Stanley Smith "In the Land of Dreams"-Spanks Alot Records -
Man, do I love this CD! Smith is a member of fabled alt.country band The Asylum Street Spankers, but on this CD, ventures into more of a jazz and soul approach than anything his current band has ever attempted. Smith has a wonderfully engaging, idiosyncratic voice that sounds like an equal blend of Tom Waits and Randy Newman but the music is all Memphis Soul, Al Green and Stax with a little jazz thrown in featuring Smith's great clarinet playing. This is pretty sli ky stuff, and a great departure for a man known mostly for his association with the Spankers. This is a perfect late night album for playing when in love and having an intimate time with your partner. Great, funky stuff that any fan of Al Green would love.
Wammo "Faster Than the Speed of Suck"-Spanks Alot Records-
Wammo's solo endeavor is a cross between THE WHO SELL OUT and the Beastie Boys. Sure, it's a 'concept' album, but not like those bloated '70s concept records that come to mind. Wammo's vision is not a totally musical entity, although music plays a big part. And it’s not a total comedic effort. Wammo combines these two with a very healthy dose of social satire and the result is entertaining indeed! Basically, this is a story of a guy and his girlfriend, driving from Austin to New Orleans. That alone can tell an 'adventure' in itself (depending on your girlfriend), but Wammo adds a twist...the cassette player is jammed and they must listen to the radio ONLY for the duration of the trip. So the adventure begins. All along the car ride the couple argues on what to listen to and what types of music are 'good'. The journey itself has a soundtrack of Heavy Metal, country, psychedelic, hardcore punk and gospel, interspersed with HILARIOUS commercials. Just take a gander at some of the very UN-politically correct titles within and you'll get an idea of the craziness: "Duran Sirhan", "Charles Whitman's Sampler", "Hell is a Disco" and "Bikini Submarini".
However, this is not a record to listen to in small doses. It is best heard in its entirety to fully "get" the joke. And there are allot of subtleties that you don't catch the first time around. Wammo takes some catchy melodies, brilliantly executed satires and a few well-worn rock 'n roll ideas to create a masterpiece of musical social satire.
Athfest "Athfest 2002 Compilation"-Ghostmeat Alot Records-
Ahhhh, spring is here and it's just about time for the new Athfest compilation that arrives on my doorstep every year. As usual, this years' is chock full of great local bands and their killer tunes! All manner of music is represented here, from roots rock to Southern-fried metal-type stuff and it's a two-disc set so there's a ton of music for your dollar. If you're a fan of the music scene in Athens and ther surrounding area, hell, just a music fan in general, this is a compilation you will definitely want to own. Great stuff.
Bonepony "Traveler's Companion"-SuperDuper Recordings (1999)
Bonepony "Fun House"-SuperDuper Recordings (2001)-
I'm reviewing both Bonepony CD's since these albums are really complementary, as each shows a different aspect of Bonepony. TRAVELER'S COMPANION is the more experimental of the two albums. But, then again it IS the studio album, while FUN HOUSE is the live album. Mix Led Zeppelin III with bluegrass is the stripped down description of this album, with its country-blues, folk, bluegrass and rock elements. Acoustic instruments such as mandolin, acoustic guitars, banjo, harmonica, fiddle and slide guitars are Bonepony's prime arsenal. But, in the confines of this studio album, the group adds the use of electric guitar leads, organ riffs, drums and even backwards tracks. Standout tracks include "Mountainside" (catchy as hell!), "Cowboy Song" (with psychedelic backwards stuff where you least expect it), "Voodoo Banjo" and "Savanna Flowers". The instrumentation is so rich, I found myself paying more attention to the flow of the song rather than the words. Bonepony's instrumental prowess is hypnotizing at times!
FUN HOUSE shows that Bonepony can present their amazing instrumental chops in the live forum as well as a recording studio. Included are a few of the songs from 'TRAVELER'S COMPANION', which almost seem more powerful in their live versions. FUN HOUSE captures the essence of the band live and really showcases their live vocal harmony ability. "Bleecker Street" and "Blue, Blue, Blue" represent the best of Bonepony live-catchy, sing-along type songs which are guaranteed to get your feet stomping. "Old Song" seems familiar, but is a totally original song. "I Stand Amazed" is a touching, sentimental song with beautiful violin. Possibly my favorite Bonepony song!
