SILVER CIRCLES REVIEWS July 09


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THE FISH EYE BROTHERS
When the Swan was on the Boulevard
9-song CD

They say less is more. Well, there’s
a whole lotta less here. Namely, fearless, timeless, largely genre-less
and, apparently, in the case of co-conspirator Willie Alexander, ageless.
Willie’s history is there for the searchin’, and you’d be goofy
not to if you don’t know his boatloads of great stuff. Here, he sings,
and plays piano and cuica, a Brazilian “friction drum,” also called
a “laughing gourd,” a highly appropriate name, given some of the
cerebral hijinks at work (and play) within. Which ain’t to say it’s
a goof, by a longshot, but like much of his best output, there are bits
of whimsy to offset any relative seriousness. Jim Doherty collaborates
fully on songwriting, and adds crucial guitar, drums, electronica and
vocals, with a few guests appearing on sax and whatnot. So while essentially
a duo, the recordings are surprisingly dense (however achieved). And
while this is both their baby, it could also serve as a perfect primer
for much of what Willie has touched on over the decades. There are rave-ups
reminiscent of the Boom Boom Band days, some sparse spookiness a
la
the “Solo Loco” era, whispery meditations like the “Private
WA” stuff, and elegantly layered moments not unlike some Persistence
of Memory Orchestra tracks, yet it’s still all remarkably fresh and
vital. In short, a smashing success. Congrats, gentlemen.
(Joe Coughlin)

 

VARIOUS ARTISTS
Song For Sally

18-song compilation

The Sally of the title refers to Sally
O’Brien’s Bar and Grill in Somerville; I assume that this compilation
is a representative slice of the artists who appeared there in 2007.
If so, there were and are quite a few exemplary artists out there who
were once flying under my radar. For instance, there is an unusually
fine primitive blues number, “Hurricane,” by Jeremy Lyons, its skeletal
framework ably fleshed out by his sidemen, bassist Robbie Phillips and
drummer Jerone Dupree. Two slow and soulful burners, “Just a Face”
(reminiscent of Smokey Robinson) and “Please Please,” by One Thin
Dime also serve to vary the pace of what is mostly a compilation of
Americana, country, and roots rock. From this category, there are two
best of shows. First is the agonizing confessional-song “Walk in the
Woods,” a very astute character-piece by the Kevin Connolly Band.
These sorts of songs are tricky; they tend to run the gamut of quality
from the hamhanded (J.C. Mellencamp) to the maudlin (Harry Chapin) to
the merely arch (Warren Zevon). This song falls into none of those camps;
it is deeply felt and sung with just the right combination of woefulness
and expressiveness. The second best of show is a tuneful country-tinged
number by the Patsy Hamel Band, the beautifully vocalized “Try,”
whose elegiac feel is enhanced by Bob Metzger’s letter-perfect pedal
steel seasonings. (Hamel’s slow-dance number “Stone Cold Love”
is also quite lovely.) Other tunes of note are the ingratiating
“Party Ain’t Over yet” by the Tom Hagerty Band; the Byrds-y “Years”
by Attention Shoppers, and the evincingly wrought dying fall of “Be
Alright” by Mayberry. Many compilations of this sort are hit and miss,
but this one is indeed chock-full of the “graceful songwriting and
spirited performances” promised in the promo. (Francis
DiMenno)

 

BLACKBUTTON
That Thing That You Want to Put a
Finger To Is Because

10-song CD

This haunted, brooding guitar/ drum duo
brings out the very core of raw emotion in songwriting. Jordan
Tavenner’s growl spits out bile as intently as it sucks in the listener
with stories of life and lost love and foreboding. While Blackbutton’s
music is vaguely reminiscent of the blues of the Mississippi delta of
days long ago, this is not a retro, stylized sound of yore. The
sound of these songs is immediate, its intimacy perfectly preserved
by the knob twiddling of Shane O’Connor.

