George Harrison, "Brainwashed" (Capitol)
Unfortunately, death does not prevent rock stars from putting out "new" albums. One has to look no further than George's former band mate John Lennon to see what substandard tracks creep out in the name of money. Take Lennon's MILK AND HONEY, the first release after his death. That album, Like BRAINWASHED, was comprised of unfinished Lennon demos. However, in the case of George's last album, he left Jeff Lynne and Dhani Harrison extensive notes on how to finish the album that he started, knowing he would not be around to finish it. And they did a superb job of "finishing" the album and leaving a solid, lasting legacy for George Harrison. It's great to see one last album by George which he actually had input into creating.
While BRAINWASHED is not as commercially appealing or instantly catchy as CLOUD NINE or ALL THINGS MUST PASS, George's last album ranks among his best. I compare it to the 1979 album, GEORGE HARRISON in that it is good, but not GREAT. But, one great surprise is the quality of lyrics on the album - lyrics not normally being George Harrison's strongest attribute (just look at some of his early '70s 'preachy' songs). The lyrics vary from prophetic and reflective ("Any Road" & "Looking For My Life"), to simple love songs ("Never Get Over You") to Lennon-esque lyrics ("Brainwashed"). Strange as it may seem, my favorite song on the album, that I keep humming constantly, is an instrumental track, "Marwa Blues"! It has a majestic beauty and I like the dreamy, calming effect of the song. In typical George Harrison humor, he evokes a cheerful/playful mood on the ukulele ditty, "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" (the only song on the album that he didn't write).
The only sad moment comes when you realize that you are never going to hear those trademark George Harrison slide guitar solos again! However, you get the impression that not only was George at peace with his maker, but he successfully finished the last chapter of his musical journey. A fitting last chapter indeed.
ILL MIC, "ILL MIC"(full length CD) (Indie Release)
Upon first listen to the ILL MIC CD, the first thing that strikes you is the diversity. You get metal along with pop. Funk alongside acoustic songs. The dark, brooding and heavy "Circles" starts the album. The funk-influenced "Sun Freak" follows with a seemingly mellow harmonica intro. Then the song gets guitar heavy (this song among all the others showcases all the talents of each member). "Beautiful" almost sounds like a power-ballad from an '80s hairband. Sure, it is kind of humorous, but it is not hokey - it is more of a guilty pleasure. The band reaches it's heaviest on the song "Linger", and then delivers the opposite extreme on the acoustic "Exodus".
The standout song is "Lemonade Sunshine", a catchy pop tune that should be getting radio play. However, for every one of the great songs, there are about 3 songs that are just interchangeable. That's the dilemma that ILL MIC faces: how to balance the catchy with the heavy? The answer might be in their CD single "M-16" (released just after the full CD). The song shows that you can have a catchy AND heavy song at the same time. If they can balance these, ILL MIC will go from making "good" albums to making "great" ones.
Various Artists,"Rise Above-24 Black Flag Songs To Benefit The West Memphis Three" (Sanctuary Records)
This CD collection was envisioned by Henry Rollins as a means to raise awareness about the current situation of three men who were convicted of murdering three young boys and sent to prison. The flimsy evidence was highlighted in two recent HBO specials entitled “Paradise Lost”. I admit I have not read up on all the facts but if such a disparate group of musicians are willing to contribute to the cause it’s definitely worth checking out the details at www.wm3.org. That’s all well and good you say, but what about the music?
Ah yes, the music. One of the reasons that this CD holds together so well is its musical format of having Henry’s backing band as a unit on all tracks (except the bonus Ryan Adams cover-which is a live track). After years of constant touring, The Rollins Band is so tight they rip through these tunes like a warm knife through butter. Jim Wilson’s focused guitar playing brings a new energy to these arrangements that was sometimes lacking in Greg Ginn’s manic playing on the originals. But instead of having each track veer wildly off course because of different players, there is an overall continuity that puts this compilation well above the junk heaps of some other benefit/tribute CD’s which sometimes are painful to listen to in one sitting.
