CD Reviews

TWO VIEW REVIEW

ROY SLUDGE
Deeveeus Records
Too Drunk To Truck 

16 tracks

I don’t drink like I used to, but if T Max keeps sending me this type of band to review I’ll be at the Betty Ford center next year.  With a stellar lineup band and a honky-tonk, country style western trucker swing, this album has that certain something. Roy Sludge has those Johnny Cash vocals down, a storytelling timbre that you have to give in to.  The stories in the songs have some great humor.  Duke Levine (one of my fave local guitarists) is in top form with such a mixture of Les Paul, Chet Atkins, Jimmy Bryant and his own sound in there.  He has a featured instrumental… damn Duke!  Jim Haggerty throws a lowdown upright bass into the mix, along with backing vocals.  The Speedy West role is played superbly by Kevin Barry on lap steel.  If you dig a blues and rockabilly based song form that sounds at home in 1956 as well as 2012, listen.  (Mike Loce)

 

ROY SLUDGE
Deeveeus Records
Too Drunk to Truck

16 tracks

If you don’t know about Roy Sludge, (A) shame on you, and (B) you’re missing out bigtime, chumpie. Roy is Al Sheinfeld (of more bands in the last 30-plus years than this mag’s word limits would allow for, all of them equally different and special), and while he’s the official ringleader, it’s the “mere-mortals-don’t-deserve-this” instrumentation backing him, not to mention the endless-and-ever-expanding repertoire, that can’t but help steal the show. That backup generally consists of Jim Haggerty’s pneumatic stand-up bass, and the impossibly fluid electric guitar flurries of Duke Levine, for whom any and all adjectives, however extreme, fall laughably, almost insultingly, short of conveying the level of prowess here. Yep, he’s one of those. Both contribute the occasional perfect harmonies while Roy fronts on acoustic and sings lead in a voice whose lower register alone could set off the San Andreas Fault. Odds are good that any given song (many of them originals here) will entail truckers, guns, booze, icy women, hard luck, and all the other stuff that keeps things interesting. The end result may sound sweet, but there ain’t much sweetness between the lines, and whether or not they’ve lived it, you’ll feel it. Therefore, you need it.         (Joe Coughlin)

 

BLACK FORTRESS OF OPIUM
Stratospherical                        

11 tracks

Imagine, if you will, rock elements combined with middle-eastern influences to result in an innovative blend of progressive rock and psychedelia that is all at once gothic, melodic, and highly introspective.  Look no further than the first single off of Black Fortress of Opium’s sophomore effort—the anthemic and haunting “Afyonkarahisar Battle Cry” with its title hailing back to the origins of the band’s name.  It is through this track, one that calls to mind the Velvet Underground, that listeners take note of the impassioned vocals of Turkish Queen, Ajda Snyder, a mystical woman with a gift for entrancing audiences and enveloping them within her complex, imaginative world.  Such a pattern of dreamy, lush soundscapes and exquisite vocals continues throughout the length of the record without ever becoming boring or predictable. While true that “Right Around Here” showcases the band’s ability to craft a memorable song with a pop-feel, “Get the Tune” slows things down while truly showcasing the versatility of Snyder’s voice and the capabilities of this band.  If Black Fortress of Opium continues to craft music that proves interesting to listeners and leaves them wanting more, they will become one of New England’s finest.    (Julia R. DeStefano)

 

MINKY STARSHINE
75 or Less Records
Womanity

11 tracks

If your longtime hope and yearning is for shameless power-pop reminiscent of Jellyfish and the Posies, look no further than this new one by Minky Starshine! This ultra-powerful follow-up to 2009’s Unidentified Hit Record is peppered with even more clever instrumental breaks, tasty harmonies and finely crafted arrangements.  Newly recruited John Sands lends his solidly Beatlesque skin-pounding to the rhythm section, while the sonic candy is provided by noted producer Anthony Resta, who absolutely outdoes himself on his kitchen sink approach to cool, retro, and vintage, while tossing in some epic slices of classic electronica. This third album clearly shows a significant evolution and sophistication in writing from their humbler beginnings back in 2006. This album steps it way up in terms of layers of cool, tasty goodness. Nearly every track here is completely winner and Womanity is without a doubt posed to be the Spilt Milk of this decade!         (Joel Simches)

 