The band slithers easily from a whisper
to a scream and you will be too enthralled by the journey of the song
to notice. The tales of a journeyman have never sounded so genuine as
they do with this band. With so many drowning in a sea of imitators,
Blackbutton takes you to the origin, while carving its own unique path.
(Joel Simches)

 

SESSION AMERICANA
Diving For Gold

9-song CD

Well, Sir, the band, they strike gold
on the very first track. “I Can’t Get Out” is just about perfect
of its kind—one of those keening love songs that’s makes you want
to whistle through your tears. But I can’t rightly say the rest of
the songs have quite the same impact. Should I be tedious and mention
this is the band’s third album and that the title track sounds a bit
like that old chestnut “Three Cool Cats” and that the songs sometimes
bring to mind Warren Zevon, Sweetheart-era Byrds, and even Michael
Hurley? Naah. Why don’t I just say what I think? All too often, just
a little folk-cum-Americana goes a long way. Affect is key. Okay: The
instrumentals are stellar; the layering of instrumental effects pitch
perfect; the good-timey feel meticulously planned and executed. But,
in the studio at least, most of these compositions seem only averagely
resonant. Furthermore, the vocal delivery throughout often leaves me
less than entranced. Not to say the vocals are bad. They’re not bad
at all. Just—facile. Okay, the engaging hokum of “The Coalburner,”
replete with tuba, would make just about anyone smile. And the build-up
of “You and Me” delivers me to that strange feeling I get when I
find myself in the middle of something that might be significant. But
for the most part I heard lots of shtick but very little that actually
stuck. (Francis DiMenno)

 

NIGHT DRIVING
Flaws

10-song CD

This is a very odd duck indeed. The very
BEST KIND of odd duck, though. The kinda thing you might wanna keep
handy for when you have no idea what you feel like listening to. Which
ain’t to say it’s all over the place. It’s a largely acoustic-based
one-man show. Save for programming on one track and drums on two others,
Steve Gintz handles vocals, guitars, bass, piano, synths, and trumpet.
The usual problem with these type things is that (a) the person is so
anxious to prove something that the actual material is an afterthought,
(b) the lyrics are invariably that overwrought, I’m-so-sensitive,
feel-my-pain hoo-hah, and (c) the playing and any sense of nuance are
clumsy, or rushed, or otherwise inappropriate to the so-called message
of the song. NONE of this happens here. In fact, just insert the opposites
to the above, and you got yer review. It’s on the somber side, sure,
but it’s absolutely genuine and often quite gorgeous. It may not be
100% outta-the-park, but it’s dang well close enough for me. One of
the nicest surprises of the year so far, and BY far. (Joe
Coughlin)

 

THUNDERHOLE
Thunderhole

10-song CD

Ah, yes, Mr. Slimedog here, dressed as
Mrs. Slimedog, inhabiting Zortar the space alien and imagining myself
as a blue bird floating through time and space. But enough of my personal
life. Some would say Thunderhole plays experimental music but I like
my own term “koo-koo music.” I like that descriptio:n better because
it suggests a crazy, fun, playful way of doing things instead of a dull,
scientific, serious one and these tunes are definitely koo koo. This
trio of guitar, keyboards, and drums play songs full of dissonance,
noisy guitar, screamy vocals but are always rooted by straight forward
upbeat rock beats to not let things get too abstract reminding a bit
of great old Boston bands like the Girls or the Dark. I think this band
is very arty, creative, interesting but most of all I would describe
them as fun. And what’s more fun than being koo-koo? (Slimedog)

 

