SILVER CIRCLE REVIEWS: February 2009

Peter Moore

PETER MOORE
SineAppleSap Records
One Ride
9 songs + 8 cycles
Peter Moore, the leader of Count Zero, creates his own musical masterpiece with One Ride, a collection of songs (and cycles—mini segue songs) that run though a relationship from its flirtatious beginning to its sad demise. The listener becomes a voyeur entertained by a slew of musical influences ranging from Justin Timberlake (“Droppin’ Trou’) to Curtis Mayfield (“Sister Sunshine”), Sly Stone (“5:00 in the Morning”) to Andrew Lloyd Webber (“Wicked Lies”), Count Zero (“When We’re Together”) to the Temptations (“Cling Free”). It’s a musically sophisticated ride that gets theatrically intense—as big as a symphony at times. The CD builds momentum—by the end I was so wrapped up in it that, like a good book, I couldn’t put it down. When it ended, I wanted it to continue. I had to replay it. New elements reveal themselves with each and every listen. Influences of Peter’s early techno crazy band, Think Tree, are subtly exposed in the mix if you listen closely enough. With this release, Peter builds his already impressive discography. One Ride is easily a candidate for best CD of the year. (T Max)

LONESOME BROTHERS
Captivating Music
The Last CD
12-song CD
Another one of those local acts that makes me wonder why the fuck they aren’t huge. Seven full-lengths since ’97, and the others I’ve heard are just as good. Their site says, “This is hick rock! Smells like diesel!” but that’s really selling themselves short. (It also doesn’t explain the album title or if it’s true. I certainly hope not.) Yeah, roots, Americana, blah blah, but offhand, I can’t think of a likeminded act anywhere that brings as much to the table. Lyrics, arrangements, playing and production are all miles above average for this kinda thing. One track has guitar breaks and fills that are damn-near jazz, and is all the better for it. For every footstomper, there’s a heartbreaker, and it’s 97 percent twelve-bar-progression free, but they even make that stuff sound swell. Songwriting and lead vocals are split between Jim Armenti and Ray Mason. Mason, now 40 years in the biz, has at least ten of his own full-lengths (band and solo), not counting vinyl and cassettes from before the CD era. Whew! All I can say is, they deserve a lot more ears. I ain’t sayin’ it’s gonna change your life, but it may very well noticeably improve it. (Joe Coughlin)

BIRDSONGS OF THE MESOZOIC
Cuneiform Records
Dawn of the Cycads
32-track CD
“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is ‘Thank You,’ that would suffice.” So yeah, thank you. Because who could resist the stately and surprisingly plump pieces on this comprehensive Ace of Hearts anthology with superadded bonus outtakes and live tracks? Only a person with a heart of stone. From the 1983 self-titled EP, opener “Sound Valentine” and “Orange Ocean” are the stand-outs. Proceeding to 1984’s Magnetic Flip we venture into more rugged territory; for some of us, the majestic opening track, “Shiny Golden Snakes,” and the tumultuous “Terry Riley’s House” must surely have been turbulent highlights from that lost year of dread, with “International Tours” and “Bridge Underwater” their psychopomp antitheses.The 1986 release Beat of the Mesozoic features more of the band’s playful yet consistently stirring and ambitious classical pieces, notably the opener “Lost in the B-Zone,” the luminescent “Waterwheel,” and the elegaic “Scenes From a…”. The seven live tracks, retroactively titled Between the Fires, reveal a band ably positioned to perform live some of their most rigorous and intellectually challenging compositions, notably “Carbon 14” and the astonishing, otherworldly climax to “Lqabblil Insanya.” (Francis DiMenno)

THE KICKBACKS
Peeled Label Records
Even the Blues
10-song CD
The Kickbacks make really nice background music, and I don’t mean that as an insult or a backhanded compliment. Sometimes you just want some pleasant power pop to bob your head to while you balance the checkbook or read the Sunday paper, and this fits the bill. The songs are reminiscent of the mellower Replacements or Lemonheads numbers, but with more twang. Tad Overbaugh has a warm, pleasant voice and guitarist Steve Scott jangly guitar augments Overbaugh’s thoughtful, well-crafted lyrics very nicely. The stronger tunes like “Figure You Out” or “Expect Delays” would not be out of place if they were to accompany the more tender moments on Scrubs, and again, that’s fine, because that’s a pretty good show. (Kevin Finn)

