Review: Basement Membranes

True Womanhood is a DC band I've been hyping for a long time. Here is a review of their new record:

Their early, chaotic performances drew comparisons to Sonic Youth, a juxtaposition that never really captured the band's sound, but was nonetheless virtually unavoidable for a period of time. To hear True Womanhood today, upon the release of their debut EP, the moody, ambient Basement Membranes, it would be difficult to ascertain how anyone ever made the comparison.

It seems worth of injecting a bit of band history here. Founding member Ross Kerr, whose noisy, bombastic guitar heroics were incontrovertibly a huge part of the True Womanhood sound, quit last year shortly after their first northeast tour. Rather than attempt to replace Kerr, the band chose to continue as a trio. This necessitated a drastic re-imagining of virtually every song in the band's repertoire. A comparison the versions of "Rubber Buoys" and "Shadow People" in the above-linked post to the ones found on Basement Membranes is telling. Where squalls of angular guitar once dominated, now a more subdued, almost claustrophobic ambiance prevails.

This approach is not always well-suited to the material. The aforementioned two tracks, which seem to have been notched down not only in volume, but also in tempo, feel particularly lethargic. However, tracks like "The Monk" and "Dignitas", which open the record, work quite well. The former, in particular, is gorgeous here, its chorus positively soaring.

As Sonic Youth comparisons once prevailed in reviews of True Womanhood, so do Radiohead comparisons today, and understandably so. Thomas Redmond's vocals really do sound an uncanny amount like Thom Yorke's, and tracks like "Magic Child" and "A Diviner" could almost be outtakes from Hail to the Thief and In Rainbows, respectively. That said, there is more than that going on here as well, and the majority of the tracks bear little overall resemblance to The Greatest Rock Band Since The Beatles.

True Womanhood have accomplished something here that would be an impressive feat for even a much more seasoned band. They have recovered from the loss of a core element of the group's sound and managed to release a strong, coherent set of songs that neither pines for their past nor dispatches with it entirely. I have complete faith that the band's debut full-length, which they have already begun recording with Baltimore studio wizard J. Robbins, will further refine their already-impressive material.

Stream and buy Basement Membranes from Baltimore's Environmental Aesthetics here. Find True Womanhood on Myspace here.


A Brief Exchange on the Viability of Paid Downloads

Friend: It's like if your office has an Evian water cooler but you go out and buy bottled water anyway.

Me: Well, no. It's more like your office stole another office's water cooler, and you go out and buy bottled water



I cannot overstate how good the new Built to Spill is. Seriously. Streaming here at the moment.


A Few Thoughts on Mary Travers

So... I've come out of my blogging hole to write a bit about the passing of a musician whose music was tremendously important to me. Mary Travers died overnight at the age of 72 after a long battle with leukemia.

Peter Paul and Mary were never cool to like in my lifetime. They were too commercial to be remembered fondly by many folk purists, and most people of my generation remember only their 1971 children's album, Peter Paul and Mommy. That's a mistake, though. They were so popular in 1963 that all three of the albums they'd released to that point were in the top ten simultaneously, a feat matched by relatively few artists in the history of popular music.

They were not prolific songwriters. Other than "Puff the Magic Dragon", most of their best known songs were written by other artists. What they were, however, were skillful arrangers, guitarists, and vocalists who brought pop sensibilities to the storied traditions of folk. My first concert was a Peter Paul and Mary show in Reading, PA, before I entered elementary school. I don't remember very much about it, but my parents tell me that I sang along with every song. Their version of Gordon Lightfoot's "Early Mornin' Rain" is one of my favorite songs of all time, and as I told a friend this morning, the amount of time I spent listening to their records left a mark on my tastes so deep and indelible that I find it hard to fully comprehend.

Though they only rarely performed new material together in my lifetime, I owe a profound musical debt to Mary Travers and her musical partners Noel Paul Stookey and Peter Yarrow. May she rest in peace.


Yo La Tengo's New Record is Good

Hello again!


Rainy Friday Music

Ladies and gentlemen, Maggot Brain:


A Place to Bury Strangers

I had the opportunity to check this band out a couple weekends back at the Rock and Roll Hotel in DC. Excellent stuff. Noisy, heavy shoegaze. Sorry for the short post, but hopefully it's better than nothing.