If New Orleans bands often operate like slot machines — different combinations built from the same components — then singer/guitarist James Hayes, bassist Isidore Grisoli and drummer Dan Fox are the cherries, melon and lucky No. 7 of the local punk scene, popping up in various permutations over the years with every pull of the lever: Hatchback, Faeries, Red Beards, Big Baby. The trio hits pay dirt with this latest outfit, whose concise debut (nine songs spanning 29 minutes) offers the most cohesive, impacting and tuneful vehicle for their talents. Gambit's "Ear to the Ground: New Orleans" LimeWire compilation already sampled the best of this band; "Sheepskin and Stone," which leads off the album with grinding guitars and a triumphant, fist-pumping vocal hook by Hayes, earned it early but not unfounded sobriquets like "Dinosaur III." There's a certain amount of risk in leading off your first record with your finest song, but in Lovey Dovies' case it's a calculated one. The eight tracks that follow are frequently just as captivating, and a refreshing crapshoot — or as much as a high-gain, guitar/bass/drums setup can be. While J. Mascis and Lou Barlow's group remains the most reliable touchstone — chugging centerpieces "Comatose" and "Never Ender" sound lifted straight off an '80s alt-rock set list — the band also successfully feels out the angst-ridden, underground grunge of Elliott Smith's Heatmiser origins ("Stained Sleeve") and the heart-on-sleeve shouts of more modern, minimalist noisemakers like Despistado and Japandroids ("Workhorse," "Wait Now"). A firm command of dynamics is key to this kind of music, and it's on full display on "Uno," a soft, simple guitar riff growing with every bar to a back-breaking denouement before the band mercifully calls off the dogs. You might even call it beautiful.
The Other Planets
The mind-altering properties of banana peels and Angel's Trumpets are well documented, but do azalea flowers possess unknown psychotropic effects? The Other Planets start off new album Hello Beams eating them on "High Beams," the latest of the space travelers' punny, druggy inspirations (see: Eightballs in Angola, "Bo Diddley's Opium Nightmare," et. al.), and what transpires afterward can only be described as a flowery head trip. Outlined by a nearly incessant beach-ball rhythm and brightly colored with queasy clarinets and guitars, the record finds the longstanding band's fearless leaders, co-frontmen Anthony Cuccia and Dr. Jimbo Walsh, pinch-hitting for each other with woozy, pitch-bending vocals and moving farther away from jokey prog jazz and toward psychedelic, sunbeamed pop. That's not to say they've lost their sense of humor — this may be the silliest Planets platter yet, with a pervading cheekiness that soaks through the lyrics and saturates the music. Second track title "Slaphappathy" just about sums it up: Syd Barrett sets, Frank Zappa spikes. Via rich harmonic vocals doubled to infinity, "The Date" hilariously sullies Mother Goose's name with its Andrew Dice Clay tale of a cocaine dealer retiring to the Bywater ("Hangin' in the corner spot/ Wonder who Jack Horner's got/ That same f—kin' creep who's f—kin' Little Bo Peep"). The sounds start to run together on the back side, a sense that seems to be shared by the band, as "Downstream" tries mixing things up with an unfortunate, uncharted detour into reggae. But the LP ends with one of its weirdest cuts: the tempo-twisting "Waltz Mart," an alternately breezy and freaky boat ride on Willy Wonka's chocolate river that's full of ominous queries ("What will you do when it happens to you?/ What will you say when you're going away?") and anatomical non sequiturs ("He's got no ears on his head!"). It'll be OK, pal — have another azalea.