CD Reviews

dougmaccds

If you are an artists based in New England and would like your recordings reviews, send hard copies to T Max/ The Noise, 28 Goodhue St. #406, Salem, MA.

DOUG MACDONALD BAND

Lighting Head

9 tracks

Like a rata-tat-tat machine gun, “Atomic Phunk” blasts out of the speakers as Patty Short’s extended drum roll meets Doug MacDonald’s Gretsch staccato low end notes. Doug (in character) belts out crazy man vocals listing everything wrong with his life, ending with, “They say I’m paranoid, I say they’re just after me.” The tone drastically switches to “Please show me the way and I’ll follow you down” – the music, like the message is effectively schizophrenic in design.

Part of “Drawbridge Troll” comically paints a picture of the Doug MacDonald Band – “A meteor came down, blew up the van, the singer is dead. We’re a two-piece band.” Then it’s Dougie spouting out humorous commentary and complaints one after the other. And it rocks.

“Downtown Crossing” is at least partly about the killing of someone in a subway station and the people who close their eyes and ears to what is going on around them. The catchy sing-along chorus is full of “la la la’s” where I visualize someone holding their ears and singing to avoid hearing reality.

A brutal rumble (as in old time fight) is remembered in “Jason’s Record Store” and every time Doug passes this place the scary memories of fighting and police return.

“Silent Alert” is kind of melodramatic, like an old song from the ’50 where the singer stops singing and talks to us. Kett Lee’s cello and big kettle drums add a new texture to the disc. Patty Short plays some piano and there are gals sing ooos at the end – I love the feeling of it. The song plays out like a production of a little musical.

“Shark Attack” sounds like a comic book version of Jaws. I laugh when I hear “You’re like Dracula with flippers and fins.” The song abruptly changes tempo, Asa Brebner glides into a guitar solo, Doug invites the gals in for a swim… then screams. Doug fits in a “Go Asa” to embroider the guest guitarist name permanently into the song.

“Open Window” drives with Patty’s beat but it’s a sad message of a couple splitting up. The chorus has a beautiful ring to it – extending to an even more beautiful ending. A nice way to close the disc.

I gotta say Doug MacDonald is an artist that deserves your attention. I know his band and Lightning Head has mine.  (T Max)

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NEON ALLEY

Neon Alley

8 tracks

This central Massachusetts three-piece guitar-driven power trio plays blues based hard rock and this great debut album showcases their preaching vocals, growling guitars, throbbing bass and pounding drums format. Sorta like T. Rex meets Metallica. The English band’s chugga chugga rock ’n’ roll beat with the heavy metal band’s loudness and presence. Guitarist/ vocalist/ songwriter Dave Vaccaro, Mike McDonald playing bass and singing and drummer Scott Marion are hard driving artists. “That’s How It Is,” “All I Want,” “Let Your Love Come Down,” “Piece of the Pie,” and ” ‘Til I’m Done” are all arena rockers. Even the acoustic ballad “I Only Want to Be With You” requires ear plugs and may cause bleeding. I really dig the Elvis cover of “Jail House Rock” which sounds like Anthrax backing the Tupelo tornado. Play this CD loud.  (A.J. Wachtel)

TELAMOR

Olex Music

Good Bad Love

10 tracks

Tom Hauck is the man behind Telamor’s alt rock drive. His mission is to bridge the gap between the classic rock of yesterday and the producer-driven pop rock of today. Classic rock dominates that connecting bridge. The basic sound of Talamor is a throwback to The Who and The Rolling Stones early days. Telamor’s original stamp is Tom’s distinguished vocals. “My Baby,” the opening track, demonstrates my last two observations perfectly.  Late-’60 and ’70s rock is a pleasant home for Tom’s compositions. And for those who don’t know, Tom has been in some pretty successful Boston bands in the ’70 and ’80s – The Atlantics and Ball & Pivot. Now he records at Bang A Song in Gloucester, MA. Tom basically plays and sings everything with the exception of studio owner, Tony Goddess, adding a trippin’ guitar on Cortney Barrett’s “Nobody Really Cares if You Don’t Go to the Party” – with the perfect refrain, “I wanna go out but I wanna stay home.” The only other fingerprints on this CD are that of co-producer Warren Babson programs the drum and plays bass on “You Still Stand” where Tom plays piano.

The title track “Good Bad Love” has a Stone’s feel to it and is lyrically summed up in the line “My head tells me to stop/ my heart tells me to go.” We’ve all been there in the mixed up world of love.

“Nothing But Hope” is a plea for a try at love with a cool guitar solo and rounds of “nothing” at the end.

“That Ain’t For Me” is a break up song with one party not happy with the way the other is treating them.

“Hey Mr. White” reminds us that things will always change. But one things for certain – Tom Hauck will continue to rock as long as he is willing and able. Pick up Good Bad Love and remember what it is to rock.  (T Max)

THE LEGENDARY RICH GILBERT

Holy Wreckords

Son of S.A.M.

