5/7/5: Haiku Music Review

Courtesy Downtown/Sub Pop

Two great tastes that taste great together: SoCal and Seattle meet again.

Hundreds of years ago, in roughly 400 BT (Before Twitter), the Japanese began penning short poems comprised of 17 syllables in three lines -- five syllables, seven syllables, then five syllables, respectively. Wondering if we could provoke the haiku-master Bashō to turn over in his grave, we've started "5/7/5: Haiku Music Review." These poems make a tweet seem like a Russian novel. They'll be a regular feature here, so stay tuned.

Cold War Kids, "Dear Miss Lonelyhearts"
Downtown Records

Southern California's Cold War Kids were critical darlings from the second they took the stage. Almost. Formed in 2004 in Fullerton, their bluesy and soulful indie rock found a quick connection with critics as well as music lovers. Harnessing the Internet to interact with fans as well as the press, they were fearless self-promoters.

Live, they pull out all the stops and don't take any guff. Case in point: When Cold War Kids played Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., a few winters ago, some rambunctious fans started a mosh pit. Frontman Nathan Willett admonished one lad who was dancing particularly aggressively. Not dissuaded, the lad continued; Willett stopped the show, pulled the "fan" onstage and had him sit on the corner of the platform -- a very public time-out.

When's the last time you saw something like that? In person, Cold War Kids lack any rock-star pretension. On record, they're just as real, and their music has progressed considerably from their 2006 debut, "Robbers & Cowards," and the darker "Loyalty To Loyalty" in 2008. In the past, the band was very public about focusing more on songwriting than marathon hours in the studio.

Their new release, "Dear Miss Lonelyhearts," is the first record where the band placed heavy emphasis on letting songs grow and morph during the recording process.

"We were shaken up, ready to let certain songs go further than before by trying new styles and arrangements, while keeping others sparse and caring more about the finished product and less about how we got there," explains Willett about the 10-track album, which was recorded at the band's private studio in San Pedro, Calif.

Definitely check out the frenetic single "Miracle Mile." It's the first release featuring the addition of former Modest Mouse and Murder City Devils guitarist Dann Gallucci, who also handled production alongside Lars Stalfors.

Swing for the fences
Connecting with knuckleballs
Big indie anthems

Mudhoney, "Vanishing Point"
Sub Pop Records

Pop quiz: Who is credited with coining the term "grunge"? Answer: Mark Arm, the vocalist for Green River as well as Mudhoney, used the term in 1981 when he wrote a letter to a local zine criticizing his own band, Mr. Epp And The Calculations, describing their sound as "Pure grunge! Pure noise! Pure sh--!"

Many agreed with Arm; Mr. Epp was regularly referred to as "the worst band in the world."

But Arm continued to play and formed Mudhoney after the seminal Green River broke up. Mudhoney was one of the first bands signed by new label Sub Pop, which released their debut EP, "Superfuzz Bigmuff," and their first single, "Touch Me I'm Sick," in 1988. These recordings established both the band and the label with one fell swoop and Mudhoney joined Sonic Youth on tour the following year.

And it's been a wild ride for everyone involved. According to the label, "April 2013 marks the 25th anniversary of both Mudhoney and Sub Pop Records, and there could be no better band to represent the label, past, present and future. Nirvana, Saint Etienne and Fleet Foxes are swell, but no other group has consistently kicked as much a-- as Mudhoney, nor has anyone come close."

Mudhoney celebrates this milestone with their ninth studio release, "Vanishing Point." And their punk-infused garage rock (with plenty of blues jams) sounds as good as ever. "I Like It Small" is love song to the tiny things in life, and the album also includes a wine-snob scorcher about how many ways Arm hates chardonnay. The result is a record filled with tunes of an older -- but thankfully not more mature -- band.

The more Mudhoney
Stays the same, the better they
sound. Cantankerock.

Related Content