Music Reviews: Train, Arctic Monkeys, The Ruse, Gutbucket

Every month(ish), we recommend the most seriously awesome albums and tracks we had on repeat.


For Me, It’s You

Music: Always solid, polished, and dependable, Train returns with more radio-friendly rock that won’t offend even your mom. Don’t turn the dial, though, because there’s a lot to love in the vocal stylings of Pat Monahan. The lyrics are a little wiser, the harmonies are a little tighter, and there are more singles than you can shake your sticks at. Predicted chart toppers: “All I Ever Wanted,” “Give Myself to You,” “If I Can’t Change Your Mind,” and “For Me, It’s You.” 

Drumming: Scott Underwood can spank the hell out of a drum set, but on the last couple Train discs, including this one, he’s opted for a toned-down, play-for-the-song kind of vibe. In principle, that’s a good thing. In practice….Well, we miss the slinky ghost notes of “Meet Virginia.” 

The Straight Poop: Great fun to listen to, but there prob won’t be any Grammys this time around.

Arctic Monkeys

Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

Music: Clearly the English water supply is spiked with genius juice because here’s another band of barely postpubescent Brits who score off the charts. Though comparisons to label-mates Franz Ferdinand and super hip Hard-Fi will come fast and furious, the Monkeys for our money are more swinging, combining punk attitude with dirty pop sensibilities and a dash of funky disco. You’re going to love it.

Drumming: Matthew “The Cat” Helders pounces his way through each track, sharpening his claws on the drum lick that opens the disc (always a good sign). Adept at sixteenth-note hi-hat patterns, Helders can also hammer out a backbeat that smacks a groove into submission. Go toward the end of “Perhaps Vampires Is a Bit Strong But…” for some snappy snare work. 

The Straight Poop: Whatever People Say holds the U.K. record for most copies of a debut album sold in a week (over 360,000). Pressure? Not when you’re this bloody good.

The Ruse

Light in Motion

Music: An American branch of the growing Coldplay tree, The Ruse is all about lyrics and melody. Atmospheric, lush guitars weave through stories of misery that really matter: dashed dreams, innocence lost, unrequited love—an altogether tender affair, really. (Not surprisingly, then, the song “Swallow You” didn’t deliver quite the message expected….But maybe if we play it backwards.) Likely crowd catchers: “The Situation,” “Alone,” and “Hold Tight.”

Drumming: A solid support man, Jason Young bolsters the band with crisp hi-hats and shimmering cymbals, occasionally laying into a tight snare drum, like on “Don’t Let It Face Away.” The tom groove on “All I’ve Done” is even catchier than the chorus. 

The Straight Poop: When the tendonitis and tinnitus are acting up and the shin splints have kicked in, just slip into Light in Motion, lie back, and let all the Slipknots melt away. 


Sludge Test

Music: Gutbucket’s bio insists the group is a quartet, but there’s a whole lot of ruckus going on for only four fellows. Of course, the band does hail from New York, where jazz-rock chops grow plentiful and improv cajones come large as coconuts, so we’ll try not to be too suspicious. Spoiler alert for the faint of heart: These tunes are at times frightening, at times exalting, and always on the smarter side of crazy. Imagine Ornette Coleman and Jimi Hendrix joining Spinal Tap for a Frank Zappa tribute concert.

Drumming: Stickman Paul Chuffo somehow manages to keep something like a solid foundation for the numerous sax and guitar runs while still getting in his share of licks. Turn up “Where Have You Gone, Mr. Squeegee Man” and “Punkass Rimbledink” for drumming that is as playful as the song titles.

The Straight Poop: A disc that’s equal parts exhilaration and exhaustion. Kind of like love.

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