12 tracks

This is a pleasant followup to the prolific Mr. Gilbert’s previous collection of one-man guitar and percussion instrumentals, Stereo Action Music. Some of the pieces here are showcases for guitar extravaganzas, notably “Invitation to Die,” with its palpable air of excitement, and, also notably, the guitar-keening and clangorous “Shut the Box.” Other compositions are more cinematic in nature, like OMD strained through Sergio Leone with superadded steel guitars.These instrumentals evoke epic journeys across wide-open spaces; for instance, the opening track “101 Strings,” and, also notably, the deterministic twang and clangor underscored by muffled percussion of “Say Hello to Wolfgang.” Still other compositions are almost purely ambient, like the sedate “Weltanshauung”; the moody “Lost But Never Found”; and the lulling, pacific melodicism of “The Balcony People.” And then there are the songs in which percussive and other effects dominate: for instance, the discombobulating “Check Yourself”, with its insistent and nagging leitmotifs; also, the winning and lovely “Wyoming and Nairobi,” with its straggly keyboards, insistent drone, and keening harmonica, all of which resolve into a blast of powerful discordant guitar and some gorgeous pedal steel. “Drop Out” is a genuinely disorienting piece, with its mindful guitar scrawl and funereal organ underpinning. The snippet “Indian Groovebox” is both ambiant and exotic, with its leitmotif of sampled ethereal voices played on keyboard. The sedate closing track, “April Fool Day” is kind of like a joke on all of us: its easygoing pedal steel ambiance is evocative of a CSN&Y outing such as “Teach Your Children.” You keep expecting it to resolve into something else, only it doesn’t. Surprise! This collection proves (as if we need any proof) that Rich Gilbert is not only a great guitar player, but also a pretty ingenious composer as well. (Francis DiMenno)

STEVE GILLIGAN & SPIDER FARM

Dog Patch Garage

12 tracks

About 13 years ago Willie “Loco” Alexander, contemporary of Steve Gilligan and friends, released the excellent Dog Bar Yacht Club.  A baker’s dozen spins of the earth around the sun and Gilligan’s Spider Farm – a veritable super group of people on the folk scene – issues this 12-song disc.   With a nod to Loco’s hero Kerouac Spider Farm open Dog Patch Garage with a terrific pop tune, “The Sun Belongs to Anyone” which flows with the best elements of Americana wrapped up in hit record dressing.  It’s simply superb and deserves a huge audience.   “She Was My Girl” clocks in at 4:15 and could be Rock E. Rollins, the alter ego of Gilligan’s bandmate from the Stompers, Sal Baglio.   “Roline” and “Halfway to Wichita” are short bursts at 3:12 and 3:13 respectively, and what exudes from the stylistically different pair is the fun that this ensemble puts into the playing. Drummer Lenny Shea (percussion, glockenspiel and vocals) and Dave Friedman (piano and organ) – both Stompers themselves – join Kenny Selcer – a local legend who didn’t need to perform with presidential candidate Jill Stein to be famous, though he did when they were in a duo Somebody’s Sister.  Bird Mancini’s Billy Carl Mancini along with fiddle player Jackie Damsky and guitarist John Gibson add to the thick sound.   It’s one thing to perform on bills with the bands your friends are in, another to blend all these veteran musical talents into one CD that has so much to offer from so many different styles.   “I Wanna Know” has bending guitars borrowing from The Ventures, but adding that sound to a different dimension The Ventures dare not go, specifically Beau Brummels and Searchers territory.  “Dead End Angel” could be The Everly Brothers joining George Harrison’s Bangla Desh multitude, and perhaps that’s the key to the charm at play here. Harrison brought together divergent talents from Dylan to Badfinger to Phil Spector and it worked in a new and refreshing way.  Steve Gilligan & Spider Farm, comprised of so many masters that have emerged from our under-appreciated music scene have crafted a stunningly beautiful set of essays that enlighten and entertain.  Then they turn on a dime with “Would You Kiss Me Now,” stripped down pop where the embellishments pop up at opportune times.  Things turn around again with “The Other Side of the Rain,” great music but as jarring as Santana’s 1999 Supernatural disc which had a wide scope that, somehow, people were able to adjust to.  How did Clive Davis get fired for being too old when he put out the biggest record in the world is just one aspect of the music industry that keeps things… interesting.   “The Great Beyond” asks the eternal, perpetual questions and “Heaven Allows” states the obvious at five minutes and 19 seconds… with delicious harmonica.  “A Little Lovin’ Tonight” at 4:19 bridges the gap with songs that go from three minutes and under to Richard Harris Top 40 territory. “Rain Don’t Fall” concludes this excellent set with sounds of the old west, as recaptured by Peter Calo on his Cowboy Song disc, but with the added twist of religious overtones and neo-gospel.   (Joe Viglione)

MARIANNE TOILET & THE RUNS

Eargasms For Your Genitals

6 tracks
Yes, your read correctly, today I’ll be reviewing MARIANNE TOILET & THE RUNS’ new album, Eargasms For Your Genitals. Where do I even begin? If you like gross-out punk that sounds like G.G. Allin playing rock-a-billly, then this record is going to be right in your wheelhouse. Otherwise, oh boy, you are in for a ride.

The record opens with “…In the Beginning,” an intro track which frankly serves no more purpose than to delay getting to the real opening track, “Fifi.” For those not in the know (I fall into that category – I had to look it up) apparently a fifi is a homemade vagina favored by inmates in need of sexual stimulation that doesn’t involve the ass of another inmate. I guess this is a subject that was begging to be committed to song.

From here it only gets better.

The inexplicably named “Frat Boy” is a tale, told in the first person, of a guy who prefers sex with transvestites because he always know when he’s made them cum. The narrator takes great pains to explain that his preference for girls with dicks does not mean that he is gay. Wow! This is deeply intellectual stuff. I feel like I’ve been thrown headlong into an abnormal psychology class.

After the utter stomach-turning, gross-out topics of the first two proper songs, “Gentleman & Scholar” feels almost like primetime comedy. It’s a he said/ she said ballad in which the male protagonist wants to curl up and cuddle with his love while she expresses her frustration that he won’t bend her over and fuck her like a whore.

Oh but wait, we’re not done yet. We still have two more hits to go before we’re finished with this one.

“Lawnmowing” tells the tale of a guy who lost his penis in a lawn mowing accident and his desperate desire to give his girlfriend sexual pleasure.

