SILVER CIRCLES REVIEWS April11


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DAVID HULL

OarFin Records


Soul in Motion

11 tracks

It’s about time for
New England music veteran David Hull to step out front and center with
his first solo endeavor, an album that he says is about “losing your
preconceptions, leaving your comfort zone, and inventing something new.”
The first single, “Pay Some Attention,” puts his blues-driven R&B
sound center stage and is reminiscent of Keith Richards’ work with
the X-Pensive Winos. What follows is the title track, “Soul
in Motion,” which features the guitar work of Hull’s longtime friend
and compatriot, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry. What follows is the acoustic
“Forgive you Again” and the delicate piano ballad, “Heaven Knows,”
complete with intricate horn and string arrangements. Former Farrenheit
band mate, Charlie Farren, makes his appearance on “Life So Far,”
in which Hull’s lyrics take a more reflective and nostalgic turn:
“Some nights I just want to shoot off to the moon… I don’t complain
about my luck. It’s kind and it’s cruel. Life so far
has been pretty cool.” The disc’s highlight, “Strange Devices,”
is raunchy and sensual, enveloping listeners in its immediate swagger
and inviting them to sing along. Anyone can relate to being entranced
by a lover’: “You put something in my mouth/ I think it was
your words/ My vision’s getting tied and my tongue is getting
blurred/ The love that had me born again is killing me the most, but
the sun that rises also sets/ You put some strange devices in my head/
Strange devices under your bed.” Though a long time coming,
Soul in Motion
is a gem that was most certainly worth the wait.
(Julia R. DeStefano)


AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER

Sugarpop Records
The One
12 tracks
This CD gets extra
points for the song, “Bad Axe, MI.” Why? Because there really is
a town called Bad Axe in Michigan! And these guys wrote a song about
it! But you need to listen to all the tracks on this album, because
each one brings something different to the table. Air Traffic Controller
has managed to carve a decent niche in both the local and regional markets,
getting airplay on several radio stations. It’s not hard to see why
once you give The One a listen. The instrumentation is flawless,
and though the lineup changes here and there on different songs, there’s
never a point where the quality quotient drops. Some welcome elements
are the viola, violin, and cello to tunes like “Don’t Tell Me What
To Do” and “Brightest Moon.” They reinforce the rest of the band,
adding more substance and a new tone to the final product. Vocalist
and guitarist Dave Munro has a voice that’s easy to listen to and
merges well with the music. “Bad Axe, MI” features Blue’s Get
Up Choir, a group of more than 40 musicians that backed up Air Traffic
Controller on a tale about the best-named town in America. “God Has
a Plan” finds the band pondering the question so many of us have—just
why am I here, and where should I be going? I’ll tell you where I’m
going—straight to the next show this band puts on.
(Max Bowen)


ANDY PRATT

Andy Pratt Loves
You

12 tracks
Veteran Andy Pratt’s
latest showcases his good songwriting abilities, nice, expressive vocals,
and cool piano playing. Many of the melodies have a folk feel, but I
hear pop and theatre here also, and “How Are You?” and “I’m
All Alone” almost rock out. For folk ballads listen to: “Take It
All Away” and “Loving You (the Right Way). For easy-listening pop
with his usual very specific lyrical content listen to “Home of the
Brave.” My favorite song is “Sing,” a real radio-friendly tune
with a cool “na-na-na” vocal opening. Sorta like Cat Stevens meets
Billy Joel or Paul Simon meets Elton. Good for a mellow evening.
(A.J. Wachtel)

