SILVER CIRCLE REVIEWS: October 2008

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WEISSTRONAUTS
Sool Recordings/Dren Records
Instro-tainment 
14-song CD
Already Weisstronauts album number four has arrived. And once again these exemplars of great and wicked fun have burst upon the scene with their frolics and their gee-whiz chops and have taken the world by storm. Well—maybe not the world. But who ever said that this was the best of all possible worlds? Oh—Voltaire. But he was only funnin’. Anyway, in a better world, where whippersnappers don’t tear up my damn lawn, the Weisstronauts would be on the tongues of every lisping tot and slavering dotard. (Actually—eww.) However, and nevertheless, as always, Pete Weiss and his co-conspirators in Vermont and Massachusetts and, for all I know, Mars, have crafted an engaging and entertaining pastiche of instrumental styles and unleashed it upon a hopefully not wholly indifferent world. To thin-slice a bit, let’s just say that “Fisticuffs” riffs off of “Can’t Explain,” and “Banana Suit” sounds like the Byrds actually having fun for once. Plus, there’s “Pleasant Valley Sunday” performed ala Earl Scruggs fronting the Ventures. The album is eclectic, professional, and all those other synonyms for interesting, and I could go on and on in this vein, but hearing is believing.  So just buy it. Really. You’ll thank me. You will.    (Francis DiMenno)

MIDATLANTIC
The Longest Silence
10-song CD
Early ’80s is what I hear right away in the guitar textures. (I’m a guitar player; I listen for the guitar textures.) Sounds like the Edge has a son. I just noticed on the bio that the guitarist and songwriter of the band, Barry Kelly was born in Dublin. That was not an intentional Ireland comparison then, you sound like your influences. The group originally was called the Bleedin Bleedins, including singer Mike Coen and producer Dave Franz. Since Barry and the band enjoys Guinness as much as I do, they’re on my good side. That’s a pretty wide good side. (Never want Loce on your bad side… he may write a bad review about you.) The cohesion, within the previously stated U2-ish rock framework transcends the stylistic comparisons to chart waters in its own original zone. The vocal harmonies are great and at times remind me pleasantly of obscure alt-rock band Dada. Quite a talented group of buggers, these boys.    (Mike Loce)

TOP HEAVY
One Time, This Time
9-song CD
This is the second release for pop-rockers Top Heavy. The disc moves along well—the songs are well-written and performed with conviction. Standouts include “Bangin’ Camaro” and “Outta My Head.” Both have great hooks that stay in your head for days like a good dream. Chris Wagner heads up this trio on guitar and vocals—he sings and plays with sincerity. His vocal style is often compared to John Rzeznik and the similarities are clearly there. Elements of Rick Springfield are evident as well. Yet somehow there is no cheesiness. Mike Martino bangs out the straight ahead solid drumming and Corey Buckingham holds the low end with confident solidity. My only real complaint is with the production by Chris Rival. The band’s live energy doesn’t come across on this disc. I would love to see what these guys could do with a bigger budget. Despite the lack of production punch the songs are strong and they carry the record, as they should. If good old straight up rock is your thing, then these songs won’t disappoint.    (Shady)

PSYCHO
Ax/ction Records
Psycho
1 CD and 1 DVD
You damn well better like really short, really fast punk songs from the late ’80s if you even wanna come within sniffin’ distance of this.  Still with me?  Excellent.  Now, lay down a paltry ten bucks, and here’s what you get:  the You Love Us LP, the Riches and Fame LP, the “Fuck Off” live 7-inch, the split 7-inch with Out Cold (all remixed and remastered), plus a live DVD from 1987.  You get a few alternate versions of the same song—this is clearly for completists who can tell the difference.
I described the music as well as I can in the first sentence.  If you’re still reading, you’ll love this.  It’s just that simple.  I’ve listened to the audio disc at least seven times, and was prompted to pull out my Jerry’s Kids on vinyl just for a break, and the Unseen are probably up next.  Your ears will feel like they’ve run a marathon, and if you’ve been in town for a while, this will spark your nostalgia-triggers.  Enjoy.   (Tim Emswiler)