Then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any more ridiculous… enter “The Blumpy.” A rambling exposition on a fat chick that has way more sex than her skinny, good-looking female counterparts. Now that’s not the ridiculous part. That’s just par for the course with this record. What is unimaginable is that the song ends with a rambling yet detailed breakdown in which The Blumpy, in a clown voice, gives Jesus a blowjob. The song fades to black with a no-nonsense rendition of the traditional hymn, “I’ll Fly Away.”

All I can say is that as I finish typing this review, I plan to go directly to the shower and wash the filth from my body.   (George Dow)

FUTURE CARNIVORES

Boy Girl Boy Girl Records

Melt the Sky

9 tracks

The opening and title track is low-key trance music of a sort, very underplayed and almost minimalistic until we reach the ecstatic middle eight, in which the instrumentals mass to form a near-coda and an efflorescing climax. The pick hit, “Science Fiction, Baby” is post-punk in its vocal imperatives, and intrinsically appealing, ala Pylon; the song then evolves into a rousing, even stirring coda. “Soft Amber Glows” offers up some more of that swoony, persnickety guitar with a thousand-mile feel, with some smartly applied percussive touches throughout and a killer hook in the crypto-chorus. “She Goes On Existing” is a more experimental and somewhat alienating composition: a spooky recitative backed by ice-cold guitar, rather like Wire on “154,” but with a great deal of guitar panache. “Sensible Milestones” is another post-punk recitative, squarely in the post-punk camp ala OMD’s “Dazzle Ships,” with a sluggish feel to the vocals which is belied by the urgent circular guitar and the heavy mechanical effects. It’s a brave experiment if a little off-putting in a deliberately ominous way. “This Is No Time For That” is a musique concrete snippet which evokes the  unsettling feel of a droning air raid siren with mechanistic percussive effects. “Cinnamon Afternoon” is an oddly variegated bit of pop whimsy with an epic, far distant feel and ecstatic choruses and keening guitar refrains all leading to an urgently thudding coda. “A-Frames and Desert Lounges” is a strangely attenuated, nearly pop number slowed down and then stretched out in some sections, and with an urgently forced pace in others. Something of a tour de force for all that, particularly in the rackety coda. The remarkable “Silent Assassins”  starts out bright and sprightly but is anchored by Bo Barringer’s best David Bowie-as-lounge-lizard vocal stylings. Pepe Anzalone’s drumming is crisp, Reuben Bettsak’s clarion guitar is highly appealing, and Steve “Swade” Wade’s bass provides a steady underpinning. This is an album riddled with brilliant songs and moments within those songs; highly recommended. (Francis DiMenno)

STEVE GREELEY

Love Town

15 tracks

The biggest thing I can say about Steve Greeley is where the hell has he been? This man is a profound talent –  a classic 20th century popular songwriter. As I listen to this collection I am confident that his songwriting ability rivals the crème de la crème of modern pop musicians such as Billy Joel, The Doobie Brothers, Burt Bacharach, Jackson Browne, Carole King and many others who dominated the hit parade. Steve has the instincts – he knows how to write a melody and a hook, and he has a beautiful tenor voice that more than delivers. Some of this album, which he described as the collected love experiences of people from a fictitious town, reminds me of the dramatic tunes of ’80s groups like Journey, or the mid-career Beatles. Some of these could have been written for Broadway shows, or for part of the repertoire of standard song stylists. “Close My Spirit Down” is a hymn-like song with an honest and innocent sadness that makes me think of Tom Wait’s song, “I Hope that I Don’t Fall in Love With You.” “Don’t Know How I Let The Money Slip Through My Hands” is a bluesy girl done me wrong song. It reminds me of a hit from the Brill Building. A line up of curvaceous dancing backup singers would go well in a live performance. “No Matter What You Say” makes me think of Ray Charles. You could pare it down to just piano, or make a big fat production with horns and more of those curvy singing ladies. Yeow. “Stone Solid ” – This is a primo example of Steve’s hit writing ability – a catchy melody with a hook. The lyrics are simple love song lyrics with a fun melody: “Walking into the party/ I saw her all alone/ Just one look was all it took/ had to call her on the phone/ But what would I say?/ What would she do?” This is the type of song that ruled the ’60s. “Gotta Know Why” – Steve calls to mind Peter Cetera in his vocal delivery, and Michael McDonald in style. “Four Letter Girl” I love this gritty little song, full of double entendres about a man-eater type woman. It has an early Van Morrison “Gloria” feel. And what is really cool is Steve wrote it with his son Sam. “Jealousy” – is an exceptional song that could be in a Broadway show –  a great mouthpiece for a villain: “Iago lives right here in my head/Whispering words I wish he never said.” It has a Burt Bacharach/ Henry Mancini feel. I can imagine Tom Jones singing this wearing tight pants. And Steve, you sound really hot too! That’s some great vocal range. “Out of Time” – I love this. It has the gut-ripping quality of Bonnie Raitt’s song “I Can’t Make You Love Me”: “Bad news has a way of coming sudden/ Don’t it seem like you’ve been shot between the eyes?” The haunting trumpet nails the hollow, gutted feeling.

“In My Memory ” What can I say? This is a real, first-class love song. No cynicism, totally open and innocent. It spans the generations. If everyone experienced love like this, we’d be living on a different planet. Utterly, heartbreaking and gorgeous. Steve, how did you come up with this? I couldn’t get through it without crying.

