CD Reviews


Loving the Aliens

A Lowbudget Tribute To David Bowie

29 tracks

This two disc release is an intriguing collection of songs with varied influences of punk, new wave, metal, jazz, orchestra and gospel. They all share an avante streak of uniqueness as the common denominator on all the cuts. Most of the tunes are unrecognizable for the first few measures until all of a sudden the known hook emerges and you smile at the off the track appeal of this project’s music. There are almost 30 different songs here but not from as many different bands. Being associated with the label is what this release’s musicians have in common. In fact, some of the groups have two cuts on the CD. I didn’t look at who the performers were as I gave my attention to all the cuts, I just listened and took notes and I found things to like about every recording. Some inclusions are very different than the originals and some are straighter covers but all the melodies resonate with cleverness and passion. The best tunes to listen for on disc one: The spacey almost eight-minute opener “Warszawa,” with the choir like backing vocals by Urban Ambience, the ominous low-key techno rock “Fame,” by The Lowbudget Allstars, “Queen Bitch” taken on by Hummingbird Syndicate. No Mick Ronson but the song still done very punkish and very good. Paul McDonough and Sean Yadisernia do a killer piano lounge version of “All the Young Dudes,” “Seven,” an acoustic power punk version done by Geoff Pango and Mr. Curt, and a cool cover of “Let Me Sleep Beside You ” by Terry Kitchen from Loose Ties. I also dig The Chunks’ Americana version of “Saviour Machine,” and Ground Control’s “Fashion” is funky and very new wave in a David Byrne fashion. The last two tracks on disc one, Doctor X’s ominous and spacey version of “Heroes” and Chillgroove’s equally ominous “Art Decade,” a punk ballad with piano and horns, complete this first side statement by some of Boston’s most creative talents.

Disc two is more of the same.  Check out these songs: The chic new wave instrumental version of “Changes” with just piano and keys basically by The Chunks, the nice harmonies and twang in Louder Than Milk’s sparse punk cover of “Young Americans,” Electric Standard’s great punk take on “Panic In Detroit” with the female vocals giving a whole new perspective to the lyrics, and Kingdom of Love’s funky punky dance take on “Suffragette City.” All the interpretations are interesting, creative, done well and a lot of fun. At the bottom of the credits on the cover sheet it says: “Hate Does Not Live Here” and “God Bless David Bowie,” two proclamations I can totally live with. This is the fourth compilation CD release from Roslindale’s Lowbudget Records under grand wazoo Tim Casey’s direction. Following Across The Universe (The Beatles), You Can’t Always Want What You Get (The Rolling Stones), A Lowbudget Barrel of Monkees (The Monkees).  Loving the Aliens may be their best one yet. Check it out.    (A.J. Wachtel)


PelPel Recordings

My Thoughts Approximately  

30 tracks

Prime Lens consists of Bob Stagner (ex-Shaking Ray Levis) on percussion and guitar, Evan Lipson on bass and keyboards, and Tyson Rogers on keyboards. They are joined by Amanda Rose Cagle on keyboards and wind instruments and Frank Pahl on strings, along with Dan Dorrill guesting on trumpet and Steve Hickman guesting on organ. David Greenberger, drawing as is his wont upon the reminiscences of nursing home residents, provides spoken-word accompaniment to the highly skilled and occasionally whimsical musicians. Highlights include “Buttons, Buttons,” which could pass as a ’30s pop-jazz novelty, and the absolutely delightful “An Automobile Driver,” a splendid tour de force of percussive and keyboard effects. The serious “Refugees” is a spare recitative accompanied by piano. “In Praise of Sailing” is a minimalistic capsule biography backed by spooky echoing effects with piano and bass. “A Lot of Things Are Real” is a cool-jazzy shaggy-dog story. The fragment “Loud Shakespeare” sports a cleverly faux-Elizabethan accompaniment. “Dynamo” is a clattering and cacophonous percussive showpiece about a firefly. The impressive “Heaven” is eerie, echoing exotica – a mini-saga about escape and relocation. “A Timeless World” is an amusing, chiming fragment. “Onion and the Trail Cutter” is a whimsical anecdote accompanied by old-timey piano. “Hummingbird Pie” is a surreally catchy ditty. “Jerry Lewis in France” is a deadpan put-down accompanied by an equally deadpan Gallic accordion. The CD ends with “A Dream Life,” which is an appropriately austere piece accompanied by the doleful keyboards of Tyson Rogers. As always, Greenberger has masterfully wrangled anecdotes sere and whimsical into musical settings which transmogrify them into miniature gems. (Francis DiMenno)



8 tracks

Foxtails are a young rock band from Monroe, CT. Some of the parts are very pretty, with singer/ bassist Megan crooning like Linda Sharrock or Billie Holiday. Keep listening, though, and you will be rewarded with tumultuous melodies and blood curdling screams. Megan sounds like she’s getting murdered in a performance art piece gone awry. They don’t take themselves too serious, as the song “Revenge Of The Chicken From Outer Space” can testify to, if a killer song were put on the witness stand and Yoko Ono was the judge. If you ever wanted to hear And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead with Diamanda Galas or Lydia Lunch singing, Foxtails could be your dream band – I know it’s mine.  (Eric Baylies)