Chuck D and Henry Rollins start off with “Rise Above” and the CD cranks from the get go. Keith Morris of The Circle Jerks wails on “Nervous Breakdown” and leaves Ryan Adams’ take at the end of the CD in the dust (but it’s hard to top the original). Iggy Pop’s “Fix Me” and Lemmy’s (from Motorhead) “Thirsty & Miserable” proves that these old warhorses can still race to the finish line with unbridled ferocity. But some of the new kids give them a run for their money. Neil Fallon of Clutch offers a blistering reading of “American Waste” while Tom Araya of Slayer grinds through a truly brutal run through “Revenge”. Exene Cervenka and Henry duet on the classic teen burnout anthem “Wasted” and even Ice-T chimes in with “Police Story” which sounds like a Body Count outtake. The “mass chorus” effect that Black Flag loved to utilize on songs like “Six Pack” and “TV Party” is revisited here with a cast including Mike Patton, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Rancid, to name a few. But it’s a little unsettling to hear TV shows like “Ally McBeal” and “Judge Judy” shouted out instead of “Dallas” and “The Fall Guy”.
Of course there are a few clunkers here. Cedric Bixler Zavala of The Mars Volta gives a weak version of “I’ve Had It” that adds nothing. Although it’s encouraging seeing some former members of Black Flag that have been “MIA” in the music scene, Chuck Dukowski and Kira Roessler’s contributions add little to the mix. But the one track that should have been left on the editing room floor is Dean Ween’s (of Ween) vocal on “Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie”. Dean- I know Keith Morris. You’re no Keith Morris-or even Dez Cadenza for that matter. But other than that Rise Above is a thoroughly entertaining release that offers a fresh coat of paint on some well-worn punk classics. It should also help create a new dialogue in regards to the workings of the American justice system-which is always a good thing.
To go to the West Memphis Three web site click here
Come On, "Disneyland +" (Heliocentric Records)
Come on is a great band. Here they showcase early efforts from 1977 & 1979. Their sound is rocking with some sharp turns. Art rock, possibly. Art rock and more! If you like early New York punk/new wave you gotta run out and get your grubby little mitts on a Come On album. They were one of the nationally unsung hero’s left out for dry when Blondie, The Talking Heads, Richard Hell and all the others started getting press and record deals. Time to re-visit history and spin the real McCoy’s of punk, so to speak.
The Vandals,"Internet Dating Superstuds" (Kung Fu Records)
The Vandals have been around since 1981 but I haven’t had the pleasure of hearing them until this, their 11th album. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that this CD totally kicks ass. Think of the guitar chops of Pennywise mixed with the wise-crack humor of NOFX and you get the idea. But The Vandals may be even wackier-in a Dead Milkmen way once you start listening to their lyrics. I couldn’t stop smiling-or in many cases stop laughing. The majority of the tunes are written by guitarist Warren Fitzgerald and deals with some truly off the wall topics. “Disproportioned Head” describes the trouble he has since his head “blocks out the sun like a parasol.” “Where’s Your Dignity?” laments over a friend who can’t seem to move on after being dumped by a girl-“you’ll get no sympathy from her just crying like a baby, like the big fat stupid baby you’ve become.”
David Quackenbush’s vocals are expressive and strong throughout, without resorting to yelling through each song like some other punk rocks resort to for “effect”. The Vandals also sport a super tight rhythm section of Joe Escalante on bass and Josh Freese on drums that adds a subtle texture to the songs without being overbearing. But Josh Freese in between playing drums with other artists like A Perfect Circle and Viva Death actually offers up the guilty pleasure on Internet Dating Superstuds. “Soccer Mom” is about exactly what every red-blooded American male daydreams about-getting it on with a young divorcee. “Gliding across the lawn, oranges and Evian. And pizza right after the game…hope you might feel the same. My soccer Mom, it’s on. Knew all along so right’s it’s so wrong.” Yes, Josh-that’s very, very wrong! But in the wild world of The Vandals-it’s oh so right-just like this new CD.
