SILVER CIRCLES REVIEWS June 09


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ME AND JOAN COLLINS
WhateverHappenedToMusic
Love. Trust. Faith. Lust.
12-song CD
Yawn. Me am made sleepy by catchy, riff-laden Bowie/Stones school of
dynamic him-and-her harmony vocals. Me am bored down to there with good
singing and songs that am have hooks. Me no like clever lyrics and superior
production values. Why am there no showoff screaming guitars and shouting
Blutos hollaring for a hamburger? Me no understand. Me especially hate
“Crime of the Century” because DJs who am remember Mink DeVille
and think they am smart will beg stupid childish wolfhound programmers
to add it to playlist because it am so insolent and irresistible. And
me am afraid to listen to “A Little Too Much” because me hate nodding
head to classy outrageous spoofery. Me also hate dramatic tough-guy
tough-girl whimsy so me can no listen to “All the Men That Failed
You.” And “From Behind” am too much like truly great bouncy song
so me am hold my ears. Me no listen! Me no listen! Me am also hate classic
ballads with gorgeous melodies, so shut up! Shut up! Because me no want
“Typical Asshole”! And me want “Electricity” to stop! Make it
stop! And me hate sophisticated melodicism with traces of Beatles so
me also hate “Maybe You Can Breathe Underwater, Tracy.” And me like
long stupid songs that make no sense and come to no point so me hate
“Strangest Thing” maybe most of all. Me hate interplay of epic instrumental
and vocal theatrics. Why them no sing it through a cracked bullhorn?
Me hate magnificent songs. Also, why am there no really short songs
about homosexual heroin addicts? Instead, we am have “That’s Not
What I Want” which am exciting and dynamic and am full of good feelings
and hope and it am pop and… and me want ugly. Why they no give us
ugly? And so me condemn the band Me and Joan Collins and me am not sorry,
because is big crime to do anything perfect on Bizarro world and there
am too many good songs here. Me will not listen to it two dozen times.
Me will not listen to it even once. These songs am too good. Hello.
(Francis DiMenno)

LEO BLAIS
Carbon Neutral Records
The Free EP
8-song CD
Wow. This is finally the perfect mix of the hippie ideology mixed with
the coolest in ’90s onward alternative arrangements. Leo has some
sort of magic working here and it’s very listenable, almost to the
point that you wish you didn’t want to listen so much, but you do,
so you do, but wish you didn’t want to, but you still do…. Wait,
I’m stuck in a looping thought form here. Okay, I’m just saying
that this disc is very well put together and the slightest things grab
you by the ear if you dig the aforementioned sounds like alternative
and ’60s hippiness. No doubt they’re very well thought out ideas,
like vocal harmony swells or funk guitar riff placements or electric
piano tings here and there. I should mention that Leo also has some
of the coolest album covers I’ve seen, sort of Nilsson and
The Point-type
visuals that take you back. It’s a positive energy trip, dude.
(Mike Loce)

AMPM
AMPM
11-song CD
While this album has a decidedly do it yourself, homegrown ethic, the
songs are well arranged and well presented. It’s hard to think that
an album can be brooding, dark, poppy, introspective, and thoughtful
without sounding pompous and self important. AMPM’s debut is
all those things and more. The musicianship on this album is immaculate
and engaging.
Hesslein’s
lead vocals seem to ooze with an easy drawl of a Grant Lee Buffalo recording,
while channeling the melodic and lyrical sensibility of Mike Scott/the
Waterboys. They can also jam without sounding like Phish. Recorded
in just about every basement and barn in New Hampshire, this album evokes
images of jamming on a rainy day with a bag of homegrown and a box of
Merlot with a couple of close friends. This album seems to be mastered
(if at all) really quiet, so turn up the speakers, light the candles,
and play this until dawn. I did. (Joel Simches)

BEFORE THE FALL
Slow Descent

12-song CD
The voice of Misty Silva is
that of a passionate, empowered woman who strives to make her voice
heard, with a burning desire (or need, rather) to tell her story to
the masses. Slow Descent, the band’s latest release, is expressed
in the form of a highly energized, alternative assault. With a
formula similar to that of Evanescence, (just one of their many influences)
intense, emotive lyricism is paired with hard-hitting guitar solos and
infectious melodies. Hard rock enthusiasts will take pleasure
in the riffs of the album’s opener, “Vicious,” and the way in
which each song to follow is as equally passionate as it is edgy, electronic
and full of depth. Darkness is demonstrated through the doom and
gloom of “Save Me,” as well as “Vein,” and is kicked up a notch
(if that was even possible) through “Brutal,” which is well… brutal.
A band such as this, a self-proclaimed “soundgasm the likes of which
you’ve never heard,” surely does have something for every individual,
and every musical taste. (Julia R. DeStefano)

