SILVER CIRCLES REVIEWS Nov11


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MARK MANDEVILLE & OLD CONSTITUTION

Nobody’s Favorite
Records

M. M. &
O. C.

11 tracks

During the past five
years, I have watched the growth of Webster native Mark Mandeville and
his projects, starting out with
the
Accident That Led Me to the World

(one of the area’s best progressive-folk groups, filled with dark
introspective material that glowed with an inner light), who released
two primo discs. Last year, he put out a solo disc,
No
Big Plans
, which introduced
an up-tempo twang to his musical arsenal. With his very talented sidekick,
Raianne Richards (radiant vocals/ ukulele/ clarinet/ bass), he began
mapping out a new terrain to investigate. After two years of walking
tours, they have assimilated various stylistic influences and finally
entered into the fertile valley of country-bluegrass.

I’m surprised I like this current style. That I do is a testament
to the incredible writing prowess of his new material. Mandeville has
proven to be a master of gentle meditative nuances that captivate numerous
audiences. Clearly, several of these songs are highlights of his productive
career, especially “House of Stone,” “Underneath the Cost,”
“Diggin’ Me a Hole,” “Cardboard Wings,” “Hope in This World,”
and the brilliant closer, “Sleep When You’re Dead.” His seven-piece
group, Old Constitution, hits the right notes, captures the right feeling,
and uses the right textures. The new members, Doug Williamson (piano/
mandolin/ harmonica), Peter Hart (pedal steel), Zack Peckham (electric
guitar), Dylan C. Clark (drums/percussion), and Hannah Peckham (backing
vocals), create a smooth musical bed to rest upon. After numerous spins
of this luminous tranquility, I’m watching the clouds float by, the
river flow, and listening to the crickets chirp. Totally and highly
recommended! (Harry C. Tuniese)

DIRTY BOMBS

Alpha Transmission

6 tracks

Five songs, really,
with actual radio transmissions as intro and outro. Members of Conservative
Man, Televandals, and the Luxury join considerable forces to produce
a concept which cohort Jason Dunn describes thusly: “The band [as]
a socially subversive sleeper cell operating a pirate radio station
from our hidden bunker… consists of subtle recruitment messages, warnings,
sarcastic admonitions to power, revolution, destruction… a post-electro/
Britpop/ slightly punk vibe, very dark but very danceable, songs about
terror/ Armageddon/ crime/ despots…” Sound pretentious? Guess again.
Concept or no, it’s ultimately about the songs, and there isn’t
a wasted note among them. They soar and dive, crash and burn, compel
and baffle (a bit). You find yourself wondering what exactly’s going
on, but it scarcely matters. Create your own mindscape, it’ll work
just as well. It’s a vast bumload more pure fun than the descriptions
might suggest. I was left wanting more.
Lots more. Now there’s a concept more bands should
get behind. Dunn handed out 20 demos at a gathering late last year.
Within two days, the
Phoenix featured them as Download of the Week, with
other outlets calling them “a supergroup.” The official release
date/ party is at Great Scott (where they’ll recreate the bunker and
more), on 11/11/11, with a set at 11:11 pm. It’s a conspiracy, y’see.
Believe the hype, comrades. (Joe Coughlin)

THE VIVS

Why so Dark?

4 tracks

The Vivs have created
a solid batch of winsome pop that goes down smooth, but with just enough
twang, melancholy and grit to give it some welcome heft. The warm harmonizing
of Karen Harris and Terri Brosius is what first grabs the listener’s
attention and rightfully so, but the true star is guitarist Matt Magee,
whose inventive playing is what puts the group a notch above its peers.
The songwriting is solid throughout, with most of the songs having multiple
hooks. As an added bonus, repeated listens reveal layers not apparent
on the first play, and with something this appealing, repeated plays
are a given. (Kevin Finn)