To go to the Kung Fu Records web site click here
Leisure McCorkle, "Jet Set Baby" (MoRisen Records)
Leisure McCorkle’s new full length album, “Jet Set Baby” covers almost every inch of the pop rock genre. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s not a good thing either. The band has great potential, which is especially shown in songs such as “Does She Really Know?” and “My Own Sound” These tracks stick. It’s as simple as that; their infectious melodies stick in the listener’s mind and lead him to humming them the entire day.
Several of the songs do break the mold of pop rock. This is proven in “God in a Box” in which he sings introspective lyrics and mixes keyboard sounds with modern pop guitar. It makes a truly unique and memorable sound. This record may not change your life, but it will definitely keep you singing along.
Various Artists,"20 Years Of Dischord"-Box Set (Dischord Records)
When looking back at the origins of punk, most fans can point to certain cities that were catalysts for new forms of _expression. London and New York were the pioneers in the late 1970’s, allowing music fans the opportunity to listen to something other than the sappy drivel that was being pushed on people (like Boston and Foreigner). Closely following the first wave of punkers was the L.A. scene in the early 1980’s. But right around the same time an East Coast version was sprouting up, and would prove to be just as valid and in most cases-more long lasting than their counterparts. This was in Washington D.C. of all places were harDCore was born. Originally spurred on by the “do-it-yourself” ethic of Bad Brains, an all black punk band that lead the way for later bands like Fishbone and Living Colour, a group of high school kids starting forming bands and playing shows. Two of these people, Jeff Nelson and Ian MacKaye also decided to start their own record label to put out recordings by these bands-Dischord Records- which is still thriving today.
This box set is informative not only for showing the early musical output of both Ian MacKaye (The Teen Idles) and Henry Rollins (S.O.A.) but also of a host of other musicians that offered their own take on punk rock. Ian and Jeff went on to form Minor Threat, which virtually defined hardcore for many people. But other bands such as Government Issue, Lungfish and Scream (which featured a young Dave Grohl on drums) also made their statements about politics and life in general. As the label became more well- known, they also continued to put out records in the late 1980’s that challenged the origins of hardcore but offered something new like Dag Nasty (featuring current Bad Religion guitarist Brian Baker) Soulside (who would splinter and form Girls Against Boys) and Jawbox. But the box set also highlights some still active bands like Q and Not U and Fugazi who are truly innovative and don’t conform to the latest musical trends.
There’s too many bands on this 3 CD set to discuss them all and if you’re planning on reading the liner notes grab a Snickers-it’s over 130 pages. Disregard detractors of the Dischord sound-that it all sounds the same, that some of the bands only lasted a year and weren’t really bands but new versions of old ones (OK-Happy Go Licky was Rites Of Spring with a different name-but so what?) Pick up this reasonably priced box set even if you have heard some of these bands before. Disc 3 features 21 unreleased songs for the diehards. But the uninitiated will surely enjoy the wild abandon most of these bands threw into their music. 20 Years… is an exhilarating ride through punk history-get on now to get a piece of the thrill.
To go to the Dischord Records web site click here
Da Vinci's Notebook, "Brontosaurus" (DVN Label)
Davinci's Notebook was been described as "Bobby McFerrin and Weird Al Yankovic colliding on stage," but this description is a little too general. Sure, they have song parody's like Weird Al ("Face Like Billy Joel") and they have songs that consist entirely of just harmony vocals\ like McFerrin. But that's about where the similarities end. I doubt Weird Al or McFerrin could match the power-pop sensibilities that Davinci's Notebook display on songs like "Heather Graham". Plus, their humour leans more towards an "R" rating, whild Weird Al was always stayed strictly in a "PG-13" mode.
Songs range from parody ("The Gates" hilarious song for all those computer geeks out there!) to dark humor ("Internet Porn" - '60s sounding "muzac", a great social satire about the explosion of internt porn.) "Heather Graham" shows that the group can write power-pop songs that stand up to any "serious" group around today. "Heather" gets in your subconscious with it's catchy as hell melody (complete with a Queen-"Under Pressure" bass line). The lyrics are clever- a song that at first appears to be just a starstruck lovesong becomes a stalking ode. "Another Irish Drinking Song" is a new Celtic Classic that all Irish themed, Celtic bands should be required to learn! Then there is the infamous, "Enourmous Penis" song - a barbershop-quartet ditty that is sure to give you a smile. I found myself humming (and sometimes singing outloud!) this song, much to the annoyance of my wife, ha ha! Within the "Uncle Buford Mega-Mix" is a song called, "Face Like Billy Joel" which is a biting parody of Joel's, "The Longest Time" Finally, the CD ends with a cover of "What a Wonderful World". Unfortunately, this song pales when compared to Joey Ramones version last year on his postumous album.