VARIOUS ARTISTS
75orLess Records
No Qualms
43-song double-CD compilation
Not surprisingly, at 43 songs this compilation has a real hit-or-miss
feel to it, and it is also just a lot to digest. There is an admirable
variety in the type of bands (garage, synth pop, rockabilly, noise,
etc.), but unfortunately, there is also quite a variety in the quality
as well. A little editing would have gone a long way.
Still,
there’s a lot to recommend here, and the proceedings start off very
nicely with Clouds & Monsters channeling the layered danceable pop
of bands like MGMT with “Don’t Pray.” This is the first of several
songs that made me want to get up and move, most notably the Inclined’s
winningly distant “Just Not the Same,” which would fit right in
with all the ’80s-influenced acts currently dominating the radio,
and the Cobra-Matics’ rockabilly take on AC/DC’s “The Rocker,”
complete with some tastefully dexterous guitar playing from The Colonel.
This
is a very male-centric collection of records, but fortunately some of
the few women who do show up leave a favorable impression, particularly
the peppy ’90s alt-pop of the Jesse Minute’s “Milo” and the
mellower, mostly acoustic “Begging, Kicking, Screeching” by the
RHD Players.
When
things don’t go so smoothly, it’s largely for two reasons: embarrassing
lyrics or horrible production. The two most egregious examples of the
former are Suicide Bill’s “Suicide Summer” unsympathetic portrayal
of a suicide victim that is probably supposed to come off as hardened
or funny but is really just asinine, and Nate Laban’s “Chubby,”
a nod to larger women that lacks the nuance or humor of something like
Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls.” Many more songs fall victim to the
second problem, and interestingly, they include pretty much every song
(such as “Downtown” by the Blood Moons and “The Empire Will Fall”
by Kingdom) that goes for dark and/or creepy. Bad production doesn’t
give me the willies; it just makes me reach for the skip button.
(Kevin Finn)

JONEE EARTHQUAKE BAND
Spiral Records
2009 Spring Single
8-song CD
I’d say to listen to this disc
if you’re in the mood for the Ramones as well as Buddy Holly. Leave
headroom for noise. That’s the range. There’s a lot of great, happy
1-4-5 “fuck you” stuff as well as some heavier punk bits that sound
like your neighbor’s chainsaw on an early Sunday morning. One of the
things that have gotten great about punk music as it has evolved is
the introduction to things like Red Bull to its musicians. You can almost
hear the heart palpitations among this frothy, fuzzy tornado of JEB.
Their name almost makes them sound like some classic rock outfit, like
Mountain or Heavy Tractor Freeway. But make no mistake, this is great
punk energy. The disc also features a bonus track by psychoravers Tony
Jones & the Cretin Three, the Pity Whores, U.S.A. Waste, Afghan
Banana Stand, Weight of the World, and Massacre of the Majestic. Good
times for all involved. (Mike Loce)

THE DIGGERS
8-song CD on-line

Greetings, Zortar here, alien from
another world not as green and blue as yours, inhabiting that worthless
hide of a scoundrel known to all law enforcement officials as Slimedog.
Well, first may I say I don’t dig the Diggers. Self described as psychedelic,
blues, and rock they do remind me of a time in the ’60s on your planet
when bands noodled around aimlessly on their fuzz guitars with a sloppy
rhythm section plodding unenergetically behind. You might think they
would fall into the newer hippie jam band but most of those bands know
how to play their instruments. The CD arrived with no tunes on it and
was definitely more enjoyable than listening on their website. I don’t
mean to be so negative but you’d be a grumpy alien too inhabiting
a body where the swine flu would be a welcome release, indeed.
(Slimedog)

Original (edited) Noise review
from 12/86 (reissued on Merge in 2009)

