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Friday, December 9, 2016

(the) Three Johns - Sold Down the River

Name: (the) Three Johns
Album: Sold Down the River
Year: 1986
Style: Post Punk / Indie 
Similar Bands: The Alarm, Depeche Mode, Adam Ant
One Word Review: Hooligan Wall Of Sound
Based Out Of: Leeds, UK
Label: Abstract Records
 Sold Down the River - Cover, Record

Sold Down the River - Back, Record
Sold Down the River (1986)
  1. Sold Down the River 4:11/
  2. Rose of Yorkshire 2:51
  3. Fruitflies 3:21
Album Rating (1-10):5.0

Members & Other Bands:
Tony Bommer
Steve Forward - Producer
Rob Warby - Remix
Jon Landford - Guitars (Mekons, Waco Brothers)
John Hyatt - Vox
Phillip "John" Brennan - Bass

Unknown-ness: I've never heard of this band. The cover looks like it will be tedious college style rock, but the photo of the backs of the band offers more promise of a more rambunctious style, of which I'm hoping for. The liner notes say this is a single from their full length "The World By Storm" and this was recorded in Leeds, so that bodes well as an US import.

Album Review: Because this is a single, with two b-sides, there is not much material to judge the full band on. The band started in 1981, and was critiqued as a political leftist band, but they preferred to be considered a group of leftist people who happened to be in a band. They were interesting, like Sisters of Mercy, for having no drummer in the band, but using a drum machine. They ended the band after their fifth album in 1990, but did reunite for a handful of shows in 2012.

“Sold Down the River” spins at 45 rpm, and is the only track on the A side. It cranks out with fuzzy, anthemic The Alarm style guitars, and a harmonized hooligan chanting chorus. The vocals are deep and a little nasally. The style of vocals reminds me of Depeche Mode a little. The reprise section of the chorus, bridging choruses, has the emotion and spirt of Adam Ant. The whole song is a bit repetitive, leaning heavily on the song title sung chorus.
“Rose of Yorkshire” starts with a guitar effect like sanding metal. The sterile vocals are monotone and are buried under the electrified guitar. It has a dark, post-apocalyptic feel. The music is like a wall of sound
“Fruitflies” starts with vibrating, high vocals, similar to Adam Ant, and a kick drum beat. The wall of sound is still in the background, but it is the guitar hook that stands out. The song is still a bit repetitive and tedious. It does swirl and build up at the end, and the jittery vocals were the real hook on this track.

Stand Out Track: Fruitflies

Links:
Wiki

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Pianosaurus - Groovy Neighborhood

Name: Pianosaurus
Album: Groovy Neighborhood
Year: 1987
Style: Novelty Pop, Folksy, Oldies
Similar Bands: Coolies, Ed's Redeeming Qualities, Belle & Sebastian. 
One Word Review: Saturday Morning Cartoon Folk
Based Out Of: Upstate NY
Label: Rounder Records
 Groovy Neighborhood - Cover & Record
Groovy Neighborhood - Back & Record
Groovy Neighborhood (1987)
  1. Thriftshoppin' 2:54
  2. Ready to Rock 1:54
  3. Sun Will Follow 2:05
  4. The Speakeasy Song 3:24
  5. Cherry Street 2:04
  6. Memphis (Chuck Berry) 2:09
  7. Going Downtown 3:22/
  8. Love is a Two-Way Street 2:24
  9. Center of the Universe 1:54
  10. A Little Love (Never Hurt) 2:19
  11. Bubblegum Music 3:03
  12. A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Toy Store 3:51
  13. Eleanor Day 1:04
  14. Dimples (John Lee Hooker) 1:58
Album Rating (1-10): 8.0

