The Breeders' Scrappy 'Mountain Battle' Esquire music critic Andy Langer discusses the week's new album releases, including albums from The Breeders, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Hayes Carll, Ike Reilly, and Man Man.


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The Breeders' Scrappy 'Mountain Battle'

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(Soundbite of song "Top Drawer")

MAN MAN: (Singing) You need a haircut. You need a shoeshine. You need aristocratic, Glow-in-the-dark erotic magnet.

STEWART: Today, New Music Tuesday is full of growly gals and growly guys, like that track from Philadelphia's Man Man. OK, so you might not hear the prettiest sounding musical offerings, but instead, some interestingly dark lyrics and some really cool instrumentation.

Here to tell us all about it - I still can't get over this song. It's got a beat I can really dance to. Here to tell us about the latest from Hayes Carll, Ike Reilly, Man Man as you're hearing now and the Breeders is our friend and music critic for Esquire Magazine, Andy Langer. Hi, Andy.

Mr. ANDY LANGER (Music Critic, Esquire Magazine): That's a lot of business we have today and most of it's ugly.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: I want to start with the Breeders. The twin sisters Deal are back. Kim and Kelley Deal have returned with a new release called "Mountain Battles." Can you describe it for us Andy, on its own and then in relationship to their more well-known, past work?

Mr. LANGER: Well, I mean, on its own, it's sort of this quirky, scrappy, experimental deal where there's a lo-fi country tune. There's a song sung in German. There's the Spanish bolero and there's nothing at all like "Cannonball." So if that's the relation to the previous work, don't go looking here for a big radio single.

STEWART: Let's listen to the track called "Night of Joy."

(Soundbite of sing "Night of Joy")

THE BREEDERS: (Singing) Can't stop the way of sorrow every while that you go. Give me this night. Give me, Give me this night. Give me...

STEWART: So they're ladies who are known for doing things on their own terms. It sounds like the tradition continues.

Mr. LANGER: Yeah, apparently Kim Deal wrote this record while on the last Pixies tour, and of course, people always wish they could hear more Kim Deal while she's with the Pixies. In this case, there's plenty of Kim Deal. There aren't a lot of pretty obvious-sounding, real-instantly-likable tunes, and yet that's kind of what you'd expect from the Breeders.

They've never really had a form, so whether this is a return to form depends on how much you really like the Breeders. The one thing that is really interesting is Steve Albini, who is the producer behind a couple Nirvana records, P.J. Harvey, and definitely is an outspoken critic of the music industry and of the way records sound today. He produced this from half-inch tape to acetate vinyl, which essentially means it's a horrible sounding record.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Well, this is funny, though. I have to just play this little piece of an interview from last month from Kim and Kelley Deal, just giving it to a British interviewer. Let's play this tape just so people know what they're like.


(Soundbite of interview)

Unknown Reporter: Why does it take you guys so long to record an album? It's like there's gaps in years between albums. Now, why is this?

Ms. KELLEY DEAL (The Breeders): When people ask me that, they're basically saying, unacceptable.

Unknown Reporter: It's awhile.

Ms. DEAL: We work on it constantly, honestly. I think I'm just really picky, I don't know. I feel a little silly doing the verse-chorus-verse-chorus, you know. And I'm not saying - I enjoy it when people do that, but I have a hard time doing - being that guy.

STEWART: Is that the only reason that took so long? I mean, they've had their share of drug and drink problems.

Mr. LANGER: Yeah, I mean, this is a band that, you know, has a rap sheet.

STEWART: It's true. That's right. One of them ended up in prison.

Mr. LANGER: Yeah, I mean...


Mr. LANGER: That said, this is a - for people that have been waiting around for a Breeders' record, they're going to love this. The Breeders aren't probably in the business of making a whole lot of new fans, and this isn't going to make it for them. And you know, I don't think that's their goal and this is a solid Breeders record for Breeders fans, it's pretty much that simple.

STEWART: OK, let's move now. Andy, come with me along on this musical journey to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. His new album, it's called "Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!" And let's talk about where he is at in his career. He just turned 50. He took a break for awhile and kind of laid low. This is his first new album with the Bad Seeds in awhile. Let's listen to the results of that respite, and then we'll get your take on it. This song we're about to hear is called "Lie Down Here (& Be My Girl)."

(Soundbite of song "Lie Down Here (& Be My Girl)")

Mr. NICK CAVE: (Singing) It's a matter of some urgency Oh, darling, can't you see? I can't hold back the tide.

Lie down here and be my girl, And stop your frantic little fingers trying to collect The years that pour from the hole in my side.

STEWART: So what do you think? Did the time off help rejuvenate him or his sound?

Mr. LANGER: Well, that's a nice piece where he's actually singing, but he doesn't do a lot of singing on this record. It's mostly ranting and raving and preaching, which is cool.

STEWART: If you like that kind of thing.

Mr. LANGER: Yeah, well, he's at his most entertaining when he's in the middle of a rant. He's sort of the Dennis Miller of rock 'n' roll. And he's - you know, this is a record built, or loosely based, on the biblical story of Lazarus, who he simply calls "Larry." And you know, it lends itself to that. The concept itself does.

It's not the most accessible Nick Cave record. It's more accessible than the double album they put out four years ago, or six years ago by now. That said, for a Nick Cave record, there's a lot of stuff here that's as loud, as dark as you'd expect from Nick Cave, but somehow seems just a little bit fresher, a little bit more interesting, and maybe a little bit more listenable.

STEWART: I've got to say, I'm not even a Nick Cave fan, and I listened to that title track and it's really - it's eerie and dark and there's something about it. At first, it was really off-putting, and then I kind of got into it.

