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Friday, February 3, 2017

Sniff 'n' the Tears - Fickle Heart~, The Game's Up*

Name: Sniff 'n' the Tears
Album(s): Fickle Heart~ The Game's Up*
Year(s): 1979~, 1980*
Style: Rock, Soft Rock, 70's AOR
Similar Bands: Dire Straits, Motors, 10cc, Dave Edmunds, Steve Forbert, Foreigner, Chicago, Ace, Al Stewart
One Word Review: Back Alley Folky Tonk Jams
Based Out Of: London England
Label: Atlantic, Chiswick
 Fickle Heart: Cover, Liner, Record
 Fickle Heart: Back, Liner, Record
The Game's Up - Cover, Liner, Record
The Game's Up - Back, Liner, Record
Fickle Heart (1979)
  1. Driver's Seat 4:00
  2. New Lines On Love 3:40
  3. Carve your Name on My Door 2:33
  4. This Side of The Blue Horizon 4:40
  5. Sing 2:23
  6. Rock N' Roll Music 2:35 /
  7. Fight For Love 3:45
  8. The Thrill of it All 3:37
  9. Slide Away 3:45
  10. Last Dance 1:50
  11. Looking For You 4:20
The Game's Up (1980)
  1. The Game's Up 3:52
  2. Moment of Weakness 3:13
  3. What Can Daddy Do? 3:15
  4. Night Life 3:57
  5. If I Knew Then 4:57 /
  6. One Love 3:20
  7. Five & Zero 4:38
  8. Poison Pen Mail 4:41
  9. Rodeo Drive 6:22
Album Rating (1-10):~5.5

Members & Other Bands:
Jim Nellis - Backing Vox~
Noel McCalla - Backing Vox~* (Moon, Blade & Masquenada Family, Partners in Crime, Paul Carrack, Mike Rutherford, Mezzoforte, Manfred Mann's Earth Band, Arthur Louis )
Chris Birkin - Bass~
Andrew Young - Design~
Luigi Salvoni - Drums, Percussion, Producer~ (Moon, Loz Netto's Bzar, McCalla, Snivelling Shits)
Loz Netto - Guitar~ *Backing Vox* (Brian Copsey & The Commotions, Eye Talk)
Mick Dyche - Guitar~* Backing Vox* ( Wild Turkey, McCalla, Maddy Prior Band, Snips)
Alan Feldman - Keys~ (Jasper, Trifle, FBI, Mome Yamaguchi, McCalla)
Stephen Lipson - Mixing~ Producer, Engineer*
Keith Miller - Synth, String Machine~  (Culture Club, Nick Garvey, Copycats)
Paul Roberts - Vox, Guitar,~* Cover Painting~
Paul Robinson - Drums* (K2, Turning Point, Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion, Intercontinental Express, Turning Point, Art of Noise, Invisible Men, Proclaimers, Van Morrison, Rod Stewart, Pet Shop Boys)
Richard Bailey - Drums* (Ananda, Batti Mamzelle, Dave Defries Quarter, Gonzalez, Hope Collective, Incognito, The Breakfast Band, Dysfunkshun, Johnny Nash, Jeff Beck)
Richard Marcangelo - Drums* (Cinerama, Manfred Mann's Earth Band, The Drivers, Vibraphonic, Ostara, Rumer)
Nick South - Bass* (Time UK, Second Hand, Ellis, Claire Hamill, Blue Goose, Cafe Society, Donovan, Murray Head, Zoot Money, Red, Chimera)
Phil Smee - Design*
Julien 'Jools' Cooper - Engineer Asst*
Nick Tomory - Engineer Asst*
Mike Taylor - Keys* (Renaissance)
Karen Knorr - Photography*
Dominique Durand - Tech Tape Op*
Bud Prager - Management*
Miffy Smith - Moog~

Unknown-ness: I've never heard of this band. From the looks of the band pictures and album artwork, looks like it will be glammy power pop. To me, the name feels a little embarrassing, but I want to see if the artwork's mood is an interpretation of the music, or if it is just a stylized theme.

Album Review(s): Sniff ‘n’ the Tears was started at drummer Luigi’s request, asking Paul Roberts to join him after hearing promise in some demos they recorded together. Their first track on the first album was a huge success in the US and less so in the UK due to a production error. But Driver Seat kept Roberts in the spot light time, and time again, as it was used in a 1991 Dutch auto commercial, and in 1997’s Boogie Nights. Roberts was the only continuous member throughout the history, even painting the majority of the artwork himself. Although they never found the same success as the first album, Roberts still uses the moniker along with his own solo material to this day.

~“Driver's Seat” was a huge single, reaching #15 in the US. The keyboard and harmonized chorus feel like disco, while the electric guitar is buzzy in the background. The lead vocals are nasally, but in an abrasive way, that feels like they’re sung through a sneer. The song has a disco shuffle tempo, too
“New Lines On Love” has story telling vocals of a typical singer/songwriter, like a more melodic Bob Dylan. The music is dark, shuffling back alley music, and a little jangly. It has the harmonized backing vocals that echo the lead in the chorus.
“Carve Your Name on My Door” begins with the title sang/spoke instrument-free. The song has a southern rock / country sense; honky-tonk rock, perhaps. The vocals sound light and airy, with the same sneer, reminding me of Dave Edmunds and Steve Forbert.
“This Side of the Blue Horizon” is slower, and with the piano in the beginning, is basically a piano ballad with some twang. It is pretty slow and tedious, and the only energetic moments are countrified.
“Sing” is another slinky, back alley bluesy pub song with a shuffle strut.
“Rock N' Roll Music” is decidedly more oldies-style rock and roll. The vocals echo more, as if they are being sung at an indoor pool, and feel like a quiet afterthought. The production falls flat on an otherwise energetic song.