PLANETOID
The Abraxas Tactics
– Phase 1: The Kiss of the Magnetar

4 tracks
This is the first of
four releases from Planetoid this year. There is more music over four
songs than one simple human can take. Planetoid’s non-stop assault
on Earth via their sonic emissions continues with this CD. The music
has a slight taste of stoner desert rock like Queens of the Stone Age,
but highly amplified. Locrius’s bass produces some of the best sounds
I’ve ever heard recorded—at times it sounds like a Moog organ. His
vocals are soaked with the blues of a non-humanoid exiled on a foreign
planet, never to see the blue moons of his home again. Admiral Time’s
robotic arms destroy the drums with every massive hit. Ovatus Taleiah
scoops up the rest of the remains left behind, playing heavily distorted
rifts that fire away so rapidly, I’m left wondering if he isn’t
hiding the other six arms needed to produce these sonic pulses under
a Niexsillium Cloak of Invisibility. The first phase, opens with the
Pandora’s Box warning “Step Away from the Controls,” Locrius warns
“Seal your fate and release me, from this world I’ve flown/ I fear
you tamper with forces far from your control”; Locrius’s hatred
for the people responsible for his exile still makes him erupt violently—“Kiss
of the Magnetar” is his vow of vengeance: “Lick my wounds by the
Magnetar sheen/ the gravitons hold no sway over me/ ask me not for forgiveness
my Queen/ vengeance is mine to unfold.” When the masses have finally
been converted, and we flock to the houses of worship that have been
built, we will worship the mighty Planetoid for their kindness in sparing
our lives. Planetoid, however only spared our lives because we “got
a reason yet to live: Tell the universe you still got something left
to give and that’s your Power! Your Power!” our collective “Soul
Power.” (Melvin O)

FARREN BUTCHER,
INC.

FBI
12 tracks
Great songs written
around great hooks. Jon and Charlie play tight together and the exceptional
vocals really stand out. Sometimes they share verses in the same song
that changes the dynamic of the composition abruptly and raises the
intensity of the song immediately. Jon’s voice is huskier and bluesier
and Charlie’s is sweeter in tone and more melodic: together they blend
perfectly. The opening co-written cut, “Hold Me Back” and the final
cut, a Farren original, “East Coast West Coast,” are the two commercial
radio hits with their powerful drums, great vocals and hard-rock guitars
that growl and groan. In fact, they both sound like they should have
been played by The Beatles at Shea Stadium. “In My Movie” is the
college radio hit and it sounds like it could have been on the set list
of Charlie’s old band Farrenheit. “New Man,” a Butcher tune, is
the rockiest song and in turn it sounds like it could have been in the
Jon Butcher Axis catalog. And it ends in reverb too. James Montgomery
guests, playing harp on the bluesy “Mule Driver” to help complete
the picture. It’s only April, but this may be the best local release
of the year. (A.J. Wachtel)


JAMES STRAIGHT
& THE KOZMETIX

Live in the Studio:
a Tribute to Jack Rootoo & Lou Miami

13 tracks
Fronted by James Straight,
a longtime fan of Lou Miami and lead singer of the Bureaucrats, this
tribute band features Miami’s former drummer, Laurel Blanchard, along
with Boston musicians Joe Fagan and Austin “Aut” Powell. With
the goal of keeping the traditions of yesteryear alive, Straight and
his band power through frenzied, glamorous, punk rockers. “Ghosts,”
“Psycho Date,” “Vehicle,” and “To Sir With Love” are just
a few of the songs channeled. Not only has Straight assumed the
role of Miami, he has contemporized old favorites for new generations
and older fans alike. On the whole, the project calls to mind
the over-the-top artistic efforts of the Scissor Sisters and Semi Precious
Weapons, but it is charming nonetheless. (Julia
R. DeStefano)

 


JAKE HILL

Plimro Records
Any Kinda Work Today
15 tracks
Jake Hill seems to
be a well-traveled, well-lived fellow, and most likely no stranger to
a bottle or twenty. The rasp to his singing voice is Americana personified—you
can imagine he read On the Road and lived his own version of
it immediately afterward, reining in his ego and resisting temptation
to write his own (in his mind) superior sequel while holed up in a
Barton Fink
-esque hotel. His lyrics are detailed enough, proving
that he probably could take a decent stab at said book. His rootsy music
flowers in timeless trees of wood and wire—in other words, backing
up his growl and his acoustic are the classic time-proven fleet-fingered
electric guitar, the old-soul twang of banjo, the warm thump of upright
bass, and minimal, intimate, gritty percussion. Every song is a charmingly,
simplistically- etched candid portrait of bygone places, displaced people,
and honest times, framed by a solid, catchy tune that will stay put
on a living room wall through domestic disputes, earthquakes, and moving
trains. Sound like your cup of swill? Grab it.
(Tony Mellor)


THE EVIL STREAKS

Necro-Tone
Go Go to Hell
4 tracks on vinyl
When I go to review
this CD and take it out of its attractive package I notice a slight
technical difficulty. There’s an actual single vinyl record inside!
Jet age guy I am, I don’t have a turntable, but using MySpace and
Reverbnation I track down all four tunes from this record so I feel
qualified to give my praise, and praise I must!