THE FULLY CELEBRATED
AUM Fidelity

Drunk on the Blood of the Holy Ones

8-song CD

This trio, a reduction in numbers from
the widely known Fully Celebrated Orchestra, has released an occasionally
puzzling but more often highly pleasurable set. The opening track, I’m
sorry to say, leaves me somewhat cold. “Moose and Grizzly Bear’s
Ville” comes across, not so much as formulaic and rote as—how do
I put this?—an avant-garde version of Chuck Mangione. The second track,
“Reptoid Alliance” seems cacophonous and strained in a gratuitously
flashy manner. However, there are four tracks here that I regard as
absolutely stellar and would heartily recommend to anyone who appreciates
the novel subtleties of post-1960s jazz. The third, the title track,
is an odd, compelling, incantatory drum-and-bass driven quasi-march
with some truly eerie reverberating alto sax overlays. “Enemy of Both
Sides” features subtle snare timbres, insinuating bass, and naggingly
cascading alto sax riffs that make me squint and then relax as they
work their way into my subconcious mind. As for “Conotocarius,”
the very cacophony that seemed so distresssing on track two comes across
as both urgent and magisterial here. “Dew of May” appropriately
concludes the set: it is both meditatively elegaic as well as pulsing
and intense; it brilliantly showcases a subtle dynamic of tension and
release. The best tracks on this release give me a rare chill that comes
from that much-vaunted “shock of recognition.” (Francis
DiMenno)

 

MIDNITE SOCIAL
Ignition

Midnight Social

11-song CD

Greetings, Zortar here, alien from another
planet inhabiting the glue sniffing, walking corpse known as Slimedog
on your vile and disgusting planet (men with sandals, ugh!). Now usually
what I’m served up here is some warmed up oatmeal of a singer songwriter
singing tales of woe about his receding hairline. But today is a bright
one in the dark days of Zortar because this band, with the unassuming
name, actually kicks ass. Screaming melodic vocals, thumping drums,
Les Paul squealing Marshall amp guitar and mentioning Guns ’n Roses
as an influence should all give some clue of what’s going on here.
Tight playing, exciting songs, strong vocals—so what if it’s a bit
of a throwback to hard rock days, this is where rock and metal is at
its best—hard driving, sexy and wild. Everything that Slimedog is
not. (Slimedog)

 

FIRE IN THE FIELD
Fire in the Field

8-song CD

No band can or should ever be compared
to Led Zeppelin, and I’m certainly not doing that, but that’s what
it seems like Fire in the Field is going for with this album. The band
is pretty talented—although they’ve got a long way to go—and I
love the way they’ve carved out a their own style of classic rock
with a modern twist. “Restless” has a bluesy Sly & the Family
Stone vibe that I’m totally digging. “My Time Has Come” is a great
rock song with an epic guitar solo at the end that is obviously based
on the great foundations of its classic rock forefathers. Though I feel
these guys need a bit of sharpening, especially when it comes to percussion,
I think they’ve got a decent thing going here. (Emsterly)

 

THE DC4
Fight for your Life

10-song CD

Led by DC, the former bassist/ singer
of Awakening Stick, the DC4 evolved from a solo creative outlet into
a no-frills, “tell it like it is,” alternative group. As stated
in their one-sheet, the band is “…kind of angry at the world, but
with a self-deprecating sense of humor. Throw in a little geeky
sci-fi/gamer vibe and punk attitude along some deeply reverential hard
rock roots…” A solid, instantly likeable effort, Fight for your
Life
incorporates ’70s influences, as well as the energy found
in the punk/ rock genres of today. Just listen to “Again and Again
and Again,” “Waiting,” or “The Time Is Now,” as each story
told is just as intensely as the next, all being based on the members’
real-life experiences. A lineup consisting of Glen Anderson on
guitar, Dan Jeffs on drums and Apple Betty’s Jessica on bass and vocals
makes the listening experience all the more enjoyable, as each musician
appears to compliment the other effortlessly. One wonders where
the DC4 will go from here. (Julia R. DeStefano)

 

SIX FINGER SATELLITE
Load Records

Half Control

8-song CD

These Providence sturm-und-drang screamers
have long had a hefty buzz and following up here, and while not really
my thing at all, it’s easy to understand why. Ominous as a funnel
cloud, heavy as a truckload of gravel, dark as Al Jolson’s greasepaint,
and relentless as the passage of time, even. If it’s melody you want,
keep lookin’, and that’s not a gripe (for once). They may be the
best clobberers of well-placed repetition and disarming (but never distracting)
time signatures I’ve heard since Helmet’s best stuff (not that I
know much of this in general, but I know what works when I hear it).
For those that didn’t know, the label’s site says the recordings
are from 2001, were remixed in 2008, and that a new lineup is now playing
out, among other tidbits. It’s also nice when so many of the lyrics
stand just fine on their own as good readin’. Again, it’s kinda
weird to heap such praise on something I don’t expect to throw on
too often, but if I’ve made clear what to expect, and you know you
either want it or you don’t, then hopefully I’ve done my job as
well as they’ve done theirs. (Joe Coughlin)