PARIAH BEAT
Vital Records
Presents…Pariah Beat Radio
20-song CD
Oh Lordie, as Vernon Presley was wont to croak–another eclecto-ramic concept album with roots rock and clever lyrics? Like we haven’t heard all this before? Okay, only there’s some high-ironic, plutocrat-stompin’, rib-ticklin’ lyrics and whole slews of clever wordplay and evincing violin and yes, even some ole-timey banjo here. And this here, if you please, is only the first track, “Front Porch.” Does the CD sustain the same high level of accomplishment over twenty songs? Nope. But it’s not for want of trying. Taken as a whole, this collection puts me in mind of a high-energy Green on Red, or Commander Cody with brains. So. Let’s cut to the money shot: These fellows are ridiculously talented, and tunes like the adapted “Babylon is Falling,” the rollicking original “Tipperary,” and the evincing lost-love lament “New Year’s Eve” only further hammer home the band’s bona-fides. For their next effort, a shorter running length and more killer tunes flowing more seamlessly, one into another, might very well drop-kick Billy Sharff and Company into some sort of wider and eminently well-deserved notoriety.   (Francis DiMenno)

JOHN PAUL
Belmont Boulevard
12-song CD
This guy’s totally got an original name. Actually, that’s sarcastic. I thought it was a guitar player from New Hampshire, and was looking forward to it. Then I realized this guy was “another” John Paul and I had to reset my anticipation, which isn’t easy. This is AOR-type pop-Americana rock music, which tries to be anthemic but doesn’t quite get rolling. The musician roster sounds great (they had better, as they were recording in Nashville, and those guys are great) but the songs are just… weak. The greatest players in the world can’t fix a weak song. I don’t doubt John Paul’s passion and vision, he’s certainly a smart guy, but he’s trying to have it all in one album. On a positive note, the production, arranging and backing musicians are excellent. If this is a first album, I think there’s a solid foundation for a slammer sophomore effort.   (Mike Loce)

TONS OF CHILL
When Them Tons Come
14-song CD
Ahhhhhhh yawl now!  Let the party begin.  Instantly I can taste late ’80s hip hop sandwiches topped with plenty of Tower of Power tomatoes and G. Love’s special sauce. This 14-song collection of chillin little dittys is sprinkled in ’70s melodic sensibilities from velvety crooner Stacy Jethroe and punctuated by plenty of well-placed acoustic guitar.  When Them Tons Come—the latest release from Tons of Chill—starts shaking the sub woofer under my seat, Lance’s wood stands up (moves more woodward). I must admit that the well-used plethora of studio production wizardry does not hurt their recent effort one bit.  It’s Huggy Bear Starsky and Hutch cool baby.  However, if you ain’t got the hooks, you ain’t gonna fix it in da mix ya’ll.  Tons of Chill has served up the groove and poured it over the ice—nice and chill baby.  If I need another sound track for my next “martini and grind” party, Tons of Chill just might find its way into “the pod” so I can get down wit da bitches… bitches!   (Lance Woodward)

SUICIDE BILL & THE LIQUORS
75 or Less Records
A Little Bit… Burned?
16-song CD
It sounds like he means well, but of course I have issues. From the press sheet: (1) “Influences: Dylan, Cheap Trick, Replacements, Hüsker Dü, Stones.” (I mostly heard Soul Asylum and Gin Blossoms, both Lite-style.) (2) “Bill has written a million songs. His goal… is to write a really good one before he hits two million.” (One wonders about the 999,984 that were left off this.) (3) Says it’s “music to be listened to in a Ford Escort.” (I’ve owned two. I don’t get it.) (4) “He also wants to have his artwork displayed in his favorite pizza place.” [Judging by the inclusion, it may happen, since lotsa these joints provide crayons for their younger patrons.] From the website: “Bill is not too bright [and] is not a big Internet fan,” and “Nothing is new…will update this shit later.” And what’s up with lyrics like “Strawberry Quik/ Love the way you make me sick”? All that said, he’s got it in him. Some of it approaches infectious, and there are some truly startling guitar flourishes, although it doesn’t say which of the two six-slingers did ’em. I’m guessing not Bill, since he seems so adamant about not giving a shit. Y’know, KISS had nothing substantial to sell either, but they didn’t keep flogging the fact to potential fans. This kinda insularity only breeds its own self-punishment, son, trust me.   (Joe Coughlin)

