SILVER CIRCLE REVIEWS: July-Aug 2007

Chandler Travis

THE CHANDLER TRAVIS PHILHARMONIC
Sonic Trout
Tarnation and Alastair Sim
48-song CD
I’m thinking life’s too short to listen to shitty music by artsy poseurs, hedonistic-slash-politically-aware “heavy” rockers, ham-fisted indie wankers, retro panderers, or brain-dead goofs in psychedelic clown suits. So I’d still much rather listen to “Surfin Bird” (or, for that matter, “Eje Ka Jo”) than, um, “Stairway to Heaven.”
Good news for those who agree: “Wireless” has finally made it onto a studio album, as track six. Tune-wise, it’s this timeless and gladsome and nearly indescribably life-affirming hoodoo spell, with a free-jazz horn section from Valhalla and drums that swat out at you like King Kong’s paw, and all seemingly custom-designed to leach all the endorphins out from where they’ve been building up since God was a pup. Plus, brilliant lyrics:
Everything everywhere is faster and lighter and smoother and brighter and better than it’s ever been before/ Everything everywhere is longer and leaner and stronger and meaner and bigger than it ever was way back when/ When it was small and kind and weak and fat and short and worse and dull and rough and dark and slow/ Like back in the old days/ Jesus Christ, say what you will, at least we got cable now…. We’re wireless.
Okay, there are 48 tracks here, and if we winnow out the mere tomfoolery, and there’s plenty of it, we’re left with about a half-dozen truly upstanding songs, like the ready-made wedding reception number, “It’s Almost Christmas Again,” and the jaunty “Money Won’t Buy You Happiness,” and the ecstatic, horn-slathered instrumental “Jesus Teaches Lloyd Price About Remote Controls,” and the friendly old-timey pop hokum of “Must Be Love.” But “Wireless” is literally one of the greatest songs of Travis’s career: Robert Wyatt circa Rock Bottom meets “Oliver’s Army.” For the love of all that’s holy and wise, don’t miss it. (Francis DiMenno)

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BIRD MANCINI
Funny Day
13-song CD
What Funny Day isn’t: punk, garage, or metal of any kind. What Funny Day is: ’60s pop, blues, and rock with a whole lot of other things thrown in there—did I hear some loungy bossa nova? This CD is a veritable goulash of musical ingredients mixed in just the right proportions—two cups of outstanding vocals, six or seven cups of amazing musicianship, a few tablespoons of electric guitar, bass, and drums, a dash of accordion, and a pinch of glockenspiel, piano, tambourine—that the ratio of ingredients creates a brand new dish. Every song is superb but here’s what stands out in my mind at the moment: “Holly”—lush layered vocals reminiscent of ’60s vocal groups (a recurring sound throughout the CD). “So Cool”—Lucinda Williams with less twang and even more grit. “Red Geraniums”—Annie Lennox meets Tom Waits. I hope Bird Mancini keeps the recipe for this concoction; I want many more servings of this stuff. (Robin Umbley)

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THE LIZ BORDEN BAND
Beverly Raven Records
Beautifu
15-songs
For those of you unfamiliar with Lizzie Borden & the Axes (the predecessor of The Liz Borden band), well, they were a pretty happening band in the eighties in these here parts. I’m not sure if I ever saw the band, (too many bands, too few neurons left) but I do recall a big graffiti of their name just outside of Kenmore Square back in the day. If you’re expecting some flashback punk from this band you won’t get it. Instead you’ll get some straightforward bluesy pop/hard rock that probably sounds extra good with a little whiskey, moonlight and beer to go along with it. And their cover of Ten Years After’s “Change The World” is a nice surprise. Actually, most music in this genre seems dull and contrived to my ears but these cats have good tunes that rock—nothing wrong with that. (Slimedog)

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POLYETHYLENE
Optimistic Records
9-song CD
What Goes On Inside Housse
When a band names influences that you’ve never heard, that can be either a good or a bad sign, and in this case, it’s great. Sure, I could throw down a few, but they’d probably be wrong. Polyethylene is a wife/husband pair (Elene Proaka Ellis gets my billing over hubby Neal Ellis simply because her vocals stamp this disc so firmly into my mind’s ear), aided by a drummer and, fetchingly, some folks who occasionally play flute, violin, cello and trombone. If you get the idea that there are some atmospherics going on here, you’re right—this disc works best on a drizzly, unseasonably cold day in June—but there are some other songs that drive right along on a guitar-shaped chassis. Things never get too emo, but they do get plenty melancholy at times, and even a little goth, but only in that sort of “wearing Victorian clothing and playing cello by moonlight” kind of way. This is, in a word, original, and as such, is well worth your time. (Tim Emswiler)

