SILVER CIRCLE REVIEWS: June 2008

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DAVE ARONOFF & THE PROTAGONISTS
Topless Records
Dead Bird for Dinner
10-song CD
Nice. A ten song, live-in-studio, pure product of America. “Dead to Me” sets the tone; it’s a mock-indignant kiss-off-cum-travelogue. This is followed by a winsome ballad (“In the Dark”), a jealous lament (“Brand New Heartache”), and a spaghetti-Western rhumba with zombies! “(It Feels Like a) Good Day to Die.” The pace is slowed with the spooky lament “Nothing At All” with mordant vocals by Fran Betylon and a scorching violin part by Meredith Cooper. On top of all these delightful genre workouts, there are further songs here that are so clever that it makes one wonder why this artist isn’t better-known; I need only to point to the dreamy sing-song “The Man Who Wasn’t There;” the goofy hokum romp “Naked Again,” and the final tune, a grand old don’t-give-a-damn chantey, “Going Under,” replete with tumbril drums and steel guitar. Quality stuff. (Francis DiMenno)


WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE
Underdogma
Kiss the Ground, Curse the Sky
10-song CD
After hearing their last (first?) disc, it’s no surprise at all that We’re All Gonna Die brings the riff-heavy rock on their latest release. What some folks might find surprising is the increased sense of melody on this one, heightened by a handful of “softer” songs that will stick in your cranium like super glue. The addition of Jase from the band Lamont is audible and welcomed. For my money, “Whiskey War” is the standout track here–it’s got a blistering guitar solo, and what the hell, has there even been a bad song about whiskey? No. But to have this song followed up by closing track “On the Sea,” which features lyrics like “On the sea of pain, as open as I can be, won’t you be my God, won’t you help me see,” one can’t avoid thinking that a personal tale might be being told here. This town holds a solid share in the heavy music market, and this band shows why. For fans of Bury the Needle, Cortez, you get the picture. (Tim Emswiler)


27
Undergroove Records
October Knows
2-song 7-inch vinyl
There’s nothing like getting a 7-inch that has more standout songs on it than most full-lengths. The title track builds ominously with a low end powered by Dana Colley’s baritone sax before being overridden by some dreamy female vocals. The effect is hypnotic and arresting. This song is a textbook example of how to build and release tension. There’s a ton happening here, yet the band never loses focus of the song. The B-side, “Another Hand,” is much poppier, which adds a nice sense of balance. It’s still weird, though, particularly, the way the layered vocals don’t quite match up in time with each other. This definitely makes me want to check out more of their music. (Kevin Finn)


THE RATIONALES
The Going and the Gone
6-song CD
This may be off-subject, but I’d like to know why bands in their promo kits always tell us what (bigger) bands they opened for. Sympathetic magic? Suggested affinity without flat-out stating same? Anyhow, these guys need to cling to no coattails: though the first track is pretty standard post-Smashing Pumpkins indie radio fodder, and track two has this snarky Elvis Costello vibe, though, admittedly, larded with poppy affect, the joyously jouncy third track, “Far Away” is a winner: it kinda reminds me of “Care of Cell 44” by the Zombies (and its source, “98.6” by Keith). The followup, a more ambitious number called “On the Vine” is gorgeously melodic but overlong. “Cliché” seems like another song that could use a more pointed rationale other than an exercise in soulful faux-ecstasy-rock. “Ruby Colored Halo” is the most striking song on here, lyrically and emotively: a spare, folksy number sweetened with steel guitar, it packs the sort of emotional punch the other songs seem to avoid altogether. This is a band of newer vintage, but one to watch. (Francis DiMenno)


ELECTRIC SUGAR
The Treatment Phase One
5-song CD
This is a fresh blend of classic ’70s glam and riff rock, with some tight harmonies and delicious studio ear candy. Immediately glam and pop bands like Sweet, Matthew Sweet, early Aerosmith, and Led Zeppelin mix effortlessly with the modern sensibilities of the Raconteurs, the Darkness. The rhythm section packs a mighty punch and all of the tunes are instant classic with great hooks and melodies, not to mention loads of great guitar solos. This infectious collection of songs will make you hit repeat until your batteries drain. (Joel Simches)


GUV
Cannibals, Cones, Adultery and Sunshine
13-song CD
Let’s cut to the chase, here. This is about a dozen or so, give or take, of some of the most finely crafted pop songs heard on any CD in quite sometime. Guv’s influences could not be more on their collective sleeves. Obviously the band are students and connoisseurs of the Lennon and McCartney song book, but spice it up with flashes of Radiohead and Muse, who at one time were actually the same band wearing different shoes and swapping shirts. The musicianship is simultaneously tightly honed with moments of melodic, spacey improvisation that will make your hairs stand on end and your brain squeal with ecstasy. There are flourishes of real string players peppered through this production and loads of wiggly guitar effects for your head. Delving deeper into the album reveals more introspection and loads of interesting instrumental ideas. My advice: come for the pop, stay for the ride. Very nice! (Joel Simches)


