But this is a damn fine album that commences with the push-and-pull of the woozy piano ballad "Puppy Toy" and delves into a bit of dancehall ("Bacative") and even Verve-inspired orchestral rock ("Far Away"). Part of the joy of Knowle West Boy, which is allegedly an autobiographical work about Tricky's tough upbringing, is that it doesn't just wallow in the dark and dreary (though there's plenty of that). "C'Mon Baby" is one of the liveliest tunes the guy's ever recorded, and "Council Estate" has a jittery energy to it, helped along by stuttering vocals and white-hot blasts of drum 'n' bass. With his strange patois and even stranger upbringing, Tricky is probably just too British for American audiences. But Knowle West Boy suggests he's at least worthy of cult status here. - Jeff Niesel


You Can Fly on My Aeroplane

(Numero Group)

Patchouli, marijuana and much harder stuff permeate Aeroplane, the sole, and distinctively expressive, effort of Norman Whiteside, a Columbus man as known for brushes with the law as his musical talent. Whiteside, who remains in jail in Chillicothe, used the ever-morphing group Wee to purvey his dreamy lyricism. Unearthed by Chicago-based soul sleuths Numero Group after a release of only 1,000 copies 31 years ago, Aeroplane is a fabulous cache of soul tropes distinguished by Whiteside's yearning tenor, sparkling, keyboard-dominated arrangements and deep fealty to the then-fresh legacy of Stevie Wonder and Sly and the Family Stone. If you like Eddie Kendricks-era Temptations, the Stylistics, the Delfonics and other buttery soul groups, Aeroplane is for you. Its murky provenance - word is, prostitution proceeds helped finance it - only adds to its otherworldly allure.

What's striking about this long, leisurely album, in addition to Whiteside's refinement of contemporary soul styles, is its modernism. Interpolations on tunes like "I Don't Know About You" and the title track presage rap, and "Put It in Real Good" is jam band-like in its sprawl and sonic depth. Most tunes are mid-tempo and focus on despair, sex and desire; the keyboard figures and Whiteside's unbridled, almost childish joy distinguish "I Luv You" as much as its bright tempo. Originally released on the obscure Owl label, Aeroplane was designed to bring Whiteside to the attention of national imprints. Why a slab of vinyl packing such lovely tunes as the debonair "Try Me" (a local single), the sparkling "We Could Get It Together" and the sweet "I Don't Know About You" didn't spark greater interest again attests to the capriciousness of the music business. - Carlo Wolff

Laika & The Cosmonauts


(Yep Roc)

Not to be confused with trippy post-rockers Laika, Finland's Laika & the Cosmonauts is of the noble lineage of instrumental rock, patron saints of which include the Ventures, Shadows and Dick Dale. Along with many of their forebears, the Cosmonauts' roots are in '50s and '60s trash/noir/spy film music and the cool soundtrack sounds of Ennio Morricone. The ominously melodramatic "Floating" and "Land's End" evoke Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name galloping fiercely toward Destiny. The spidery modal playing of "Turquoise" conjures romantic intrigue in the general vicinity of the Mediterranean Sea. "Expose" is space-age ska and "Global Village" chugs along like the multikulti cousin of "Time Is Tight" by Booker T & the MGs (the coolest R&B instrumental combo ever). Retro? Yes, but L&TC pull it off with plenty of flair, a knack for memorable moody melodies and nary an excess note. Twenty-seven songs in 76 minutes: such a deal! - Mark Keresman

Emiliana Torrini

Me and Armini

(Rough Trade)

Icelandic singer-songwriter Torrini is best known for contributing "Gollum's Song" to the end credits of the second Lord of the Rings movie. On her third album, she mixes up the relative stability of 1999's debut (which was produced by one of the guys in Tears for Fears) and 2005's Fisherman's Woman by jumping from one genre to the next. Haunting folk, Bjšrk-like fairy-dust pop, electro-rockabilly and even a bit of reggae find their way onto Me and Armini's dozen songs. Torrini can be a bit too fragile at times (she sounds like she's about to fly away on the six-minute "Birds") and often comes off like a wandering spirit in search of a musical match. But when she connects with the sounds around her (producer Dan Carey surrounds Torrini's wisp of a voice with some lovely echoes and hums), like on the closing "Bleeder," it's truly precious. - Gallucci

Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson

Rattlin' Bones

(Sugar Hill) The title track that opens this collaboration between the Australian husband-and-wife duo is quite striking. With its reference to "dragging a bag of stone," "Rattlin' Bones" sounds like a county riposte to Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain." In fact, Chambers and Nicholson often come off as a rootsy Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, trading vocals on "Monkey on a Wire" and "Jackson Hole." But more often, they're just interested in writing beautiful ballads. The gentle "Once in a While" sounds like something Lyle Lovett might have written, and the bittersweet "Sweetest Waste of Time" benefits from a nice bit of lap steel. With the exception of its moody title track, Rattlin' Bones isn't going to knock your proverbial socks off. But it has a naturalness to it that ensures it gets better with each listen. Stick around for the hidden track, a shout-out of sorts to Uncle Tupelo. - Jeff Niesel

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