Wednesday, May 10, 2006


>> Featured Artist: Pearl Jam

A lot of the chatter out on the sidewalks of American pop music is that, holy crap!, Pearl Jam has finally returned to form. Reviewers are basking in the fact that Pearl Jam, released a few weeks back, is a rocker like Ten or Vs. It doesn't stray from the straightforward sound they mastered back in the early '90s.

While the Toaster knows that the Pearl Jam that emerged on the Seattle scene in the wake of the likes of Nirvana, Mudhoney and Soundgarden was important (if only to the radio soundscape that emerged), but we certainly weren't relishing a return to that era.

Thankfully, Pearl Jam doesn't sound like they're reaching to return to greatness. Instead, the sound - for the first time since No Code - like they're having a good time. The only evidence of a Pearl Jam-past we can identify is the return to Vedder's signature guttural mumble, which makes trying to decipher lyrics a bit tricky (and which had given way to more straightforward singing on recent albums, Yield, Binaural and the underwhelming Riot Act).

"Marker in the Sand" may not be a single; it may not be the best song on the album. But if it's further evidence that Pearl Jam can be liked again, well, we're for it.

Oh, and Mister Toaster wants to point out that it's about time everyone stopped picking on "Bugs." It's just getting unoriginal, guys.

>> Album Lookout: Under the Covers, Vol. 1

Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs - Released: April 18, 2006 Shout! Factory

OK, the Toaster was a bit hesitant to subscribe to yet another all-star band from Matthew Sweet, especially one that got its roots in an Austin Powers film. And ESPECIALLY when they're delving into favorite hits from the '60s...

But though the stars of trite-ness were lined up against the two Ming Tea veterans, Sid'n'Susie, as the pair likes calls itself, have actually plucked out a few highly respectable covers. Only having heard a quarter of the tracks, the Toaster is still reluctant to issue a blanket endorsement (we've heard the "eh"-tistic cover of "And Your Bird Can Sing" on the group's MySpace.

Of particular loveliness is the Michael Nesmith (yeah, the Monkee)-penned "Different Drum," which was a big hit for the Stone Poneys back in 1967. The Toaster digs not just the sweet Sweet-Hoffs harmonies, but especially the Banglish delivery of the vocal turnaround "Sooo!"

>> Reverting to: 1990

Dipping into our page's history, it's hard to believe the Toaster hasn't given a shout-out to Yo La Tengo. But it's only recent history - and thanks to the one, the only Dan Weiss - that the Toaster has been hip to the band's 1990 classic covers album, Fakebook. And that's from which "You Tore Me Down," a Flamin' Groovies song, hails.

It also makes us wonder where R.E.M. got their intro to "Strange Currencies." Hmm...

As usual, all the Toaster is going to say on this one is "Enjoy, friend."

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