CD Reviews



Iddy Biddy Records

Bocce and Bourbon: The Comfortable Songs of Chandler Travis and David Greenberger

19 tracks

Ugh, there’s so much explaining to do before you can even mention the music that it gives me a headache. I mean, you remember Duplex Planet, the ’zine where the guy used to interview the quirky residents of the old folks’ home? You remember the Incredible Casuals? Well that guy and that guy and probably everybody they’ve ever known all got together and made this record and it took thirty years or something. That’s the thumbnail version, at least. You need an instruction manual before you even put this on. Anyway, it’s a compilation, basically, but despite being the work of three bands, there’s a stylistic cohesion that keeps things flowing nicely. It’s psychedelic pop, Beatles-y in spots and sorta Steely Dan-esque in others, breezy and free-flowing and pretty and so… I dunno, uplifting that I don’t even mind the accordion that bleats all over everything. Highlights include the delicate sunshine-pop of “Make the Small Things Pretty,” the strutting downtown rocker “Come and Get Your Cat,” and the horn-driven cool of “I’ll Wait.” Also, if you made an indie flick and there was a scene where the beloved but hard-bitten protagonist dies, closer “You and Me Pushin’ Up Daisies” would be the whimsical soundtrack to his ascent into Heaven. I dig it all, really. It’s fucking joyous, man.  (Sleazegrinder)

Editor’s note: Read another review by Francis DiMenno of this same CD at the end of this column.


Big Sunny Day!

12 tracks

You might remember them from 20 years ago with a different name, The VELCRO Peasants, but the band still plays their same unique pop/ punk/ metal/ garage/ stoner/ country/ spaghetti western brand of music. This is their first record in 10 years and Pete Cassani, who wrote all the songs and plays all the guitars, drummer Stephen Hart and bassist Paul Kochanski (The Drive/ The Swinging Steaks) sound as good as I remember them. The main ingredient on this CD is pounding drums, rock-solid bass, screaming guitars, and higher-decibel vocals with a lot of other stuff thrown in for good measure. Or in this case: Great measures. I like the punk breakneck speed of “You Make Me Feel Dirty” and “I’m Trapped.” I love the screaming guitar on “Merry Christmas, You’re Fired!” and the instrumental “Bullfighters and Gunslingers.” The bluesy “Southern Comfort” is red hot, the C&W “Don’t Make Me Wait” is a real tear-jerker, and the metal ballads “Mind” and “Boston Girl” really rock. How can you not like a band that writes the lyrics “Vincent Van Gogh I’m no fun; Can I join you in the san-it-ar-ium?” in the closer “Vincent Van Gogh”? Great music from these veterans. TURN THIS UP LOUD.   (A.J. Wachtel)

Editor’s note: In the print issue there is a totally different review by Sleazegrinder of this same CD.


Olex Music

Straight Shots                          

12 tracks

Telamor is Tom Hauck. His name may not ring a bell but his Boston-rock legacy surely will. Tom was a founding member of the legendary pop/punk band, The Atlantics in the late ’70s, and of the local synth/pop hit-makers, Ball & Pivot in the ’80s.

  Tom’s return to the studio finds him traveling in a completely different direction, but one that is at least as interesting as either of his former projects. In Telamor Tom’s vocals are an amalgam of the B-52’s Fred Schneider and Weird Al Yankovic. But wait… read on… that combination may sound like the musical equivalent of a dentist’s drill but, I assure you, strangely, it’s a combination that works.

  Straight Shots is filled with great songs that are all over the musical board. The first three tracks are nods to the early ’80s Boston underground. Jangly guitars fill these blues-based rock tunes. Suddenly, four tracks in, “We Got What It Takes” is a hard right turn into white-boy hip hop. Tom raps over what sounds suspiciously like the hook from Billy Squier’s “The Stroke.”