Members & Other Bands:
Richland Designs - Design
Stephen Dansiger - Toy Drum, Percussion, Horns, Vox (King Missile, Roger Manning, Artless)
James MacMillian - Engineer
Rob Grenoble - Asst Engineer, Assoc. Producer
Robert Miller, Asst Engineer, Assoc. Producer
Peter Kohman - Guitar
Alex Garvin - Toy Guitar, Horns, Vox
Don Howland - Liner Notes
David Freeman - Photograph
Peter Holsapple - Producer, Guitar, Vox (dB's, Continental Drifters, REM, Chills)
Bianca Miller - Toy Piano, Toy Guitar, Horns, Vox

Unknown-ness: Never heard of this band. I would assume that the instruments they are posing with are a metaphor fr their care free, and childish tone of their songs, including the title Groovy Neighborhood. It has a juvenile sound, as does their band name. However, the description on the back reads like they play the children's instruments. Now I don't know really what to expect, except perhaps some very basic songs.

Album Review: So this is quite the shtick that they stuck too: full on toy instruments playing out a dozen or so original numbers and two covers. Apparently they covered The Box Top’s The Letter, too, but it was not included on the vinyl. Only one album was made, produced by Peter Holsapple of many other bands in the same realm of sound (dBs, REM, Chills), just not execution that these guys had. It is playful, charming, and naively pure; non-threatening for sure. Their second album, titled Back to School, never came out, after singer Alex left the band before it could be produced.

“Thriftshoppin'” starts with a fun, anxious pace, but the sound is undeniable: toy piano and children’s instruments. This is what they promised, and it sounds pretty good. This song sounds like a theme for the band. It is a humorous take on thrift store shopping, something that has never really gone out of style- at least one group of kids grows up enamored with goodwill garments and items. The song pounds and bangs on the instruments, and it is a wonder how it was mic’ed and recorded so clearly. Just a solid pop song, and it could be an apropriate theme song to this blog.
“Ready to Rock” feels like a buddy holly song, with simple melodies strung together with vocal stints as the glue. The jangley piano is something every kid can associate with, and it’s incredible to hear as a legitimate (debatable) instrument, not as an accessory. It sounds like how a child’s toy company would modify an oldies song to come out of a kid’s toy.
“Sun Will Follow” is a little slower and steady with the tempo. The vocals are slightly monotone, and very folksy: not having to offer extreme emotion over powerful instruments. This song sounds like it could be repackaged for a Matthew Sweet album.
“The Speakeasy Song” begins quietly, and is a bit southern bluesy, on a toy guitar. The harpsichord sounding piano joins the guitar, and eventually a delicate drum beat. The song increases in strength and solid, cohesive sound. This is the song that the album title comes from.
“Cherry Street” is another song that is about and explaining the small town where the Pianosaurs live. The song has a bit of a loungey tone, perhaps a little island sound, with the drum brush strokes, and piano, which could be stretched to sound like a steel drum, if you squint your ears just right. The song has a calming swaying effect. The purely audible and clearly accented vocals remind me of production from the band Ed’s Redeeming Qualities.
“Memphis” is a cover of Chuck Berry, featuring the toy guitar and a bouncy bas accompaniment. The vocals are sung in harmony, and the song bounces along like a horse drawn wagon or cartoon train. With the popular 8-bit covers of famous songs, this is a decidedly analog take on the same enjoyment.
“Going Downtown” is quite folksy, with sedated vocals, barely forming words, as the sleepy guitar bleeds into a bit of an upbeat piano and drum tempo. The melody, with the way it seems to continue just as it is about to end, reminds me of Belle & Sebastian’s more mellow songs. As the instrumental break plays out to the end, I’m even more reminded of Generals and Majors on If You’re Feeling Sinister, particularly the line “snow is falling, falling, falling.”

