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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mad at the World - Flowers in the Rain

Band: Mad at the World
Album: Flowers in the Rain
Year: 1988
Style: Christian Synthpop / New Wave
Similar Bands: Depeche Mode, Ultravox, Morrissey, Howard Jones
"One-Word" Review: creepy-operatic-gay-vampire-metal
Based Out Of: Southern California
 Flowers in the Rain - Cover & Record
Flowers in the Rain - Back & Record

Flowers in the Rain (1988)

  1. "Fearfully And Wonderfully" – 3:51
  2. "Flowers In The Rain" – 4:16
  3. "Why" – 4:40
  4. "Puppet Strings" – 4:18
  5. "No Mistakes" – 3:20
  6. "Wait" – 3:34 /
  7. "I Don't Wanna Go There" – 3:11
  8. "Faith Is A Perfect Road" – 3:40
  9. "In My Dream" – 3:56
  10. "Lovelight In The Midnight" – 5:12
  11. "This Lie" – 3:32"
  12. "Dancing On Your Grave" – 5:57

Album Rating (1-10): 2.0

Members & Other Bands:
Roger Rose - Vocals, keyboards, guitars and drum programming
Randy Rose - Vocals, drum programming and electric bass (Rose, Mothership)
Mike Pendelton - Keyboards and electric guitar (Honky Mofos, Greg Jasperse)
Ray Rose - Acoustic guitar and electric bass

Unknown-ness: I’ve never heard of this band, but from their depressed name, and dismal album title, and their hair/clothings, I’m guessing it is some dark emo-new wave, even more sad and melancholy than the Cure. They look like the goth kids from South Park. I’d be surprised if it is anything but jaded synth new wave.

Album Review: Ok, they got me; turns out, this is Christian Rock played to the appeal of British dark new wave, or simply synth pop, minus the bouncy, jovial pop sound, plus a little extra metal. These are synth ballads used to get their various messages of god propaganda across. The only close give-a-way song title was “Faith is a Perfect Road.” Ugh.

"Fearfully And Wonderfully" starts off the album incredibly dated with an echoing drum intro and smooth, yet dark synth bass. The vocals are like that of a cartoon villain, fake British, perhaps a bit like Dracula. Already they start with the god stuff, saying how people are created as they are meant to be, all the while, the song had dark tones. The chorus and bridge do have catchy melodic hooks, which are hard to sing along to without smirking.
"Flowers In The Rain" features metal guitars that fit the metal scene of 1988. Again, the vocals are the same over the top, creepy old dude trying to sing like he’s from a 1880’s operatic British outfit. He’s hesitant in his singing pulling back at times to sound somewhat fay in contrast to the pseudo metal croon.
"Why" drops the evil dark tone, and is a story song about a bunch of people fighting sin. In this song, Roger sounds more comparable to Morrissey than anything else: vocals smoothly floating over the melody with the fake, over the top British accent. The tone is slight and peaceful, sounding like a Howard Jones song, minus the richness in Jones’ vocals. The end of the song features plucked violin strings and a falsetto challenge for Roger.
"Puppet Strings" starts out with some heavy metal riffs, and his vocals try to channel a deep, rich death metal sound, but fall short. The song just comes off as boring. Mid-song, Roger forgets the song’s style choice, and he lightly sings about jesus, which completely derails the momentum. There is a breakdown that has spoken word advert sound bites overlaid, which I imagine is supposed to seem political, but it is just cheesy.
"No Mistakes" is a piano ballad about a girl who was born as an unwanted pregnancy. Roger tries to validate her life with this touching crooning ballad, which again bears resemblance to Morrissey when he rolls the word “you” out over the symphonic musical background. The song fades out as he repeats the title of the track
"Wait" begins with a sinister organ, which might just be a normal church organ, but then the song actually picks up musical merit with a driving metal guitar melody. Then he tries his deep crooning style over the top, and the song becomes completely ruined. It seems like this is what metal singers should be like in his mind, but it is just a horrible, uncomplimentary style to…anything (I was going to limit it to the music, but really, anything paired is runined). Still, the music is descent and driving.

