Hot Rod Circuit "Sorry About Tomorrow"-Vagrant Records -
The first track “The Pharmacist” is an upbeat post-breakup song that starts the album off with a low-volume acoustic verse that suddenly jumps up to speed with a catchy tune that flows throughout the record. Track 2, “At Nature’s Mercy”, tones it down a bit but still maintains the catchy stream of the music. Overall, I really like all the songs, although it did take me a few spins through the record for me to get really into it. I especially like “Let’s Go Home”, “Knees Are Weak”, “The Pharmacist”, “Radiation Suit”, “At Nature’s Mercy”, and “The Pharmacist”. The entire album is pretty poppy, but every once and a while tracks like “Let’s Go Home”, “Consumed By Lonliness” and “Knees Are Weak” give the audience a break from the upbeat tunes and allow for a more relaxing listen. I recommend this album if you’re into the emo scene, such as other Vagrant bands like Saves the Day, the Get Up Kids and Dashboard Confessional. It’s an altogether good album, just a little difficult to like from the get-go.After a few listens, it’s easy to be hooked.
William Bates "Days I Knew 1992-2002"-Indie Release -
If you love power-pop, you will want to check out this box set. Especially with the $20 price tag for eight discs (not counting the 9th, interview disc). The box set is a collection of various musical projects of William Bates, including his works with: The Parlophones, The Revolvers, Language, Slender Thread and Manneek. The cool thing about this set is that you see a progression of Mr. Bates work, you don't just have disc after disc of interchangeable music. That's a hard trap NOT to fall in when you do power-pop. True, sometimes the sound quality varies on this set, but overall it is very good.
I'll go thru each disc and tell the merits or flaws (as I see them) of each:
THE PARLOPHONES/THE REVOLVERSWhile my overall rating is 3 1/2, that is for the set as a whole. If it had been limited to say 4 discs, I think the set becomes stronger. The 4 strongest discs are DAYS I KNEW, FALLING UP THE HILL, SLENDER THREAD, and MANNEEK.
Sometimes the songs fail that power-pop rule of catching your attention within the first few bars of the song. I mean, the singing and backing musicians are great. It’s just missing that..."something" to make it a classic set. I think you can pinpoint the problem on one thing, the songwriting itself. There are too many songs that are just "there", forgettable after you hear the next song. It’s missing that golden-ring of pop writing-that "classic", timeless pop song that you cant get out of your head. But William Bates is on the right track and definitely on to something.
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Hear mp3's from this artist at www.mp3.com/language
Duvall "Standing at the Door"-Double Zero Records-
At one time in the early to mid '90's a band by the name of The Smoking Popes stood poised to become huge. Emo sounding before emo was big, the band was all over movie soundtracks and was putting out solid records and touring the country, barnstorming towns and winning fans all over the place. Suddenly, though, the band broke up due to personal conflicts. Well, I am happy to say that they're back! Under a new name and with a new bass player, but, shit, Josh Caterer's songs are still catchier than anything Weezer has done (or stolen from the Popes) and his voice still has that same lilting, little-boy-lost lovelorn sound. The band still rages like hell too! This four-song EP should whet your appetite while the band shops for a deal and hopefully gets on a couple of soundtracks. The band that should have made it is getting another chance and I am as happy as hell. Move over, Weezer, the people you've stolen your sound from are coming to get you!
Joey Ramone "Don't Worry About Me"-Sanctuary Records -
DON’T WORRY, JOEY:THE LEAD RAMONE’S PARTING SHOTS
Perhaps it really shouldn’t have upset me as much as it did a year ago; I mean, after already losing the coolest Beatle, Rolling Stone, High Number and possibly even Sex Pistol, one could claim to feel somewhat jaded as yet another great one bit the dust, couldn’t one?
But no sir. When big tall Joey Ramone finally succumbed to his illnesses and fell deadly silent (right about the same time as his not-so-distant musical cousin Perry Como did as well coincidentally), I don’t think I was the only ol’ punk out there who immediately draped his broken heart in black leather, pulled out his (original! vinyl! with “Carbona Not Glue” intact!!) copy of “Ramones Leave Home,” and shed a grimy tear or three over the power and the anti-glory which once was the long, LONG-lost Summer of Hate (…that’s 1977 by the way, for all you VH1-notes out there).
That’s right: Back before such posers to the drone-throne as Green Day reared their demographically-coifed heads, and the words “alternative” and “rock” became forever mutually non-exclusive of one another. Yep, YOU BET I’m talking about the glory daze when a trip to CBGB’s was truly worth taking, and the best records in the world still took less than a week (not to mention a million or two dollars) to make.