THREE DAY THRESHOLD

International
Incident

20 tracks

It is incredibly difficult
to not like Three Day Threshold. In fact, it is nearly impossible.
With their energetic, go-getter attitude and fun-loving rockabilly blues
sound, it is no doubt that the band is a favorite among music lovers
of all generations. Their latest effort,
International
Incident
, is evidence of maturation
functioning in the form of a “best of” compilation collected from
six albums worth of material and given out to troops during the band’s
recent tour of the Middle East—regions including Djibouti, Ethiopia,
Sauda Arabia Qatar, and Kuwait. Fitting, as this is feel good
music at its absolute finest in the realm of Reverend Horton Heat.
Three Day Threshold has succeeded in crafting their own brand of energetic
country complete with terrific hooks and witty song titles such as “Chicken
Shack,” “Pub with No Beer,” and “Whiskey River”—with its
infectious, twangy chorus: “I’m going down to Whiskey River and,
my friend, I will meet you there.” At the conclusion of this
album, one thing is for certain: each of these tracks could fit comfortably
within the Reverend’s expansive catalogue of hits, and rightfully
so. (Julia R. DeStefano)

TWO VIEW
REVIEW

MY OWN WORST
ENEMY

Pristine Indigo Records

Electric
Like The Moon

11 tracks

MOWE has a pop-punk,
energy-laden sound with primarily a female vocal lead. Not all the time,
though… why do I want to say Lemonheads once in a while? This is a
very local sound… Boston at its core, and the history of the band
bears this out, from formative years among the many spots local musicians
paid their dues. The lack of bass is not a detriment; this trio really
enjoys playing with each other, you can hear it well in the song arrangements.
The music’s sound is somewhat, well, not
dated, but reflective of a tone and ’tude that
may have reached a zenith some years back. Maybe I’m wrong. I just
tend to think marketing on some nights. Who wants this sound? Colleges?
Radio? What else is there? (Don’t even
say the Internet). From a band that is now 10
years old, I’m curious to see and hear where they go next.
(Mike Loce)

MY OWN WORST
ENEMY

Pristine Indigo Records

Electric
Like the Moon

11 tracks

My Own Worst Enemy
has been around since the late 1990s but they retain an unjaded freshness
that still sounds brand new. The opener, “April and September,”
is a simple declarative three-chord rocker which could have charted
in 1977; the follow-up, “The Kids Don’t Care,” is an anthemic
sing-a-long that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Neighborhoods album.
“Notwithoutcha” has some of that Mamas and Papas harmony vocal vibe
courtesy of Steve and Sue. To prop up their contemporary credentials,
we are graced with an ominously inflected cover of Lady Gaga’s “Bad
Romance,” which segues into another anthem, the album’s highlight,
the invigorating and plaintive “Chandelier.” The upbeat cover of
“Ask” by the Smiths is another high point, followed by a brooding,
introspective ballad, “Man of the Hour,” which bursts sporadically
into brief but glorious emotive fireworks, and features a middle-eight
worthy of the tribal antics of the Feelies or Galaxie 500. “Whiskey
Talkin’” is another evocatively emotive ballad with wrenching vocals
by Sue. The highly appealing techno-heavy take on Tribe’s “Abort”
ends this latest collection on a triumphant note–it seems appropriate
too, as a nod to the long-time area-based roots of this trio. I don’t
know what it is that producer Pete Weiss does that makes each project
he takes his hand to shine like a gem, but I sure hope he continues
doing it. A keeper. (Francis DiMenno)

TAIWAN TYPHOON

Curve of the Earth
Records

Swell

3 tracks

The intensely
and unapologetically weird Swell

reminds me of an economy-sized Fucked Up in that they sound like they
have roots in hardcore, but write songs that have a bit of sprawl and
are more complex than you initially think. The music is violent and
apocalyptic, and the lyrics more than follow suit. Frankly, this band
seems a bit unhinged, and while that keeps things interesting in short
bursts, the intensity is a lot to take, even when you’re only dealing
with an EP.
(Kevin Finn)