“Love is a Two-Way Street” is a drunken, swaying hammock love ballad. The toy guitar and vocals start out the song, built up by the piano and clacking stick percussion. Base is added, and the song picks up form. The backing vocals repeat the title out, with a bit of a psychedelic production, and the piano carries the song out.
“Center of the Universe” is immediately pleasant and jovial. The whole song sounds like a chorus. For the second verse, the backing vocals sing as a shadow to the lead.
“A Little Love (Never Hurt)” is similar to Two Way Street, in its perception of a care free love ballad sung in a rowboat. It would be hard to imagine this song played in a dark, dingy venue: I could only hear this played in high school auditoriums or summer community festivals.
“Bubblegum Music” sets out to explore exactly what it is called. Catchy simple hooks on guitar and shifty excitable drums play through the verse. Once the chorus hits, it is a release of an even better hook akin to all of the bubblegum pop of the 60’s. The unnerved vocals really play well for this style of song. It is a little repetitive, but that is the point of the simple throw-away melodies like this, with lyrics like “Bubble Gum Music / Chew It Up.”
“A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Toy Store” is a quiet reflective song, considering the happenings in the neighborhood as the singer walks through. It has a little of a Weird Al style to it, with the same descriptive style, in its sincerity, and just a touch of silliness. The song plays out the last 30 seconds or so as an instrumental and a chorus of “Wooos.”
“Eleanor Day” could also be a Belle & Sebastian song, with its melancholy vocal melody, with some sunrise, sprouting instrumental support.
“Dimples” is a cover of John Lee Hooker. And the rough sounding toy guitar & bass is the main instrument driving this be-bopping blues song along. Even when the guitar rings out, the notes fade away fast, perhaps because they are played on plastic strings. But there is a raw, fun energy to the song, that perhaps is the only true way to capture the themes of the song as a cover.

Stand Out Track: Thriftshopin'

Links:
Wiki
AllMusic
Facebook
Discogs
Trouserpress
Amazon
Dangerous Minds
Vinyl District
Audiophile Review

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

(the) Vels - Velocity

Name: (the) Vels
Album: Velocity
Year: 1984
Style: Radio Pop, New Wave
Similar Bands: Bananarama, Bangles, Debbie Gibson, Phases, Taylor Dayne, Thompson Twins.
Based Out Of: Philly, PA
Label: Mercury, PolyGram Records
 Velocity - Cover, Record
Velocity - Back, Record
Velocity (1984)
  1. Tell Me Something 5:08
  2. Secret Garden 3:30
  3. Can't You Hear Me? 4:14
  4. Coming Attractions 6:16/
  5. Look My Way 2:06
  6. Day After Day 5:58
  7. Private World 4:55
  8. Hieroglyphics 6:36
Album Rating (1-10): 6.0

Members & Other Bands:
Alice DeSoto (Cohen) - Vox, Keys, Percussion (Die Monster Die,
Charles Hanson - Bass, Keys, Vox, Percussion, Guitar (The Normals, Loudspeaker, Chrome Cranks, The Gravy)
Chris Larkin - Keys, Vocals, Linn Drums, Percussion (Kenn Kweder, Mikey Wild, Joey Wilson)
Chuck Sabo - Additional Percussion (Tom Dickie & Desires, Dani, David Knopfler, Ettiene Daho)
Sanford Ponder - Fairlight Programming
Steven Stanley - Producer, Engineer
Benjamin Armbrister - Asst Engineer
Peter Lubin - Producer, A&R
Jeff Levy - Asst Recording
Bruce Tergensen - Engineer
Mark Procopio - Asst Engineer
Howie Weinberg - Mastering
Manhattan Design - Design
Frank Olinsky - Illustration
Deborah Feingold - Photography
Bill Levy - Art Direction
Chris Evans - Management

Unknown-ness: I've never heard of this band, but I'm not too sure of what to make of the album. The colors are bright, pastels, a negative point for an album from 1984. But I do like the slight diagonal font, and the cartoon imagery of the band does not take itself too serious. Don't think it will be too new wave, punky, but hoping for some fun bouncy beats and Go-Go's similarities.

Album Review: The Vels were a mid-80’s synth pop band that toured around the Philadelphia are a bit. They had 2 albums total, and even scored an opening spot for the Psych Furs in 86. Sadly Chris Larkin passed away from pneumonia complications in 2007.