CONSERVATIVE MAN
Mirabel and the Hikikomor
14-song CD
This album has one sound and it isn’t to my taste but I’m going to try to remain “for” the ’80s synth pop/rock sound. Oops, I gave it away. Imagine Duran Duran, with an anemically thin, nasally Pet Shop Boys vocal sound, some very nice, tight synth interplay and good arranging. Actually, I’m being tough on Ian McCarthy, but I have no reason to. He is the conservative man, and his music reminds me of a time when the country was, well, conservative. Yes, I remember back that far, and thought the world was okay as a young lad. However, this type of music never garnered my attention too much, and still doesn’t today. British groups in the new wave era really created this sound, and I remember a knucklehead keyboardist in college named Sammy Middleton who played this style. So, with all due credit to Ian for his fine work, it’s just not my cup of Perrier… uh, tea.   (Mike Loce)

JORDAN CARP
Spaceman
10-song CD

            “Sometimes I feel like a spaceman. I don’t belong anywhere in this world. So I pretend I’m above the clouds. Staring down on the world and I feel so cold and blue.” Greetings, Zortar here and I am a space alien but no, I didn’t write those words but they are, in fact, from Jordan Carp’s lead-off song from his CD Spaceman, which is also the name of the song being quoted. This song has a pleasant subtle jazz lilt to it and makes me salivate in eager participation for more audio morsels, but alas, my retched alien soul is unmoved by other selections and I’m left with horrid hunger pains. This CD is mellow piano- dominated pop that has no catchy hooks but the verse of “Walking at Night” is very good, and “Far Superior Nose” is almost funny. Sometimes I feel like a spaceman without a tune to tout or a horn to hoot.   (Slimedog)

LEFT HAND DOES
Yeckum Checkum
12-song CD
This brother and sister fronted band creates a few moments that are quite intriguing, but many more that are downright cringeworthy.  The best number, “Against You Both,” is reminiscent of Elliot Smith with just a little noise thrown in, yet even as I enjoy it, I can’t get the embarrassing faux-soul vocals of the preceding “Valerie” out of my head.  “Smoking,” on the other hand, manages to both intrigue and repulse me at the same time.  It starts off in a similar vein as “Against You Both” before giving into some horribly over-emotive falsetto yelping.  It’s the good and the bad all in one song.  The vocals, in fact, are generally the biggest problem here.  Luke Sullivan is fine when he doesn’t try anything too fancy.  Jean, on the other hand, sounds startlingly out-of-place every time she cuts in.  You know how Kim Deal always sounded perfect whenever she would inject her little commentary amidst Black Francis’ wailing?  Well, this is the exact opposite of that.  It’s time to put this back in its case and pop in Doolittle.  (Kevin Finn)

FLASH IN BLUE
Chi In A Tailspin
10-song CD
Ah, yes, Mrs. Slimedog here. Voted the best Guatemalan music reviewer of the Noise, (by the Guatemalan ones, anyways), able and willing to dazzle one and all with my vast musical knowledge. Did you ever hear of a band called, I think, Paisley Floyd? I heard some songs by them from the ’60s and though I know it’s not true it sounds like they were on drugs or something?
Okay, okay, I know Mr. Max, get to the task at arm. Slimedog says he hears a bit of ’80s L.A. glam/ metal in the guitars, which he likes, but the vocals make him think of Led Zeppelin, Billy Squier, and Rush, whom he despises. I don’t know any of those bands I just know I yearn to hear some romantic Spanish love songs while walking hand and hand with Slimedog as he croons those lovely songs in my ear, oh, my! So I can’t recommend this CD but I do love the beautiful toenails of the lady on the cover. Great nails!    (Mrs. Slimedog)