KAITLIN DIBBLE
Trouble With Dibble

13 tracks

Again, the red flags: elaborate packaging that looks like an estrogen bomb went off in a Silly String factory; a hand-scrawled “press sheet” on torn notebook paper wherein the artist double-magic-markers all the names dropped just in case, y’know, you’re an illiterate retard (it also states, “I hope you like it as more than friends,” but I’ve never fucked a CD before and ain’t about to start now); a 12-page lyric booklet showing the requisite guitar, booze bottle, and fishnetted feet. (I soon learn that said fishnets provide borders for all the, um, art here.) I feel like I’m being assaulted before the first note rings, garish neon “Too Much Information!” signs flashing down the hallways of my skull. And again, I’m wrong fresh outta the gate. While some of it’s just girly-girly to the point of being a mere flipside of [insert least-favorite humorless male cave-dweller act here], and there are a few moments of torture (too-long conversation snippets that mean and add nothing, and a sizeable chunk of said lyrics), there are songs, ideas, and lush acres of heart at work. Nothing spazmo here, it’s mostly on the pretty, quieter side, so tastefully arranged as to actually elevate some of the lesser material, and Dibble’s voice resonates with experience which may or may not belie the truth, but that doesn’t matter, which is exactly why it matters, dig? Five bucks says she’s goin’ places.                          (Joe Coughlin)

 

WROUGHT IRON HEX
Fat Toque Records
III                                                 

5 tracks

The band’s outstanding, smartly produced debut offers Scott Guthrie’s taut bass-heavy approach, and Phil Grenier’s whipsaw percussion, both topped by the King Kong guitar and shrewdly positioned vocals of Jason Foster, formerly of the eclectic local ensemble 5LB Brown. In its sense of telepathic urgency, “Across the River” is brilliantly reminiscent of Wire ala “Reuters” and “12XU.”  “A&A” is an epically clamoring communique which radiates a sense of chaotic desperation. The remaining tracks are a powerful melange of wild churn (“Know the Truth”), dynamic urgency (“Santa Blanket”) and foreboding, electrifying menace (“Guilty Conscience”). I am normally jaded regarding the bludgeon-core offered up by many heavy-duty rock bands, but in this case I am blown away by how emotionally gripping these flinty rock compositions are; there’s barely an ounce of fat on any of them and they represent an extremely high level of musical accomplishment in the hard rock field. Bass-heavy, deftly percussive, and all with a minimum of guitar showboating, the band avoids both the strenuous cliches of death metal and the vagaries of experimental music and forges a striking type of high art from iron chains of sound. Outstanding of its kind and quite good by any other standard. Highly recommended; a certified keeper.     (Francis DiMenno)

 

THE MYSTIX
Mystix Eyes Records
Mighty Tone

12 tracks

If you’d told me thirty years ago that I’d give a flaming frog’s fat ass what the former singer for Duke & the Drivers would be doing in 2012, I’d have spit in your cocktail of choice. If you’d shown me the cover (a generic shot of an acoustic guitar), I’d have pictured some sensitive schmoe just tryin’ to get some suburban white booty. Let’s not even discuss the title here. And as always, it’s an absolute delight to be one hundred percent off base. I put this on during a miserable midnight downpour, and promptly felt the sun on my back, caught whiffs of tall grass and clean air, felt the creaky comfort of a front-porch swing, and settled in for the ride. If you need comparisons, the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack would not be unfair. It’s a nice balance of covers and originals, delivered at just the right temperance, never shy but never overbearing, between which being where so many roots acts fall into the cracks: trying too hard not to try too hard. This one has all the confidence and none of the false bravado, one of those extremely rare jobs that sounds like it’s been here all along. It’s a beaut.   (Joe Coughlin)

 

THE BLUE VEINS
The Blue Veins

10 tracks

If the Blue Veins were a restaurant, they wouldn’t be Radius, and they probably wouldn’t be Gaslight, either.  But they would be something like the Lower Depths, a place that while hardly extraordinary, always seems to hit the spot with its no frills, down-to-earth charms.  There’s nothing on this self-titled album good enough to make the listener do a double-take, but for straight-ahead rock ’n’ roll, it hits the mark more often than most.  The production is fantastic, providing a huge, live sound and allowing each instrument to cut properly through the mix.  The songs are just catchy enough to draw you in without beating you over the head, and the band manages the harder than it seems trick of providing song-to-song variation while maintaining a cohesive sound.                                       (Kevin Finn)

 