“Tell Me Something” kicks in with an electronic drum loop, and squeaky clean female vocals. This is radio friendly pop from the early 80’s. It is dancey and pure, bright, sparkling synth pop. Even the Phantom Of the Opera style synth notes have a chipper tone.
“Secret Garden” begins with sparkling and swirling- and very dated electronic synth. It is made up of major elements of teen-pop, with a slight mystical element. This feels like it could be remixed into a descent club hit, like Stevie B.
“Can't You Hear Me?” brings back a dance hit track, with digital bass and squeaky, shimmering synth. The vocal melody follows the music, but is buoyant and bobbing. The verse has male vocals, predominately, and the female vocals are added in the chorus. This head nodding, happy melody song is somewhat catchy, reminding me a little of Dogs Die In Hot Cars.
“Coming Attractions” features jazzy bass, followed by the shimmering and echoing synth. It has a little of a tropical feel, which might have been imported from their recording surroundings, as it was recorded in the Bahamas. This song lacks any kind of drive: it is just happy moving along at an uninfluenced pace. The male vocals support the lead during the chorus. The song does not evolve too much, just relying on the slow Caribbean drum beat, and synth loops.  

“Look My Way” was the single. It starts with a church organ synth played at short notes. A vibrating pulse is added, and the drum loop comes in. And then male vocals come in, and the whole song takes on a Thompson Twins sound. But it quickly becomes clear that the style of the song is meant to be disco, even bring in a Debbie Harry Rap section.
“Day After Day” swirls in with a churchy organ matched with a bouncy piano. The vocal melody rolls along, with an uplifting, positive spirit. The bridge is an building 4 note hook that repeats on itself. The vocals feel like they are trying to be like the Go-Go’s. But the overall tone is very clinical and nonthreatening.
“Private World” employs a bunch of synth effects that make the backing music sound automated, like a crazy contraption or video game. The beat is steady, and maybe a little anxious. The vocal melody could inspire an arm waving clap along. The instrumental breakdown uses both a middle-eastern melody on top of synth African wood block/bongos. This is not a bad song, but it just needs to be a little more challenging.
“Hieroglyphics” ends the album with a slow drum machine loop, and synth steel drum keys. If this song were produced today, with less shtick, and shortened to highlight the basic melody (particularly in the chorus), it would be a pretty good song, but it gets lost on the dated production of the time. This song too has a bit of a rap in the middle

Stand Out Track: Can't You Hear Me?

Links:
Discogs
Wiki
Amazon
Rate Your Music
LastFM
Kenneth in the 212
Robert Christgau

Punsters - Boardwalk Santa

Name: (the) Punsters
Album: Boardwalk Santa
Year: 1981
Style: Juvenile Rock, New Wave, Pub Rock, Variety
Similar Bands: Fabulous Fondas, Dead Milkmen, Beru Revue, Ween, Coolies, Weird Al, Blasters
One Word Review: Exaggerated Pub Vaudeville
Based Out Of: New Jersey
Label: Rosebud Records
 Boardwalk Santa - Cover, Record
Boardwalk Santa - Back, Record
Boardwalk Santa (1981)
  1. Boardwalk/Ghetto Santa 2:34
  2. My Heat's In Gridlock 2:20
  3. What's So Funny 2:34/
  4. Shell Game 1:59
  5. I Asked the Angels 3:05
  6. Baghdad Daddy 1:40
  7. I Dreamt I Dreamt of Gefilte Fish 1:15
Album Rating (1-10): 6.0

Members & Other Bands:
Robert Kaplow - Vox
Tim Korzun - Keys, Bass
Michael Townsend - Bass
Marc Lanzoff - Vox
Carmen Presti - Guitars, Vox
Ken Cohen - Drums
Glenn Taylor - Engineer
Miguel Pagliere - Photography

Unknown-ness: I've never heard of this band, but the album was very appealing. Recorded in 1981, with a silly name & title, and cover art to go right along with the title, apparently taken in Asbury Park.Lots of local bands from this era put out some fun, bouncy music, so I just hope this is in the same vein as the Fabulous Fondas.