THE HAMMOND GROUP
Mean Business
13-song CD
The Hammond Group is Somerville’s leading integrated rock ’n’ roll solution provider offering optical musical solutions for the twentieth first century in this hectic day to day world. They are confident that “Mean Business” will provide you the ideal music solution for these challenging economic times. Who is the Hammond Group and what does it mean to me, you may ask? They are seasoned professionals providing entertainment with a committed delivery, as they say “middle aged surf punk for the twentieth first century.” And they seem seriously intent to provide satirical lyrics with apt playing in various styles such as rock, pop, garage, etcetera. I must give special acknowledgement to Director of Quality Assurance/drummer Stix Sigma and the hilarious lyrics throughout—“I’ll show Tony Danza just who is the boss.” These reasons plus a hint of Pere Ubu make me endorse this business wholeheartedly. I would highly recommend in all business music concerns putting your trust in these highly trained experts in your quest for musical security. (Slimedog)

BEAT CIRCUS
Cuneiform Records
Dreamland
16-song CD
Genre-smasher Van Dyke Parks has previously staked out and quite thoroughly explored this turf—let’s call it orchestrated Americana. The challenge to make it new may well have been foremost in the mind of composer-impresario Brian Carpenter. It grieves me to say this, but I feel, though I cannot precisely articulate just how, that this ambitiously conceived project sinks under the weight of its own ponderousness and pomposity. The composer has created an absolutely convincing mise en scene but has failed to animate it. The musicianship is impeccable but the end product strikes me as both overwrought and overthought. The hokum jazz that characterized this historic era never sounded labored or lacking in spontaneity; this, however, too often, does. (Francis DiMenno)

LOU ARMSTRONG
Extortion Entertainment
The Best of Lou Armstrong Vol. 1
38-song CD
Okay. My first big problem with this fuckin’ disc is that it’s all muthafuckin mp3’s and not audio tracks, muthafucker. I mean, I still flip vinyl and even notch cassettes now and then, and you’re telling me that this muthafuckin disc won’t even work in my muthafuckin CD player?! Fuck you, dawg. I had to throw the bitch in my muthafuckin ancient extra computer for a muthafuckin listen. That off my chest, this is a finely crafted 38-song sample selection of the nicely resonating tones of Lou Armstrong, hip hop gangsta persona extraordinaire. An in-depth catalogue of the song lyrics is beyond the scope of this review, but let’s include adept social commentary, police dissatisfaction, relationship woes, and simple appreciation for the good things. I’d put this disc on (my muthafuckin computer or iPod) at a party if I wanted that classic rap/ hip hop city vibe. Quality material from a bad muthafucka. (Mike Loce)

BARNICLE
Bampf!
Friends of B
8-song CD
I reviewed Barnicle’s first CD, Take Me to Your Room, and raved that it was a great pop CD, which I still think it is. This second effort, though, falls a little flat for me. I do like the songwriting. I like how this four-piece explores an edgier guitar sound throughout. I like how they are consciously trying new sounds, like on what sounds like a ukelele-driven “Baby.” I like how vocalist and songwriter Karen Barnicle moves beyond boys as subject matter (despite being SOOO good at it on the first CD). The problem, though, is how she uses her voice. The thin, girly voice that worked so well on the first and poppier CD sounds weak and gimmicky with the more guitar-based sound. I’d like to see Karen develop a little depth and grit in her voice to go along with the guitars. (Robin Umbley)

FATAL FILM
Thrill’r
12-song CD
Ah, yes, Mrs. Slimedog here, once more reporting for duty, displaying my vast knowledge of music and my very fancy nails. Now, my understanding is this is a remake of Michael Jackson’s famous album except with different people and different songs. I think it’s a great idea but the music is too repetitious and the singing too rough. And sometimes they use the wrong notes, also. I don’t like the songs much, seems like they’re shooting themselves with their own foot, I would recommend they try playing Japanese blue music as this is more soothing to the ears. Slimedog says they sound like a ’80s post punk band and he sees the influences of bands he likes, like Gang of Four and Pavement, but he doesn’t like this CD much either. I don’t know what he’s talking about, I just know I’d rather hear the new song “Low Rider” by the San Francisco group Kraftwerk. Tah, tah, for now. (Mrs. Slimedog)

BIRDWATCHERS OF AMERICA
Raise Giant Frogs Records
There Have Been Sightings
12-track CD
There are seven actual songs on this twelve-track CD, but I’m not complaining. Because although the melodies are mostly full of crabby gemütlichkeit, little here seems to aspire to rise above the level of the quotidien, and nothing here leaves me feeling particularly gobsmacked. Their implied and seemingly all-encompassing attitude of world-weary ennui has no true oomph in back of it; it feels manufactured rather than genuine, and leaves me feeling enervated rather than stirred. (Francis DiMenno)

