Monday, February 23, 2009

Albums That You Should Own, But Perhaps Don't (And In That Case, You Soon Will): Ugly Casanova - Sharpen Your Teeth

Ugly Casanova - Sharpen Your Teeth

Let me start by saying that Ugly Casanova's Sharpen Your Teeth is basically a Modest Mouse record. The fact that Isaac Brock works with a new set of back-up players (members of Califone, Red Red Meat, The Black Heart Procession and Holopaw) makes little sonic difference in the end. Yes, the songs are a bit more stripped down and experimental and there's less electric guitars clanking away, but the sound itself is inherent of Brock.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Actually, it's quite the contrary. Isaac Brock has unmistakable idiosyncrasies, both vocally and to his instrumental approach, and that very distinction is the mark of an original artist. He can't help but sound, well, like himself.

However, what makes this record perhaps more intriguing than your average Modest Mouse outing is the juxtaposition of Brock's eccentric vocal mannerisms with John Orth's restrained and smooth whispers. The Holopaw singer contributes his vocals to four songs, including some of the highlights, "Barnacles", "Spilled Milk Factory", "Cat Faces" and "Hotcha Girls". The ladder being my favorite track off of Sharpen Your Teeth. It's lyrics are simultaneously gorgeous and austere, devastating and therapeutic; effortlessly disentangling complex subject matters with simple sentiments.

Other tracks, like "Pacifico", foreshadow the work of bands like Mugison and Man Man while paying ample respect to the prominent Brock influence — the immortally relevant godfather of musical beatnikism, Tom Waits. "Barnacles" and "Things I Don't Remember" could have fit in comfortably on The Moon & Antarctica (understandingly so, since they date to about the same time.) "Cat Faces" is stunning despite its simplicity of arrangement and execution. Sharpen Your Teeth's only misstep (a small one, at that) is "Ice On The Sheets" which is a bit musically monotonous and at times, even vocally obnoxious. But overall, the album is really enjoyable.

This album reminds me, like so many others, of working nights by myself at the record store. In between the infrequent drizzling in of customers, I would step out to smoke cigarettes, propping the door open and cranking the stereo loud so that I could hear the music outside. In the summer, the humid Nashville air weighed down every puff and drag of smoke, making each subsequent sighing exhale that much more relieving.

I hope you find it just as enjoyable:


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