Album Review: They were a silly, satirical band from Jersey, with a few singles and this EP under their self-producing belt. Singer Kaplow has moved on to writing novels, scripts and other works. The band was on NPR back in the 80’s, and appeared on the Uncle Floyd show, along with Tiny Tim.


“Boardwalk/Ghetto Santa” begins with an amateur rock opera dialogue over a tinkling piano, as if it is the wishes of a young boy asking Santa to save him from the town. The song kicks in with a fun surf-rock style, and deep, vocals seeming to maybe mimic Elvis a little, but the lyrics are comedic in theme.
“My Heat's In Gridlock” is a gritty song that sounds as if it is sung by an angry, agitated Weird Al. The song’s style is slinky pub rock, with exaggerated vocals.
“What's So Funny” starts with spoken work over quiet music. The song kicks in with a toe-tapping, bluesy Blasters style song. The song is sectioned out in intervals, the music is broken up by spoken word sections. The song is questioning what is so funny about TV shows like Benny Hill or TV Bloopers, as they are more sick than humorous.

“Shell Game” is another exaggerated vocal performance, this time in a new wave theme, over a driving bass line. It reminds me a little of They Might Be Giants, and includes a new wave (Elvis Costello) organ effect.This is probably the most straight forward song on the album, and the best one.
“I Asked the Angels” starts after a spoken word discussion and then a false start. But the song is a slow 50’s styled doo-wop, vocal band ballad. Like a silly version of Earth Angel. I do keep anticipating the vocals to sing “Angels of Harlem” rather than “Angel Sent You”
“Baghdad Daddy” is a particularly cringe-worthy song, introduced with an A&R man discrediting the band. The song has exaggerated vocals pared with deep complimentary vocals, singing a greaser-pub rock style song. The song uses the Beatles line from Come Together: “One and One and One is three”
“I Dreamt I Dreamt of Gefilte Fish” is a straight up silly Bob Dylan Parody song. And is another cringe worthy track. The singer sings of Gefilte Fish being eaten all of the time and everywhere in his place, which will most likely make him a Gefilte Fish soon. It has a very vaudevillian feel to it in the ending.


Stand Out Track: Shell Game

Links:
Allmusic
Steven Hart fr 2009

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Popguns - Eugenie

Name: (the) Popguns
Album: Eugenie
Year: 1990
Style: Jangle Pop, College Radio, Twee
Similar Bands: Darling Buds, Transvision Vamp, Wedding Present, Camera Obscura, Talulah Gosh, Primitives, Standard Fare, Essex Green, U2
One Word Review: Pleasantly Energizing Pop
Based Out Of: Brighton, East Sussex, UK
Label: Midnight Music
 Eugenie - Cover & Record
Eugenie - Back & Record
Eugenie (1990)
Landslide 2:58
Down on Your Knees 3:31
Leave it Alone 2:46
Waiting for the Winter 3:15
Every Dream 3:27/
Because He Wanted to 4:28
Someone You Love 4:14
Those Other Things 4:26
Don't Smile 3:19

Album Review (1-10): 9.5

Members & Other Bands:
Wendy Morgan - Vox (Perfect English Weather, Roman Jugg)
Simon Pickles - Guitar (Perfect English Weather)
Greg Dixon - Guitar
Pat Walkington - Bass (Jason Smart)
Shaun Charman - Drums (Wedding Present, The Fireworks)
Andy Parker - Engineering
Terry Popple - Engineering
Nick Ralph - Remixing
Brad Grisdale - Engineer
Mike Marsh - Mastering

Unknowness: I've never heard of the Popguns. Picked this up in an Oxfam charity shop in London. I don't usually buy a 1990 album, but there was slim pickings, and for a pound, it was worth a shot. Although, the clean design lends itself to a guess of jazz. This might be just that- new age jazz (looking at the tree on the cover) and the info organization on the back does not lead one to imagine it to be a pop album, despite the band name.

