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Interpol
Antics
Matador

Thank God for darkness in rock & roll.

Thank God for Jimmy Page and his stupid Alistair Crowley fixation and hammer-of-the-gods riffing. Thank God for every bluesman who ever sang with a "crawling king-snake moan." Thank God for Joy Division, whose music ably coupled the two words in their name with astonishing accuracy. And thank God for The Velvet Underground (No thanks to God for Velvet Revolver).

Barreling out of New York City a few years back, Interpol were instantly branded by a number of publications as vampire bats, black-clad bloodsuckers with an equal thirst for cocktails and coattails. Of course, most of these people probably never bothered to listen to Turn on the Bright Lights, which melded together Bowie and The Cure and the "Division with such precision that it sounded like something completely new and urgent, a black cat mewling to be let in that you were powerless to stop, even as you knew it would probably scratch the shit out of you.

Full of light-dark balance, minor keys, jangling guitars and seismic rhythm shifts, Antics is a bit sunnier than the band's first full-length, but no less thoughtful and engaging. In fact, it's a better record. On Turn on the Bright Lights, the band mostly hinted at emotional intensity via gothically constructed sonic architecture and the voice of lead singer Paul Banks. On Antics, Banks allows himself a Bryan Ferry-like croon on occasion, which fits the record's preoccupation with matters of the heart. Songs like "Evil," "Take You On a Cruise," and "C'Mere" might appear rather bleak upon first listen, but subsequent spins find Banks' yearning optimism piercing through the dark night of the soul like the laser eyes of a love robot.

Which, in the end, is what makes the album so damn compelling (along with the tighter-than-Julian-Casablancas-on-a-bender rhythm section). The band are unalloyed masters at creating a mood, whether in their much-commented-upon stage presence or in the black heart procession of the words and music, a symbiotic sulk that makes you want to wear black on the outside because red's what you feel on the inside.

Track to Burn: "Evil"
Rating: (Overall) --Timothy C. Davis

Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc, Dick Cheney, Mark Twain
Polyvinyl Records

As former Cap'n Jazz leader, Tim Kinsella (along with brother Mike) proved that emo didn't have to suck all the joy out of a room, then pulled a 180 and went all French new wave-y with Joan of Arc, sucking what precious little joy there was from art-rock salons everywhere.

It's tempting to dismiss JofA for their massive pretensions alone (the title track consists of people reciting the titular subjects' names over and over). But there are moments of sublime musical beauty on every JofA release -- surely explaining why the Kinsellas haven't been beaten senseless with weighty Foucault texts and forced, Clockwork Orange-style, to read a loop of their own insipid lyrics and song titles ad nauseaum. On Joan of Arc, Dick Cheney, Mark Twain, songs like "Onomatopoetic Animal Faces" and "I Trust a Litter of Kittens Still Keeps the Colosseum" only heighten the contrast between musical chops and art-school mind-fuck. Like the rest of their catalog, the saving grace here is the unique arrangements and audacious mix of styles -- disco beats, jazz, post-rock, apocalyptic chamber pop, punk, po-mo noise, glitch-tracks -- that may someday cohere into a pleasurable whole. That day is not yet here.

Track to Burn: "Queasy Lynn"
Rating: --John Schacht

Sally Timms
In the World of Him
Touch & Go

Sally Timms is best known as the boozy, beautiful voice in the boozy, beautiful Mekons. In The World Of Him, a solo project, is a collection of covers written by men and sung from their perspective. Sound familiar? Didn't Tori Amos recently pull a similar stunt? Not the most interesting concept for a Concept Album, but sexual pseudo-politics aside, Timms has a hypnotic voice and haunting takes of covers by Mekons' bandmate Jon Langford, Mark Eitzel (American Music Club) and Ryan Adams. Strangely, the weakest songs are those penned by Timms and co-producer Johnny Dowd (the only non-testosterone track). Dowd's "139 Hernalser Gurtel" oozes Kate Bush-like pretense down to the see-how-eerie-I-am, carnival production. And Timms' study of a grown up "Little Tommy Tucker" seems little more than a throwaway. Yet perhaps the disc's greatest achievement will be introducing some (especially among the American audience) to Brit songwriter Kevin Coyne. His "I'm Just A Man" is arguably the best track here. Timms wraps her bell-like voice around this heartbreaking, apologetic love song that recalls Syd Barrett and Leonard Cohen and really makes it sing. In the end, it doesn't matter that Timms is a woman singing tunes penned by men. The songs remain the same: Lovely.

Track to Burn: "I'm Just a Man"
Rating: 1/2--Tara E. Flanagan

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