MIKE LEAVEY & THE STRANGE CAT PEOPLE
Mike Leavey & the Strange Cat People
7-song CD
I love blues, and I tend to prefer my blues either Delta-swampy, Texas-dusty, or overdriven psychotica.  But I do have one nice suit of clothes to wear to take the occasional trip uptown, where they have sax and piano and no harmonicas in sight, and I can dig that, too.  But these guys play a jazzy, lounge-y kind of blues that one might really expect to hear in a very hip dentist’s office.  Now, I know there’s no way to make that NOT sound like an insult, but I actually like this disc a lot.  Obviously there is a degree of comfort in the familiar chord progressions, and this album isn’t about to tax your listening abilities too hard.  The playing is solid throughout, the production is crystalline– it all just goes down real easy.  Thing is, this raises the question—should the blues go down this easy?  It’s been said the blues ain’t nothin’ but a good man feelin’ bad.  I guess I’d call this good-time music about feelin’ bad, and how bad can that really be?   (Tim Emswiler)

THE HEARTLAND 
9-song CD
This is the best music I have heard in a long while. There is a moment where I feel safe, like a cat sleeping in its home—but then things change. After some seconds I feel as if I am in love with a singer and her vibrating guitar strings. Later my thoughts stretch like a bungee cord propelled from the Empire State Building only to bounce back again to the same position. But wait—I have been thrusted to a higher level, one I have never been to but only seen. It’s a fluffy yet airy space, similar to the starting point yet devoid of any solid ground. I hang here for a moment waiting for the inevitable—the downfall. As logic predicts I descend downward until the bungee recedes BUT in this particular case the cord snaps sending me flopping throughout the air, like a tiny fish chased upon the shore by the GIANT BLUES at that very special moment when the temperature is perfect. My thoughts race…will I be able to read Mansbach? Then… SPLAT!   (Leonid)

26 BEERS
Rodent Popsicle Records
Long Walk, Short Pier
7-song CD
From the first song, this release shows more depth than the band’s last effort.  It mocks anyone trying to pigeonhole 26 beers as thrash.  The first track has as much hardcore in it as metal, and the next two have hook-y beats that suck you in before they pick up the pace.  I really have to hunt to find a blast beat here, which makes me happy.  For a band with such a shredding guitarist, the first solo doesn’t appear until track four and the ones that do turn up really add to the songs.  The rhythm section holds the whole thing together with interesting bass work and drumming that isn’t all about the double bass, while crusty lead vocal playing off the backups really makes track six and seven great closers.  The old-style black and white CD cover suits this too-short release well—there’s lotsa blood in the water.   (Seth Cohen)

BAD CHOPPER
 Acme Records
Hate Was the Chain That Linked Them Together! God Help the One Who Broke It!
12-song CD
How is it that the oracles throughout the passages of time can write such great almanacs yet never have included the universe of Bad Chopper within their pages?  Their energy, which has been tightly packaged in cellophane wrapping, should have predicted it all. Their polished neo-punk/ stoner-yet-touching-on-metal sound slipped through the cracks of sanity and continues to decrease leaving only Bostonians the pleasure of their existence. Most notably are the guitar sounds—very full, round and tight. There’s a great use of stereo panning that adds to the richness to their already massive sound. The lyrics are to die for: “Lucky girl, give me back my heart,” come on now who hasn’t felt that way before? My favorite track is “1965” because it reminds me of the days when people were easily brainwashed and provoked into believing anything their leaders told them. Maybe I can propagate ya’ll… BUY THEIR ALBUM (or at least listen to it)… better yet LETS START A WAR AND KILL INNOCENT (poor) PEOPLE.   (Leonid)