OTP
Full Mouthful

6 tracks

No, I don’t know what OTP stands for. What I do know is that their latest EP is a rowdy collection of chest-pounding fist-pumping country-flavored punk tunes. Goddamn, ya gotta love that grit-tastic guitar and those bouncy jug-band basslines, cavorting like some drunk at a square dance. Not to mention those spot-on boom-chicka-boom drum rhythms. What’s more, all this countrified punk-rock mayhem is strung together by raw-throated whiskey-sour lead vocals, honky-tonk backing harmonies, and catchy scream-a-long choruses. While the music may be jaunting and major-key, the lyrics are shaded with existential angst, bitterness, and wry cynicism. A drinking song about alcoholism, a kinda-sorta love song about struggling to say those three magic words—seriously, I can’t get enough of this.      (Will Barry)

 

BEBE BUELL
Hard Love

11 tracks

This is how I like my rock ’n’ roll: an explosive band led by a red hot female vocalist who takes control of each song and seduces, preaches and lectures me into submission. Punk Pioneer Bebe Buell has a lot to say in her music and whether she’s conquering punk, metal, or straight ahead rock ’n’ roll, the result is the same on every song:  great songwriting and great delivery equals a major music force to be reckoned with. And by that I mean listened to over and over. “Mother of Rock And Roll” is a classic rock ’n’ roll song and the current punk “Sugar” may be the big hit but in both songs the stunning guitar work of Jimmy Walls shines. He growls, he groans and he is really magnificent. I also dig Bebe’s powerful teaser version of Gang of Four’s “I Love A Man In A Uniform”; a cool cover from the ’80s punk band. She may be a veteran but her passion is like a breath of fresh air. Every song is great. Play this CD loud.     (A.J.Wachtel)

 

J’SIN LYNCH
Conversations with Ghosts    

9 tracks

There is something to be said for a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist with an ability to effortlessly compose beautiful, heart wrenching poetry and share it with listeners worldwide.  Lead vocalist of 48 Rooms and the Fallted, J’sin Lynch is no stranger to heart-on-sleeve experimentation, having written and performed music in the genres of acoustic, rock, punk, metal, hip-hop, and even techno.  His latest, Conversations with Ghosts, is further indicative of his adventurous nature.  One cannot help wondering if Lynch is a fan of writers Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, and Mark Lanegan, as his work bears striking similarities to theirs in both subject matter and in style.  In fact, one can envision Lynch relishing in seclusion, regarding it as inspiration.  “I’ll make you realize I’ve spent my life talking to ghosts,” he sings on the record’s second track, “Talking to Ghosts”—so convincing is he that listeners cannot help wondering if ghosts are truly in his midst or if their “presence” serves as a metaphor for past events.  As the record progresses, tension continues to build—first with the prevalence of blood throughout “Blood Runs Cold,” followed by the imagery of being swept away on the shore of “Saltonstall.”  Lynch appears to have an insatiable appetite for the supernatural that, when combined with his effortless storytelling ability, results in a record that is both compelling and respectable.          (Julia R. DeStefano)

 

PARKINGTON SISTERS                          
Till Voices Wake Us 

13 tracks

Vocal harmonies!  Sisterly vocal harmonies!  Outrageously good, pure, organic sisterly harmonies!  Far be it for me to try to pigeonhole the sisters into a style, let’s just start (and stay with) the sister harmony thing here.  I actually am realizing, learning, that DNA resonates within itself.  Groups like the Andrews Sisters are an early ancestor of the Parkington Sisters.  There is a unique melding of voices that are a caliber up from vocal group that aren’t related.  Isn’t that nuts?  Or normal?  I don’t know, all I know is that it sounds VERY GOOD.  I suppose compositionally we could talk about areas like folk, shanty, modern vocal pop, but those labels don’t have any resolve.  The four voices tend to flow around the arrangements, which include a variety of orchestrations.  Sometimes a sister will sing solo, other times with backing, other times all four are letting it wail. This is the sound of four well crafted individual voices coming together to create a greater overall sound.       (Mike Loce)

 

DEFECATION AREA VS. TONY JONES & THE CRETIN 3
Cretin Records
Peace, Love & Slamdance

8 tracks

Yet another surprisingly engaging listen whose song titles and visuals suggested a far more average go-round. Four songs from each, and it’s not quite clear what their connection is. The first four instantly called to mind the first EP by the USM. Scally-cappers without an overbearing message, having (gasp!) fun instead of the usual blue-collar bluster and fake nationalism. Shout-out choruses with actual melodies, that kinda thing. It brought genuine smiles, which that stuff so rarely achieves amidst all the pre-fab anger and ball-sweat.