Sure, the music of Bonepony is not entirely original in origin. But, they can more than hold their own live as a 3-piece band, I doubt any other trio has the instrumental chops that Bonepony displays. On both of these CD’s, Bonepony delivers the goods. I see big things ahead for this band if they stay the course!
Moonbabies "Standing on the Roof/Filtering the Daylight EP"-A Bouncing Space Records -
A Moonbabies unplugged album? Well, this is damn close with 3 out of 4 songs fitting this description. It is no secret of my love of the music of the Moonbabies; they are the only band, which I think carry the torch of modern psychedelia without being pretentious! The EP starts with the Lennon-esque piano of "Over My Head". The song is simply beautiful Lennon-type piano song with whispering vocals and high harmonies! A stark change for a Moonbabies song with the only accompaniment being the piano. "Forever Changes Nothing Now" has an acoustic jazz feel with the classic Moonbabies harmonies of Ola & Carina, with sparse techno sound effects added. The one track that uses the ‘traditional’ Moonbabies approach is "Come On, Come On, While We're Young". The song has the trademark Moonbabies aural plushness, complete with backward sound effects. Finally, "Homegrown" starts with a haunting piano intro, adding bongos and acoustic guitars.
This EP is a very cool change for Moonbabies, with the band displaying an almost minimalist approach. Usually Moonbabies layer musical textures in their songs, but this EP shows that their songs are powerful enough in an unplugged format. My only complaint is that there are only 4 songs! Moonbabies ALWAYS leave you wanting more!
Rush "Vapor Trails"-Atlantic Records -
'ONE LITTLE VICTORY' FOR RUSH - VAPOR TRAILS DEBUTS AT NUMBER SIX ON BILLBOARD 200 ..
In a week of very big releases Rush are rocking a number six debut for VAPOR TRAILS, the band's 17thstudio recording!!
Ok, if you're a RUSH fan like me, .. BUY THE CD!!
Brian Wilson "Brian Wilson Presents Pet Sounds"-Sanctuary Records-
I've gotta say I was skeptical when I first heard OF this album. Just look at the plethora of Paul McCartney live albums over the last 12 years? Paul's modern performance of Beatles classics just about always falls flat when reproduced on a live CD. It seems I always end up buying McCartney's live albums, playing them ONCE and filing them away. I mean, even Sir Paul doesn't have the balls to do a live rendition of the SGT. PEPPER's album?! So, how can Brian Wilson possibly improve on PET SOUNDS, one of the greatest albums of rock 'n roll?
Well, what did I think? The majesty, dynamics and delicacy of the original PET SOUNDS is re-created right before your very ears! It's like listening to a really cool alternate stereo version of the original. You are only reminded that it is a live album between songs. Luckily, Brian keeps the chatter to a minimum between songs. The Wondermints supply a note-perfect accompaniment and their vocal harmonies can raise the hair on the back of your neck. I saw Brian on the Pet Sounds tour almost two years ago, and his voice has really improved due to his constant touring. Brian Wilson is really the surprise "comeback-kid" of rock 'n roll. Ten years ago you would have never guessed at seeing Brian perform the whole PET SOUNDS album. You would have thought a release of the legendary Smile album would be more likely! [by the way, how about a live 'Smile' album next?]
Brian has redefined the genre of the live-album, touching your soul almost like he did in 1966. This album is a genuine, loving tribute to one of the best albums of rock, unlike the throwaway live albums of McCartney, Pink Floyd Company. It will be curious to see if any other rock 'n roll legends will take up the gauntlet and try Wilson's HONEST approach of doing a rock 'n roll classic album in its entirety? PET SOUNDS LIKE is not a record that you will play only once. It pales only when compared to the original, and then only slightly. [Hence my **** 7/8 rating]
Rock 'n Roll CAN be eternal!