VOLCANO SUNS
Homestead
All-Night Lotus Party
12-song LP
On the first Volcano Suns offering,
The
Bright Orange Years
, production
values teetered precariously close to murkiness, but “Cover,” “Promise
Me,” and most of side two foreshadowed the glories of this follow-up
LP,
All Night Lotus Party, which rips and roars and rides roughshod
over all and sundry and is anything but soft-baked: Volcano Suns are
con safos (not to be fucked with) and Party proves it. This time, producer
Giordano, abetted by Volcano Suns, manages to encapsulate the hard stuff
and definitively bring home the bacon, non contendere.
Blow
by Blow: The second you hear the percussive guitar sound kick in on
“White Elephant” you know you’ve caught a whiff of Mission of
Burma in all its refulgent glory, but grown a bit, more mature, a dab
grey around the temples—no more over-inflated, under-inflected hard
guitar snarl and bombast all the more vital for careening forward so
stridently and seemingly carelessly—no—Volcano Suns here exude meaning;
they signify, and musical self-aggrandizement, though present, is secondary
to what Volcano Suns mean to talk about in this song, an unefflorescent
series of dark musings concerning things which have become junk, including
the singer his own self. “Cans” is strident, but almost unbearably
lucid—Jon Williams’s guitar solo is an uncannily clever progression-and-recapitulation
squeezed into under-a-minute of boldly structured, madly juttying arrangement.
“Room With A View” is a brutally beautiful ballad riff, as hermetic
as some forms of mountain music but tethered to the sound of post-industrialization-to-the-Nth-degree
to blossom out at us as densely layered slabs of sound produced by the
distinctive bass line. If “Room” approaches the conventional ballad
laced with a liberal dose of metal, this approach is reversed on “Blown
Stack,” full of lightning-fast bass/guitar interplay interspersed
by a bracing, aberrant ballad section. “Engines” is an uncompromising
blast of metal machine-era music (which just as easily could have segued
out from MoB-style benevolence) in which meaning, pyrotechnics and technique
merge and become explosively integrated. End of side one.



Now
I wanna live the good life



But
I won’t say that I care



About
scratching my way to the top of the heap



And
taking everybody’s share…



Peter
Prescott is also con safos and the first song on side two proves it.
In three minutes and twenty seconds he tells us what we’ve come to:
“We always have to jump when it ‘Sounds Like Bucks.’” “Four
Letters” is another love song ala “Room,” this one about a fella
who never gets an answer to any of his letters and takes up weightlifting
on the side. “Dot On the Map” takes a while to make its point: ”I
would like to know just why/ You stay and let this town suck you dry,
suck you dry;/ It’s the kind of place where sparks can never fly,/
It’s a dot on the map that’s buried in my mind, in my mind,/ It’s
a step back in time, back in time…” But the point it makes is so
uncommonly fine that this can be overlooked. “Village Idiot” has
a great guitar/drum part at the end, and again you get the feeling that
the first half of the song was constructed solely to serve as a launching
pad for the second. ”Ride the Cog” is impenitent, unrelenting
guitar Armageddon clear through. “Bonus Hidden Mystery Track,” is,
of course, “Crotch on Fire,” produced in an appropriately smothered
and murky fashion and edited down to about half its former length; the
swaggering mayhem of this track provides a suitable postscript for the
album, which is required music for a stand-up jump-around hoe-down in
the autumn of love. Don’t ask me what that means, just get the record
and see for yourself. (Francis DiMenno)

THE WINGS OF FIRE ORCHESTRA
Prospice

18-song CD

Led
by rock ’n’ roll composer Jeff Pflaumbaum, the Wings of Fire Orchestra
is a “six-horn, mixed vocal, five-piece rhythm section ensemble ushering
in a new age of conceptual music.” With all music composed by
Pflaumbaum, Prospice is “two-sided,” clocking in at about an hour.
Side 1 is a ten-song cycle based on Robert Browning’s poem, “Prospice,”
while Side 2 consists of four parts: “Oh Busy Air,” as well as additional
tracks. Although the Orchestra is clearly talented, their sound
diverse and in a class all its own, I wasn’t quite sure what to make
of the album in itself. It felt more like a conglomeration of
elements rather than a structured effort. As “America’s largest
rock-orchestra,” I found myself disappointed in the disc. The
cover artwork, in which a jockey is pointing a gun at his horse’s
eye, was in poor taste and an immediate turnoff, an image I could have
certainly done without. (Julia R. DeStefano)

