The Illuminati ,"Total Illuminati Awareness" (Black Copter Records)
The Illuminati are back, but they never truly are far way if you believe what the band members say. The words of Charlie Manson introduce the CD; tales of apocalypse permeate the lyrics in dark, foreboding tones in which the Illuminati control the earth. Conspiracy theories abound, from microchips in your brain ("Psychic Dictatorship USA"), government control ("FEMA"), a CIA gone bad ("CIA Acid Test"), social control ("Origin of the Feces") and UFO's ("Roswell, NM"). But, this CD isn't all dark. Just when you think these guys are serious in their paranoid vision of world domination, they display a twisted sense of humor in songs such as "Tiki" (about that classic Brady Bunch episode), "Vladimir" (about the intellectual visionary Vladimire Terzinski), "It Takes a Village" (of course about Hitlary Clinton), "Perry Walker" ("the only white headed cowboy left in the universe"!) and the raging ode to male-ness ("Testosterone" with it's 'I'm a man, I'm a man…' chant). The CD comes with a lyric insert, which is vital because the lyrics are outstanding! One lyric that sticks in my mind is "taking pot shots at my soul from your grassy knoll" ("Mumblers Mumble"). Musically, this band blends all the right elements of Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys without sounding like 3rd generation faux punks. Dark, dirty, driving and dangerous are descriptions that come to mind after making a sonic journey with the Illuminati.
After their debut 3-song CD in 1999, it is almost overwhelming to be exposed to a staggering 26 songs on this CD. The Illuminati display a perfect blend of music and lyrics to get an image of supposed anarchistic abandon across. But never mind all the dark evil things that happen in the world today…The Illuminati are in control and all is planned.
There is no website for The Illuminati. However, you can contact The Illuminati at: email@example.com
Simply Saucer,"Cyborgs Revisited" (Sonic Unyon)
According to the liner notes of "Cyborg Revisited" , Simply Saucer were a legendary, let largely forgotten, Canadian garage rock band circa 1972-1978. The "cool" cult status of this band is flogged shamelessly (my favorite quote "Cyborg was a treasure. I couldn't fathom its near obscurity." Yeah, whatever...) over the four page booklet of this CD; complete with excerpts of favorable reviews from various music magazines. One would think that it would be sufficient to simply include a history of the band and let the music do the talking. However, such propaganda - especially the oxymoron of a band being legendary, yet unknown - is the stuff the dreams of record collecting geeks are made of.
The good news is, liner note propaganda aside, the songs on "Cyborg Revisited" are at least good and occasionally brilliant. Simply Saucer combine the Velvet Underground with early Pink Floyd with vocals that sound like a cross between the Stooges and Jonathan Richman. Roughly half the songs are trippy jams (complete with Moog synthesizer) which become a bit boring after the first minute or so. Other songs are more catchy and work better. Songs that fall into this category: "I can change mind", "She's a Dog" and "Bullet Proof Nothing" are almost great enough to justify the bombast of the liner notes. Nothing obscure here; Simply some great garage punk..
Some Girls," Feel It"(Koch Records)
At the end of The Blake Babies' reunion tour in 2001, Juliana Hatfield and Freda Love had enjoyed playing together so much they decided to continue doing so. With Juliana returning to Massachusetts and Freda in Indiana, they began passing song ideas back and forth through the mail. Before long they found themselves amassing an albums worth of songs. When they got together again to demo the songs, Freda brought in her friend Heidi Gluck to help out. Everything clicked for the trio and Some Girls were officially born. "Feel It" is a beautiful, soulful, rock album that hints to the Velvet Underground, the Stones, Television and the Talking Heads. I love the smooth uncluttered sound of this trio and you will too.
Pierson, Parker, Janovitz," Lost Songs Of Lennon & McCartney-From A Window" (Gallery Six Records)
First off I think there was a spelling error at the record plant-wasn't this supposed to be Janovitz, Parker, Pierson? Oh right-ladies first. Ok, I've let the cat out of the bag that I'm a Buffalo Tom apologist-so sue me. But this CD is not about original songs from these artists-or even who gets star billing. Each artist in essence-became a "cover" singer for this project-albeit way better than the classic rock hacks playing down the street at your local tavern. So egos were shelved to re-interpret songs from The Beatles that they wrote in their early days and then passed onto other artists. In other words-Ringo didn't play on these beauties- at least on any official release.