THE MILLING GOWNS
Diving Bell Shallows
11-song CD
The Milling Gowns are a melancholy four-piece with piano, viola, drums, and a deep baritone crooner. The singer, who goes only by the initial M, immediately recalls Morrissey. One reviewer calls their music “gloom pop,” which is apropos, considering that M writes lyrics such as these from “Cape the Pearls”: “I built my house on sinking sand/ we’re still divided and I can’t take it any more.” The piano and string arrangements sound lush yet feel spare and sublime. I like everything about this CD—except M’s disappointing use of his gifted voice. It sounds like he discovered that he can strike a few really dulcet tones—then he rarely strays from them to the point where it becomes ultra-monotonous after the first song. (Robin Umbley)

CEMETERY SUPERFLY
Green Banshee Records
No Commercial Potential
10-song CD
Greetings, Zortar here, alien from another planet inhabiting the rotting, withering corpse known as Slimedog, I know that fly means good on your planet so superfly must be very good indeed. But such is not the case. If this was true I would truly rejoice, setting my nose hairs on fire and overturning transportation vehicles outside as you all do after important sporting events. I would categorize this as modern rock with a lack of energy and a spacey Pink Floyd vibe at times. Now, “Death On The Highway,” gets my metallic derriere bouncing and if the rest was like this song I would not hesitate to raise the flame toward my nose. Well sung, well produced and played throughout and I disagree with the title as I can imagine humans enjoying this CD. But my cold, hard, barren soul is not touched, not a whit. (Slimedog)

THE BIRTHDAY SUICIDE
One Year Wasted
9-song CD
Damn, another “not my kinda thing, but…” job. Basically a solo acoustic (guitar) outing by one guy who cites Bright Eyes, Leonard Cohen and Ernest Hemingway among his inspirations, if that’s any help. There’s some harmonica, a few other li’l flourishes, and a whole lotta lyrical variations on “Hey, I’m friggin dyin’ over here!” You’d think that, for this amount of downbeat subject matter, there’d be a lot more minor chords, but there are almost none, which only serves to squash the whole sadness vibe. (And no, I don’t think any kinda “redemptive” undercurrent was thereby intended.) Now, I’m a guy who loves depressing music, but I want my fuckin’ entrails ripped completely out, ya know? It’s not enough to just keep repeating that you’re hurt, so for me it falls on the side of precious. But don’t take my word for it. Indie-music.com named it in their top 25 picks of the year among God-knows-how-many releases they must’ve got. That writer said she was moved almost to tears, and even suggests she’s worried about the dude and hopes he’s feeling better. So if that’s your thing, there ya go. (Joe Coughlin)

THREE DAY THRESHOLD & SUMMER VILLIANS
Christmas & Holidays Songs Volume 1
12 songs online
Christmas greetings, Zortar here, alien from another planet inhabiting the worthless tick infested body of Slimedog once again. We have a Christmas celebration on my planet, also, but ours is a materialistic celebration designed for wholesale stores to make enough money so they can stay open at our mosques (we call them malls) the rest of the year.
So this is a collection of original country Christmas songs spearheaded by well known local country/rock band Three Day Threshold and though I’ll stick with Charles Brown when I want my Christmas music this is an amusing, irreverent take on this genre.
My favorite songs on this on-line CD are “Let’s Get Cozy,” an update of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” where a kind gentleman is unsuccessful in offering his body warmth to a lady and “A Very Whisky New Year,” about what the holidays mean for most of us, namely a time to overindulge. Cheers! (Slimedog)

DEBRIS
Operation Bostar
12-song CD
This the sound of the suburbs from just about the time when the boundaries between commercial metal and commercial alternative began to blur, and Debris definitely sounds influenced by some of the better bands of that time, particularly Alice in Chains and Faith No More. For about the first half of the record, this works quite well. The opening, “Snowballed,” powered by Bill Whitney on bass, works itself into a propulsive groove, and the band nicely mixes things up with the slower, more atmospheric “Mushroom.” Unfortunately at the halfway point, the brawn eclipses the brains, and we end up with the nu-metal stupidity of “Wrecked.” We’re talking Limp Bizkit dumb here. They’re obviously going for tough, but lines like “you motherfucking pussies… remind me of a kid I knew who was a bitch” just come off as silly. Each time I listened to the album, Debris lost me for good about halfway through that track, which is too bad because there’s the potential for something good here. (Kevin Finn)