12 tracks

Three cheers for Kickstarter! Eric McDonald’s vocals, akin to those of a young James Taylor, allied with Ryan McKasson’s spot-on fiddle playing, make this a welcome venture into a mixture of vocal and instrumental folk songs which are both traditional, as well as new but traditional-sounding.Jeremiah McLane adds his highly accomplished accordion playing to tracks such as McKasson’s joyous Irish fiddle reel “Brooke Leigh,” the traditional “Fair Anna,” and the gentle love song “Mark the Hard Earth,” in which McDonald’s graceful and ingratiating tenor soars. These Scotch-Irish-derived folk tunes and recreations are incredibly beautiful, and McDonald’s guitar is played with an earnest wistfulness which is beyond reproach. A tune such as “Let the Cold Wind Blow” is soothing, reverential music which is well worth the attention of even the casual folk aficionado. Some of the tunes here, such as “Theme for Scotland,” display some of the same wistfulness as Brendan Behan’s devastating plaint “The Old Triangle” (aka “On the Banks of the Royal Canal”). This CD is a pleasure from start to finish. McCasson’s fiddle playing is particularly sprightly and inspiring on the “Lady Mary Ramsay” medley. People who enjoy the likes of Steeleye Span will also find a great deal to like here. A keeper. (Francis DiMenno)


Super Wimpy Punch Records

Cove Sauce

6 tracks

Cove Sauce is a Boston based trio. The first song I listened to cruised along as cool rock tune, then turned into a trainwreck, all of a sudden they sounded like U.S. Maple. I want to hear more trainwrecks! Other songs have more of an offbeat avant garde feel of Volcano The Bear or Savage Republic. Cove Sauce has a couple of catchy songs that could get on the radio, or they could be the next Velvet Underground. No matter what direction they head, it will be interesting to hear what they sound like. They seem to have mastered every style they attempt and all the songs on Cove Sauce are great. (Eric Baylies)


That’s What Lips are For

8 tracks

Gabe Rossi – who records as a solo artist under the name PETEROSSI – is a Gloucester-based veteran of bands such as The Klapp and Ships in the Dark. I get several vibes off of his lo-fi songs: Pebbles-era space oddity (“A Little More Time”), Elvis channeller (“Slumber Girl”), soft-rock avatar (“Roundhouse Eyes”), thin-voiced white funkster (“That’s What Lips are For”), sensitive folkie (“Full Moon Craters”; “Green Field Glasses”), thin-voiced crypto-Gath balladeer (“Intermood”), melodic Love-era tunemaker (the excellent “Occasionally, in the Willamette”). Except for the first two numbers and the closing track “Occasionally,” the songs are too long and lack the sort of ingenuity which is the mark of the true songwriting professional. But three out of eight is not a bad batting average, and PETEROSSI shows a certain special likeability, particularly when he turns his voice toward material which is more suited to his undeniable talents.  (Francis DiMenno)


Olivia Cawley

5 tracks

The newest album from Olivia Cawley blends rock with a country kick and some amazing lyrical prowess. The title track has such a raw power to it, the kind of song that simply can’t be listened to with half an ear – it grabs your attention and holds it until the final note. Songs like “Punch Line” touch on the perils of the romance world, something we’re all familiar with. But this isn’t some tender love song – the instrumentals are intense from the opening moments and stay strong right to the end.

“Another Country Song” focuses on Cawley’s independent life and not relying on someone to make her life complete. It’s a great tune, catchy and pretty funny as well. All told, Olivia Cawley has a lot to offer, and so good, you’ll be starting over time and again to make sure you caught it all. (Max Bowen)


Rancis Coyote Music


11 tracks

The first song, “Easy When You Know You’re Right,” strongly evokes rock-opera-era Kinks replete with galumphing horns and quavery vocals. Other standouts from this Northhampton duo’s fourth CD include the twangy C&W pastiche “How Come We Can’t Just Get Along?,” the gritty guitar-bluesy paranoid romp “Who’s That Man?,” and the electro-funk-driven “Welcome to the Caliphate.” Ernie Senecal and James Weeks are sometimes clever and craftsmanlike songsmiths, but I wish they would apply their talents to something potentially more transcendent. (Francis DiMenno)


Voynich Sound Volume 2 (Musical Exorcism)

4 tracks

Be The Seen is from Pittsfield. They may (or may not) be best described as a cross between metal and noise, but that is a big chasm to bridge. Relentless beats pound your brain, you may cry for mercy or beg for more, depending on what you are into. This reminds me of Dillinger Escape Plan and The Body. Personally, I would like to hear a little less of what I tenderly call the screaming “vomiting clotted blood” vocal style and hear some regular spoken word or singing, but maybe I am not the target audience. I’m glad I’m not a target, I don’t feel like getting shot with an arrow today, but all in all, this is great offering. (Eric Baylies)