ALOUD
Lemon Merchant Records
Fan the Fury
13-song CD
This is a band with a very fitting name, as there is nothing timid about this record at all. These guys and gal are not afraid of ambition; even if they fall a little short of their goals at times, the effort is admirable. Everything here is big: big choruses, big vocals, big guitars. The band’s supporters generally focus on Jen de la Osa and Henry Beguiristain’s vocals, but it’s their shimmering guitar work that gives their voices a platform from which to explode. Drummer Ross Lohr is no slouch either, whether he’s propelling the pop beat of “You Got Me Wrong” or providing the hook to “Hard Up in the 2000s.” I’m particularly impressed with how easily differentiable the songs are from each other, and I love the flow of the album; the band changes pace, but they never let up. The only drawbacks are that the lyrics fall a little flat when they get overtly political, and at times I wish Jen would take a less-is-more approach with her voice. Still, this is a considerable step up over most of what passes through my hands. (Kevin Finn)


CHEECH
Dank Records
Ante Up
17-song CD
After opening the disc with the melodic strains of what turns out to be a snip from a martial arts movie, Cheech gets down to what they’re really all about, which is simply old-school thrash. Yeah, I could namedrop a million bands, like all crummy reviewers, but if you don’t understand “old-school thrash,” what’s the point? Make no mistake, these guys throw it down, and Ante Up brings back a lot of excellent memories, but the fact remains that my thrashing days are pretty much over. Can’t slag the band for that, but it does seem to me that these boys are in a bit of a time-warp, albeit one that they make seem like home. Special mention has to be made of the drumming, which is technical as hell and tighter than a really tight thing. In the end, though, my favorite things about this album are the soundbites between songs. If you still rock like this, this is the real shit. If you don’t–well, some of us get older, don’t we? (Tim Emswiler)


VARIOUS ARTISTS
Heavy Rotation Records
Dorm Sessions Vol. 5
20-song CD
Here’s another amazing assemblage of music talent and production from your favorite college, Berklee. I tend to take more judgmental potshots at Berklee than I ought to (since I‘ve worked/ played with their students as well as faculty members), but this collection of music is great, really diverse. It ranges from electronica, hip-hop, modern R&B, soul, barrelhouse alt-rock… whew… world beat funk, and moody female country-twang. Let’s not forget the gangsta rap, depressing choirboy church rock and mystical exotic dance to complete the vibe. Heavy Rotation is a student-run record label, and apparently either needs a Noise review or is looking forward to laughing at it. The artists on this, who are indeed talented, include Altered Tensions, the Peasantry, Turkuaz, Kevin Ross, Annie Lynch & the Beekeepers, Christopher Barnes, Black Tea, With Engines, Rebel & the Truth, and Honest Thomas. Onward goes the result of Berklee. I hope all these bands know that their music is a calling card for the college. (Mike Loce)


THE MOLENES
Songs of Redemption and Discourse
12-song CD
She opens with a tidy instrumental called “Redemption” then right into the honky-tonk of “There’s a Sufferin” WoooHaaaa! I didn’t realize that Boston was the new Nashville. “Deeze guyz” are throwing down some chicken pickin’ voodoo. Songs of Redemption and Discourse is an old-school yet freshly baked Americana pie. Out of the ashes of Johnny Cash rises vocalist Dave Hunters mournful voice, although I liken his sound more to Tom Petty. There are plenty of chillin’ choo choo train snare drum and harmonies to go around. Mr. Hunter’s prowess with stringed things deserves mention as well. This CD is so cool I gotta wear shades. I’m only on song five—“Charlotte Lights” and I feel like chasing a fair haired woman through a wheat field (although, I get that feeling a lot). The name, the Molenes, the CD cover (a weathered barn door), and the music all fall nicely in line. Wassat?! The Blues Brothers?! Nope! It’s the “Pain Express” coming to Boston—May 31 to be exact. (Lance Woodward)


GOD AND COUNTRY
Molloch
8-song CD
Hi, this is the bluebird who hops about outside Slimedog’s apartment. It is great being a bird, you get to fly from here to there, but you know all that, “Freebird” being your national anthem. I guess you might find it mighty strange a bird doing a review but I’m not really, it’s just Slimedog thinks that I’m writing it, that is all.
This CD contains very atmospheric moments and then very dramatic ones, like when a cat leaps out from under a bush and you take flight into the air! From the liner notes I gather these guys were a hardcore/metal band that decided to go more melodic/psychedelic. The vocals (very well sung but alas, not like a bird) have that angst in them recalling someone like Tool. Well produced, well played, but not too engaging I’m afraid. But what the hey, I live in a tree anyways? I do like the cover that appears to be Jerry Garcia holding a butterfly. Tootles-ooh, I’ve got to fly. (Slimedog)


