Peter Lacey,"Anderida" (Pink Hedgehog Records)
Peter Lacey, the 'master painter' of esoteric, subliminal pop is back with another sound 'painting' ready for viewing. His third musical work of art, ANDERIDA touches on such subjects as the passing of time, spirituality, sentimental days of past, failed relationships and of course the power of LOVE. And like a classic painting, the power of Peter Lacey's music artwork is that each listener will come away with his own interpretation. While you might notice production styles that sound like a cross between "Pet Sounds" era Beach Boys to "Plastic Ono Band" John Lennon, Peter's vocal style is all his own. In travels through Peter's aural landscape, you will be exposed to sublime pop, Gregorian-esque chants, white R&B, melancholy ballads, gospel-infused tunes and of course those classic Peter Lacey instrumentals (one of which takes you to the days of Booker T & the MG's).
The surprise is that with each journey you take listening to this CD, you will come away with something different. As with Lacey's previous CD's, there is the subtle theme of nature in his work. Nature and Peter Lacey's music are intrinsically intertwined. I'm fortunate enough to have taken his CD's deep into the mountains to experience the therapeutic effect his music has in those surroundings. It is an experience that I highly recommend.
I look forward to the next painting bearing that distinct Peter Lacey signature. Until then, we are left to enjoy his unique and modest gallery of three masterpieces.
Buzzcocks, "Buzzcocks" (Merge Records)
After the hit and miss tinkering with their punk pop formula on their last CD, the latest Buzzcocks CD is a strong return to form: Loud, catchy, pop. "Buzzcocks" is the loudest, hardest-edged, Buzzcocks CD since "Another Music in a Different Kitchen". Occasionally, the power pulverizes the songs ("Friends") and some of the songs are only adequate ("Driving you Insane", "Stars" ). Even an overdriven and/or mediocre Buzzcocks song is better than 90% of the stuff out there. Younger fans will appreciate the "it rocks" factor of "Buzzcocks" while there are enough tracks up to par with past Buzzcocks classics to please older fans("Jerk", "wake up call" "Sick City Sometimes" and "certain move"). "Buzzcocks" is a pleasant reminder that punk-pop need not be a bad word.
Various Artists, "We’re A Happy Family-A Tribute To The Ramones" (Columbia Records)
First off, let me start by saying that I'm a pretty big Ramones fans. Seen the shows and I even got to meet/chauffeur Joey Ramone once back in the early 1990's. So I was looking forward to this much-hyped release. Happy Family was supposed to give all those big time bands that always name dropped The Ramones a chance to show their stuff. Unfortunately, most of these interpretations fall short. The culprits-Rob Zombie and Johnny Ramone; the so called executive producers of this CD. I know Johnny hasn't been in the studio for awhile but you would think some assistant would be there to hand him a cup of coffee during these late night sessions. But apparently it was decaf since Johnny must have been snoozing when some of these were laid down.
The fatal flaw for this tribute is really in the choices of some of these bands. No matter which songs of the mighty Ramones canon was picked and how much studio sheen was applied, some were doomed to fail. KISS's take on "Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio" is pathetic. Gene Simmons' big tongue and flaming bass axe shtick couldn't be further away from The Ramones no frills approach to punk rock. Marilyn Manson offers a typical goth send-up of "The KKK Took My Baby Away" that really goes nowhere. And U2's "Beat On The Brat"? Whoever told Bono to sing in a falsetto for a punk song should be publicly flogged. Who wants to hear this great song with a "Lemon" style vocal. Instantly forgettable.
So those are the clunkers of the bunch. But that doesn't mean that Happy Family is a throwaway. Eddie Vedder enlists former Epitaph punkers Zeke to back him on two tracks and this pairing actually works. Green Day and The Offspring, two bands that Joey used to cite as stealing all The Ramones licks (and heading straight to the bank) actually offer some of the best versions on this CD. "Outsider" gains a little bit more melodic muscle with Green Day while "I Wanna Be Sedated" benefits from Noodles of The Offspring playing it straight.
But really the one artist who seems to capture the spirit of The Ramones is strangely enough The Red Hot Chili Peppers. "Havana Affair" is easily the best song on this collection. Flea and the boys should be commended for this rousing version of a tune from The Ramones 1st record. And Peppers guitarist John Frusciante's hidden track-"Today Your Love Tomorrow The World" sounds like he's channeling Dee Dee and Joey from the great beyond. We're A Happy Family is slightly redeemed by these songs but if you're looking for a Grade A Ramones tribute try the Marky Ramone approved Gabba Gabba Hey. Enter this Family room at your own risk.