“Fight For Love” begins with an acoustic guitar, and continues down a light groove, reminding me of the little I know of the Grateful Dead. The harmonized chorus punctuate the lyrics in the chorus with the song title.
“The Thrill of it All” takes a jazzy, bluesy tone. It is general 70’s AOR, or dad rock.
“Slide Away” has a bit more electronic, prog rock feel. It is more mystical and spacey. Some of the instrumentation reminds me of Ween hippy jams.
“Last Dance” is a slow folk song, reminding me of Rod McKuen, and a little Dylan with the vocal style. There is only an acoustic guitar for support.
“Looking For You” begins after a cymbal hit, and a slow, methodical jam begins. It gently glides along in a wafty drug dream state.

*“The Game's Up” picks right up where the previous album left off with the specific kind of light 70’s rock. It must be the right mindset to mellow out and listen to this while stoned. It has an organ and other jazzy elements. But the chorus is standard catchy pop.
“Moment of Weakness” is a bit bouncier, and upbeat. And it has minimal, jazzy instrumentation. The verses are sung a bit faster than usual. The song sounds like an 80’s sitcom theme song (Full House).
“What Can Daddy Do?” has a tinge of reggae vibe. It sounds like a cheesy Caribbean all-inclusive resort’s house band.
“Night Life” is a beatnik poem set to incidental sound effects, like a single person performance art monologue. The music kicks in to be a dark, back alley style song for the chorus, but returns to the monologue again for the verse.  The instrumental section is a whining guitar, played upscale to a final scream at the end.
“If I Knew Then” starts with jangly guitar, and sitcom horns, as if from MASH. The bass line is jazzy, but the song is casual and light. There are synth effects used in the song, but they come off like a starter kit, like the synth box was just opened, and the couple of effects used were from the first trial setting. Also, everyone else is using a synth on their hit records, so they wanted to too. It reminded me of the segment music from the science spoof show “Look Around You.”

“One Love” borrows some synth elements, but is mostly a stripped down bluesy lite rock song. In the instrumental section, the electric guitar answers the synth hook in conversation, and they go back and forth. The song ends with a skittering drum and rhythm guitar combo, and fades out.
“Five & Zero” continues with the light, sparse songs, with a reflective tone. There is not much energy to the music; it is basically non-threatening, relaxation rock, almost like a demo of what could be a power pop song.
“Poison Pen Mail” takes another minimal music, folksy spoken lyric route. The organ is the only music in support for a while, but is then added to with a guitar that uses a couple notes as lyrics to the song. This too feels like a fragment, or an unfinished song. More elements are added as the song progresses, and it fills out some, but it feels like a cheap, radio friendly, dumbed down cover of a Tom Waits song.
“Rodeo Drive” starts with a variety of jazzy synth effects, not really finding a melody or cohesion until the swirling and fading synth notes are held, forming melodies and guitars pick up some of the weight. The song is an odd composition, throwing a lot of elements at the walls to see if anything sticks. Not everything works, and it definitely does not all fit together, but for a creative album ending track, it offers inspiration for things that may be investigated on the next album. At its heart, is a jazzy, free-form composition, tidied together by a general vocal melody. The end of the track draws back, and gives the theatrical situation of the listener changing channels while in their car. 

Stand Out Track(s):~ Driver's Seat

about Driver's Seat

Thursday, February 2, 2017

(the) Tourists - Reality Effect

Name: The Tourists
Album: Reality Effect
Year: 1979
Style: New Wave
Similar Bands: Eurythmics, Roxy Music, Holly & The Italians, Pretenders, Transvision Vamp
One Word Review: Jangly Building Updated Oldies 
Based Out Of: London, UK
Label: Logo
 Reality Effect - Cover & Record
Reality Effect - Back & Record
Reality Effect (1979)
  1. It Doesn't Have to be this Way 3:45
  2. I Only Want to Be With You 2:24
  3. In The Morning (When the Madness Has Faded) 4:09
  4. All Life's Tragedies 3:48
  5. Everywhere You Look 3:18
  6. So Good to be Back Home Again 2:39 /
  7. Nothing To Do 3:27
  8. Circular Fever 3:06
  9. In My Mind (There's Sorrow) 4:44
  10. Something In The Air Tonight 3:42
  11. Summer's Night 3:17
Album Rating (1-10): 7.5

Members & Other Bands:
Ann (Annie) Lennox - Vox, Organ, Piano, Synth (The Catch, Eurythmics, Robert Gorl, Maddy Prior, Band Aid)
Peet Coombes - Vox, Guitars (The Catch, Acid Drops, Barracudas, The Wildhearts)
Dave Stewart - Guitars, Vox (The Catch, Eurythmics, Long Dancer, Da Universal Playaz, Spiritual Cowboys, Platinum Weird, Superheavy, Brothers of Doom, Vegas)
Eddie Chin - Bass (Acid Drops)
Jim "Do It" Toomey - Drums, Percussion, Bolero Dancing, Wet Fish (Dragonfly, Jon, Titus Groan, Colin Blunstone, Paul Brett, Bettina Jonic, John T Fisher, Harvey Andrews, Sadista Sisters, Chris Rohmann, Ziggy Byfield & the Blackheart Band, Jet, Ken Hensley, Satisfaction, Little Ginny)
Tom Allow - Producer
Andy Lunn - Engineer
Bill Gill - Engineer
Dick Plant - Engineer
Barry Kidd - Engineer
Graham Preskett - Trumpet & String Arrangement
Gered Mankoqitz - Photograpy
Acrobat - Artwork
Lloyd Beiny - Direction
Tom Allom - Producer

Unknown-ness: I've never heard of the Tourists (although, I probably should have). Looks like intelligent concept new wave music from the abstract splatter-art display on their surroundings as compared to the "before" picture on the back. The paint seems to create a fun, energetic idea fromt he depths of banal monotony. Shows promise for an album from 1979.