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ERICH GROAT
Found Missing: Volume One 1997-2000
12-song CD
About half of these songs are Baby Ray demos: out-takes to die for—literally, you might think, after listening to the claustrophobic opener “Psychosomatic” and the spooky dissonance of the droning followup, “Drugs Like Me.” But the uncanny and anthemic “Good Kid Nothing,” is a brilliant example of Groat’s unashamed knack for compulsively bending harsh oddness into repetitive and strangely comforting and familiar shapes. Similarly, “Sad Eyed Girl” has a compellingly ominous and almost hypnotic riff underscoring a double-tracked series of vocally suggestive pronunciatos.
In contrast to these, a song like the beautifully lyric “Cross the Table,” with its ostinado-pulsing guitar, seems to float just over the canon of Western music like a helium balloon. The instrumental “69” is telepathic and vital in its impetus, yet lilting and circumambulatory as well. Similarly, the melodic, solo acoustic piece, “What Fred Said,” while stark, is sinuous and insinuating in its sonic impetus. “Treehouse Rock” is a light, acoustic piece with a haunting refrain that resolves into a nearly shamanic combination of electric guitar and incantation. Best of these is the lyrically and melodically brilliant four-piece “Nuclear Explosion,” a luminously tuneful number with a cleverly self-deconstructing coda.
In between the extremes of light and darkness are songs like the astonishing “Little Animal;” this chopped and channeled and backwards-masked Baby Ray amalgam is oddly resonant, and the coda is brilliant. “Come for Dinner,” is taut and tense and resolves into an ecstatic and grandiose climax that’s chilling and brutal. The high point of the album is the nearly inhuman, intensely pentatonic first minute of the penultimate track, “Lonely When I Do,” which, next, lyrically soars for another twenty seconds then grinds its gears into a heavy-bottomed verse, chorus and extended coda.
This collection of lost-and-now-recovered classics is a phenomenally good album from start to finish. Fans of Baby Ray in particular can’t possibly afford to be without it. (Francis DiMenno)

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STEPLADDER
98 Centre Street Lab
Nice Guys Finish
13-song CD
This is the type of guitar -and-keys driven power pop that you’d expect from an album recorded partially at Q Division and featuring guest appearances from the likes of Kay Hanley and Jed Parish. While the disc has its moments, it mostly comes across as a lesser version of Señor Happy or the Gigolo Aunts. The songs are catchy, but not quite catchy enough, with the Kay Hanley-infused “Stubborn in Spanish” being the only real standout amidst tracks that tend to blend together. For the most part, Stepladder is too content to stay in the middle of the road and things really grind to a halt on the slower numbers like “Long Overdue,” which goes down way too easily. This isn’t a bad record by any means, but I’ve got a whole stack of them at home that go down a similar path only more successfully. (Kevin Finn)

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THE FAMILY JEWELS
Hi-N-Dry
Rockin’ Strong
12 songs
On their second LP, The Family Jewels pay tribute to the 1950s R& B, rockabilly, and doo-wop artists. Though nearly letter-perfect, there are some shortcomings to their approach. The vocal arrangement of “You’re So Fine” seems both sluggish and rather broadly interpreted. Furthermore, since it would make little sense to mimic primitive production techniques, the covers of “Ling Tong Tong,” by Otis Williams and His Charms, and of “Gee,” by The Crows, both lack the sublimely antique nuance of the originals—mainly because the ensemble vocals are clean and up-front and Kevin Shurtleff’s drumming is crisp and pronounced. But many of these classic tunes are more than sturdy enough to benefit from modern touches and even some judicious rearrangements. On “Oh Golly Oh Gee,” Steve Sadler is particularly ingenious in the way he amps the steel guitar ala Bob Dunn, and the resurrection of an obscure gem like “Blue Jeans and Ribbons” by The Spiders, a 1950s New Orleans doo-wop group, is a genuine treat, one which also sheds light on the possible origins of “Speedo.” On the whole, we should all be glad that fine folks like Fred Griffeth, Asa Brebner, and Fred Mazzone are up to the challenge of keeping this particularly rich and resonant strain of proto-rock alive. (Francis DiMenno)

