Thursday, August 09, 2007
Miss Alex White Reviewed on Pitchfork Today.
Miss Alex White & the Red Orchestra
Space & Time
[In the Red; 2007]
It doesn't take much to make a great rock'n'roll record, but to succeed at getting the most out of not a lot, an act's got to have guts. That's what fueled such self-styled 1960s primitives as the Stooges and the VU through the Jesus and Mary Chain. Not technical innovation, per se, not instrumental skills, not necessarily even melodies, but guts. Guts to play like the music you're making is the greatest the world has ever heard even if deep down you suspect it'll take a few decades for everyone to catch on, if they ever do at all.
Like countless others, Miss Alex White & the Red Orchestra owe a debt to all of the above; needless to say, like those countless others, they don't come close to their idols, either. But Space & Time propels itself along with such heart, such swagger, and such, yes, guts that its shortcomings don't really matter. For a tidy half hour or so, it's the greatest thing in the world.
As befits White's placement on the In The Red roster, Space & Time begins pushing the limits of comfortable fidelity and rarely lets up for a breather for its duration. At a little over a minute long, "In the Snow" is all overdriven guitars, steady rumbling drums, pounding piano, and White's own attitude-drenched wail, dropping you right into the middle of the maelstrom, an audacious start to any record. As if to punctuate the point, the disc quickly continues with "I Dig History", just a few well chosen chords, repetitive bass, and enough of a racket (including some buried maracas) to make it a perfect set closer instead moved up front and shoved in your face.
Horns appear on "Future Talk", like the Stones at their most stoned with Jagger's vocals replaced with White's sweet but tough girl-group styled bark and an overdriven guitar solo that ultimately steamrolls over the brass honks and blurts. "I'm not sure I understand/ What it takes to be a man," White shouts out from the murk. "I don't know why you can't try," goes the withering payoff.
"Submarine" slows things down to a mere trot, Velvet Underground-style, the four-minute length downright epic compared to the bubblegum garage fuzz of "She Wanna", the galloping "Trash Bag", and the concentrated raw power of "Candy". Lest you think the pretty chords and opening tremolo of "Poison Arrow" will evince a change of pace, don't worry. Thirty seconds in it erupts into a more familiar squall.
The downside of such a gleefully abrasive back-to-basics devil-may-care parade is that any deviation from form, like the comparatively leisurely "Lips & Crime", comes off a relative drag. But those tiny little moments pass quickly. With 33 minutes to work with there's not a lot of room to mess around. Hell, keeping things so to the point while maintaining an over-the-top approach underscores that messing around is the last thing White and crew are up to.
Indeed, this is Delta Force rock delivered with a smile: In and out before you even know it, inflicting maximum damage and satisfaction while it's there before fading out. Your ears will hate you for it, but your heart will love you. And your guts, well, they'll churn in appreciation at the fun slash and burn guitar violence of it all.
-Joshua Klein, August 09, 2007