"I Don't Wanna Go There" creates a nice upbeat musical setting for his Morrissey styled lyrics, even the title could be a Morrissey song. The song is light and waif-like. It is piano based, and absent of any dark synth elements or metal guitars. In this song, he utters “Sex is a wonderful thing to share:” A sentiment that got them in trouble within the religious community for a song of there’s on a later album.
"Faith Is A Perfect Road" brings the vibe back to dark synth pop, combined with a grinding one-dimensional metal guitar. We are treated with his gay vampire vocals again. There are some shining musical moments, but overall, this is forgettable
“In My Dream" has a twinkinling cold synth effect at first, that transitions into an anti-angelic synth tone, and proceeds to devolve into a general sing-song melody supported synthpop song.
"Lovelight In The Midnight" is the musical equivalent of shaking up a can of faygo soda, and giving to someone else to open as a prank. It is a somewhat driving song, but it is all over the place, and actually kinda summarizes everything that they’ve presented on the album. It is metal guitars vs. the crooning dark vocals, plus some synth keyboards sprinkled on top like adding arsenic. It features a guitar solo, which is not really that bad. But it ends with a couple of guitar chords
"This Lie" oddly starts off with a munchkin-sung playground chant, adapted to pitch their own creepy message. The vocals don’t seem to fit over the music all that much until they hit the bridge. It is not too dark of a synth song, but his vocals still make it creepy, and you still can’t dance to it. All that said, it bears resemblance to Pet Shop Boys, unfortunately.
"Dancing On Your Grave" is just dark, cold and sparse. A frozen crystalline palace shattered with all the debris glittering painfully on the ground. Then you are running, thrust forward with driving drums and a guitar that chases you like the moon up in the sky. Ugh, then the sub-par Danzig vocals begin, and any sort of imagery is dissolved. I guess this is best described as a synth prog song.

Stand Out Track: There is no best track, but this one stood out: No Mistakes

Links:
Jesus Freak
 Hideout
Wiki
Homepage
Discogs
Down the Line Zine
Old Christian Music
Facebook

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Mod Caesars - Summer Of Love

Name: Mod Caesars
Album: Summer of Love
Year: 1985
Style: College Radio, Indie, Jangle-Pop
Similar Bands: Game Theory, Fabulous Fondas, Reagan Youth (TX), Dead Milkmen, Violent Femmes, Buddy Holly, Clash (light)
"One Word" Review: Buddy-Holly's-Goofy-Teen-Brother's-Punk-Band 
Based Out Of: Pearland TX
 Summer of Love - Album & Record
Summer Of Love - Back & Record

Summer Of Love (1985)
  1. Hitman 2:03
  2. Cindy 2:36
  3. Jesus Bought A Brand New Car 2:21
  4. Back to the Basics 1:54/
  5. Love is the Key 2:12
  6. Dear Abby 2:38
  7. Take A Ride With Me 3:32
Album Rating (1-10): 9.0

Members & Other Bands:
Howard Agnew - Vox, Keys, Trombone
David Ritter - Guitar, Vox
Tom Scloneaux - Bass, Vox
Mike Scranton - Drums, Vox
Gus Buzbee - Engineer
Jeff Welborn - Design
Trent Henley - Photography

Unknown-ness: I’ve never heard of these guys. This was one of the earlier albums I bought for this endeavour, and remember liking the pieced together artwork on the front, and the images on the back reminded me of the local band Fabulous Fondas. It just looks like they tried so hard that it turned out looking very amateurish and DIY indie. Plus their autographs are all on the back, so that was a plus right? This album was most likely bought at a show, or a friend of the band’s. The biggest selling point is the band picture in the bottom right corner: a very goofy mix of guys.

Album review:  Apparently, they came from the remains of a band called Reagan Youth- not the popular punk band from NYC, but another band with the same name in Texas. Their “big song” was Dear Abby, as they feature a video for it on their FB page.

