Poco,"Running Horse" (Drifter's Church)
Country-rock is alive and well. No, I'm talking about the pop-saturated country that is generated on today's country/western radio stations. I mean the classic country-rock like Gram Parsons, Poco, the Eagles and Pure Prairie League used to make. It's been 13 years since Poco has released an album, but the wait was well worth it. Yes, this is the same Poco that helped define country rock in the '60s and '70s. Well, not exactly the same Poco as not all the original members remain. While there is no Richie Furay or Jim Messina, this album shows that the current members of Poco can do just fine. They have made a solid album that shows that country-rock is alive and well. Solid songwriting, soaring harmonies and beautiful melodies abound. Unlike a lot of '70s bands that return to make lackluster albums, Poco shows that they still have what it takes to entertain.
If you long for records like the Eagles used to make, pick up RUNNING HORSE. You won't be disappointed.
Noctorum,"Sparks Lane" (“Sparks Lane” Heyday Records)
Even though the name Noctorum is new, the sound will immediately pop a light bulb in your head-who is this? It is actually Marty Willson-Piper, lead guitarist of The Church. But this CD is not a solo release-it is a project with Dare Mason, a musician/producer who has collaborated with the band in the past. Marty wrote all the lyrics, and Dare only sings lead on one track, but OK-whatever works. The CD starts off with the lilting “Hey There”-Marty is still as melancholy about life as ever-“I don’t have a television or a telephone/because I need to spend my life alone.” “My Museum” is a haunting track, filled with the lush instrumentation that Church fans are used to hearing-“you are a luxury, a poison a drug/and I don’t know how to unplug”- Marty sings as multi-tracked guitars chime away in the background.
Noctorum’s best song comes midway through the record, and it really would not have been out of place on The Church’s Metropolis. “High As A Kite” is bright, poppy and actually fairly mesmerizing. In a perfect world you would hear this every day on the radio-but instead we’re lucky enough to get the new Nickelback song. Marty varies the formula a little bit on “Ask Again”-throwing in a spoken word-Lou Reed type vocal over a funky drum beat. Marty even has the nerve to have not one-but two songs with French titles-(even Sting didn’t have the guts to put more than one French song on Ghost In The Machine) but we won’t hold that against him. Noctorum should please any fans of dark, atmospheric guitar rock, with lyrics that question life and its intricacies.
Facetious," Raw Biscuits: The Bob Crane Story " (People's Temple Records)
I was stoked when I first saw this CD. It is a 'concept album' about the bizarre sleazy-sex videotape life [and death] of actor Bob Crane [his best-known role was HOGAN'S HEROES]. The music is often strange, discordant, avante garde music which reminds me of Frank Zappa meets Art of Noise meets John and Yoko. One of the best examples of this 'real life as art' approach is the song "June 29", which is a reading of the Bob Crane coroner's report set to music. The instrumentals have a spooky weirdness that would fit well on an artsy-mystery film. "Victoria's Secret" would have fit perfectly on John and Yoko's TWO VIRGINS album. The CD ends with one cover, a 29 second version of Harry Nilsson's "Are You Sleeping?"
Unfortunately, the theme is not fully developed, with too many instrumentals - this theme could have really been developed a little more. How about more songs about the crime, such as "Death by Tripod" [the alleged murder weapon]? I do hope that Facetious continues with these 'crime themed' albums - I would love to hear one about O.J.!
Marshall Keith,"Checkered Past" (Indie Release)
Marshall Keith is best known as the lead guitarist for D.C. garage rock legends The Slickee Boys. But here on Checkered Past, Keith shows a previously obscured songwriting creativeness that was sometimes in the shadows within the group effort of that talented band.
This is the follow-up to 1993’s X-93 record and time has proven to be a great ally; Keith has fine-tuned the songs on this release that soar to new heights. “Velvet Curtain” describes the feeling he gets while performing-sometimes encouraging but sometimes restrictive based on what the audience expects. “Rainbow Brite” is the most upbeat of the tunes-probably due to the presence of live drums on this song. But the songs never drag without percussion-in fact there are multiple effects that are cleverly inserted in the songs to offer a new perspective on each repeated listen.
“No Us” is a slow, moving ballad that with just piano, laments a relationship that has fallen apart. Keith even covers a Suzanne Vega song-(“Caramel”) and makes it his own. Granted, these are not happy-go-lucky tunes you would throw on at your neighborhood block party. But for quiet, cold nights where all you have is a glass of wine and this CD Checkered Past creates a dark vacuum of stirring moods that you won’t soon forget.
For more information-please contact the artist at firstname.lastname@example.org
Black Moustache,"Black Moustache" (Lakeshore Records)
Black Moustache is a great synthesis of Devo, the Cramps and early punk such as Television. The songs are catchy, funny and memorable. While a lot of bands will sound retro when they go for this sound, Black Moustache has clever songs to back up their approach. Despite the obvious Devo-sounding synths and electronic drums, this band really rocks!
