SILVER CIRCLES REVIEWS Sept 09


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RAY MASON
Captivating Music
Like Bugs
Chewing on Paper

11-song CD
Ray’s been writing
his insinuating and engaging slice-of-life tunes for decades, and, by
a conservative count, has released over 200 songs. I would love to hear
a greatest hits compilation; it seems to be about time. But until that
day, his crack band and ace producer showcase him to irrepressible effect
on the 12th CD released under his name. Lyrically, Mason is an under-regarded
treasure. Like the writer/cartoonist Ben Katchor, he’s an astute miniaturist
whose songs focus on the everyday. Case in point: “Unusual Keys”
(which sounds like it is being sung through a taxicab microphone). Keys?
It’s not about music. (Not really.) “Lunch Box” is another jumpy,
almost hypnotic ditty, but it’s trumped by one of Ray’s best songs
ever. It’s called “Eloise Please.” It deserves to be a classic. It’s
every bit as good as Elvis Costello’s “Veronica.” Maybe better.
Pick quote: “You don’t need a bridge with a chorus this strong/ Under
three minutes, it’s not too long.” Request it on your radio station.
Make it a hit. It deserves to be heard all over the country. Hell, it
deserves to have ITS OWN TV SERIES. It could be about a ditzy piece
of fluff named Eloise. But who cares what the show would be about—just
so we could listen to the damn song every week! (Francis DiMenno)

IAN ADAMS

Midriff Records
Stay Up Late
12-song CD
The first track has
me scratchin’ my head. The press sheet says, “…takes its production
style from ’60s girl groups and ’70s glam,” which applies here
(a good thing), if not to the whole record. Track two’s an acoustic-y,
sing-along drinkin’ type thing I can do without. (And ignore the scuttlebutt
that this is Adams’ “acoustic record”). Track three’s kinda
surf-spook, and the first thing I’da pegged as actually bein’ him
(as with “In the Dark” and, somewhat, “I Got It Bad”). “Oh,
Dracula” conjured a Billy Corgan visual I just couldn’t shake (sorry,
Ian). “Horns of the Devil” is a nicely arranged li’l sweetheart,
as is the haunting closer “Precious Time” (which smacks of mandolins,
though none are listed). One site says, “…a dark creepy place where
love, sex, and death ride on the devil’s back. The [instruments] give
feelings of a cinematic rock ’n’ roll dream where you realize too
late that David Lynch is the director.” A bit of a stretch, but that’s
PR for ya. And maybe it’s me, but I think the vocals are a notch too
high in the mix. Essential? No. Do I wish more people would take similar
chances? Yes! A LOT!!
(Joe Coughlin)

THE MONTGOMERYS
Naked Ear Records
Walkie Talkie


13-song CD
Simply, indie pop rock
at its best. The band, fronted by the “Bad Boy of Boston Bubblegum,”
Peter Montgomery, and featuring Black Fortress of Opium guitarist Tony
Savarino, among others, has put forth a solid, heartfelt effort.
As their one-sheet states, the new record “deals with the breakdown
of modern communications. Although we are more wired, wireless,
tweeted, Facebooked and networked than ever before, we still can’t
communicate about what’s truly important in life.” The disc
itself, although it isn’t anything ground-breaking per se, is indeed
a pleasure to listen to. The lyricism is honest, the melodies
engaging, and tracks such as “Hope You Get a Lot,” “Caitlin”
and “Pretender” are especially single-worthy.
Walkie Talkie
also offers versions of Neil Young’s “Don’t Let It Bring You Down”
and the Who’s “My Wife.” One word: enjoyable. (Julia R. DeStefano)

THE ATLANTICS
Something Hot Communications
Power Pop:
Singles Demos 1977-1982

17-song CD
On the one hand, the
folks at Something Hot may have gone to the Atlantics well once too
often. However, what justifies this project is a chance to hear a rare
single (“When You’re Young”/“Teenage Flu”) as well as some
very early unreleased Altlantics demos, such as the gloomy “Ten To
One,” and the telegraphically jumpy and lurching “I’m Hurt.”
There are also alternate takes of previously released songs; of these, most
noteworthy is the demo of “Pop Shivers” an intriguing (but somewhat
underproduced) sketch of the extraordinary version heard to brilliant
effect on
The Atlantics (2006). Other highlights are the sizzling
guitar break on “Turn It Off,” and the magnificent jolting power
pop of “Who’s Been Fooling Who.” On the other hand, songs such as
“Where Would I Be Without Your Love” show that from the outset,
the Atlantics compared favorably to such stalwarts as Queen, the MC5,
the Raspberries, Big Star, the Move, and the Flaming Groovies. By 1982
and the end of their career, they were beginning to transcend their
milieu and forge a new sound. Some of these tracks can be heard here
for the first time, notably, “Dangerous Smile” and the infectiously catchy
“Playing Telephone.” This is highly recommended for Atlantics fans
and a must for Atlantics completists.
(Francis DiMenno)

