Paul Melancon, "Camera Obscura" (Daemon Records)
In my never to be humble opinion, Paul Melancon ranks among the best of the power-pop elite. I'm talking the Crowded House, ELO and the Nick Lowes of the power-pop world. Like these artists, Mr. Melancon has perfected the craft of presenting multi-textured and varied stylings that are memorable, hummable and never pale with repeated listenings! The songs range from classic pop songs to beautiful ballads.
That's what makes this album so amazing...just on the stregth of the songwriting and that "voice" alone, this is a classic. I don't really "'get" his lyrics, but that's fine because sometimes the best lyrics are those that are mysterious and bring individual interpretation. There seems to be an underlying theme to this CD from what I can discern - the wistful, melancoly of a relationship that isn't working. Paul has a simply amazing voice - shimmering and distinct. I could listen to singing like this all day! He is simply the best singer I've heard in quite a long time.
And if these 10 pristine songs were not enough, there is a hidden track - a cover of the Beach Boys, "You're So Good To Me". Damn, I'm in power-pop heaven, that is one of my fave Beach Boys songs! Mr. Melancon has created a power-pop masterpiece, pure and simple (and I don't use that term lightly!).
Johnny Cash , " American Recordings IV: The Man Comes Around" (American Recordings)
From the opening spoken lines lifted from the book of Revelation to the last bars of "We'll Meet Again", this album wrapped itself around me like a warm blanket on a cold night. An amazing array of contradictions and strange bed-fellows (covering a Nine Inch Nail tune?) are woven into a thick tapestry of stunning substance. The achievement Cash makes with this album cannot be overstated. This is his best effort on American Records and may, I say just may, be his best album, period. Ever.
Since there are really no weak spots on this album, I'm going to cover each song. "Man Comes Around" is a Christian inspired ode to the coming days of judgment that even a non-believer like me can enjoy. "Give my Love to Rose" could easily be named, "Give my Love to June". It's sung with an overt passion not heard on today's radio stations. The Simon and Garfunkel cover "Bridge Over Troubled Water" is covered with Ms. Fiona Apple joining the track. If you close your eyes and just listen to her deliver you would swear a young June Carter was delivering the lines. Apples best vocal performance, ever. Marty Stuart joins Cash on "I Hung My Head". Next, June takes center stage in spirit as Cash sings "First Time Ever I saw Your Face". You can hear Cash's heart reach out to his wife and almost see a weepy June overwhelmed by his expression of love. A cover of the New Wave Depeche Mode song "Personal Jesus" shows up as Cash's voice comes across strong and clear. The brilliant acoustic guitar work is handled by Red Hot Chili Pepper guitarist John Frusciante. John Lennon and Paul McCartney get the Cash treatment with his take on "In My Life". Any Beatles fan should pick this disk up just to hear this track. The pace is livened up a bit with "Sam Hall" as Cash lets us see a little bit of his outlaw side. Then the tides turns somber with the traditional "Danny Boy". If you want to get the feeling of this cut read Emily Dickinson from 1am-3am on a day when your dog died and you found out your girlfriend is screwing your best friend long black veil style. Cash seems to be singing to his own past in the Eagles "Desperado". He sings from the position of wisdom and authority. He's been out riding fences, he's drawn the queen of diamonds and the queen of hearts. He's glad he let somebody love him. Johnny tips his cap to the only other man equal with him in terms of influence in his cover of Hank Williams, Senior's "I'm so Lonesome I Could Cry". Nick Cave joins on vocals to make a compelling rendition. A little ditty about winning your old flame back follows in "Tear Stained Letter". Cash returns to his cowboy ways with "Streets of Laredo". The story of a man dying of a gun shot wound telling his last tale. "We'll Meet Again" rounds out the disk in a bittersweet way.
This album tackles issues as varied as God, love, and death. Lots of death, here. I couldn't shake the feeling that Cash knows his days are drawing to a close. Always the master artist, he lets us all see the inner workings of the man in black headed to the great cattle ranch in the sky. The highlight for me was the Nine Inch Nails cover of "Hurt". I saw Trent Reznor and David Bowie do a duet live of this song but Cash blows them away- and Reznor wrote the song! Cash's vulnerable sounding hollow voice lends so much to the song.
This is the album fans of REAL country music have been waiting for. Too bad the Nashville types still have their heads up their asses. They want to push the crossover bullshit down our throats. In my city the only station really giving "Hurt" any airplay is an alternative station. I call upon anyone reading this to call your local country station and request "Hurt". If they refuse to play it, refuse to listen to them. Put up flyers and stir up a ruckus about how much their corporate station along with their corporate partners in Nashville have co-opted real country and replaced it with pop music in cowboy hats. Sure I want to like whip cream off of Shania and Faith Hill as much as any other hot blooded American male but god damn it, enough is too much! They aren't country! If you've forgotten what country is look no further than this album.
Past Mistakes and Red Winter Dying, "PASTMISTAKES/REDWINTERDYING" (The New Beat Records)
There’s a lot happening on this disc, a split EP from two Knoxville, Tennessee bands Past Mistakes and Red Winter Dying. I had no idea Tennessee was producing such brutal and challenging underground music, and I’ve got to say that after my second listen, I now regard this release as the best thing that’s hit my reviewer’s bin in the last several months.
The disc opens with three cuts from Past Mistakes, who play melodic Revelations Records type hardcore in the vein of In My Eyes, but with a west-coast sensibility that reminds me of earlier Jawbreaker. Past Mistakes dabble with a lot of great harmonies on their side of the disc. They approach songs with a simplistic appeal to melody that harkens back to the Screatching-Weasle school of songwriting, but they shake things up a bit with youth-crew style breakdowns and a very unharmonious set of screams that keeps the music from falling into the same category as your dime-a-dozen, bubblegum pop-punk bands. Unfortunately, the techniques they deploy to present such a contrast have become somewhat of a common ruse in today’s punk bands. Much like Canada’s lovable senso-punks Grade, Past Mistakes want to retain a rough-edged sensibility that will get them the scene points, all while creating happy, sing-along melodies that will get them the girls. In essence, for all their great songwriting, their succinct yet effective executions of both melody and scream, they simply sing about girls too much. Don't get me wrong, some of the lyrics on here are quite good, and I actually got a good laugh while reading the words for the disc’s opener, Your Blade, My Blood. “Baby tonight, let’s have some surgery and try not to fight/You can amputate my flaws from your eyes/Please start with my thighs.” While this is fine satire - smart, funny, and cynical, the sentiment becomes ruined by the end of the song when the singer endlessly screams: “I will die for you.” Puuullleeeeaaaaaasse. This wanton display of teenage emotion continues throughout there half of the album, until it reaches its embarrassing zenith in the breakdown on the band’s final song, Sincerely, Pointless in Chicago. It is an unbearably cheesy display of emotional hyperbole, complete with a series of sensitive whisperings that would make Morrissey balk and The Onion’s frequent editorial writer, Smoove B say…damn.
