Rock & Roll Report Card

Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan
Kick in the Eye
Kick in the Eye
Hilotrons
Hilotrons

A (87%)
Bob Dylan
Tell Tale Signs
Columbia Records

Bob Dylan’s Tell Tale Signs is not really a proper album, nor is it another Greatest Hits ploy. The collection, spanning several decades of material, is the eighth instalment in the Bootleg Series, which has been recovering greatness from Dylan’s cutting-room debris since the early 90s.

As two discs of “Rare and Unreleased” material from 1989 to 2006, the collection retains the well-produced, Bootleg Series releases’ sleek packaging. The album marks Dylan as one of few artists of his epoch still releasing material rivalling his established 1960 classics—it would be hard to imagine too much excitement over Rolling Stones outtakes from the 90s.

The songs of Tell Tale Signs, particularly “Mississippi” and “Tell Ol’ Bill,” match the quality of Dylan’s seminal early work without sounding like attempts at rehash or nostalgia. The Bootleg concept works because Dylan is known for treating a song countless different ways before settling on one version. The alternates included here are starkly different from the official takes. The official version of “Someday Baby”’s glaring debt to Muddy Waters’ “Trouble No More” is undetectable on this easy-going, dreamy take, sounding closer to U2 than to Muddy.

Dylan’s versatility is also showcased as he takes us from the seething rock and roll of “High Water (For Charlie Patton)” to the traditional folk of “The Girl on the Greenbriar Shore” and the country-western duet “The Lonesome River,” with Ralph Stanley.

There really isn’t much to detract from this release. Seeing two versions each of “Mississippi” and “Dignity” might disappoint, but “Mississippi” is dazzling, with two takes diverse enough to warrant their inclusion. Had only one version of “Dignity” been released it would’ve been the weakest track on the collection. Luckily there are two versions, making it both the weakest and second-weakest track.

Conveniently, Dylan has another winner in Tell Tale Signs. It comes in one, two and three disc sets, of which the second is standard and offers the best bang for your buck.

—Sean McBrien

N/A unratable
Kick in the Eye
Sea of Bitterness
Independent

Everything about Kick in the Eye’s new album Sea of Bitterness had me at the jittery cusp of a full blown seizure. Fifty screaming eight-year-olds clutching an unlimited supply of Pixy Stix could not produce a more high-pitched and abusive noise. The album is bad, provocatively bad. Betwixt the infantile lyrics and the clumsy, garage-band instrumentation, Kick in the Eye should seriously consider returning to their day jobs, which inevitably take place in or around a strip club. The lyrics came in a Microsoft Word sheet tucked haphazardly into a poorly decorated CD envelope—the flip side of which is a signed glamour shot of the tired looking, 30-something musicians. My favorite lyrical moment is easily the fourth track, titled “Forty Degrees Below.” Heed this insightful snippet: “Went to a monster truck rally/ and a wrestling show/a hot dog eatin’ contest where we got too full/at Hooty McBoob’s the drinks were cheap/ and over at the legion I won some meat.”

I don’t even know where to start. Hooty McBoobs? Hot dog eating contest?

“Winning meat” hasn’t been something to write about since we lived in caves, and Hooty McBoobs sounds like a disease you get after too many “hot dog eatin’ contests.” As for the sound itself, it’s literally just screaming.

Not measured, metal-core screaming, but a robust-yet-girly yell that screeches between embarrassingly basic, sludgy guitar riffs and off-time drums.

This album is actually worth listening to because it’s so bad that it could actually be considered a new form of entertainment. It’s like Courtney Love’s vomit became animated somehow and produced an album. Kick in the Eye? More like Kick in the Brain.

—Thomas Morgan


A+ (98%)
Hilotrons
Happymatic
Kelp Records

The Hilotrons are like one of those delightful mix bags you got at birthday parties as a child. Sometimes you got a green plastic whistle and some candy necklaces, other parties brought forth a bounty of candy Lego blocks or temporary Batman tattoos. Generally, unless the birthday sucked, you had no idea what you were going to get.

But so rarely were the contents of your mix bag long-listed for the 2008 Polaris Prize. Even better is that listening to the Hilotrons’ brand new record Happymatic is a replacement for that nostalgic mix-bag feeling.

Ottawa’s Hilotrons are the leather horse crop slapping the Canadian indie scene’s exhausted flank. After an extensive Rolodex of mediocre, throw-away buzz bands, Happymatic’s unpredictable music trajectory is one of the most novel and exciting events in the glowing canon of Canadian indie music.

Born from an innumerable list of influences, Happymatic sails seamlessly from rockabilly blues to moody new-wave, to hyper electronic dance numbers that would make Chromeo cringe with genuine artistic jealousy. All of these influences are couched in an overall sound that somehow reminds you exactly of driving slowly through a pleasant suburb in the late 1950s.

The record’s first cut “Lost in Yichang” is an explosive, triumphant happy-track with a beat so catchy it’s actually unreasonable. And just when you thought the fourth track “Lovesuit” sounded a bit like The Cars Greatest Hits, it turns from a new-wave anthem to a soulful and bass-heavy funk tune. I am not exaggerating when I say every cut on this album is brilliant, specifically “Comrade Elvis”—the electronic frenzy and robot-voiced wonder.

Listen to this album—it’s a physical impossibility for you to be disappointed.

CFRC TOP 20!

1. Arts & Crafts Sampler vol.5
2. Chad VanGaalen—Soft Airplane
3. Gonzales—Soft Power
4. Human Highway—Moody Motorcycle
5. Blue Moon Rising—One Lonely Shadow
6. Hexes & Ohs—Bedroom Madness
7. Maxime Robin—Écoutez po la vitre
8. FemBots—Calling Out
9. Stereolab—Chemical Chords
10. The Awkward Stage—Slimming Mirrors, Flattering Lights
11. Nich Worby & Milkwood Sparrows—Ghost Bone
12. Sebastien Grainger—American Names
13. Vancougar—Canadian Tuxedo
14. The Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir—Ten Thousand
15. You Say Party! We Say Die!—Remik’s Cube
16. Said the Whale—Howe Sounds
17. Fleet Foxes—Fleet Foxes
18. Pete Samples—The Jumper Cables
19. The Chemical Brothers—Brotherhood
20. Jarvis Church—The Long Way Home

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.