The team who produced the breakthrough horror-comedy Shaun of the Dead are back with a new comedy, this time tackling cop flix. Hot Fuzz is one of the biggest movies of the year right now in the UK, and the soundtrack, now available from Interscope reflects the British roots of the filmmakers. The disc opens with the classic ‘80s Adam Ant hit “Good Two Shoes” and also includes songs from The Kinks, XTC, Cozy Powell, The Troggs and others that were popular overseas, but never dented the charts here. Newcomers The Fratellis (reviewed here a couple weeks ago) include their signature rocker “Baby Fratelli” as well as a cover of T. Rex's manic “Solid Gold Easy Action.” There are also track sfrom Eels, Supergrass , and “The Hot Fuzz Suite” an instrumental theme rife with movie music clichés thanks to James Bond film scorer David Arnold.
The latest release from the ambient-techno indie label Neurodisc is out and this time, the featured band is the Deviations Project. If you're a fan of classical music and techno, you'll love this CD, which merges techno-dance beats and rhythm beds from Dave Williams with classical themes and virtuoso performances from internationally renowned violinist Oliver Lewis. To me at times, it has a little bit of a kitschy “Hooked On” feel (for those old enough to remember K-Tel) but it's a good upbeat background disc, with compositions adapted from Bizet, Tchaikovsky, Paganini, John Williams, Bach and modern techno composers Jean Michel Jarre, Harold Faltermeyer and Mike Oldfield.
Grant-Lee Phillips, Rolling Stone 's 1995 male vocalist of the year, released a great folk-rock album of ‘80s covers from bands like Psychedelic Furs and R.E.M. last year called nineteeneighties, and now the smoky voiced singer-songwriter is back with a collection of his own alternative folk-rock material in Strangelet on Zoe Records. It's Phillips' fifth solo disc, and continues to build an amazing solo career from the former singer of Grant Lee Buffalo. Phillips has not managed any big top 40 hits, but his dreamy brank of guitar rock has been featured in a diverse range of films and television shows, from Gilmore Girls (a show where he continues to appear as the Stars Hollow Town Troubadour) to Roswell, Six Feet Under, House, and Grey's Anatomy. He also scored the entire first season of ABC's What About Brian. Phillips will be performing tracks from Strangelet and his other releases on May 3 at the Lakeshore Theatre in Chicago. For more information, check www.grantleephillips.com.
The Trailer Tapes
If you missed folk-singer Chris Knight's performance this week at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago with Rodney Crowell, don't miss the disc he was there promoting. Knight was in town to tape an episode of Robbie Fulk's XM Show Secret Country and performed songs from The Trailer Tapes, a newly released “lost album” of Knight material recorded more than 10 years ago. Recorded with just an acoustic guitar just prior to Knight's big break with his self-titled major label debut, The Trailer Tapes now stands as Knight's fifth released album, and finds the singer sounding melancholic and alone, a Steve Earle-whiskey-voiced lamenter in a Johnny Cash lonely wilderness.
He captures the plight of the working man in “Spike Drivin' Blues,” offers a bittersweet love song to Kentucky in “My Only Prayer” and presents what should have been a “Farm Aid” poster-song in its portrait of a struggling dad and farmer in “House and 90 Acres.”
While the themes may seem to be cliched country, Knight's earnest vocals and sharp wordplay are inspired throughout, as in the barfight-about-to-happen song “Move On” when he taunts a big city interloper trying to steal his woman: “You said you're from college but you don't seem too bright/well you just brung a switchblade to a pistol fight.”
This 11-song disc is filled with character portraits of hard luck cases, from the stripper who still hides a ballerina inside in “Hard Edges,” to the man who realizes with 20/20 hindsight that he blew the best relationship he may ever have through his own stupidity in “Something Changed”:
"she believed in blue skies
I only brought her rain
it ain't so strange
And in “If I Were You” he paints the picture of a washed up bum begging for a dollar through a slowly building monologue…and then inserts a chilling twist at the end.
I'm not normally a big fan of country and folk, but you can't sit and listen to Knight for more than a few minutes and not be moved to the core by his honest, cutting portrayals and slow strumming guitar. By turns lost, angry, hurt and haunting, The Trailer Tapes offers a lost emotional treasure that's thankfully been found. It's amazing that only a couple of these songs have ever surfaced on Knight's subsequently recorded CDs. But now they're available at last, on this amazing, timeless, time capsule from a talented young singer-songwriter.
For more information, check Knight's website at www.chrisknight.net.