Steve plays shows from time to time in the Boston area solo, or with his band, Big Red Sun. If you have the chance to hear him live consider yourself fortunate.   (Kimmy Sophia Brown)

COLD EXPECTATIONS

Cold Expectations Music

Supper Prayers  

6 tracks

“Greensong” is a fairly basic hook-laden composition by scene veteran Steve Prygoda. It has a vaguely Byrdsy feel, which seems to promise a collection full of folk-rock-country stylings. Indeed, “Waterin’ Down the Whiskey (With Our Tears)” is a fairly letter-perfect twangy country confection right out of Buck Owens or some such. “Lately I’ve Been Wearin’ My Heart On My Sleeve” is a more rockabilly-inflected number ala “Hot Rod Lincoln” but sung with a rousing brio, augmented by the stellar drumming of Mike Demers, the perfect backing vocals of Kevin Mahoney, and some truly snazzy guitar work, also by Mahoney. “There Goes the Sun” has a melancholy, elegiac feel which reminds me of Green On Red and other similar roots-revival bands, with, again, a Byrdsy feel to the guitar, as well as some sweet backing vocals by Joellen Saunders Yannis. “Takin’ Off Your Makeup” is a truly sad song, performed at an almost dirge-like pace, but not without a certain depressive appeal. Finally, “Plain to See” is another elegiac country-folk song with a shuffling beat and some wholesomely twangy guitar. (Francis DiMenno)

GRAVEL

I Never Asked

6 tracks

Gravel is a punk rock steamroller of a band from Salem. They recall the glory days of the Germs or L7.  Lead singer Victoria sings with a righteous indignation that will be a perfect fit for these upcoming troubling times. Perhaps only punk rock can save us from the dark days that are surely ahead, and I think that Gravel will be right up front lifting our spirits, not so much in a political protest kind of way but because Gravel will sort of be the zeitgeist expressing the sentiment indirectly with powerful rock ’n’ roll to lift your spirits. Rock has been dying a slow death and Gravel is here to resurrect rock ’n’ roll from the malaise. All hail Gravel! (Eric Baylies)

EZEKIEL’S WHEELS KLEZMER BAND

Turning Point

9 tracks

To a lot of listeners Klezmer music is similar to classical and this ensemble’s second full length album proves this true. Their sound has the familiarity of chamber music and the energy and force of dance band music; and the passion and creativity behind the notes and arrangements make this all- instrumental release unique and very good. Ezekiel’s Wheels are internationally known and members Abigale Reisman and Jonathan Cannon on violins, Kirsten Lamb on upright bass, Nat Seelan on clarinet and Pete Fanelli blowing the trombone play locked in to each other every measure, every song. Check out “Doina For Duke,” “Fiddler’s Sirba,” and “Nat’s Nign” to hear their collective virtuosity. I really like how the songs change tempo and direction mid- song; starting off like an Irish jig or even snake charming music and then morphing into jazz with an improv feel to finish the melody. Listen to “Johannes Khosifl,” “Barry’s Bulgar,” “Traveler’s Terkisher,” and “Arthur and The KCB” to hear their variety and cleverness. The closing tune “Dobranotsh” is strictly chamber music. The zeal and quirkiness on this release keep the ear interested. Cool stuff. Check it out. (A.J. Wachtel)

JOHN LARSON & THE SILVER FIELDS

Shiny Fly Productions

The Lost Refrain

13 tracks

The opening song from this Providence-based group, “Glassful of Sand,” has an epic melancholic feel which the superadded strings help to facilitate. “Sinking In” is more sprightly and upbeat, and “Lydia” brings some more upbeatness replete with a hooky chorus and a melancholy undertow. The harmony vocals evoke The Hollies and the song reminds me of The Outlets, albeit with tangled guitar work very much in an early ’70s vein. “I’m Not Spartacus” is a more laconic, folksy number which, with its laid-back melodicism, brings to mind exemplars such as The Band or Van Morrison or maybe even Eric Clapton in one of his more mellow incarnations. “River in a Raindrop” evokes the country-lite stylings of Linda Ronstadt or Emmylou Harris. The swirling melodic textures of “Urban Symphony” belie the vocals, in which Mr. Larson seemingly channels his inner Bob Dylan. You could see this one garnering radio play in some more perfect universe. “Noah Sent Down a Dove” sounds a bit Springsteeny, ala “Adam Raised a Cain,” but with thudding percussion and more tangled guitar work. “South of the Stars,” which ends on an abrupt note, is a swoony confection imbued with pedal steel melancholy and so laid-back it almost hurts. The exultant “Dexter and Broad” reminds me very much of the lively early Elvis Costello, with sharp lyrics and user-friendly keyboards by Peter Linnane. This is another radio-ready piece. The soothing “Split the Difference” starts out like, of all things, Bread, then rises up to the minor grandeur of existential poppiness. “Happy Landings” is an oddball paean to Evel Knievel, but you can overlook that as you revel in the aching vocals and compelling melodicism. The iconography of the packaging suggests rootsy Americana, and that isn’t far from what we get. Few of the songs outwear their welcome, and none of them are a major drag. (Francis DiMenno)

GRIST

Ep

3 tracks

Northampton’s Grist is a three-piece rock band that mine musical territory of the past 30 years to create a new kind of musical gold. They are simultaneously a throwback and modern sounding. Grist have catchy but odd songs that recall A Certain Ratio, Robert Hazard, Crispy Ambulance, and Classix Neveaux, or if you are from New Bedford, The Gluons. They have the hooks that kill in a Killing Joke kind of way, too. Less is more on this fantastic but brief excursion into musical bliss. (Eric Baylies)