  Mid-album, Telamor knocks off a couple of odd-choice covers. First is The Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes.” In Tom’s hands the classic Lou Reed ballad becomes a Johnny Cash tempo’d piano tune. Their traditional takes on Robert Johnson’s “Kind Hearted Woman” and “Crossroad Blues” take on a new patina when filtered through Tom’s nasal vocals and Telamor’s treble-y guitars.

  Weird Al is in full force on the closing track, “Midnight at the Drive-Thru Window,” a fast-food hip-hop screed that brings to mind Al’s “Beat It” parody, “Eat It.”   (George Dow)


Double Trouble                        

22 tracks

Second (and third) album from Fireking is jam-packed with (ahem) fiery rock ’n’ roll, glammy power-pop, and the odd nod to late ’70s new wave. Listening to Fireking is like spending the afternoon with somebody who has a really bitchin’ record collection, a hodge-podge of chewy, radio-ready maybe-hits and candy-coated deep cuts. You can never quite put your finger on who Fireking actually sounds like, but certainly Mott the Hoople, The Cars, and Matthew Sweet are good starting points. Clearly these dudes are hardcore pop geeks. They’ve probably got full runs of Bomp! magazine in their rehearsal space, for chrissakes. They are fully and deeply dedicated to the hook, as evidenced by criminally catchy riff-poppers like “Contagious,” “Found My Way Home,” and the self-explanatory “Power Pop Chords.” I dig it. It’s bottled happiness. That being said, it’s super-long. I mean, it goes on forever. I don’t need 22 of anything. Has no one learned the lessons of Use Your Illusion?           (Sleazegrinder)


The End of the World               

5 tracks

I know nothing about the background of these guys, but the jazz influences and advanced technical skills make me think they went to Berklee.  The first half of the EP relies too much on technique over emotion and comes off as pleasant, but bland rock for smart, sensitive guys.  As the EP moves into its second half, though, the band starts to let its collective hair down a bit and rock out.  These heavier, more passionate moments have a natural feel that suits the band well, and they allow the listener to make a strong emotional connection.  It’s an avenue they should consider taking more often in the future.      (Kevin Finn)


75 or Less Records

Holiday 3-Pak                            

3 tracks

A cruel person might suggest that “Squirrel Song,” with its ukulele accompaniment and spacy keyboards, is like something a mentally challenged person might conjure up—but I beg to differ; it takes a good deal of talent to come up with and put across this faux-naif approach. “Downy Woodpecker” is another supposedly poignant encomium to the natural world, replete with aah-ing chorus. “Resolve to Start Again” is a bit like a terminally depressed Mr. Rogers decrying the commercialism of the Christmas season. Short and sweet, but, all in all, a bit twee for my taste.    (Francis DiMenno)



Long Day’s Journey To The Middle              

11 tracks

If you are into The Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly and Street Dogs, this is the band for you. They play folk-punk and they do it well. All the members have beautiful tenors and the songs are all like Irish ballads if Green Day or The Who covered them. Check out “(The Good News Is) Nobody Gives A Damn,” “The Vagabond,” “Dry Run Road,” and “This Side Or The Other” and you’ll hear what I’m talking about. I laughed at the lyric: “And it hit me like a ton of bricks; and it hit me like an unexpected fist.” And the next line is about being in bed with the woman you love. How Punk is that for the words of a song? Keyboardist Jake Cassman writes the lyrics. The rest of the band (Austin Wells on guitar, Ryan Jordan on electric and acoustic guitars, Alex Trevino on bass, and Alex McGillivray on drums) writes the melodies. Boston folk/punk at it’s best. Listen up folks.  (A.J. Wachtel)


Wharf Cat Records

The Amyl Banshee E.P.            

