By Jake Shenker
This week sees new releases by three of my favourite artists. Sorry ’bout the severe biases.
Here’s what’s new this week:
Dave Matthews Band — Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King (RCA)
I think I might be the only person who still cares about the Dave Matthews Band. Their last truly excellent album came out in 1998, and in the meantime they’ve released three unacceptably mediocre albums. But now, 11 years since Before These Crowded Streets, DMB has done something good. Big Whiskey isn’t your classic, acoustic-driven Dave Matthews Band: it’s full of electric guitars, glossy production, and succinct tunes. While it might piss off some diehard fans, it’s an undeniably well-made, enjoyable record.
Rancid – Let the Dominoes Fall (Epitaph)
Rancid is one of the few modern punk bands who have — arguably — never released a disappointing album. Well, their newest effort is much better than “not disappointing” — it’s fantastic. Let the Dominoes Fall has all the energy of previous albums — and its share of double-time drums and scream vocals — but it allows the aging band to explore some new territory. While tracks like “This Place” and “Up to No Good” maintain Rancid’s heavy punk and ska elements, “Civilian Ways” is a truly gorgeous acoustic tune, complete with slide guitar and mandolin. To top it off, the deluxe edition of the record comes with a bonus 12-track disc of acoustic versions of select new songs. In all, a very impressive effort.
Jeff Buckley - Grace Around the World DVD (Sony)
This eagerly anticipated DVD set chronicles Jeff Buckley’s live performances in promotion for his debut album, 1994’s Grace. Though many of these performances have been circulated on bootlegs, Grace Around the World is the first official DVD to compile them, along with previously unreleased videos. If you’re not sold yet, check out the special 3-disc edition of this set, which comes with a CD soundtrack of the film and — the coup de grâce — the as-yet unreleased documentary, Amazing Grace, which documents Buckley’s life and career, pre- and post-Grace, culminating in his untimely death.
Next week: a haiku about how much the Black Eyed Peas piss me off.