THE JAMES MONTGOMERY BLUES BAND

Cleopatra Blues Records

Tribute to the Paul Butterfield Blues Band

10 tracks

Everyone has seen James Montgomery in person at least once in their lives and while listening to this great new release you can easily picture and feel the excitement of his incredible live show.  Onstage James is always in total control. His poise, his persona, his timing, his wit and wisdom are all part of his huge appeal. The seven covers and three originals on this CD are all captured sorta live but recorded and mastered in the studio. And with no loss of power. Backing James and his screaming blues harp are George McCann on lead, rhythm and slide guitar, David Hull on bass and Jeff Thompson on drums. George and David each wrote and sing lead vocals on their own composed contributions too. Grace Kelly plays sax and the legendary Uptown Horns with Montgomery’s childhood friend Crispin Cioe on sax, Larry Etkin on trumpet, Arno Hecht on sax and Bob Funk on trombone also add their powerful chops to the final mix. Cameos by Butterfield Band keyboardist Mark Naftalin and Connecticut guitar ace and Johnny Winter Band veteran Paul Nelson, and Jimmy Vivino from the Conan O’Brien TV show band bring the virtuosity level up another notch. There is a BIG sound to this album and  Nelson’s stellar album production at Chop Shop Studios in Stanford, CT, is the icing on the cake. For best enjoyment, turn the volume up to ten… or eleven if you can. Listen to the band pay tribute to Butterfield on songs “One More Heartache,” “Born In Chicago,” “Blues With A Feeling,” “Shake Your Money Maker,” and “Mystery Train” where James adds his own personal touch and mentions known Massachusetts locations while he sings. The original tunes “Young Woman’s Love,” written and sung by McCann, “One Plus One,” written and sung by Hull and the instrumental “Good Question,” written by James, George and Grace Kelly are all powerhouse songs with killer performances. Montgomery’s patented jump blues doesn’t get any better than this. Onstage or on this recording, James is a showman and whether you see him live or just listen to this new music you will fall under his spell. Great stuff. Check it out.  (A.J. Wachtel)

MILL POND FALLS

Mill Pond Falls EP

4 tracks

Mill Pond Falls’ self-titled EP gives a clinic on American rock music. There are heavy doses of Tom Petty’s classic rock song-craft and Black Crowes’ southern rock soul. Couple that with a smattering of jagged Neil Young-ish guitar solos and a Cracker-esque indie rock edge and the result is a near-perfect amalgam of everything that is satisfying about American rock in the 21st Century.

For vocal reference points think Dave Lowery from Cracker mixed with that guy from Train (but in a good way). The rest of the band is tight – laying down a solid foundation for the tracks to build off.   (George Dow)

KRISTIN HERSH

BMG Music and Omnibus Press

Wyatt at the Coyote Palace

24 tracks and Book

This majestic collection strikes me much less as an assemblage of half-completed songs and much more like a privileged look into a gifted artist’s sketchbook. Past examples might include Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes; Syd Barrett’s solo albums; Patti Smith’s Radio Ethiopia; 69 Love Songs by The Magnetic Fields, and XTC’s demo albums Homespun and Homegrown. These are all instances of artists honing their craft and quite possibly not worrying too much about what kind of an impression they are making. The book which accompanies the two CD-set is full of impressionistic vignettes; many of them anecdotes which fall short of being full-blown stories. These vignettes seem to provide a kind of running commentary on the frequently elliptic song lyrics which accompany them. Many of the songs on Wyatt at the Coyote Palace are anchored by a strummed acoustic guitar underscored by quirky melodies and arrangements. The opening track, “Bright” begins as though a door into the unknown has gradually creaked open and is luring you into a troubling world of unresolved and unsolvable ambiguities. Spacy sound effects lure you further into the sounds of cascading guitar strumming and Hersh’s fragile, almost broken voice. The overall effect is both disorienting and transcendent – and then the song, like a dream, abruptly ends. “Bubble Net” evokes a murky, underwater-sounding eldritch feel which evolves into a kind of magisterial march. Many of the remaining songs are divided into  three types. The first category consists of pretty, if seemingly fragile melodies, such as “In Stitches,” the eerie and translucent “Hemingway’s Tell”; the manic-depressive “Wonderland”; the lovely but ominous “Day 3”; the subtly urgent “American Copper”; the pretty but scarifying undertow of “August”; the laconic “Cooties”; the beautifully, beatifically melodic “Christmas Underground” and the elegiac “Shaky Blue Can.” The second category of songs might be deemed Art songs, with halting and often abrupt pacing: for example, “Secret Codes”; the broken and stammering guitar of “Detox”; the stuttering impetus of the wrenching “Two Birds”; the masterful, brilliantly poppy ba-ba-bas of “Guadalupe,” with its liquescent guitar and ominous and almost hypnotic and frightening bass undertow; the alternately juddering and calm “Some Dumb Runaway”; the strangely placid and moody “From the Plane”; and the wrenching pomp of “Between Piety and Desire.” The third, and often most powerful category of songs consist of nearly nightmarish soundscapes with intense vocals, which include the following: “Green Screen”; the sad and classically tinged “Diving”; the tumultuous and insistent “Sun Blown”; the brightly melodic but taut and eerie “Elysian Fields”; the alternatingly calm and intense “Soma Gone Slapstick”; and, for the grand climax, the impossibly beautiful and utterly otherworldly “Shotgun,” a brilliant tour de force in an idiosyncratic and highly personal album which is full of them. (Francis DiMenno)

CUSHING

Curse of Cushing

6 tracks

Cushing is a heavy experimental post punk trio from Portland, ME. Some of the songs move slow but steady and heavy as hell. They have a less metal Helmet sound that would fit in nicely with Jesus Lizard and the whole Chicago noise rock panic of 1992. The singer can sing more than most of those growlers, and the music can be very pleasant like Hum before exploding out of the speakers with a deafening howl. I was lucky enough to see these guys live and they are just as great as their studio work. Last week I had never heard of Cushing and this week they are my favorite band. This album is like a maze with twists and turns and winding paths and when you reach the end you will be emotionally exhausted but dying to start all over. (Eric Baylies)