Some highlights are the horn infused "Love Of The Loved" with Kate Pierson (of The B-52's) providing vocals that truly shine. Veteran rocker Graham Parker transforms what was once a song best remembered by Badfinger's (ugh!) version into a cool rocker that offers a more rockabilly feel during the verses. "Tip Of My Tongue" even gets the reggae treatment from Parker (but hopefully Paul won't try his hand at a Bob Marley song now). Bill Janovitz's tracks truly bring this CD to a new level of enjoyment. "A World Without Love" offers a sweet harmonica solo and "Woman" is the best use of the word "woman" in a rock song since The Cult over used it on their "Sonic Temple" CD. Put this song on at the bar and you're sure to get a few digits at last call.
"Lost Songs" clicks because you really don't have to be a Beatles fan to appreciate these songs. The professional musicianship by all the players makes this a true pleasure to listen to. The Traveling Wilburys only wish they made a record this slick.
To go to the Gallery Six Records web site click here
Pushing Red Buttons,"Pushing Red Buttons" (Block Chord Music)
A healthy combination of post-alternative power-pop, 10cc stylings, ELO- type vocals and glam-rock infusion that doesn't sound dated. They even pull off a song with the same name as the group - "Pushing Red Buttons". "It's a Really Happy World" is a gem, with tales of gloom-and-doom set to a happy pop song! "Surprise" is THE classic "fuck-off" song to an 'ex'! Clever and sometimes even theatrical songs that thoroughly entertain. Now why can't songs like these be on the radio?!
Mando Diao,"Bring 'Em In" (Mute Corporation)
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and everything eventually comes back around. Remember the Mod revival of the '80s? Well, now you have bands that bring back the garage-rock spirit of the original punks of 1965-66, complete with Kinks-like guitar and the best Eric Burdon imitation I have ever heard. Do you want to feel that energetic blast of the first Who record? Well, this band is your ticket. If Mando Diao can't bring back the popularity of garage-rock to the masses, then nobody can.
To go to the Mute Corporation web site click here
Various Artists,"Respond II" (Signature Sounds)
This is a CD that was released to help out women and children. The music is strongly focused on womenand is entirely by women. Some of the very prominent musicians include Joan Baez, The Indigo Girls, Aimee Mann, Sleater-Kinney, Ani DiFranco, and the belle of the ball, Dolly Parton. The music is predictable but good. Honestly, I'm not into this scene but it is done well and does a good job showing off the wide array of talents represented. This would be a lovely 1st anniversary gift for the man/woman that needs to find something meaningful, yet cheap, to buy that special feminist in his/her life.
To go to website for this CD click here
Scattered Pages,"Meet The Americant" (One's Own Music)
Gleaming, memorable pop songs that you cant get out of your head. Songs delivered with soft-spoken vocals that giving them a sense of immediacy (plus great harmony vocals). Bass lines that would stand up to the best XTC songs. I don't know what the song "Americant" means, but I can't stop humming it! I wish the lyrics were included because I catch some very clever lines (i.e. the line about 'Catholicism' in the song "Rachel") . Scattered Pages reminds me of an Americanized version of the Kinks ('Something Else'/'Village Green' era) mixed with Crowded House. Definitely a group to keep an eye on.
The Shocker,"Up Your Ass Tray"(Oglio Records)
Well, it's nice to hear songs live up to their titles. I hate bands that have the look, the name and an album full of really clever song titles that never seem to live up to expectation. "Smoke Rings (Up Your Ass Tray)", "My Life As A Plumber" and "Bad Brain Good Head" are three of those creative titles I was referring to but these songs all live up to their respective titles. With six originals and one cover, "Up Your Ass Tray" gives the listener a good taste without wearing thin. The one cover, "Angel Of The Morning", was a country hit if I remember correctly but it rocks at the hands of this band. File this somewhere between the Plasmatics and Ramones and near the Foo Fighters and the Donnas.