JIM COYLE
Whack Music
Gin and Sugar
14-song CD
Ah, yes, Mrs. Slimedog here. The most knowledgeable, respected, and revered reviewer of the Noise and North and South America. And, as always, with the world’s finest nails!
According to Slimedog, he says this sounds like “country” music, a new term for me, what I can’t figure out is which country? All I know is that this sounds nothing like Guatemalan music where I’m from. Marilyn Manson is the closet from what I’ve heard here but I believe she’s from America. This is pleasant, mellow music with violin and acoustic guitars but it’s still energetic. To me it sounds like John Cougar Mellowhemp. It’s well played and sung and probably good for someone into this style. I don’t think I have anything else to add, I’m more concerned about Paris Hilton’s TV show and if she’ll stay with her new best friend forever. Her new friend is a singer in a band. Oh, and Slimedog loves the poem on this CD: “I Hate Pennies.” (Mrs. Slimedog)

LILY HOLBROOK
Alive Recording Group
Wicked Ways
10-song CD
I wanted to quote lotsa lyrics to help get the point across, but they’re in this maddeningly teensy font, and NO, it’s not just my age. Between what I can squint through and actually hear, it’s all that treacly, would-be conflicted “where are we at?” relationship stuff that makes me never want to be in a relationship again. I smelled big trouble when the third track dragged out Humpty Dumpty as a metaphor for something that “crumbles and tumbles and stumbles down.” There should be a reverse parental warning sticker on this record, stating that you have to be UNDER eighteen to buy it. The voice IS perfect for the subject matter, but adding bombastic swirls of strings and stuff doesn’t equal an actual sense of hope or self-reliance here. You’re unsatisfied. We get it, already. Perhaps ol’ Mystery Date ain’t too swift and she’d be happier alone, or at least with someone else who wrings their hands as much over so little. This kinda gloss and this kinda wallowin’ just don’t gel. The MySpace lists Dead Kennedys as an influence (!?!) Jello gelatin, maybe. Jello Biafra, no fucking way. Try Alanis Morisette with a lot more strings and a lot less hope or self-reliance. Or, maybe all you really needed to know is that she thanks her cat in the liner notes. (Joe Coughlin)

THE NEW ALIBIS
The New Alibis
4-song CD
When you gather ex members of Lost City Angels, Far From Finished, the Pug Uglies, and Three Sheets into a room to make music, how can it not simply just rock the fuck out? The math is pretty easy on this. The songs are tight and full of energy. This is clearly the meeting of punk/garage minds and some of the best players of the genre. Call them the Little Village of punk rock… on second thought, that might get your ass kicked. Sorry. Just give this a listen. It will make your hog hurt. (Joel Simches)

MISKATONIC
Favorite Records
3-song CD
Miskatonic is living proof that power pop works best when you have great hooks, tuneful melodies, quirky arrangements, and tight harmonies. It also helps that it rocks relentlessly, which this EP does quite nicely. The interplay between the guitar and synth is sublime and playful, as is Elizabeth Finger’s vocal performance. The band on these three songs is flawless and sparkles with energy, as does the production. The only drawback to this EP is its length. One can only hope that there is more music in the near future. (Joel Simches)

SPEAKERMUTE
Songs For Selfish Lovers
6-song CD
This has got to be my favorite album title in quite a long while. The first track was so catchy, I had to really stop and think about how good it sounds. The vocalist sounds kind of like Thom Yorke, but Speakermute is no Radiohead rip-off (although their names sound like cousins, don’t they?) With drum-style propulsion to the music that is more in line with Blues Traveler, you see where I’m going with this? No. The music is really good with alternative arranging song craft and thematic arranging… Okay, well let’s get to the content. As the title implies, these songs tell the ever-adrift story of wanton longing and inevitable love lost, or at least postponed. It could be a 6-song model for a staged presentation, like a mini musical. The songs really convey the lyric in the right context. Develop more and listen closely. (Mike Loce)

THE LIVING SEA
Modern Day Detachment Records/Lunch Records
Madeline EP
5-song CD
Formed in 2004, this band has gone through several lineup changes (including the departure of lead singer Adam Rich); they seem to have completely reinvented themselves with the addition of vocalist Catie Rae Zappala whose siren song wails above waves of reverb drenched guitar. Fans of Joy Division, My Bloody Valentine, Regina Spektor, Arcade Fire, and Slowdive will absolutely love this fresh approach to a nostalgic classic shoegaze. This is a band for the ages. I can’t wait to hear more. (Joel Simches)