ALIEN DRAG

Oddio Sound

Escape From Alpha

7 tracks

First of all: PLAY LOUD. Second of all, don’t listen to this collection expecting something either completely serious and conventional or something reputably avant-garde and somewhat boring. This is a curious mix of punk rock conventions yoked to bizarre, Queen-like grandiosity, as on the opening snippet “Dependable.” We return to slightly more familiar territory with the buzzing, synth-slathered opening bars of “Mistake,” which segue neatly into prog-style pomp backed by yobbo-style vocals and furiously churning percussion, all topped by tottering guitars. “Song Embryo” continues the trend with an angular guitar line and shouted vocals with a spooky, ominous refrain. “Scrumble 47” is an anthem of sorts, appealingly goofy and replete with an ooh-la-la chorus. “Did It Again” is a simplistic j’accuse which carries an interesting guitar-bass one-two punch. “God Damn” is like a slowed-down Sex Pistols number as channeled through Steppenwolf. “Uh Huh” has an urgent keening guitar line surrounded by super-heavy riffing replete with nightmarish shouting and ending in turbulent confusion. A goofy, romping rampage, mostly. (Francis DiMenno)

INTERSTELLAR OVERDOSE

Psychiatric Sounds

6 tracks

Interstellar Overdose are from the Worcester area. In the studio it is a one man band, but I don’t know what the live lineup is. Interstellar Overdose is heavily influenced by the psychedelic sounds of Pink Floyd and perhaps even Syd Barret’s acid casualty biography. This collection is mostly two guitar tracks at once with some extra sounds, but no drums or vocals. I’m looking forward to finding out more about this wonderful project, full of mystery and fury. The songs go by in a glacial yet mesmerizing pace, taking you to perhaps a better place than the world we inhabit. (Eric Baylies)

VARIOUS ARTISTS

Feels Like Going Home – The Songs of Charlie Rich

13 tracks

This Americana compilation album is the brainchild of local performer Mike Dinallo and sports four tracks by local artists and the rest are by national stars. Juliet Simmons Dinallo does a cover of a cover with “Whirlwind.” Rich didn’t write this tune. It was on the b- side of his 1958 debut “Who Will The Next Fool Be?” Her great voice and her nice harmonies are the foundations behind a song with a rockabilly edge and are right on the money. Having her own female perspective projected on a song originally sung by a man also adds to the appeal.  “Midnight Blues” is done by Anita Suhanin (Groovasaurus) in a slinky, sultry bossa nova manner. Mood with twang. I love it. Anita’s song  is more cabaret whereas Juliet’s tune is more hoe- down. “Don’t Put No Headstones On My Grave” is done by Martha’s Vineyard legend Johnny Hoy and his stellar blues harp. Rich wrote this tune made famous by Jerry Lee Lewis and Hoy adds his own sense of Chicago blues with swing, New Orleans funk and rockabilly. Just vocals, harp and a piano. Hoy slows the melody down and turns it into a blues screamer. Kevin Connolly (The Great Divide) adds his tender and weary vocals to “Feel Like Going Home” which is the only song covered from Charlie Rich’s final period in his career. This cover is the most similar to the original via the vocal passion delivered in the separate versions. A very introspective performance by Connolly.The album’s band is sharp as a tack and includes Mike Dinallo on guitars, Tim Carroll and  Preston Rumbaugh also on guitars, Jim Gambino (The Drive) on keys, project producer Ducky Carlisle on organ, Grammy award winner Tom T.H. Hambridge pounding and Amber Casares and Jeremy Berlin on vocals and keys. Charlie Rich and his music is a bit dated but these covers capture the authenticity of the era and if you are a fan you will love this compilation CD. Cool country blues with a uniquely interesting  edge.  (A.J. Wachtel)

LISA & GLENN

Demo 2016

4 tracks

This is Lisa Haley and Glenn French – two talented performers that I keep running into on the North Shore. After seeing them by chance three times in one week I asked if they’ve been recording the songs I’d become accustom to hearing. Lisa reached in her bag and handed me this 4-song demo.  It starts off with their take on a classic by The Everly Brothers – “Bye Bye Love” – they replace the swing quality of the original with more of a folk feel. The harmonies are spot on, the sound of the guitar, uke, and vocals are pure – no fancy production tricks. The vocals harmonies are true to the original with the exception of a jump up on the line, “Bye bye sweet caress.” It’s all easy going with a natural feel. Nice.

Song number two “No Mystery to Me” sounds like a ditty of a tune from the ’40s with its bouncy melody, multitude of chords that move in an melodic fashion and charming innocent “in love” lyrics. I’m a sucker for these kinds of songs that were written by people who have a distinct understanding of interesting chord progressions (George & Ira Gershwin/ Cole Porter). I searched the Internet trying to find out who originally did this song until I learned that Glenn French wrote it. He says it’s his from 2005 – Lisa says he wrote it in 1938. It’s quite a wonderful song.

“Ship to Wreck” (by Florence & the Machine) has the most rock feel of the four songs – maybe something that could have landed on a Carly Simon record. It’s driven by piano and Lisa’s vocals. It’s impressive but doesn’t hold the charm of the other songs here, almost sounding like it was meant for another duo.

“Wishes” (a Glenn French original – penned when he had a fever) is sweet with intricate folk guitar work and close two part harmony. Glenn is great at supporting Lisa vocal melody with a less than simple harmony line. I can almost hear a string arrangement for this one, but like the other songs it’s kept pure and simply beautiful.