Now nobody needs me to tell them just how far off the brat-beaten track Rock and Roll has strayed these past couple of decades, but hearing Joey Ramone’s dulcet tones and ever-deft turn of a cartoon phrase littering his posthumous “Don’t Worry About Me” album only serves to remind us just how formidable a talent – AND a spirit – this literal giant was, and how the art (with a capital “F”) form known as Punk is, like stickball, rockabilly, and other such brilliant all-American wastes of time, slowly but surely fading forever away. Rotten Johnny Lydon may have been right after all then perhaps: his Sex Pistols probably WERE the Last Great Rock Band, and with the voice of the gosh-almighty Ramones now forever mute as well, just who in hell remains, I ask you, to carry forth the proud torch of all things musically d-u-m-b? Kid Rock? Those candy-assed STROKES??! Oh, please.
Anyways, perhaps I digress. I’m really only here to relate just how positively life-affirming it is to hear an entire album’s-worth of Joey Ramone again, straight from the Louis Armstrong sittin’ pretty vacant kick-off of (I kid you not) “What A Wonderful World” dead on through to the more-relevant-than-ever cover of “1969” alongside the defiantly optimistic title-song which caps it all. And in between those two sonic bookends, we honestly must just marvel anew at Joey’s wholly individualistic vocal approach and intonation even (ie: the word “pretty” on the afore-mentioned Satchmo song), while producer-in-arms Daniel Rey never once fails to keeps that reinforcing six-strung, cymbal-splashing Wall of Sound rigid, all-encompassing, and all but impenetrable to boot.
Now ever since he and the rest of the Family Ramone first crept out of Queens way back when, Humor (as in the certifiably-MAD Magazine / Bazooka Joe-flavored variety) has often served not only as a motor, but a modus operandi even for Joey and Co., and “Don’t Worry About Me” certainly provides its fair share of nyuks (especially with the Sheena-goes-Wall-Street lust song “Maria Bartiromo,” not to mention the thoroughly Bubblicious “Mr. Punchy,” wherein no less than Sir Captain Sensible helps concoct the silly sequel to “Happy Jack” that unfortunately never was). Yet about halfway through our happy meal, things turn kinda inky dark (in an entirely welcome “Pleasant Dreams” kinda way though) as Joey – totally understandably, of course – turns his ever-keen eye and ear upon the state of the union circa Baby Bush administration, and what must have been just too many fitful hours spent splayed before his sickroom TV watching everyone from high school students to day traders being slaughtered in their desks. “Venting (It’s A Different World Today)” is without one doubt the most bilously spot-on attraction herein, with the words “politicians talking through their assholes makes you really wanna kill someone” saying more on such subjects than a battery of talking CNNheads surely ever will. Alas, poor dead Joey: his great big, worldwide heart surely must have been broken many a time lately, whenever his remote strayed off “Get Smart” onto a New War On Terror or two.
Though, as “Stop Thinking About It” advises, “nothing lasts forever, and nothing stays the same.” And while “I Got Knocked Down (But I’ll Get Up)” paints quite a sordid picture indeed of our hero’s final chapter (“sitting in a hospital bed,” “I want my life,” and “it really sucks” to quote but three all-too-telling soundbites), “Searching For Something” is, to these ears, the Joey Ramone song I shall most likely choose to eulogize the man, what with its Raymond Douglas Davies-worthy eye for lyrical detail driven by the kinda semi-acoustic, near-Nash Pop arrangement unheard since at least the quieter moments upon that “Road To Ruin.” Why, if Bill Lloyd and/or Jamie Hoover are listening somewhere out there, then Gabba Hey, guys: HERE’S one gem more than worthy of the Def Heffer treatment!
Suffice to say Joey certainly got knocked down, but in the end never did get up. His loss should only serve as our gain however, in the grand pop-rockin’ scheme of things, coz here’s one big galoot who not only went out most defiantly singing, but in the process erected one towering epitaph for us all with these final, frantically fun recordings of his. A welcome addition no doubt to his already weighty canon of Romper Room genius, “Don’t Worry About Me” absolutely deserves repeated listens by anyone and everyone out there who not only remember how those lowly Ramones once changed a simpler world, but why their fearless leader Joey, armed with nothing but a single mic stand tied behind his back, always stood stick-leggedly tall in pointing the way towards Truth, Justice, and yes, the (REAL) American Way. God bless you then, Joey. You’ve done your job, and earned your big sleep at last. Long may you vent.
