Paul Shapiro, Shofarot Verses (Tzadik)
John Zorn’s long-running Radical Jewish Culture series can be exhausting even for New Thing adherents, as both music and formal conception. So with all due respect for Zorn’s own Masada songbook enterprise, let us thank the game piece master for giving Paul Shapiro’s “Rhythm & Jews” project the distributive muscle it deserves. Opening with solo alto and closing with a reed/skins duet, these mostly first take cuts raid the melody banks of both Yom Kippur services and Dick Dale 45s, using a ram’s horn for a Joe Zawinul-colored meditation (“Ashamnu”) and foisting Cuban rhythms upon Phrygian modes (“In Phrygia”). Give it the fuck up for Marc Ribot, who channels all his Mickey Baker/Link Wray/Magic Sam fantasies into one rambunctious whole, the blues/r&b whiplash to his own Live At The Vanguard Coltrane/Ayler abrasions. But it’s Shapiro’s tunes, his Junior Walker soul, his “active prayer” leadership qualities that carry the day. In this dreadful moment for liberal Zionism, here’s a world dance party - the chitlin’ circuit as overseen by kibbutzniks.
Spoon, They Want My Soul (Loma Vista)
Transference was nowhere near so muddled as second-guessers would now have it, but this still seems a welcome return to the unfussy 4/4 thwack these Can fans once honed. And that’s a feat, because there’s plenty of post-production chicanery, from the David Bowie funhouse swirl of “Knock Knock Knock” to the synthpop gurgle of “Inside Out”. Yet too rarely does attention to detail offer such streamlined results - white boy swagger complete with sexual politics free of retribution, if not regrets. Flipping through back pages and unbuckling belts, they lean on Dave Fridmann to better geek out on rock history, whether nicking a Spencer Davis Group bassline (“Rainy Taxi”) or keeping Austin weird by covering Ann-Margaret (“I Just Don’t Understand”). And while Britt Daniel’s no doubt proud of “auction off what you love / it will come back some time,” I’m a big fan of the philosophy behind “I don’t got time for holy rollers / but they may wash my feet”.
5 Seconds Of Summer, 5 Seconds Of Summer (Capitol)
Too many whoa-oh-ohs and not enough gabba-gabba-heys? Oh, you punk purist. Best not to think of these Australian cuties as anything more than a boy band who've calibrated their choruses to mime Blink-182 (or Sum 41, or gulp New Found Glory) riffage. Not enough cuts connect at the gut-punch level of “Don’t Stop,” and the two slow ones groaning with strings are to barf at. But surrender to their gumdrop G-rated charms and you'll find catchily insistent melodies and loads of teen poetry ("You look so perfect standing there / in my American Apparel underwear"). And in between tales of fake IDs and kissing at the stop signs, they drop a lament as timeless as "When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)": "I'll make my move when I get older," by which they mean 18.