Lots of good choices were made to put this demo together. I’m sure there will be more future gems from these two… and hopeful more will sound like they were written in a different era.  (T Max)

HARU BANGS

Mix Tape #2

15 tracks

Haru Bangs are two drummer and guitar player-singer group from Portland, ME. I think the two drummer line up is new and this just released album features a duo, but it has no information on it, including but not limited to why this is a mixtape of one band. Is this a best of? I don’t know. This is a pretty great recording that is all over the place, from Ministry style pounding to punky yet arty feel of Magazine, Butthole Surfers, the Stooges, or Fugazi. There’s something in the water in Portland lately, and it’s not water! There are some great bands coming out of the frozen tundra up northville. I know very little about Haru Bangs, but I know that they are incredible! (Eric Baylies)

PENN JOHNSON

Experiencing Turbulence

12 tracks

Penn Johnson is from Marion, MA, and this music was recorded at Kidney Stone Studios in Woburn, MA. He is a story teller by nature and a folk singer by trade and his persona is equally at home at a campfire or a coffeehouse. His soulful storytelling really comes across in his own songs “Not Here To Argue,” “What They Preach,” “Down This Well,” and the ballads “Set Free,” “Earth Continues To Turn,” “Another Year,” and “When Things Get Green.”  “Wild, Silly and Free” is real radio friendly and his voice is so caring. He speaks from experience and his teaching tone is compassionate and direct. I hear Dylan and Tom Waits in his music but without the triple meaning phrases and with a much better voice than either of them. He strums well and he finger picks fine but the lyrics and the message are always the focus. A bit of spoken word with gruff vocals, catchy hooks and acoustic guitar. This cat is the real deal.   (A.J. Wachtel)

THE PREFAB MASSIAHS

Keep Your Stupid Dreams Alive

8 tracks

“Ssydarthurr” kicks things off on Keep Your Stupid Dreams Alive like Syd Barrett performing a concert on some asteroid.  With elements of early Brit Rock, taking the Who’s “Boris the Spider” to a realm where The U.K. Kaleidoscope totally owned, you know you’re in for a ride right from the start. “Weirdo’s Everywhere” is a jangle jangle pop sensation with an incessant chant/march of “hey hey hey hey” and a psychedelic video that Twiggy should embrace to relive her glory days.

While Willie Loco was “in with the outs,” Prefab Messiahs are part of the in-crowd, thank you Dobie Gray, driving along with sixties magic straight from the Nuggets collection.  “God Bless the Prefab Messiahs/so help us all” they shamelessly, and lovingly, sing for themselves…and for you.  “Orange Room” is drenched in authenticity and the magic we expect from disciples of the Strawberry Alarm Clock, Chocolate Watch Band and Electric Prunes.  The garage rock of “College Radio” would be perfect on a bill with Richie Parson’s “Mixtape” – the clanging guitars a dream for those of us who love to indulge in this time period.  “Booshwa Sally” will “buy you bracelets that will…” engage you in her “perceived materialistic values or conventional attitudes.”  You see, she’s bourgeois.  “Bobb’s Psychedelic Car” states the obvious while the title track takes you into “Telstar” territory only with words and a catchy vocal chorus.  “Prefab Flashing” is an excellent psychotic ending to one highly entertaining disc which concludes by going back to the future.  (Joe Viglione)

TOKYO TRAMPS

“Flowing Water”/ “Jeffrey Jive”

2 tracks

This is essentially a two-track teaser for Tokyo Tramps upcoming CD If I Die Tomorrow.  “Flowing Water” gets rolling with a bouncy rhythm that can strangely connect Talking Heads and Jimi Hendrix. The lyrics sound like something David Byrne would have come up with and a few of the guitar parts and drum fills come right out of the Hendrix handbook.

“Jeffrey Jive” is annoyingly catchy when Satoru Nakagawa sings the title and Yukiko Fujii responds “who dat, who dat?” It’s great for splitting their live audience into two and each taking one of the parts. Again Hendrix comes into the picture when measures pouring from Satoru’s guitar resemble “All Along the Watch Tower.” It’s local rock at its finest produced by Peter Parcek and Duck Carlisle.  Watch for the release of If I Die Tomorrow.   (T Max)

SPEEDFOSSIL

Expensive Hobby

“Land of the Blind” b/w “L.O.L.”

2 tracks

The two-track teaser single from Speedfossil’s forthcoming LP, Your So Next, should provide some good insight into what to expect from the full-length. What you get here two quick bursts of indie rock that pay homage to the late-’80s/early-’90s Boston music scene.

“Land of the Blind” is a straight-ahead rock track; complete with nasally vocals and jangly guitars.  “L.O.L.,” the stand-out track, shares much in common with with the classic Del Fuegos sound; nailing that special balance of indie-rock edge and southern-rock drawl.  (George Dow)

FEBRUARY

Stains of a Sunflower

8 tracks

The purple setting with bare trees is a classy cover photo for Stains of a Sunflower’s February cd, and interesting as the name of the group is not on the spine, the front cover or the CD.  In fact, it’s hidden on the right hand bottom corner of the black back cover, making for a kinda sorta Andy Warhold Velvet Underground White Light/ White Heat, tilt it under the fluorescent to see kind of approach. The vocals of the group’s chanteuse, Natalie Renée,are embellished with the electronic guitar of Alex Michael Jones on opener “California Sky” as  the two play off of each other in interesting ways,   The music is velvet smooth over the 5:57 – almost six minutes – in what is one of eight titles that are more like excursions than songs. The band is simply amazing as they stretch out with Renee painting over Shade Tramp’s steady and sometimes exotic drumming.  It’s not easy to get a handle on what they are exactly doing as the songs get dismantled and reassembled throughout the performances.

At 3:06 “Spells” is the shortest tune, the vocalist singing while offering short bursts as Jones’ guitar follows her lead. Dan Soghomonian’s bass keeps pace with them as “Spells” segues in to “September” (not the Earth, Wind and Fire classic, nothing like it!) Five of the eight are one word titles, think Talking Heads 1979 epic Fear of Music with seven of the eleven going the same route.  The jam on “September” is eloquent and captivating, contrasted with the folk/acoustic of title track “February” which follows with its gut-wrenching set of questions and mental self-discussion.