6 tracks

Cottaging is a Providence-based noise rock no wave post everything dream of a band. There are so many points of reference on this record yet it doesn’t really sound like anyone else. Some songs sound like Mark E. Smith of The Fall fronting Mars or DNA. You could dance to this, yet it reminds me of Captain Beefheart. I played this record about 20 times over the course of a few snowbound March days. Every time I heard it there were new and marvelous layers unfolding like a Coltrane or Mike Mountain record. If you don’t like Cottaging, you don’t like rock ’n’ roll.      (Eric Baylies)


Love Never Dies                      

11 tracks

Anne Stott has spirit, and her talent is a force with which to be reckoned. The things about her which impressed me the most were the feminine strength of her voice and the power which seems to drive it so effortlessly. Her sound is both ethereal and powerful, and in perfect balance.

An indie alternative rock performer and wr iter who calls Provincetown, MA, her home, Anne Stott has seemingly vast influences yet she is very much an original, having a style all her own. She defies comparisons and flies high above many eras in time, where one may be tempted to place her sound. She is something of an enigma, and evades categorization.

Stott wrote all tracks on this CD except for “And Then” which was co-written with Jon Evans. She is lead vocalist on all songs, and also plays guitar, piano, organ, and keys, with Jon Evans on bass, guitar, percussion, drums, and background vocals. All are done with smooth precision and style.

Among the winners for me are “We Are Here”—resoundingly beautiful, with intense delivery; “Hold Me”—slyly slinking, bluesy, and very catchy; “Mostly, I’m Not Around”— more strength and vulnerability, well blended with soulful angst. I must say that Anne Stott deserves a hats off and credit where it’s due. Credit is duly given. This woman is talented!          (R.J. Ouellette)


Beautiful Boot Leg – Live at Rick Walker’s          

15 tracks

As the album starts, I close my eyes to better focus on the music. What I experience as the tracks play is a transportation to Rick Walker’s, where I’m sitting at a table watching Ajda perform. The light is low, the audience quiet and focused, not wanting to miss a single note. The acoustics, the applause of the audience, her interactions with them—it’s all captured, allowing the listener to hear what a performance from The Turkish Queen sounds like. She plays both old and new songs, calling the crowd “her lovely guinea pigs.” Things like that you can only hear at a live show, that free energy and love for the fans.

The sound is raw and honest, with Ajda speaking to the enthusiastic crowd in between songs. I’m no audio engineer, but I would guess that little had to be done to the tracks after their recording. It’s real, emotional, and connects with those that love to spend an evening at a club, coffeehouse, or other venue.

The music switches off between the mandolin and electric guitar, the tempo is nice and easy, calming the mind after the most tumultuous day. It’s a solid introduction to what a show of hers sounds like, and is likely to make anyone listening check her calendar to see where Ajda is performing next.     (Max Bowen)


Navona Records

Hard Listening                          

8 tracks

Glowing from the cover is a caramel colored ’70s goddess with an explosive Afro, pillowy leatherette headphones with eyes closed, lips, moist and glossy, fingers popping, all into her jam. Perfect! The title is Hard Listening. Bravo! Moreover, the cover model is Hampton’s answer to Dante’s Beatrice. She offers us “L’Invitation Au Voyage” (An Invitation To A Voyage) a la the French symbolist, Charles Baudelaire, promising “Luxe, calme, et voluptee” (luxury, peace, and pleasure). From the opening chords, it is so easy to envision oneself as George Sand (nom de plume of Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin to Hampton’s Chopin) languoring beneath his grand piano, impaled to the floor as a chord cracks like thunder, shuddering with his resonance. The gamut of moods Hampton creates in the space of a single composition is astounding. Hampton’s influences are cited to be in a classical jazz vein like Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson. However there are also avant-garde stylings a la Copland as well as a measure of romanticism a la Chopin himself.  When one mentions how his compositions echo those of Art Tatum, Hampton shares “That should not be surprising considering I was taught by Tatum’s teacher!” This is Hampton’s first solo piano recording. This should pique your interest to seek Mitch Swings (1998), a recording of his jazz trio. A modern day Beau Brummel with a full on ’70s fetish and a background in magic, today, Hampton does his conjuring via song.                         (Nancy Neon)