The second half brings garage rock with a sorely-needed sense of humor. None of the usual “we’re great because we suck” trappings, no way-too-obvious claims of manufactured shabbiness, just some old-fashioned dumb-and-sloppy for its own sake, minus any trace of (non-)ironic hipster hype. Again, the first word I think of is “fun.” There are lots of bands in this area who’d like your support. Many are self-indulgent product-pushers who put acceptance over vision. If you wanna throw your money at something a little more honest, you could do an awful lot worse than these fellas.   (Joe Coughlin)

 

JAMIE KENT
Navigation

11 tracks

This acoustic folk/Americana tinged CD is based on Kent’s good songs, solid guitar accompaniment and expressive vocals. The uptempo folk ballad “Changes” is done really well and Jamie’s very personal vocal rendition almost makes it sound like he’s pouring his heart out to you alone as he performs. “Hold On” has a neat Hammond Organ part and I like the jazzy uke opening of “Lover’s Lost” too. A surprising and cool cover of the Manae Company’s “Drop Baby Drop” has the necessary calypso cadences. The interesting low-end intro of the last cut, “So Bad, Still,” makes this song a great way to end the music— enjoyable and a good listen.       (A.J. Wachtel)

 

RIVER NEVA
Chemistry of Holocaust

5 tracks

Short but not remotely sweet, this EP is about as heavy as metal gets. It falls somewhere between Slayer and a five-car pile-up. There’s no shortage of angular rhythms, breakneck guitar fluttering, jackhammer kick-drum, or deep dredging basslines here. The vocals vacillate between a low Cookie Monster growl and a shrill jungle-cat screech. But for every explosive rampage, there’s a mellower breakdown section with simmering cymbals, melodic guitars, and operatic vocals. Though they flirt with monotony, River Neva’s brute force won’t disappoint all you metalheads out there.         (Will Barry)

 

STRANGERS WITH KNIVES
Gore-nographic Material

10 tracks

Dark as a black cat’s shadow and gritty as graveyard dirt, this album is a freaky sideshow of raunchy tongue-in-cheek horror-punk. Grindhouse guitar riffs swathed in slapback surf-style twang, deep brooding basslines, and pulsating drums that beat like the telltale heart—that’s the gruesome musical backdrop of this album. Amidst the tumult, their gravel-voiced frontman spits out his pulp-themed plotlines and X-rated voiceovers that are completely over-the-top with B-movie theatrics. Just to give you an idea, there’s a crudely hilarious 50s-style doo-wop ode to cannabalism, a necrophiliac’s bluesy serenade, and a couple zombie dirges. As if it wasn’t quite over-the-top enough, each track includes plenty of spooky stock sound-effects as well. Mwahahaha. What’s not to like?        (Will Barry)

 

T MAX             
Dove Records
Shake: An Earth Tale
       6 tracks
On British TV
                     11 tracks

T Max is no stranger to the concept of a concept album.  He co-founded Boston Rock Opera, and founded both the Borg and Max.  He also organized a “We Are the World”-style anti-war protest single titled “End War Now” (which ranked number seven on Neil Young’s Living With War website) that featured a wide array of Boston notables.  Since then he has staged Why Do We Go to War?, a one-man rock opera, before releasing these two CDs.  Living in Gloucester, he has now tapped into that vast musical and art community and created some cool concept albums, to boot.

Shake was produced in 2011 and is an environmental cautionary tale.  The songs, written and performed by T Max, are sparsely arranged guitar and vocal ditties, vaguely reminiscent of Harry Nilsson, the Pretty Things, the Beatles, and the Kinks, with narration by Claire Paulsen.  This is a story of environmental awareness and harmony designed for all ages, urging humanity to make a pact with loving the earth which nurtures us all and could easily be made into a children’s’ book or ABC made for TV cartoon movie, much like Really Rosie or Free To Be You And Me.  It’s totally in that vein.