These Evil Streaks
are three guys backing up a dame on vocals and guitar, playing garage/
punk/ pop/ surf in a quite endearing manner. All the songs are fun,
energetic, rockin’ cool tunes that groove and invite you to dance
along, or at least take another sip. The high, sweet vocals of Myra
suggest to me a more aggressive Go Go’s, but I also like to think
of the Evil Streaks as Leslie Gore backed by the Ventures. Anyway, my
pick for band of the month and I’m sure they’re as fun live as they
are on record. (Slimedog)


CULT 45
Cult Forty Five
4 tracks
This is a surprisingly
fun and polished piece of plastic. The band fuses ’70s stoner
riff rock with the attitude of the Runaways and the indie credibility
of the Raconteurs. This EP rocks hard and stays interesting. The
band features former members of Boston/Allston rock masters: Lamont,
Quitter, Cracktorch, and Thunder Bolt Derby just to name a few.
No one in Boston is doing anything quite like this without sounding
too slick or packaged. This band is genuine and raw, yet tight
and refined. I wish more female-fronted heavy rock bands rocked
with as much sincerity. Go see them. Now.
(Joel Simches)


THE GROWNUP NOISE

Individually Windy
This Time With Feeling
12 tracks
The first time I saw
this group, several months ago at the intimate Perks Coffeehouse, I
knew there was something special about them. A progressive-folk combination
of smart songwriting and rousing vocal interplay, with nimble and adroit
musicianship, further enhanced by clever arrangements—they have all
the aspects of a winning outfit. They released their debut CD in 2008,
followed by an EP last year. They have spent much of the past three-plus
years nurturing their skills and crossing the country on five national
tours. Good stuff, so far. Now let’s see how they deliver the sophomore
goods.

All four members of the Grownup Noise (Paul Hansen—vocals, guitar,
keys; Adam Sankowski—bass, keys, vocals; Katie Franich—cello, keys,
vocals; and Aine Fujioka—drums, vocals), are multi-instrumentalists
and equal contributors to the album’s wide range of styles. With a
true love for song, influences range from the Beatles’ and Velvet
Underground’s classic experimental songwriting to the modern arrangement
and sonic diversity of Richard Buckner, Bon Iver, the Decemberists,
Guster, or even the legendary James Taylor. On This Time With Feeling,
the band’s songcraft continues to evolve with a collection of sophisticated
and honest work. Several songs like “Strawman,” “Six Foot Solemn
Oath,” “New Artist Type,” “Just So You Know,” and “Gone
Is a Four-Letter Word” are absolutely pop-masterful. Gentle and gritty,
well- polished and well-recorded, a welcome addition to top albums of
the year. Give ’em time—their future is bright. Totally recommended!
(Harry C. Tuniese)

THE BREW
Electric Opera
10 tracks
This DVD, recorded
live at the wonderful Portsmouth Music Hall, opens with a selection
of fans extolling the Brew’s virtues and telling tales of having seen
the band dozens of times. After several viewings, I can’t help but
attribute the love of this band to America’s frustrating love of all
things bland and mediocre. Choosing to listen to the Brew over all the
great, inspiring bands we have around here is like choosing to eat at
Olive Garden when you’re in a foodie haven like New York. Now, to
be fair, these guys are better than Olive Garden. The musicianship is
tight; the singing is in key, and there’s even a decent hook or two,
while I’m not convinced anyone at Olive Garden actually even knows
how to use an oven. But the jammy, proggy music is way too soulless,
and some of the soloing, particularly in regard to the keyboards, comes
off as masturbatory. The video itself is shot quite proficiently, and
the sound quality is terrific. But the band did themselves no favors
including the requisite cutaway shots of the members trying to be goofy
and charming and quirky. It doesn’t work. It only served to make me
wish there was a visual equivalent of a mute button. It would work so
nicely with the actual mute button.
(Kevin Finn)