BIG D &
THE KIDS TABLE

SideOneDummy Records
Fluent In
Stroll


14-song CD
Those used to Big D
& the Kids Table’s frenetic (and often goofy) punk-tinged ska
will likely view this batch of relatively mellow soul and doo-wop influenced
numbers as a bit of a curveball. It’s nice to see an established veteran
band willing to deviate from their norm, and for the most part, they
pull it off, providing what would be a nice soundtrack to the summer
if the weather hadn’t sucked for most of the season so far. The addition
of a peppy trio of female singers adds some nice color, particularly
in the call-and-response of the title track, a gleeful mission statement
that probably burns live. They also serve to nicely offset singer David
McWane’s rather pedestrian voice. The horn section excels throughout,
demanding notice but never by overplaying, and guitarist Sean Rogan
has a versatility that one doesn’t always encounter in this genre.
The slower numbers drag a bit and some of the wide-eyed lyrics come
off as a bit oversimplified, but if you just want to forget your troubles
and take a long walk on the beach,
Fluent
in Stroll
would make for a
fitting companion.
(Kevin Finn)

DIABOLIS IN
MUSICA

Dim Records
Vibrabimus!

14-song CD
In the 6th century,
Pope Gregory I outlawed certain musical harmonies, which he declared
“diabolis in musica,” or “the devil’s music.” It was
possibly the rock ’n’ roll of the dark ages. Inspired by these high-energy
folk and dance tunes, Diabolis in Musica blends medieval melodies and
instrumentation, with modern and international flavors, resulting in
a captivating timeless sound. The group’s repertoire is multi-cultural,
drawing from ancient folk tunes, renaissance dances, ecclesiastical
texts, Middle Eastern rhythms, war marches, and pop hits (hint: the
title
track will rock you!). They perform on a variety of authentic medieval
instruments including rauschpfiefes, shawm, hurdy gurdy, bagpipe, violin,
and a cache of different hand drums.

This
is an excellent album, specific to another era, but completely charming,
disarming, and exotic. Like passing through a time tunnel back to the
Middle Ages. Add the fact that the group attires themselves in the fashion
of the times, well—prithee, take me to the faire. I shalt doff my
cap and pen to Dave Irish, Jocelyn Demuth, Wayne Humphrey, Brian LeDuke,
and Sioux Gerow for creating a boisterous sound from centuries past.
Yes indeed, they’re gonna party like it’s 1399. (Harry C. Tuniese)

GOLDEN HOLY
Magic Bullet Records
Golden Holy

9-song CD
While Golden Holy’s
eponymous debut might have all the trappings of the Brooklyn art/music
hipper-than-thou scene dripping all over the speakers, the band has
laced this recording with trippy whispered vocals, arrangements and
orchestrations that Sufjan Stevens would have wet the bed over, and
catchy vocal bits that would have easily found itself on an Arcade Fire
record. The moody acoustic vibe of this record is perfect for
a late night listen, with or without medication. If Sigur Ros
had grown up on the East Coast, they might sound a lot like this.
Though Golden Holy now calls Portland, Oregon their new home, their
dioramic sonic vista easily and readily encompasses much more than both
coasts. This album is downright impressive. (Joel Simches)

THE PANDAS
You Are The
Weather


6-song CD
A tasty blend of acoustic
instruments and electronics, the Pandas do more than simply paint arty
pictures with sound, they dress it with a combination of retro sounds,
samples and things that go bloop and bleep so eloquently. The
pictures seem painted in pastels and watercolors and accented with the
occasional flash day-glo and the spontaneous feather and piece of bubble
wrap. The music is more playful than cerebral, though that is not to
say that the music and arrangements aren’t intelligent and well thought
out. The Pandas’ music neither calls attention to its own process,
nor takes you on the journey unwillingly. This disc is sprinkled with
all kinds of goodness.
(Joel Simches)

