If one specter looms largest in the nightmares of music nerds, it’s the one that’s dressed like Alan Lomax and carrying an ax. No one wants to be the guy who pans the hindsight-clear genius of a musical act’s new direction, especially if that new direction is hailed by some as a daring innovation from an act who could have played it safe with a reliable old sound. But of course this fear has a chilling effect on evaluations of new music: After all, no one wants to be the stodgy traditionalist or the narrow-minded curmudgeon, or to be criticized as lacking imagination or perception.
Which brings me to the record that inspired these ruminations: Cold Colors, the recent EP from Saturday Looks Good to Me. SLGTM is beloved in the Fury household for their witty, infectious, lo-fi take on 1960s pop and soul. You could argue that it’s a limited formula, and maybe you’d be right—the dirty secret of perfect pop songs is that you can only listen to (and, I assume, make) so many before their cathartic spikes start to flatline. Eating a whole pack of Twizzlers sounds like a good idea when you open the bag, but you know it’s a mistake before you’re halfway done. (However, biting both ends off a twizzler and then using it as a straw to drink your coke is always brilliant.) But SLGTM has always cut the sweet with enough bitter to prevent that sugar crash. And in fact, I’m a little reluctant to call the new EP a “new direction” at all, since their albums are speckled with the occasional noodly jam or atmospheric noise piece. Those tracks work like static, so that the well turned hooks they threaten to submerge burst forth like a station coming in clearly for the first time. It’s an approach I love, nostalgic appreciator of static that I am. Here, though, with the exception of a minute or so of “Idiots,” all we have is noodles and atmosphere—aimless experiments, long vacations in blind alleys, droning dirges.
There’s nothing wrong with any of it, really, if that’s your thing. The problem here isn’t that Cold Colors is terrible, it’s just not what I listen to SLGTM for. Maybe fans of contemporary tuneless indie-folk, a genre which has its adherents and acolytes, will think it amazing. I suppose I’m discouraged because while there are plenty of bands who sound like Cold Colors, there aren’t too many who sound like the best of Sound on Sound. On the other hand, I’m encouraged that their website describes the EP as the “weird little brother” of their forthcoming LP —perhaps with this out of their system, SLGTM will return to the sound that they do best (or that best fits my idea of what they do best, anyway). Or maybe not—maybe this is the new direction, and I’ll have to content myself with feeling like Alan Lomax. I’ve got a lot of plaid shirts, so I think I’m set.
Comics: Booster Gold #1. I was torn when the solicits for this series hit the internet: on one hand, I love Booster Gold. On the other hand, I really can’t stand Geoff Johns’ action-figure writing or Dan Jurgens’ recent art style, all awkward poses. But to my surprise—and perhaps because of co-writer Jeff Katz and finisher Norm Rapmund—this issue was a pure delight, one of the most fun superhero comics I’ve read in a while. (Well, maybe only since the “stupid jetpack Hitler” issue of Atom a couple weeks back.) This is a well done first issue, giving new readers everything they need to know about the lead and his status quo while also plunging right into the main plot. There are a few bum notes—Booster’s Max Lord/Wonder Woman crack on page 7 smacks of Johnsian heavy-handedness—but in general the characterization is well handled; when the Meltzer League confronts Booster about his gloryhound antics, the newer members are suspicious of him, but Superman and Batman give him the benefit of the doubt, etc. (And in a nice touch, when the JLA arrives, everyone but Superman is grimacing.)
The real genius of the title is that the meta-plot works so perfectly with Booster’s defining characteristic, his longing to be recognized, respected, and maybe worshiped a little. As the only character who can help Rip Hunter prevent further damage to the timestream in the wake of 52 and Infinite Crisis and all that, Booster has to travel through history performing feats of heroism on the sly, sometimes even doing things that in the moment seem cowardly and moronic. Or, as Rip Hunter nicely sums it up, “You’ll go down in history as an ineffectual and incompetent fraud when in reality you’ll be the greatest hero history has ever known.” Sold! I’m with the series until the first severed limb, at least, so, given that this is a Geoff Johns comic—and that he’s already made a missing-arm joke in the first issue—I reckon I’ll be around for 6 issues or so for sure.
BREAKING NEWS! I just got an e-mail from the Bruce Springsteen folks announcing the October 2 release of Magic, his new album with the E Street band. Hooray! I think? Except: the tracklist gives cause for pause. “Gypsy Biker.” I worry.