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Which Of These Local Albums Released On 4/20 Is -- AHEM -- Of Higher Quality?

By Jon Graef in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 20, 2011 7:00PM

Image by Diane White via White Mystery’s site
By the time you read this, at least 60 percent of the stoner idiots in your office will have walked by you smelling sticky sweet of herb while grinning like a tool because, hey, dudes, it's 4/20. And it is. No one's disputing that. We may even be sympathetic to the idea of a society more tolerant of marijuana use. But the fact is, there's work to be done, and someone's got to do it. So which of these two records released by local bands on 4/20 -- actual brother-sister garage-rock duo White Mystery and euphoric soundscapers Implodes -- is best for drowning everything out in order to rock the fuck out? Read on for the answer to that question.

For red-haired duo White Mystery, who, unlike some other fakey fakers, are actually brother and sister, "second verse, same as the first" is more than just a songwriting principle. It sounds like a way of life.

The duo's second album, Blood and Venom, is filled with much of the same style of garage-rock that inspires rock critics to throw out words like "blistering," "raw" and "dirty." And White Mystery definitely are these things. Tracks like "Dead Inside," "Snack Culture" and "Good Girl" have enough raw (see, what did I tell ya?) riff-based power and soulful grit to suggest that Mystery singer Alex White is really Aretha Franklin and Tony Iommi rolled into one. (Brother Francis is no slouch on the drums either). It's these songs that mirror the strengths of their self-titled full-length from last year.

Though White Mystery are an extremely fun band to listen to, their sound is essentially disposable. A good time can always be had with the band, but their guitar-and-tom-heavy drums brand of rock is so simple that it sometimes doesn't really stick with the listener over long periods of time. That's not a bad thing, so long as you begin to show listeners that you have more than one trick up your sleeve.

Good news for White Mystery fans--Blood & Venom does show that progress. Opener "White Mystery" shows White singing in a more restrained style, and, despite the blues-influenced main riff, the overall effect of the song is closer to power-pop's melodic grace than garage-rock.

On "Party," White Mystery find themselves dressed up in clean-toned new wave, while Venom closer "Kickin' My Ball" uses harmonica and feedback for additional texture. While Blood & Venom isn't as snarling as its title would have fans believe, White Mystery do continue to assert their place in Chicago's garage-rock scene with a solid sophomore effort. The second verse can be same as the first. (And maybe a little different too.)

Photo by Melissa Grubbs, via Implodes' MySpace Page
Also releasing a record on 4/20 are Implodes, who, contrary to their violent name (I was going to say explosive, but that would be technically correct, would it?), play a somnambulant brand of shoegaze, heavily reliant on a texture-based approach to distorted guitars, a rumbling rhythm section, and subdued vocal work

After releasing a cassette on Plustapes, a label so hip they're signing acts that don't even exist yet, the quintet took their time recording what ultimately became Black Earth, their Kranky records debut. Implodes carry over three songs from their self-title cassette to Black Earth, and it's immediately striking how much sonic depth has been added to these songs. Washes of distortion, ghostly keyboard tones--when those are put together with a more forceful-sounding bass and drums, the effect is a humming, hummable din that's instantly appealing.

The unfortunate thing, though, is that the vocals go up with everything else, and, in cases like "Marker," their flat, affectless Ian Curtis imitation detracts from the impressive wall of sound Implodes cultivate. Luckily, such songs are few and far between, and Black Earth, after its initial stumble, quickly reaches its artistic apex with a trio of beautiful, towering songs. ("Screech Owl," with its somber, Evol-by-way-ofLoveless sing-speak, is perhaps the best).

Transitional pieces like "Wendy" and "Experimental Report" successfully establish a more experimental, instrumental mood, right before Black Earth closes out with a slow burn, Velvet Underground-like mumblecore.

Though they occasionally trip over their melodic sensibilities, Black Earth is the work of master soundsmiths, which always means there's something interesting going on musically, even if you can't exactly sing along to it.

At the very least, Implodes' strong debut disc saves us from a world where "I liked them better when they were making tapes" doesn't become the 21st-century "I liked them better before they sold out." For that, all should be eternally grateful to Implodes.