Despite their occasional adolescent shortcomings, Past Mistakes is a damn good band. The songwriting is great, they’ve got melodies up the ying-yang, and when they’re not whining about girls, the lyrics can be both funny and intelligent. The guitars are also a plus on this release – driving, unrelenting, yet controlled. I’d love to see this band play live, as I bet they put on good show. Better yet, I’d love to see a full length from these guys soon, as know this band will only get better with age.
One look at their photo on the inside of the cd and I wanted to choke Red Winter Dying with their own white belts. However, when their first track came through my speakers, it nearly blew my fucking head off. Red Winter Dying plays choppy metal-inspired hardcore in the vein of Converge or Thoughts of Ionesco. They use a lot of dissonant chords, coupled with a barrage of Slayer-type riffs that had me doing the air-guitar like a drunken rube at the state county fair. These guys tear shit up, and they supply their songs with an endless assault of breaks and hooks that left me speechless. While certainly a bit more original than Past Mistakes, Red Winter Dying isn’t afraid to show their metal-roots, as they wear it like a badge in the three cuts they present on this cd. Lyrically, they draw a stalemate against Past Mistakes. They don’t sing endlessly about girls, which I suppose would mean that they win by default - however, they don’t share the same sense of wit and cynicism the aforementioned band managed to muster. The words are honest, sure, but they may be a little too honest in that they come off like bad poetry at times. However, despite its propensity to sound like angst caught in the pangs of youth, the lyrics do fit the mood, so I have no complaints. In the future, I would love to hear this band speed things up a bit and go absolutely ape-shit, perhaps doing a 9 Shocks Terror type of thing to compliment the brutal breakdowns these guys can deliver at will. Damn, I’d love to see them play live.
To go to the Past Mistakes web site click here
To go to the Red Winter Dying web site click here
The Pyronauts, "Surf Motel" (Indie Release)
I find myself sitting at the computer, deep in the heart of the south, in the dead of the winter, reviewing a surf album! Now, if that doesn't call for a toast to the tiki gods then I don't know what does. Fourteen fun filled slabs of reverb soaked twang. Fifteen if you count the slightly disturbing hidden track. How could anyone not love a surf band with the kahunas and sense of humor to cover both "Hava Nagila" and "Amazing Grace" (appropriately retitled "Amazing Wave") on the same disc? And yes, they manage to pull it off without wiping out. A pretty cool disc all the way through. "The Fury" seems to make me laugh every time I hear the intro.
The French Broads, "Tubes, Wood & Metal" (Disgraceland)
Best I can tell they are neither french nor broads. They are however, one very tight pop band. Ten well written and performed songs that fall somewhere between Wings and Golden Smog. The combination of quirky songs and a polished sound is a perfect pairing for college radio, which I'm sure these guys are well aware of. So, all you college stations out there, take my advice and just play the damn cd!
Hayseed Dixie, "Kiss My Grass" (Dualtone)
When I talked to Hayseed Dixie back in 2001 for EAR CANDY, they assured me that their “Hillbilly Tribute to AC/DC” would be their only CD. Thank god they changed their minds and now we have the THIRD Hayseed Dixie album, in which the boys from Deerlick Holler pay tribute to the band KISS. This album is a hoot and a must for all KISS fanatics. How do I know this? Well, I was playing a copy on a portable CD player at the recent Atlanta KISS EXPO – after the KISS fan’s initial shock at hearing bluegrass at a KISS convention, they began laughing uncontrollably as they heard the KISS lyrics. Many people wanted to buy my only copy! On KISS MY GRASS, you hear bluegrass versions of such KISS classics as “Calling Dr. Love”, “Detroit Rock City”, “Love Gun” and of course “Rock & Roll All Nite”. The spoken middle of “Christine Sixteen” will surely make the KISS fan convulse in laughter.
Now that Hayseed Dixie has proved that the joke ISN’T stale after 3 CD’s…hopefully they will continue the parody.
Tom Jessen, "Night" (East Elm Records)
Other than the Iowa Hawkeyes wrestling and football teams, does Iowa produce anything of note? After listening to this CD I'd say, yes. Jessen is in the same mold as Elvis. Costello that is. His albums are layers of different instruments that all add something to the sound. He handles the arrangement and construction of each song like a master. The only knock is the constant tempo of the album. I wish he had thrown in a fast ditty just to spice things up a little more. A good effort for sure, check him out if you are a Costello fan.
Dave Davies, "Bug" (KOCH Records)
Dave Davies has often been forced into the shadows when compared to his song-writing older brother Ray (and co-founder of the Kinks). But now, Dave has emerged with his strongest solo album since he started recording them back in 1980. Of course there are the ‘rockers’ (after all, Dave practically invented the heavy metal guitar sound) such as “Whose Foolin’ Who” – a song that would fit on any of the Kinks successful ‘80s Arista albums. However, the real surprise is the ballads; these touch your psyche like any of the classic Ray Davies ballads. “Fortis Green” for example, would easily fit onto “THE KINKS PRESENT THE VILLAGE GREEN PRESERVATION SOCIETY”. You get a second surprise as Dave delves into the “techno” styles of current groups such as DIRTY VEGAS on two tracks, “De-Bug” and “Life After Life”.
The caliber of this album proves that Ray doesn’t have a monopoly on the songwriting talent in the Davies family. It seems that as of late, Ray has just simply run out of ideas…in contrast to Dave’s impressive new CD with its impressive lyrics and melodies. All in all, a perfect blend of musical styles that doesn’t sound disjointed. Dave is no longer the little brother in the shadows!
Come On, "The Come On Story" (Heliocentric)
Early New York punk rock madness reigns down once again this month with another Come On review. Come On are more on the sid of The Talking Heads than Richard Hell. They maintain good violent punk lyrics throughout like these from "Old People":
Turn over cars,Fuck yes! That's what I want to hear, people! Where would punk rock be with out copious amounts of violence and malicious destruction of property? It would be in boring-town that's where. If you love early punk, the Talking Heads, or destruction in general, pick this up and give it a spin.
SSG, "Limited Edition Expo Special" (Glass Moon Records)
This is only a 6-song “demo” that SSG (which stands for Super Sonic Guitars) peddles at their KISS EXPO appearances…but I was so impressed (both with the band live and this CD) that I just had to review it. While there are two KISS songs included, SSG is no mere KISS-knockoff that is trying to ride the coat-tails of the ‘masters of marketing’. Sure, some of SSG’s original songs would fit perfectly on KISS AVIVE, but I also hear the influences of Cheap Trick and the Scorpions. And a big difference between KISS and SSG is that SSG utilizes harmony vocals more. Plus, having two songwriters in the band really helps.
This is a CD that you wanna crank in your car stereo as you speed down the highway. “Beatiful Dust” hits you from the grassy knoll and easily achieves “the coolest song in the world” for this issue of EAR CANDY. It reminds me of a great lost Cheap Trick song with elements of Paul McCartney and ELO thrown in. This song is a sign of potential greatness for SSG. When you add the strength of the other originals, you’ve got some heavy expectations for the first full-length SSG record. I for one think they are up for the challenge.