Emerald Rose "Fire In The Head"-Indie Release -
Captures perfectly the essence of Emerald Rose. This CD serves as both a great introduction to the band for the uninitiated and as a great testament of the Emerald Rose live experience. Soaring vocals, chilling harmonies, pristine guitar/bass/drums and an overall excellent sound quality! This is especially important to hear the songs from their first CD, which suffered a little sonic deficiency.
FIRE IN THE HEAD contains a perfect mix of their best original songs and covers of traditional Celtic tunes. Emerald Rose is not a band that takes themselves too seriously, which is a good thing. Allot of Celtic bands border on pretentiousness in their attitude, but not this band. But then again, Emerald Rose is no mere Celtic band. They 'bend tradition' in the genre, to use a phrase from the title of their 2nd CD. They show their humorous side on two songs, "Vampire Girl From Orn" and the legendary "Chicken Raid of Cymru". Both of these songs were written by Larry Morris, who in addition to being a helluva pennywhistle player, is the Weird Al of Celtic folk. They could have easily made this a 2-CD set, with their large live repertoire. But, then again, you always want to leave the crowd "wanting more"? It's not easy for a band to capture the essence of their live performance, but Emerald Rose has done just that.
I've always said that they could make a killer live album and they've done it with FIRE IN THE HEAD!
Nashville Pussy "Say Something Nasty"-Artemis Records-
Nashville Pussy are back with a vengeance! But hell,they never went away. They tell it like it is and take no prisoners, which is refreshing in this topsy-turvy politically correct bullshit world. Here it is 2002 and most bands are too chickenshit to be dangerous. But not Nashville Pussy, they are one of the only truly 'dangerous' bands around. Not 'dangerous' like those pseudo-bad-ass rockers that make VH1's Behind the Music with their heroin habit. I'm talking 'dangerous' is what they represent: the essence of rock 'n roll. The primal beat and words that makesyou want to break the rules.
You would think that their style of music with its nod to AC/DC and Blaine Cartwright's "tell it like it is" lyrics would limit the growth of the band. However, SAY SOMETHING NASTY is the best Nashville Pussy record so far. Of course you have the to-be-expected hilarious titles set to ball crushing music on such classics as "Gonna Hitchhike Down to Cincinnati and Kick the Shit Outta Your Drunk Daddy", "You Give Drugs a Bad Name" and the title track, "Say Something Nasty". But "Here's to Your Destruction" and "Beat Me Senseless" almost sounds punk! And their version of "Rock 'n Roll Hoochie Coo" comes very close to kickingthe ass of the original!
Thank god for Nashville Pussy - they keep rock 'n roll from being respectable! And that means a lot.
Nova Social "The Jefferson Fracture"-Big Sleep Records -
Not really sure what the title means but no matter. Now that the engaging mix of twee-pop and punk that has been labelled as "emo" has taken off and become quite popular, many bands have hopped on the bus and have begun to get noticed. The many emo bands that have joined the scene the past few years mirrors the exponential growth of the alt.country scene since Uncle Tupelo and Whiskeytown gained notice in the '90's. In fact, this band kind of blurs the lines between twee-mo pop and alt.country, throwing in pedal steel and other homespun instruments right in with theirgiddy poppiness. Mike Daly, late ot Whiskeytown, even appears playing the aforementioned pedal steel guitar. Nova Social throws in about every instrument known to man but amidst the chaos comes some great, affecting music may alienate close-minded members of both camps but will sure turn the heads of true music lovers and people not afraid of music that pushes the envelope. Great stuff.
Monkeys Uncle "In Bed With Brian Wilson"-Aroma Records-
I love parody albums, especially when they are done WELL! Monkey's Uncle presents a glowing tribute to the Beach Boys' Smiley Smile album. They have taken painstaking steps to re-create the cover art of the original album, all the way down to the Capitol "swirl" on the CD label! Now, about the music...Although there are only 6 tracks clocking in at just over 21 minutes, what IS here is refreshing! Four of the tracks are Beach Boys tunes and two are originals. The originals actually fit the style of the Beach Boys originals. IN BED WITH BRIAN WILSON is like a modern psychedelic techno-interpretation of Smiley Smile. If you have ever heard the Sgt. Pepper Trance Mix, you will get an idea of the music contained in this CD.
