Author: Thomas Vale
06/01/2005 | Alarm | Album Review
What is happening over there at Saddle Creek? Is it those Mogis Bros.? Did they sell their souls at a Nebraska crossroads? I'm usually suspicious of hipster movements like the one Saddle Creek is becoming, aided by their talented poster boy Conor Oberst, but they're not overrated. This keeps happening: I peel the cellophane off of some CD by a band I've never heard of – Broken Spindles, say – and inside I hear something weird and brilliant. Then I notice the tiny little words 'Saddle Creek' on the label. And now they have another one for me: Mayday's Bushido Karaoke, an album that's not quite a classic but is nevertheless astonishing. Bushido has the looseness, confidence, and total disregard for expectations that are becoming hallmarks of Saddle Creek releases. Mayday's sound is a swirling pastiche with some stunning moments and others that get a bit tangled up in ideas; altogether Bushido Karate is uneven, but hints of great things to come. The first track, "Pelf Help", is an immediately likeable Queen/Bowie style vamp; the next few tracks maintain the energy but don't quite grab hold. Don't get impatient, though, Mayday has more tricks. They mix in a gloomy, Leonard Cohen-ish number ("Burned My Hands"), a workable Gillian Welch cover ("I'm Not Afraid to Die") and a gorgeous, nostalgic, depression-era blues ("Billy Boy Blues"). Along the way they call to mind artists as diverse as Paul Westerberg and the Fiery Furnaces. Bushido Karaoke isn't a front-to-back winner, but they're so impressive along the way that it's almost beside the point. I get the sense that both Mayday and Saddle Creek can do anything they want these days. They're making it look easy.