“Hitman” starts of with a short hook of jangley guitars. The vocals are a jerky, nasally Buddy Holly sound. Also sounds like a less nasally Joe Jack Talcum from Dead Milkmen (and a little deeper), or like the singer from Pansy Division. But this is a nice short song that feels like the early Violent Femmes. It also features an odd upturn use of the singer’s voice when the title is sung, like he’s just hitting puberty.
“Cindy” is right up the line for a Buddy Holly song love song to a girl. The verbage is similar to the oldies; it speaks of innocent High School dreams and desires of going steady and popular jock competition. The twist is that the song changes direction with the same sentiment to a neighbor girl named Sherry. The song is guitar chords, strum-driven, and even the drums are tough to pick out in the background, as the guitar sounds percussive enough
“Jesus Bought A Brand New Car” begins with a church-like “Joy To The World” organ solo, which quickly breaks down into a simple yet nervous, somewhat surf-punk song (think “Tequilla”). It is steadily driving song, with a harmonic chorus of fa-la-la’s in the background. This one is a toe-tapping bouncy song. It ends with a couple extra organ notes
“Back to the Basics” is a spoken-sung song over the punk melody, and when it gets to the chorus, it reminds me of a very poppy Gang-Of-Four/less aggressive Clash chorus. The bass line is simple and really gives the song a dark, art-indie vibe.

“Love is the Key” is chanted to introduce the song. Yet another simple poppy, bouncy bass line follows, and the song feels a little like what I’d imagine Weird-Al’s honest take on punk would sound like. It has a nice flow to it, a little surfy too.
“Dear Abby” has a lot more energy at the get go, and right away, the phrase “Dear Abby: opunctuates each line of the verse with a harmony in the background. The lyrics are about as goofy as the letters that are sent in and published. The chorus asks Dear Abby to read and respond to the struggling singer’s problems that he sends in. Again, this feels like Weird Al’s concept song, similar to his Madonna cover of “Morning Star.” The singer and band have a great grasp on simple hooks and how to execute the simple chords and catchy melodies.
“Take A Ride With Me” is mostly driven by the power guitar chords. The bass is buried underneath inthis song more than usual. Then the chorus hits, somewhat suddenly, and it is all harmony and oldies song structure. In the instrumental, the guitar breaks it down, all the while being supported by the same “come on pretty baby, take a ride with me” backing melody. Really, it does not sound that much different from the rest of the songs, in fact I feel like you could insert many of the same lyrics over many of the songs. But in this song, as the last 45 seconds or so kick in, they lift up the harmonic chorus to a higher level, and really catch any wavering attention the listener might have had, and drive the hook home.

Stand Out Track: Back to the Basics

Links:
Houston TX

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

(the) Long Blondes - Giddy Stratospheres ep

Name: (the) Long Blondes
Album: Giddy Stratospheres ep
Year: 2005
Style: Indie Rock, Post-Punk, Updated Oldies
Similar Bands: Delta 5, Elastica, Franz Ferdinand, Pretenders, Pipettes
"One-Word" Review: Angular Cold Punk
Based Out Of: Sheffield, England
 Giddy Stratospheres ep - Cover & Record
 Giddy Stratospheres ep - Back & Record

Giddy Stratospheres ep (2005)
  1. Giddy Stratospheres 4:49
  2. Polly 2:48 /
  3. Autonomy Boy 3:31
  4. Darts 1:27

Album Rating (1-10): 9.5

Members & Other Bands:
Kate Jackson - Vox (Madame Ray)
Dorian Cox - Guitar, Keys (Unmade Bed)
Reenie (Kathryn) Hollis - Bass, Vox (The Bon Bon Club, Nature Set)
Emma Chaplin - Guitar, Keys, Vox
Screech (Mark Turvey) Louder - Drums (The Bon Bon Club)

Unknown-ness: I’ve never heard of this band…at least I don’t think so…I can’t recall ever hearing them. But this EP looks very cool, and is basically an EP wrapped in a plastic bag. I like the silkscreened print on the bag, and the record itself looks very DIY with a stamp of the tracks and other info added in red, faded ink. As for the type of music, I’m imagining, from the artwork and name, garage psychedelic music. It looks like it is trying to capture an oldies aesthetic, while updating the look with a lot of angles and a basic color scheme.