Imaginary Bill, "Imaginary Bill" (Sportin' Company)
From the opening song Imaginary Bill grabs your attention with a nice hard riff and doesn't let go. A good guitar solo follows with the lyrics, "is she wrapped too tight for me?" She probably is fella's. The next song asks the seminal question, "why did you make me special?". Um dunno. The last song has a throbbing bassline that made my head hurt and grab for the tylenol. Two out of three ain't bad I suppose. Pick this one up for a couple of bucks. I want to hear the full length when it comes out.
Jet City, "Tempus Fugit" (Indie Release)
This album seems to be one where the writer, David Mills sat down and tried to figure out what an audience would like. Unfortunately, he struck out with me. Some guitar hooks verge on catchy but just don't have the fuel to make it over the hump. This album is like the nice little kid you set up with your little sister cause you know he won't go out of the way. It should come with a sticker that reads: "contents are devoid of sex, drugs, and rock n' roll". It's what George W and John Ashcroft are giving their kids to listen to. It's just too damn safe. I'd pass on this one.
Ant-Bee, "Lunar Muzik" (Divine)
Finally, I have run into some people who have ingested more acid than I have. The album begins with the noise opera sounds of "Snorkes & Weezes". By the end of the song I thought I knew what was in store the rest of the way but I was wrong. The album takes an unexpected turn when the Byrd's-ish 60's song "Child of the Moon" starts. Ant-Bee could easily be called the space hippies for their use of familiar 60's rhythms with today's sampling technology. This would be a great road trip album. If nothing else it would provoke a great conversation as your car mates would either loathe you or envy you for being the first to hear this strange sound. I know now what the Indians must have felt like when they heard their first bagpipe. I can't tell you what genre it is, but I do like it.
Fizzle Like A Flood, "Flash Paper Queen" (Ernest Jenning Record Co.)
Fizzle Like a Flood’s “Flash Paper Queen” cleverly uses the English language to capture the feelings of love/life-struck young men. All the songs on this record are tape recorder and 4-track recordings of the songs that later would become their studio-recorded album of the same title. So, most of the tracks are acoustic and not fully polished. The lack of polish is probably the only flaw in this record to most people. However, perhaps the music scene just needs something with a pure acoustic guitar sound and unheard sincerity in vocals. In “Touched for the Tag,” Rachel Otto croons “A skateboard’s not da bomb turn on-no a skateboard’s not a dope turn on-girl’s like boys who play with balls.” For those folk lovers and fans of Fizzle Like a Flood, this record is a definite purchase.
Skywind, "O2" (Atomic K)
I have to admit that at first glance, I wasn’t looking forward to listening to this. The band’s name, along with the album’s cover art, both leave little to be desired, save perhaps for a prayer of originality. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I eventually put this disc in and gave it a listen. Skywind comes from that Faith No More/Tool tradition of writing heavy songs and cleverly mixing them with an innumerable sum of both unique and eclectic flavors. Of course, much like any idea that was born with both original and good intention, groundbreaking music sooner or later always falls into the hands of pragmatism. In the case of Mike Patton and co, it gave birth to the Korns and Linkin Parks that currently infest airwaves like a plague, but have the tenacity and shelf life of any other conveniently labeled, wash-and-wear fad. Fortunately, Skywind evades this categorization altogether and uses the template to their own advantage. Their blend of vastly different sounds and rhythms are juxtaposed in such a way that it gives the music great contrast and depth. In short, they don’t do it simply because every body else is doing it.
The disc’s opening track, Baptized, is a catchy number that starts with an ethereal, almost techno rhythm. When the song actually begins to get underway, we find ourselves wondering how the song managed to progress to its structured apex from such ambiguous origins. But the progression makes sense, and that’s what makes Skywind so good. They present an elusive je ne sais quoi in their contradictions and chiaro scuro approach to song writing, and it sets the stage for an array of vastly different colors and musical depths at that they’ll use at their disposal throughout the record. The song Picture Perfect is a prime example here. They manage to create an Indian medley in the middle of song, which both offsets and compliments the traditional structure of the song. Their are great hooks on this record as well. In fact, one of the best things about this band is their ability to sneak catchy grooves and on-off time-signatures into the songs, replacing measures in a verse with periodic stops and turns that play on our expectations.
Circles in the Ground , the second song on the disc, opens with an extremely catchy progression of keyboard and guitar riffs that carries a wide breadth of dynamics with it. It’s complex but unbelievably powerful at the same time. Singer Walter Joseph is absolutely fantastic here. There are some great vocal melodies throughout the record, and he wisely knows when to carry throw in a counter-melody and when to go along with the music. He’s just a damn good singer, and he’ll be the one to carry this band when every other musical gimmick is exhausted.
Inside Out, the last cut on the cd, is perhaps the best number on the disc. Clocking in at 9 minutes, it’s a literal opus that takes us from a simplistic vocal-and-guitar ditty to a retching cacophony of noise and triumph. I have to admit that I’m not too fond of this type of technique for its surface value - it has become passé for a band’s final album cut to be some sort of James Joycean literary volume which somehow is meant reference history, God, and everything in between ala The Doors, Pink Floyd, and Jane’s Addiction to name a few. However, it’s a great song and it’s executed quite nicely here, so I digress.
The production on this record is also top notch, and it makes me wonder what kind of budget this band was working with when they started this record, and subsequently, how much they went into the red by the time of its completion. If there is any major quip that I have with this record, it’s the lyrical content. Joseph, for all his vocal majesty, has unfortunately managed to fall into the trap that has subsumed many a front man. Specifically, he adorns a silly Jesus Christ-pose in his delivery, feloniously assuming that every word, every line that comes out of his adoring maw is that of sheer genius and depth. That’s simply not true. Many of the lyrics on this record are down right silly, others border on complete absurdity. Front men in this day and age need to understand that besides possessing good vocal ability and stage prescience, they also must be good writers, or else they will fall into the aforementioned trap of assuming that slightly-non-sensical-yet-flimsily-metophorical lyrics can be misconstrued as something profound. For all his laurels, Joseph unfortunately falls flat on this one. In short, you’re just not that deep, dude. On the cd, he proclaims, “I’ll never try to take your breath away.” Well, thank God for that. However, this is a faux pas that can be easily remedied. I suggest reading some books, for one. Know your metaphors and allegory, dabble in some critical theory, and for Christ sakes, please quit it with the tired vocal messiah act. This is a minor beef, however, and I think that with a little ironing out, Skywind could go very far.
Chicken Mchead, "Chicken Mchead" (Indie Release)
God, this is awful. What we have here is a CDR with a Xeroxed, pink cover, bearing the photo of a chicken’s head on the front, as well as a photo of the band playing in what appears to be either a VFW hall or some bar I’m sure these stains visit on a regular basis. Musically, they sound like a mangled confluence of the Monkees, the Doors, and Mojo Nixon, except without the musical talent, originality, or sense of humor any of the aforementioned acts possessed in their most obscure studio outtakes. Well, the Monkee’s weren’t that good, but I digress. A series of hilarious keyboard solos protrude ad nauseam throughout the album, and I imagined it sounds similar to the sounds Ray Manzerik would make if he were violently raped. Occasionally, the vocals sound vaguely akin to Jello Biafra on the song Diana Taurasi: nightmare in Knoxville, complete with sarcastic over pronunciations and an almost Frank Zappaish sensibility. And that’s when it hits me. This has to be a joke. There’s no way this motley crew of ass clowns could have written a song called Where do the elephants go when they die? and taken themselves seriously. I’ve been duped. I’ve been fooled. And I bought it, hook, line, and sinker. Damn. They have a song called Monkey Bar. If that’s not cool, I don’t know what is. The song Pelican Footwear is classic camp. It starts with a catchy guitar riff, backed with a great sing-and-shout chorus that made me want to dust off my old John Waters movies. The last track on this disc, Running of the Bulls, is the best song on this record. It’s a song about yuppies and political corruption, with an intro riff that sounds like the Hava Nagila on crack, and a saxophone solo that is simply awesome. I ended up listening to this song 3 times in a row. Okay, I take it all back. This is the best band in the world. They must be signed. They must take over. The world must know their dark humor and ironic wit. This is funny shit, and I’m making copies of this for all my friends. Okay, I’m going to bed now.