Real Records

Missing Pieces                          

10 tracks

Of the notable songs, opening track “This Is the City I live In” operates as a glorification and denigration of Boston. It’s a catchy tune which doesn’t really resolve itself. “(You’ve Got the) Power That Moves Me” is an ominous, bluesy tune reminiscent of The Doors out of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. However, it goes on a bit too long to sustain the mood. “No One But You” suffers more than a bit from cliché lyrics and sentimentality, although the melody is nice enough. “I Love Amsterdam and Isabelle” is a catchy tune, but is lyrically a rather literal catalog. “It’s All Here in Boston” is a garage-rock encomium to the city, with some aggressive fuzztone and an ominous guitar lick. “Forever More” is a somewhat ponderous Gothic horror song, although I could see it becoming a cult classic. “My Saving Grace” is best-of-show; a psychedelic, sitar-inflected number worthy perhaps of release on a Pebbles compilation. The deliberately ominous and creepy “(Would You Be My) Valentine” sounds a bit like Bread as concocted by the Phantom of the Opera.  When I first read it I really thought it was a copy and paste mistake. But again, it goes on a bit too long to sustain the mood. Overall, these are demo-quality recordings with some intriguing melodic ideas. Noons is a potentially talented songwriter who needs to eschew the obvious and well-worn.                             (Francis DiMenno)


75 or Less Records

The New American Dream   

10 tracks

You remember when math and rock ’n’ roll were two entirely different things? Holy smokes do I miss those days. The New American Dream is the second album from Rhode Island Fugazi-heads Coma Coma. It’s like a greatest hits package of all the things I do not like: indie rock, whiny emo (first wave, but still), post-punk, math rock. Basically they sound like every opening band I’ve ever seen on a Monday night bill. The guitar has a psychedelic insistence that really starts to wear on you and the vocals sound like a guy who broke up with his girlfriend a couple days ago and won’t shut up about it. But that’s really my problem, not yours. If you like indie rock, I would say this album is above par. I’m not sure why, I just feel like if you like stuff like this, it’s a prime example. I mean I’m not gonna drive around in a Cadillac, but I still know it’s a Cadillac. Christ, will somebody in this town make a real rock record already? In summation: as Mudhoney once said, you got it, keep it outta my face. The end.         (Sleazegrinder)


Love Radio                                  

9 tracks

This album is rich and flavorful like a meaty stew with tastes that cross multiple palettes. “Our Own Devices” has a jazzed-up light rock sound that brings me back to my childhood as I listened to the radio on the long drives to Salem. “Just Don’t Feel Like Christmas” is more mellow, somber, and thoughtful, and it hits all the right emotional chords as he tells a tale of love lost around the holidays. “The Ghetto (Ain’t Going Back)” features the elegant vocal work of Debbie Pierre and J Ivy, who adds another layer of talent to this already impressive album. “Looking for Lewis and Clark” is a fine, intense rock homage to a Sid Griffin classic. Jerry’s vocal work is powerful, and the varied instrumentation creates a great tapestry to work on. All in all, a wide array of styles make the most out this album.              (Max Bowen)


Aftermathematics/ Get Off Your Ass, Get Off Your Knees                    

15 tracks

Catchy Boston hahdcore of the ancient variety. That is literally all you need to know about it, but if you want more: Discharge, spiky leather jackets, The Rat, dudes in $200 combat boots begging for change in Harvard Square in 1987, teenage girls with nose rings and pet rats, No Nukes, stage-diving, skulls painted on the back of denim vests, all-ages shows, cops hitting kids with billy clubs, underage drinking, the ghost of Ronald Reagan, SSD before they turned into AC/DC, puking in the alley behind the VFW hall, bullet belts, dreaming about the day you graduate from high school so you can get the fuck out of this dumb town forever. Okay? Bonus: I tried to read the tiny-type lyrics on the CD cover and I just went blind. Punk lives.       (Sleazegrinder)