Album Review: “Giddy Stratospheres” starts off with hand claps that designate a marching rhythm. The angular guitars come up sounding like something from Franz Ferdinand. The musical bridge kicks the FF style up a notch with smooth crooning deep female vocals. Overall, it sounds like a Delta 5 song post-punk: a female Gang Of Four. But the real hook of the song lies after two verse sections, the Pretenders-style, emotional repetition of the title in the true chorus. There are so many small sections of the song, it is barely recognized when they add an extra call-and response section with a background of females asking questions the lead answers after the chorus, and a harmonized ending breakdown that flows seamlessly into the chorus for an extra repeat. And it ends with the ringing guitar on an off-pitch note.
“Polly” sounds like an oldie pop song; a side-to side swaying country/doo-wop song, like the sort of genre that She & Him have since capitalized from. Think the Ronettes or a slower Pipettes

“Autonomy Boy” is another angular song, with call-and-response guitars, and a quiet hushed deep female vocals, similar to Elastica. But it is still most like the Delta 5. It flows with its own percussive tempo driving it along constantly. The vocals in the chorus are layered giving it a more powerful impact. There are sections in the instrumental with guitar fuzz and feedback, giving it a very DIY, post-punk feel, accompanying the somewhat monotone, deep vocals that follows an alarm like melody, which becomes obvious when the song comes to a ringing conclusion
“Darts” is another playful post punk guitar melody, reminding me of Mika Miko. It features more sing song vocal melodies, and is very angular guitars as the song builds toward the end of the song. Overall, a great bit of performance energy.

I can’t really pick out a stand out track, because these are all excellent songs, all of which capture a slightly different aspect of the band. Polly is probably the most distinctively different song on the EP, but I think I prefer Darts.

Stand-Out Track: Polly
Darts

Links:
Album WIki
Band Wiki
A Charts
Drowned In Sound
The Guardian review
BBC
Pitchfork
Allmusic
Interpunk
raditaz

Friday, November 8, 2013

Clocks - s/t

Band: Clocks
Album: s/t
Year: 1982
Style: New Wave, Power Pop, AOR Rock
Similar Bands: A's, Cheap Trick, Rick Springfield, Knack, Romantics, Cars, J Geils Band
"One-Word" Review: Solid-Power-Rock
Based Out Of: Wichita, Kansas
 Clocks - Cover, Lyrics, Record
Clocks - Back, Lyrics, Record
Clocks (1982)

  1. She Looks A Lot Like You 2:35
  2. Here They Come 3:34
  3. Nineteen 3:44
  4. Without You 3:56
  5. Nobody's Fool 4:38 /
  6. When She Puts you Down 4:22
  7. Someone (Not Me) 4:39
  8. When Will I See You Again 2:46
  9. Summer 2:59
  10. Feeling This Way 2:56
Album Rating (1-10): 8.5

Members & Other Bands: 
Mike Flicker - Producer, Engineer, Mixing (Heart)
Jerry Sumner - Vox, Bass, guitar
Lance Threet - Guitar
Gerald Graves - Keys
Steve Swain - Drums, Harmony Vox
John Lykes - Illustration
Randee St. Nicholas - Photography
Rolf Henneman - Engineer, Mixing
Gregory Fulginiti - Mastering
Mike McRoberts - Prophet 5 Programming
Stan Plesser - Managment
Paul Peterson - Managment
 

Unknown-ness: I've not heard of this band before, and I really don’t know what to expect. It has a real 80’s deco look to it, yet it reminds me of the John Entwistle album cover. I feel like it is going to be an interesting power pop or new wave album just from the crisp lines on the front art work and the band photo on the back. The tar/oil ooze under the door also offers little unveiling of what it in store, except to expect the unexpected. I do like that the band simply put their name all lit up, where a lit up clock might be in the hotel room scenario.