Album Review: The Popguns released a new album with a new drummer in 2014, and as of this writing, Dec 2016, are still playing shows. Most of their material is streaming for free on their bandcamp page, too. The biggest name came from their original drummer, who was the first drummer (fired) from the Wedding Present. Although they got together in 1986, this 1990 album is their official debut, with a couple of singles preceding it. This is exactly the sort of album I was hoping to discover when browsing the charity shops in London.
“Landslide” was their first single. The song starts off with a nice jangle pop sound, and a simple catchy hook. Female vocals, occasionally harmonized. It is very pleasant pop with lots of hooks and la-la-la’s.
“Down on Your Knees” starts out a little hesitant, but eventually drives forward with fun, bouncy and jangly pop pace. It seems like this could just as easily been a single as “Landslide.”
“Leave it Alone” again starts off with a basic, yet fulfilling jangle pop sound. Twee, uplifting and still driving music with vocals that sing their own melody, only tied to the music melody with the most fleeting connections.
“Waiting for the Winter” was their biggest hit. And from the first few notes, you can see why, it is another simple, crisp song with clearly defined chords and energetic vocals, and a basic structure designed to not fail. The verse is a looping jangly guitar with power, anthemic chords in support. The melody is playful the entire time. The end has layers of vocal melodies, all guiding the song to the end.
“Every Dream” is lighter, and dreamy plus shoegazey. Reminds me of the Philly band Mercury Girls. The dual female vocals, teaming up in the chorus and doing their own thing in the verse is very well executed.

“Because He Wanted to” rings out in the beginning in an energetic loop with (redundantly) jangly guitars and a bit of fuzz. The superb chorus is a catchy release of energy that the verse and tempo builds up to.
“Someone You Love” was also a single. It rings into play with a U2 like chord progression, But the female vocals are immediately bright and cheerful, unlike any U2 song. The verse is better and catchier than the chorus, which is kind of a glossed-over, held-breath melody.
“Those Other Things” fades up with a jamming, jangly, driving riff. As the vocals begin, it sounds like a less shiny & poppy Go-Go’s. The vocals are just a touch jittery, but still present a great independent melody.
“Don't Smile” begins with a bass line, and a gently fuzzy guitar, reminding me a little of Belly. The vocals could pierce through any noise, and sing a delightful melody that rises and falls in a playful manner. By the end of the song, to break up the repetition, the second female vocals shadow the lead in an almost in the round style.

Standout Track: Waiting for the Winter

Links:

Friday, December 2, 2016

Wives - Ask Me How

Name: Wives
Album: Ask Me How
Year:1995
Style: Punk, Alternative, Hardcore
Similar Bands: L7, Bikini Kill, Red Five, Jennifer Trynin
One Word Review: Brooding Commuter Traffic Punk
Based Out Of: NYC
Label(s): Go Kart Records
Ask Me How: Cover, Liner Photo, Record
Ask Me How: Back, Liner Notes, Record

Ask Me How (1995)
  1. Let Em Go 1:57
  2. Half 2:45
  3. Deserve 1:35
  4. Radiator 1:45
  5. 100 Sorries 2:20
  6. Smooth Stone 2:34/
  7. Rich 4:19
  8. Roam 2:50
  9. Lipstick 3:02
  10. Away 2:12
  11. 8ball 3:32
Album Rating (1-10): 6.0

Members & Other Bands:
Susan Horwitz - Guitar, Vox
Mary Dunham - Bass, Backing Vox (Crystallize My Penis)
Tracy Almazan - Drums, Backing Vox (Transisters)
Danio Saratak - Editing
Victor Luke - Engineer
Erika Noize - Asst Engineer
Tony Dawsey - Mastering
Dean Ripsler - Producer

Unknowness: Never heard of them, but from the cover and back band image, I can only assume this is an all group dirty grunge band. I expect lots of fuzz and droning guitars. But will it border on pop punk or straight gritty rock or something else, we'll see!