Album Review: The Tourists were the band that immediately pre-dated the Eurythmics, with both Annie Lennox & Dave Stewart as dating members. Although the band was not their showcase, it produced some big singles. From the ashes of the band and their intimate relationship came the Eurythmics. The Tourists only really lasted for 3 years, and produced 3 albums to their name.

“It Doesn't Have to Be This Way” begins with a synth back drop, and driving, energetic guitar & bouncy bass. The song falls into a jangle-pop category, and it builds well. The catchy guitar hooks remind me of the pretenders (even if their debut was a year later). The song mixes a nice balance of rock with digital sterility.
“I Only Want to Be With You” is a Dusty Springfield cover, and was a #4 UK, #8 Aus, #83 US single. It continues with the chugging guitar and bass tempo. Annie’s vocals are bold and strong, with their familiar lush, deep key. The song is familiar, and just pushes the classic oldie structure up to a modern time, kind of like The Ramones. The guitar rings out in the chorus, creating a confident setting.
“In The Morning (When the Madness Has Faded)” starts with a neurotic organ, and psych, echoing vocals. It straddles the line between tedious jangle bands and 60’s psych garage bands. It is just an upbeat and hopeful pop song, with multiple sections that speed up and slow down, including a swirling, middle eastern breakdown in the end.
“All Life's Tragedies” begins with the same structure, chugging instruments, with a steady driving tempo. The vocals flow over the shifting notes. The chorus is slowed down, and melancholy, before being lifted back up again with the guitar. But overall there is sadness in the song, based on the inflection of the vocals.
“Everywhere You Look” has a Siouxsie Sioux gothic tone to the beginning, and key shrieking guitar instrumental hook. The rest of the song is a pleasant building new wave track, reminding me of Nick Lowe or Graham Parker with melody and composition.
“So Good to be Back Home Again” was a #8 UK single. It kicks in with a drum beat, and the music is fuzzy punk underneath harmonized, pop vocals. The organ returns for verse accents. This is a nice blend of punk electric guitars paralleling and taking turns with the new wave organ melody. The chorus is complemented with an “Ooo-Ooo-Ooo” vocal in support.

“Nothing To Do” kicks in with a simple jangly guitar hook. The vocals remind me of Marshall Crenshaw. The chorus is the song title sung in response/echo to each other, with a final, combined effort.
“Circular Fever” starts with a three chord chunky guitar hook, and is supported by a bass line that reminds me of the building verse of Born to be Wild. The vocals are combined together, in a shrill, warbly harmony of sorts. It follows the title, where the sections feature little circular hooks that play over and over again, slowly building, but constantly driving.
“In My Mind (There's Sorrow)” has a sort of anthemic, jangly arena rock guitar aesthetic at the beginning. The organ anxiously pulses beneath the steady tempo. The bridge breaks the momentum and slows things down, before it starts up again. The song features a short renaissance section toward the end that is unusual for the song’s style, but somehow fits in naturally. The song does drag out a little too long.
“Something In The Air Tonight” is a slow tempo’ed jangly song. It acts like a ballad or a slow dance with some bold, precise guitar chords. The song churns and like a whirlwind at the end, rocks out before it fades away.
“Summer's Night” starts with Mexican horns and vocals, but becomes a rollicking folksy sing-along. It returns to the section as an interlude between verses. The verses actually remind me of New Pornographers, with the way they are blended together. 

Stand Out Track: I Only Want to Be With You

Annie Lennox

Friday, January 27, 2017

Threshold - s/t

Name: Threshold
Album: s/t
Year: 1982
Style: New Wave
Similar Bands: Sue Saad, 1994, Pat Benatar, Blondie
One Word Review: Space Cop Drama
Based Out Of: LA, CA
Label: Penthouse
 Threshold - Cover, Record
Threshold - Back, Record
Threshold (1982)

  1. Don't Burn Our Bridges 3:34
  2. Night Flyer 3:35
  3. 2000 Light Years 3:50
  4. New Friend 3:05
  5. American Dream 2:54/
  6. Love Somebody 3:19
  7. My Heart Can't Take It 2:40
  8. One of These Days 3:10
  9. Shelter 3:00
  10. Believe In Me 3:47
  11. Still Know How To Rock And Roll 3:00
Album Rating (1-10): 6.5

Members & Other Bands:
Tonina R. Biggs Andrews - Vox, Producer, Cover Design
Jeff Craig - Guitar (Caligula soundtrack)
Jim Jensen - Bass
Jim Horn - Sax (Duane Eddy, George's Band, Dynamite Horn Section, Kip Tyler & The Flips, The Ceyleib People, The Rebels, The Shelter People)
Doug Meador - Keys (Caligula soundtrack)
Steve Gardner - Drums
Palle Jensen - Cover Art
Richard Reese - Photography
Michael Farr - Photography
Jack Andrews - Engineer
Bob "Inky" Incorvaia - Engineer

Unknown-ness: I've never heard of this band. But from the image of outerspace, and an eye that looks  like the trapped villains in Superman 2, i'd imagine it is going to try and explore futuristic and space sounds. The image on the back of a make-up clad woman behind a large sequencer adds to the electronic possibility of the album. Although the imagery reminds me of a previous album I reviewed, Beaver Teeth, which was more southern-bluesy rock. Also of interest, the label appears to be Penthouse, like the magazine?