Album Review: “She Looks A Lot Like You” was apparently their big song, even airing often on MTV, and written by the drummer while on tour in Canada about some girl who looked like an Ex of his. It begins with a heavy and powerful guitar chords, and is amplified by some zoomy keyboard effects. The song is sung in a bold and confident way, like the A’s second album. It is perfectly constructed radio friendly pop song, clocking in at the perfect single length. The sentiment is similar to the J Geils Band’s Centerfold
“Here They Come” starts off chugging along at a steady, shuffling uphill pace until it unleashes the building energy in the downhill chorus. The synth twinkling underneath is probably added because that’s what all the kids were doing at that time, but it really works. The instrumental offers a solid guitar solo before returning to the verse melody. The end features a nice reprise of the title’s melody.
“Nineteen” is a jittery nervous, and deeper sounding song. It makes the singer sound a little sleazy, but the song drives nicely, employs standard 80’s synth in the instrumental section, and always comes back to the dark, driving anxious melody and fast bouncy bass. There is frustration in the singer’s layered vocal performance, and the final section changes up the melody as an alarm-ish repetitive two note low to high accent on the syllables of Nine-Teen: just the perfect way to end it, like Elvis Costello’s “Accidents Will Happen” darker and in reverse melody.
“Without You” starts out seeming like it might be the album’s ballad, but by the time it hits the lengthy bridge/chorus, it is all power pop with guitars and a sturdy drum beat. The breakdown after two repetitions is uncharacteristically to the song, bouncy and piano-poppy. But it fits in as a variation of the melody. The music breaks down for the last minute and transforms into something spacey and futuristic, similar to Thomas Dolby or Gary Numan.
“Nobody's Fool” feels like a Bryan Adams song at first. Then it transforms to an exact copy of The A’s. It employs my favorite writing technique: building up to an expected delivery/or release of emotion, but it holds off for the real delivery after the second repetition. The song is very familiar with the hook it has created, and the second half of the song is all repetition of this killer melody, which breaks down into a guitar solo to end the track. It is up there with the most definitive of power-pop songs

“When She Puts you Down” has a very “Best Friend’s Girl” vibe to it. At any moment, they are going to say “Here she comes again.” The song employs a Van Halen “Jump” synth sound in the background. The harmonies of the chorus hammer the power pop genre home. It is just well done, formulaic, catchy song writing. They waste not one second, coming out of the guitar led instrumental into the catchiest part of the song, the bridge, ending in a reprise of the song title, looped and echoed with “It’s Gonna Hurt.”
“Someone (Not Me)” has wailing, sorrow full electric guitars at the intro, and a cool and collected vocal sings to the listener, and he is supported by a well-harmonized backing effort. Again this feels like another A’s song. Even as their ballad, this song still has a lot of punch and energy to it. The song changes gear about halfway through and switching the up front, vocal melody, to a more desperate and focused approach, and repeats it for the rest of the song, allowing the guitars and instruments replace the vocals.
“When Will I See You Again” sounds like it might be a cover of a doo-wop song, like something the Supremes might sing, with its starting bass notes, and drum kick rhythmic tempo. It maintains the general girl-group doo-wop formula, but it uses guitars, a bouncy piano section and power pop elements updating the sound.
“Summer” has a pub-rock feel to it as it begins, it is simpler, greasier and gritter thanks to the three note guitar melody and the simple kick drum rhythm. The voice has a slightly Foreigner, wavering sound to it. Compared to the rest of the album, this is probably the simplest song. But it is still well done, and ends with a “to be continued” feeling note, like summer’s not really over.
“Feeling This Way” has a galloping drum and guitar beat driving the song. The instrumental has a very loud synth keyboard that sounds more royal than spacey, but it still is trying to enter them into the new wave genre; such a fine line between power pop and new wave.