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AUTO INTERIORS


Ryko
Let’s Agree to Deceive Our Best Friends
11-song CD
There’s a problem in the world of rock criticism–a problem of which, I am well aware, I contribute with damn near all of my reviews. That’s the game of “spot the influence,” which is too often an excuse for showing off one’s knowledge of obscure bands. The whole situation is made worse when bands drop so many names themselves that they may as well just include a list of their record collections. “We like to say we play record collector rock,” states a member of Auto Interiors, and, while that’s all well and good, it also leaves one (well, it leaves me) with the sense of… well, having sampled their record collections. All of which is to say that I don’t really have a lot to say about this. It’s poppy, it’s rocky, it’s well played and sung even better than well, and some of it sounds like you’ve heard it before, and some of it comes pretty close to sounding like you haven’t heard it before. In the end, it made me go sample my own record collection. (Tim Emswiler)

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THE SELF-RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS

Black and Greene Records
In Loving Memory Of…
12-song CD
The band’s gentle, even genial (and absolutely spot-on) spoofery of various genres is rather like something The Turtles might have done, assuming they had survived as a unit well into the 21st century. Their exemplary ensemble work enhances our ability to appreciate their compositions, not only as (mere) send-ups, but also as baroque exercises in excess and grotesquerie. There certainly ought to be a place of honor reserved for any band that is willing and able to travel this lonely road. Among the send-ups represented here are “heavy” rock bands of the early ’70s (“Floyd”), earnestly cheesy late ’70s power balladry (“Diana”), Kink-y Music Hall (“Tain’t Misbehazin’) and indie-era nouveaux-psychedelic folk-rock wankery—with horns, no less (“Alan Watts”). Why do they do it? I suppose because they can, and because it’s fun. Is the result worth it? Well, twelve songs by virtuosos at play—hell, even one song as good as the querulous steel-guitarfest “Sidecar Jesus”—are worth twelve dozen by any number of solemn asses without a clue. (Francis DiMenno)

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CWAF/NOOSEBOMB

Bestial Onslaught
7-song split CD
How can angst, anger, and rage be captured so brilliantly on tape? This Noosebomb/ CWAF split is packed with energy and balls and is by far one of the best CD’s I have reviewed this year. CWAF is American made grind/sludge that combines thick, heavy riffs with a powerful driving rhythm section topped off with authoritative vocals narrating fury and despair. They feature an all-star lineup—most notably John Gillis (drums) who played with local legends like Today is the Day and Anal Cunt. His performance once again proves that he may be one of the best metal drummers in New England. Noosebomb, who leans more towards sludge/thrash metal, also features a well known lineup with Jeff Hayward (Grief, Disrupt) on guitar, Randy Odierno (Disrupt) on bass and Mike Butkiewicz (Bane of Existence) on drums. This confirms that any band with Hayward and his suburban critique channeled though enraged vocals is bound to make an impression. The final track, “What is the World Coming To,” is a doom- inspired masterpiece, which is just a small example of the tremendous power of Noosebomb. (Leonid)

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MEDINA SOD

Brandt Can’t Watch Music
Trace Back the Lines 10-song CD
If you compare yourself to Phish, then bring the uber-wanky chops and the time signatures that only over-trained musicologists will appreciate, and stomp the idea of “groove” into the dirt. And if you’re gonna mention Zappa, you’d better be able to elevate oddball freakiness to high art. Medina Sod mentions both, but holds a candle to neither (which may be a good thing in the former case, in this Phish-unfriendly universe). Okay, they can play the heck out of their instruments, although that’s a mite far from playing the living shit out of them. They can throw down a jam that doesn’t get (too) boring, and that’s no mean feat. I can hear a little Queen in the operatic, bombastic elements that crop up from time to time, but dammit, when I think “prog,” I think of Yes, old Genesis, King Crimson– hell, I’ll even concede, to my own consternation, Dream Theater. But rather wacky songs played rather well is a far cry from being a subgenre unto itself, and I think it’s best if we keep it that way. (Tim Emswiler)