"Good Vibrations" gets a MISSING PERSONS treatment, with a DEVO accompaniment. Evoking a Syd Barrett aproach, "Vegetables" sounds like a Syd out-take circa 1967. Which seems fitting since Syd's disintegration into LSD psychosis coincided with the time of Smile's demise. With a real SMiLE feel, "Cabin Fever" is an original instrumental, which fits the flavor of the Smile-era psychedelic tunes. It is also very Kraftwork influenced. Smile fanatics will enjoy the "elements" section of the song at the end (air, water and earth). With a gospel-like organ riff, "She's Goin' Bald" has its own little fun groove, with vocals reminiscent of David Bowie. "Surfin' On Acid" is another original, a trippy-tune which again brings to mind some of the instrumental tracks on the SMiLE album, with an authentic “surf” guitar riff thrown in. Yoko does "Wonderful"? Well, that’s what the first vocals on this tune sounds like. It starts out with the techno-treatment, then breaks into Yoko-like vocals, a Bowie-like chorus and back to the techno mix.
My only complaint is what ISN'T here! Where is "Heroes & Villains"? Maybe they are saving it for the next release, MONKEY'S UNCLE'S "A SMiLE with Brian Wilson". Now that would be COOL, their interpretation of the unreleased SMiLE album! Oh well, I can only wish...
Jello Biafra "The Big Ka-Boom (Spoken Word Album # 6.5)"-Alternative Tentacles Records -
On his latest spoken word offering, Jello Biafra abandons regurgitating right wing inspired paranoia in favor of commentary on the tragedy of 9/11 and the socio/political repercussions of this attack. Unfortunately, the gravity and seriousness of said topic overwhelms Biafra’s sharp, satirical, wit. Instead Biafra resorts to the typical, left-wing, party line circa now which is: 1) All Republicans are rich fascists scheming to turn the United States into a moneyed Fourth Reich. 2) All corporations are inherently evil (One wonders which non-major corporation airline Mr. Biafra flies on his spoken word outings). and 3) The United States had the 9/11 terrorist attack coming due to its pursuit of dollar diplomacy in the Arab world.
Said party line is nothing the likes of Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore haven’t been preaching for years. Unfortunately, Biafra reaches neither the academic heights of Zinn/Chomsky or even the wit of Moore on “The Big Ka-boom”. Instead, Biafra drags the listener through a parade of name-dropping the “bad guys” – various George W. Bush staff members – and all the evil things said individuals have done and/or are planning. Change the names and the political slant and you have “The O’Reiley Factor” or an afternoon with Rush Limbaugh. In the Dead Kennedys and various solo projects, Biafra has shown the knack for making caustic, yet clever and incisive socio/political observations. Minus this cleverness what you are left with on the “Big Ka-Boom” is shrill, boring rhetoric. Whether your rhetoric is correct or not becomes irrelevant if it puts your audience to sleep.
It gets even worse. With a straight face, Biafra proceeds to discuss what he feels the United States “military strategy” against terrorism should be. The notion that a punk rock vocalist (who was unable to keep his punk rock band – the Dead Kennedys - together in the face of political pressure from a group from 3rd rate Washington wives) would have ANTHING of relevance or substance to say about “military strategy” is absolutely ludicrous. The likes of Clausewitz and Sun Tsu must be rolling in their graves and/or laughing their asses off at the prospect of a non-combatant having the brass to even utter the words “military strategy”.
The “Big Ka-boom” isn’t entirely a waste of time: though it damn near is. Biafra’s comparison of George W. Bush to Bevis and Butthead character “Cornhollio” is entirely appropriate. Also, for the aspiring war protesters who want their water straight from the well, the CD does have a lengthy list of websites where folks can get “unbiased” information on 9/11 anti war activities and civil liberties. However, one can’t help but wondering why Biafra didn’t simply hand out this list for free and spare his fans the burden of sitting through this diatribe. I guess even an anti-war army marches on its stomach/CD $ales. Furthermore, Biafra’s warning against a rush to conformity in face of a wartime mentality is well taken (though a rather obvious observation). Lock step conformity to any person’s rhetoric – whether spewed by George W. Bush, Osama Bin Laden, or Jello Biafra - is indeed dangerous.