Album Review: Not much exists out there on the internets regarding this album and Tonina Biggs Andrews. She is the daughter of Penthouse founder Bob Guccione, and her two last names came from her two marriages to two different music engineers. She worked as producer as well as lead singer for this album and president of Penthouse Records as well. She still works in music to some degree, with her LA based company Tonina Music.

“Don't Burn Our Bridges” begins with a complimentary drum and bass groove, followed by a layer of chugging guitar. The vocals are trying to be strong and aggressive, and sound similar to a Pat Benatar song. The chorus is a little slinky with a sly swagger. It is really just two solid sections strung together in repetition. Not outstanding or noteworthy, but strong.
“Night Flyer” was a single. It starts with a jangly guitar, reminiscent of Edgar Winter Group, with overlays of disco synth. The vocals are a little theatrical, not quite straightforward singing. By the time it hits the chorus, it is obvious that it is emulating the dead disco scene.
“2000 Light Years” is a Rolling Stones cover. It quietly begins with electronic knob twitters, and a mystical, psych moog melody. Her voice is soft, and sensual. The guitars remind me of Of Montreal. It delicately builds but in no discernable direction or with any goal. It is comfortable in its mid-propulsion state. The instrumental break down is brief, but feels like it is about to realign and go off in a new direction before the verse pulls it back in.
“New Friend” pulses in the beginning with a quick metronome bass beat. Power-pop guitars begin, creating a nervous, but bold, building verse. The chorus does not capitalize on the building; rather, it takes an anesthetized, monotone trajectory. After two cycles, an instrumental section hints at energy, using a sax as a guide.
“American Dream” begins like Eye of the Tiger; a potentially motivational, diving march thanks to the bass and drum tempo and punchy guitar chords. The vocals are a little gruff and aggressive. It ends with a cathartic “Yeah.”

“Love Somebody” was also released as a single. There is a bluesy guitar hook to begin the song. The song breaks time signature as it moves from driving verse, to a slowed up bridge, into a faster, disco-ish chorus. The instrumental section begins with a rolling synth and then prog-like guitar wailing.
“My Heart Can't Take It” was the B-Side to “Night Flyer.” It begins with a driving drum, and adds swirling synth and upbeat techno melody. It builds nicely, with a sturdy balance of singing and emotion. The tempo change and breakdown after the chorus and before the instrumental break is a nice adaption of the ground laid melody, and it transitions well back into the familiar melodic territory. It ends very abruptly; jarringly so.
“One of These Days” is a bluesy, sax heavy, back-alley / late night cop drama track. The song tries to maintain its head above water, with the vocal melody not quite matching up with a stripped down guitar-bass verse: It’s jazz that way. The song never quite finds a grip and just seems to exist without any contribution to the album.
“Shelter” sounds a little like the Pretenders with an upbeat guitars melody. It is a fun, with a surf/steel drum guitar sound, and a driving song. Unfortunately her vocals fall incredibly flat in the verse, feeling uninspired and detached from the musical emotion. The chorus on the other hand, with a layered and harmonized backing vocal feels much more inspired, and offers penance for the rest. The second verse finds added incentive, but the song could be great with a stronger set of vocals. The song ends with a chorus shifted an octave up.
“Believe In Me” is a sunrising song, hopeful and optimistic, as its namesake suggests. The chorus is a ballad of crooning, mixed with some ELO synth. It is a slow dance song, almost a lighter-up, monster ballad. On occasion, at the start of her vocal lines, her voice will squeal, which I’m not sure is intended.
“Still Know How To Rock And Roll” is like a futuristic Joan Jett song, with waves of synth over top a confidently sung verse. The bridge owes a lot to classic, oldies structured pop music. They went all out on the moog/synth effects in the instrumental breakdown, showcasing it prominently. The song builds nicely, and delivers with a satisfying downward refrain of the title. And that musical accompaniment ends the song.

Stand Out Track: My Heart Can't Take It

NY Mag Showbiz Notes 1983

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Toyah - The Blue Meaning

Name: Toyah
Album: The Blue Meaning
Year: 1980
Style: New Wave, Experimental
Similar Bands: Patti Smith, Kate Bush, Ultravox, Alison Moyet, Siouxsie & the Banshees
One Word Review: Emotional Cartoony Theate
Based Out Of: London, UK
Label: Safari Records
The Blue Meaning - Cover, Record
 The Blue Meaning - Back, Sleeve
The Blue Meaning - Sleeve, Record
The Blue Meaning (1980)
  1. Leya 8:15
  2. Spaced Walking 2:20
  3. Ghosts 3:29
  4. Mummies 2:58
  5. Blue Meanings 5:03/
  6. Tiger Tiger 3:19
  7. Vision 4:06
  8. Insects 2:44
  9. Love Me 3:02
  10. She 6:03
Album Rating (1-10): 6.0