On British TV is a collection of songs loosely connected by an underlying theme. It is unclear what this album is trying to say.  It starts with a dramatic version of a Beatles classic, “No Reply,” followed by a cosmic tale of greed and strip mining the solar system, a tale of morality, a song of empowerment. It’s hard to understand why it’s called On British TV, when the album contains only one British band, some originals, and inventive reinterpretations of rock classics by the likes Sly Stone and Sonny Bono who aren’t even remotely British. There is a picture of T Max on the cover looking vaguely British and I am drinking Earl Grey as I write this, so does that count? Musically, T Max has an intimate, honest approach. The songs are genuine and heartfelt, with so many different stylistic shifts—psychedelic, gospel, back-porch blues, and even vaudeville. The arrangements are truly inventive and show off an unabashed and varied array of instrumental and vocal talents.  I would like this even if T Max wasn’t my publishing editor. Buy both of these CDs and tell T I sent you!  Okay, where’s my cut?         (Joel Simches)

 

THE MASONS                    
Warm Days Long Shadows

22 tracks

This double-album is divided into two parts, the guitar-driven rock of Warm Days and the more atmospheric Long Shadows.  The glammy and geeky indie rock of Warm Days works very well over its first half, particularly with “Get Up,” on which the mundaneness of everyday life has never sounded so appealing.  The problem, though, is that the record’s second half becomes quirky just for the sake of being quirky, too often falling on the annoying side of the fun/annoying line.  Long Shadows is a much more consistent effort.  It’s more nuanced, and the songs have more of an emotional impact on the listener.   It reminds me of the more spacy Jack Drag records, but with more of a twang.  “Life in My Twenties” is the standout here, an affecting country-tinged number featuring a gorgeous guest female vocal.  It’s a direction I’d love to see this band explore more.  (Kevin Finn)

 

THE WHISKEY BOYS
Crescent Moon

12 tracks

What this album lacks in feel and passion, it more than makes up for in education.  This album sounds like a couple of music students with a homework assignment to write songs in a specific style.  They research their subject matter and recite it like a hastily prepared oral book report, accurately regurgitating facts and stories without really understanding the meaning, emotion or purpose that made this style of music an enduring part of Americana. I don’t get the feeling that the players here really own the notes they’re playing. The vocals convey so little and yet stand out front of the action, like someone who always wanted to be there, but forgot to buy a ticket, and downloaded Wikipedia page instead. While the production and recording is immaculate, the music is completely uninspired and has no dynamic range whatsoever. The stories about how the songs came to be are more interesting than the songs themselves. Maybe they should just record those next time.    (Joel Simches)

 

HOWLING BOIL
The Sensational Conflicts

2 tracks

I had no intention of writing a review when I checked out these two tracks. The strange production that could be either horrendous or genius drew me in. “A Luna Flair” has a decisively 1960’s psyche feel combining dominating electric organ on constant tremolo and shouted vocals doused in massive reverb. Vague background vocals and a guitar playing solos mix in some madness. When the din breaks down I feel like I’m listening to the Pretty Things based on the irregular vocal effects. “B. Come & See” continues the strange reverb-heavy mix on something that could be considered a dance song. The break- down exposes a distorted fat bass. The vocals, lost in reverb again, create a feel they must like. I like it that Howling Boil (from New Hampshire) seems to be only concerned with entertaining themselves.        (T Max)

 

THE LESPAUNTS
Haunt

11 tracks

I suppose I can’t simply fault this band for being tuneful hopeless-romantic pop, so I won’t waste my word-limit talking about how I think their songs sound like they belong in some bland paint-by-numbers chick-flick. I won’t talk about how the heart-on-sleeve lyrics and their lead singer’s lovelorn bedroom croon makes my skin crawl. And I certainly won’t mention how even in it’s greatest moments—drum-heavy, orchestral, and tinged with distortion—their dewy-eyed brand of power-pop still comes off as overly-sentimental panty-peeling crap. No, I shouldn’t say any of that. Instead, I’ll try to be unbiased and non-judgmental and simply say this: The musicianship and production are good, the music’s deathly catchy, and the album as a whole is surprisingly diverse in scope, ranging from acoustic-strumming soft-rock to heavier symphonically-layered dream-pop.   (Will Barry)

 

MORTUUS ORTUS       
Mortuss Ortus                           

3 tracks

Mortuus Ortus’s 3-song EP of doom metal begins with a skewed rendition of “Taps” on the bugle and transforms into ”Death March,” a dark dirge of Black Sabbath-esque riffing played at half-speed. The vocals, by drummer Drew Graveyard, are a growling cacophony spoken in tongues. “She Dwells” and “Evil Things” turn down the gloom in favor of more traditional metal. Muddy production buries the vocals way deep in the mix and obscures the otherwise interesting arrangements.       (George Dow)

 