These 6 songs alone make the album a "must have", although there are plenty of other songs on this CD, the remaining songs are simply less memorable. I just hope Davinci's Notebook keeps putting out the CD's like Weird Al in his 20+ year career. We can ALWAYS use more clever, catchy parody songs like these!
Full Dimensional, "Compilation" (Indie Release)
Basically, FULL DIMENSIONAL is a one-man psychedelic-garage band with elements of grunge/garage/power-pop/electronica. The collection spans the years 1996-2000 and delivers 16 original tunes and two covers.
One of the main problems is the fidelity- there is just not enough bottom to the sound. Plus the sound levels change from track to track. However, since I did give this CD the description of psychedelic "garage" band at the beginning of this review, and "garage" does denote a certain do-it-yourself attitude, I cant really complain can I? I do wish the vocals were higher in the mix because there is some interesting stuff going on (and I think the lyrics are a big part of psychedelic music). Also, there is simply too much "filler" on this collection, with some of the songs just being forgettable. I really feel that a professional recording studio would have helped (Hell, just look what an increased studio budget did for HIFIDRIVEBY). Plus, ff this collection had been reduced to say 7 tracks instead of the present 18, I think the collection as a whole would have been stronger. There are some kick-ass originals, but the other tracks weigh them down. While some of the song titles look hilarious ("Necriphilic Bar Scene", "Dust On My Bible" and "No Drug No God"), they ultimately don't quit live up to the curiosity that their name entitles.
However, there are some fine moments on this CD. "Ripples" is hypnotically beautiful psychedelia. "Tomorrow's Passed" is catchy as hell. FULL DIMENSIONAL has a unique and biting (but melodic) electric guitar, which is best exampled on this track. The highlight of this CD (and the best reason to buy it!) is the kick-ass cover version of "Theme From Mahogany", turning this overplayed and lame song from the '70s into a psychedelic-grunge anthem! Kinda reminds me of when the Jesus and Mary Chain did "Surfin' USA"!
While FULL DIMENSIONAL ultimately fails in delivery, it succeeds tremendously in potential!
Mountain Mirrors, "Voices" (mp3.com)
Maybe they should have called this band "done with mirrors" because that's all that it is: a psychedelic farce. All the elements of psychedelic music with none of the substance. Boring, droning songs with jazz guitar elements thrown in to annoy me further. I know I normally try to find something positive in every review, but I simply find nothing redeeming. Mountain Mirrors are like the Al Gore of rock: once you get past the pretentiousness, there is NO substance whatsoever.
I guess this what happens when rich kids take a lot of psychedelic drugs and go into professional recording studios.
Choo Choo La Rouge, "Wall To Wall" (Indie Release)
As the Dylanesque sound started flowing from my stereo I found myself humming along uncontrollably. I do not do anything uncontrollably very often- except date strippers but that is a different story all together. Choo Choo is everything that Dylan’s illegitimate sons band The Wallflowers SHOULD be! The singer doesn’t have a classically trained voice but he doesn’t have to. He infuses his lyrics with something missing from nearly every CD I review- GENUINE EMOTION! Take note Radney Foster, Carson, and others. You wanna turn me on as a reviewer let me hear something genuine. If you’re in the Boston area on December 17th don’t miss them playing at the lizard lounge. Tell’em Bunky sent ya.