UNCLE LEFTY
Damn Good Question
7-song CD
Flat out ball-to-the-wall rock ’n’ roll-flavored metal is what Uncle Lefty throws at you. This thick, nasty shit is what the best rock music would have stayed sounding like, had grunge not swept the nation in the early ’90s. It’s got a great heavy mix of distorted guitars, solid drums, and just the right amount of “hop” or groove in the songs. The groove is what keeps it from getting boring and makes it more of a head-banging ordeal. It’s hard to pick a favorite—the songs are all wired together from and built using smart, ass kicking riffs. Sounds like a motherfuckin’ Les Paul or two. The band recorded the disc in Cambridge and consists of Angus Van Zant on guitar and vocals, Karl Lawson (a.k.a Slingblade) on lead guitar, Dave Barresi on drums, and Bill Jansen on bass. Do the right thing and hire Uncle Lefty… you won’t regret it. (Mike Loce)


PROMISED EDEN
Guilt
11-song CD
Sometimes I wonder why bands bother to spend money on putting out an album. I could have turned on the radio and heard the same cheesy rock music any day of the week, but Promised Eden apparently felt that their cheesy rock music was worth recording. The drums sound tacky, the vocals are annoyingly dramatic and yet flat at the same time, and the guitar riffs are boring and repetitive. This style of music isn’t so unbearable if the songs have some energy to them, but these songs, like “Let It Slide” and “Don’t Belong,” are like BU kids trying to cross Comm. Ave. while you’re trying to drive down it: they’re infuriatingly slow, and if only they could just go a little faster, you might not feel the urge to run them down. (Emsterly)


BEFORE LAZERS
Wizards
7-song CD
Greetings, Mrs. Zortar here. Ah, yes, I am the most knowledgeable sound reviewer of the galaxies! I am quite aware how Elvis is considered the “King of Rock’n’Roll.” “Pump It Up,” is a tremendous song. I’m a Spanish Space Alien inhabiting the shapely and delectable form of Mrs. Slimedog. I’m beyond illegal, I’m unimaginable!
This band is a duo that both emits vocally and manipulates bass guitar and drums, respectively. They fill in the audio spaces with fuzz on the bass but it still makes me wish for another instrument in there and not necessarily a guitar. That being said these humans have some pretty great tunes and play them with an energy and brashness missing from most of today’s rock music. They recall the heyday of early punk and new wave to me. Hopefully they will play outside your terrible planet so I may enjoy their live presentation one day. (Mrs. Slimedog)


BAYLIES BAND
Risibility and Discourse
9-song CD
Holy floating pigs! This baby open with a song called “Magnum Opus” that lights the gauges up at 16:31. YeeHaa! Way to laugh in the face of the corporate music machine. Hah! Aside from that, we have a gaggle of schooled musicians losing their freaking minds. This molten pile of fusion, odd time feels, and influences could easily blow the sub-woofer out of my chopped-down Honda Civic. Good lord, this CD should come with a frequency bandwidth warning! When I say fusion, I mean a fusion of jazz, rock, punk, country, techno, metal, and good old insanity. Maybe some circus music too. “Let’s Get Stabbed” reminds me of the dark recesses of Roger Water’s evil mind. Ohhhhh yeah, there is defiantly some British invasion going on here, but it is not the Beatles! I can even hear attitude of the Sex Pistols as Eric Baylies’ voice pierces through the pile of thermin and Moog synths. My only advice—change the band name to Magnum Opus. It would fit the music well. (Lance Woodward)


JOHN HAYDON
Phantom Heart
13-song CD
I don’t think I’ve heard this many lyrical clichés on one CD since White Snake’s Slide it In. Not to say that this is a bad thing or that John Haydon’s music shares anything in common with ’80s hair metal. I’m just saying that this talented song-writing fellow drops a few “familiar phases “ as he croons desperately along. His new release, Phantom Heart, is a nice romantic walk down acoustic guitar lane. He lives, he loves, and he employs many fine musicians such as drummer Mike Piehl on this collection of soft rocking’ gems. He rhymes quite a bit as well. Pete Weiss does a nice job mixing all 13 songs, which brings me to “Tendril Stem”—my fave. This sullen little gem gives me the urge to crank up some Chris Isaak and dance around the house naked. If my stoner-rock buddies only knew. Well! I’m off to chase down my ex-girlfriends on Facebook and I think Phantom Heart had something to do with it. (Lance Woodward)