HONDO
Gizzly Admasapple
Entertainment for Man & Horse

15 tracks

Here’s a ready-made blurb: “As a goofy pastiche of gratuitously cornball pan-Americana, Hondo’s latest CD is not anywhere near as bad as slavery.” Let me explain: I actually appreciate a collection of catchy half-assed songs as much as the next man, or maybe a great deal more, but this is one gift stocking that’s just too stuffed with horse apples, Pardner. You get this garage-REM style pop on the opener, “Wheatfields of My Love,” and the followup “Shaker Ferry” flails around like a dyspeptic Jimi Hendrix. “Monsanto Blues” is a pretty prime piece of garage spazz; “Western Skye” comes across as a Bad Company song with no hooks—and a long-winded one at that. “Yee-Haw” is a witless travesty of naughty outlaw songs like David Allen Coe’s “Piss Me Off Fucking Jerk” albeit with some not wholly inept pickin’; “Monster Rock Girl” is a thoroughly catchy but otherwise execrable slab of 1970s-era stumbo metal with standard-issue geetar-solo wankery. The more than marginally tuneful “Country” seems pointless, like Green on Red without direction or purpose, and the harp solo seems thin and gratuitous; “Aquarium” falls flat, and seems somewhat overbusy and murky—somebody should have changed the filter. “Put Your Finger in the Fuzz” is annoying acid rock, while “The Trifecta” and “Sour Billy” are two more offensively crappy schlock outlaw-country ballads, the former with an offensively cheesy middle-eight. “Asymmetrical Girls” practically demands that the listener regards the CD as actually being little more than an extended joke, but that kind of tossed-off aggressive contempt for the listener is precisely what leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Unfortunately, you can’t often have it both ways—in this case, you can’t serve up a collection which is half travesty and half serious and expect the beleagured listener to patiently glean the pieces of gleaming golden corn from the, um, excessive amounts of waste material.   (Francis DiMenno)

 

COREPHALLISM/ GNAW THEIR TONGUES       
Lascivious Aesthetics
Split 10 inch                               

3 tracks

Never have I felt utterly unqualified to review a record… until now. Shane Micheal Broderick’s drone/noise project, Corephallism may just be beyond my comprehension. “Abandonment” builds from a minor-key synthesizer drone into a cacophony of noise—something reminiscent of a ride-on lawnmower. “Rapes of Convenience” opens with what sounds like guitar feedback before introducing buzz-saw synthesized noise and a throbbing, moaning drone. It feels like a scene from Star Wars in which the Death Star pans into the frame out of the vastness of space. This is certainly unsettling stuff—the perfect soundtrack to an art-house horror flick.               (George Dow)

 

THE 7CS 
Stick Your Neck Out             

10 tracks

“Stick Your Neck Out” is this former trio’s earlier 6-song EP, reworked and with four new songs added to better represent their current status as a four-piece. The music strikes me as meat and potatoes rock in the school of the 1970s Rolling Stones—Goat’s Head Soup and the like, though there’s little evidence of endlessly sweated retakes or 64-track recording technology here, and so the end result comes across as somewhat bare-boned. “Deal With the Devil” gives off a whiff of T. Rex; “Knew Just What She’d Do” is evocative of mid-1960s Kinks and Stones; “Cantab” is an affectionate tribute to Boston’s most notorious dive bar and concert venue (though, personally, I would nominate Chet’s, which had at least 400% more junkies); “Ms. Amore” is a rugged but somewhat perfunctory anthem; “Right Down the Road” resembles an attenuated version of the Steppenwolf hit “Magic Carpet Ride.” These songs have potential but could benefit from more fully realized production values, because if minimalism is all they have to offer, then at this point they’re not quite closing the sale.  (Francis DiMenno)

 

JAMES HOULAHAN
Misfit Hymns

10 tracks

James Houlahan was born and bred here in New England and just recently relocated to LA. He was also the founding member of Boston Faves The Jody Grind (of which I was a fan!!) This latest collection of songs is a heartfelt journeyman’s tale of love and life as influenced by the kindred minds of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Warren Zevon and Neil Young.  His songs are earnest and intimate, yet meticulously arranged. While Houlahan straddles the line between traditional folk and country, there are occasional nods and pushes of musical boundaries seldom explored by singer/songwriters of this ilk. Rarely have music and words collaborated so closely to convey mood so effectively.  This album will make you weep, laugh, and yearn.  Houlahan’s voice is genuine and vulnerable.  You feel like you’ve been where he’s been, even if he only made this stuff up to sell a couple of copies of this CD at shows.  I hope the move to LA brings him success, but that he still calls this place home.   (Joel Simches)