Thinmen, "Nothing Like Our Picture" (Narrow People Music)
Thinmen are a rock band that delivers well-crafted and well-thought songs with odd, math-rock time signatures and generally speaking, an incredible sense of range and talent. Musically, they’re hard to pigeonhole, and I think that’s one of the reasons I ended up enjoying this disc so much. I might call them a ‘light rock’ band, but they dabble in everything from jazz to world beat, and occasionally they like to kick back with some mysterious grooves and infectious timings that make you really appreciate the incredible sense of musical diversity this group has to offer. The first track, Free Yourself, is by far the best tune on this disc. It’s a well-structured song with some great dynamics; the guitars sound ethereal and play on your expectations, but its got a traditional rhythm and a catchy execution of verse and chorus that really brings you into the song. It’s a damn catchy tune, and it really raised the bar way above my expectations. By this point, the first solid comparison I could make for this band was a Security-era Peter Gabriel. Much to my surprise, they confirmed my suspicions by the time track three rolled around, performing a great rendition of said artist’s famous song, Shock the Monkey, from the aforementioned 1982 album. They don’t perform a carbon-copy cover of the song, however. Instead, they rework it into an upbeat, fusion based medley that both compliments the original and takes it to wider range of understanding. The vocals are great on this disc, and though these guys look like real tools from their insert photo, the lyrics are sensible, honest, and to-the-point. The musicianship is top notch, ranging from dissonant sounds to pop-sensitive anthems. These guys cover a lot of bases on this disc, they’re mature and experienced players who know what to play and when to play it, and all fans of this type of music should pick this up immediately. Great job, guys.
Mana ERG, "Borderliners" (Indie Release)
There’s a lot of great stuff going on this new disc from Mana Erg, the brainchild of Britain’s Bruno De Angelis. The music on this album is uncompromising in its attempt to elude taxonomy and classification. They’re techno, industrial, trance, synth pop, and goth combined into one, yet it’s impossible to call them any of these things individually. The songs are carefully paced, wonderful arrangements that really pull you into the mood of every individual track, each executed with a wide breadth of sounds, with some very tasteful use of driving guitars at times and a series of trance-type beats at others. Alicante, the second cut on the album, is a shining moment for this disc. It’s a dark, slow paced assemblage full of scathing political commentary and innuendo. “Europe, you stand for something different/Europe, don’t hide behind a Bush/caring about the future of the world is un-American/the wall is collapsing, the roof is falling/the wall is collapsing, the flood is coming.” Remember, the third track on the disc, is probably the best song on here. It’s a driving, optimistic track, backed by Deborah Roberts on vocals, who creates a hypnotizing and enchanting atmosphere with a beautiful voice that is strong and demands attention. Where’s Tomorrow, the fourth song on the disc, is a compelling tune, sounding very akin to Radio Head in its pop sensibility and range of emotion, delivering charming, anthemic use of the guitar. This is a fantastic record, and I’d like to hear more from this band in the future.
Double Eclipse, "Freedom To Function" (Thirteen 772 Music)
It's been 3 years since we last heard from Double Eclipse. However, the wait was worth it and their second release, FREEDOM TO FUNCTION shows no sign of the dreaded "sophomore slump". In fact, Double Eclipse has ECLIPSED their first album, both in growth and depth, with the addition of piano, synth and slide guitar. Also, more players were brought on board for the second album as lead guitarist extraordinaire; Mikael Johannesson plays on only 5 of the 10 songs. The 5 songs that Mikael plays on are the straightforward, thunderous rock that Double Eclipse did so well on their first album. However much I love his distinctive lead playing, my favorite songs on this CD are actually the ones he doesn't play on! My question is this - was the departure and "experimentation" on this album intentional? Or was it the result of changing lead guitarists? Standouts are the last 3 songs on the CD - "Take It All Away" is my fave, with piano and synth that add to an already great song; "Chance to Make It Right" has a really cool acoustic guitar break and "When All the Talk Is Done" is a beautiful acoustic song and a perfect way to end an album that shows that hard rock genre is not dead!!
Atom Strange, "Atom Strange" (Indie Release)
This is terrible. God, it just gets worse every second. Atom Strange sounds like a mixture between Radiohead and Velvet Underground, which sounds good in theory, but is utterly unforgivable in his execution of it. He sings out of key for the entire duration on the first track on this CD. Ditto on the second track. The second song is a little better than the first; it actually has a semblance of good melody to it, as well as cool keyboard ditty in the song’s bridge, but once again it becomes ruined by his voice. By the third track, his vocals take the route of completely aping Lou Reed, which makes him sound a lot better but still don’t save this ramshackle turd of a CD. His ostentatious use of a distorted wah petal on this track sounds like he’s creating a soundtrack for an Austrian porno. Cosmic Band, the forth song on this CD, is probably the best song on here. It sounds vaguely akin to the Dead Boys or perhaps Roxey Music, with an upbeat glam-type of groove and a catchy use of that same distorted wah petal. Here, the wah works. This should have been the first track on this CD, because it would have pulled me into the album with optimistic intrigue, instead of ruining my opinion of him by the time this strong fourth track rolled around. This is a good one, and Strange should keep writing stuff like this, because this where his strong point lies. Strange is a proficient guitarist, and he can play with taste at times. The Lotus Garden, the CD closer, has some pretty good stuff on it, especially its weird, dissonant, and haunting intro riff. His voice isn’t that bad on here either, though by this point I can’t figure out if that’s by default or convenient circumstance. This is a pretty good song too, and it’s a damn shame that it should be on the same album as the four other tracks on here that simply reek of poop. All in all, there should only have been two or maybe three songs on this CD to ever see the light of day. Kids, take notice: this is why CD burners are a bad idea. Strange, you should have a put a little more thought into this. Take the two good songs on here and wait until either you can get somebody who can sing, or you can muster up some better songs. In the meantime, however, I want to sue you for the time I lost listening to this.