Mr. LANGER: Yeah, he's the kind of the murder ballad of the dark humor, the dark setups for dark punch lines. I mean, you know, he's, in a lot of ways, the original Goth. And he's still that guy, even though he's 50 years old and singing about the same stuff.

STEWART: OK, let's move on. Staying in the same kind of angst-ridden genre, let's talk about the new Man Man record. It's called "Rabbit Habits." Let's listen to a track.

(Soundbite of song "Mister Jung Stuffed")

MAN MAN: (Singing) (Unintelligible) Take me in your arms, Out of harm's way. I don't want to love anymore.

STEWART: I heard that, and I started thinking Tom Waits.

Mr. LANGER: Yeah, it's very, very Tom Waits. It's sort of like if the Arcade Fire were into Tom Wait and not as much Bowie. But this is the record that if you were thinking about the Nick Cave or the Breeders record, this is the one to buy instead. They're from Philadelphia. They've got fake names like Chang Wang and Pow Wow and Honus Honus, which is hokey, hokey.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LANGER: And they wear war paint onstage.

STEWART: Awesome.

Mr. LANGER: All of that said, they've got this whole kitchen-sink thing going with two blues accordions, bicycle horns, and spoons. And yet while it's got that Tom Waits darkness to it, there's something kind of gleeful about it. Just listening to the sample you played into the segment and then that, your do sort of want to tap your feet.

STEWART: It's carnival-esque. It's like wacky, kind of funhouse, little bit dark, but fun at the same time.

Mr. LANGER: Yeah, and they've got a good shtick and the shtick works. And you know, I think at this point, this record is the one that's going to get people excited about seeing them all summer at all the summer festivals, and they're going to be great live. They are great live. And this is the record that will sell you on that.

STEWART: We're talking to Andy Langer, music critic from Esquire Magazine, about all the new music out this Tuesday, or at least five different tracks. Chicago's Ike Reilly, now Ike Reilly and the Assassinations. This new record, "Poison the Hit Parade." Now, this is made up of demos from a previous record, Andy?

Mr. LANGER: Yeah, he's had three records and he's sort of this singer-songwriter, accessible easygoing, yet intense singer-songwriter. And he's had these three records and these are the demos and outtakes. Why? I don't know. But he's released a bunch of demos and outtakes and put them under the name "Poison the Hit Parade."

STEWART: Let's listen to a track from "Poison the Hit Parade." This is Ike Reilly.

(Soundbite of song "Hip-Hop Thighs")

Mr. IKE REILLY: (Singing) Hip-hop has blown my mind. John Cash has done his time. When you and I were in the weeds drinking wine, I loved your soul and I loved your mind.

With that English singer and your hip-hop thighs. Cold-cocked by Patsy Cline, Had an all-night police brawl one time, From guns on the roof to the acidy jazz, To the reels and rhymes of that Gaelic trash.


STEWART: It's fun to listen to his lyrics.

Mr. LANGER: Yeah, I mean he's got Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, and hip-hop thighs in the same line.

STEWART: Winning combo!

Mr. LANGER: He's a - you know, he's like a less hipper version of the Hold Steady. And he's not - he hasn't brought the Springsteen revisionism to the point where the Hold Steady have. That said, he's a really smart witty songwriter. I just don't understand why a bunch of his demos are out there when people didn't buy the first three records...

STEWART: In the first place.

Mr. LANGER: Yeah, so a new record would have been a better idea, a better introduction, for a guy that does deserve a bigger audience. And go buy the last record. "We Belong to the Staggering Evening" is a terrific rock record, and it's only a year old. I'm not sure why they're not reworking that or putting another single out from that, because it didn't get the attention it deserved. And he's another guy you're just better off seeing live.

STEWART: He's going to tour this summer?

Mr. LANGER: I believe so.


Mr. LANGER: Off of this record that I don't understand why it's there.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Andy, we're going to wrap it up with a Texas singer songwriter by the name of Hayes Carll. This is his third record. It's called "Trouble in Mind." His first two records were indie or self-released. Now he's on a major label. Let's listen to a cut off that track - that album.

(Soundbite of song "She Left Me for Jesus")

Mr. HAYES CARLL: (Singing) We've been dating since high school. We never once left this town. We used to go out on the weekends, And we'd drink until we'd drown.

But now she's acting funny, And I don't understand. I think that she's found Some other man.

She left me for Jesus and that just ain't fair. She says that...

STEWART: Somebody get me a Shiner Bock, and I'll pull up to the bar.


Not such a, shall we say, typical lyrical narrative for a country song, Andy.

Mr. LANGER: And if we got any further, I mean, he says if I ever meet Jesus, I'm kicking his ass.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LANGER: And this is a song that country radio isn't going to touch with a ten-foot pole. And I'm happy to have just gotten him any national radio attention, because Hayes Carll - he's really a terrific singer-songwriter in sort of that Guy Clark, Tom Van Zant, Lyle Lovett kind of way.

And he's this Texas troubadour that people are going to be listening to for the next five or ten years. And this is a really solid, yet irreverent, yet, you know, deeply self-deprecating record. And the "She Left Me for Jesus" is a great calling card. It's a novelty tune that does have some depth, and unfortunately, that tune ain't going to get heard on the radio.

STEWART: Yeah, well, you sold me, I'm going to download it. Andy Langer, music critic for Esquire Magazine, friend of the BPP. Thanks as always, Andy.

MARTIN: Thanks, Andy.

Mr. LANGER: Thank you.

STEWART: So is the show really over? Is that it, Simon Doonan? Are you serious?

SIMON DOONAN: Oh, I'm serious, honey.

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