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ROUTE .44

Blue Radio Records
Worthless Lessons
12-song CD
Like a thick muddy snapping turtle out of a Breakheart swamp, Route .44 lets us in on experiencing the thick, lowdown sludgy wonder and glory that IS one of the defining sounds of the New England area. Upon hearing the first track, I ran to grab the album cover to make sure I wasn’t hearing an unreleased song by Mark Sandman and Morphine. That’s a compliment, as Morphine was one of the most interesting and enjoyable bands to come from around this area. Fat sax layers the tracks (sounds like a rhyme to me), along with a bit more guitar orchestration than the ’Phine would have done, but man o man, it grooves, rocks, and has a constant minor tonality burning through the whole thing that satisfies this listener. This is really a great sounding band, and at eight pieces of personnel, generates a big sound. Want more? Listen to the CD! (Mike Loce)

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PARADE
Out Of The Funbox
13-song CD
This CD is a hard to review. I like it, but who am I? Self-assessment gets menial when confronted by good music. Imagine burning through your workday in a not-so-bad-somewhat-okay mood, and you take the T to work. You’re on two Red Bulls (the 12 ounces) and the hustle-bustle of the station has you pepped up for once, not depressed. The female vocals with harmonization plunge through your ears as you miss the train to Park Street. I hear parade down the windy hallway annals of Tremont. The production is tight but loose, like my T pass in my wallet. I’m trying to describe the “places” this melodic, well-crafted, alternative music put me, you see. I can only write what I know. And I choose to describe locations rather than compare Parade to other bands. So fuck you. They’re really fine. Can you lend me a buck so I can get a coffee at Dunks? I’m so cold. (Mike Loce)

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STAND UP GET DOWN

Topshelf Records
We Have Something To Celebrate
10-song CD
When El Paso post-punk renegades At the Drive In broke up much to the chagrin of its loyal constituency (myself included) in 2000, they left an endless trail of hapless impersonators in their wake. Each tried to capture the band’s frenetically fearless and manic style, most falling well short of the bar, including the band’s two offshoot projects, the Mars Volta and Sparta. And while Boston maybe miles away from Texas, local four-piece Stand Up Get Down seems to be well aligned with their influential ancestry. On We Have Something To Celebrate, the band shifts and moves like a bunch of rabid Fugazi fans on speed, dishing up ten tracks of technically solid and challenging art punk that’s sure to keep listeners on their toes. The music moves from loud to soft and slow to quick, sometimes in a matter of seconds, and while it can be something of a challenging listen to the uninitiated, the feverish energy of the music gives credence to the concept of getting high on music. (Ryan Bray)

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DESOLATION BELLS

Sonic Bubblegum Records
What Is Your Trajectory?
11-song CD
The press release name-drops a fistful of bands, and I’ll be damned if I’ve heard half of them, but that just means it’s a crappy press release. The album is fine, even if it confirms my growing suspicion that stylistic continuity from the start of an album to the finish is going the way of the dinosaur. Opener “Butterflies” is a feel-good track that makes my head do hippy-dippy things, but then “Love is a Fire” sounds like it would be right at home on a Chris D/Divine Horsemen disc. Then there’s more poppy goodness, then a punchy rave-up with some sharp guitar hooks, a Brit-pop inflected song, a slightly funkified rocker, and a mopey closer. The contributions of the female vocalists set this way apart from the pack (and the band’s overall oddness renders it a pretty small pack in the first place). The musicianship is pretty no-frills, but the emotive content is all over the place, so those of us with multiple personalities will always find something to dig. (Tim Emswiler)

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VARIOUS ARTISTS
Compound 440R
Local Collections 2007
14-song CD compilation
I love the idea of this CD. Take one track each from fourteen artists who practice at the same space and release a compilation. The execution of this idea, though, I’m not so crazy about. I incorrectly assumed (and I admit it was probably a bad assumption) that there would be a whole array of styles and genres, but the majority of the tracks have an electronic leaning, which to my admittedly more guitar-loving ears grows extremely monotonous. The worst offenders are UV Protection, whose contribution sounds like an outtake from a video game score and The Westward Trail, whose track sounds like a very slow torture session. There are some highlights, though. Cassette’s brief “Stay Close to Home” is what The Smiths would have sounded like had laptops been prevalent in the ’80s and Crystal Understanding’s “White Teacher” manages to remind me of both The Magnetic Fields and Mates of State. And I must say that the disc ends fantastically with Hilken Mancini’s very non-electro Shepherdess doing “Green Seat,” a number whose choppy, rhythmic guitars and occasionally shouted vocals recall Mary Timony’s best post-Helium work. The CD is worth picking up for that song alone. (Kevin Finn)