Kinski Spiral, "Hymns and Fragments" (Cut and Paste Records)
Very interesting indeed! Kinski Spiral is very much like the Swedish psychedelic band MOONBABIES in that there are two major singers, one male and one female. Plus, the quality of songs does something that all good psychedelic music does - it takes you somewhere (but I'm not telling where!). The melding of strings, flutes, pagan drums, soaring electric guitars and even melotron is just icing on the cake to what are already well written songs. Just when you think you've figured out this band, they throw you a curve. I'm talking about the song, "Can't Wait 'Till Summer" which is 3 minutes, 12 seconds of power-pop ecstasy! "Say You're Sorry" is simply beautiful-I found myself hitting "repeat" constantly on this song. "Every Day and Every Night" has a mellow groove that will make you move. In short, KINSKI SPIRAL does nothing short of pushing psychedelic music to its entertaining limits, taking you on a psychedelic mystery tour of varied styles and textures, with a surprise around every corner.
While fidelity is the only problem with this CD (some of the tracks suffer in sound quality), there is a hint of brilliance yet to come. Mark my words; you haven't heard the last of KINSKI SPIRAL!
Why Intercept?, "All of this is Circumstance" (The New Beat Records)
Out of the 6 songs on this CD, only one track is marginally interesting. "Elston" has a weird time signature and guitar riff that do make it stand out. But alas, you lose interest in the song by the end. The other 5 songs sound like assembly line, "alternative" rock play list fodder. Not bad, just boring...
Shame Train, "Gone" (Mudfence Music)
I am a sucker for anyone that can infuse a little jazz and Kerouac/Ginsberg into their music and still make room for themselves. Knutson continues to amaze with his ability to draw from these influences but not get lost in the sound. He comes through in spades on this disk again. The majors have to be watching the sales of this guy. If they aren’t they’re missing out. If you are one of those lame asses that worship at the altar of Dave Matthews do yourself a favor (and all those people you hurt with your bland taste) and pop this into the CD player. Then destroy that Dave Matthews disk immediately before you go back to being “that guy who listens to Dave Matthews”
Various Artists, "Alive & Kickin' International Anthems" (cdsmash.com)
First off, I really can’t justify rating this CD. Unfortunately tracks 6-17 were messed up and I can not review them. So I will tell you what each of the first five tracks sound like.
Track 1: Trigger/Good Stuff- Throw 1975 era Kiss into
a blender with a random 1977 punk band mixed to puree
and then toss in some odd new wave keyboard sounds for
good measure. A for effort. I’d like to hear more.
Richard Snow, "Richard Snow" (Indie Release)
From the second this CD starts ("The Sweetest-intro") with strains of harpsichord, choral singing, and flowing bass lines - you know you've discovered something "special". Richard is much like Peter Lacey in that he evokes Brian Wilson's attention to detail in the sound. A prime example would be the song "Coming Soon"- it is very Wilson-esque in it's layering and texturing of sound. However, like Peter Lacey, Richard does not sound like Brian Wilson vocally. I would compare him more to Elvis Costello is the vocal department. "Attention Not Required" is a day dreamy song that floats in its elegance. Speaking of Elvis, "Girls On The Tube" could easily fit on a late '70s Elvis Costello album. But, then you get a surprise towards the end of the song - it suddenly changes into a very psychedelic piece...much like the various "pieces" that comprised "Good Vibrations" by the Beach Boys. Although "Spiral" is a remake of REM's "Driver 8" (remember when REM was actually GOOD?) it is still quite enjoyable. Sure, a few of the songs pale in comparison to the really good ones, but the arrangements make up for any digressions in songwriting.
To me, one of the signs of a good album is when it seems to end too soon and you are ready to hear it again. Immediately. Although not quite on par with Peter Lacey (sorry to keep using that comparison), I'm ready to hear MORE!
Although not wholly original, Richard Snow displays something that is very much missing from today's music and that is CRAFTSMANSHIP. I'm not talking about instrumentation prowess (anybody can be a music major at college, play note-for-note perfect pitch and still be boring!) but the gift of melody and how to use it. And I'll take that over 99% of today's music any day!
Various Artists, "He's a Rebel: The Gene Pitney Story...Retold" (To M'Lou Music)
Most tribute albums are ego-trips for the artists. You can almost hear them say, "wow, look how cool WE are, we are on a [insert artist here] tribute album" (said simultaneously while patting themselves on the back). The songs feel like pale imitations to the originals. You listen to the CD once, maybe twice, and then it is off to the used-CD shop for beer money (or insert your favorite vice here).