Chumbawumba,"Readymades and then Some" (Koch Records)
"If I can't dance to it, It's not my revolution" -
Emma Goldman, Chumbawamba guru and roadie
English anarchists Chumbawamba have been singing about smashing the state for the better part of 20 years. (Un?)fortunately the state is still intact. This hasn't been through lack of trying on Chumbawamba's part. Having realized that neither putting out records that nobody buys, nor being one hit wonders have led to an anarchist utopia, Chumbawamba has now hit upon a new approach: lull the powers that be to sleep with boring techno music. In this regard "Readymades" succeeds admirably; these are truly boring songs. Elevator music is interesting by comparison. The one saving grace of this CD is the song "Home With Me" which is a fairly decent pop song. If you absolutely have to hear this, go to any used CD store and pick up this CD. It will be located behind the 10 copies of "Tubthumping". If you want to hear some GOOD Chumbawamba pick up either "Swinging With Raymond" or "Shhh!".
Susan Hickey,"Water Meets Sand" (Indie Release)
This CD consists of 14 songs by Celtic-folk singer extraordinaire Susan Hickey. Titled "Water Meets Sand", it is loosely a 'theme' album about the sea with a combination of traditional songs and sea-themed songs. Featuring excellent arrangements and those spine-tingling vocals by Susan that draw you into the songs (even if you are not a total Celtic-folk enthusiast, you will be amazed by the vocals). "Humors of Whiskey" is a perfect example of the vocal prowess of Susan - the song is totally acapella and is easily one of my favorites on this CD (I was astounding as the speed of her vocal delivery as the tempo slowly increases). Although my least favorite song "Paradise Street" is a rap sea shanty (yes, you heard me right!), it is interesting nonetheless! It just seems out of place in this collection.
Susan Hickey is the Joni Mitchell of Celtic-folk music and I look forward to her next release.
To go to this artist's old web site click here
To go to this artist's new web site click here
Deadwood Forest,"Mellodramatic" (Indie Release)
Symphonic, psychedelic, syncopated and melodic. Those are the words that come to mind when describing Deadwood Forest. They are a progressive-rock/psychedelic rock band that wouldn't have been out of place among the best of those bands in the '70s. And while this type of music might seem 'old hat' to some, they bring a fresh sounding approach to their music. While they use some of the time signature changes of classic YES and some of the textures of the most melodic Pink Floyd - DWF doesn't go out of their way to SOUND just like these bands. Maybe that's why they succeed. This is one of the best post progressive-psychedelic CD's I have heard in a long time.
Government Issue," Strange Wine-Live At CBGB's 8/30/87" (Dr. Strange Records)
God bless the fine folks at Dr. Strange to re-release this long out of print classic and include all the live tracks from this great performance. I may name my first born Dr. Strange. (Ok-let me calm down. I'm back). This record first came out as an EP and didn't include the whole show. But we now have the remastered version with a few studio tracks from the band's last studio sessions as well.
Government Issue, for those of you living in a bomb shelter for the last 20 years, were an amazing punk band from Washington D.C. Along with Bad Brains, Minor Threat, and Dag Nasty, they helped define eighties HarDCore. Fans would argue that this was the most musically potent line-up of the group. Of course there are the ever present vocals of the "godfather of punk" John Stabb. Guitarist Tom Lyle's licks burn hotter than a urinary tract infection on this CD. But some music fans may not remember the crack rhythm section Government Issue had at this time. J. Robbins was on bass and back-up vocals. You may remember him from some nifty combos like Jawbox and Burning Airlines. Drummer Peter Moffet would also later be in Burning Airlines and Wool.
Most of the band's career is covered here from the melodic groove of "Jaded Eyes" to the high speed onslaught of "Mad At Myself". "Caring Line" and "Visions and?" show the inspired direction the band was taking-post punk that could give Husker Du and The Damned a run for their money. The band also gives us the three studio tracks that were on the EP. "Strange Wine" is a fantastic song-even though Stabb discounts it in the liner notes as veering into Guns and Roses territory. Axl couldn't sing his way out of a paper bag-much less cover this song.
"Strange Wine" is essential for any fan of melodic punk rock with guts. Once you picked this one up and can't tear it out of your CD player-go visit Dr. Strange again to update your Government Issue collection-but for now this sampler will do quite nicely.