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HIRUDINEA/WATCHMAKER


Bestial Onslaught
11-song split CD
Bestial Onslaught’s Watchmaker/Hirudinea split is black metal/thrash at its finest. The CD contains so much power it’s like they absorbed all the energy from the sun and fed it to their monstrous approach to music. The low-fi recording quality only adds to the appeal. There are hints of Slayer, The Accused, Black Flag, Napalm Death, and Today is the Day but with an original twist. Regarding Hirudinea, I am most impressed by the drumming and vocal dynamic that get my adrenaline rushing thus making me vigorously angry yet peacefully subdued. Watchmaker epitomizes black metal with their use of heavily-distorted guitars, fast-paced rhythms and gnarling vocals. Combined, both bands inspire me to jump onto a sea of fury, strong enough for me to float above until I fall to the ground and get trampled to death. Later my soul will be burned to ashes and blown to dust. There is not much to critique nor praise about this CD—it’s just black metal with true passion. (Leonid)

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SINKING SPELLS


Cedar House Sound
The Devil at my Side
7-song CD
Try to remember where you were the day Joey told Dawson it was over and went and cried all over Pacey (Dawson’s Creek). If you can’t remember back that far, picture Ryan finding Marissa dead on the side of the road (The O.C.). Try to remember what was playing in the backround. It’s safe to say, that you could easily replace that song with any given track from this standout composition by Sinking Spells (Neil, Phil, and Robb). This three-piece has stumbled upon the formula to bring the best of melancholia, dark themes, and assorted teenage angst into harmony with gleeful poppy chords and well placed upbeat tempos. It’s beautiful and catchy and sure to have wide appeal.
If you have never seen one of these “soundtrack shows” and have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, try to imagine All in The Family sneaking a future hit song into every episode. Just imagine Archie running up the stairs to use the terlit, while Band of Horses’ “Funeral” plays softly in the backround. Or maybe, Edith staring off into space as Leonard Cohen’s “Halelujah” indicates to the veiwer another poigniant moment.
Anyway, this record is a nice piece of work. I like it. (Paisley Simone)

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LIGHTS
Get Lit
9-song CD
I really don’t know quite what to make of this record, and that actually makes me quite happy. The album cover is a cheery light blue with a little kid and some flowers, so I was expecting something kind of mellow and pretty. Nope. For the most part, this is loud, noisy, expansive rock with the vocals frequently obscured by various effects, best exemplified on the album’s strongest number, “Big Bad Little One.” A full album of this approach would probably get old. Fortunately, though, Lights does allow a melodic sensibility to puncture through all the noise, and there are a couple trippy, mellower instrumentals that serve as effective changes of pace, most notably “You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat.” It will be interesting to see what these guys cook up next. (Kevin Finn)

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EASTER BLOODHOUNDS
14-song CD
I’ve tried listening to this disc about ten times now, and can’t get beyond the first three songs due to the mix… and the vocalist—what you can hear of him. At times there seems to be some great instrumental stuff going on, and perhaps it is this band’s calling to be without a vocalist. For the most part, this three-piece is very heavy and conjures some great dirgy metal sounds. It’s not until the eighth track (“Night Terrors”) that there is any semblance of dynamics. Track nine (“Light Years”) is brilliant, and almost makes up for the last twenty minutes of my life that I can’t have back. The mixes seem to improve later in the disc, but still have an overly bombastic musical assault with poorly mixed vocals. If I’ve understood six words on this disc, I’m lucky. There are several tracks that show a lot of promise, but the production completely ruins any thought of this disc being somewhat enjoyable or intriguing to listen to. (John Hess)

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FAMILY JUNCTION


FamJam Records
Running Trains (we’re huge in Japan)
13-song CD + extras
Family Junction’s Running Trains (we’re huge in Japan) is a self-produced album that includes 13 great original tunes plus a bonus DVD that features two versions of their homemade movie, shorts, deleted scenes and commentary tracks. I am impressed by the overall packaging and the idea of including a DVD. This multi-instrumentalist (they all switch) quintet incorporate various styles of music such as progressive, funk, jazz, rock, folk and hip hop and utilize them flawlessly in their approach to songwriting. There are some great jazzy guitar arrangements complimented with smooth rhymes flowing on top. Family Junction remind me of Phish during the upslope of their success; before their egos and drug addictions forced them to write goofy songs while continuously breaking up and reforming until the diehard Trey fans finally realized that he does not have the ‘Midas Touch.’ Family Junction has evolved past the jam-band scene, creating a new genre for their fans to absorb. If you like Umhpries Mcgee and hip-hop (backed by a live band) then you will enjoy Family Junction. (Leonid)