JEFFREY SIMMONS
Best Of Luck
10-song CD
I don’t want to insult anyone at the initial usage of the word “Beatle-y” to describe their music, because I love the Beatles and it‘s not an insult. It has, however been overused for less-than worthy pieces of songwriting in the past. That having been said, the first track on Jeff’s album does bring up the mood of that group. Maybe it’s the string samples, descending chord progressions, tasteful sparseness of instrumentation. Anyhow, I digress. To call all of the tunes under the same header would be unjust. Jeff’s songwriting shines through any band comparison, although the cloth from which it’s cut is the color of Britpop from the ’60s onward. Mix in some ’70s California rock influences, great harmonies, and ’90s rhythmic structure and you got it. Track five, “Making a Movie,” is my fave: heavy like early Radiohead in all the right ways without sounding derivative. Sound good? Get it in your life!   (Mike Loce)

BRENDAN MURPHY
Jumped the Shark
7-song CD
The keening harp on “I Don’t Mean to Bother” opens this collection as though Mr. Murphy has come directly back from an extended vacation from inside the far reaches of Bob Dylan’s first album (which I actually like a lot). Murphy has a knack for a melodic tune and the voice, vaguely akin to a mellow Neil Young, to carry it off. Though his subject matter is frequently melancholy, even elegaic, it comes across as rooted in something genuine, and not merely a bottled persona adopted to suit some preconceived target audience. The instrumentation throughout is tasteful, if a bit restrained, but the most notable songs are quality goods: the world-weary love song “The Lower 48,” the mordantly waspish “It’s Funny How a Man Can Own a Mountain,” and the genuinely touching “Tip My Hat.” Some might complain that folk music is yesterday’s news, but I have always been amazed at how many not untalented singer-songwriters continue to come crawling from out of the dirt floors and hollows of the piney woods hereabouts.   (Francis DiMenno)

THE GONDOLIERS
The Gondoliers
9-song CD
I’m not entirely sure why the packaging of this CD was made to look like an old school floppy diskette, but it’s pretty cool nonetheless.  Although this collection of pounding metallic instrumentals isn’t quite as creative as its container, it still has some merit.  The performances are energetic, and hooks and grooves are given proper attention, with the emphasis more on songwriting than on showmanship.  After a few listens, a sense of monotony did set in, and I tended to drift in and out while listening.  I think this music is better served in a soundtrack setting.  It would probably sound great on a video game, and it was definitely an improvement over the Monday Night Football broadcast crew.   (Kevin Finn)

THE RESURRECTIONISTS
Here Hope Flows Like
Blood From the Nose

11-song CD
An original spin on roots rock; call it retro-garde. Everything old is new again. Even quirky tracks like the stumbo-tempoed “The Dirty Third,” the riffing Beefheart-flavored “A Dry Night in Chambersburg,” and the loping anthem “The Honeyspot Motor Lodge” fail to jar us loose from the pleasantly atmospheric Americana so generously on display here. The lyrics and the music combine in a way that rewards close attention. The album as a whole is almost filmic; it is meant to envelop one, and is best heard, one suspects, in a dark room after day is done where the shadows play on the wall and as you take your ease you sink into your rest and for a spell you don’t really much care if the sun don’t ever rise no more.   (Francis DiMenno)

WALTER NOONS
Visions and Hallucinations
20-song CD
I’m immediately predisposed to disliking this album because it’s so obviously low-budget—I’m no album-art elitist, but if you’re going to go through the trouble of pressing an album, at least have a better CD cover than my 3-year-old niece could draw on MSPaint. The worst part is that when I put the CD into my computer, iTunes can’t find the song titles. In this day and age, I feel that this is a necessity—I spend enough time staring at a screen as it is; I don’t need to be entering song names. Anyway, ranting aside (and really, it’s nothing personal against Walter Noons), at least the music is way better than the album art. It’s fun and danceable, and it reminds me of those fun rock bands that play at proms in ’80s movies. And for what it’s worth, I enjoyed listening to this CD while baking, and I invented some pretty delicious baked goods, so maybe I have the band to thank for that.   (Emsterly)

