Smile Politely

One-minute rock reviews

Drool Brothers, Ajax Muffler. Barfing Glitter Records

Amusing songs, well-executed, freed from commercial compulsion. Good ideas. But the execution may fall flat due to a guitar-and-drum-heavy treatment that emphasizes what is normal about the band over what is interesting, undermining the humor, inventiveness, and variety of songs (which might otherwise sound at times, like Elvis Costello, Frank Zappa, and other unlikely candidates). This band is on the right track, though — a track leading away from garage rock toward their uniquely freaky sensibility.


Seth Augustus, To The Pouring Rain. Porto Franco Records

Here’s an arresting debut by an older San Franciscan musician that has all the Howling Wolf-style vocals and surreal lyrics that are the surface-level characteristics of Tom Waits and Captain Beefheart. Unlike Waits, though, there is no pretense of jazz, and compared to Beefheart’s Magic Band, the rhythms and harmonies are more folky and conventional, less abrasive. So let’s dispense with the obligatory comparisons, because Seth Augustus is as original a sound as I have yet encountered in 2010. This is intelligent, imaginative, and uniquely American music, Tuvan fiddle and banjo notwithstanding.


David Bowie. A Reality Tour. ISO/Sony/Columbia

Here’s a two-CD set of the dignified and old David Bowie performing a songs that span his career from the earliest 1970s through more recent albums with which I have never been tempted to become familiar. I’m not a fan of live albums, and especially live albums by rock stars who are slowed down by advanced years, massive audiences, hired background singers, and the un-immediate acoustics of stadium-scale venues. This is probably as good as such albums get: here is the still-cool David Bowie with a crisp-sounding band and an impressive set list. If you want to hear the sound of 10,000 aging, screaming fans in Ziggy Stardust wigs in your living room, and for some reason prefer that to the unsurpassable studio versions of many of these songs (R.I.P. Mick Ronson), here’s your chance to drop another penny in Mr. Bowie’s pig.

Related Articles