Warning: this is not your typical tribute album! You will actually play this CD more than ONCE. It's been my most played CD of the last few months!
The multiple artists represented (26 tracks on this CD) each give their own interpretation of classic Pitney songs, and their varied styles actually compliment the songs. You can't miss the point that Gene Pitney's strength was picking GREAT songs and that's what makes this CD GREAT - the timeless quality of the songs shine through in modern interpretations. You can't help but wonder, "damn, these songs sound kick-ass on this CD, I wonder what the original sounds like?" Some songs are familiar; some sound "British invasion"; some sound almost psychedelic; some even sound like they would fit on the "Grease" soundtrack; some are just beautiful ballads. THE GENE PITNEY STORY RETOLD will probably pique your interest in Gene Pitney (I know it did mine - now I'm searching out original Pitney stuff !) and that's the whole point of this CD. The press release calls this CD a "LABOR OF LOVE" and maybe that's what sets it apart from all other "tribute" albums.
Boetz, "Call to Arms" (Balls Out Records)
There’s one thing that’s for sure about Boetz - either you’ll love him or you’ll hate him. Boetz, nee Ernest Robert Boetz, is an Atlanta, Georgia native who's new album, CALL TO ARMS, delivers nothing short of a blues-metal opus. It comes complete with the usual array of driving riffs, wailing guitar solos, and silly lyrical references to ‘rock ‘n roll’ as both an object of worship and a panacea, as if it were some Greek God the ancient heads conveniently decided to leave out of the history books. However, while Boetz’s formula of one part Judas Priest, one part AC/DC, and a lot of Motorhead can be seen as well, pretty unoriginal, Boetz has found a convenient loop-hole in the southern-metal gospel he preaches. Specifically, Boetz just does it better than anyone else. His refusal to follow musical trends, his ability to write song after song without as much of a semblance of the commercial bubble-gumming that plagues most popular musical acts makes him the ideal rock-purist. This is a move that not only gains him respect and strengthens his fan base, but also leaves him time to hone his craft and pay homage to the music he loves playing. And that’s the rub: the honesty on this record is what makes you love him so much. You understand that this guy really enjoys what he does, and dammit if we don’t find ourselves chanting along or raising our fists in the air every once in a while. The title track is a case-in point here. It’s clearly the highlight of the entire album, a literal rock-anthem pocked with screaming guitars and lyrics so self-referential they’d make a gangster rapper proud. “Call to arms, rock-n-roll soldiers who know the way”. The guest appearance of Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister doesn’t hurt either, fueling both the aggression of the song and it’s vocal diversity, while adding the stoic approval that only a veteran like Lemmy can deliver. While the songwriting on the rest of CALL TO ARMS could use a little work in the originality department, Boetz prefers to stand back and cater to the favorability of the traditional rock formula while stepping in to improve it every once in a while. Songs like "Shinin’", or the blues-heavy "Weak in the Knees", are favorable moments for Boetz. Contained herein is the usual bevy of bar-blues song structuring and guitar noodling, but I’ll be damned if Boetz doesn’t do a great job of it. He’s simply one of the best guitarists I’ve heard on disc in a long time. His propensity to lay off the distortion for most guitar solos, favoring instead on a clean, traditional blues sound while laying down chops, is a tasteful move that gets him recognized as a well-seasoned player who knows both when to play and when not to.
In essence, Boetz has reached the point of any good rock-veteran in that he manages to continuously lay down the goods, but he doesn’t deny the rest of the music its moments for the spotlight. He plays proficiently and wisely, but doesn’t crowd the breadth of the musical spectrum in the process, allowing every nuance its chance to shine. The music is played in both a mature and well-ordered fashion, creating a how-to manual on playing in safe within the confines of rock. Boetz will only get better with age, and I’m all ears.
Red Jetson, "3 Song EP" (Steinbeck Records)
RedJetson’s new ep draws from several different influences. It carefully and intriguingly mixes sounds similar to those of Coldplay, Smashing Pumpkins, and Bush. Although a great part of the songs are focused on their slick melodies and guitar parts, it seems that RedJetson wants to occasionally burst into something much heavier. A good example of this is the disc’s most powerful song, “Shoot You Coward, for You Will Only Kill a Man.” It beautifully switches from calm and soothing to an explosion of sonic sounds and vocals.