Members & Other Bands:
Toyah Willcox - Vox, Producer, Cover (Tony Banks, Sunday All Over the World, Kiss of Reality, Kim Fowley, Family of Noise, Humans, This Fragile Moment, Stranglers)
Steve James - Producer, Arrangements
Joel Bogen - Guitar (Desire, Jem77, The Good Strawberries, Esperanto, Jai, A Flock of Seaguls)
Charlie Francis - Bass (The Clairvoyant Society, The Hides, Lost Boys, Rawhides, 2 Die 4, High Llamas, Thurman, Minus 5, Poney Express, Idha, Dream City Film Club, Obi )
Bill Smith - Cover
Gered Mankowitz - Cover
Steve Bray - Drums (The Boyfriends, The Byron Band, Lambrettas, Trapeze Good-Bye-Ee)
Perry Morgan - Engineer
Pete Bush - Keys, Trumpet (Leya)
Porky - Lacquer Cut

Unknown-ness: I've never heard of Toyah. From the cover and back, I imagine something between Annie Lennox/Eurythmics and Siouxsie Sioux. The castle gives it a dark air, but the neon and pink hair give it a pop, upbeat vibe, still rooted in goth. 

Album Review: Toyah started by bouncing around the punk scene in London, after spending a lot of time in theater, trying on some bands that were embarrassing, finally settling on a band with her name. She is married to King Crimson Guitarist Robert Fripp, and has been for over 30 years. But she is much more than just a musician, as she has written two books, and appeared on stage, screen, and film. The band was only active for 6 years, producing 7 records.

“Ieya” was a single about believing in mankind enough to become our own god. It has a mystical, synth, future-fantasy feeling. The vocals remind me a little of a delicate Debbie Harry. The vocals are very theatrical, changing pitch and tone almost from syllable to syllable. The sooth and cry out from word to word. They growl and croon, presenting a tension that strengthens and relaxes in a random pattern. The music is driving, blending guitar, synth and bass in a cohesive soup. Eventually the lyrics devolve into chants of na-na-na-na-hey and Zion Zuberon, Messiah in a squeaky, screeching voice. The whole time, the Ieya chant is sun in the background, keeping tempo. The song fades out, and only the synth remains at the end, peppered with some yelling screeches.
 “Spaced Walking” was recorded, mostly improvised while experimenting with helium, obvious from the squeaky vocal effect. Vibrating synth and watery ticking percussion start the song off, and the helium influenced vocals sing and speak over the melody. Even without the helium, it would be a weird song. It fades out and the listener is left with the confused feeling if the song actually happened, or was a dream.
“Ghosts” is a pretty straightforward song, with a buzzing synth, and driving drum tempo. The vocals are bold and theatrical again, never yielding to one style. But all of the vocals are emitted with confidence. There are many catchy sections of the song, strung together in a structure where you are not sure which one will appear next. The song ends with a cathedral organ sound, spooky, and echoing, that slowly fades out.
“Mummies” begins with a marching, side to side cadence of ringing guitars and pulsing drums. The vocals don’t match the melody, but float along. The instruments all coalesce into the bridge, which emerges from the murky depths of the rest of the song as a structured and very catchy hook, which a whispering vocal underneath. It stops short of one final catchy hook that the listener might expect.
“Blue Meanings” is more like a beat poem, sung-spoken vocals over brooding synth notes. A drum beat begins, but the song is perpetually stirring and waking up, in a creepy tone. Bipping synth notes make up a Clockwork Orange section where the vocals find a stabler marching melody than in the rest of the song. The vocals grow more emotion toward the end, as a soaring guitar provokes the summoning vocals.

“Tiger! Tiger!” starts with a theatrical, musical style of piano over an undefined bass and drum beat. The vocals are very sing song, and it could easily be seen as an emotional song from a musical. The tone of the song continually builds, as if it is climbing to a reachable pinnacle. Even the chorus makes it feel like the top is very close, but yet the song cycles through and continues to climb.
“Vision” has a slinky, swaggering pace, with synth notes played out of place. The song then hits the chorus and finds a driving groove with a purpose. It is only short lived, as it runs out of steam and hits back into the verse. This recipe repeats, with the chorus lasting a little longer the second time. And the song continues with those two aspects, changing it up a little bit, but not adding anything new.
“Insects” is about fans clamoring to touch and grab at her, as if their hands were creepy crawly insects. Is another beat poem sung over a two note slap bass line and Gang of Four guitar effects. The chorus again gives the song cohesion, and the instruments are given a chance to rock out together. While the verse is just trying get back to the chorus. Behind the lead vocals is a haunting tonal “Ohhhh-Ohhhh.” The bass line accompanies with the guitar reminds me a little of Oingo Boingo’s song with the same title.
 “Love Me” begins with a very 80’s synth / ringing guitar combo. It, accompanied by the overly theatrical vocals evokes a mystical atmosphere and marching time signature.
“She” begins with a standard drum beat, and then an authoritative synth effect that reminds me of an XTC song I can’t quite remember…the vocals are layered in the back, whispering and pulsing as another instrument might. It is quite hypnotic of a hook, repeating endlessly (aside from a few breaks for the chorus). The percussive vocals take importance from the timing of their execution, rather than melody or style, kind of like an Adam Ant song. The loop changes very little, but circles the drain continuously. The song really loses its footing as it winds down, breaking into parts, and dissolving as the seconds tick by.

