Record Store Day 2014 reviews: Bruce Springsteen, Jack White, and more
Another Record Store Day is in the books, and based on preliminary statistics and the number of photos of crowded indie shops that popped up all over Instagram on Saturday, it appears to be bigger than ever.
This year’s crop of exclusive vinyl releases featured several big-time reissues or first vinyl appearances of classic albums, but there were also a handful of newly minted pieces of music unveiled via Saturday’s festivities. Bruce Springsteen released a four-song salvo, Jack White set a record with a record, and Veruca Salt announced their return via two new tracks. Check out the reviews of these new tunes from big-name artists below.
American Beauty EP
The four songs on Springsteen’s new EP (which will be available digitally tomorrow) represent a few leftovers from the Boss’ past few albums: the driving “American Beauty” and the power pop rave-up “Hurry Up Sundown” were both cut during the sessions for High Hopes, “Mary Mary” was originally intended for Magic, and “Hey Blue Eyes” was recorded for Working on a Dream. The High Hopes stuff holds up best, especially “Hurry Up Sundown,” which is one of the purer pop moments for Springsteen in the 21st century. Magic is one of Springsteen’s most forgettable collections, and “Mary Mary” is of a piece with that sentiment—it’s not terrible, but it’s also pretty weightless. “Hey Blue Eyes” fares better, gently building into a twisted, dark resolution. Some E Streeters show up playing parts here and there, but this is Springsteen’s show, and like High Hopes before it, American Beauty does an admirable job of balancing Springsteen’s dust-folk passion with the impulse to craft anthems. B+
“Lazaretto” / “Power of My Love”
On Saturday morning, Jack White welcomed an intimate crowd into his Third Man Records studio in Nashville for a live show that began with the title track from his forthcoming second solo album Lazaretto. Less than four hours later, the vinyl pressing of that song (coupled with a cover of Elvis Presley’s “Power of My Love”) was available for purchase. It would be an impressive stunt even if “Lazaretto” wasn’t so off-the-wall awesome. Built on a thick psych-funk bassline, “Lazaretto” finds White spewing a bug-eyed talking blues in between jagged guitar solos, a space-rock breakdown, and a swaggering fiddle solo. The rawness of the live performance and the fact that it was cut in mono only adds to the sense of manic claustrophobia, and the extra-loud Elvis homage is glorious icing. A
Sunny Day Real Estate
There hasn’t been a song released under the name Sunny Day Real Estate since the emo forebears’ underrated 2000 epic The Rising Tide, and the band’s classic lineup—Jeremy Enigk, Dan Hoerner, Nate Mendel, and William Goldsmith—haven’t recorded together in even longer. They were working on a comeback album several years ago when the sessions fell apart, but on Record Store Day they dropped a split single with Circa Survive that featured the first inkling from those aborted sessions. “Lipton Witch” brings together the proggy crunch of The Rising Tide with the more elusive backdrops and rhythms that colored the band’s classic debut Diary. Enigk’s voice sounds a little weathered, though he still still knows how cut through the fuzz when the climax comes. It’s a little formless, but “Lipton Witch” is fascinating enough to make the band’s failed attempt at a comeback record just heartbreaking enough. B
The Flaming Lips
7 Skies H3
The Flaming Lips have become sort of unofficial Record Store Day mascots; they always manage to go above and beyond with their RSD releases (and they also seem to never miss a chance to lay out some stuff on vinyl). Some of those, like their collaborations album The Flaming Lips & Heady Fwends, are satisfyingly weird, while others (like the four-LP reissue of their Zaireeka album) just end up in remaindered bins. 7 Skies H3 is actually a more concise version of their 2011 experiment 24 Hour Song Skull, which was a single, multi-part song that lasted a full day and was only available on flash drives incased in skulls that cost $5,000 (the whole thing could also be spun for free at a website). The band chopped up ten sections and put it out as this album. Frustratingly, the editing doesn’t help much. It opens with “7 Skies H3 (Can’t Shut Off My Head),” a fantastically-constructed big of bedroom noise rock that recalls the best off-kilter moments from Clouds Taste Metallic, and even at eight minutes, still feels direct and concise. The rest of the album, unfortunately, is made up of battering noise suites and sleepy mood pieces that neither cohere as an independent record nor provide an ample representation of the original 7 Skies H3 project. Only the kickoff track and the jittery closer “Can’t Let It Go” are worth spinning. C+
“The Museum of Broken Relationships” / “It’s Holy”
Remarkably, one if the most sought-after pieces of vinyl on Saturday was the new double-A side single from the reconstituted original lineup of Veruca Salt, the ’90s female-fronted garage-pop monster that gave us alt-rock radio gems “Seether” and “Volcano Girls.” The demand was well-deserved, as both “The Museum of Broken Relationships” and especially “It’s Holy” crackle and burn just like the band used to. The strangely off-kilter harmonies by Louise Post and Nina Gordon sound simultaneously comfortably classic and bracingly fresh — a sound has been absent from rock music since Gordon left to pursue a solo career 15 years ago. “It’s Holy” feels like a lost gem from the band’s heyday (there’s even a reference to “Seether”), and the charging, chunky guitars should not only rouse some top-shelf middle-aged head-banging when the band heads out on tour but should also attract a new generation of sugar-seeking girls looking to riot. A-
The Flaming Lips