The Wonder Boys "And It's a Wonderful, New Start"-Indie Release-
Although the band sent this album by cassette to be reviewed (not the best medium by far) one can gauge the huge amount of time spent writing and arranging the material. The Wonder Boys specialize in lo-fi twee pop that is based on intricate instrumental parts sparse enough to let the songs breathe but still convincingly convey an almost sinister desperation. These are songs sung under the breath, late at night, while contemplating and assessing the stages of a relationship. These are songs best listened to when you are drunk, alone, and yearning for some resolution. These are songs best experienced as soon as possible…
No web site available yet
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What If I "Even Bouncier Than Before"-Indie Release-
This four-song EP is a rough-and-ready treatise on how a pop punk band should sound. Scrappy drums not totally on the beat, buzzsaw guitars and a throbbing bass playing fun, sing-song melodies with fun lyrics but no real deep meaning behind them. It borders on '80s metal at times but overcomes that melodically. Decent garage-band pop that could stand some polish but not too much.
Hifidriveby "One Saturday in November"-Indie Release -
Out of the ashes of the Lo-Fi band, the Lovejoys, come HifiDriveby. The Lovejoys were a power-pop-punk band that was distinguished by some of the most remarkable pop songs I've heard in awhile, erstwhile recorded on amateurish (not necessarily a bad thing) lo-fi CD's. The approached worked and the urgency of the music transcended ANY of the audio limitations. In the ever-changing world of rock 'n roll, the Lovejoys had the inevitable and sometimes obligatory membership change and group name change. Now we have HiFiDriveBy...with an expanded recording budget.
So what's the verdict? Did they pass the hurdle? I'll answer with a resounding FUCKIN-A! Same attitude and same great songs! Although there are only 5 songs represented on this EP, they have me salivating for the full length CD that the band is promising soon. As long as these guys keep their irreverent sense of humor and attitude, I see great things ahead! With bands live HiFiDriveBy, the future of rock 'n roll is guaranteed. I know that is mighty high praise, but these guys definitely have 'the spark'.
I'll leave you with this thought...with the growing trend of Faux post-power-pop Green Day Clones, why not pick up the REAL DEAL? And that my friend is HiFiDriveBy.
Sam Knutson "Shame Train and the Devil's Suare Quilt"-Mudfence Music-
Knutson has a real winner on his hands with this CD, released last year but gathering steam among music fans. Knutson, who wrote all of the songs and plays acoustic guitar on the CD besides singing, has a style that reflects a lot of influences. On some songs he sounds like a countryish version of Dave Matthews, his funky and syncopated acoustic licks propelling the songs, becoming the backbone they are built upon. On others, he takes a more pop approach, almost like Donovan - simply strumming his guitar while his able and sympathetic band helps to take his interesting songs to another level. This is a great CD that would appeal to fans of Wilco, Nick Cave, and Peter Bruntnell.
No official web site available yet - but you can go to this artist's section at CD Baby click here
Weezer "Weezer (Green Album)"-Interscope -
Many have complained that Weezer's latest release is too impersonal, self-conscious, and short-but those are the things that make it great. This album breaks a 4-year silence, one which prompted many people to believe that they had broken up--and they almost did. But after the thunderous fan response to their appearance on the Warped Tour, Weezer headed back to the studio with new bassist Mikey Welsh. The result was the Green Album- 28 minutes of tight, loud, well-executed rock. Where their earlier release, Pinkerton, focused on personal songwriting and unconvential production, the Green album is a conscious return to the power-pop of their smash hit debut. Weezer themselves acknowledges this- in the booklet there is an italian quote which reads, in English "Let us return to old times and that will be progress." While the lyrics may not be as heartfelt as on previous releases, Weezer still rocks- rocks hard. The odd mix of heavy metal guitar riffs and beach boys-esque vocal harmonies gives Weezer a sound all to their own, and it's hard to resist. Even the most jaded and critical rock fans will find themselves humming the melodies to these songs countless times. So while the short length makes it about $1.50 for each minute of play, it's easily worth every penny. Besure to pick this one up.
Through The Woods "Over the River and..."-Is There More Records -
Wow is about all I can say about this CD. Little did I expect the magnificent pop splendor inside. Over the River specialize in the kind of power pop that Brian Wilson excelled at and the four-piece band is filled with instrumental prowess, all of them playing more than one instrument, adding to the wonderful pop cacophony that Wilson and Spector brought to the fore in the '60s. Horns bleet, found percussion items bang and clatter and a bunch of other wondrous, melodic things happen at the same time, all over the place yet totally building a foundation for their intricate, eccentric songs. Beach Boys fans, Beatle-maniacs and pop fans in general will love this. Check out the second song "Valerie" for the catchiest song of the year.
No official web site available yet
But you can get mp3's of the band at www.mp3.com/ttw
And you can read the EAR CANDY interview with the band by clicking here