CASH IN/CASH OUT
Acoustic Hardcore
13-song CD
Ah, yes, Mrs. Slimedog bringing her sharp, penetrating wit, her decisive in depth analysis and her finely manicured nails to the forefront of cutting edge music. And you guys with the cutting edge stuff, I want you to cut it off! Please, make more sensible music for us normal folks to enjoy, like Billy Joel. This CD is “livid beat poetry set to acoustic guitar for guttural melodies atop bone dry honesty.” Well, I guess that means no Billy Joel tunes for me! I say it’s a looney with an out of tune guitar strumming the same rhythm, rather briskly, for every song. Not singing much but yelling and talking. Slimedog says the emphatic vocals makes him think of the Girls, a great old Boston band but then the music makes him think of Harry Chapin so that cancels it out. (Hey, he better not be thinking about any girls or you’re in deep trouble, mister.) This record will not replace my Johnny Cash gospel record, no way. (Mrs. Slimedog)


THE PATHETICS
Angry Monkey Records
Didn’t Mean to Offend You
15-song CD
The Pathetics come across as a less mean Zippo Raid. If they were on a generic sitcom, these guys would be the good-hearted lugs. They play the type of music (fast, catchy, simple, straddling the dumb/clever line) that ostensibly owes a debt to the Ramones. The problem is that the Ramones were nine parts clever for every part dumb. The Pathetics’ ratio is more one-to-one. A sample of their song titles probably tells you all that you need to know: “Porno Picnic Basket,” “Cavity Search,” “I’m Not Going to AA.” While this is generally a hit-or-miss affair, the songs are played well, and they do stick in your head whether you want them too or not. There is one moment of brilliance with “Dude I Love Your Band,” which is a spot on depiction of the drunken, inarticulate fan who just thinks you’re the greatest thing ever. I just wish there were more of that. (Kevin Finn)


ACES ASHES
Brand New Matches
16-song CD
My response to this album is one word: blah. Listening to this album was such a chore. I could not keep my mind focused on it. It’s like all the bands on WBCN joined together and decided to release an elevator music album. The band just sounds like an amalgamation of every other alt-rock band; there’s nothing unique here, and it certainly doesn’t hold my attention. Some of the guitar lines are pretty sweet, but not enough to redeem such a boring collection of mediocre rock songs. It’s not that it’s bad… it’s just not good either. But maybe that’s what they are going for. This style has worked for every other mainstream rock band out there today, so maybe Aces Ashes will have some luck too. If they could bring the rest of their instruments and vocals up to the level of those guitar lines, they might have something decent here. (Emsterly)


GUNS OF NAVARONE
Guns of Navarone
5-song CD
The mighty Guns of Navarone blend old school ’60s ska and reggae with punk rock sensibilities. Not since the Allstonians has anyone tried to capture the true sound of old school ska, make it sound totally fresh with a new breath of life and NOT sound like the Bosstones. The band is tight and really seems to have a love for the genre but the intonation between the instruments is so horrible it makes my retinas sweat. I would hope someone buys them a tuner before going into the studio again. Despite some classic moments and great arrangements, the pitch and tonality of the saxophone and most of the vocals make this CD an extremely difficult listen. (Joel Simches)


TWO DEAD SLUTS ONE GOOD FUCK
Two Dead Sluts One Good Fuck
6-song CD
First, I must say how amused I am that when I play this CD on my iTunes, the genre listing comes up as children’s music. If your children happen to be the spawn of Jeffrey Dahmer or Charles Manson, this might be right up your tyke’s alley. This all- too-short six-song CD has some of the best noisescape recordings I’ve heard since I saw Lightning Bolt for the first time. While there isn’t a triple speed pounding drummer in this band, the sounds are just as in your face and the imagery as disturbing, if not more. This band has truly mastered noise. Never has murderous psychosis been so entertaining. Enjoy, and by all means, bring the family. (Joel Simches)


KILL CONRAD
32 Short Films About Nothing in Particular
5-song CD
Formed just a few short years ago, Kill Conrad has evolved into a tight pop/punk outfit, sure to please the old school fans of the Pistols, the Damned, the Jam, and the Clash, while keeping it fresh for disenfranchised teenagers everywhere. The energy level never diverts from its fever pitch. Each song has a fist-pumping message of fucking the man and kicking some serious ass. You have to be completely dead inside not to find something to enjoy about this EP. (Joel Simches)


FEAR NUTTIN BAND
Bodog Music
Fear Nuttin Band Limited Edition EP
4-song CD
This album is slick. Rarely has a collection of songs been released that has elements of metal, soul, classic rock, and reggae and rarely has such a mix been as joyously accessible as this. Take equal parts Eddy Grant, Seal, Living Colour and Fishbone, mash them into a La Machine with some cheap beer, some kind bud, buy them some brand new gear at Guitar Center, put them on the cover of Stuff at Night and book them at the Harpers’ Ferry, because this is exactly what this CD sounds like, and for once I mean that in a good way! I actually said that in my head in one breath, too. (Joel Simches)

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