No web site available yet
E-mail this artist at Atom Strange
Dennis Most and the Instigators, "Not The Normal Kind" (Indie Release)
"Attitude! Attitude! Attitude!" "Take a listen to a carefully nurtured vision of music that not only beckons to the anger of great rock 'n' roll but remembers when rock 'n' roll was fun!" That's quite a bold statement to make in the liner notes of your cd but for the most part Mr. Most and his Instigators live up to it. Covering two classic Stooges tunes "I Wanna Be Your Dog" and "Down On The Streets", one by the Seeds "Pushin' Too Hard" and a medley of "I Fought The Law", "Secret Agent Man" and the theme from "Peter Gunn". One half covers - one half original, with the raw throbbing "Excuse My Spunk" being the highlight of the original half. This guy certainly has his heart in the right place.
Hugh Cornwell, "Mayday" (Track)
Cornwell's eleven song "Mayday" clocks in at just a fuzz under fifty minutes. Recorded live and suprisingly well at Sankey's Soap in Manchester, England during his 1998 "Heads and Tails" tour. The main reason I like this cd is the high energy level maintained throughout the disc. That's what keeps the songs interesting to me. The guitars bring to mind Eno or even Andy Summers fretwork and the entire band is incrediblely tight. Drummer Justin Chapman and bassist Michelle Marti are locked together like two pieces of a puzzle. If you're a fan of progressive rock this offering will no doubt appeal to you.
Mad Margritt, "New Sensation" (Perris Records)
The new Mad Margritt CD is sort of an enigma. This album is GOOD, but not GREAT! The band sound as hot and polished as ever and new guitarist Davay Ray fits like a glove, like he was meant for this group. The lead track, "Nothing Can Keep Me Away" is a great little rockin' gem: melodic, catchy, rockin' and memorable. And Derek St. Holmes does the backing vocals ta boot! Acoustic brilliance ala Randy Rhoads is delivered by guitarist, Davay Ray on the song, "Sensations". Sure, the obligatory acoustic masterpiece is kind of cliché in the heavy metal/hard rock album, but I personally never get tired of such blatant displays of talent! "Can't Get Over You” is a little reminiscent of those '80s hair-band-ballads, but Eddie Smith's talent as a songwriter keeps the song from digressing into a retro-fest. Speaking of Eddie's songwriting, "Someone To Love" is catchy and has you swearing that you have heard this on the radio before! And "Believe" is a beautiful, piano driven ballad that again showcases Smith's songwriting chops! Although this is not a hard rock song, it is one of the strongest songs on this CD!
Unfortunately, this album is marred by the inclusion of two lackluster and ill-chosen covers (in my opinion). First there is "Midnight Rendezvous" - YES, this is a cover of that Baby's song, and NO, Mad Margritt does not improve upon what was a mediocre song at best! The second cover is "TNT", the classic AC/DC cover. I wanna hear more Mad Margritt, not cover fillers!
This brings me to my point of what I see as a fatal flaw with this album. Eddie Smith not only has an amazing voice that Mad Margritt uses to full effect, but he has some real hidden songwriting potential. Unfortunately, there are only 6 songs on this CD that Eddie wrote (or co-wrote). Mad Margritt ROCKS, but they are capable of much, much more. NEW SENSATION is a good appetizer, but not a main course!
To go to the Perris Records web site click here
JunkBunny, "Bump" (Pink Hedgehog)
Eight breezy, jangling pop songs from this trio of Semper-lofi labelmates. Harmonies and hooks abound on this twenty four minute, fifty one second cd. There's almost an alternative country feel on a few tracks. "Normal Human Being" and "Showtime" being the most obvious examples. If your not careful you'll soon find yourself humming along to these catchy little ditties.
To go to the Pink Hedgehog Records web site click here
Chester, "Living Room On Tour" (Beat Bedsit Records)
Robert and Pammy Chester's namesake duo sounds a lot like the mutant lovechild of Circle Jerks guitarist Greg Hetson and Waitresses vocalist Patty Donahue. Twelve songs fly by at a blistering (HEY! HO! LET'S GO!) thirteen minutes an thirty-eight seconds! Both "Lookin' For You" and "Pammy Over The Mountain" are definitely worthy of college radio airplay. A fun cd all the way around! I highly recommend it.
Winterbrief, "Unwrapped" (7" vinyl ep) (Promenade Recordings)
Poppy girl vocals over a hyper synth-soaked techno dance mix. Makes me feel like I should be holding a $7.00 mixed drink. Don't get me wrong, this isn't bad at all, it's actually quite good. Just not something I would normally seek out.
Blood Music, "Blood Music" (7" vinyl ep) (Promenade Recordings)
The quirky, spur of the moment, music ramblings of one Karl-Jonas Wingvist. He freely admits to this himself in the records liner notes. "This was written as it was recorded. In a hurry in other words", "This was the first thing I recorded on a mini-disc I got for my birthday". The record does however include a cover of the Ramones "Somebody Put Something In My Drink". So, this guys o.k. by me. Quirky, but o.k.
To go to the Promenade Recordings homepage click here
PC Phobia, "PC Phobia" (7" vinyl ep) (Promenade Recordings)
A continuous pulsating sonic blast explodes from the turntable the Moment the needle meets vinyl and doesn't end until the needle returns to it's perch. Cool stuff! P.I.L. on steroids.
To go to the Promenade Recordings homepage click here
Steve Wilson, "Steppin’ It Up A Notch" (Pink Hedgehog Records)
This one is a little hard to describe. Not that it's something completely new and never heard before. It's hard to describe because there's so many styles melded together here. I hear great soul influences, especially in some of the vocals, a bit of fab-4, ragtime, eighties angry young man songwriting and a little piano man lounge. Mr. Wilson does a respectable job of mixing all these styles together and with the help of the Innocent Bystanders he's pulled off an enjoyable listening experience.
The Fad, "The Fad" (Lo Fi Records)
It's 1969 London, England. No wait, it's 2003 Brooklyn. Hell, the time and place makes no difference, it's guitar/bass/drums rock 'n' roll and it's good. "Bad Connection" and "Waiting For You" are rev'ed up garage rockers of the finest tradition. "Anyhow" is a hook riddled pop song that will stick with you like a chili cheese-burger with extra onions. "Complication" leads off with an intro swiped from the Pistols "Anarchy in the U.K." which is what all great rock 'n' roll was built on. No, not the Sex Pistols intro but stealing ideas, riffs and everything else it can to aid in saying what it has to say. Yeah, and sometimes it even steals what it has to say as well.
Mike Shupp, " This Time" (Private Mind Records)
REM, Elvis Costello, the DBs, Nick Lowe, the Pretenders, Marshall Crenshaw, the Smithereens. If any of these artists are in your collection then, chances are good, you'll enjoy this CD. 10 well written songs pumped full of jangly guitars, witty lyrics and steady backbeats. "She'll Come Around" and "This Time" are the two radio friendly tracks that immediately pop to mind.
SR71, "Tomorrow" (RCA)
At first I wanted to lump this band in with Blink 182, Sum 41 and all the other number bands I'm sure they're sick and tired of being compared to. That was at first. But, after a fair listen, I felt that maybe I was selling the band a little short. The writing is a good notch above and a bit more serious than the other number bands. The most impressive songs in particular being "Truth", "They All Fall Down" and the albums title track.
Piss 'n' moan rock. Sounds like, oh fuck, it sounds like every other band on the radio right now. Which means they should have a major label contract any day. Oops, too late, they're already on RCA. Watch for them on MTV Cribs.