All three songs show great diversity and different creative sources. However, some of the songs are too long, and it is easy to lose interest after a long listen. Overall, this is a very good rock cd. More bands should look into making different sounds and expanding the genre.
Quadraphonic, "Terminus" (Independent Records)
I often wonder how people in ten years from now will look back and remember the decade in which we currently live. Sure, there’s September 11th, reality-based television programs, reactionary patriotism, and the nasty conundrum of being able to hate the Middle East all whilst loving the comforts of our fuel-guzzling SUV’s. I envision a myriad of themes parties, DJ’s who specialize in what will be called “00’ Music Night” at local dance clubs. There, children of future generations will placate our decade by deriding it, displaying both bemusement and an ironic reinterpretation of our confusing times by brandishing t-shirts bearing the logos of eXXXtreme beverages and unshelving their parent’s dusty Playstation 2 consoles, while the sounds of The White Stripes and Trail of Dead play over the sound systems ad nauseam. And of course, no “00” party is complete without scornfully revisiting the “nu-metal” phenomenon that gripped our generation with the wrath of a plague. This is the stuff that “where are they now” specials are made of – it is the template upon which the children of future generations will say…what in the hell were our parents thinking?
Quadraphonic, just like the Limp Biscuits, the Korn’s, and the Puddles of Mud before them, are the patron saints of cultural misidentity. These Fubu wearing crackers put on the ultimate minstrel show with this train wreck of an album, the aptly entitled “Terminus” on Indie Records. The music, or lack thereof, is a combination of rap and rhyme accompanied with a generic loop of “chugga chugga” guitar riffs and double bass drumming, with lyrical content displaying a proud badge of juvenile hoodlumism that can be found in any mall food court. Like most “nu-metal”, the music, including (but not limited to) song-structure, lyrics, riffs, the fucking cover art, are the product of a hardcore-by-numbers, lowest common denominator attempt to reach the widest appeal simply by copying others who have done the exact same thing a hundred times over. Let it be known that there is good hardcore music out there – just listen to Agnostic Front, Sick of It All, or early Slapshot and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Early hardcore took punk’s nihilistic view of the world and added a working class brashness to it. Hell, some of the newer hardcore bands are pretty good too – there’s Hatebreed, Walls of Jericho, and Snapcase just to name a few. These bands arguably sound more metal than hardcore at times, but the stuff that makes hardcore what it is – the diffidence, the anger, the hatred – is all still there. If you follow Quadraphonic’s convenient re-writing of history however, it’s as if all the aforementioned underground musical variations never occurred. Opting for a life of top 40 complacency over actually digging for new and exiting music, the world according to Quadraphonic is one where modern heavy music is the direct descendant of Vanilla Ice. These kids bought the kit, got the tribal tattoos, and then they wrote the songs. The blueprint, as well as the source of their rage, is unbearably transparent. Song versus are mumbled, chorused are screamed. The former being the effects of wanton wallowing in white suburbia, the later being a poetic apex for Christ-like martyrs. It is the moment where they face their futures as middle-management hardware salesmen and say to the world: “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!!” And the predictability of the music doesn’t stop there. Guitars are tuned to drop-D, the low E string is played out by itself for entire versus. I can predict with an eerie accuracy exactly where the drummer will begin the double bass and when the mumbling for versus will begin. It’s like I’ve heard this album a thousand times before…Of course, let’s not forget the delicate prose that these clowns can pump out at will, words that putter out of their unevolved maws with the tact of a drunken monkey and fall like a turd into my drink. “You feel the pressure, baby.” Yeah, I do. In fact, right now I feel the uncontrollable pressure to jam a screwdriver into my ear. At the end of the day, however, I have decided that I will keep this album. I will bury it into a time capsule, leaving it for future generations. There, when “00” days at clubs are finally announced, I will dig up the CD, take it to my favorite local DJ, and put it into the system so all the kids can see the real train-wreck that was my generation. See kids, finding irony in past musical movements isn’t always that fun.