9 tracks

This entry from 2015 kicks off with “Out Here In the World (Trying to Do My Best),” a Springsteen-like anthem (replete with obligatory sax). The rest is a melange consisting of a broody plaint (“Dogtown”), a twangy love song (“Claim”), a dour blues-shuffle boogie (“Shipwreck on the Land”), some Green On Red-style jangle (“21st Century Hobo”), a rawkin’ organ-slathered anthem (“Kid From Gloucester”), an uptempo number (“Gasolene Refugee”), and a downbeat tune sung in an introspective croak (“Bon Fiesta”). Competently executed throughout, but not a particularly spectacular outing. (Francis DiMenno)


Hill Haints

5 tracks

Hill Haints hails from Western Massachusetts. They offer up swaggering and defiant punk rhythms like Dead Boys and Real Kids, but with some effects on the vocals that recall ESG or La Machine. The song “Night Mare Moon” is a little trippier, showing way more versatility than a regular “punk” band, whatever that means anymore. If they ever made a sequel to the movie Repo Man, the song “She Writes With Gasoline” would fit great. I don’t want to get too music gear nerdy here, but I am curious what kind of bass and amp were used on this recording, this is the best bass sound ever. Hill Haints has come up with their own unique sound, not an easy feat at this point, and an album full of good songs. (Eric Baylies)


New York’s Calling

5 tracks

Singer Peter Mitchell Wyrd and guitarist Brian Wolfe Wyrd wrote all these hard rocking songs and they first played together in the ’60s. Now 50 years later they’ve reunited with Johnny Wyrd on bass and Jacky Wyrd pounding and their sound is sorta like The Sex Pistols meets Deep Purple. Vocals with an attitude surrounded by punchy punk arrangements and screaming six string solos. This is a guitar album with appearances on the CD by a 1960 Les Paul Jr., a 1961 Starfire III and a 1964 Gibson J-50. The band plays rock ’n’ roll with a fuck you attitude and they pull it off well. Produced and recorded by Michael Arafen at The Coffeehouse in Middleton, CT, these Nutmeg State band mates showcase their sound on killer cuts “National DNA,” “Rust Belt,” the metal ballad “Racing To The Bottom,” the screaming title track “New York’s Calling,” and my favorite the closing cut “Rent Strike;” a real arena rocker. Great release. Play this CD LOUD!   (A.J. Wachtel)


Double Shot of Depresso

7 tracks

Leiko is a Providence band that take the beautiful harmony and melody of the Mamas & the Papas and obscure it a little bit with rock ’n’ roll and mushrooms. This record was produced by Andy Davis of the Pixels and sounds ready for stadiums and living rooms. The tune “Clementine” is haunting and beautiful in a way that reminds me of one of my favorite bands, Throwing Muses. Although mellow at times, this is certainly not easy listening. This a challenging, yet catchy record that everyone should check out. (Eric Baylies)



11 tracks

Andy Stone is a very talented singer/ songwriter/ guitarist from Warwick, RI, who has a nice passionate and believable voice and whose sound is jangly pop on one end and finger picking folk on the other. The members of the band are Andy on both six and 12-string guitar, bass, percussion and lead vocals; Emerson Torrey on acoustic and electric guitar, keys, percussion, backing vocals and he also produced the music at Satellite Studio in East Greenwich, RI;  Mike Mills on piano and keys; Max Couto behind the kit; Eric Barao on backing vocals; Deb Keeling on violin and viola; Emily Thomas on cello; and Georgia Mills arranges the strings. Listen to the opening track “Catherine’s Acting” a real uptempo radio friendly song. and the other jangly pop tunes “Please Don’t Go,” “Be That Girl,” “4:30,” “I Don’t Know Just What To Do,” the ballad with a hint of electronica, with the great guitar solo by Jonathan Gregg and my favorite, “The Love You Lost.” This song rocks righteously and I really dig the vocals. The folkier songs, “When You Were Here” and “Are You Satisfied?” have nice finger picking guitar and capture a stripped down punk feel. An enjoyable effort from Andy Stone.     (A.J. Wachtel)



6 tracks

Queen Elephantine is a Providence, RI, based heavy rock band. They carve hypnotic atmospheres as much as songs. They seem to be equally influenced by Swans as more metal groups like Isis or Today Is The Day. These are long mystical journeys into the unknowable. The song “Throne Of The Void In The Hundred Petal Lotus” is a magical marriage of space rock, doom, and metal. Turn off the bright lights, put on the headphones and go on a trip with Queen Elephantine’s Kala. It is hard to categorize this band, so I will simply label them as great.  (Eric Baylies)


CD Reviews — 2 Comments

  1. Frankly Francis I was speaking to four hungry Franciscans who are franchising in France, Paris and Francalookaville, Illinois. We wish you best of luck in your sincere efforts and hope that you and your assistant, Frannie Franerton, continue to muddle the waters with your “frantastic” reviews.

    Tom Satch Kerans but you can call me Tom Satch Kerans