 

MC HOLY GHOST AND MASTASWITCH
Spirit Records

Stolen Bootleg Tracks

21-track CD

Back in the early 1970s, slogans like
“free the political prisoners” and “the USA is a giant poison
machine” were the rhetoric du jour. Things haven’t really changed
all that much, have they? Or so you’d be tempted to conclude
after absorbing (the only word) the contents of this ambient rap album,
which is avowedly intended to be listened to as a whole rather than
on a song by song basis, though it really seems to be in two parts.
Tracks 13 through 16 and 20 are stand-alone songs. Of these, the songs
“Neighbor Neighbor” and “Sunny Days” in particular are both
chilling and compelling. For the remainder of the CD we have the ostensibly
political songs. These preach from the standard all-against-all aliens-mind
control and neo-colonialism conspiranoia script, from what I gather.
Taken as a whole, these political songs come across as a monument to
black paranoia. Fascinating if you are either a paranoid, or a conspiracy
buff (or if you harbor a practical interest in the effects of paranoia
on the body politic, which I do). The thing is, these guys aren’t
joking around. That fact alone gives this collection an undeniable power.
And the fact that they are convinced of their high rectitude also puts
this project in the category of outsider art. But I’m not buying it.
They may think that they are fighting fire with fire. But that’s how
the whole world burns. And they may not particularly care, but their
radical rhetoric constitutes its very own type of propaganda (every
bit as tiresome to a discerning ear as the vicious maunderings of super-patriots).
Therefore, they ultimately seem complicit in the very methods they profess
to abhor. (On the other hand, it’s fascinating to learn that President
Nixon showed top-secret flying saucers to Jackie Gleason. Jackie Gleason!)
(Francis DiMenno)

 

WHO SHOT HOLLYWOOD
Springtime in Greenland

8-song CD

It took me a long time to think of anything
to say about this band, because the music just didn’t grab me enough
to pay attention and form an opinion. But what I’ve finally decided
is that this band is completely disorganized. The vocals don’t seem
to match up with the music. Not to mention that the vocals are pretty
whiny and slightly off key. But the music, despite being disjointed
from the vocals, is good, in a weird, whimsical way. It kind of reminds
me of Cursive. But I really can’t get into this album. The songs just
seem like background noise to me. I do think, however, that with some
polishing, this band could be really good. I’d be interested to hear
them after another year or so, because this album, despite its flaws,
does show some potential. (Emsterly)

 

BRIAN BERGERON
We’ve Got to Find an Easier Way

10-song CD

Hard to believe, but Brian Bergeron’s
first full-length album, a product of months of preparation, funding
and recording, is incredibly… unique. This is surprising, as
the image of a “guy with a guitar” often results in imitations (direct
or indirect) of Ryan Adams or John Mayer, as well as others of the same
genre. With several previously released EPs under his belt, Bergeron’s
We’ve Got to Find an Easier Way

is a testament to the sound he seems to have been searching for all
along. Under the guidance and production of CBS Records recording
artist Will Dailey, Bergeron consistently blends older fan favorites
with a selection of new offerings. The opener, “Let Me In,”
is melodious, whereas “Hanging Around” is mainstream with its infectious
beat and insightful lyricism: “…and I saw my way out. We are
only in charge of our own affairs.” Age appears of no matter
in Bergeron’s world. His approach is wise beyond his young years
and therefore easily relatable to audiences of any generation—clearly,
a rising star of the Boston scene. (Julia R. DeStefano)

 