JULIE WHITE
Julie White

9-song CD



Ms.
White’s lyrics strike me as somewhat anodyne and prosaic. But her
vocal melodies are gentle and filled with a certain lilting calm, and
the often quasi-jazzy instrumental accompaniment is sophisticated and
always well-suited as a backdrop to her lovely though but by no means
particularly powerful or intriguingly variegated vocal presence. Nevertheless,
the many excellences found here raise this effort above the run-of-the-mill.
Her affecting lilting vocal turns on “Meet Me in the Middle,” “One
Way Mind,” and, in particular, “Empty Hand,” are especially appealing.
(Francis DiMenno)

STARNES & SHAH
Pink White Blue Green
13-song CD
“Magical” is perhaps the best term to describe the folk-rock duo
of Dania Abu-Shaheen and Zilpha Starnes. As women from completely
different backgrounds, the two effortlessly meet in the middle to craft
instantly likeable songs, each bringing their own experiences to the
table in the process. With an acoustic EP and a previously released
full-length album under their belt, Pink White Blue Green is
a symbol of growth, reminiscent of artists such as Hazeldine, Ryan Adams
and the Cardinals and even Boston’s own Avi & Celia. Tracks
such as the melodic opener, “Romance the Throne,” as well as the
sexualized undertones of “Saturn Starter Home” and the ever-changing
world as seen through “Rocket Science,” could easily be heard on
the radio any given day of the week. “Teeth,” “Fit, Fit,
Fit” and “Confetti” are especially effective and “ear-catching”
through means of repetition. In terms of originality, each song
soars with harmonies, intricacies unlike anything this reviewer has
heard before. Only time will tell, but the talented ladies of
Starnes & Shah could very well be the next big thing to hit the
music community. (Julia R. DeStefano)

KIRSTEN MANVILLE & DAVE
SIMMONS
Things You Learn
10-song CD
It’s obvious from the start that Kirsten Manville and Dave Simmons
love to play diverse styles of acoustic pop, folk, bluegrass, and soft
jazz. The two songwriters complement each other perfectly, each
supplying sweet harmony and melodic counterpoint. Manville’s
songs have a certain naivety lyrically and could use a little help in
the intonation department and sadly the performances tend to lack a
certain amount of soul, especially their cover of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t
No Sunshine.” At its best, this album is a celebration of the
songwriting form, but at its worst, there is little real sense of passion
or intensity. The two seem to shy away from allowing themselves
to feel any real emotion with the material, and as such, the songs seem
a little too sunny and superficial. Simmons and Manville both like to
over-enunciate each word and place so much emphasis on their rhyme scheme,
as if they are teaching a course in basic songwriting instead of writing
songs that engage the mind. I had to stop listening after the
Joan Armatrading cover. It just goes downhill from there and not
in the good way. (Joel Simches)

VARIOUS ARTISTS
Heavy Rotation Records
Dorm Sessions 6

18-song CD
The sixth in a series, Dorm Sessions is the latest compilation
released by Berklee College of Music’s student-managed Heavy Rotation
Records. Available on CD, digital and vinyl formats, the album
is a nine-act, 18-track showcase of students and alumni through genres
of rock, pop, folk, hip-hop, R&B, and funk. As Nini &
Ben, Christina Fabi and guitarist Benjamin Gebert capture Americana
roots rock with “Down the Road” and “Mother.” Owen Ross,
Chris Holdridge, Andrew Plourd, Jeremy Vovsko, Cliff Kuhn-Lloyd, Bryan
Percivall, Cole DeGenova, and Keith Dickerhofe put an intriguing spin
on soulful melodies as the hip-hop outfit, Re-Up. Both “Re-Up”
and “Work” demonstrate the group’s ability to use a horn section
to provide “colorful riffs.” Patrik Gochez and Alex Britten,
“two songwriters brought together by rock, roll, and a bowl of chili,”
shine as White Shoe Brown Shoe. Their approach is adventurous
and carefree, evident through “Mama Tierra” and “Off to the Races.”
Dorm Sessions
, though its selections are not always to my taste,
displays varying degrees of talent and skill within the Boston scene.
(Julia R. DeStefano)

ZAGNUTT
Garden Variety
8-song CD
Dennis
Coffey & the Detroit Guitar Band, Traffic, the Edgar Winter Band,
and many other funk-psychedelic jam-band outfits of the early ’70s
are perhaps by some stretch of the imagination now undeservedly neglected,
but there seems to me to be no compelling reason at this time to produce
an entire album of admittedly nearly flawless replicants of same.
(Francis DiMenno)