Album Review: Not much is out there about this band of three women, apparently hailing from NYC, and part of the hard stop hardcore scene there. It must have been quite the gimmick for three women in that scene, and I imagine it was not easy, but what do I know. Perhaps they shared a basement show with Life of Agony. I really wish it was a better album. Music and vocals just don’t go together all that well, and I think it was trying to appeal to too vast of an audience.

“Let Em Go” starts off the album with some pulse pounding, driving chords and drums. It is heavy and bombarding. The vocals don’t offer much  in terms of adding to the aggression. They feel lighter and although not very melodic, other than the chorus of Oh-Oh’s, they seem a little whiny.
“Half” is more power-rock, with a catchy riff. The vocals remind me of Jennifer Trynin, and are kind of layered over without much energy. The chorus brings the energy, with speed and tempo pick up, and the vocals also match the energy, rolling along, with the chorus echoing the title. The song delves back into the set-up verse, and stops and pivots again into the onslaught of the chorus…again not more than a pop-punk song.
“Deserve” takes off with a speedy bass and drum driven song. Tempo pauses are punctuated with lyrics in the chorus. By the third verse, fuzzy guitars playing in the foreground.
“Radiator” could be the same song, just another driving tempo with spoken word vocals layered over. The paces is more like commuter traffic, driving at one moment, then slowing down, then aggressively picking back up, trying to pick up lost ground.
“100 Sorries” has a three chord, dark tone, but is played fast, and comes off angry, even if the vocals don’t match the music’s pace. The tempo again has a wave form of speed. The chorus is more of a stomp, while the verse and bridges are all driving. The instrumental finds balance between the two styles.
“Smooth Stone” begins with a guitar riff. This song has a bit of a driving tempo, but would fall into much more of an alternative-rock genre, not as hardcore as the other tracks. There is a bit of Sleater-Kinney shared chorus vocals here and a little more energy, aside from the whiny vocal tone.

“Rich” borders on surf-punk, and the vocals tremble over the music. The bridge is driving, and builds up to the chorus, a staggering stomp, broken up by the vocal phrases. The instrumental is pushed along with the two chord bass line and is covered over with a ringing guitar. The lead vocals are low in the verse and give it a sinister, evil tone.
“Roam” is started with shattering, grinding guitar chords and a playful bass line. The pace of the song is quite jarring once the vocals begin. It feels like it can never quite get going, but that’s on purpose. Like its namesake, the melody roams all over the place, meandering here and there, driving ahead and pulling back at random intervals.
“Lipstick” has a lot of feedback and a tempo that tried to get started. The bass rounds things out, and slows the melody into a steady pace. Feedback still persists, but the song is far from hardcore, and one in their alternative arsenal.
“Away” begins to drive from the start and never lets up. Good for a circle pit, there is only a short full-stop, and restart as the chorus hits. After the instrumental, the music slinks down, but gets ready to blast off…and does. Not a big fan of the vocals in the chorus…just sounds half-hearted, and not right for the tone or pace.
“8ball” is a slower, building and brooding track. But it finds a steady pace, and at parts, reminds me a little of PJ Harvey. The melody and changing style makes it very hard to hold onto a purpose, and the album ends in a whimper.

Stand Out Track: Half

Links:

Friday, November 18, 2016

Rare Silk - Black & Blue

Artist: Rare Silk
Album: Black & Blue
Year: 1986
Style: Jazz, New Wave
Similar Bands: Pied Pipers, Andrews Sisters, Rippingtons, Manhattan Transfer
One Word Review:
Based Out Of: Boulder, Colorado
Label: TBA Records
 Black & Blue Cover, Lyrics Record
Black & Blue: Back & Record