TARA WHITE
In Goddess We Trust

13-song CD

From their MySpace (missing hyphens verbatim,
of course): “Tara White is a Boston based rock band known for straight
up, jam friendly alternative rock with a variety of styles, song lengths
and sounds.” Says their music is “popping up…on podcasts everywhere.”
(Is it just me, or is a variety of song lengths not exactly a major
selling point?) Anyway, it also says to contact the band if you want
member bios, ordering info, or other stuff. I don’t get why they didn’t
just include all that here. I don’t get the record much, either. I’d
like to know what all these different styles and sounds are. This has
a flat-out (more flat than out), constant, trebly “Rock Lite” sameness
all the way through. I’m not saying they should be more aggressive
per se
, but no one in a dentist’s office or elevator would object.
Nothing idea-or-otherwise grabbed me. And shouldn’t songs reflect
their titles at least a little? “Nemesis” is nothing but friendly.
“Rollercoaster” is more like riding a Sit-n-Spin. “Snake Bit”
has no fangs, let alone venom. “Weasel Boy” is apparently pretty
cute. (Okay, I’ll grant ’em that “Ennui” is nearly eight minutes
of just that.) Maybe I’m missing something. Or maybe they are.
(Joe Coughlin)

 

YERBY
Space Elevator

11-song CD

From the production to the musicianship,
lyrics, and songcraft, not to mention the “user’s guide” (a booklet
containing the lyrics—which are more like modern poetry than song
lyrics), it’s apparent that a LOT of work went into this CD. It’s
singer-songwriter stuff but with a host of musicians. Standout tracks
are “Three Chords,” which is a play on the venerable three-chord
rock song; “It Matters What You Love,” with a structure and melody
that sound like quick arpeggiated chords; the drum-driven “Scene from
the Bottom of a River.” Actually, there’s a lot to like about this
CD. My only bit of nitpicking criticism: Patrick Yerby’s vocals sound
a little too much like they’re Ben Folds on Prozac. Just a bit of
feeling would go a long way. (Robin Umbley)

 

PIGBOAT
Float

13-song CD

I had wicked high hopes for this one.
There’s an excellent painting of a pig in water on the cover. The
back has a pig eating ramen. Some amusing song titles (“Cowboys, I
Think,” “Ho Ho Whatever”). The liners acknowledge other bands
with names like Covered in Bees, An Army of Squirrels, Man-Witch, Hatchetface
and the Vipers, the Hot Tarts, Broken Clown, and Jodi Explodi. Pigboat
is from Maine (as are, I assume, these others. I haven’t heard ’em,
but snappy names are rare, so it’s good to see some). The press sheet
says the record “will pummel you with its girth [?!?].” Tracks 1,
2, and 10 are pretty Black Sabbath-y. But the rest sounds like a crunchier
Soundgarden with James Hetfield singing, in two tempos (kinda fast,
and pretty slow). Track 7’s the only quiet one, starting and ending
with 40 seconds of leaky-faucet-sorta sounds. I couldn’t decipher
the reverb-y, washed-out vocals, but I guess that’s all deliberate
(it’s called “The Less Than Successful Shakedown Cruise of the U.S.S.
Pfeifle”). Track 9’s a Broken Clown cover, 13 is Sabbath’s “Snowblind,”
done by-the-book (although, props for the in-joke intro). The whole
thing’s perfectly competent and all (maybe even a shitload of fun
under certain conditions), but hardly the ass-reaming I suspect they’re
capable of. (Joe Coughlin)

THE SUNSETS QUICK
The Sunsets Quick

10-song CD

Ah, yes, Mrs. Slimedog here, top reviewer
of the Noise. A title I’m proud to claim but what with them
letting space aliens and birds do reviews here, I’m not so sure. But
Slimedog says I’m like the teapot talking to the kettle or something
like that. Anyhoo, this is indie rock, a new term for me. I know what
an “outie” bellybutton is so this must be people staring at their
“indie” one and singing tunes about it. This CD is pleasant and
all what with the quiet guitars, marching rhythms and bland vocals but
it’s not fun. Oh wait, Slimedog just woke up and says the yelping
on song four does sound like the Pixies (who I guess were an unknown
local band). I think they need a bigger helping of yelping on their
next one and things will be as fresh as a dairy. So guys get together,
goose that singer or pull his arm hairs, that’ll get him. But for
now I’ll just listen to the Green Days. (Mrs. Slimedog)