SIZZLECHEST
Sizzlechest
8-song CD
What a great combination
of hard rock songs this is. Sizzlechest has a type of brazen, retro
’70s guitar-based rock sound going on here. I’m at times reminded
of Kiss, .38 Special, and Motorhead. What a mix! They sound like themselves
in a good way however. The band has more of a modern energy that amps
it up a little bit, with excellent guitar riff work. The lyrics and
stories told are actually quite funny, in a balls-to-the-wall, pump-yer-fist-and-grab-my-cock
kind of way. Tunes about experienced hoochie mamas and pubic avenues
and living sleazily and hairy balls. I imagine myself blasting this
disc when I’m mad at my high school girlfriend and then going out
and listening to it more while I drink Old Milwaukee and Cossack vodka
mixed, drunkenly staring at the night sky as the fire burns, crackling,
my chest sizzling with righteousness.
(Mike Loce)

DAVE CRESPO & THE AFTERPARTY

Dave Crespo & the Afterparty

8-song CD
With a rocking backup
band, Dave Crespo’s down home, honest songwriting becomes electric
and energetic. While the concept of a male/female dual lead is
compelling, singer Cary Wells sounds like she is trying too hard to
overshadow her singing partner, often sounding out of place and out
of key in the moments that Crespo’s voice should really be the vocal
focal point. While Wells proves herself more than adept with material
she’s given, the blend between the two seems often elusive and, at
times, contrived. Perhaps with more group writing and arranging, the
right balance will be achieved. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen
nearly enough on this disc, despite the strength of Crespo’s skillful
songwriting and Wells sometimes too obvious vocal chops.
(Joel Simches)

WHAT TIME IS
IT MR. FOX?

And Other
Stories


11-song CD
I’ve played this several
times in a row, and, musically speaking, although it rewards repeated
listens, the (not particularly) profound disconnect between the nuanced
music and the overreaching lyrics spoils the experience. Some grandeur
does manage to creep in amid all the obvious pretentiousness and high
solipsism: “The Fog” is nuanced and pleasant; “Hanging in a Tree”
is gorgeously melodic; the instrumental middle eight of “The Tower”
is sweetly evincing. But “Fisher King” strikes me as overwrought
and falsely consequential; “The Gospel of Beauty” seems almost gratuitously
sentimental; “Horror Cartoon” is unpleasantly obvious and strident;
“Fruitless” exploits a soft-jazz realm that doesn’t impress me
as completely authentic; “April Pearl” smells like a bit of hokum
dressed up in pretty strings; “So Mean” is little more than a long
self-pitying plaint set to keyboards and trumpet; “Derailed” strikes
me as mere melodrama; and, to cap it all off, “March of the Hares”
gives us a heapin’ helpin’ of Paganini. Brian King has a wonderfully
accomplished voice, but his lyrical preoccupations strike me as fuzzy-minded
kitsch masquerading as archetypal profundity. This is a direct (but
edited) quote from MySpace: “Influences: Sandra Bernhard, Bela Bartok…
Jean Genet, Jean Cocteau, Maya Deren, Beth Orton, Shoshtakovich… Pasolini,
Rimbaud, Rilke, Anais Nin, Brassai, Remedios Varo, Odetta, Kenneth Anger,
Marlene Deitrich, Paganini, Madame Blavatsky, Joseph Campbell, Alan
Watts, Lewis Carroll… Brothers Grimm, Karen Finley, the Beatles, H.P.
Lovecraft, Joan of Arc, Robin Hood, Morgan le Fay, Eurythmics, Comus,
Robert Graves, William Blake, Andy Warhol, Oscar Wilde, Buddha… Abraham
Lincoln, Carl Jung.” Really. I couldn’t make this up. Question:
Is this an album—or the
Evergreen
Review
? After reading this,
I feel like Dorothy Parker felt when reviewing
The
House at Pooh Corner.
Or, as
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. once put it, “Bring me a basin!”
(Francis DiMenno)

SCOTT BISHOP
New Lights


12-song CD
Having been the founder
of
Slippy Keane, Scott Bishop’s first solo endeavor (essentially
twelve songs of “beer-soaked stories for the hung-over and broken-hearted”)
written in early 2003, fall of 2003 and in the spring of 2005, is clearly
a labor of love. Throughout, influences are evident— ranging
from the Beatles and Velvet Underground, to the Who, and Buffalo Tom.
Bishop also pays homage to Bob Mould in the appropriately titled “Kitten’s
Got Curves,” with lyrics “…and talk about music from my younger
days/ Do you think they know who Husker Du was anyways?/
They can play some video games at the Zen Arcade…” Listener accessibility
is clearly the key to success. Of course everyone can relate to
having an attraction and/or relationship with an age difference, as
is seen in “Kitten” or has had many a “sad bastard dinner” such
as those spoken of through the melancholic sarcasm of “Dinner #2.”
The disc itself transitions smoothly from heavy hitting tunes to acoustically
driven, introspective numbers—all of which are radio-friendly in their
own right. In the end, Bishop has managed to achieve what most
can only dream of in a first effort. (Julia R. DeStefano)