For more information-please contact the artist at email@example.com
Killing Joke,"Self-Titled" (Zuma Recordings)
When lead singer Jaz Coleman admonishes the listener to “listen to the drums/ between each beat/each beat of the drum” one look at the back cover and you know Killing Joke means business. Expert skin-basher Dave Grohl was recruited for these sessions and from the opening beats on “The Death And Resurrection Show” the drums assault your senses like a blast furnace explosion.
Producer Andy Gill (The Red Hot Chili Peppers) keeps the band from veering off the map. Original guitarist Geordie offers up a series of punishing riffs on guitar and bassists Youth and Raven share bass guitar duties. “Implant” begins with Jaz whispering-“silent weapons for a quiet war”-but nothing on this song is quiet after that. Grohl’s drums complement the songs; luckily without any show-off fills. “Blood On Your Hands” rails against big, greedy corporations and how they manipulate the global economy. “You’ll Never Get To Me” could even be a radio-friendly hit with its post-Joy Division bass lines; Jaz actually throws some melody into the mix. But overall, this is a harsh, relentless attack on the world and all its shortcomings. In other words, this is Killing Joke’s most consistent effort since 1985’s Night Time. Here’s hoping that with this big-buzz push Killing Joke will finally get the credit they deserve-before Nine Inch Nails steals all the best ideas here for their next record.
Paul Westerberg,"Come Feel Me Tremble" (Vagrant Records)
Although this is for a soon to be released DVD soundtrack, Come Feel Me Tremble does not smell like cobbled together “product” to hold fans at bay until the next CD. Westerberg presents 14 new tracks that show more grit and nerve than anything he has put out since his first solo release-(14 Songs). The record starts off with the low rumble of “Dirty Diesel” and I can just see the video now-Paul with a mesh trucker’s cap on, smoking a fat stogie, and speeding down a dusty highway in a huge Mac truck. “Hillbilly Junk” features background vocals of “gonna get higher” that are reminiscent of the ones on the first Grandpaboy EP. Paul’s keeping quiet on the other players on this record-but whoever that is they sure do a great Sylvain Sylvain impression. “Soldier Of Misfortune” is a flat out rocker with slashing guitar chords and a chorus you’ll be humming the next day in the shower stall.
But on “What A Night (For A Night)”, Paul offers up his best mid-tempo acoustic rocker since “Love Untold”. This song will sound incredible cranked up to 10 on your car stereo. CFMT offers two covers, and even a great acoustic ballad that matches the sadness of another great Westerberg classic-“Here Comes A Regular.” But on “Meet Me Down The Alley” Westerberg takes a look back and sings about losing the innocence and naiveté of youth. “When we were young/ we’d never play/out in the street/we’d only run/where we felt safe.” I guarantee this one will tug at your heart strings-or you don’t have a pulse. CFMT is great, consistent record that wisely bypasses the shaky basement takes that sometimes sidetracked even the best songs on Stereo/Mono. Instead Westerberg expertly replaces them with warm, emotional songs that will light a spark in even the most cynical music fan’s soul.
The Joykiller,"Ready Sexed Go!" (Epitaph Records)
Before Jack Grisham decided to run for governor of California (thankfully Gary Coleman is not on a double ticket) he recorded a numerous records with aproject called The Joykiller. This project did garner some critical acclaim, but some fans just could not let go of Grisham’s past as lead singer of T.S.O.L., one of the great 1980’s punk bands. (T.S.O.L is also back on track now with Jack back in the fold-but that’s another review).
This so called “greatest hits” CD is culled from three previous Joykiller records, an unreleased session and one track from the aborted Gentleman Jack sessions. “Love You More Dead” kickstarts the CD with you guessed it-making love to a corpse. It only gets more ripe from there. “Seventeen” is a methodical rocker anchored by a plodding bass riff that wouldn’t have been out of place on an Offspring album. “Sad” sounds like The Beach Boys on speed-this could have fit into Valley Girl with ease. But it’s not all punk bombast here-The Joykiller even dusts off the acoustic guitar on the Mick Jones influenced “The Doorway”.
Needless to say at 32 tracks, this is one monster of a release that will take you awhile to sink your teeth into. But with superb backing from ex-Down By Law and TSOL players, Grisham is able to bring it up a notch above other bands out there. If you like The Damned, Magazine, The Clash, or even The Dead Kennedys, you will dig this. But The Joykiller offers up a fresh spin all their own on Ready Sexed Go! that just may be the ticket for Jack to win the recall election-uh, maybe not with this cover artwork! But it’s still worth picking up if you didn’t catch them the first time around.
Charlotte Martin,"In Parenthesis " (RCA)
I hate to knock the Fionna Apple cart, but Charlotte Martin is simply a Fionna Apple-wannabee. In "Pretty Thing" she sings, "I'm not your pretty thing". But, that's simple what she is, just another pretty face. Yes, her voice and piano playing are great. She is also a looker, which should help with any video exposure. However, the songs are neither interesting nor original. She needs to listen to her own lyrics: "I get medieval on boy bands-I said is anybody listening?" No, people don't really listen when the view is the only thing interesting.