 

CRYOSTASIUM
Moria’s Treasure

6 tracks

There’s nothing wrong with your stereo. Do not attempt to adjust your speakers. Cryostasium’s EP is supposed to sound like this. Namely, a post-apocalyptic ambient noise-rock dreamscape. It’s a 20-minute deluge of electronic noise, guitar fuzz, and heavy drones stacked a mile high, all reverberating like some robotic hornets’ nest. This is the diabolical handiwork of a mad man and it’s is not for the faint of heart, the mild-mannered, or the sound-minded. Needless to say, this is right up my alley. Well, sorta. It would be nice if there were a melody or two. That way, I could at least have something to hum along to when I’m down cellar sippin’ on chianti and suturing together my human skin-suit.        (Will Barry)

 

PATRICK COMAN & THE LO-FI ANGELS         
Let It Ring

5 tracks

“Boston City Blues” smacks of Hank Williams out of Dan Hicks; a sweetly ingratiating if somewhat deracinated Western Swing simulacrum. The title track shoots for solemn and magisterial and is good enough to be part of a movie soundtrack, though it falls considerably short of something like John Cale’s “Hallelujah.””Hungover” is a sweetly appealing fiddle-slathered take on the blues; “Home” is one of those aw-shucks harmony-vocal weepers, played totally straight; “Streets of Berlin” takes a stab at epic sadness and comes pretty darn close. A creditable collection, which promotes a lo fi ethos as a point of pride rather than as a necessity, though I’m tempted to suggest a better title for this collection might actually be “The Honky Tonk Demos.”     (Francis DiMenno)

 

LANSDOWNE
“Back to Life”
1 track

Every once in a while, something that I like to refer to as a “best kept secret of modern rock” comes along, redefining the genre and refining our expectations.  A penchant for hooks and driving riffs make Lansdowne a band to be envied by their musical counterparts.  “Back to Life” serves as our first taste of their upcoming sophomore release.  Produced by David Bendeth at House of Loud Recording Studio (Paramore, Breaking Benjamin, Papa Roach), the single is vocalist Jon Ricci’s attempt to move forward from the events of his past: “Lay it down and say your goodbyes/  Just kiss it goodbye/  Tears can’t bring this back to life.”  With an approach that is both straightforward and hard rocking, “Back to Life” will no doubt satiate your appetite for a mainstream anthem; crank it up and put it on repeat!  (Julia R. DeStefano)

 

CRYOSTASIUM & THOR MALLET             
Metropolitan State Productions
Cryostasium & Thor Mallet

9 tracks

This is a heady collaboration between two dark ambient juggernauts.  The pairing is seamless.  This collection of sonic landscapes fills the brain with imagery of insects and aliens that pitter and patter through your subconscious divide.  This brilliant piece of audio acid is a tense soundtrack to an overdose of Nyquil and bad swag weed, but in a good way.  I could also see this as a soundtrack to any tense psychological character study piece, a horror film featuring machine gun wielding, brain sucking, humpback whales, an early episode of Space:1999 or Phillip Glass with a bad case of food poisoning and projectile diarrhea.  Take your pick, they all work.  It’s a really good idea not to eat Mexican food before listening to this CD after driving for hours with a car full of road weary starving artist on three hours of sleep.  On second thought, it really is.   (Joel Simches)

 

THE GROUNDHAWGS               
75 Or Less Records
Warbirds                                   

11 tracks

“Tops,” the opening track on the Groundhawgs’ new release, Warbirds makes me pine for the late ’80s in Boston. Every guitar riff reminds me of the Heretix. From there things just get better. The Groundhawgs deliver a brilliant combination of pop and crunch with their indie rock—bringing hooks galore and perfectly crafted sing-along choruses. Some of the best moments are saved for the closing tracks. Late in the album, “Heaven” drops like a top-10 Boston rock hit from 1989. It might just be the perfect soundtrack music for a B-grade high school movie set in that period. Closing track, “Pontiac/Cheers” would otherwise be a throwaway joke song montage of car commercials and, oddly, the Cheers theme song, but for the fact that it contains some of the most enjoyable riffs I’ve heard in ages, including one that they lift from (of all places) Pat Benetar’s “Hell is For Children.”                 (George Dow)

 