Live the quartet recreates this embracing set of sounds, “Pretend” again taking a different turn, as if Nico reprised her days with the Velvet Underground on their quiet third masterpiece.   Kaleb Jacks’ clear and precise production/engineering is reminiscent of the late Wayne Wadham who built Berklee’s original studios (and produced Full Circle for Columbia records, along with other major artists. Check out that disc for a comparison,) and complements the band nicely as Natalie’s pathos switch to a John Lennon-styled primal scream.   “I Love,” “Dreaming of You” and “Tree Song” are further adventures, the acoustic in “I Love” essential to shift the sounds a bit, “Dreaming of You” slipping in like a sixties classic with “Tree Song” ending like a jazzy Abbey Road conclusion, two of my favorite tracks on this excellent disc coming at the end. The chorus behind Renee is as compelling as it is eloquent.  Not your typical Boston area sound, and nicely put together all the way around. (Joe Viglione)

GOVERNOR

Morelikesabbathsongs

The First Three

3 tracks

“Snake That Eats Itself” and “Headphones” are the tuneful numbers, while “Nickel Chaser” is something else altogether – a pulsing, droning dirge replete with electronic effects and ominous affect, which blossoms into a grandiose series of vocal climaxes and ends in an armageddon of scrawl. By contrast, the first tune is a sorrowful lament that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Nirvana album, and the second number is a swirly confection with lively vocals, colorful guitar, and a mind-manifesting middle eight. But it’s the third song that truly sticks. (Francis DiMenno)

PALE HANDS

Graphism

8 tracks

Jen Johnson’s lovely voice surrounded by dreamy synths and samples provided by husband Mike Latulippe are what Graphism is all about. With the recent addition of guitarist/ songwriter Nick Murphy their second album is spiritually akin to The Cocteau Twins and Chvrch with a bit of Wilco mixed in. Songs like the opener “Dress Casual,” the moody “Lower Than Low,” the poppy “Seaside Cure,” the pure electronic tunes  “Windows” and “Hetch Hetchy” and the dirge “Reformation” showcase their post pop mixed with an ’80s dance vibe. Nice vocals, dreamy electronic samples and interesting arrangements make their latest music very interesting and very good. I like it. (A.J. Wachtel)

COMANCHERO

Thrown

10 tracks

For lovers of early-’70s, light jam-rock, Comanchero will be a gift from heaven.

Across Thrown’s first four tracks; “Have You Seen Her,” “Citgo,” “Ghost Creator,” and “The Sniper,” you get a little bit of banjo, a stomping backbeat, soulful female backing vocals, tasteful organ, and Carlos Santana-esque guitar solos.

How can you go wrong? Truth is, you can’t. It’s a damn-near perfect cross-section of adult contemporary and soft classic rock.

The second half of the record settles into a smooth light-rock pocket until “Sitting on Top of the World” mixes the formula up a little with its Cars-like synth line. Comanchero close strong with the fiddle-heavy “Watching Rome Burn,” a jam-ready ditty that would fit nicely in the Dave Matthews Band songbook.   (George Dow)

INSTANT SHAWARMA

Just Add Water

5 tracks

“Waves” opens up this intriguing five song E.P. from Cambridge-based foursome Instant Shawarma and it is superb, one of my favorite songs to come out of the local scene in a long time. Ethereal guitar from Andy Constantine envelopes Pat O’Donnell’s voice as the band crafts something as mesmerizing and inspiring as Peter Green/ Fleetwood Mac’s 1970’s epic “Albatross.”   Keyboards drift in while drummer Josh Ziemann and bassist Matt Montrose provide the lilting undercurrent.  Just marvelous and as attention-getting as “I’m Your Captain” was to the third Grand Funk Railroad album.  These titles, like fellow Boston area group Stains of a Sunflower, are not your three minute concise pop tunes. Waves is the second shortest at 5:51 while “Lizard Coffee” oozes in at 4:49, the shortest track on the disc, and one of the group’s more popular in concert.  Picture the original Doors jamming with the original Savoy Brown – slinky guitar riffs from O’Donnel and Constantine that Creedence Clearwater would have had a blast with extending a composition onstage. The Deep Purple-styled Jon Lord organ is a surprise and adds depth to the production.

“Coming Up Roses” veers harder into blues, O’Donnell’s gravel voice in command as the chorus hits hard after the opening lyric’s essay.  Instant Shawarma would be perfect on a bill with Blue Manic and the on-hiatus Apollo Blue, both ensembles covering a similar territory, though where George Conduris of Apollo Blue dips into the Hendrix/ Clapton bag, and Mike Tate of Blue Manic rocks even harder, Instant Shawarma have their cosmic / esoteric guitar lines that tends to make it more psychedelic blues. The five minute and forty-two second “French Conniption” a case in point.  It’s that unique style behind the songs that add intrigue. And as with Stains of a Sunflower, the closer here is epic too with “The Fold” having a dangling guitar to open (as well as end) the festivities. The interplay is wonderful three minutes in and builds to a nice climax with in-the-groove intensity that’s hard to describe.

These guys have come up with a great little recording, but it seems that they don’t want to be famous. None of their names appear in the package that’s got beautiful artistry on the wrap-around cover thanks to Nate Haduch.  The inside photo of the group against a graffiti wall is charming but… again, their names are missing in action.   (Joe Viglione)

SEND IN YOUR CDs

If you are an artists based in New England and would like your recordings reviews, send hard copies to T Max/ The Noise, 28 Goodhue St. #406, Salem, MA.

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