ANN SWEETEN
Orange Band Records
Grey Sky And Bittersweet
12-song CD
This CD is the farthest thing from rock that anyone can imagine.  But in these days rock ’n’ roll is not the only type of music one shall enjoy. There are many genres that already exist and loads more to come. She bills herself as new age but I see it more as modern classical, if that oxymoron can actually exist. I say this because she has a great sense of melody and counterpoint harmonies that make her music stand out more than someone simply improvising on the piano.  I am especially fond of the alternating use of larghetto, maestoso and ritardando throughout her pieces.  Another reason her music falls into the classical genre is because she sounds very much like Bach. Anything that is remotely psychedelic satisfies me and Ann Sweeten clearly delivers the psychedelia. This is great music for anyone who wants to relax and forget about their daily problems. “Dawn on Red Mountain,” in particular, is my favorite bit because of the mind-bending vocal track and the tear-jerking harmonies.   (Leonid)

AWAIT RESCUE
Await Rescue
10-song CD
Hi, this is the Bluebird that hops outside Slimedog’s window. And no, I’m not Rockin’ Robin, those guys are red. And no, of course I’m not writing this though Slimedog believes I am. So let me swoop down from my branch and see if any tunes catch my flight of fancy.
Well, these chaps do the music I hear on WFNX frequently, very good, angst drenched vocals around swirling, energetic dramatic music. It’s almost in the prog rock category with able playing throughout. Just not the style I prefer for a birdbrain like myself, maybe something less frantic for my little ears. But it’s all well produced, well performed, and I see no reason why this couldn’t be played on any modern rock station. Time to fly, I gotta go, maybe I can hit Slimedog’s car windshield with my aim.   (Slimedog)

TONS OF CHILL
When Them Tons Come           
15-songs
Ah, yes, Mrs. Zortar here, (Hispanic space alien from another planet), once again inhabiting the delicious and delectable form of Mrs. Slimedog. And super nails!
It’s great to be in the number one country on your planet, but looking at your list of leaders and celebrities I’m thinking I must have the wrong data somehow. Anyways, let’s get to the business at foot. This CD contains funk/rap/hip-hop music that is frequently provided by Afro-Americans. Why they’re called that now I can’t figure. It may have been appropriate to call them that in the ’70s but now I think Bald-Headed Americans should be the word. Well, these folks are Caucasian and unfortunately, play that way. Not that I’m prejudiced being iridescent gray. I just think the point of this style of music is to be rhythmically compelling and I find they do not achieve this. I deem them wack.               (Mrs. Slimedog)

LANDED
How Little It Will Take
12-song CD
Well, it’s unfortunate, but after giving Landed’s CD a listen, I’m going to have to put this one in the “noise” pile. I just don’t understand this new genre of muffled-spoken-word vocals, random-distorted-guitar-riffs, occasional-cymbal-crash “music.” It’s not enjoyable to listen to, it doesn’t showcase any particular musical proficiency at any instrument, you can’t dance to it… you can’t even understand what the vocalist is saying. I just don’t see the merit or value of this type of thing. Maybe I’m just old (ha!), but I thought music had to have a beat and a melody. Sorry Landed, but I can’t review an album that doesn’t have any music on it!    (Emsterly)

CLAWJOB
Manifest Destiny 
6-song CD
How many bands have put out concept albums?  Too many to count.  How many have put out concept albums about 19th century America?  One.  Clawjob’s latest is a concept album about life during the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution, the Indian relocation, and the Great Diamond Hoax of 1872.  Not since School House Rock! has history been this interesting or musical.  What is truly frightening about this album is how relevant the subject matter still is in the 21st century.  This is my new favorite album.    (Joel Simches)

