On the Racks: June 6

From Strummin' with the Devil to a revived Live
By MATT ASHARE  |  June 6, 2006

AFI: The spookiest thing out on 6/6/06?
It only happens once every hundred years. And this century, the sixth day of the sixth month of the sixth year -- or 6/6/6 -- just happens to fall on a Tuesday. So no surprise that today’s list of new releases is two or three times longer than an average week. What’s odd is how few artists with demonic leanings got their acts together for the event. Slayer? Nope. They had to push the release of their new album back to July and the launch of their tour to the less-than-unholy date of 06/10/06 because of singer Tom Arraya’s gall-bladder surgery. (An EP was rushed into Hot Topic stores today, but c’mon: how evil can it be if it’s in Hot Topic?)

In fact, the most obvious reference to evil comes via Van Halen’s clownish original frontman David Lee Roth, who shows up for a bluegrass party based around classic VH on Strummin’ With the Devil: A Bluegrass Tribute to Van Halen (CHM). Roth is backed by the John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band on brilliantly precise reworkings of “Jump” and “Jamie’s Crying,” the disc’s two major highlights. On the first, Jorgenson nails both the guitar solo and the synth lead-up to it on mandolin. And on “Jamie’s Crying,” he mimics the tune’s “whah-whah” guitar refrain with a fiddler. An instrumental “Hot For Teacher” by David Grisman and a blistering run through the essential “Eruption” by Dennis Caplinger nail the similarities between classic VH and bluegrass music: that is, the attention to detailed virtuosity. There really just doesn’t seem to be a sound these bluegrass ringers can’t reproduce.

The boys in AFI may have started out as hardcore punk revivalists, but for the last few albums they’ve been looking more and more goth. That they’ve had a fairly intricate, kinda creepy (in a D&D sorta way) scavenger hunt of sorts involving Internet message boards, instant messaging, and strange video communications from various bandmembers, can’t help but make 6/6/6 a significant date for their fans. Beyond releasing their Jerry Finn-produced new album decemberunderground (Interscope) today, who knows what they’ve got planned.

Cheap Trick are one of those bands who just won’t go away. And now it seems they may have actually produced an album that lives up to the power-pop perfection of their early years. With a little help from Steve Albini, their new Rockford (Big3) is -- with the exception of a Linda Perry-penned radio single that ain’t gonna get no radio play -- a hard-edged, even aggro distillation of everything Cheap Trick fans have always loved about the band. Who’d a thunk it?

Thanks to the kind folks at Merge Records, Americans have finally been getting a taste of the very Belle and Sebastian-like Scottish band Camera Obscura. Singer Tracyanne Campbell is way too innocent sounding to be a 6/6/6 devotee, but maybe someone at Merge got a laugh off the idea of delivering the sunny melancholy of Camera Obscura’s new Let’s Get Out of This Country to stores today.

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