VARIOUS ARTISTS

Zippah Recording

Compilation
No. 9

19 tracks

Zippah Recording unleashes
its ninth compilation undertaking 19 different bands and solo acts,
tapping out at just over an hour. The vast array of bands covers most
genres of the musical spectrum. You’ve got your bluegrass rock, your
red angst pass-the-bottle rock, your yellow mellow R&B, your orange-you-glad
you took the time to listen to Jody Blackwell, and even your classic
purple haze rock ’n’ roll, compliments of the Field Effect. Smelling
salts awaken the ear buds with post-punkers The Sheila Divine. Sheila’s
“Carve Away” peals away the layers of Aaron Perrino’s vocals,
who by the end of the track, displays a raw tonality that takes on a
gripping melody of its own. Next to come, Ashpark, who are like the
boys Pappa Bear doesn’t have to worry about impregnating his daughter,
although he does have to keep an ear out for their drawn out sonorous
voices that make girls gush. Ramona Silver, featured midway in the compilation,
is quite the spitting image of Cyndi Lauper without the hammy “Time
After Time” love ballad. Paddy Saul is the male answer to Ramona’s
colorful ambience for the next track. “You’re Alive” lulls with
wispy acoustic strumming while Saul’s affected vocals shines through
for the closing credits of an emotional melodrama starring the good
looking inhabitants of California. The lone Alanis Morissette stand-in,
Ashley Joelle Jordan, is coy throughout “Liquid Words.” Jordan melodiously
recites, “It looks like rain but it feels like pain/ this aching in
my heart, back again.” Art Decade provides a proper closing to the
compilation with “The Queen.” The synths, drum kit, siren-ey guitar
solos, and sampled vocals mesh together well in a catchy whirlwind of
passion. Each of the remaining bands is worth giving a listen; you’re
bound to find something that rubs you the right way. If not, you might
be tone deaf. That is to say Zippah Recording has been around the block
for 20 years and has a collective repertoire of 19 equally impressive
sounds, one after the next.
(Justin Korn)

VIOLENT HISTORY

A History
of Violence

9 tracks

When a band has members
of I Destroyer, Gut Bucket, Suffering Bastards, and As the Sun Sets,
it has no choice but to be excellent. The album opens with a very obnoxious
air raid horn blaring our imminent demise. This is violent, purely aggressive
music that mirrors the dark spots of society that we try to avoid but
witness tragically in one shape or another. The album feels like armageddon
has started, riots are breaking out in the streets, the end of all mankind
is close at hand. The air horn starts blaring again, this time over a
tribalistic drum circle, ending in a final countdown. The last thing you
hear is “give the people what they want, sensation, horror, shock/
Send them out into the streets to tell their friends how wonderful it
is to be scared to death.” (Melvin O)

MIGHTY TINY

White Dog
Rough Again

10 tracks

They call themselves
an “experimental rock group,” but I think this is a misnomer. When
I think “experimental,” I envision collectives of people from the
woods of Vermont recording whatever pops into their head at the moment
turning out unlistenable recordings. Thankfully, this is definitely
not that. While not traditional rock, or really rock at all, Mighty
Tiny makes what’s old new again, as if Cole Porter and the soundtrack
for the musical Chicago were thrown in a blender with some klezmer,
old burlesque house music, and prog rock influences. Each song has a
slightly different flavor, but all sound cohesive as a whole. The second
track, “Misery,” has a predominantly blues harmonica sound. I love
the clarinet on “Four More Days.” There are some great strings—violin,
cello, and viola—on “What Mammon Gave Away.” Other songs have
smatterings of flute, trombone, several types of saxophones, as well
as what they call a “thing-a-ma-jig.” Lead vocals are shared by
Matt Tompkins and Max Rose. For someone (like me) who has been yearning
for interesting, approachable music that’s a little different, the
CD does the trick. It’s something I’ve been listening to over and
over.
(Robin Umbley)

JOHNNY ANGEL
WENDELL

X+Z Records

IT!!

12 tracks

Yep, that Johnny Angel
rejoins the game with a whole ’nother approach, and it’s as solid
a front-to-back listen as you could ask for. He’s said that he makes
music for grown-ups now. True enough, but he hasn’t forsaken the occasional
wiseass lyric when called for. Who else could employ a non-smarmy “Sha-la-la”
chorus and then mention “the ass-hat below” (the downstairs neighbor
of the gal he’s banging), while never shooting for shtick? Many songs
are based on true experience, and it feels like it. Loves lost and found,
vividly-rendered characters from the party days, best-forgotten and
never-forgotten flings are treated with equal compassion
and
kick. “Vampire In Los Angeles” is about the typical music industry
leech. “September In New England” proves that, despite having left
us 22 years ago, he never forgot where he came from. The music is warm
and gentle, but never limp or self-serving. As full and rich as anything
with ten times the budget and overbaked ideas, but not the least bit
sparse. And a good amount of it rocks, just without pummeling. Customer
reviews alone have cited the Stones, Marshall Crenshaw, Gram Parsons,
Doug Sahm, Tom Petty, Big Star, Mink DeVille, Willie Nelson, etc., while
never noting hundreds of lesser acts mining similar territory. That speaks
volumes, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s the real deal. Visit the
Facebook fan page (full name as above) to snab one. (Joe Coughlin)