Carson, "This Is What I Like To Call Quiet Tim" (HRough Diamonds Records)
Carson is a band from Glasgow that plays American-style Alternacoustic rock. You know like Alice in Chains did on their EP Sap. In fact, this 3 song EP starts out with a song called “another chore” which reminds me a lot of the Sap EP. In a good way but with out the teeth the Chains displayed. The second and third songs are forgettable syrupy sensitive ponytail crap. For those of you out of the know, sensitive ponytail game is when a guy of average intelligence hangs out at coffee houses, grows a ponytail, and using his guile to make some unwitting freshman girl think he’s “deep” and “really understands woman”. These two songs are what that guy would write. Not because he actually feels deep emotion but because he thinks talking about having deep feelings will get him laid. But maybe one out of three ain’t bad? The first song gives them a 2.
Neurotic Swingers, "What's your definition of underground?" (Shark Attack)
Ok. One pet peeve. They market themselves as 77 punk. If I wanted to listen to 77 punk guys I’d pop my 77 punk vinyl on my turntable and hear the masters play. I know, I know other bands are doing it, too. Well they are wrong, too. You gotta realize that when fans are in the record store you are competing for their dollar with bands that played 77 punk in 19 and 77. Ok, now I’ll review. For all that I’ve just said the Neurotic Swingers are a good band. They aren’t breaking any ground here but hell who says you have to. They’d be a good opener for The HUDSON FALCONS, AMERICAS SWEETHEARTS, GC5, or TOXIC NARCOTIC. The CD plays the same Warped Tour style punk the whole way through and is an enjoyable listen. I’d like to see them live as I bet they really rock live.
The Bitter Little Cider Apples, "Still" (Pink Hedgehog Records)
If I could use one word to describe The Bitter Little Cider Apples, it would be "MEGAKINKS", as they seem to sound like the best of two bands - Megacity 4 and The Kinks. On first listen this band reminds me of Megacity 4, the sadly underrated power-pop band from a decade ago. However, BITTER LITTLE CIDER APPLES has a little more depth than MC4 in their scope; not only have they mastered the ultra-fast pop song like MC4, but they also charm with the slower pop songs and observational lyrics like The Kinks. But, not all their songs are at break-neck speed, witness the haunting "Wants & Needs", which has all the charm of a classic Kinks song. The band gets bonus points for having the balls to have a song titled by the same name as the band! Not many can pull that off, but this band does on "Bitter Little Cider Apples". The lead guitar work is also worth noting as it is impressive without relying on flash!
This record is the debut disc by The Bitter Little Cider Apples and they have come out of the starting gates with a winner on their hands. Their formula of distinctive lead guitars, catchy melodies, hooks galore and down to earth lyrics make for pure, unadulterated pop!
To go to the Pink Hedgehog Records web site click here
Chickens and Pigs, "Bulldozer" (Indie Release)
BULLDOZER is an excellent follow-up to the Chickens & Pigs debut album, PREACHIN' BLUES. No sophomore slump here! In fact, the confidence Chickens & Pigs is very much evident on BULLDOZER (try and catch this band live, they are HOT). Although the songs are just as good, the band sounds tighter this time around and the blues influence is more apparent. The common denominator of Chickens & Pigs is a gritty, Stones-like guitar and a healthy dose of down-home Southern Americana lyrics. I know it sounds clichéd, but this is truly the band's EXILE ON MAIN STREET, albeit more bluesy than the Stones ever wanted to be.
The song "Bulldozer" is an alt-country hoedown that lives up to its title! And yes, the humorous songs still abound: "I'm Gonna Be a Taxicab When I Grow Up Someday", "Honey Can I Strum Your Banjo" and "Sunday Beer". Speaking of which, "Sunday Beer" is an instant classic about the woes of trying to get alcohol in Georgia on Sunday (where it is outlawed!).
So, put down that "new", lifeless album by the Stones and pick up BULLDOZER. You'll see who really carries the torch of this kind of music...
To go to this artist's (new) web site click here
To go to this artist's (old) web site click here