NICHOLAS DiSPAGNA
Hello
14-song CD

What is this? Why, nothing but
a mere glorification of Nicholas DiSpagna’s sexual escapades put to
song. An alumni of Berklee College of Music, and a past student
of the blues in Memphis, Tennessee, DiSpagna’s Hello is a culmination
of two years’ effort—guaranteed to make even the most promiscuous
individual blush embarrassingly. The album appears conceptual,
an ongoing tale of the trials and tribulations of young love through
overtly suggestive means. DiSpagna leaves nothing to the imagination,
as all is uncomfortably laid out before his audience—“She Sings
Alone” is perhaps the best instance. Despite this, production
is really where this effort shines. Through sweeping, eloquent
compositions, each track is meant to be played loud—perfect for the
easy listener with an appreciation for soul and R&B grooves.
Overall, DiSpagna is well advised to work on his modesty. A little
innuendo is okay, but enough is enough. Therefore… I have no
choice but to say “goodbye.” (Julia R. DeStefano)

 

ONCE MORE
Replay

5-song CD

Here’s another “not just another
band out of Boston” that sounds like another band out of Framingham
trying not to sound like a band from Boston. Sure, there’s some
heavy guitaaahs and high energy drumming, but the songs suffer from
lack of development, trying to say too much and ultimately saying nothing.
It doesn’t help that the singer has some pitch issues. There
are too many lyrics and not enough hooks. There is nothing that
catches the ear and when it does it goes completely nowhere and back
to something completely mundane. That said, with some refinement,
this band could be pr

 

TECHNOIR MA
Technoir MA EP

3-song CD

It is obvious that Technoir MA borrows
heavily from Joy Division/ early New Order from the first electronic
beat. As “homages” go, the duo of Justin Vassallo and Colin
Green really nail that halcyon Factory vibe. Unfortunately, the
songs here suffer from an uneven mix and a lack of testicular fortitude
in the rhythm department. The guitars sound great. In fact
it is the most prevalent thing on most of this EP, consuming everything
in its chorus/ reverbed path. When you can hear the vocals, they
are quite nice. It is a shame to bury them like this… except
for the third song where the vocals are unlistenable. I am not
crazy about the reverb on the vocal, but I guess that’s some kind
of “artistic” choice. The third track, “Islands” does
feature some icy synthwork, which is, once again, drowning out anything
else of interest. (Joel Simches)

 

VIEW OF A BURNING CITY
View of A Burning City

4-song CD

This album gives more credit to the people
who mixed and mastered it than to the people who actually perform on
this. With an endorsement from Billy Squier stuck on the label
(some mindless drivel about how no one ever does real guitar solos)
and credits attributed to the likes of Guns & Roses, Killswitch
Engage, Metallica, and KISS, one would think of this eponymous debut
as the second coming of rock ’n’ roll, the likes of which none have
seen in this or any other lifetime. While this debut is one of
the best produced pieces of rock to come out of Boston in a long time,
if ever, this band is the same cookie cutter metal band you can hear
headlining up in Portsmouth any day of the week. Nothing to see
here. Move along. (Joel Simches)

 

TUCKER JAMES & THE HOT MUGS
Horizon Music Group

Or Something In Between

6-song CD

This sounds like a cross between the
La’s, Elvis Costello, and John Cougar(not)Mellencamp, with a side
of the Refreshments (remember them?). The ultra pop chocobliss
of these four songs ooze from every musical pore, each song a slice
of a very sweet meringue. Tucker James & the Hot Mugs write
tight poppy songs that make you feel all squishy and wonderful inside.
Sunny harmonies, wiggly synths and shaky tambourines punctuate the jangle
and lilt of the guitars. There is nothing to hate about life when
listening to this disc. I may just vomit. The jaded and angry
may want to avoid this. (Joel Simches)

If you’re band or act is based
in New England, and would like your CD reviewed, send it to: T Max/
the Noise, 74 Jamaica Street, Jamaica Plain, MA.
Then please be patient—we’ll get to it as
soon as we can.


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