Stand Out Track: Ghosts


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Trans X - Message on the Radio

Name: Trans X
Album: Message on the Radio
Style: Dance, Electronic, New Wave, Synth Pop
Similar Bands: New Order, Sparks, OMD, Lime, Devo, Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Crash Course in Science
One Word Review: Nonstop Dancing Futureistic Computers
Based Out Of: Montreal, Ca
Label: Matra
 Message on the Radio - Cover, Record
Message on the Radio - Back, Record
Message on the Radio (1983)
  1. 3-D Dance 5:53
  2. Nitelife 7:15
  3. 21st Century 5:29 /
  4. Living on Video 5:52
  5. Message on the Radio 5:10
  6. Josee 5:46
  7. Digital World 3:34
Album Rating: 9.0

Members & Other Bands:
`Pascal Languirand - Vox, All Instruments
`Anne Brosseau - Additional Personnel
`Chiffon - Additional Personnel
`Liz Tansey - Additional Personnel
`Linda Benoy - Additional Personnel
`Ian Lebofsky - Additional Personnel
`Steve Wyatt - Keys, Programming,
Laurie Ann Gill - Vox (Nudimension)
`Christian Traut - Art Direction
`Carmine Nicodemo - Exec Producer
`Dominique Nicodemo - Exec Producer
`Claude Allard - Mixing, Engineer
`Carole Arsenaul - Hair
`Daniel Poulin - Photography
`Michel Cloutier - Asst. Photography
`Lisa Fizzano - Make-Up
`Daniel Bernier - Prodcer
`Pierre Bernard - Programming
`Gaetan Desbiens - Recording
`Pierre Lacoste - Percussion, Drums (Isinglass)
`Guy Abrassart - Guitar

Unknown-ness: I've never heard of this band. But it looks like they are Canadian, which really does not mean anything for the style of music the album may contain. I like the angular basic shape artwork on the front, and the back looks like it might have disco elements. But from the album and band name, there might be some electronic elements.

Album Review: Apparently, this is the Canadian version of the album, as other versions around the world were retitled Living on Video, since it was the big international hit, even covered by many different bands. Pascal Languirand is the main force behind the band, controlling who is his partner, and deciding when the band is together and when it is on hiatus. The name is taken from the Kraftwerk song “Trans Europe Express.” There are two classic albums, before he retired the band, but picked it up at different times to release more albums under the name. He also recorded solo albums that are more ambient, space music in genre. I’m imagining Sparks and OMD teaming up to cover New Order songs.

“3-D Dance” was the third single released by the band. It starts with a synthesized drum beat. Swooping synth effects fly across the speakers and a fun bouncy synth hook starts wiggling into your ears. It is dotted with OMD style synth notes. The vocals start, and represent part disco, and part Sparks. The bass is driving and thumping, augmented by the nervous keyboard sounds and pulsing synth beats. There are female vocals exchanging lines in the first verse, and in the second verse, digitized, deep monster vocals exchange lines with the lead. The song is like a sped up, energetic version of Men W/O Hat’s “Safety Dance.”
“Nitelife” begins with a dark, rumbling warning synth hook, reminding me of Crash Course in Science. Then a keyboard alarming sound is added in, which reminds me of Martha & the Muffins. The effects keep changing, and get squeaker and catchier. The chorus is a call in response with the singer and himself, only a slightly deeper pitch echos the original, Devo-ish call. Synth effects zig and zag, creating a little jazzy section of the song, all the while the drums and dark bass synth keep the tempo driving. It keeps coming back to the familiar elements that are laid down in the beginning, just in continuous variation. By the end of the song, the alarming keyboard sound warbles from left to right speaker.
“21st Century” begins with a somewhat disco bass and hand clap-like percussion start. Then with a genuine OMD twinkling keyboard melody, the upbeat song takes shape. Crystalline/angelic hums fade in and out on rotation. The vocals sound quite excitable. The song follows on this Sparks (vocal melodies) plays an OMD style song. It tends to get a little tedious in its repetitive structure.

“Living on Video” was their first, biggest single, covered by many and topping the charts in the US and Europe on top of Canada. It starts off with a strong “Blue Monday” New Order bass line, with crystal synth twinkles and space warp effects. Then another OMD keyboard hook builds in to repeat, and the final hook is added, a synthetic slide whistle is the best way to describe it. The vocals are all quite calculated, and some are digitized and some have an alluring unisex tone. Once the song breaks, the New Order bass line comes into full swing, and it is wonderful. More space and digital effects are layered over, along with vocal (some like Ladytron) cruising by. The song tears itself down, and builds itself back up numerous times, and keeps coming back to the incredibly catchy elements.
“Message on the Radio” was also a single, and the album title for most of the world. Different styles of digital hooks are used here, again, bringing OMD to mind, mostly. The vocals again remind me of Sparks. The song is built on a standard template of lyric-instrumental stanza on repeat until it reaches the chorus. The chorus is a burst of excitable vocal energy. Halfway through the song, an instrumental breakdown begins, with some sections experiencing a controlled breakdown, but it always comes back to the main supportive hooks. The song fades out with the energetic chorus in a fade.
“Josee” starts with a bass and drum beat, and breathy, futuristic automated female vocal samples. The song kicks in with another playful and upbeat OMD style synth line. The lyrics have a big emotional exertion, again, similar to Sparks. Once you make a connection, it is hard to shake it. The song sonds like a reprise on a couple of songs that came before it. The breathy vocals play a much bigger role here, for an instrumental breakdown, they speak over in a French(?) accent, like they are speaking over a phone call. There is a bit of an industrial effect breakdown, and some soaring electric guitar notes, and the male Oh-whoa-oh-oh vocals perform a call and response with the female vocals. The song returns to its previous structure, and plays out with the bouncy synth effects carrying it through to the fade out
“Digital World” has an anxious looping keyboard hook, accompanied with a drum machine tempo that is steady feels like it is about to pick up. Drive-by zooming synth effects lift off, and the song takes a leisurely futuristic drive, with a few vocal samples that cruise by, lost in the song’s momentum. This instrumental song continues with the nervous, driving synth tones, allowing the listener to visualize passing through art deco-futuristic city-scapes. It feels like I should be playing a game like Stun Runner. 