Early Winter Songs From Middle America              

8 tracks

Squirrel Flower has a very talented local singer-songwriter in Ella Williams; and this is their second self-released CD of original music. In the letter accompanying the tunes, Ella writes that this project was inspired by her experiences going to Grinnell College in Iowa: “The starkness of the landscape, the endless sky, the fields of prairie grass and corn; it was NOTHING like Boston.” She is now taking a semester off to fully concentrate on her music. And I really dig what I hear. Ella has a wonderful voice, full of passion and emotion, that is nice to listen to.  Her hauntingly beautiful vocals are perfectly suited for the folk ballads she’s composed. The harmonies she sings with herself on the opener, “What Was That,” and on “I Won’t Walk Inside” are super. I like her finger-picking acoustic guitar on both “I Don’t Use A Trashcan” and my favorite cut on the album, “Twisting Slowly.” Expect to see me in the audience at one of her next gigs at Club Passim, The Midway or The Menotomy. Good music from a young local artist. Check it out.      (A.J. Wachtel)


75 or Less Records

Cricket Wisdom    

12 tracks

Low-budget Big Star worship abounds here. The fact that this is their fifth album and it sounds like a clunky demo might be worrisome to some, but I think it works. They never land square on the beat, their timing is always slightly off, the solos have duff lines here and there, the vocals slip out of tune, and it always sounds like it’s all happening in a basement next to a leaky water heater. These guys are not swashbucklers, they’re bunglers, but endearing bunglers with decent record collections and open hearts who probably remember their friends’ birthdays. Most of the songs are about how girls don’t dig them, which is cool. A few of the songs – funny/sad power-popper “No Friends,” the Husker-y “Cool Fail” – would be hits if somebody, you know, more competent recorded them. Overall, I’d sayCricket Wisdom squeaks by on low-watt charm. It’s not as good as I’d like it to be, but what is these days?    (Sleazegrinder)


Molehill Mountain Productions

The Black Sky Sequined

10 tracks

Opener “Gen Exit” is classic ’70s rock with elements of BTO, Deep Purple, and other arena-rock stalwarts. The ’70s-centric approach sets the stage for much of what is to follow. “Come Back July” has the casual feel of Wreckless Eric, but with a similar arena rock superstructure. “I Don’t Want to Go Home” reminds me a bit of the hippified excursions of Steve Miller, with a bit of Beatles tucked in. “The Cycle” offers a bit of a change-up, with harmony vocals and a new-agey chiming guitar as intro and a melancholic guitar line which is an intriguing bit of rock craftsmanship. The excellent, lively, “Everybody Wants Me to Love You” has a rhythm reminiscent of XTC’s “Crowded Room,” which devolves into a chugging rock song replete with clangorous guitar runs and a slap-happy hook in the refrain. “Telephone” is a jaunty number, with an impressively catchy rhythm line and horn section, and with extended guitar runs stretched out to epic length good enough to encourage nearly every budding young guitarist to go and do likewise. That Northampton-based guitarist and songwriter F. Alex Johnson, with bassist Dave Hayes and drummer J.J. O’Connell, manage to create as full a sound as they do as a trio, and to bring a kind of rugged enthusiasm to their approach, is a mark in their favor. (Francis DiMenno)


Pretty Purgatory

“Salvation”/ “Glory, Glory”

2 track 7” vinyl

With two tracks, one each, from very different artists, there’s not a lot to sink your teeth into for a review. Fortunately both tracks are engaging in their own right.

Jason Augustine’s “Salvation” is a spare folk dirge with acoustic guitar, pedal steel, and drums. His high, quavering vocals suggest a thousand timeless murder ballads. But that familiarity brings comfort and immediate connection which makes the track linger in your consciousness much longer than its three-and-a-half minute duration.