To go to the Ramones web site click here
The Waking Hours, "The Good Way" (No Deal Records)
This is one f*cking great pop album! Harmonies, hooks and heartbreak, everything you need for the perfect pop song. Lots of cool guitar muscle that would make even Denny Laine proud.
Townhall,"The New Song" (Redeye Distribution)
Townhall is a very interesting band from Virginia who push the limits of their genre…whatever that may be. They carefully blend the sounds of reggae, soul, funk, jazz, and just a touch of rock n' roll. Perhaps the best example of their wide array of sounds is "Family," in which they jump from funky melody to funky melody smoothly. Lyrically each song seems to tell a story, similar to that of the most mature jazz and blues stars or our time. From listening to "The New Song," one would probably expect Townhall to be at least forty-years-old; however, they're only in their twenties! With their young age and mature musical skills, they should have a bright future of changing the way the world sees jazz and reggae.
Damone, "From The Attic" (RCA Records)
Now this is what rock 'n roll is all about! Damone is the perfect mix of power-chord crunch of the Muffs mixed with new wave-y pop of the Cars…basically the "Cars with cajones". While I mention these bands for comparison sake only, Damone is no mere clone of these bands. Their style is like updated classic 'new wave' that will sound very new to a younger audience, yet their music will seem familiar to those who remember new wave. And unlike other bands that copy the music of Green Day and the Clash ad nauseum, add a dog collar and call it "punk", Damone don't wear their influences on their sleeves.
Two things make this album great. One is the universal theme of teenage angst in the lyrics, making the songs timeless. The other is that the songs follow the tradition of catchy, memorable power-pop hooks. On top of this you add the shy/sexy vocal delivery Noelle for a winning combination that gives the band a damn good debut!
I have a sneaking suspicion that at the end of 2003, FROM THE ATTIC is going to be one of my favorite albums of the year…
WARNING: if you put this in your CD player, you might not want to take it out!
Kings of Leon,"Holy Roller Novocaine" (RCA)
“Molly’s Chambers” is the coolest 2 minutes and 15 seconds of garage rock to explode from my stereo speakers in quite a while. As far as that goes “Wasted Time” is no slouch and neither is the title track. My only complaint is this 5 song CD was way to short for my taste buds. I wanted to hear more. Much more. I’m definitely looking forward to the bands first full-length album. I just hope the powers that be don’t try to tweak this rock ‘n roll machine. Yeah, you heard me right, I said rock ‘n’ roll. I remember when there was only two kinds of music. Rock ‘N’ Roll and everything else.
Ringo Starr,"Ringo Rama" (Koch Records)
"Remember when I said It Don't Come Easy…That seems so long ago..." -opening lyrics on RINGO RAMAThe first lyrics you hear off the album gives you Ringo's modus operandi for making albums: give the people what they want...Beatlesque music. And why not, he was a Beatle and he's entitled! Mr. Starkey has put together a rock-solid album that is pure Ringo, chocked full of Beatle references and 'Beatle' sounds. For me, that's half the fun of Ringo's albums-finding all the Beatle references-but I won't go into the many to be found on this album (and bore the non-Beatle folks).
The 'Roundheads' are the perfect backing band for Ringo on record, too bad he doesn't tour with them [witness his VH1 "Storyteller" CD with backing by the Roundheads]. Part of the charm of this album is the songs, co-written by Ringo and Mark Hudson. This is the third CD that Ringo has utilized producer Hudson and the songs are even stronger this go-around. The result is memorable tunes that rely on Hudson's '60s-sounding production without sounding "retro". Ringo's last two albums with Hudson at the producer's helm have been his best since the glory days of 1973. Let's just hope he continues with Mark, and the old adage comes to mind - "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Maybe Ringo can recommend him to his former band mate, Paul. With Mark Hudson's help, maybe McCartney can start putting out decent albums, instead of resting on his touring laurels.
When the Beatles broke up in 1970, it was thought that Ringo had the least chance of solo musical success. Sure, his1973 album "Ringo" was a smash hit, but Ringo hit a long dry spell until 1992's "Time Takes Time". Here we are in 2003 with only two ex-Beatles left and Ringo is the one who is consistently putting out the best albums. Thirty years after his 'best' album, Ringo has done it again, showing that lightning can strike twice. Who woulda thought it?