Stand Out Track: Living on Video

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Monday, January 23, 2017

Wire Train - Between Two Worlds

Name: Wire Train
Album: Between Two Worlds
Year: 1985
Style: Alternative, Jangle, New Wave
Similar Bands: Aztec Camera, Trashcan Sinatras, Dramarama, The Alarm, Waterboys, Psychedelic Furs
One Word Review: Tedious Poetic Landscape Ramblings
Based Out Of: San Francisco, CA
Label: 415 Records, Columbia, CBS
 Between Two Worlds: Cover, Notes, Record
Between Two Worlds: Back, Liner Sleeve, Record
Between Two Worlds (1985)
  1. Last Perfect Thing 3:52
  2. Skills of Summer 4:03
  3. When She Was A Girl 4:29
  4. God on Our Side 4:29
  5. Love, Love 3:15 /
  6. I Will 4:21
  7. No Pretties 4:25
  8. The Ocean 4:05
  9. Two Persons 2:54
  10. Home 3:35
Album Rating (1-10): 6.5

Members & Other Bands:
Kurt Herr - Vox, Guitar (The Renegades)
Kevin Hunter Vox, Guitar (The Renegades, Snot Puppies, Sheryl Crow, Bellanova, Sad Affair, Billy Idol, Simple Minds )
Brian MacLeod - Drums & Breath (Sleepers, Sheryl Crow, Group 87, Toy Matinee, Scrantones, Pink, Bangles, Kaviar, Steel Dragon, Dramarama, Paul Westerberg, Rosanna Cash, Wolf & Wolf, Grace Slick, DiVinyls, Jefferson Starship, Dream Academy)
Anders Rundblad - Bass, Vox (The Renegades, Sheryl Crow, Gary T'To Band, Motvind, Andy Prieboy, Chuck Prophet)
Peter Paul Skrepek - Guitar (The Renegades)
Peter Maunu - Producer, Vox, Guitar, Keys (Bernie Krause, LA Express, Group 87, Mark Isham, Patrick O'Hearn)
Dodie Shoemaker - Artwork/Cover
Greg Calbi - Mastering
Trudy Fisher - Photography
Micharl Frondeli - Remix
Ron Macleod - Sampler
Irma Maunu Kocian - Production Coordinator

Unknown-ness: I've never heard of this band. But it looks like it will be terrible. I've never been a fan of the tedious looking, blurry album covers, that seem to evoke a meandering song style that is void of hooks, and just drones on for longer than each song should last. The songs are more about a melancholy atmosphere than actual energetic or exciting production. 1986 does nothing to stray my thinking otherwise. 

Album Review:  Wire Train was active from the mid 80’s through early 90’s, putting out 5 major-label albums worth of music, six if you count the rejected album they self-released. They had some localized popularity, and even had a song make it into the Point Break film. Many of the band members went on to form the backing back to Sheryl Crow, and the drummer was part of the music collective that performed the opening credits to the American Office TV show.

“Last Perfect Thing” jams right into it with a pounding drum. Anthemic guitars play in support, only to be subdued to landscape-jangle pop once the vocals begin. The vocals are poetic as they overlap the minimal jangly music, reminding me of a subdued John Easdale of Dramarama. The chorus is a little more dynamic, incorporating the anthemic guitars back into the melody.
“Skills of Summer” starts with a jangly guitar, and glides into the dreamy, synth soundscape. The vocals sound wind-blown, and still have a poetic cadence. The urgency is raised in the chorus, but does not come off as threatening or urgent. The song ends with a more urgent refrain of the title, sung in the round.
“When She Was A Girl” has echoing, cave dripping synth chimes to start out the song. The guitars also sound grandious, echoing in there meandering, jangly loops. The song tries to build some momentum in the bridge, but the chorus pauses to suck the life out of the song…but not necessarily in a bad way, but in a reflective way. The bass is mixed to the front of the song as the song fades out the instrumental ending.
“God on Our Side” is a Bob Dylan cover. It kicks in to form a steady, upbeat rock tempo, under-laid with the jangle guitars, sounding much like the Alarm and other landscape-rock bands.
“Love, Love” begins with an echoing power pop guitar hook, and a rocking drum beat. Although there is still an echoing behind the vocals, reminding me of the Psych Furs, it is a very straightforward progressive rock song. Nearing the end, the song feels like it winds down, shedding musical layers to become a limping, reflective section, but it changes direction quickly, back into the catchy chorus.

“I Will” begins with slow jangly guitar strums, and then soars off with guitars to landscape rock land. The chorus has a guitar sound and hook that is relevant in the emo scene from a few years back. The song has a nice build to it, which is capitalized in the chorus.
“No Pretties” starts with quiet, swirling synth, and then the lead guitar starts in with a sad, reflective section. The song is gloomy and dark, taking me back to a Psych Furs comparison.
“The Ocean” has the same gloomy elements, but is recorded with a driving pace. Sterile, crystal, synth notes echo beneath the verse. The chorus is very good, however, with the way a supporting vocal sings Our Tears, as if in the round, on top of the lead vocals. It has very good timing, and makes a fun, interesting melody even better. It reminds me a little of EMF, actually, when it comes to the style of breathy, emotional vocals.
“Two Persons” sounds a lot like a Graham Parker or Elvis Costello song, anxious nasally vocals, and a thumping bass and drum beat. The guitar even sounds like it could be Elvis. The instrumental breakdown is back to the anthemic guitar sound, but it can be forgiven since the rest of the song is a great, driving ball of energy. The vocals are rushed through, and sound like they are just tumbling out of the singer’s mouth.
“Home” slows things down to a high school slow dance. The jangly guitar consists of slow chords and a bit of a waltz tempo, with a little of the song “Hallelujah’s” melody in the bass. 