Stand Out Track: Nineteen

Links:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Drunk - To Corner Wounds

Name: Drunk
Album: To Corner Wounds
Year: 1998
Style: Minimal Indie Folk
Similar Band: Smog, Sparklehorse, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, World/Inferno & Ween Slow stuff.
"One-Word" Review: Rustic-Frozen-Somber-Folk
Based Out Of: Richmond, VA
 To Corner Wounds - Cover, Liner Notes, Record, JagJagwuar Insert
 To Corner Wounds - Back, Liner Notes, Record, JagJagwuar Insert

To Corner Wounds (1998)

  1. Carved Slope 2:35
  2. Council's Lawn 4:29
  3. Andrei Rublev 5:19
  4. The Peeled Birch 2:17
  5. Epoxy 2:56
  6. As We Go Down Together 1:48/
  7. The Bark of My Body 3:03
  8. Spit 3:27
  9. Rake 5:55
  10. Bonitov 3:27
  11. Montana Delight 1:26
  12. Cold Eel 1917 2:51
Album Rating (1-10): 5.0

Members & Other Bands:
Rick Alverson - Vox, Guitar (Manishevitz, Spokane)
Via Nuon - Guitars, Bass, Slide, Banjo, Vox (Manishevitz, Bevel, Spokane)
J.T. Yost - Accordion, Piano, Harmonica, Magnus Organ
Russel Cook - Drums
Clancy Fraher - Producer, Engineer, Mixing, Cicadas, Bass, Vox, Tape DJ, Slide
Brent Lambert - Mastering
Cal Gardner - Clarinet
Steve Pletch - Drums
Joe Nio - Violin
Mr. Blasco - Flute
Bill Russel - Wurlitzer Organ
Kendra Feather - Vox
Patrick Kavanagh - Pennywhistle

Unknown-ness: I've never heard of this band. Picked up the record in a dollar band in a hipsterry record store. From the look of the record, I imagine it to be some sort of acquired taste, snotty chamber pop. But then again, they have a counter stuck-up name, Drunk. So I still think it will be ambiently modest in production, but might not be as pretentious as I’d imagine from the front & back old-timey artwork.

Album Review: “Carved Slope” starts with a lullaby of guitar and bass, with a cicada chirp in the background that fades in and out, giving the sense of nighttime out in a woodsy summer night. It feels like a somewhat progressive Ween song…like it might break into “right to the ways and the rules of the world”
“Council's Lawn” starts with a deepish, nasally vocal that sounds to be on live support. The slightly medieval musical accompaniment is dark, slow and steady with some woodwinds bringing a sad refrain. The instrumental end of the song is like an eastern European, Russian or Yiddish dance number.
“Andrei Rublev” also begins with sad, somber and quiet guitars. The same wavering vocals then begin in short phrased segments. I do get a similarity to a broken down, minimal slow World Inferno Friendship Society song. The strings come to the front of the song with an Irish style melody for a short segment. The song remains interesting the whole time, despite its lack of energy. It features many musical changes and melodies that keep it fresh.
“The Peeled Birch” with its plucked strings, and addition of organ bring the somber and rustic melody to life. It has a very rural country feel to it, as if it were the background music for a carriage ride from farm to farm on a bleak, cold, overcast day.
“Epoxy” continues the same sentiment, as if the album is one long, wintery, bleak track. The plucked string are like pin-pricks of cold. The flute paints a picture of a single human huddled for warmth playing in isolation.
“As We Go Down Together” begins with a single organ note and is already more upbeat than the rest of the album. The keyboard plays a looping melody that has some Welsh characteristics and is uplifting, even with the static found sound vocal track underneath, like samples of audio while flipping through tv stations. Thus, without vocals, it is basically an instrumental track.