Laura Love,"Welcome to a Pagan Place" (Koch Records)
Aren't you lucky, Mr. reader that you have someone like myself to filter through the useless dribble that is defecated out by the music industry?
Being pagan, I thought that a CD with the title of "Welcome to a Pagan Place" might be a cool listen. Instead, I'm barraged by bad coffee-shop music, muzac-like cover tunes and faux jazz. This CD is just dripping with Starbucks-like pretentiousness, and I mean PRETENTIOUS with a capital "P"! Things get worse when you listen to the lyrics, full of out-of-touch-with-reality political rants. Now, everyone is entitled to their opinion and if someone want to look stupid and uneducated (as is Ms. Love’s case), so be it. But, I’m of the firm belief that politics and music simply don’t mix. The most glaring example of Ms. Love’s hate-filled idiocy is her song dedicated to George W. Bush, "I Want You Gone". In the song, Ms. Love promotes presidential assassination with the line, "we can solve this problem with just one bullet". Yep, that pretty much sums up the depth of the political ranting of the Hollywood/musical 'activists' (And I thought Natalie Maines was the stupidest person in music?).
On top of the banal an insipid lyrics, Ms. Love delivers horrendous covers of Steve Miller’s “Fly Like An Eagle and John Lennon’s “Come Together”.
Now, how do I get the 45 minutes and 3 seconds of my life back that it took me to listen to this crapola?
Masked Superstar,"Beautified for Sound" (Vaunted Records)
16 quirky, upbeat, two minute bursts of nonsense. Great songs titles that unfortunately the songs didn’t quite live up too. Well, not necessarily the songs ‘cause the music was pretty cool, it’s more like the lyrics. Camper Van Beethoven without the wit? I guess you could call it abstract songwriting or maybe they were singing in some kind of code. Singing in tongues? I’m just not sure. Come on guys; let the rest of us in on the joke or at least roll one out of your bag. Hey, maybe if I play it backwards.
To go to the Vaunted Records web site click here
Boston,"Corporate America" (Artemis Records)
The new album by '70s superstars, Boston, is a pleasant surprise. Not content to coast on their past glories like some of their contemporaries from the '70s (Styx, Journey, etc.) they actually divert from the tried and true "Boston" formula, taking an astonishing 3 chances on their new CD…and failing only on one count!
Despite the title song, CORPORATE AMERICA is easily the best Boston album since 1978. While there is no "Amanda" here, there are some mighty fine songs.
Look on the bright side; at least Styx didn't do a concept album called "Corporate America"!
Teenage Girls,"The Initial Assault LP: The Art of Friendship" (Indie Release)
Teenage Girls is a band from Pennsylvania that does not include teenage girls at all. Nope, it includes four guys who rock very hard, gracefully, and effectively. They have the loud guitars and catchy melodies that characterize and summarize modern rock. However, whenever it seems that the songs are predictable and typical, they knee jerk into a completely different rhythm. "The Initial Assault LP…" also uses volume changes to its advantage.
What truly makes Teenage Girls a band to remember is their lyrics and the sincerity that they convey. In "Exactabox, Bob Zanicky sings, "I've seen the statistics on your family's divorces; you didn't even make it to the pulpit." He also sings of selling out and the corruption of radio. If you're ready for something refreshing and original, check out Teenage Girls. Yes, that sentence could be taken in more than one way, but I think they expected things like that when they chose their band name.
Amberjack,"Anytime, Whenever" (Bradzoot Music)
Amberjack boasts well-crafted guitars and overall solid music on their record, "Anytime, Whenever." Unfortunately this just is not enough sometimes. Each song starts with an intro, then goes into the typical country singer/songwriter lyrics, followed by more music, then more lyrics. Although this is not a bad way to go about writing a song, it isn't an innovative or interesting way either. Still, their songs are very catchy and fun to listen to, especially the tracks in which female vocals accompany their singer's vocals. I recommend this record to contemporary country or classic singer/songwriter fans.
