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Third Eye Blind - Screamer Music Album Reviews

Third Eye Blind - Screamer Music Album Reviews On the band’s sixth album, frontman Stephan Jenkins Peter Pans his way through an improbably infectious set of would-be hits.
If he had less ambition and a lower tolerance for failure, Third Eye Blind frontman Stephan Jenkins could be sipping Mai Tais with Mark McGrath on the deck of a ’90s rock cruise right now, enjoying a life of royalty checks and low expectations. Instead, he’s carried on as if any year might be the one where his group finally reclaims its former glory. Everything he does is a long-shot bid for relevance: He covers Bon Iver, records bold political statements, and generally does the last thing we ask from the second-tier figures of alt-rock’s yesteryear: He tries.

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Kaputt - Carnage Hall Music Album Reviews

Building atop a wobbly foundation of post-punk totems, the Glaswegian sextet make complicated songs sound fun.

Of all the ways to say something is fucked, “kaputt” might be the cheeriest and most playful. There’s an almost cartoonish quality to the word, conjuring images of blown gaskets and billowing smoke. Yet it’s a silly-sounding word that cuts straight to the heart of capitalism’s great folly: It’s a system whose survival depends on selling you useless, instantly obsolete junk over and over again. So it’s fitting that, on their debut album, the Glaswegian sextet who call themselves Kaputt proffer a style of post-punk that is both highly combustible and patently absurd.


Carnage Hall is built atop a wobbly foundation of familiar post-punk totems: the wiry energy of early B-52’s, the bass-string-snapping rhythmic contortions of Minutemen, the melody-resistant rants and cheerleader chants of Brix-era Fall, and the sort of saxy violence that coursed through feisty freaks from X-Ray Spex to Love Is All. But in sharp contrast to your typical Mark E. Smith-modeled sing-spieler, Kaputt lead singer Cal Donnelly isn’t especially cranky—his elastic voice sounds both permanently gobsmacked and full of bravado, like someone who’s gotten clocked in a bar fight and, amazed to be still standing, marvels at the imaginary stars swirling around them. The first words we hear him sing on album opener “Rats” are, “It’s so much/Darker now,” but while a sudden breakdown at the 28-second mark braces you for a hit of chaotic skronk, the track instantly reanimates itself as an upbeat, brass-powered thrust that invites you to dance your worries away.

As “Rats” illustrates, Kaputt excel at making complicated songs sound fun. Even Carnage Hall’s most tightly wound rave-ups, like the D. Boon-worthy “Very Satisfied” and the call-and-response sprint “Parsonage Square,” pack surprise structural shifts and outta-nowhere hooks, with percussionist Emma Smith’s restless clatter providing the destabilizing counterpoint to bassist Tobias Carmichael and drummer Rikki Will’s vacuum-sealed rhythms. Donnelly’s wordplay cuts through the clamor with lyrics that are as bleakly satirical as they are brutally efficient. On “Feed My Son,” he takes on patriarchy and gluttony in a single couplet, singing, “I need to feed my son/Need him to grow big, big and strong,” before adding an ominous twist: “I need to eat to my son, he’s grown to twice the size of a normal one!”

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Donnelly’s innate theatricality is most effective on Carnage Hall’s more manic tracks, where he can pinball off of guitarist Simone Wilson and saxophonist Chrissy Barnacle’s punk-rock pep-rally harmonies. His unwavering bug-eyed intensity feels out of place when the band eases off the accelerator for slow-burn struts like “Hi! I’m the Wasp” or more light-hearted fare like “You Are Buried With My Nose.” But the band successfully ventures beyond the typical dance-punk parameters on Carnage Hall’s two-part centerpiece, “Drinking Problems Continue.” It is, in many senses, the album’s most despairing song, an unflinching portrait of escape from industrial-town misery via alcoholism. (“Metal smell roll off hill, burn my nostrils further,” Connelly sings, before sardonically adding, “I love this place like no other.”) But it’s also the album’s most joyous moment, with a boisterous Afropop groove that gives way to an ecstatic group chorus—a readymade self-help anthem for when all your hopes and dreams go kaputt.


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