To go to the Dr. Strange Records web site click here
George Elliott,"Men Don't Smoke" (www.heliocd.com)
Most of the fourteen songs on "Men Don't Smoke" were home recorded on a 4-track cassette machine but you would never know it from the listening to the cd. The sound quality is excellent, as is the mix. You could probably play almost any of these songs for someone and say it was an obscure George Harrison song and I don't think they would argue with you. If you're into the acoustic side of the fab four then this is for you. Extra points for the beautiful cover of the late June Carter's "Ring Of Fire".
Saticoy,"Saticoy" (Indie Release)
This sounds too much like '80s girl groups such as the Bangles. It would hold up compared to the Bangles first EP, but alas this is 2003 and it sounds a little dated. There is one track on this CD that should have power-pop buffs scrambling to find this disc and that is "The Fascist In You". This song cracked me up with its wicked Kinks-"Wonderboy"-like backing vocals of "la la la la". I couldn't help but picturing college-age hippie chicks singing this song as they slowly turn into soccer-moms! Overall, a healthy indulgence of female-vocal power-pop for those inclined for a blast from the past.
Flashlight Brown,"My Degeneration" (Hollywood Records)
What does one get when crossing NOFX with Canadian pop punk chorus-lovers? He gets Flashlight Brown! They do nothing spectacular or unique musically, but they effectively create interest in each song with their fun lyrics and smooth harmonies. "A Freak" captures the humorous essence of touring and what band members become on the road. Songs such as "Go and Die" and "Praise the Day" become almost impossible to forget thanks to their politically incorrect nature. However, the songs do blend together and sound too similar by the end of "My Generation". This record’s break-neck speed and potty mouth humor makes it a good purchase for old school punk fans and catchy music fans in general.
Eric Hutchinson," That Could've Have Gone Better" (Let's Break Records)
Usually I am wary of "one man" solo projects. In most cases the lyrics have to be pretty captivating and the music has to leave a lasting impression as well. Or else I usually throw the CD into the incinerator. I'm happy to report that Eric Hutchinson's record has escaped the fiery fingers of destruction. If you like folk rock with an edge-Eric is your man.
The CD starts off with "Subtitles" and Hutchinson sings-"These days I feel like I'm watching a movie with subtitles only I can't read the words." But the song that will stick in your brain like a brain freeze from a Slurpee-(hey doesn't that feel good?) is "Rock and Roll" where the acoustic guitar complements the chorus so well it's scary. But there are some downers too-but the mood never dips so low that you want to hide under the covers. "Jettison" is a quiet ballad that comes at the listener from a different angle after each listening.
My only complaint is on some of the songs that could have used a full band treatment. "Breakdown More" could have benefited from a full on rock version. But Hutchinson rebounds on "Same Mistakes". Over a bluesy riff he sings about falling into a dull routine in life and breaking out of a rut. "So it's true that we build up our lives around safety routines/So what's new at the end of the day we're well-oiled machines."
Eric Hutchinson has nothing to worry about-this CD went well and we can only expect him to bring it up a notch on his next record. If you like acoustic rock in the vein of Neil Finn or Glen Tilbrook or you just like to think while you're playing air guitar-go get this CD now.
Buchanan,"All Understood" (Ultimatum Music)
John Mayer meets Dave Matthews meets Ryan Adams with just a hint of Blues Traveler thrown in for good measure. Although the cd is mostly comprised of funky power ballads with a jazzy air, one song "American Son" has a harder almost Soundgarden-ish feel to it which I found to be a refreshing change of pace. They should mix it up a little more often.
Joe Ely,"Streets Of Sin" (Rounder)
Ely kicks off his latest Rounder release to the galloping strains of "Fightin' For My Life" and "I'm On The Run Again" before slipping into the soulful, Hammond soaked "A Flood On Our Hands". Another bumper crop from Ely and we're only three songs into the cd. There's something calming about Ely's unique, almost spoken word, delivery of lyrics. "That's Why I Love You Like I Do" is reminiscent of Woody Guthrie but the rest can only be described as pure Ely. If you own an Ely album you already know what your in for. As for the rest of you, I'd suggest you pick up a copy of "Streets Of Sin".