Wondermints, "Mind If We Make Love to You" (Smile Records)
It’s all about the SONG for Wondermints – glimmering, shimmering, unashamed pop! MIND IF WE MAKE LOVE TO YOU, their 4th album, is their strongest and most fully realized album so far. Some might call Wondermints “retro”, but only music pessimists will use that description – sadly these folks just don’t “get it”. Wondermints are about carrying the flame of power-pop that was handed to them by such bands as Badfinger, 10CC or even Big Star. Hell, those bands weren’t totally original…and like Wondermints, they built on a solid foundation of power-pop that was laid out by such bands as The Beatles and The Beach Boys.
The band really comes into its own on this CD, with the songwriting chores pretty much divided evenly between the three core members (Darian Sahanaja, Nick Walusko and Mike D’Amico). Brian Wilson even lends his backup vocals on two tracks – must be a side benefit of being Brian’s backup band for the last few years!
A cohesive power-pop gem that will leave you with an almost Pavlov-like urge for more!
Radio Theory,"World Gone Mad" (Indie Release)
Radio Theory is just a good ole' Southern rock band. They feature an acoustic guitar, bass, drums, and polished yet moody vocals. Their songs are very catchy and most of the thirty-year-old and over crowd probably would love them. "World Gone Mad" is a fun record, but it does not offer much that has not already been heard. It follows the verse-chorus-verse-jam/music only-chorus pattern perfectly.
The highlight of Radio Theory's full-length effort is definitely the radio-friendly "Mr. Television," a song about only trusting your television because of loneliness. "World Gone Mad" is the perfect addition to the record collection for fans of Widespread Panic, Sister Hazel, Tom Petty, and alt-country.
Spare Change,"Mom Still Thinks I'm Cool" (Indie Release)
I just love the title of this CD: "Mom Still Thinks I'm Cool"! Hell, with the average age of this band being 14, their Mom's were probably punk rockers as well! Sure, this is derivative, even down to the Sex Pistols-type CD cover. But this band of young punk rockers have done their punk homework in the Clash/Green Day/NOFX styling. And my money would be on them to kick Blank-182's ass off the stage! Straight old-school punk, Clash-like reggae and even an acoustic song (at least it starts acoustically!). Although their music is not original, it is heart-felt and played with an exciting passion that comes through on disc.
I know...it's only punk rock 'n roll, but I like it!
The Silver Thread,"The Lines and the Light" (Psychodaisy)
Old school punk teetering on the fringe of eighties new wave. Nothing wrong with that if you ask me. I enjoyed every minute of this four song EP. A full-length album might have worn a little thin but this was cool. I think I even heard some Gang Of Four influence in the mix. Hey, it seems to be working well for the Red Hot Chili Peppers lately.
No web site yet…
email this artist at firstname.lastname@example.org
Gordon B. Isnor,"I Am A Conjuror" (Lord Sir Skronk Recordings)
What if Syd Barrett had made albums in the '80s? Well, he might likely have sounded like Gordon B. Isnor. Overbearing synthesizers, ala the '80s, mix with Isnor's eclectic, offbeat and humorous songs. Some even sound like a Dr. Dimento parody on the '80s! While Gordon's vocals are sometimes grating, the songs are strong enough to distract you. However, about half of the songs use a minimalist approach with just guitars and drums-these really harken Syd Barrett's ghost. It's worth searching out this CD for two classic tracks - "If I Were The Last Man On Planet Earth" and "Goody-B". This would have made a great alternate soundtrack to "The Breakfast Club"! Strange, unpredictable and offbeat enough to be really interesting!
To go to Lord Sir Skronk Records web site click here
Robert Wheeler,"Ebury Way Demos" (Indie website mp3 release)
"Seems like most girls get married at 17 these days...seems they wanna know somebody else before they know themselves" – lyrics to "Seventeen"With just about every band making some sort of bland recording available on mp3 or CDR, you start to curse the man that made the whole mp3 technology possible. Then along comes Robert Wheeler, who modestly presents his minimalist approach of brilliant little sketch-pop-songs. Robert’s recording show what is great about the CDR/mp3 revolution, and they're better than about 99% of the crappy "homemade" CDR's out there. Although Robert states that these recordings are "demos for my surely never to be recorded sketch of a record," I hope he is only joking because I would love to see an official CD.
The primary instrument is piano, but you also get harpsichord, occasional drums, some synth, organ and LOTS of harmony vocal experiments. "Ebury Way" sounds like the Beach Boys "Smiley Smile" with John Lennon at the helm. The songs have the spontaneity of Lennon's "Dakota Demos" with the mellow feel of "Smiley Smile".