When Jello Biafra sticks to commentary in the realm of satire, he achieves moments of genius. However, when attempting to navigate the headier currents of geopolitics and socio-economic policy, Biafra flounders, Titanic like, on an iceberg of simplistic, stale, and preachy rhetoric. Do the world a favor Mr, Biafra. Stick to punk rock.
Various Artists "Apocalypse Always (compilation)"-Alternative Tentacles Records -
These days, I absolutely dread listening to compilation CD’s. In most cases they are either a collection of lame songs by no talent bands and/or sub par throwaway songs by otherwise good bands. Fortunately, this IS NOT the case with “Apocalypse Always”. Even if he has run himself up a dead end with his spoken word releases, Alternative Tentacles czar (or is he CEO?) Jello Biafra still has a knack for finding unique and talented musicians.
Not only is there not a bad song on this CD but there are a variety of musical styles represented: punk rock/hardcore (DOA, Fartz, M.I.A. Iowaska), folk/country rock (Slim Cessna’s Auto Club), Metal (Ratos De Porao), Garage Rock (Fleshies, Zen Guerrila) straight up rock-n-roll (Evan Johns and the H-Bombs, Black Kali Ma) artsy pop (1/2 Japanese). The standout tracks on this CD are Flaming Stars’s “Bring me the Rest of Alfredo Garcia” (a brilliant mix of garage rock and early Jesus and Mary Chain) and Phantom Limbs gothic “Look Ma, No Hands”. Jello Biafra and Randy Bachman cover “American Woman” um(?)…………because its Jello Biafra’s record label; a curious but harmless diversion.
“Apocalypse Always” also has several spoken word tracks. Mumia Abu-Jamal gives an insightful diatribe on the selective use of terror by the powers that be to keep the masses in line. Jello Biafra gives a touching tribute to Joey Ramone, which has more passion, substance, and relevance than his sterile 30+ minute anti government monologue on the “The Big Ka-Boom part 1”. The excerpts from Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn confirm their status as cool, rogue, historians. The most potentially painful spoken word diatribes – Angela Davis and an excerpt from “The Big Ka-Boom” - are mercifully short.
It is refreshing to know that there are a few “independent” record labels still willing to take a chance on talented bands for the sake of art, not in the hopes of cashing in on the next “big” flavor of the month. Go buy this CD!
Hayseed Dixie"A Hillbilly Tribute To Mountain Love"-Dualtone Record-
This album was quite a surprise, especially after I had read that Hayseed Dixie didn’t intend to follow up their hilarious A HILLBILLY TRIBUTE TO AC/DC. Rather than reinterpreting the works of a single band, Hayseed Dixie delivers a theme this time around: classic songs about Mountain Love. The band offers comical bluegrass interpretations of The Cars, the J.Geils Band, Aerosmith, Bad Company, Joan Jett, Queen, Spinal Tap and Ted Nugent. Two originals are thrown in for good measure.
The highlights of this disc are the versions of Aerosmith’s "Walk This Way", Queen’s "Fat Bottom Girls" and Spinal Tap’s "Big Bottom". These are destined to be must-see songs when you see the band live! I was impressed by the two originals, "The Perfect Woman" and "I'm Keeping Your Poop". Maybe next time around Hayseed Dixie can offer a whole CD of their originals?!
Although enjoyable, it’s kinda like hearing a joke the second time around. Not as impressive as their AC/DC tribute.
To go to the Dualtone web site click here
Oasis "Heathen Chemistry"-Sony-
Don’t believe that the Oasis propaganda machine is saying. They are calling the new album, "a return to the nasty guitars, hummable hooks and upbeat spirit of their 1994 debut, Definitely Maybe"
The mediocre tone of this album is set by the first song. "Hindu Times" is a pleasant rocker, but forgettable by the time you hear the second song. The album is marred by asinine lyrics (for example the line in "Force of Nature" of 'smoking all my stash, burning all my cash'), boring outside writers ("Hung In a Bad Place" written by new band member Gem) and totally disposable songs (the totally uninteresting "instrumental"). "Little By Little" is the trademark, one-Noel-vocal-ballad per album song. It is his best effort on this album. "Stop Crying Your Heart out" sounds like a rejected version of the song "Wonderwall". Has Noel lost his muse? There are hints on this album of the glory that once was Oasis-"She Is Love" is one of the best songs in this set. And of course Oasis uses those to-be-expected Beatle influences. The psychedelic ditty, "All in the Mind" uses a Beatles phrase from the Yellow Submarine film. Nice song, albeit somewhat forgettable.