A WISH FOR FIRE
Sight Unseen
6 tracks
It can only be a positive
thing that A Wish for Fire can make one feel the full-CD satisfaction
in only six tracks. This was just the right amount of rock to capture
the feel of this band—not too much and yet still leaving you with
the desire to hear more. I especially felt that after the first track,
“Bring Me Back”—a song that I wished was longer! It has most traits
of a superb, memorable rock song—urgent, dynamic, stick-in-your-head…
then suddenly it was over and I wanted to hear more. The CD continued
with guitar-driving rock that is evidently filled with sincere passion.
They’ve been compared to Muse for that definitive dreamy feel, but
I’d say there’s a dash of early 2000s heavy rock with the captivating
slice of Muse-ness (one of my favorite bands)—I’d call it accessible
heavy modern rock perhaps. But more so A Wish for Fire have their own
thing going on so why define it. Other standouts: “Steal Away” and
“Better to Regret.” And am still looking forward to hearing more.
(Debbie Catalano)


KEN MACY
Goin’ California
9 tracksThis CD starts out
rather strong with a tune called “Goin’ California,” which may
be where it belongs with its striking resemblance to an Eagles type
song of the past, but unfortunately this initial positive first impression
doesn’t last. From there we descend into the murky waters of country/
rock/ pop ennui that causes me to loose control of my bodily functions
in the desperate attempt to have something better to do. The guitar
grit of “Too Much Changing“ is the only other thing I can recommend,
but most of the tunes bring on feelings of “Oh, this life, will it
never end?” A task so grim, my disappointment, I must relate to thee
and a mop and a bucket to clean up what has descended below me.
(Slimedog)


WALTER NOONS

Real Records
Weltanshauung
9 tracks
Walter Noons sounds
like he’s got something to say. The title of his CD translates to
“worldview,” the song titles certainly seem topical, and there’s
an urgency to his voice. Too bad I can’t make it out too well. The
way the mix is on this album, there’s a lack of much-needed clarity
to the vocals. I can only make out some phrases and some sentences,
so I feel like I’m only getting an inkling of his worldview. Frustrating.
The CD should come with lyrics, or at least a link to lyrics online.
Production reminds me of the Clash’s Cut the Crap, down to
what sounds like direct-to-the-board electric guitar. The song “Little
Bastards” is like a “Hey kids, get off my lawn!” set to a sub-Springsteen
“Glory Days” backing track. The rest of the music has an ornery
Bob Dylan/Neil Young vibe. “Marijuana (Green Prisoners)” would really
benefit from a chorus, though I can dig what (I think) he’s saying.
All in all, our man sounds like a voice crying out in the wilderness.
(Tony Mellor)


BETHEL STEELE

Come Home
12 tracks
Bethel Steele is a
sultry-voiced young folk performer a far cut above the average. The
album as a whole is by turns tinged with pleasant soul, jazz, and country
elements. But I was most gratified by the sheer virtuosity of some of
these songs, which, featuring sterling arrangements and backed by a
very fine lineup of musicians, more than occasionally reach the bardic
heights of Van Morrison at his best. I am thinking in particular of
songs such as the emotionally evincing and superlative title track,
the moody and resonant “Far Woods,” and the elegaic “Eighty-Five.”
(Francis DiMenno)


BALLOU

Lead Poisoning

7 tracks
With a picture of a
gun-wielding octopus in camouflage gear on the cover, it wasn’t hard
to mistake this for a double-kick, cookie monster, death metal album.
Instead, Lead Poisoning sounds Ringo Starr and Brian Eno
doing an album with DeVotchka. Singer/guitarist Kenn Ballou is
a storyteller with a knack for melodies that tickle the ear. Lovers
of Nilsson and Randy Newman will enjoy the familiar lilt of each cadence.
The orchestration of these songs is so minimal: guitar, bass, drums,
accordion, and violin. Yet this combination is lush, full, and satisfying.
I would have liked the occasional tinkle of a piano, or even a vocal
overdub, but there ya go. Superbluousitous! Yes. I made that word
up. (Joel Simches)