This is what the "Smiley Smile" album should have sounded like.
P.S. This entire collection is available as downloadable mp3's from Robert Wheeler's website. That's right, music fans, it is free!
sodamnhip, "Downloadable songs" (Indie website mp3 release)
Simply saying that these songs are a pile of worthless shit would lowball it but would be accurate. "Sodamnhip" has a vocal range hovering between William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. His guitar playing ability equals that of someone having just completed their second guitar lesson - almost competent enough to play "Mary had a little lamb” with only 2-3 mistakes. Lyrically, "Sodamnhip" makes such subtle lyrical observations as "There are three things I love in the world and two of them are beer. The third one I can’t recall. It must not be very important." The self-important machismo bragging in the songs "Blow job in the Alley" and "Nekked" aren't even sincere enough sounding to be annoying. Instead they come off as being pathetic, wishful thinking; "songs" this awful wouldn't seduce a nymphomaniac.
The only thing this has going for it is truth in advertising. "Drunk Monkey records" is an almost a completely accurate description of the contents of these downloadable songs; just drop the word "records". Being a fat, drunk, hippie does much to explain, but not excuse, this awful excuse for "songs". If you are dying to know what David Crosby would sound like if he hadn't made it through rehab then download these songs. Otherwise, avoid these downloadable songs as you would the bum trying to wash your car windows.
To download these 'songs' from sodamnhip website click here
Unloco, "Selections From Becoming I" (UNLOCO.COM)
This is a pretty solid record, a 4-song sampler from Becoming I, the forthcoming sophomore release from this relatively new Austin, Texas band. The guitar playing is the first thing that caught me off guard on this release. It’s extremely eclectic, drawing a lot of influence from a variety of different sources that kept this band from sounding like a carbon copy of the same-old nu-metal swag. Unfortunately, this band does fall into the aforementioned trap of catering to a Caucasian, Fubu wearing, food court hoodlum more than once, with the familiar barrage of whispered versus/screamed choruses, and hip-hopish placating that we’ve grown to expect with similar musical acts. And it’s a shame, because they’re actually quite a talented band. Singer Joey Duenas is simply awesome – he’s got pipes that most singers in a your run-of-the-mill nu-metal acts would die for, and he carries the band through their more generic, cut-and-paste, I-swing-on-Godsmack’s-nuts, moments. Neurotic is the best track on here – it’s an incredibly catchy tune, and they should push this one as a single once the full album hits shelves, cause it would do wonders. It’s got a great Faith No More vibe to it that had me singing along in full support. I would love to hear the full length from these guys once it hits shelves, but please gentlemen, heed my words: you are a talented band. Please don’t waste it. Refrain from falling into that convenient trap of sounding like every other bubble-gummed flavor of the month simply for 15 minutes of fame and a trickle of payola. You guys can do better.
The Vibrators, "Energize" (Track)
Hell yes, The Vibrators are back! I first saw the Vibrators 5 years ago, and I think the thing that amazed me the most about this band was their ability, as 3 men in their mid forties, to completely floor a crowd of kids mostly in their teens and early-twenties. In this, their 15th studio album, Ian "Knox" Carnochan and company are back again with 16 new tracks of classic ’77 punk. Some of the best highlights on this album are So Far Down, 2 Night, and New Brain - they’ve got all the hooks, all the melodies, and all songwriting expertise of classic punk anthems. Animals is another great track. It’s a fun jab at the tired animal rights debacle. Hell, I’m a diehard vegetarian, and I still got a good kick out of the lyrics: “These animals don’t have no rights like you and me/these animals are only good for one thing/they’re good to eat”. My favorite track on the album though, has got to be General Purpose, an amazingly powerful track that clocks in at 2 minutes and 18 seconds. It’s a great song, rivaling some of the band’s best moments, even on unforgettable releases such as Pure Mania or V2. In the 26 years of their existence, the Vibrators have matured a great deal as a band. They’ve begun to incorporate a wider compass of musical influences, drawing sounds from oldies rock and even rockabilly that at times make them sound reminiscent of Social Distortion or even The Supersuckers. This is a great record, and any self-respecting fan of ’77 punk needs to run out and buy this immediately.