COREPHALLISM
Apop Records/Lascivious Aesthetics
Corephallism

2-song 3”
CD single
This is someone’s
soundtrack to a really, really bad day. The work of Shane Broderick,
best known for his work in the noise project Twodeadsluts Onegoodfuck,
Corephallism channels the inner demons and twisted conflict of both
soul and psyche. These two brief snippets of electronics and noise
evoke moods and conjure thoughts of someone about to commit a vile and
violent act with no explanation or apology. A piece of music that
can evoke such strong and dark imagery is either the work of a genius
of no commercial potential, or someone who needs to be locked away before
he disembowels your children with a salad fork. Either way, this
CD is as compelling as it is repulsive, like a late night violent car
crash on a dark highway. (Joel Simches)

BOB JORDAN
Sal Magundi Records
The Country
That Never Was
13-song CD
Bob Jordan has been
one of the pioneers of the Worcester music scene. For over 30 years,
he has continuously produced albums of varying success, promoting and
booked shows with offbeat artists using underground credentials, as
well as personally encouraging all newcomers. Small town scenes like
this never lack for a catalyst, and Bob J. has proven to be a major
contender.

But,
never in my wildest imagination could I have foreseen the release of
such a perfect platter of country-pop beatitude! Absolutely enchanting
and aglow with vitality (which is more than remarkable considering Bob’s
deadpan approach to mostly everything). Finally, an able-bodied producer
(Steve Blake) has lassoed that wild-eyed buckeroo for a serious discourse
in disc making. The originals (“Turnaround,” “Icebreaker”) illuminate
the well-chosen cover tunes (Mike Nesmith’s “Harmony Constant,”
Merle Haggard’s “Lonesome Fugitive,” Joni Mitchell’s “Urge
for Going”). The performers are precise with top-notch talent, sweetening
every tune (kudos to Chip Smith on fiddle and Kevin Maul on pedal steel).

Yet,
it’s the overall vision and shining lo-fi righteousness that captures
the heart and soul of the listeners. Like the best country & western
songs, this is contemporary commentary amidst honky-tonk humor and self-deprecating
observations about the current music biz. Bottoms up and a big toast
to “this psychedelic cowboy in the land of Aerosmith.”
(Harry C. Tuniese)

KURT VON SETTEN
Static Motor Recordings
History

12-song CD
Ah yes, Mrs. Slimedog
here, future
Rolling
Stone
reviewer, though I know
they’re direct competition with the
Noise. Who would’ve thought they needed a whole
magazine just to review the Stones? But enough about me and my enormous
talents, and not just my mammaries, let’s get this roll boiling.

This
CD is by Kurt Von Setten (not a Nazi) and he plays all the instruments,
which I assume is simultaneously. This is described as classic indie,
which I guess means ’70s style indie rock. I don’t know what it
is, some of it is poppy and fuzzy and catchy and weird at times. Slimedog
says its experimental indie.

Kurt’s
the leader of a band called the Drama Queens who have a simply darling
drummer named Cindy. I think if he has other people helping him out
next time it may be better. But I am
very
impressed
that he can sing
play guitar, bass, and drums all at the same time.
(Mrs. Slimedog)

i90
Billstu Productions
American
Pot Pie

11-song CD
First let me talk about
the singer’s enjoyable style. Two members are credited with vocals,
so I’m not sure which one has the timbre I’m about to describe.
Imagine Bryan Adams just stole a pack of cigarettes and a Twinkie from
the local package store, then met you in an alley, hunched down and
whispered to you that he did it. That’s what he sounds like most times.
Very enjoyable. And the guitar orchestration is great, with a rocking,
alternative harmonized, folksy acoustic fuzzy thing happening. It sounds
very minor at times, balanced with strength of attitude. The drummer
has a nice swing and powerful hit. This group of dudes has a knack for
writing a catchy tune, but sometimes the music feels as if it’s trying
to be overly anthemic. I really like the aforementioned blending of
acoustic and electric timbres. That, in my opinion, is the best part
of i90’s sound. That and the enjoyable vocals.
(Mike Loce)

THE COLD GOODNIGHT
Werewolves
and Red Lights

5-song CD
A new band’s debut
effort tends to be full of unrealized ideas. That’s not the case here—the
band seems to know what they want their sound to be. Unfortunately, the
sound they aim for is mostly superficially glossy, spectacular, unnuanced,
and full of simplistic riffs. Particularly on the first three songs, when
I look behind the vocals, what I hear is more anodyne than leading-edge.
What makes the mixture more than a merely palatable exercise is Meri
Cartwell’s haunting mezzo-soprano and (admittedly somewhat overwrought)
vocal theatrics, particularly on the bass-heavy, metal-edged, and over-the-top “Revenants,”
and the almost downright operatic workout she gives her voice on “The
Ballad of Emily Rose.” If this group works to seek an utterly original
mode of expression it could have the makings of a breakout act.
(Francis DiMenno)

GROWLERS
What Heights?