THE RUDENESS
Stick It to You
13 tracks
After listening to
this, all I can say is that ska is not dead. I would easily put the
Rudeness in with bands like the Specials, the Toasters, and Hepcat.
Johnny’s vocals are very clean—he sings over a slow moving current
of horns, deep bass, and guitars. It’s nice that they never feel in
a rush. A few of the songs actually have me laughing out loud. “Please
Don’t Flush” is a song dedicated to the “Green” people out there.
“You tell me to take the bus, and shut the lights, and please don’t
flush, and we can make a difference if we try/ screw that the bus is
gross, it’s full of crack heads selling coke, and if I shut the light
I fear that I may fall.” “Facebook” is straight ska-punk gold,
“I get it you want to stay in touch, I don’t because you and Facebook
suck/ I don’t want to be your friend… everyone is on it, I know
it’s true, but if I like you/ you’re my friend and I’ll be seeing
you.” A cover of Diesel Boy’s “Tittie Twister” ends this CD—they
manage to make a pretty angry song seem happy. Stick It to You
is never very serious. It is like a warm summer day at the beach with
your friends: it’s relaxing, fun, with a few hearty laughs sprinkled
in, and always enjoyable. (Melvin O)


THE MURDER JUNKIES
Road Killer
12 tracks
Seventeen years after
the death of his brother GG, Merle Allin takes command of his sibling’s
band the Murder Junkies and unleashes another 12 brand new hardcore
punk songs to the unsuspecting public. Hardcore has two purposes: to
send a message and to get a reaction, and this brilliant CD does both.
The brutal and comical lyrics of P.P. Duvay (from N.Y.’s They Hate
Us) and bassist Allin’s accompanying music compositions that produce
“Once a Whore,” “Two Dicks in Your Mouth,” “Stab You 50 Times,”
and “Piss-Drinkin’ Jew” coupled with the grinding last-gasp vocals
of Duvay, the hard pounding of original drummer Dino Sex, and the sonic
slaughter of guitarist Sonny Boy Harlan get your attention immediately.
The aggression, fast pace and high energy keeps you listening from beginning
to end. Perfect for slam dancing and moshing, but for best enjoyment
limit your headbanging. (A.J. Wachtel)

GUILTY AS SIN
III
11 tracks
At first this wasn’t
my cup of tea… actually tea isn’t the right beverage here… they
weren’t my cup of a high-octane caffeine-pumped drink. This isn’t
to say that Guilty as Sin isn’t great at what they do. I don’t think
it’s fair to base a review on personal music taste so I go into these
with an open mind. The first few tracks of III
were slamming, screaming, prog-tinged speed metal, and Guilty as Sin
know their stuff, so if you dig this genre, it’s right up your metal-lined
alley. But there’s a lot more to Guilty As Sin. As the CD went along,
my ears were perked up by their melodic riffs interspersed amongst the
rock, which I especially noted in the instrumental “The Precipice
of Inhuman Deeds.” I happily discovered more diversity when I arrived
at “The Flood”—beautiful, hypnotic, percussively wonderful. It
definitely stepped out of the bounds of their genre with its ethnic
feel and demonstrated this band’s ability to cross styles; as did
“Galactic Agent: Pacal Votan.” Would be a great soundtrack to video
games or films. (Debbie Catalano)

WALTER NOONS
Real Records
Wh, Wh, Whaltz
13 tracks
It is unconscionable
to make a ’60s pastiche album and use electronic drums. Songwise,
this is John Lennon in Hamburg, complete with leather and harmonica.
Why would anyone not use a real drummer? This is pretty lowfi.
Surely you couldn’t hang up a mic in a rehearsal space or something?
Ugh! It’s like doing a remake of “Maggie’s Farm” with a beat
box… oh wait… seriously. There are so many classic influences in
these songs: Lennon, Dylan, T-Rex, Manfred Mann, and early Bowie.
For these reasons alone, it is worth checking out, but to quote a song
from this very album, “I can’t believe this shit that you’re puttin’
out!” I wish Noons had put a little more effort into making this sound
as good as the songs deserve. (Joel Simches)