VILLAGE OF SPACES

Alchemy and
Trust

6 tracks

I know both of my reviews
this month aren’t likely to run one after the other but it’s funny
how I have yet another sleepy CD to review. Slow and though not droning,
it does purvey a whirring, humming type vibe. Upon my second listen,
I realized it’s quite dreamy; it hearkens back to another time and
space and yet works in this era as well. Picture a foggy field with
trippy musicians prancing with their instruments and entering a modern-day
venue… hmmm, does that conjure it up? You’d have to hear the music
but if this helps, it’s focused on a mix of straight and sweet lead
vocals backed with the instrumentation of a mandolin, flutes, tambourine,
fiddle, paella gong, along with the standard keyboard, guitar, and bass.
I’m just noticing now, no drums or percussion are noted, but the folksy
rhythm is clear. Maybe not everyone’s cup of herbal tea, but I credit
them for showing conviction in a unique genre. (Debbie Catalano)

BRIAN CORCORAN

Safe in the
Harbour

11 tracks

Brian Corcoran recently
released a CD of Irish ballads called
Safe
in the Harbour
, some of the
most popular Irish Ballads ever written. All I can tell you is
that when I listen to his soothing and lilting voice, I go away in my
mind—probably to Killarney, or to the Cliffs of Moher. The recording
is not cluttered with a lot of instrumentation. There is just enough
to deliver the song in its purest form—acoustic guitar, piano, a bit
of mandolin and bouzouki. It was recorded at the Den Studio in North
Reading, Massachusetts. Some titles are “Gentle Annie” (written
by the late Tommy Makem, with whom Brian shared many a stage over the
years), the traditional “Red Is The Rose,” and even Scallon’s
“Lady of Knock,” certain to be a favorite of all true Irish-music
lovers. Brian delivers all of these songs with the utmost reverence,
love, and gentleness that each one deserves. Play this disc on a relaxing
Sunday morning or slip it in to your car’s CD player while traveling
down the highway. Whereever or whenever you listen, you’ll be treated
to an intimate concert of beautiful Irish tunes performed by one of
the most seasoned singers around. (Julie Dougherty)


THE
HUSH NOW

Memos

11 tracks

This has all the makings
of a great pop album and then some: bubblegum hooks, indie credibility,
and sparkling wall-of-sound production, not to mention the nonstop upbeat
energy. The music sounds like it’s loaded with sugar, caffeine, and
a couple other stimulants you can only find in Mexico. Makes me giddy
as a goddamn schoolgirl. Each track is wallpapered in a symphonic layering
of guitar overdubs, along with bass, drums, and a whole slew of other
instruments. There’s a nice mix of styles, including a heavy dose
of synth-pop, some alt-rock grit, even a bit of disco flare. Potpourri
pop, that’s what this is. And, it’s all tied together by the distinctive
high-toned male vocals of the lead singer. Now, I can’t say I completely
relate to their rose-tinted glass-half-full outlook, but I’ll be damned
if that stops me from enjoying this blissful audio Prozac—at least
until I fall back into my usual routine of wallowing in self-pity.
(Will Barry)

GUILTY AS SIN

Psychotronic

9 tracks

After my initial listen
to the first few tracks of this record with its dark metallic blasts
and inhuman vocals, I thought I was going to hate this band. I was wrong.
While I’m likely not the target for Guilty as Sin’s brand of somewhat
hardcore-influenced metal, a lot of what they do on this record impresses
me greatly. The tracks all sound noticeably unique from each other,
and in its own pummeling way, this is a very catchy record. Wisely,
the often distorted vocals are buried in the mix, allowing the surging
guitars to carry the melody. In addition, slower numbers help create
an intelligent pace and flow. This is for those who like some brains
with their brawn. (Kevin Finn)