THE FLASHCUBES  
Northside Records
Sportin’ Wood

12 tracks

Roy Wood played with the late ’60s band the Move and I am intrigued that anyone would remember this artist let alone devote 12 cuts on a release to honor his compositions; and decades later, too. Okay, sue me. I didn’t listen to the originals so I have no idea how creative and different their covers are but I can certainly appreciate the smirking double meaning in this project’s title. The CD is full of metal power pop that is done pretty well, sorta like Steppenwolf meets Metallica. Their renditions cover different genres including the hard driving opening cut “Hello Susie,” the punkish “Wild Tiger Woman,” the pop ballad “Curly” and the rocking “Ballpark Incident” and “On Top Of the World.” A tight band, clever arrangements and nice vocals make this a good mix. Check it out.       (A.J. Wachtel)

 

THE PAYOFF
Built To Last

10 tracks

If you like your modern rock powerful and “meaningful,” the Payoff is worth checking out.  Their songs are heavy and polished, just like those modern rock compilations you see advertised with Three Doors Down, Creed, My Chemical Romance, and Matchbox 20.  It’s pretty obvious that these songs have sipped from the same well and offer very little to differentiate themselves from the power rockers of late-night infomercial yore.  There isn’t a riff or hook or melody you won’t recognize and the drums and bass are heavy in all the right places. The Payoff is definitely vying for a market instead of a discriminate music lover, but that’s okay.  I’m sure they will blow your favorite band off the stage and get all the good-looking girls and guys to check out their trousers.                                      (Joel Simches)

 

RACHEL EFRON                               
Put Out The Stars

10 tracks

Rachel is a very good pianist and her beautiful plaintive voice is perfectly suited for her music.  Mellow and introspective, her playing has several different influences. The piano intro for “Closing Day” with its unexpected chord changes is a good example of her clever compositions. Backed by a string quartet, an accordion, three different violinists, a viola, cello and flugelhorn, the choice of instruments and their compelling arrangements add sparkle to each tune. I really like the strong piano intro with the power chords that set the tone for “Beautiful Day” and the full sound of the closing cut “Slow Dance”—good music from this Maine native.   (A.J. Wachtel)

 

GOOD TIME CHARLIE 
75 or Less Records
Old Wine New Vinegar

8 tracks

The Replacements with keyboards? Actually, not too far-fetched a description, though as a pigeonhole it just won’t do. However, if you wax nostalgic over (or even remember) classic ’80s-era Boston garage rock ala Last Stand, the Neighborhoods, the Outlets, et al., you might enjoy this party-hearty quintet a whole lot. “I Missed the Party” is their strongest and most evincing shot at this sort of revivalism, followed by “Communication Is Futile,” which, although it doesn’t quite deliver, has the feel of something heartfelt with a Buzzcocks-era punk riff which verges on classic. The remaining tracks don’t quite completely cohere into songs which transcend their generic origins; “Plyers” is a wistful beautiful-loser plaint, but “Serves You Right” comes across as formulaic Oi!-meets-Ramones, and their cover of “Press Gang” by the Murder City Devils is a mostly muddled incoherent pronunciato.  (Francis DiMenno)

 

THE SENTIMENTAL FAVORITES                      
75 Or Less Records
The Unrelenting Sentimental Favorites     

31 tracks

I hardly ever get mad at a record—hardly ever The Unrelenting Sentimental Favorites makes me mad. It’s like a bait and switch. The CD and press sheet look all professional—in fact, these 31 gimmick songs sound professionally recorded. And therein lies the key—gimmick songs. Each track is a roughly one minute long rant about some inane annoyance—litterbugs (“Litterbugs”), kids who throw shit off bridges (“Fuck All”), and Neosporin (“Man Stung”). Listening to the Sentimental Favorites is much like listening to Adam Sandler’s “Chanukah Song” as interpreted by They Might Be Giants, thirty-one times in a row. It kind of makes me want to stick a fork in my eye… and write my own gimmick song about it.   (George Dow)

Comments

CD Reviews — 2 Comments

  1. Correction: My last line should read: Were you really at Chet’s Francis? Perhaps my typing would benefit from some “endlessly sweated retakes”

  2. Hello Good People of The Noise;
    The 7CS would like to thank Francis DiMenno for his review of our album “Stick Your Neck Out”. We consider his Stones, Kinks, T.Rex and Steppenwolf comparisons high praise. As for his concerns over the the lack of “endlessly sweated retakes or 64-track recording technology” -well to that I say: AMEN! That sort of approach has it’s place but we’re going for something that’s more DIY and less ELO. We’re you really at Chet’s Francis? Jack Kelleher