Phil Aiken, "Don’t Look Down" (Indie Release-available at CDbaby)
This CD caught me by surprise for a lot of different reasons. First off, usually when a musician who plays in the shadows steps up to the limelight, the results can sometimes be disastrous. (A solo album by Peter Criss just came to mind and created a cold chill in the air.) But luckily Phil is a keyboardist, not a drummer. Second, the song-writing is sometimes pretty lame, since that may not be the musician’s forte. But, none of those pitfalls are evident on this first release from the keyboardist of Buffalo Tom. Phil plays the majority of instruments on this, but don’t worry it doesn’t sound like bad Paul McCartney. He sings, plays all keyboards and even tries a little sax.
The songs tend to deal with sadness, loss, and other dour life events. But Phil manages to inject some melodicism that turns the tunes into blissful moments by the end. Spooky turns on the keys are backed up by a rock edge to keep things moving. “Missouri Arcade” and “Constellation” are the more instantly “hum able” songs here. But really the whole CD begs repeated listenings. This may be due to the ace players he has backing him up-Chris Toppin from Fuzzy lends backing vocals, Tom Polce (Letters To Cleo) on drums and even Buffalo Tom front man Bill Janovitz rips a few rock riffs on a couple songs. But if you’re looking for a starting point, think Smashing Pumpkin-esqe vocals but mercifully- not Corgan’s whinier howls. Strong songs that are truly in their own kaleidoscope tinged world. Smooth sailing should be on the horizon for Phil Aiken if we get more polished pop gems like Don’t Look Down.
Tim Easton, "Break Your Mother’s Heart" (New West Records)
This is the third CD from Tim Easton and the years of playing in every two-bit gin joint in towns across the US seems to have paid off. This release captures the confusion, jealousy and depression that many of us feel about today’s society but throws a curveball at the end of each lyrical u-turn. There is still hope for elation about the little things in life that make us happy. Break Your Mother’s Heart is a truly great CD-for that reason and many more. Tim must have a pretty sweet Rolodex at home. His last CD The Truth About Us featured members of Wilco as his backing band. This time around he has the backing of a bunch of grizzled studio vets, including Jim Keltner and Mike Campbell. The CD starts off with “Poor, Poor LA”. The songs seems to be bursting at the seams with vibrant wordplay. This song could have easily fit in with Springsteen’s Greetings From Asbury Park. with lines like-“Not too many years ago there were hippies killing people a mile away from the Marlboro Man; now there’s sandpaper pants on the gutterpunks.” “Lexington Jail” sounds like a tune Johnny Cash could sink his teeth into-“I went to see some friends down Kentucky way spent the night getting sober in the Lexington jail.” Other songs create images that make you want to just stare out your window and listen to them over and over. “Amor Azul” is a slow burning acoustic number that will plant itself in your head while “Watching The Lightning” builds a full head of steam as Tim sings-“I can’t believe you read that letter.” Tim also isn’t afraid to bring other song-writers in the mix to heighten the mood. “John Gilmartin” and “True Ways” are penned by a songwriter friend from Ohio named J.P. Olsen. But these are not crutches to hold the CD up (like, ahem, Mary Lou Lord) but Tim makes them his own. Break Your Mother’s Heart is the most undistilled picture to date that we have of Tim Easton and his distinctive songwriting skills. Producer John Hanlon (Neil Young) certainly sees to that. Fans of Ryan Adams and Wilco should seek this out. But luckily Tim forgoes the hype baloney or moody electronic experiments that these artists sometimes dip too deep in the well for and just gives us a few sips from that ice cold ladle after a long hot day in the sun. Tim Easton "Break Your Mother’s Heart" New West Records
The Soft Boys, "Side Three EP" (Editions PAF!)
In 2001, those purveyors of good taste over at Matador Records decided to re-release The Soft Boys’ Underwater Moonlight as an expanded 2 CD package and the result was so overwhelming that the band decided to give it another shot-having previously broken up in the early 1980’s. Of course the band members had been active since then-guitarist Kimberly Rew had a one time hit in the 1980’s as part of Katrina and The Waves. Robyn Hitchcock has had an incredible solo career as well, which sometimes involved The Egyptians and drummer Morris Windsor. Bassist Matthew Seligman simply had to be pulled out of the courtroom and The Soft Boys were back. You many not have heard of The Soft Boys before-but some of the bands you have listened to have. R.E.M’s Peter Buck is a big fan and both The Circle Jerks and The Replacements have covered “I Wanna Destroy You.” The Soft Boys were not however, looking to ride on their past coattails. So we now have Nextdoorland on Matador proper and its little brother- a limited edition EP recorded during the same sessions. “Narcissus” starts off with those chimey Byrds like guitar and vocal harmonies as Robyn goes off on lyrics that as usual-are out of the ordinary. But for a singer/guitarist who in the past wrote songs about men who have light bulbs for heads-they’re not that strange. “Disconnection Of The Ruling Class” features some echoey psychedelic guitar from Kimberly Rew and a solid foundation from the Windsor/Seligman rhythm section. “Each Of Her Silver Wands” is musically the most enticing, but don’t ask me what the song is about-it just sounds cool. Even “Om” offers a new wrinkle-it starts off like a fake reggae tune and then barrels into some strange feedback that threatens to dive into the dark recesses of your brain-but then they come back with the harmonies and everything is OK. The EP finishes up with a live version of “Evil Guy”. Recorded in San Francisco, The Soft Boys were somehow able to coax Thomas Dolby onstage to play keyboards-quite a feat. Although there is nothing quite as catchy as Nextdoorland’s “Mr. Kennedy” here this is an enjoyable addition to The Soft Boys canon. Side Three is a must have for those seeking innovative music to make you rock out but who don’t mind listening to lyrics that are sometimes from another world-or at least Robyn Hitchcock’s world.
Johnny Cheapo, "Say Hello To Disaster " (Indie Release)
From the overdubbed sound swipe of "Hello, My Name Is Johnny Cheapo!" to the "oh, oh, oh, I'm a troublemaker they tell me!" chant of the leadoff track, one way or another, this guy is gonna be heard. I love the shit out of this cd. Cheapo is the opposite of everything that's wrong with music today. This is the way rock 'n' roll should be done. Snotty vocals and distorted guitars blaring away to the tribal pounding of a snare and kick drum. Yeah, he's a troublemaker, but this is the kind of trouble we need.
Billy Jonas, "Live 8 Songs" (Bang A Bucket Music)
The CD cover has a shot of Billy Jonas looking like some kind of mutated Keith Moon / Wolverine hybrid swooping in to beat the shit out of you in 4/4 time. But, luckily, the music isn't as menacing as the cover might suggest. The music is funny, clever, rhythmic and audience including. It's like playing Match Game to the beat of tribal drums. It could possibly be the most fun you can have while thinking.