THE HEADCUTTERS

Headcuttin
Time

10 tracks

It’s hard to explain
the good feeling this band gives me. But I’ll try. That’s a unique
benefit of writing reviews for the
Noise. The Headcutters are a Rhode Island rock band
that has their blues together—let’s start there. That’s a different
animal from a blues band that can rock. What are the rules and differences?
Hint: the chord progressions. The thematic (or should I say anthemic?)
tracks that lead off this great rocking album have that Bob Seger on
Red Bull and whiskey flavor, both in the vocal delivery and the band’s
driving insistence. The lyrics often times are hilarious: stories of
cocaine bitches and having your balls dragged through broken glass as
a consequence of the relationship is spot-on. The Headcutters’ overall
sound also mandates that piano must be part of an authentic rocking
sound. Why do I like it so much? I really don’t know, but hopefully
have given a glimpse into maybe why: sense of humor, good playing, no
bullshit.   (Mike Loce)

GERRY BEAUDOIN TRIO (featuring Harry Allen)

Francesca Records

The Return

10 tracks

This is a really cool
jazz/blues fusion CD with passionate playing on all the melodies. Beaudoin
is an award-winning guitarist who also gigs with J. Geils in New Guitar
Summit. The main difference between Gerry’s trio and the Summit is
the addition of world class tenor saxophonist Harry Allen, whose toots
add to the depth and direction of each song. On the bluesy “I Often
Thought You’d Leave Me” it’s the relationship between the horn/guitar
that sets the mood and on “Joanna Hears the Blues,” it’s the jazzy
horn arrangements and guitar chords that really make the tune stand
out. Beaudoin’s bright trebly guitar is best heard on “RSG” and
“Hamilton Honeymoon” and his introspectiveness is captured best
on “God Bless The Child” and “Jackie’s Serenade.” And “Wave”
with it’s bossa nova beat is a pretty good listen too. With eight
originals and two jazz standards, this all-instrumental CD features
passionate playing at its best. (A.J. Wachtel)

HAIL LAVEAU

7 tracks

This home-burned CD
arrived in the mail and I thought that, at best, it would be uninspired
reheated pabulum by a singer-songwriter duo, especially considering
this is their first effort. Boy, was I wrong. Instead, I can only say
that I was astonished by this truly impressive recording that arrived
in the plain yellow envelope.

Hail Laveau is the twenty-something duo of Boston resident Corey Cook
and Danvers native Emily Higgins who perform, along with a smattering
of borrowed musicians, what can be described, for lack of a better term,
indie-blues-soul inspired by, as the two of them state, the city of
New Orleans, where this was recorded. Cook plays guitar and writes the
songs as a vehicle for Emily’s powerhouse but controlled and nuanced
voice. Susan Tedeschi and Adele have nothing on this girl. Seriously.
Her voice can be course and gruff or smooth and sultry with some enticingly
torchy elements depending on what the song calls for. Every song is
good, as is the production; my favorites are the haunting “St. James
Infirmary” and “Bring Me Back to You.”
(Robin Umbley)

YOUTH A.D.

Corporate
Dogs

10 tracks

If you came to pick
me up and this was playing, I’d have a few questions. Where did you
find this old tape? Did Trent Reznor have another band before NIN? Did
they really have Fruity Loops back in 1994?

I’m not sure if it is intentional or just a coincidence but this is
a throwback to the early days of basic computerized industrial music.
The vocals are slightly distorted, with enough echo to give it that
Goldflesh feel. The beats are straight blast beats, nothing overly complicated
but they don’t have to be. The only real problem I have is the overused
generic Fruity Loop’s patches. If this were 1994, I would have lived,
ate, and breathed this disc. Unfortunately it isn’t 1994—this is
very dated. Being dated isn’t always a bad thing, if you’re looking
for a throwback nostalgic industrial disc, I recommend checking this
out. (Melvin O)

HELLO SHARK

Break Arms

11 tracks

Slow, sleepy, rainy
day indie rock. Not that that’s a bad thing; that’s just what Hello
Shark’s music evokes within me. Considering I’m reviewing this on
a rainy day, this CD feels just right. It’s not head-turning, cutting-edge,
blow-you-out-of-the-water rock but I don’t believe it’s meant to
be. It’s cozy-up at a low-lit café (or bar?) and have a nice drink,
ease back, and soak in the world around you music. Lead singer Lincoln
Halloran delivers the songs in a dry, somewhat dark manner but his vocal
style works well with the airy music created by his guitar, Sean Hood’s
bass, and Alex Decato’s drumming.
Break
Arms
also features guest musicians
on backing vocals, piano, organ, and something they term “various”—not
sure what that involves! Standout tracks include “Like Schnapps and
Cops,” “Seven Hundred,” and “Break Arms.” (Debbie Catalano)