13 Stories,"3 Song CD" (Indie Release)
13 STORIES has jettisoned one band member, but still retains all the impact of their previous lineup. Quirky, funkified sex-rap with a healthy dose of injected pop-fun is what you get with a 3-song preview of their fall, 2003 full-length CD. While previous releases ("Naked Picnic" and "Preview to a Pop Album") concentrated more on pop aspects, I like the new direction of 13 Stories - they are less like Blondie and now more like P!nk. The overtly sexual lyrics to "The LA Song" are...well, interesting! On their official website, 13 STORIES describes themselves as, "Funky Pop Sexy House Rap". They have hit the nail on the head with that description and hopefully can live up to the expectation with their full-length release!
Napoleon Murphy Brock, "Balls" (Indie Release)
Napeoleon Murphy Brock used to collaborate with Frank Zappa, but this solo album sounds nothing like Zappa. Napoleon's mix of R&B, rap, jazz and Stevie Wonder-type songs really make this white-boy move! There are blistering guitar solos ("Tra-Lynn Part 2"), heartfelt songs ("Hi Mom-I Love You") and ballads ("Somebody For Everybody"). Great groove songs and infectious instrumentals that you will be whistling all day. You'll swear you've heard "TV Theme" before. This CD is like a celebration of life - it is the feel-good record of the year and has been in my CD player more than any other CD the last few months!
The Sawtelles, "The Sawtelles" (Indie Release)
This jangly rock trio consists of husband-wife / guitar-drums team Peter and Julie Riccio with bassist Pete Brunelli rounding things out. The cd reminds me a lot of bands like The Connells, The Bongos, and Let’s Active. Not overly produced, which is almost always a plus in my book, it’s a pretty enjoyable listen.
Churchill’s Tractor, "Operation: Bootyslap!" (Mr. Meow Records)
If Gibby Haynes could put together a coherent sentence he might record an album something like this. Songs titles like "Space Pimpin’", "The Ballad Of Norm Peterson", "Goodbye Mr. Hymen" and the title track peak ones curiousity even before the first listen. Happily I found the cd chock-full of clever lyrics and great guitar work. My only complaint is the use of a drum machine. If Churchill had a real live, beer drinkin’, wife stealing, skin pounder behind him he would definitely be a force to be reckoned with. Looking forward to the next tractor ride.
VUE, "Babies Are For Petting" (RCA)
Vue has been touted by basically every magazine under the sun as the “next big thing” in rock or as “the return of rock.” Let’s hope not. San Francisco’s latest punk scene defection captures the essence of a lo-fi recording in this five song ep that’s sure to send chills down the spines of Strokes’ fans everywhere. In Vue’s defense, they do surpass their lo-fi garage band counterparts musically and lyrically.
Vue is not a bad band. They push their genre in very interesting ways and often bring back memories of some Doors and Beatles songs with their creative hooks and laid-back singing style. Most of the songs also sport long, delicately-crafted guitar solos for the classic rock purists. The harmonies and choruses inspire sing-alongs on road trips with friends you haven’t seen in years. My only concern with Vue is that they are being described as something that they are not, “the return of rock.” They are, however, a solid garage style band with a bright future. Maybe “the return of fun” is more fitting.
Hotwire, "The Routine" (RCA)
Hotwire at first seemed like a band that I would not want to review. I came to that conclusion while reading the letter that accompanied their cd from their publicist. One line struck fear in my heart. It said, “they hail from the far-flung LA suburbs that spawned Linkin Park and Incubus.” However, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Hotwire is not trying to mold themselves into the typical mainstream heavy rock/metal act.
Hotwire still has catchy choruses and melodic guitar parts set to good drum and bass beats. However, they have an edge and sincerity that the hard rock scene has lacked since Taproot’s first record came out. The thing that truly sets them apart from the pack is Rus Martin’s vocals and screams. He sells every song. The only flaws with “The Routine” are the slower to mid-tempo songs. Although well-crafted, they often become uninteresting. Hotwire is definitely at its best on songs such as “Tweeked,” in which the beat is driving and the screams are rampant. I recommend this record for those who feel alienated by Incubus and Limp Bizkit and any of the other mainstream rock bands.