LAUREN BATEMAN
I’ve Been Waiting
10 tracks
A pleasingly inoffensive,
somewhat low-key pop-rock chanteuse whose soulful seriousness seldom
grates, Lauren Bateman is heard to best effect on her most elaborately
arranged number, “Guardian Angel,” and on the doleful and liquescent
closing track, “Burning Bridge.” (Francis DiMenno)


PENIS FLY TRAP

Triple Suicide
31 tracks
I’m going to be honest;
I don’t really know what to make of this album. A considerate business
card included with the CD told me that it was actually three distinct
movements over two albums and that it should not be listened to in one
sitting. So what did I do? I listened to it in one sitting, and I repeated
this action several times. I can’t say they didn’t warn me, as my
brain was complete mush by the time I was done to the point where “What
Would You Do With the Drunken Sailor?” repeatedly popped into my head
during each listen. I don’t know what that means either, but I should
probably say something about the music. Given the band’s name, I was
expecting some dumb punk, but I would actually describe it as being
ambitious punk, with a variety of sounds, ranging from dark, competent
Misfits-ish punk to bizarre and not quite as competent spoken-word pieces
about whether or not federal funding of Robert Mapplethorpe was the
right thing to do. I’m going to go back to the drawing board and listen
to this on a weekly basis in the prescribed manner until I fully grasp
what’s happening here. I expect to report back to you sometime in
2014. (Kevin Finn)

FOUR POINT RESTRAINTS
Live on 91.5 WMFO
On the Town with Mikey Dee show

8 tracks
Being recorded live
and on the air doesn’t leave much room for error, and these cats really
pull it off well. They play punk and post-punk with folk, surf, blues,
vaudeville and psychedelic influences, and each song’s arrangement
starts with guitar intros that are good examples of how they try to
create imagery and atmosphere with their music. In “A Western Hymn,”
the opening licks sound like they are capturing the feel of a violent
John Ford Western movie and even like some Cormac McCarthy novels. In
fact, a lot of their songs seem fitting for pulp film soundtracks. You
can hear The Pixies, The Smiths, Tom Waits, Jello Biafra and Captain
Beefheart in their music. Attention all ears: stay tuned for their next
studio release.
(A.J. Wachtel)


KAT McGIVEN
My Kamikaze Heart
7 tracks
It breaks my heart
to have to review something like this. On the one hand, this is
a cleverly produced pop album, ready for Wal-Mart and Target stores
everywhere. They even phyrrrrrizst out every swear word!
The album is meticulously and lovingly produced by someone I respect
and admire. My problem is that this is some of the most disposable
singer/songwriter-working-with-a-gifted-programmer/producer-mindless-power-pop
I have ever heard. It is extremely well done, but it sounds like
anyone could have sung or written this and it wouldn’t sound any different
from any of the other artists who use this style of production.
This album is clearly aimed at a national market and as such is very
dance/pop radio friendly, but there is nothing memorable here.
(Joel Simches)


STEVEN PAUL PERRY
& DAVE ROSE

Acoustic Rock Duo
Live

9 tracks
Ah, yes, Mrs. Slimedog
here, most knowledgeable, most informative writer of the Noise.
As always, with my darling cat, Seymour, today we’re sailing in a
small sailboat down the Charles and Seymour is just getting strapped
into his scuba gear!

But time to get up with the facts at foot. I have discovered a new music
genre! This one has no drums or bass, is slow and uses mostly acoustic
guitars with vocals and harmony, too. It’s called “Fuck Music.”
I’m not sure why it’s called that as it’s not very erotic and
the only thing I can think is like, “Fuck playing music, let’s go
to sleep”—as in this manner it works very fine.