89 Mojo,"89 Mojo" (indie release)
What was that old saying…"I know if a song is good the first few bars in"? Well, that theory holds well for 89 Mojo. When the first song kicks in, you just know you are about to embark upon a journey filled with power-pop hooks and harmonies galore! Throw in a little Cheap Trick influence and you are set. The self-analysis lyrics of these songs make you think you are looking into someone's diary, with subjects that the average Joe can relate to - and to me, that's what makes a great pop song. For example, "Glad You're Happy" is the perfect ode to hearing that an 'ex' is getting married! Great club-pop music that makes you wanna see if these guys can pull it off live…
Ringsend,"Sunday Brunch At The Gentlemen's Club" (Indie Release)
Self-described as an updated version of Steely Dan but I have to say this band paints with a much broader brush. They have an international flavor, a sophisticated mix of jazz, latin, funk and rock with lush and complex arrangements. Ringsend definitely makes music that's hard to pin down. This is one album you'll just have to listen to for yourself.
Twiztid,"The Green Book" (Psychopathic Records)
This is a two song "taste of what's to come" from Psychopathic Records. According to the press release the full length cd was released on July 1st. The first song, "Darkness", sounded a lot like Korn. The second, "Frankenstein", had more of a hardcore rap sound. The press release promises that this dynamic duo's album "will cover everything from their passion for marijuana and cigarettes, to being clones, and a general distaste for society". Wow, the anticipation is killing me.
Dakona,"Perfect Change" (Maverick)
Catchy songs, lots of hooks, a fairly enjoyable listen all the way through. Unfortunately I don't hear anything that really stands out from the rest of the pack. These guys are probably great live and I'm sure all the young girls love them but nothing really makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Although, I have to admit, they're as good if not better than most of the bands on today's radio. File next to Creed.
Steve Ripley,"Ripley" (Boy Rocking Records)
The Tractors are a great band and that's due in large to this man. Ripley is an extremely accomplished musician and songwriter. "Gone Away", the lead off track, is a sad but true tale of all things lost from the good ol' days. "Too Many Borderlines" is about the consequences of one too many bad decisions. "Mr. Jingle Jangle", the story of a guy who would rather stay with someone whose bad for him than be alone. This is an album almost everyone can relate to on one level or another. Another great album that you'll probably find in the cut-out bin sometime in the near future. A sad but true tale indeed.
Note: Since Team Emu sent us two copies of its release (one on CD and one on vinyl) I thought it would be interesting to get the points of view of two of our reviewers for this group...
Team Emu,"Team Emu" (Ghostmeat Records)
It is refreshing to know that bands like Team Emu play straight up hardcore punk that doesn't pander to warped tour treadmill "punk" pop bullshit. Team Emu play 80's style hardcore punk without sounding dated. Their song "Cut to the quick" sum up their sound and philosophy perfectly. The low-fi production of this CD only adds to its charm. How can you not like a band honest enough to admit they would be a black metal band if only they had "...the chops, the looks, the dark forces, or the imagination required to be Black Metal." ? Great stuff...
To go to the Ghostmeat Records web site click here
Team Emu,"Team Emu " (Ghostmeat Records)
Three guys out to have a good time. Three guys out to have a good time playing their own stripped down version of punk to be exact. This limited edition, blue vinyl, 7" slab was a breath of fresh air in this over produced world we live in. Lot's of energy here. Recorded on a home computer in a small spare room the band practices in. They thought it made sense and I do as well. D.I.Y. at it's best.
A Northern Chorus,"Spirit Flags title" (Sonic Unyon)
Oh my God, the Stone Roses have made another album! Or is it another U2 album? Or Pink Floyd? This is an amalgamation of all 3 bands, with the style of the Stone Roses poking its head up the most. Totally unoriginal - but it did make me dig up my old Stone Roses CDs!
Ben Winship & David Thompson,"Fishing Music" (Snake River Records)
A high-brow collection of acoustic folk, blues and swing songs about… fishing… Yep, you read it right, 16 songs about fishing. "Fly Fishing", "The Fishing Hole", "Fish Ain't Bitin'" well you get the idea. Mollie O'Brien sings on a couple of tunes and I've got to say her voice is very pleasing to the ear. Performed by some of the country's finest acoustic musicians as per the liner notes and I won't dispute it.