Roddy Frame, "Surf" (SpinArt Records)
This is Roddy’s second solo CD but he is really no stranger to the music world. From 1983 to 1995 he was the only continuing member of Aztec Camera. Best known to US audiences for his acoustic cover of Van Halen’s “Jump”, he actually is a very gifted songwriter who can write songs about love like nobody’s business. Along the way he has created some brilliant albums (High Land, Hard Rain) and some overproduced fluff-(the disappointing Love CD). But by bringing the music down to its essence- one voice and one acoustic guitar, Roddy has come up with a truly captivating record. The title track compares his current love-life to some memories he had as a young kid listening to music. “If life was like the songs, I’d surf into the waves and in a flash of silver she’d be gone.” “Small World” starts off with a cool almost Celtic guitar figure and Roddy pours his heart out on this one. The songs laments how big the world has gotten in some ways, but how relationships can still change and grow apart from the craziness. “And go-go bars fill with showbiz stars on Fridays set aflame; with crashing cars, sunburst guitars, amphetamine and fame.”
If there was any sense in today’s music industry, “Tough” could be a huge hit. But unfortunately we have to listen to nu metal junk and boy bands instead of actual songs. With a melody that just won’t quit, Roddy sings about a relationship that is about to fade out, even though he really doesn’t want it to at all. For once, the US audience gets a break-instead of having to hunt down Japanese bonus tracks for our favorite groups, the American CD sports two extra songs which shouldn’t have been left off the CD. But if you are looking for a subtle record that merely wants to offer reflections on life and love lost, pick up Surf-it make take you through to gentle tides that you didn’t even know where there.
Flickerstick, "Causing a Catastrophe" (226 Records)
Flickerstick are the new champions of loud, effects-driven, arena rock. “Causing a Catastrophe,” a live cd, solidifies their transformation from just another rock band to the top of their game. Flickerstick effortlessly rips off perfect versions of most of the songs from their debut album, “Bringing Home the Astronauts.” The record screams emotion through every track, especially “Belive” and “Beautiful,” their most known song. The crowd never seems to miss a beat, singing along on all the songs and showing their connection with the band’s intuitive music.
The main problem that some have with Flickerstick is how they broke into the music business. They’re criminally-underrated simply because they won VH1’s Bands on the Run tv show. However, they did not win the contest because of having the right contacts or talking badly about the other bands. Flickerstick won because of their live shows capturing the attention and hearts of almost everyone involved. Hence the importance of “Causing a Catastrophe.”
Incubus, "Morning View" (Epic)
You have two multi-platinum records under your belts. You have two dvds in your name. You’re in the process of recording one of modern rock’s most anticipated new albums. Why not re-release one of the previously mentioned records, “Morning View” with bonus dvd features? Hence this record, the exact same songs as the first time that they were released by Epic in 2001. However, the songs are still just as powerful and captivating as before.
“Morning View” kicks off with the loud rock radio hit, “Nice to Know You,” and sonically rises and falls from there. Part of the reason that this is such an interesting cd is the song placement; in any other order, this record simply would not flow as well. It’s usually the middle of an album that taints its polish. However, Incubus thrives with their middle to late songs, “Mexico,” “Warning,” and “Echo.” These tracks go from acoustic, to modern rock, to an effects-driven ballad effortlessly. For those die-hard Incubus fans, the art work, lyrics, and dvd will probably make this a must have purchase. The modern rock crowd who lived in a cave the first time around will most likely enjoy it as well.
Home Grown, "Kings Of Pop" (Drive-Thru Records)
Homegrown, the undisputed kings of pop from California, perfect their sound with their latest release for Drive-Thru Records. From the opening guitar riff on “Tomorrow,” this record is powerful. The band’s vocals seem as dead-on as ever; while their lyrics cover the usual topic of girls and growing up. That’s not a bad thing! Homegrown has a more interesting mixture of songs on this record, with some of the songs being off-tempo and others being head-on pop punk. They still keep their sense of humor, which especially bleeds through on songs such as “I Love You Not.” This is the perfect CD for falling in love and having fun, a definite purchase for pop-punk and Homegrown fans.
Nuts In Your Mouth, "Guaranteed To Like It If You Got A Ass" (Indie Release)
Hmmm…I still don’t know what to make of this record. Nuts in Your Mouth are a group of mcs from New York who have put their own sounds together into something that will not win very many Grammy’s but will win over the hearts of aspiring mcs and those with a very good sense of humor. However, with a rise in popularity of more intelligent rappers such as Jurassic 5, there may not be a place for comedy-filled rap such as “Guaranteed…”
Nuts in Your Mouth do a great job of rhyming words that are difficult to rhyme, effortlessly. And, as much as I hate to admit it, “(Suburban)Ninja” and “The Nugg Life” truly are funny. Another cool touch is the “NIYM Wannabees” skit. I think this record would definitely appeal to teenage guys and others with off-color wit.
Ether Net, "More Strange Bruises" (Requisite)
Ether Net is a group with a different sound that focuses heavily on guitar riffs, effects, and keyboards. They also rely on their singer, Robert Cherry, and his haunting vocals that have a striking similarity to those of Depeche Mode. Most of their songs begin slowly and effectively use volume and the overall atmosphere to insinuate the build-up of the track.
The highlight of “More Strange Bruises” is the drum-laiden and most likely to be popular “Exit Song,” which has the most hooks and catchy vocal parts. The record closer, “Ghosts,” is very well done and orchestrated. The strings come in at the right times and build on the moody lyrics that define Ether Net. This record would appeal to college radio fans and those with an interest in discovering new sounds. It’s definitely not radio-friendly, but that’s one of its best qualities.
Allday Afternoon, "Open Ended" (Independent Records)
Allday Afternoon, a rock band from North Carolina, have a very eclectic and together sound on their record, “Open Ended.” They feature two acoustic guitars and an electric guitar that compliment the usual bass and drums, which sets them apart from other bands. This instrument line-up works to their advantage on many of the songs. “Boomerang” is one of the brightest spots of the cd, with its big hooks and melodic electric guitar parts that blend perfectly with the smooth acoustic sound. “Somebody Tell Me” is very well-done also, capitalized with an effects-laden electric guitar part.
Unfortunately, Allday Afternoon’s two acoustic guitars are the only distinctions from other groups that sound like Ryan Adams and Counting Crows. Although “Open Ended” is an extremely well-produced record, it is often boring and typical. All of this aside, for someone who likes an acoustic sound with polished vocals similar to that of John Mayer and Sister Hazel, “Open Ended” is a great choice.
Boetz, "4 Song CD Advance" (Balls Out Records)
This is my favorite part about writing for EarCandy. Getting Kick ass CDs like this one to listen to. This is down home, back to the roots, blues-based, beer drinkin Rock-n-Roll. I loved it. Though I'm more of a metal fan, when I go out specifically to drink, this is the type of stuff I want to hear. Good job guys! It's well recorded, aggressive, and makes me want to kick my land lord's ass. The guitar tracks sound great and the vocals rock. You're the man, Mr.Boetz. It's good to see you keeping REAL rock alive. If you want to hear what rock-n-roll is supposed to sound like, find this CD or see the band.
Cooterfinger, "Smell's Like Rock 'N Roll" (Illbilly)
Catchy, gritty rock ‘n roll songs that reminds me of a punk-rock Keith Richards on moonshine! While not wholly original, this CD leaves you wanting more. Why, you ask? Well, the songs ingrain themselves in your brain after just one listen and you’ll find yourself humming them all day. Like the Ramones, Cooterfinger combines familiar-sounding melodies & simple, yet often funny lyrics – which makes for the essence of rock ‘n roll. While this CD is comprised of only 6 songs, I can’t wait for their full length CD…or better yet, to see them live!