So it’s very exciting finding this CD but very, very tiring if you
actually listen to it. Slimedog likens it to Seals & Croft on airplane
glue but I’ve seem to have dozed off for awhile. I wonder wear that
pesky cat is in the water with his scuba gear?
(Mrs. Slimedog)

ELECTRIC SUGAR
Fly Electric
“Chemical Reaction”
1 track
Back when Hendrix was
the guidepost, the Pretty Things were in vogue, and undercurrents of
Black Sabbath and Genesis were percolating through the music world,
this blowsy song would perhaps have been a minor sensation based on
its synthesis of disparate styles. Forty years on, I’m not quite so
sure. And the percussionist’s application of hissing shakers is overdone
to the point of being downright annoying. (Francis DiMenno)


MOE’S HAVEN

Stromboli’s Alarm
Clock
16 tracks
“I promised you I’d
send you a postcard, but I never said I would remember your name”
and so it begins, the final effort from Matt Farley (keyboards, vocals)
and Tom Scalzo (guitars). They are, as their one-sheet states:
“the two greatest songwriters of the 21st century. You probably
haven’t heard of them, but that’s only because they’ve spent more
time perfecting their craft than promoting themselves.” With more
than fifteen hundred songs to their name, including a 24 disc album
and an ambitious project in which they released one disc a day for an
entire year, the aforementioned quote may very well have some truth
to it. Prolific and honest, Stromboli’s Alarm Clock interestingly
began as a collection of 200 compositions before slowly dwindling down
to 16. That number includes one song about communicating with
a deceased goldfish (“My Goldfish Dead”), along with the more “traditional”
themes of love, longing, and an embarrassing first date, which tend
to become repetitive as the album progresses. Such short stories
are reminiscent of Uncle Tupelo sans drummer. While some tracks
are downright peculiar and will certainly cause listeners to raise an
eyebrow, the majority are just plain beautiful and serve as a testament
to the band’s well-rounded career. (Julia R. DeStefano)


TOO LATE THE HERO
Statement of Purpose
11 tracks
This CD was better
when Atreyu did it, five years ago. When fads in music hit, we end up
with 20 bands that all sound the same. After the initial fad dies out,
we are left with the strong bands that are good enough to succeed and
the cockroaches that feast on the left over scraps. I hate to sound
so negative, but this CD was filled with thrown- away scraps. The music
is tight, the musicians sound like they can play. The problem is their
riffs, drum rolls, even lyric breaks have all been done so many times
it was predictable, and highly unoriginal.
(Melvin O)

 

ED’S REDEEMING QUALITIES
Ed’s Redeeming Qualities (the
Band)

20 tracks
Ed’s Kitchen

19 tracks
Guess Who This Is

22 tracks
For the first time
since their original release in the late 1980s and early 1990s, all
the demos and EPs that Ed’s Redeeming Qualities recorded with Dom
Leone are now available on CD. In my estimation, these reissues are
long overdue. Cumulatively, they showcase not only the band’s best-known
songs, such as “Lawyers and Truckers,” “Lawn Dart,” and “Drivin’
on 9,” but, also, literally a score—at least—of lesser-known gems
which deserve the widest exposure possible.

Forget the superficial
comparisons to David Lynch or They Might Be Giants: Dom Leone was the
Chekhov of the folk song: an acute miniaturist. He had sublime lyrical
skills and an original perspective in which he made the mundane not
only seem, but, ultimately resonate as, profound. His premature death
was a tragedy. (This encomium is not, however, intended to detract from
the talents of Neno Perrotta, Carrie Bradley, and Dani Leone, all of
whom wrote songs cast from a similar mold. Furthermore, the ultimate
presentation of these songs was very much the result of a group effort.)

On Ed’s Redeeming
Qualities (the Band)
we are offered a smorgasbord: not only the
band’s first eight-song demo of that title, but also CD versions of
the band’s two four-song vinyl EPs: Ed’s Day and Safe
World Record.
Additionally, there are four bonus tracks. Of the
demo songs, “Paul Isn’t Home” sets the tone: it is almost eldritch
in its eerie resonance. Think “Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground”
in a minor key, and with strings. “Swiss Chard,” “More Bad Times,”
and “My Friend Bob” are haunted songs, mordant but sublime roundelays,
and all of them classic. “Girlfriend” features the band in a characteristic
mode—high irony: We know that the heartbroken and clueless narrator
is referring to a “Girlfriend” who may hardly even know he exists.
The deadpan effect is highly comic but also thought-provoking: Can anybody
be so utterly clueless? Yes—of course. A song like this showcases
a quality that set ERQ apart from other bands: They wrote lyrics about
characters we could believe in, characters we might have met, characters
that live and breathe. Characters who might even be us. This is a quality
found seldom enough in poetry and fiction; even less often in songs.