It is ironic that the best songs on the album were written by Liam. Especially after his first pathetic songwriting attempt on the last album ("Little James"). "Songbird" is a real surprise, the song is actually GOOD! I actually want to hear it over and over again. Another Liam-written song, "Born On a Different Cloud", makes heavy use of a Lennonesque vocal. Nice try, but still Boring. Get ready for this...the best song on the album written by Liam?! "Better Man" evokes more John Lennon vibes . Would fit perfectly on the PLASTIC ONO BAND album. Maybe its time for a Liam solo album?
P.S. On a side note, some of the more interesting new Oasis songs can be found on their b-sides. "Just Getting Older" (b-side of the single "The Hindu Times) is a cool, dreamy song featuring Noel's vocals. Now THIS is the Oasis we all know, remembered and loved!
Carson "Empty Scream" EP-Rough Diamonds Records -
As far as I can tell, this three-song maxi CD single is the debut offering from this interesting band from Scotland. As a reviewer with some experience, let me say that it is fairly difficult to get an accurate picture of a bands' musical message with only three songs to listen to, but we shall try, although this band makes it even tougher by combining two styles of music. This band's music combines the rough, fast metal of late '80's Metallica with the lyrical thrust and vocal stylings of modern day emo. The bad part, to my ears anyway, is that the metallicd aspects sound dated and derivative while the emo content is simply unconvincing and off-putting due to the music. While I would not give up on this band, before I could honestly tell you to spend your money on their product, I would need to hear more. For now, anyway, I don't like them.
The Get Up Kids "On a Wire"-Vagrant Records -
I felt a welcomed lack of disappointment as I listened to the Get Up Kids' new release ON A WIRE. The album before it, EUDORA, had come out a only several months beforehand, and personally I was pretty disappointed with it. It was the first release in almost 3 years, but the much needed new record consisted of mostly cover songs and remakes of some of the group's own tracks; an unhealthy lack of new tracks. Fortunately, the band got back into the studio and put together ON A WIRE. The new album shows a definite progression from the Get Up Kids' past releases; ON A WIRE has a good mix of upbeat fun songs and slower, more "emo-esque" tracks. The first track, also the first single, "Overdue" is an excellent start to the record. The instruments, vocals and lyrics on the record are similar to the ones on SOMETHING TO WRITE HOME ABOUT (their album out before EUDORA), yet not similar to the point where the records seem too much the same. ON A WIRE definitely has its own sound compared to the other Get Up Kids albums, and the direction the band seems to be going in is definitely not a bad one. The album ends with a slower song called "Hannah Hold On" which is a nice, mellow tune such as previous GUK tracks like "I'll Catch You" and "Long Goodnight". Some favorite tracks are "Overdue", "High as the Moon", "Walking on a Wire, "Campfire Kansas" and "Hannah Hold On".
George Elliott "Heaven-Hi Hel-lo"-HelioCD-
As recording equipment has gotten cheaper and computer music recording programs have gotten more affordable and sophisticated, the sheer amount of newly-sprung kitchen-recording studio enthusiasts has proliferated beyond all expectations. Now, anyone can make their own bedroom pop CDs and many do, unleashing their lo-fi loony-pop creations on an unsuspecting world, all looking to be labeled genius and take over Brian Wilson's role as eccentric songwriter extraordinaire. While all fall short, Elliott has a style that I like, long on melody and crafty lyrics. Sure, there's plenty of weirdness here but enough solid songwriting to let me think that Elliott could do a real bang up job if given some money and some real studio time. Not Brian Wilson, of course, but not bad.