Churchill's Tractor ,"Cheesy Listening " (Mr. Meow Records)
John Churchill has a quirky way of writing about everyday life. Weather it be about lame songs you listen to when no one is around or the joy of playing guitar or realizing you're domesticated and being o.k. with it or the life of a dog named Norman or the current popularity of garage rock bands like the White Stripes. He always gives it an interesting off beat slant. Even his choice of covers, Cheap Trick's "Surrender" and the Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog", are on a skew. A cheesy drum machine, Churchill's guitar, an unidentified bass of some sort and the occasional keyboard propel these quirky songs along. Overall, a pretty fun listen.
Easy Star All-Stars,"Dub Side of the Moon " (Easy Star Records)
It is funny that one of my favorite CD's of the past 4 months has been a remake of a classic rock album "Dark Side of the Moon". And while the group covered is not one of my favorite groups (Pink Floyd), I was fascinated when I heard that there was a complete reggae version of their best-known album! "Dub Side of the Moon" follows the exact track order of the classic Floyd disc, but with reggae treatment given to each song. You get a hilarious sense of deja vu whilst listening. "Time" has great spoken reggae lines like "time is the masta and time can be a disasta". Now I want to hear the EASY STAR ALL-STARS do another classic, maybe Sgt. Pepper? And you thought "Dark Side of the Moon" was the ultimate 'pot' album? Not anymore! (not that I would know, ha ha!)
The singing is dissonant but the songs are charming, with mostly guitar and vocals with piano on one track. The sparse instrumentation adds to the moodiness. While "True Name (pt. 1) is a beautiful tune, the vocals are hard to understand. More is less? There are only 4 tracks on this CD and I wanna hear more.
TECH N9NE,"Absolute Power" (Strange Music)
Kansas City rapper Tech N9ne (his spelling not mine) raps at about warp 11; faster than a auctioneer after a 3 day cocaine binge. TechN9ne can be quite clever when he isn't rapping about typical pedestrian rap topics - sex, women, drugs, money, and sex. For example, his song "The industry is punks", a convincing rant about the greed/hypocrisy of the music industry, is helped along by a evil backing choir worthy of a slasher film. The song "Slacker" will make you envy your favorite pot smoking, unemployed, do-nothing while the song "I'm a Playa" is set to the Falco song "Amadeus" (with a chorus of "I'm a playa, I'ma playa" replacing the chorud "Amadeus, Amadeus". Get it?) The rest of the songs are neither spectacular or horrible but nothing you haven't heard before. Don't be a playa hater. Give "Absolute Power" a spin.
Mazeppa,"Kick it for the low times" (Cityscape Records)
Extravagant, moody pop that is reminiscent of the group Travis. However, that is the problem as they sound like a Travis-knockoff. But, I look on the bright side and this album is much better than the last Travis CD! Great, competent playing and vocals, but the CD ultimately does not have a standout track.
Eve 6,"It's All In Your Head title" (RCA)
Modern rock’s finest poets are back with "It’s All in Your Head", one of the better cds of 2003. Eve 6 burst into the mainstream when they signed to RCA while in high school and released their ultra-popular single, "Inside Out". Unfortunately, they were pigeon-holed by many as teenage one hit wonders; but, with a closer look at their music, one can tell that they are far from that. The now twenty-something rockers seem to have captured their sound with fast rocking tunes such as "Without You Here" and "Still Here Waiting for You". They also prove to be much more than bubble gum pop-punkers with emotionally sincere songs such as their first single from "It’s All in Your Head", "Think Twice", an ode to the jealous boyfriend. Eve 6 also branches out on this record with the folk/country sound of "Hey Montana", and the power ballad, "Girlfriend". This record is musically, structurally, and especially lyrically, great.
A Picturebook of Saints,"A Picturebook of Saints" (The New Beat)
A Picturebook of Saints is a post-emo band with elements of hardcore and modern rock. They rock hard and use volume and dynamics to heighten the intensity of their songs. Unfortunately, the production of their self-titled record leaves a lot to be desired. Most of the songs sound too quiet and the vocals are too loud over the guitars, which seem to be somewhere far, far away in the background. Their lyrics are dead on, and are probably the bands strongest point. A Picturebook of Saints is a decent addition to an already crowded genre.