JENN TARANTO
We Will Not Fade EP
5-song CD
Co-Produced by Chris Zembower of the Everyday Visuals, Jenn Taranto’s latest has the warm vibe of a late night music/lovemaking session by candlelight with a fine bottle of wine and a plate of strawberries.  The music is honest and tuneful, with arrangements and nuances that will tug at your very soul and make you feel.  The string and percussion arrangements are lush, yet unassuming.  They don’t call attention to themselves, yet punctuate the feeling and the vibe of the music so perfectly, which I find somewhat rare in a Boston/New York produced indie album.  This album is simply delicious. Perfect.   (Joel Simches)

EROICA
Hisen the Architect
6-song CD
Wow.  Parts of this CD are sure over-compressed and distorted.  Usually this will ruin a listening experience for me, but this release from Eroica is an ambitious “page-turner.”  Drawing heavy and obvious influences from the likes of the Mars Volta and Caspian,  Eroica’s brand of indie-prog (am I the first to coin this phrase—I want royalties!) is certainly adventurous, a clever balance of dynamics, ambience, and musicianship.  The musical journey taken harkens back to the second King Crimson album with a bookended intro/outro and passages of music that fit like pieces of an intricate puzzle, minus Greg Lake.  This is the first time I’ve heard glockenspiel on a progressive rock recording that didn’t remind me of “Closer to the Heart.” Make more music soon!   (Joel Simches)

SGT. MAXWELL’S PEACE CHORUS
The Military EP
3-song CD
As a follow-up to the ambitious “End War Now” single, Sgt. Maxwell has taken a more sparse approach to these songs, focusing more on message and less on production and arrangement.  These are not so much songs as they are scenes from a play, perhaps a series of sketches presented at an anti-war rally by a community of concerned citizens.  These three songs are certainly an indictment on our present administration and the current state of our military, but can certainly be applied to our timeless notions of war, peace, autonomy, conformity, individuality, murder, and morality.  People who agree with this message will find these songs clever, poignant, immediate, and important.  Everyone else will curse these damn peace-loving hippy card carryin' libruhl treehuggin' commie bastids. I report, you decide!    (Joel Simches)

THE CAMPAIGN FOR REAL-TIME
Curve of the Earth/Wonderdrug
Dubai Cuts 2009: Modern Infra-structure with Old-World Problem Solving
3-song CD
This short blast of hipster funk represents my introduction to C4RT, and from what I knew of the band, I have to say that I was expecting something more out there. Take out some of the intentionally strange window-dressing, and there’s not a ton of difference between them and the countless other bands that are stuck in the ’80s.  The second track, in fact, reminded me quite a bit of the Smiths.  That said, the songs are catchy and fun, but I’m not sure this band is as groundbreaking as it has been made out to be.    (Kevin Finn)

KEVIN MACDONALD BAND
Laughing Stock     3-song CD
Before You Begin     3-song CD
Both EP’s released within the last several months (Laughing Stock in April, Before You Begin just this past month) come from a forthcoming album called Temporarily Unavailable.  I figure if Kevin releases one or two more EP’s from this, he may as well skip releasing the full-length.  Both releases feature Kevin MacDonald’s clever wordplay and understated approach. The songs offered on Laughing Stock are more low key and acoustic, with a cheesy drum machine clocking the tempo to MacDonald’s slightly off-kilter ironic folk.  Before You Begin is decidedly more rocking and dripping with irony, reminiscent of some of Baby Ray’s greatest recorded moments.  The title track has a tongue-in-cheek musical homage to Nirvana.  I actually LOL-ed.  Both EP’s offer a contrasting side to the quirky mind of Kevin MacDonald.  Hopefully the next installment of his full length with be forthcoming.    (Joel Simches)