“The Bark of My Body” begins side two with the slow, plodding tempo of near frozen joints trying to move but stumbling. The static vocals are layered underneath, and the Harmonica carries the supporting melody.
“Spit” contains the same fragile vocals we’ve had the whole time, but this time, they are “harmonized” by a second vocal. The side to side swaying is not as bleak as the rest of the album, but still does not posess any energy. This is an album to fall asleep to.
“Rake” has an eerie, wispy start, and blossums into a slowly building melody. This song really reminds me of something Ween would do, like the Argus mixed with Cold Blows the Wind. Half way through the song, the recorder/flute is brought in to accompany the melody, giving the song an Irish and Asian feel simotaniously. The melody is then replaced by a harmonica, and the rustic, mid west feeling is back. It is a melody that could repeat forever, but at one point it just ends and is bookended with the same eerie effects from the beginning.
“Bonitov” does noting to change the album’s mood, except its melody is carried along with a plucked banjo. The song has a bounce to it that is barely detectable, but I could hear this being the background to a slow & tedious Man Man song.
“Montana Delight” is a somewhat upbeat country and western song. It is a true campfire, jugband western song, rather than an awful radio developed twang monstrosity. But the song still carries an dark underbelly, mainly thanks to the fragile vocals.
“Cold Eel 1917” ends the album with the general album vibe of minimal slow, somber countryside funeral music. Like an old tyme funeral, the music does become more jovial, to celebrate life rather than just morn the loss of it. This song captures both excited and sad tones as the album comes to a close, making it representative for the entire album.


Links:
Jagjaguwar

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

(the) Howards - Pretty/Ugly

Name: (the) Howards
Album: Pretty/Ugly
Year: 1994
Style: Rock, Ska, Jazzy Blues
Similar Acts: Fabulous Fondas, Primus, Mr. Bungle, Captain Beefheart, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Sublime
One Word Review: Ska-Varients
Based Out Of: Chicago, IL
 Ugly Cover & Liner Notes
Pretty Cover, Record
Pretty/Ugly (1994)

  1. Gulag 2:29
  2. Big Foot 3:15
  3. Creepy Creepy 4:28/
  4. Break Even 3:52
  5. Frankie Machine Garden 4:27
Album Rating (1-10): 5.5

Members & Other Bands:
Matt Berglind - Vox, Guitar, Trumpet
Mike Lesch -Bass, Vox
Timely Dave Winer - Trumpet, Guitar, Vox, Harmonica
Jim Castillo - Guitars, Vox
Keith Houghteling - Drums, Vox
Dave Smith - Sax
Jeff Nolan - Producer
Mike Hagler - Engineer
David Trumfio - Engineer
Art Shay - Cover Photos
Greg Sudds - Photography
Deidra Castillo - "Cover girl"

Unknown-ness:  I’ve never heard of the Howards, but it seemed like an interesting enough $1 record to pick up in Princeton on record store day. I liked the juxtaposition and use of pretty ugly on opposite sides, and as a full term to perhaps describe the band. As this band is a small time band based in Chicago (popularity might have been big there), it could really be anything, especially from 1994. My guess is a band of snotty white kids playing what they perceive as punk.

Album Review: “Gulag” is a driving kick drum led instrumental song that is quickly followed up with a funky and fun surf guitar & bass combo. It feels like something that would lead off a Robert Rodriguez or Tarantino intro credit sequence back in the mid 90’s.
“Big Foot” begins with spoken word sound clips and quickly evolves into a surf-ska, trumpet based romp. The lyrics are barely sung, but are more chanted in a wacky & nasally, yet slightly angry voice. I can hear some of the early Mr. Bungle influence here. The chorus of background chants “I’ll Be Alright” in a nice melodic echo popular of the big band ska bands.
“Creepy Creepy” has a very Primus-like introduction, with a bouncy, western down scale bass line. The vocals nervously follow the melody at first, and burst through the swing-revival-ska with a bold, powerful chorus. It then repeats over again for round two: verse and explode to a fast bar brawl and swing section, spinning out of control until the verse quiets down and deviously takes over. The song finishes out in a sci-fi surf style bass groove that basically counts us out of the song.