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MUSEUM OF SCIENCE
CTRL+ALT+DLT
16-song CD
Yo, Zortar here, and we are here at the Museum of Science to witness strange exhibits. Since everyone knows the best rap comes from the wilds of New Hampshire it should be no surprise that this New Hampster, band gets mad props from my white cracker-ass alien lips. But this is not mere rap, no, dear earthlings. The music encompasses progressive rock (in the drumming), metalish guitar, experimental electro, surreal humor, all put in a blender, pureed and poured in little margarita glasses with umbrellas for you to sip and savor. Yum! And served on a bed of Spanish rice (with your choice of vegetable.) This band is cooler than ice cream stuffed down your shorts on a hot summer day. If one is intrigued by rap but put off by its commerciality and don’t want to leave your rock roots completely behind, then pony up, I say, and be a Granite State gangsta, live free or die! (Slimedog)

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KURT REIFLER

Red Glare Records
Kurt Reifler
10-song CD
The hills are alive—with the sound of Kurt Reifler’s self titled debut and something about it, bothers me. I mean, it’s everything it claims to be: raw, passionate, and unapologetic. Still, something nags at me to DEMAND an apology. I just can’t put my finger on what that is. Maybe it’s me. I keep waiting for a breakthrough, which never materializes.
It’s not bad. It has all the right things in all the right places, thanks in large part to Reifler’s full band (unfortunately, never mentioned by name anywhere in the bio or on the disc). Bummer, because there’s some really great stuff going on in the backround. It’s a truly rugged little package with suprisingly meaty tracks and catchy refrains (you break it, you buy it, you own it). In the words of “cowbell legend” Bruce Dickenson, “You guys… have… what appears to be… a dynamite sound.” It just grates after a while. (Paisley Simone)

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ELECTRIC LASER PEOPLE
Straight Talk on Raising Kids
13-song CD
These MIT graduates know how to do more than just build robots and design prosthetic limbs; they can also arrange and produce music to par with Warner Bros. Studying engineering and scientific theory not only results in lucrative careers but in this case it helped produce artistic conceptualizations. Straight Talk on Raising Kids, recorded and produced by the band, is an extension of their brilliantly trained minds, now motivated to produce melody and rhyme. Electric Laser People is a party band to say the least. Their sound blends the hip hop stylings of The Beastie Boys with the production and song writing abilities of The Flaming Lips and The Police. They also have a sense of humor that stands out most with “The Makeout Song” and “Words Couldn’t Do Justice” (which is a short bootleg). The CD starts off and finishes strong with some minor snags in between. It contains a plethora of styles ranging from hip hop to bluegrass to country to blues. This is for fans of early Beck and Talking Heads. (Leonid)

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THE REV TOR BAND

Mystic Wolf
12-song CD
Great. Mystic Wolf—a CD with a picture of a wolf howling in the sunset on the cover. Just what I want to listen to: another crappy quasi-spiritual band from Vermont. Whatever. I gotta review it. Okay—prepare mind to endure a whole CD of embarrassingly earnest “musicians” who can’t play. Pop CD in car stereo. Here goes. First few bars play. Hey! This isn’t crappy; this is really good! It sounds sort of like Little Feat, with elements of funk, blues, soul, rock, jazz, and whatever you call it, it has a fantastic happy groove going throughout. “Let Me Down” has upbeat, fun piano and guitar solos; “Believe” is bluesy and oh-so-smooth. “Be Nice or Leave” has a basic rock ’n’ roll structure with some soulful organ—and a guest performance from Jaimo, the Allman Brothers’ drummer. This stuff is way too intelligent and structured for the jam label it’s been lumped in with; it’s jam when jam meant jamboree. And they’re not from Vermont; they’re from Massachusetts. (Robin Umbley)