SHEA ROSE           
6-song Demo                               6-song CD
A musician with an interesting past, Shea Rose is a singer/songwriter “on a journey.” Her style touches upon the superficial sensibilities of jazz, blues and R&B, but it is her voice that will rip your heart out.  The most touching songs on this CD are the ones where it’s just guitar and voice.  The full band arrangements offer little more that the usual overplayed, soulless, pseudo-funk/jazz that one can find any night of the week at Berklee Night at Matt Murphy’s. Hopefully a search for the right musicians will bring out this raw talent.  Shea Rose seems too good to be this generic.                      (Joel Simches)

TUNNLVISION
Old Folks Home Recording
Original EP
5-song CD
Tunnlvision seem to carving out a niche of tried and true for themselves. Each song starts with a cool riff, some interesting drum rhythms and as this CD progresses, the music gets more and more interesting.  Unfortunately these flashes of potential brilliance are marred by an uneven mix of squelchy drums, razor cutting guitars and barely audible oozing vocals.  Choosing to bludgeon the listener with volume doesn’t equate quality. Once you peel back the layers, there is not a lot left. It sounds very much like a singer/songwriter writing good songs, but then deciding that having a loud guitar drowning everything out will somehow make it “better.”  The last song, the more acoustically driven “Smoke,” seems to be proof of that and is easily the most listenable and promising song of this set, if you can make it this far.   (Joel Simches)

AUTUMN HOLLOW BAND
Autumn Hollow Band
3-song CD
The Autumn Hollow Band offers a rootsy, folk/county sound that hasn’t been heard round these parts nigh on a dog’s year.  Honest, straight-ahead arrangements are punctuated with light harmonies, lap steel, banjo, and sweet twangy guitars.   The songs on this album all sound natural and organic, as if a band decided to set up in your back yard and serenade your BBQ’d pig (with or without lipstick).  Brendan Murphy’s heartfelt storytelling couldn’t have a better musical backdrop. This is the perfect album for a lazy Sunday afternoon.    (Joel Simches)

THE BYNARS
00111100 00110011 EP
5-song CD
It’s always too easy to plug in a synth and sound like Weezer.  It is a testament to the strength of bands like Weezer, the Rentals, the Cars and Arcade Fire that there are so many bands who want to sound like them. The Bynars are certainly no exception and if you can get past the obvious comparisons, what’s left are undeniably catchy songs and an unyielding knack for melody. Hopefully the Bynars will be able to take this and establish an identity that is completely their own.     (Joel Simches)

THE LIGHTS OUT
HEIST!
5-song CD
Some music is meant to be listened to under the influence.  There are some pot bands, acid bands, coke bands and beer bands and I think we all know who those are.  The Lights Out is most definitely a beer band. The fun is in deciding what kind of beer.  On the surface, the Lights Out want to be a cheap 40, but as you listen to all the layers of arrangement, they suddenly become a domestic pilsner.  As you check out the stylish vocals, they become a fine pale ale.  As you check out the anthemic harmonies and complex production, they become a fine imported lager.  This could easily be the coolest thing I have ever heard, but that might be the beer talking.     (Joel Simches)

JONAS DREAM
It Could Happen To You
3-song CD
The music on this EP seems so friendly and unassuming.  Jonas Dream is a band you could go bowling or record shopping with.  Singer Jonathan Sigman is so bright and cheerful and he thanks his mum on this disc.  If you like your pop with sunny harmonies and light, lilting melodies, this is the disc for you.  The lyrics seem a tad pretentious and coy (“Haloes of light reflect my heart in your eyes”), but that works well with the melody and arrangements.  The music will most certainly give you a lift.    (Joel Simches)

THE NEW DUMB
Mighty Science Records
Let’s Get Lucky                               6-song CD
I hope this band’s luck isn’t running out.  The follow up to their brilliantly quirky This Could Be Disastrous sounds less like a finished product and more like a collection of works in progress to be considered for an album.  The bass is frequently too loud and out of tune and the vocals are strained and understated.  That said, the songs seem a little more ambitious than the last record but parts of the performance seem equally brilliant and phoned in.  The lack of energy in parts of songs that should be more intense give the impression that this album was a rush job that ran out of ideas as they were running out of funds.   (Joel Simches)

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