The Alarm, "In the Poppy Fields: One" (Twenty First Century Recording)
The Alarm, "In the Poppy Fields: Two" (Twenty First Century Recording)
IN THE POPPY FIELDS is a 5 CD set only available on the Alarm's website. When first released in 2002, those who ordered the set were sent one CD of the set each month. Each CD had a website address and password which allowed fans to give their input about each CD. Once all 5 CD's were released, CD holders voted for their favorite tracks from the 5 CD's which would appear on the "official" version of In the Poppy Fields which will be released at later this year. Though the votes have already been tallied the 5 CD set is still available at www.thealarm.com.
Volume 1: Though Mike Peters is the only original member left in this version of the Alarm, these songs sound like Alarm songs; hard edged acoustic pop songs. "Close" and "Alone Together" are as catchy as anything as anything played by the original Alarm. Peters also comes to terms with the bittersweet legacy of the pervious incarnation of the Alarm - a band critics unfairly wrote off as a poor man's U-2 - in the songs "Right Back Where I Started From", "The Rock and Roll" and "Contenders". In "Right Back Where I Started From", Peters ironically comments on the paradoxes ones encounters in life with pithy lines like "Sometimes you've got to stop believing to find the faith". The song "Contenders" is the theme song for every band who didn't go as far as they should have; a song slightly melancholy yet celebratory without being bitter about success just out of grasp. If the other 4 CD's are this great, Peters has written a masterpiece.
Volume 2: Having given his musical mission statement in volume 1, Mike Peters gets down to the business of playing catchy pop songs. While volume 2 lacks the focus of volume one, it does have its share of great songs. "The Normal Rules do not apply" is a brilliant pop song. Other stand out songs include "How Long and How Much Longer" and "45 RPM" and "Unexplained". "How long" has similarities to the old Alarm classic "Howling Wind" but still works. The song "45 rpm" is a full throttle musical ode to a person discovering their first favorite punk rock band and is the hardest edged "Alarm" song Mike Peters has recorded. The rest of the songs on this CD are at least good and only suffer in comparison to volume one.
Emerald Rose, "Celtic Crescent" (Indie Release)
Emerald Rose, "Rants & Rambles" (Indie Release)
CELTIC CRESCENT is a 'greatest hits' collection that is aimed directly at the serious, traditional Celtic music crowd. But in doing so, they divert from what makes Emerald Rose so unique in the first place: Emerald Rose isn't like every other Celtic band! So, while you have the tight harmonies and exacting musicianship that is Emerald Rose, there are no humorous tracks and no pagan-themed tracks.
There are enough rarities to keep the hardcore Emerald Rose fans happy (The stellar version of "Loch Lomond" makes this CD a "must have" for the average ER fan) and songs from the first CD have been re-recorded (so why not a re-release of a completely redone first album?). While I don't agree with the song selections (do we really need another version of "Wile Mountain Thyme"? - it IS the "Freebird" of the Celtic music scene) this collection is totally understandable from a purely business standpoint. It is understandable to try and expand your fan base and maybe, just maybe, Emerald Rose can tempt a few fans of the stereotypical Celtic-music-mindset to take a sip of their own special brand of Celtic music.
Although most of RANTS & RAMBLES is recorded live, it is NOT a replacement for the excellent Emerald Rose live CD, FIRE IN THE HEAD (although it does repeat two of the tracks found on that CD). Rather, it is a supplement to that live CD and shows the humorous/storytelling side of the band. Sure, there are classic Celtic tunes like "Rattlin' Bog" to prove that Emerald Rose can more than carry their own with any contemporary Celtic band. But, if you want eclectic, this CD has got it…where else can you find the bizarre Devo-meets-Celtic-music of "Vampire Girl From Orn", or the 'Mad Man Morris' stream of consciousness that is "Chicken Raid: Myth of Ygg'dllithbok"! "My PBJ" gets a Grateful Dead-style remake that is superior to the original with some screamin' guitar. The genius of Arthur Hinds is shown perfectly in the hilarious "Bachelor's Wife". This track alone is worth the purchase of this CD! It sounds like a traditional Irish folk tune…but it is actually a new tune by Arthur. And how about a Celtic Christmas tune? "Santa Claus Is Pagan, Too" is a soon-to-be classic yuletide song!
A great indication that Emerald Rose's talents not only lie in their unique take on Celtic music, but also in their superb sense and delivery of humor onstage. While not essential except to the hardcore ER fan, RANTS & RAMBLES has moments of brilliance.