MONOPHONICS

OH! Records

High on Pills
and Good Times

4 tracks

Judging from this sampler,
Monophonic is a name to remember for people who are looking for a toe-tapping
good-time romp. You can trace pretty exactly the moment where the cross
currents of rockabilly and punk rock met: the consensus view points
to the New York Dolls back in the early 1970s. The Dolls, in spite of
the fact that they didn’t play very well, were able to make this amalgam
sound fresh and exciting. Monophonic is far sharper in the musicianship
department, and there’s no gainsaying their energy and enthusiasm,
though by now, the genre they ply seems a bit long in the tooth, particularly
on the opener, “Mental Millionaires.” The declamatory followup,
“Overload,” is also catchy but hardly overwhelmingly ingenious.
The anthemic “Below the Big Dipper” is an appealing slab of concise
and energetic songwriting, but beyond that, it seems a bit rote. The
satiric “Make the Mirror Happy” is perhaps the liveliest of their
red-blooded pastiches of late-seventies pub rock stylings. (Francis
DiMenno)

ADAM HOFMANN REVIVAL

You’ll
Get There

10 tracks

These guys sound like
they’re reliving the ’70s with this medley of prog-tinged arena
rockers and power ballads. The album is full of anthemic choruses, lavish
drawn-out guitar solos, sweeping piano, shifting time signatures, and
a saturation of instrument overdubs. Hofmann shows off a muscular voice
brimming with macho sentimentality that’s thick as nacho cheese. Listening,
I’m overcome with the sudden urge to sway my lit cigarette lighter
pompously above my head. Fortunately, I’m not overcome with the urge
to yell “Free Bird.” I’m not that immature. Not quite. All in
all, the songwriting and musicianship are top notch. This album really
captures that retro feel of the times. Still, there are a few too many
heartstring-tugging refrains for my taste. This is a guilty pleasure,
if anything. One step up from those
Monsters
of Rock
collections you see
in infomercials late at night. (Will Barry)

COO & HOWL

Sudden Sun

11 tracks

I’m probably not
going to do this album justice by this review, mainly because I don’t
have the right words to describe how I feel after listening to it. I
will, however, try my best by saying this is very dreamlike. The music
is airy and sweet. The dual vocals are done extremely well. The vocals
are not just words propelling the song forward, they’re another set
of instruments blended perfectly into the layers. The reason I say dreamlike
is because there are several instances where random instruments bleat
out of tune, out of place parts, but rather than stopping to ask, “what
was that?” it seems to just be right at that time. It’s like those
nights when you’re all snuggled in and your dreams bring you to your
favorite place but instead of meeting friends, you see a hippo serving
burgers to a table of snails. Normally this wouldn’t make sense but
it works in that beautiful world of dreams. I recommend this if you’re
looking for a brief but pleasant escape from reality. (Melvin
O)

DEADLANDS

Deadlands

7 tracks

It’s Saturday-evening
pre-night-out dance party time again—the time you spend psyching yourself
up before you go out to the local dive to chug Michelobs and get rejected
by that chick with the cross tattooed on her knuckle and the slight
snaggle to the tooth. You’re getting sick of sifting that mound o’clothes
for your least smelly T-shirt to that mix you made with Red Hot Chili
Peppers’ “Suck My Kiss,” Led Zeppelin’s “The Crunge,” Aerosmith’s
“Sweet Emotion,” etc.—you want something new… what do you do?
A possible solution to this crisis could be Deadlands. Me, I shake whiteboy
style to the first track, but it already gets old by track two. Putting
the CD on shuffle helps a bit, though. But that’s me. What about you?
Get adventurous and try some Deadlands—it’s only seven tracks long,
and one of the songs is a Kiss cover (“Hotter Than Hell” with some
extra groove to it!). You just might get that much-needed mojo 1-up
that’ll get you biblically knowing a certain denyin’ b-word’s
cousin—now that’ll show her. (Tony Mellor)

SATCH KERANS

Perley

Pieces

8 tracks

Authoritative New England
rockers are few and far between, almost as seldom as meter maids that
don’t like to ticket Priuses
or Prii. Satch Kerans, born right outside
of Boston, is a living rock-of-ages personality. Satch has played in
bands, played solo, opened for Roy Orbison, closed for Hell’s Angels
at last call and his curriculum vitae doesn’t end there; it continues
with
Pieces, his soul’s outpouring of the music he’s
carried from within throughout his musical tenure.