Bad Braids’ “Glory, Glory” is a six-plus minute oddity. It begins as an acoustic funeral march—Megan Biscieglia’s vocals moaning for relief. Somewhere around the three-minute mark the song shifts and becomes an equally engaging acoustic blues tune.   (George Dow)



11 tracks

Blue Moon Harem plays the type of rootsy, country-tinged rock that in this marketplace really needs to exhibit something singular to stand out.  Unfortunately, the band comes up a little short in that department, as aside from the pretty “I See Red,” none of the songs really do much to hold the listener’s attention.  To the band’s credit, they do try to mix things up by adding a little hard rock here, a trace of bro-country there.  But rather than coming off as a show of versatility, it gives the album a bit of a schizophrenic feel that makes it seem overly long.  (Kevin Finn)


Iddy Biddy Records

Bocce and Bourbon: The Comfortable Songs of Chandler Travis and David Greenberger

19 tracks

David Greenberger (Duplex Planet) provides all the lyrics for this compilation, which features eight mostly excellent unreleased songs scattered throughout. This collection features Chandler Travis solo and with various aggregations of bands he is or was involved with. These include The Incredible Casuals with the punk-rocking “She Laughed,” the meticulously melodic slow-burning “Take Me With You,” and the stuttering, tensely angular, and irresistible “Typos.” The Chandler Travis Philharmonic is also represented, notably by the bluesy, inimitable “Baby Come Get Your Cat”; the wondrous, insanely catchy Dixieland apocalypse New Orleans stride piano-driven “Graciously”; and the reverential, upbeat, lyrically Randy Newman-esque, movie soundtrack-ready “This Is Home.” “Calling Me Back Home” is from Chandler Travis’s 2009 release After She Left and deserves mention as an world-weary classic full of glorious thrumming. Heavy metal and psychedelia fans will find much to like in The Catbirds’ “The Crutch of Music.” “Make the Small Things Pretty” is a lovely gem from the Chandler Travis Three-O’s 2012 release This Is What Bears Look Like Underwater. Best of show is the spare, but melodically effervescent and touching “(You and Me) Pushin’ Up Daisies”, from the 1998 Chandler Travis solo release Ivan In Paris,  which is a stone cold classic. Of the new songs, “Air, Running Backwards” has a glorious Beach Boys feel with the inimitable Chandler Travis touches—this smooth song halts and judders amid Sam Woods’ shrewdly metronomic drumming. “All In a Day” is a comfortable, if not downright mellow jazz-inflected ballad which owes a lot of its appeal to Mike Peipman’s lonesome trumpet and Fred Boak’s meticulous vocal phrasing. “I Bit the Hand That Fed Myself,” is a strident rocker that sounds a bit like early XTC or Gang of Four; a stylistic mix credited to Chandler Travis with Rabbit Rabbit. “By the Way” is a sparkling and pneumatic tune with a glorious melody and beautiful string accompaniment by John Clark with Dinty Child, withegregiously lovely keyboards by Berke McKelvey.

“I’ll Wait” is a Kinks-like melody with laconic vocals, also by Child. “When the Roses Shine in Picardy” is a French folk-inflected tune with a tasteful woodwind arrangement by Keith Spring. “The Strongman of North America” sounds a bit like late-period XTC with a similarly high-quality combination of melody and percussion; it features a masterful march rhythm by Rikki Bates and string bass by John Clark. “Waters of the World” is a musically liquescent Chandler Travis solo effort. There are so many talented sidemen who enhance this project that I wish I could mention them all. This is not exactly the long-awaited greatest hits compilation I’ve been hankering after, but is highly recommended all the same.                 (Francis DiMenno)

Where to send your release

If you are an act based in New England that would like to have The Noise review your latest release, send a hard copy to T Max/ The Noise, PO Box 353, Gloucester, MA 01931.