Black & Blue (1986)
  1. Automatic Girl 3:56
  2. Red Harvest 4:44
  3. Mama-San 5:12
  4. Xenobian Love Song 4:33/ 
  5. Argot 4:31
  6. Black & Blue 4:50
  7. Playback 3:58
  8. How Can I Be Sure 3:39
  9. Over 1:30

Album Rating (1-10): 4.5

Members & Other Bands:
Kip Kuepper - Bass, Producer (Danny Heines, Steve Haun, Dotsero)
Steve Holloway - Drums (James Van Buren, Danny Heines, Jimmy Bruno, Chronic Bliss)
Eric Gunnison - Keys (Lynn Baker Quartet, James Van Buren, Peter Kater, Carmen McRae)
Todd Buffa - Producer, Vox
Gaile Gillaspie - Vox
Marylynn Gillaspie - Vox
Patrick Cullie - Executive Producer
Scott Roche - Executive Producer
Tim Benko - Cover Photo
Jerry Downs - Back Photo

Unknown-ness: Never heard of this band. The cover is kind of awful: the ripped paper motif, the ransom note font paired with the fancy font, the blind in the backgorund, and the posable figure drawing models next to an orb of glass. For 1986, this seems way too accurate. Based on that alon, I would not have bought this...but the "band image" on the back, and the haphazardly angled song titles made me wonder more for what this will sound like, not will I like this. I'm imagining an interpretive dance soundtrack for the band's style and sound.

Album Review: Started in 1978, they were an up and coming jazz vocal group, taken on tour with Benny Goodman in 1980 after he heard them perform. At that early stage, they played huge venues with him, such as the Boston Globe Jazz Fest, Carnegie Hall, Hollywood Bowl and even at the Aurex Jazz Fest in Japan. By the time of the third album, interest was waning, and they went from a Grammy nominated freshman album on Polydor to TBA records here.

“Automatic Girl” slips righting a twinkle and synth sounds into Smooth Jazz. The vocals are a little bit of Tears for Fears and the style is similar to the lightest of XTC songs. Not too familiar with the styles of Jazz, but this has been more of a modern approach, and I can assume is Bop.
“Red Harvest” is a fun, energetic conga-like song. The energy tapers off after the intro, and slides into general a shuffling jazz. The instrumental is a jazzy twinkling over the keys following the burst of quick salsa. Sounds a little like Stereo Lab and Pizzicato Five…or more likely, they dabble in this style a little bit
“Mama-San” is a slower fade in and out, the song drags along, like it is encountering obstacles to a steady pace. At times for the chorus, it becomes fluid, but for most of the song, it stumbles along, dragging its feet.
“Xenobian Love Song” begins with a bass line and a flat bongo beat. The delicate vocals in harmony carry a melody that reminds me of Dr Buzzard’s Savannah Band. It evolves to be a little darker in the middle, and the jungle beat grows.  

“Argot” fades in with a choir hum. Liquid percussion is added, followed by toy xylophone notes. The elements loop on themselves as the song takes shape. The dated crystal synth is the next element, followed by the smooth jazz sax. At 3:45 the layers stop, and an atmospheric tone permeates the song, with the choir voices taking turns with individual sounds.
“Black & Blue” starts with a burst of big band sound. Then the jazzy vocals croon with bursts of the trumpets as accents. The song swings and builds as it goes, but never really releases. A smooth sax interlude absorbs some time. The elements come together in the end, speeding up, slightly franticly.
“Playback” is a slow jam, the harmonic voices feel synthesized, especially on top of the synth sounding instruments. For the breakdown, the vocals separate and do their own thing before grouping back up for another verse.
“How Can I Be Sure” is a cover of the Young Rascals 1967 song, and kicks in with some funky rhythmic guitar chords over a bouncy bass beat. The vocals, starting out as a chorus, focus on one female vocal in a pause. With a slightly different vocal style, this could be a solid punk song.
“Over” is a short album ending song of harmonized acapella vocals. There is a little toy box instrument in the vocal pauses. 

Stand Out Track: How Can I Be Sure

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