13-song CD
Hello, this is Eric
the Fruit Bat filling in for my fellow bird of flight, the esteemed
Bluebird who flew to Capistrano this month. Anyways, these Growlers
do sound very growly at first, like a dog barking up a tree at me. Punk
energy with almost prog rock structures at times. The second song, “Lap
Dance,” successfully combines the two forms quite well. After that,
things slow down a bit and the vocals are more melodic. Seems to be
a good plan combining the melodic with the abrasive but I’m afraid
the music never seems to take flight, so to speak. Two or three tunes
even get spacey and experimental so they’re a bit all over the place,
but still they’ve got good vocals, good playing, and almost a good
CD. But now it’s up to the sky, to fly I must, soaring through space,
like a fruitbat out of hell, or as Jimmy Webb might say, up, up and
away.
(Slimedog)

THE FORCE
Technology
is Pain

9-song CD

This is quite… frightening,
but I have the feeling that it’s meant to be. With music that
is reminiscent of an alien invasion, the Force’s first effort,
Technology is Pain, is laden with computerized, sci-fi elements
to the point where it begins to lack authenticity. To put it simply,
overkill. This is characterized as funk, incorporating both rock
and hip-hop, and frankly, it’s just not my cup of tea at all.
I’m sure its members are without a doubt talented in their own ways,
but with continual themes of blood, pain and sex, the disc is difficult
to listen to. To those looking for highly energized, danceable
distortion with nightmarish qualities in the realm of Mike Patton, then
this is for you.
(Julia R. DeStefano)

SWILL MERCHANTS
The Mint
Hotel

12-song CD
Greetings, Zortar here,
alien from another planet inhabiting the puss encrusted, snot-dripping,
scab forming ridiculous excuse for a body appropriately named Slimedog.
Oh, how I long to rip the very bones from this flesh and hurl it into
the very depths of hell where it belongs. But let’s turn our ears
and eyes to something more welcoming.
Swill
Merchants are a modern rock band. Their record is very well produced
with lots of sampled words, echoey distorted vocals, lots of synthesizers,
and sometimes metalish guitars. Lots of almost hip hop beats along with
the predominant rock ones. Lots of care and work went into this CD it
would seem. But, alas, it’s like the emperor with his new clothes
to me. Or as Mrs. Slimedog might say—well, it wouldn’t make any
sense anyways. No joy emanates from my cold, alien heart when I listen
to this so it is with the utmost regret that I reject this CD.
(Slimedog)

SUPERVOLCANO
Half-Pint
SuperVolcano

9-song CD
I had really high hopes
for this band when I saw that they had recorded at the same studio as
Bad Brains, Minor Threat, and Fugazi. Unfortunately, not enough of the
creativity and passion of those legendary bands rubbed off on SuperVolcano.
Well, that’s not entirely fair; the syncopations and the prominence
of the rhythm section do recall Fugazi a bit, and that half of the band,
particularly drummer Jesse Weiss, is very impressive; they just need
to find a better outfit to play in, preferably one that doesn’t come
off as a third-rate mixture of Faith No More and Dio. Singer David A.K.
is the main culprit. He does a lot of things with his voice, from ’90s
nu-metal rapping to ’80s heavy metal cat-in-heat screeching, but he
is clueless when it comes to using these skills appropriately or knowing
when to take things down a couple notches. It’s pretty much full-fury
all the time, which causes listener overload to sink in pretty quickly,
and his use of falsetto is, to put it simply, extremely annoying.
(Kevin Finn)

THE BOYFRIENDS
Kingdom Discs
The Boyfriends

2-song 3”
CD single
This cute blend of
powerpop conjures images of early Replacements, the Bay City Rollers
and local pop heroes Papas Fritas. Jangly guitars and power chords
will have you happily bopping along to the carefree beat. This release
should have come out on candy colored vinyl, with an airbrushed photo
and an invitation to subscribe to Tiger Beat to read this band’s feature
story. Sorry girls, He’s engaged. This single reminds me just
how much fun pop music can be.
(Joel Simches)

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T Max/ the Noise
24 Beverly Drive
Georgetown, MA 01833
978-352-8656
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