Stand Out Track: Two Persons


Friday, January 20, 2017

Volumatix - In The City

Name: Volumatic
Album: In The City
Year: 1984
Style: Power Pop, New Wave
Similar Bands: 1994, Sue Saad, Kim Wilde, Patty Smyth, Toyah, Genesis.
One Word Review: X-Files Jazz
Based Out Of: Los Angeles, CA
Label: Tropical Records, Enigma
 In The City - Cover, Lyrics, Record
In The City - Back, Lyrics, Record
In The City (1984)
  1. Perimeter 2:59
  2. Mixed Emotions 3:42
  3. In The City 3:09 (actually Livewire)
  4. Cost Of Living 3:24
  5. Livewire 2:36 (actually In The City)
  6. Drive Song 4:09/
  7. Young Girls In LA 2:43
  8. Wake Up and Dance 3:38
  9. Everything and Nothing 3:23
  10. Gravity 3:46
  11. Trashman 4:58
Album Rating (1-10): 6.5

Members & Other Bands:
Mark Avnet - Producer, Engineer, Producer
Joe Holmsely - Producer, Guitar, Synth, Sax, Flute, Vox
Lee Martin - Producer, Guitar, Keys
Jeff Stocki - Producer, Bass, Percussion, Guitar
Toby Davis - Drums Percussion
Kerry Brown - Vox
Ray Cook - Management
Ted Sweeny - Bass
Robby Krieger - Guitar
Dorian Gray - Cello
Dusty Wakeman - Additional Engineering
Stuart Schonwetter - Additional Engineering
Bobby Ginsberg - Additional Recording
Bill Wade - Additional Recording
Lisa Toby - Front Cover
Ed Colver - Back Cover & Liner
Steve Marcussen - Mastering
Heather Harris - Art Direction

Unknown-ness: I've never heard of this band, but I like the look of this album. The name, art design, and band photo stimulate a dark, futuristic, dystopian world, maybe a bit like blade runner. The music, I expect to be electronic, cold, and atmospheric, like the type of music that inspired the present day film Drive.

Album Review: Not much is out there about this band…found one of their older singles on Youtube, the album is mentioned as a footnote in a few band member’s discography, and one member has a brief memory recap about a song he wrote.

“Perimeter” begins with a drum roll and a synth track. But once the deep-ish female lead vocals start, it is obvious that the song is a pop-rock song, with synth as an accent, not as a main course. The song is bold and confident, following a simple catchy melody.
“Mixed Emotions” has a fast, driving drum beat. The synth is a little anxious, and the bass is dark, creating a somewhat jazzy, chaotic song, that actually reminds me a lot of Toyah. The song shifts gears for the chorus, and converges together for an accessible, bright, and hopeful melody. The vocals sound like they are classically trained, and in some sections, they are layered to create harmonies with themselves.
“In The City” driving and jittery is the way the song begins, but despite the track line up, I believe this is actually “LiveWire” since the chorus contains that lyric. The synth adds a depth to the bouncing bass and guitar melody, reining it in a little. The tone shifts to dark and anxious for the chorus.
“Cost Of Living” starts off with a jazzy prog rock element, reminding me of Brand X. It is all instrumental, and driving as it is urgent, like video game music.
“Livewire” is actually “In the City.” The song begins with a car driving up. The synth melody is very sinister and could put the listener on edge. It has a bit of a count Dracula feel to it, spooky and mesmerizing.
“Drive Song” continues with the dark synth elements and drums. The vocals range from deep crooning to growling. The song sounds bigger than a small club venue: I could only imagine it on a cold dance floor or cavernous venue. It has a bit of an X-Files vibe to it. There is a short spoken word section over jazzy instruments that give definition to Drive Song.

“Young Girls In LA” is a straight forward rock song, with synth elements in the beginning. The guitars soar and hook. The lyrics have a marching cadence, barely sung, just hanging on to the note changes in a sing-song fashion. The song builds well heading into the chorus: a cautionary reminder about the rough streets of LA. It sounds like the entire band picks up a line of lyrics as the song rises to the end.
“Wake Up and Dance” begins with a dancey drum beat and bouncy bass line, similar to Stevie Wonder’s “Part Time Lover.” There is a mechanical cadence to the chorus of the song, where the verse is much looser and groovy. Shining synth is added with a minute to go in the song. Pretty sure the song has male vocals.
“Everything and Nothing” begins with a jangly guitar beat, and is backed with arena rock guitars. The female vocals feel like they are trying to teach a lesson. The guitars soar in the instrumental sections, and are brought back down in time for the verses.
“Gravity” begins with twinkling space ship computer calibrations, and the song slowly grows. Then the dark bass line begins, driving the song to a bouncy dark wave song melody, alongside a dentist drill pitch synth. The song is quite theatrical, as it changes vocal tone often. The instrumental lines the drums, bass and synth up a little more, and it becomes quite dancey.
“Trashman” goes all in with the jazziness, with a synth sax, and a tempo setting piano: slumping broken-down  stumble. It too has a slight variant in styles, to make it theatrical as well.

Stand Out Track: Young Girls In LA

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