“Pieces,” the title track off the album, perhaps a little cheesier
than Otis Redding’s “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” offers up
colorful Hammond organ backings with cliché harmonies that accompany
Kerans’ lead vocals. Although the lyrics seem trite at times, the
essence of Kerans’ work provides listeners with American pop and folk
rock that’s clean cut and blue collar to the bone. After all, honesty
is Kerans’ game and it doesn’t get any grittier or more truthful
than with lyrics like, “Forgive me if I’m cynical/ You’ll find
that after all that I’ve been though/ I’ve been empty for so long/
My pockets are full, but my wallet’s gone.”

Satch Kerans’ record is at its best when it’s just Satch and his
acoustic guitar. Tracks such as “Ho Chi Minh and the Brakeman” and
“Dark Side of Dawn” conjure up the soulfully endearing Warren Zevon
of yesteryear singing “Muhammad’s Radio.” Singer-songwriters are
a rare breed; we need them through the economic hardships, to get us
through the next bottle of Jack. While some of Pieces is a tad corny, the record is a keepsake for
Satche’s tenacity in the business, and feels warm on the eardrums.
(Justin Korn)

LOUDER MY DEAR

Midriff Records

What’s
The Matter With You, Rock?

12 tracks

It doesn’t get much
mellower than this—at least not without falling into a catatonic state.
Don’t get me wrong, though. There’s a lot to be said about a keen
slow-burner like this album. Their quirky combo of folk-pop swathed
in electronica keeps things interesting without going completely overboard.
It’s coffeehouse open mic meets nightclub dance party. Lining each
track is a steady groundwork of pop-approved acoustic guitar progressions
topped with plenty of soft-voiced crooning and synth hooks. The percussion
sounds like it’s a blend of a real live drummer and a drum machine.
A modern take on the ol’ John Henry vs. the steam-powered steel-driver
tale, kinda. What LMD may lack in energy, they more than make up for
in sculpted orchestration, strong redolent melodies, and line after
line of smart lyrics. This is a clear-cut case of brain over brawn.
(Will Barry)

THE SYMPTOMS

Auction of
the Mind

10 tracks

Hailing from Lexington,
MA, the Symptoms cite Death Cab for Cutie as one of their main influences.
Much as their vocal delivery has the signature Ben Gibbard sound, I
would connect the band more directly with Ben’s one-off side project,
the Postal Service. The Symptoms have a fantastic hold on atmospheric
electronic indie rock sound popularized by the aforementioned classic.

Fortunately for the Symptoms, they also have a handle on their traditional
rock-band instruments too. Guitars and drums expand their sound into
much more than a bedroom project, making for a record that will translate
well when played live. (George Dow)

ERIC FRENCH
& MR. HYDE

Eric French
& Mr. Hyde

17 tracks

Witness here the duality
of man—a man by the name of Eric French, who along with his hard-edged
alter ego, Mr. Hyde, provides a schizo double album that’s part acoustic
folk and part electro blues. A strange case indeed. Side A showcases
the mild-mannered French and his heartfelt acoustic guitar balladry.
Somber in tone, it exposes his finger-pickin’ prowess with a strong
backwoods Americana feel. “Ain’t No Fury” is a prime example.
It’s a cool little murder ballad juxtaposing soft folk verses with
a raunchy delta-blues chorus. He’s got company on the album, too:
a fiddle here, an accordion there, some light percussion, and also backing
vocals. On side B, French embraces his wild
ish side with a full band playing a barrage of
electrified blues numbers. A damn shame if ya ask me. His guitar, with
its chunky riffs and Texas twang, smacks of Stevie Ray Vaughn—so much
so it sounds unimaginative. The lyrics are mostly just goofy filler
taking up space between his guitar wankery. It seems in one fell swoop,
French transforms himself from a gifted singer-songwriter to the frontman
of some hokey blues cover band. (Will Barry)

THE BODY

Corleone Records

The Body

16 tracks

Wife: This record is
really weird.
Me: Yup.
Wife: It’s  like the
same thing over and over: look at me, I’m sad and angry.
Me: Yup, and there’s
74 more minutes to go.
Wife: Okay, I’m going
to bed.