RED RED ROCKIT
Red Red Rockit
5-song CD
This is classic rock haunted by the ghosts of Rick Derringer, Gary Moore, Alvin Lee, and Hendrix simultaneously (yes, I know they’re not all dead). Who have thought that ’70s power trio riff rock would make such a comeback? Certainly not this jaded cynical Noise scribe! There’s good singin’ good playin’ all over this EP. This is the music of whiskey and rye, and late night stoner sessions. This is what my friends were all playing in their garages when I was growing up, only good. (Joel Simches)

GRAPH
Graph
4-song CD
Graph is an odd juxtaposition of several musical styles that confound and exhilarate simultaneously. In just one song one can find sensitive ponytail songwriter music, then suddenly bombastic prog, sullen emo, and a few New Hampshire jam-band moments just to bong rip to. While there are times when this all collides into one fantastic meisterwerk, this disc is mostly a bunch random musical ideas that seem sloppily pasted onto another, without any real big picture. I think the music could evolve into something meaningful, if there was a little focus and forethought applied to the arrangement. (Joel Simches)

IT’S FROM THE SKY
Electric Sle[ep]
5-song CD
Two guitars and drums never had this much to offer. It’s From The Sky’s brand of indie pop is angular and tuneful. There is plenty vocal and melodic counterpoint, punctuated by melodic toms and tight arrangements and a hint of psychedelic glam. Their approach is straight-ahead and inclusive, drawing the listener in for the duration of the journey. The last track is pure ear candy. Enjoy. (Joel Simches)

THE ALLSTON PANTS
Weapons of Mass. Destruction 6-song CD
Real Fucking Serious 5-song CD
This is punk as it’s meant to be: over the top, hilarious, angry, ironic, satirical, and wrapped in a plain brown paper bag… as it should be. They get political with the song “Let’s All Vote Republican So We Can Get Another Rage Against the Machine Album” and treat us with their take on the scene with the songs “Coked Out Scenester Fuck” and “Fuck the Scene.” They take on fashion with “Why Won’t the Suicide Girls Live Up to Their Name?” If I weren’t so lazy, I would make an album just like this.. These guys made two and they’re both as brilliant as they are completely stupid. This makes Green Jello look like Paul Simon’s Graceland. They describe their own music as “The Shittiest Shit You’ve Ever Heard” and, of course, they are completely right. I’ve never enjoyed listening to anything as much as I enjoyed listening to this, which is, admittedly, pretty pathetic. (Joel Simches)


THE TELEVANGELIST & THE ARCHITECT
Undetected Plagarism
There’s a Song In There Somewhere
6-song CD
This is simply a great collection of straightforward, thoughtful songs with a slightly artsy bent, reminiscent of a deep cut on a Decemberists album. Vocalist Jerry Chen’s fragile vocals are hugged close to the bosom of a warm piano and acoustic guitar, comforted by the occasional accompaniment of cello, violin and percussion. The tone of the album seems to conjure images of a living room jam by the fireplace on a snowy evening. Listen in your jammies with a bottle of wine while hugging a teddy bear. (Joel Simches)


SEVENTH ROOM
Meanwhile
5-song CD
If Pearl Jam and Soundgarden were influenced more by the melodic sides of Led Zeppelin, it would sound like this band. Seventh Room takes the ’90s arena grunge and gives it an occasional sunny melody. Their sound is relentlessly anthemic, and while their approach is pretty straightforward and unassuming, the style seems like more of an affectation than an original musical statement. I think someone listened to MTV’s Buzz Cuts when they wrote these songs. As this EP progresses there are hints of something slightly different. It is a shame that the best parts of this CD are buried in the middle. (Joel Simches)


GUILTY AS SIN
Guilty As Sin
4-song CD
On the surface, Guilty As Sin sounds like your basic cookie cutter metal band, influenced by beer, porn, weed and, oh yeah, Metallica. The good news is that they need a lead singer. Hopefully they can get one that doesn’t sound like Cookie Monster. The bed of musical ideas definitely cries out for something melodic and thoughtful, with lyrics about dragons and death and big trucks with drunken women in the back passed out, or some combination of all of the above. The sonic landscape could obviously go either way. Love the gong! Hate the gate on the snare. There are four songs on this, right? (Joel Simches)

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