Dolly Parton, "Halos & Horns" (Sugar Hill)
I never thought I would listen to a Dolly Parton CD, much less enjoy it. But this CD blew me away. On first listen you get the impression that you are holding a “concept” bluegrass CD, especially with the recurring themes of sinners & saints, God, magic and heaven. But there are also songs about childhood memories and heartbreak. Dolly’s “Hello God” stands up with the best Bob Dylan song – I kid you not. There are two covers of contemporary rock songs – Bread’s “If” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven”. At first I said, “NO, not a ‘Stairway To Heaven’ cover!”, but when I actually heart the song, I actually liked Dolly’s interpretation. Finally there is “These Old Bones”, which alone is worth getting the CD! You might consider yourself a diehard rocker like myself, but you just might be surprised by HALOS AND HORNS.
Simon Felton, "Previous" (Pink Hedgehog)
In the liner notes, Simon calls this CD, “a collection of songs that didn’t really belong anywhere else.” However, this is no mere CD of “rejects” that weren’t used in Simon’s band, GARFIELDS BIRTHDAY – this is a set of charming, unabashed power-pop songs that show Simon as a true renaissance man of power-pop. I’m amazed that he runs a record label (Pink Hedgehog Records), plays in Garfields Birthday AND has the time to put such a strong assortment of power-pop gems together! “Better Things” gets my vote for one of the best pop songs of the year. Please keep ‘em coming Simon!
Avail, "Front Porch Stories" (Fat Wreck Chords)
Avail again grabs the brass ring of punk with their new album, "Front Porch Stories". The Richmond boys just flat know how to rock. With the modern day stream-of-thought beat generation-like lyrics of Tim Berry Avail brings substance to punk.
A sample from "Versus":
So put your fist down until sanity can be containedOut of Joe Banks' guitar flow melodies inspired from the best of Skynard. With these Avail puts melody into punk like no other, past or present. They have the uncanny ability to paddle their boat out far enough from shore to make a new creation with each album, yet they stay close enough to their sound that each ablum seems built upon the last.
They simply are the best band ever to be signed to Fat Wreck Chords. This album is great but it's not even their best. I hate to knock the guys for this album not being as good as their first album "Dixie" but they are in a class by themselves. Comparing them to the rather generic crowd of bands like "New Found Glory" and "Good Charlotte" is like comparing my pitching to that of Nolan Ryan. These bands are like Clifford "The Black Rhino" Etienne while Avail is a solid right from "Iron" Mike Tyson.
Various Artists, "Dropped On the Head Vol. II" (Illbilly)
I don’t normally recommend comps, but this one is a keeper! At EAR CANDY we don’t rate compilations, but this one transcends your normal expectations of compilation albums. You’ve got cowpunk (The Load Levelers-“You’re a Baby” and Shot to Hell – “(If you) Think I’m Dumb”), the silly (The Sindys-corporationcocksuckinga’n’rarselickingjunkie), the strange (Milo-“Minimalist”), hardcore punk (Bad Preachers-“I Wanna come over”), avant garde (The Screamin’ Me Mees-Mesmerizing Donut Glaze) and LOTS in between! Plus, there is Cooterfinger and Johnny Cheapo (both reviewed this issue). The Coffin Bangers do a great DAMNED impersonation with “Fantastic Night of Torture”. My personal faves are Michael Rattray with “Ordinary Geezer” (can’t stop playing this song) and The Goblins with “Monkey Chow” (so silly that it’s addictive).
This is the best “party” CD I’ve heard in awhile and at 20 tracks, it is a great value. I usually find several songs on the average comp that I don’t care for, but there ‘there ain’t a dog in the bunch’ here. Hell, ILLBILLY outta advertise on TV with their own infommercial. I can hear it now…but with Johnny Cheapo instead of Davy Jones!
The Deviants, "Dr. Crow" (Track)
This album is old men attempting to be funny. Perhaps their humor is constructed out of a bunch of inside jokes to which I am unaware? I just don't get it. It smells and sounds like a group of past their prime players who didn't have the chops to make it in rock so they are trying to make it via the Tenacious D route. The problem is Jack and Kyle are both VERY GOOD players AND FUNNY! This band, sadly, may be funny as hell to their friends and label but I doubt too many more people get the joke. Maybe wasting 46:02 minutes of my time was the joke, in that case, The Deviants can have a laugh on me and I hope they're still laughing when they see the 1 star I gave them. Ha ha, now that's funny.
Paul McCartney, "Back in the U.S." (Capitol)
You've gotta admit, Paul McCartney gives the people what they want live. BACK IN THE U.S. is what has become the obligatory live album following yet another successful McCartney tour. But as usual with McCartney, you have to take the very good with the very bad. On the plus side, McCartney's voice is the best it has sounded live in years! And Paul's newer songs actually sound better live. On the negative side, the song selection is totally wretched in some places - the prime example being the boring "Vanilla Sky" and "C Moon". Despite Paul's insistence that it is included on yet another of his live albums, "C Moon" is still a fucking lame and insipid song! However, there are some charming moments on this album, such as Paul's ukulele rendition of George Harrison's "Something". There are several songs that have made previous appearances on Paul's multitude of live albums (and were done better then, such as all the songs on WINGS OVER AMERICA). Plus, the Beatles' songs don't quite translate as well on disc as they do live. However, it's always great to hear a rarely performed Beatles gem such as "Getting Better" or "Mother Nature's Son". "Here, There And Everywhere" has those exquisite harmonies that were sorely missed on its last appearance on a McCartney live album. And of course you get those Beatles favorites!
BACK IN THE U.S. is better than his last two live albums, but ultimately docked a star and a half in its rating for BAD TASTE, simply for the inclusion of "C Moon" and Paul's petty reversal of the songwriting credits on the Beatles classics to "composed by Paul McCartney & John Lennon"! Paul's fans will love this album, but unless you are a rabid McCartney fan, I suggest you stick with WINGS OVER AMERICA for the BEST live McCartney album.
Morgan Finlay, "Uppercut" (Brisco Bodai)
Ok, some of you may know I also cover boxing matches for boxingranks.com and I can not believe someone would name this album "Uppercut". It should have some kind of bite to warrant being named after a such a powerful punch. This doesn't even have an awkward overbite. Bad, bad choice of titles. Now on to the music.
The disk isn't actually that bad. This is background music. The stuff you hear daily in elevators, lame corporate coffee shops, department stores, or white bread adult contemporary music like that at the Vineyard Churches here in Ohio. At it's core this album defines the terms "white" and "vanilla".
Each song is predictable and cliche in its own way but in a world where Milli Vanilli can win Grammy's I'm sure Morgan has an audience. The production and mix value are both solid. The album is pretty much the same thing over and over and over and over and over, you get the point. One lyric did stick out in the song "Reason Why" Morgan Finlay writes "At the end of a bad dream, there's a bright new day" and my bright new day was coming, mercifully to the end of this disk.