Handgun Bravado, "Take Tomorrow" (EP) (Knock Knock Records)
When this CD showed up in the mail, I didn't really give it a second look. A three piece punk from Portland, Oregon. Last time I checked Portland was not really a hot spot for super charged punk rock. But I popped this baby into the player and started to read the liner notes. A familiar name caught by eye: Colin Sears. Colin Sears-drummer extraordinaire for D.C. legends Dag Nasty and The Marshes among others? The drummer who walked away from an early version of Fugazi? One and the same. Well, it's a good thing he "never looked back" because what we have hear is a sweet slice of melodic punk rock ready for you to knock back with your favorite cold beverage.
Take Tomorrow's 5 tracks are propelled by Colin's in your face rhythms. The drums are pretty far up in the mix similar to Joe Haggerty's thrashings in Pegboy. But newcomers Arne Cherkoss on guitar and vocals and Christian Harvey bring some structure to each track. Harvey's bass lines cake each song like bricks to mortar. Lyrically Arne sticks to well-worn topics, but adds a sense of desperation that still lets the listener touch the edge without getting burned. "Reader" laments the fact that he couldn't fix a failing situation-"I'm not a reader of minds/I don't know where the fault lay/I checked for vital signs/Beyond that I don't know where to go." The title track has the singer refusing to give up, even if everything looks hopeless-"sit around like someone died/The rocks lodged in my head held back the sorrow/don't wanna hear at least I tried/If I can't have today I'll take tomorrow."
Arne's vocals sound like a bastard cross between Bob Mould and a less whiny Green Day. But I really don't like Green Day at all and Handgun Bravado's blows that band away in terms of sheer hardcore velocity. So if you want to hear a real power punk trio that throws the Saturday Night Special in the backseat of the Lincoln with the safety off- pick up Take Tomorrow. It will be one dangerous ride.
Josh Dodes, " Freak" (Rhymes With Otis Music)
This is the perfect album to impress your girl with. You seem smarter than you really are just by having this in your collection. Lots of soul in the singing and plenty of funk in all the right places. So, call her up, put on some cologne, pop in this cd and hope for the best. Who knows, you just might get to freak a little too.
Pseudo Heroes, "Prison Of Small Perception" (Prison Of Small Perception Go-Kart Records )
Pseudo Heroes is the "side project" of Down By Law's longtime guitarist Sam Williams III. But this record should really not be thrown in the "project" trash-heap- it stands up remarkably well on its own. Williams handles all the vocals and guitars and there is some real diversity on this CD that will make it rise out of the already bursting punk release glut out there today.
As the album title suggests, this CD tries to broaden the listeners notions of what a punk rock record should be-with dazzling results. Warning-it is 19 tracks but once you give it a few spins it will become implanted in your head. The Heroes charge through ultra fast punk on songs like "Conspiracy" and "You're So Pathetic" but still manage to keep the melodies in the forefront. But then Williams offers up some acoustic guitar at the beginning of "I Know What You Need" that offers a nice little breather. The cover of Blue Oyster Cult's "I'm Burning For You" is also top-notch; Buck Dharma will probably wish his rhythm section was as precise as the Kevin Coss (bass) and Carlos Velez-Collins (drums) juggernaut.
Prison also features 7 tracks with guest vocalists- I won't name them all but there are a few highlights. "Bad Show" sports the distinctive pipes of John Stabb (ex- Government Issue-now with The Factory Incident) recalling a really bad gig. Dave Smalley of Down By Law (and Dag Nasty) nails his vocal on "Get Out Of My Life" with true passion. With other contributions from some well known names from the music scene, you'll be pleasantly surprised how The Pseudo Heroes make so many different genres come together and still work. So break out of the prison in your head and ask for this one by name in your favorite CD emporium. You'll be as happy as a convict getting his "3-squares" at San Quentin!
Dennis Most & The Instigators,"Wire My Jaw" (Dionysus Records)
Somewhere between Judas Priest and The Dead Boys is where I would file this 15 song garage / punk / metal cd. Remember when you were in high school and some long haired hard rock band came to play your prom. Not only did they hit on your girl but they tested the sheer sonic intensity of every piece of amplification equipment they owned on your tender young eardrums. Well, the Instigators would have scared the hell out of those guys.
To go to the Dionysus web site click here
An abbreviated four song 7" ep version of "Wire My Jaw" is available from Bad Attitude Records for all you vinyl freaks like me out there.
To go to the Bad Attitude web site click here