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MEDICATED KISSES
Medicated Kisses
3-song CD
Medicated Kisses is a powerhouse of rock talent. Frontwoman Alanna V has an incredible vocal range as well as a potent emotional presence and the band is tighter than a kindergartener’s vagina (not that I would really know about such things). Unfortunately, the band sells itself short by creating music that evokes comparisons with Christina Aguilera—A comparison that could easily put a date stamp on a band that should be looking toward the future, setting their own trends, instead of trying to follow one littered with corpses of failed disciples and American Idol wannabes. Their instantly commercial sounding hard driving sound will get them on the radio, but the potential for creative originality, hinted at in moments within each of these three songs and certainly exhibited in their live shows, should, by all rights, propel them to greatness. (Joel Simches)

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MICHAEL BLOOM
Man Behind the Curtain
5-song CD
The highest compliment I can give to a song is when my reaction to it is to write out all the lyrics, pick up a guitar, learn the chords, and perform it. “Man Behind the Curtain” is a whopping smack in the face topical critique of the man who sits behind the desk in the oval office. Here are the opening lines: “Says he’s a cowboy with those cattle rustling skills he learned at Yale/ Says he’s a businessman but he never ran a firm that didn’t fail.” Michael Bloom has a booming voice that blasts out from behind an acoustic guitar. His words are sharp. His music is educated. He balances his playful and serious sides by ending the disc with an art rock version of the title track. (T Max)

 

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BRIAN KELLEY & SOCIAL LUBRICATION
LSK Records
War Stories
6-song CD
With Inspiration from Kelley’s grandfather’s experience in Iwo Jima as a Marine during WWII, Brian Kelley’s trio produces a dark mournful collection of pieces destined to become the soundtrack to the black and white newsreel memories of the last great war. War Stories carves a path that is far away from traditional jazz, but has more genuine emotion and soul than anything contemporary experimental jazz has attempted in quite some time. While there is still very loose structure to the melodic ideas, these pieces seem to paint more of a stark and accurate portrait of actual events than just a freeform ambiguous feeling open to interpretation. Ken Burns should give these guys a call next time the History Channel does a World War II documentary. (Joel Simches)

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CRYOSTASIUM
Bestial Onslaught
Cryostasium
5-song CD
This is either brilliant or a waste of time, depending on your mindset. Recorded on a broken four-track by Strip Cunt, each piece is a tormented journey into the diseased mind of a twisted, tortured soul. Guitar drones, recorded at various speeds are interspersed with wails, grinds, stifled screams and the occasional distorted drum machine pulse. This meandering mélange of malaise is split into three main sections, each evoking images of claustrophobic entrapment, mental anguish, and futile struggle. If Happy Flowers were more like Happy the Clown, it would sound a lot like this. I don’t recommend listening to this on mushrooms, or maybe I do. (Joel Simches)

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JIMI HALFDEAD & THE DIE ALONGS
Down Came The Rain…
6-song CD
Slimedog’s cat, here. The guy who lives downstairs, Johnny Shortpantz, brought this upstairs for a review. He’s not in the band but works with one of the guys who’s in the band but I won’t hold it against the band for consorting with such disreputable company. Slimedog fell off his chair, drunk again, so I slipped the CD in myself while he just drooled on the floor. The first song is a curious little number with a slow descending synth line and Martian vocals spilled in but after that it’s a rocking, guitar based sound throughout. Mr. Shortpantz thought it was punk but I think though energetic and rough this falls in with the gore-horror rockabilly garage style and they do it admirably. They would sound good on a bill with Providence’s The Goners, I believe. My favorite tune is “Call of the Spider,” just wish I could find one to play with right now. (Slimedog)

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ANCIENT PISTOL
White Sands Memories: A Nuclear Landscape
5-song CD
Mike Feeney has a guitar, some looping effects, and a lot of time to kill in an afternoon. As sole member of Ancient Pistol, he takes inspiration from what he rather pompously calls “Musicians That Matter,” a roster of influentials such as Laibach, Roger Miller, Fripp, Eno…the usual suspects. His soundscapes are made on the fly and recorded live, much like many artists around here whose work I’ve come to respect. While the textures are inventive, the quality of the recording is pretty lo-fi, which robs these pieces of the cinematic texture they cry out for and the ideas seem to develop at a glacial pace and seem masturbatory at times. It would be nice to hear such inspired work better recorded and more refined. (Joel Simches)

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If your band is based in New England, and you’ve got a CD that you’d like us to review, send it to:
The Noise/T Max, 74 Jamaica Street #2, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130


 

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