JENNY DEE & THE DEELINQUENTS
5 songs on-line
The genre of music that I would say is the most critically overlooked
or underappreciated would be ’60s girl group music. I think once the
hippies took over in the later ’60s, music like this was dismissed
as merely commercial. Which was too bad since most of that hippie music
was self-indulgent crap. So if you’re in my mind where the Shirelles
are right up there with the Beatles and Stones you’ll be pleased as
punch to hear that this three female vocalist fronted band adds Motown
and ’60s R&B to their mix. Not only have these ladies and gentlemen
picked wonderful styles to be influenced by but they sing and play great
and have the style and sound down to perfection. And visually
are a hoot to see live (lime green wedding jackets for the guys). So
no joke, if you like girl group music (I’m sorry, hippies, “woman
group music”), Motown, and soul, don’t be delinquent in checking
them out. (Slimedog)

PAWNSHOP DIAMONDS
Pawnshop Diamonds
6-song CD
The charm in this recording is its attempt to capture the classic sounds
of Bad Company, Black Crowes, and the Faces without any sense of homage,
parody, or overblown reverence for the style. They just do it
and do it well. The six songs presented here are replete with
soulful vocal acrobatics Paul Rodgers wishes he could still do without
the tight pants, guitar sounds Page himself couldn’t conjure with
the best ouija boards, and grooves that Bonzo took with him to the grave.
Pawnshop Diamonds is just a pleasant listen with some very tasty
playing. Please make more music. (Joel Simches)

MR. FYNER & THE TECH
ED ROOM
Big Cartel
Mr. Fyner & the
Tech Ed Room

4-song CD
This album follows in the musical footsteps of Boston greats like Harris
and the Appreciation Post. Despite the painfully ironic band name,
Mr. Fyner & the Tech Ed Room have a very slick emo/indie ethic,
reminiscent of At the Drive-In, Mars Volta, RATM, and a few others I’m
too lazy to mention. The sawtooth synthlines compliment the heavy
guitar grind perfectly and the vocal goes from a whimper to a scream
with a precision only matched by the immaculate tom tom work on this
EP. There may be nothing groundbreaking here (this band is soooooo
2005!!), but this EP definitely sounds ready for television.
(Joel Simches)

THE MODERN ELITE
3 songs online
It’s not easy to pull off blending heavy throwback vibes from, say,
the ’90s, with a modern indie pop feel, and vocals that deliver with
punk rock passion, but the Modern Elite achieves just that energy. After
listening to these tunes several times, I found myself each time noticing
a new genre twist somewhere in every tune—and they make it work! “Come
Around” has a slight Foo Fighter-ish feel with punky rock overtones;
“It’s Okay” shows how they rock it heavy; “When You Wake”
was my least favorite but it made me notice the drummer greatness. Overall,
I really dug it. (Debbie Catalano)

MATT ROMERO
Act II: How
The West Was Won

4-song CD
Having not heard “Act I,” I feel a little out of the loop listening
to Matt Romero’s latest. It is hard to take seriously any artist
who thanks his ex-girlfriends, Chris Cornell, and Scott Weiland, though
one can concede the former for lyrical inspiration and the latter to
insure the mediocrity of its execution. Musically, this CD sounds
like an attempt to capture the poppy side of NIN’s 2005
With Teeth
album. The production sounds are practically lifted wholesale,
as are some chord progressions and melodies. If this guy had any
remote chance of making a single dime with this EP, Trent should “lawyer
up.” Seriously. (Joel Simches)

AGREE TO DISAGREE
Trial By Fire
3-song CD
This band from the South Shore cites influences like Rise Against and
Green Day, but sounds exactly like the hastily put together band that
plays a church youth dance and gets asked to leave before their third
song. While the potential for greatness is there, Bonnie Shaw’s
vocal style is flat and lifeless and the guitarists need to invest in
a tuner. The band feels on the verge of a trainwreck, struggling
to keep it together long enough to finish their song and wait for someone’s
mom to come and take them to the mall to buy stage clothes. I’m
willing to bet that the band will break up during their first photo
shoot. Considering their “origin story” on their MySpace, it’s
totally plausible. This band makes me want to kick an orphan.
(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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