Ed’s Day was
recorded at WERS in 1989. It leads off with one of Dom’s most profoundly
sad, yet witty and heartening lyrics in “(Please Don’t Fall Apart
in) My Apartment.” It also features two of the band’s most popular
songs: Neno Perrotta’s “Lawn Dart” and Carrie Bradley’s “The
Boy I Work With.” The “Safe World Record” EP, recorded at Fort
Apache and released in 1992, leads off with the countryish “Coriander
Eyes,” a quietly magnificent piece of whimsy a bit like a postmodern
Hank Williams, and also features one of the band’s more surrealistic
numbers, “Balloon.” The most notable of the bonus tracks is a live
recording of the amiable romp “Not Next Week.”

If you could only afford
one of these CDs, I suppose the second collection, Ed’s Kitchen
would be the one to own. It’s a tough call, but it has the magnificently
whimsical “New Distributor Cap,” and perhaps the definitive version
of “Lawn Dart,” as well as three of Carrie’s finest songs: the
brilliantly subtle and utterly chilling “Slideshow,” and her revenant
and soulful “It’s A Zoo” and “Howard Johnson’s.” As if that
weren’t enough, the 15-song demo ends with some of ERQ’s most enduring
songs: the mordacious “Bad Memories,” the superbly hallucinogenic
“Sweater,” and the downright silly “Bob.” And best of all, the
heartbreaking, epic, novel-in-a-song “Drivin’ On 9.” (The bonus
tracks here are amusing and welcome, but not essential.)

The third CD, Guess
Who This Is
, is a revelation: It features some of the finest, most
acute songs in the band’s oeuvre (some of which were reprised on the
records “More Bad Times” and “It’s All Good News”). Notable
among these are the opening tracks: the wonderfully simplistic but somehow
brilliant “I Will Send You a Chart,” and the lyrically absurd “Mom.”
(Also of interest are the flawed take of “Falls Church Virginia,”
heard to better effect on the band’s 1991 release “It’s All Good
News,” and the sole bonus track, “Hammond Song”, which is downright
wrenching.) Five of these songs in particular are absolutely sublime
and make this collection all but essential. “Spoken Word,” is an
inspirational pronunciato, which could almost serve as the band’s
credo. “Guess Who This Is” strikes me as canonical: sad, grimly
humorous, surreal, and showcasing a poetic sensibility of the highest
order. “5 Senses” is quite possibly the band’s finest piece of
dada-esque perversity. “Buck Tempo” is arguably Dom’s definitive
accomplishment as a lyricist: an existential song with a profoundly
chilling deadpan affect worthy of Samuel Beckett. As for “The Letter,”
when it comes to superlatives, words fail me: lyrically and musically,
it is utterly haunting. These are songs I will come back to again and
again.

If you’re not a fan
of literate, soulful, somewhat eccentric and often very funny songs,
most of which were recorded in a lo-fi studio, you may wish to pass.
If, on the other hand, you have an appreciation of great songwriters—and
here, I’m thinking not only of curveballs, odd and goofy and occasionally
sublime songwriters like Biff Rose or Jonathan Richman, but also of
folks like Randy Newman, Robyn Hitchcock, Ray Davies, Harry Nilsson,
Colin Blunstone, Dave Edmunds, and Andy Partridge—then you will wish
to own and listen very carefully to all three of these releases. All
of these tunes are over 20 years old. But because ERQ wrote songs—and
lyrics—worth cherishing, the best of them will be worth hearing 20
years hence. (Francis DiMenno)

If you’re sending a CD in to
the Noise make sure to use our new address.
And everyone else should
update our contact info too. Thanks.


T Max/ the Noise
PO Box 155
Georgetown, MA 01833
978-352-8656
tmaxnoise@aol.com


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