I wish I could have
done the same, but I feel obligated to give every record a bare minimum
of three spins before forming an opinion. Well, I’d like to congratulate
the Body for making the first record I couldn’t even come close to
getting through twice, let alone three times. As stand alone songs,
these metallic dirges are pretty much unlistenable. As the score to
a horror movie, they might fare a little better. As is, the distorted
screams on the record mix indistinguishably with the drunken screams
from my elderly landlady as they waft through the thin floorboards making
for quite the unpleasant evening. (Kevin Finn)

THE PARASITES

Make You
Sick

11 tracks

On one level, I thought,
why? Why even write songs with titles like “Night of the Bloody Ape,”
“Midget Porn Boogie,” or “I Pushed My Girlfriend Down the Stairs”?
Although I’m certain that this type of B-movie shock gore has its
fans, the titles sound too contrived to even be ironically or wryly
funny (the exact lyrics being unintelligible enough to completely assess).
That said, this three-piece with upright bass is surprisingly decent
musically. I was expecting maybe something like punk or death metal.
Instead, we get something that more influenced by the rockabilly-angst
style Reverend Horton Heat (one of my favorites), especially with what
sounds like Jimbo’s upright bass. The guitar picking deserves praise,
also. “Night of the Bloody Ape” is actually really catchy, and found
myself tapping my toe to “Knob Goblin Girl.” But I’m torn. I really
like this musically but the song titles and lyrics (what I can make
out of them) are bound to relegate this talented group as a novelty
act. Right now, I’m sure this is their shtick, but I sense they are
capable of better and are selling themselves short. (Robin Umbley)

EYE WITNESS

A Pleasant
Tomorrow

11 tracks

Hailing from Worcester,
this is a studio-augmented husband-and-wife duo offering lovely tunes
and message songs somewhat in the mode of Richard and Linda Thompson
which are, admittedly, for specialized tastes. You could easily characterize
their genre as Americana, comprising as it does a heritage feel which
encompasses blues, folk, ethnic Irish music and British broadside balladry.
“It’s Not Okay,” the first original composition featured here,
has a bewitchingly hypnotic mantra-like feel. I wish they had been able
to sustain a similar sense of novelty throughout this collection, but,
to my ears, it comes across instead as a scatter-shot assemblage of
Sufferin’ Joe complaints and hectoring protest tunes; persistently
dour and substituting rhetoric for genuine fellow-feeling and wisdom.
You may agree with their political message but you may also have long
outgrown their noticably querulous sense of seemingly continuous grievance,
which seems to be their predominant mode of expression nearly from beginning
to end. Occasionally admitting that there might be some sort of potential
for transcendence is often preferable to merely unremittingly wallowing
in a downbeat worldview almost completely lacking nuance or any sort
of wider perspective. (Francis DiMenno)

HOUSETOP

Two Foot
Jumpin’

15 tracks

On a record such as
this, a venture into the realm of jazzy swing and jive, one would expect
the male and female vocal blend to be top of the line. However,
the combination of four distinct voices—Peter Siegel, Naomi and Erica
Morse, and Anna Patton—does not work for this reviewer, proving to
have a grating effect and appearing to be generally uninspired.
It is a disconnect that results in an overall loss of sincerity, only
serving to push the band further away from classification as the “real
thing.” Instead, it is the musical compositions themselves that
shine here, and Housetop has the natural ability to transport their
audiences to an entirely different time period—best done through a
selection of covers originally recorded by musicians and composers of
historical significance, and several originals. With gorgeous
and intricate arrangements such as these, those not moved by the vocals
will find themselves wishing the album itself were instrumental in its
entirety. (Julia R. DeStefano)

 

If you are based in New England,
send your CD for review to
T Max/ the
Noise, PO Box 353, Gloucester, MA 01931.

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And everyone else should
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T Max/ the Noise
PO Box 353
Gloucester, MA 01931
617-331-9637
tmaxnoise@aol.com


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