Mike Pursley," Mike Pursley" (Indie Release)
Mike Pursley has the delivery of Syd Barret and the vocals of the Violent Femmes. The fidelity on this disc sometimes suffers and it can be distracting at times. I would like to hear Mike in a real recording studio and perhaps pick only his best 6 songs because after a while the songs start to sound the same. Violent Femmes fans will dig this.
Or contact Mike Pursley at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Down By Law," Windwardtidesandwaywardsails" (Union Label Group)
Down By Law's 7th full length rocks harder and faster than half the new bands on the scene today. But thoughtfully crafted lyrics and melodic guitar playing are still at the forefront. The band is not afraid to tackle politically charged topics that rookies like Something Corporate and Good Charlotte won't touch with a ten foot pole. Lead singer Dave Smalley may be the only one able to carry on the torch left by the end of The Clash. But with stints in All and Dag Nasty as well-Smalley has the mad props to back this up.
"Next To Go" jump starts the CD like a powder keg ready to ignite. Bassist Keith Davies offers up lyrics that question life and death in today's world-"Dying there's all these people dying/I'm conscious of it every day." "Capitol Riots" is a worthy successor to The Clash's "Washington Bullets"-"all around the globe/ its government control/all hail the E.U./'til it's coming after you." Smalley can offer up lighter fare as well. On "Superheroes Wanted" which features some salty licks from lead guitarist Sam Williams III Smalley wails "gonna get a car/gonna escape/gonna be as cool as James Dean/gonna get a motorcycle/ give a grin/and drive like Steve McQueen."
Two other tracks prove the Down By Law haven't lost a step after such a long and varied career. The first is "I Wanna Be In AC/DC". Yeah, some pretenders like Everclear can cover "Sin City" but only Down By Law can come up with a superb tribute song. As Smalley name-checks some kick ass AC/DC titles, Sam Williams III spits out some riffs that Angus would give his fake teeth for. He also names all the band members (except Mark Evans-bass players get no respect) throughout the song. A great song about a great band. The second track that you will have to play over and over again is "8th and Main." Milo Todesco's dead -on fills add the perfect beat to Sam's sweet arpeggios on the song. But the reason this song works is that it shows the hidden talent each member has with their contributions. Bassist Keith Davies whisky-soaked vocals sound like Joey Ramone and Mike Ness meeting up for a late night session, and Smalley's subtle background vocals make the track a keeper. This is how real punk rock gets made kids- take notes and have that report on my desk first thing Monday morning.
Electric Candy Shop,"Symphony on Saturn" (Independent Records)
Pennsylvania’s Electric Candy Shop are creating a buzz in their music scene. They are doing this by putting out records with typical mainstream rock vocals and guitar parts. For a prime example, listen to the ballad of a girl’s life, "Beautiful". However, he hooks and slow-driving guitar parts of this band are exactly what major rock labels are looking for. The one thing that makes this band slightly memorable is use of keyboard and synthesizers to perfectly compliment their songs. With a little more originality lyrically and structurally, Electric Candy Shop could become a great band.
Johnny Marr & The Healers,"Boomslang" (Artist Direct/IMusic)
When Johnny Marr announced almost 3 years ago that he had a new band together, a few eyebrows were quickly raised. Would this sound like his groundbreaking work in The Smiths or his dance-floor experiments in Electronic? Neither is the answer. This is his first stint as a lead singer as well but you couldn't tell that from "Boomslang."
Influences such as The Stone Roses and Oasis merely serve as a sonic blueprint for The Healers songs. Marr is able to brand these tracks with a distinctive feel with the help of Zak Starkey's (Ringo Starr's son) barrelhouse drumming and Bevan on bass (formerly of Kula Shaker). Psychedelic guitar lines, throbbing bass lines and lyrics that offer more atmosphere than actual substance-exactly what the music calls for in this setting. "The Last Ride" is a rocking opener and Marr brings some nice piano rolls into "Down On The Corner".
Some songs could have used a good edit-like the 7 minute plus "You Are The Magic" but overall Boomslang is consistently engaging. By the time "Bangin' On" kicks into overdrive you'll be hitting the repeat button. Boomslang is no "Girlfriend In A Coma"-but in 2003 is anyone still expecting Morrissey to walk in the front door? Please. Boomslang stands on its own and should be snatched up immediately.