Label: Zero Hour
4 out of 5
Picture Dinosaur Jr. and
Sonic Youth getting together with Stereolab. Not so odd? Picture John Coltrane
sitting in with them (if he wasn't dead). Oh...and he invites Metallica
along for the ride. Pulling from a grab bag of styles ranging from speed
metal (take a listen to 1994's breathtaking cover of Robert Palmer's Johnny
and Mary) to jazz to industrial, Weilheim Germany's The Notwist have managed
to blend together a distinct sound that somehow always has room to grow.
And grow it does. On their latest offering, Shrink, they have toned down
the rock a bit, and added quite a bit of jazz. Still here are the various
mechanical sounding beats found on previous releases, but it's less aggressive
and ominous, more smooth sounding and comfortable. This mixing of styles
could seem like a gimmick, but The Notwist pull it off with flying colors.
Perhaps it's because of the lack of fear they seem to have in exploring
different musical areas. Maybe it's because they know their strengths and
expand on those while sifting new things into the mix. The one thing that
seems to figure into all of The Notwist's songs is attention to the beat.
Whether it's double kick-drum raw speed or mellowed out electronic loops,
it's always interesting. Another constant is Markus Acher's vocals. Melancholy,
almost a monotone, almost a murmur, they convey the kind of emotion I would
have died for (or at least cried over) during my "black" days in high school.
Overlaying this foundation is where they do their most interesting work.
Maybe they'll invite Johnny Cash to the next session. They could make it