Taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

Embarrassing Fruits — Community/Exploitation

In a vague attempt to summon up the lackadaisical ethos of pre-grunge bands like Dinosaur Jr. and Sebadoh, Chapel Hill indie trio Embarrassing Fruits ( take a rather bare-bones, yet mildly absurdist approach to songwriting for their forthcoming album Community/Exploitation. Singer and guitarist Joe Norkus sounds alternately nostalgic of his happygo-lucky childhood throughout several tracks and contemplative of the present and future on others. The common thread between the two themes lies with the near-perpetual wallowing in gristled minor key riffage, which in turn casts the dull glow of slacker unrest over the entire album. Norkus relies on Pavement-inspired circular guitar licks to carry the brunt of the melody, but so little variation in pacing and tone leaves it feeling unimaginative. The uninspiring tenor of Community/Exploitation is necessarily limited to the instrumentation itself, as Norkus’ lyrics evoke their own sense of overpowering ennui. If “Go There” isn’t indicative of the album’s debilitating lack of complexity (“Go there, it is nice/See your family, they are out there”), then look no further than the finale. The album ends with the excruciating monotony of “Vacations,” a tongue-in-cheek reflection of mind-numbing family road trips. Like most of the songs on Community/Exploitation, it seems completely aware of its own exasperatingly tedious nature. But unfortunately, snarky consciousness still doesn’t necessarily translate into an enjoyable listen.

Last Stone Cast — Life Construed

We live in a day and age when metal has become one of the most difficult musical platforms to assess thanks to the sheer lack of inventiveness it has regrettably experienced in the past decade. As such, it’s a nice surprise to hear an album of hard, but not too hard, music that shakes off the cobwebs and gets back to the roots of the genre. Cleveland, Ohio-based trio Last Stone Cast’s ( new fulllength album Life Construed introduces them as a band ready to do to metal what a great ad agency would do with an outdated product; ready to breathe new life into the ailing brand. It’s distinctly ’80s influenced, but without the tacky self-indulgence that marred an era of hard rock that’s now more a subject of parody than it is celebration. Life Construed is at first an album that’s rather slow to take; the first third of the album establishes a ferocious, Paul Gilbert-like tone that’s a bit shallow, yet superficially gratifying. With “To Myself,” however, the album embraces its true personality as a mesh of Mother Love Bone and stoner rock-lite and never reneges on it. The furious fretwork of singer and guitarist Scott McConnell is overly sophisticated, but it is technical enough to please even the most mathematically demanding metal fans. It’s not high art by any means, but Life Construed is further proof that Cleveland does in fact rock.

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