“Break Even” is a poppy ska song, with more Come On Eileen and Bosstones spirit than anything wacky or complex. Even the vocals are deeper and stereotypically a harmonized group-shout. That does not take away from the song’s solid composition and smart & simple style. If you listen too hard, though, you do pick up elements that were popularized by the likes of Hootie & The Blowfish or Blues Traveller. Overall, the song is very anthemic. (Unfortuantely the song skips once or twice, and was recorded from vinyl at too high a volume to sound crisp & clear)
Frankie Machine Garden” starts with a ska-pop-punk swagger in the beginning, and quickly identifies itself as smooth Ska, that sounds a little like Sublime’s more palatable material. At 1:45 a voice that is trying very very hard to sound like the bosstones takes over for a verse, but gives up quickly and the smooth crooning voice takes the reigns back.

Overall the album had potential, but squandered it by trying to be too mainstream, hitting all the genre stereotypes. This would have been a much better, and might have weathered the years better, had they tried to expand on the Creepy Creepy sound, and not try to cover the well tread ground. 

Stand Out Track: "Break Even"

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Manuel Gottsching - E2-E4

Name: Manuel Gottsching
Album: E2-E4
Year: 1984
Style: Electronic, Ambient (Kosmische Musik)
Similar Bands: Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream, Klause Schulze, Kraftwerk, Ghostwriters, Close Encounters Alien Contact.
"One-Word" Review: ambient s.t.u.n. runner on a beach
Based Out Of: Berlin, Germany
 E2-E4 Cover & Record
E2-E4 Back & Record
E2-E4(1984) [English translations]

  1. Quiet Nervousness 13:00
  2. Moderate Start 10:00
  3. And Central Game 7:00
  4. Promise 6:00
  5. Queen a Pawn 5:00
  6. Glorious Fight 3:00
  7. H.R.H. Retreats (With A Swing) 9:00
  8. And Sovereignty 3:00
  9. Draw 3:00
Album Rating (1-10): 5.0 (mainly for it's importance and influence)

Members & Other Bands
Manuel Gottsching - Composer, Electronics, Guitars, Producer (Ash Ra Tempel, Ashra, Cosmic Jokers)
Dirk Tragesar - Artwork
Klaus Schulze - Licence 

Unknown-ness: I’ve never heard of or seen this record. But just from its minimalist artwork, I could imagine it to be something interesting and experimental. I didn’t have much else to go by, but it was enough to pick it up for a dollar.

Album Review: After doing some minor research, I found out that this record built the groundwork for ambient, techno, and house music of the late 80’s. It was a favorite amongst the likes of LCD soundsystem, who designed their 2006 album after this. The album flows along non-stop, basically as one track, and the songs are based on stages of the songs.

“Quiet Nervousness 13:00” quietly fades up and establishes the echoing 6 note repetitive electronic hook. The song is slowly builds block by block. Watery boings and fluid ping effects bounce back and forth as a call and response as the next building block for the total soundscape. A drum beat is phased into the background that is part conga and part shuffle-shaker. Around the 3:00 mark, a bouncy synth rubber band effect adds a random, chaotic feel to the steady rhythm. Thirty seconds later, a varying higher pitch pulse follows up with another planed-yet-random melody. A complimentary, lower-pitched echoing keyboard effect is added soon after. The complete sound, much like a streamlined track from the Ghostwriters, is a very ethereal, repetitive sonic equivalent of running down a tube-shaped hallway lit by a strobe. The effects are stripped away, in opposite order, until it gets down to the original 3-4 effects. Then the jittery, higher-pitched keyboard comes back. The drum beat shuffles a bit more at the end, and then the song transitions into the next song,
“Moderate Start 23:00” drops the frequency and volume of the call & response watery, fluid, echoing pings down to a minimum, and hosts the jittery and computer bips and bops at the forefront. The same drum and 6-note hook lie in the background, propelling the song along. Eventually the spot lit effects tire, and we’re brought back to a steady soundscape similar to the first track. 18:45 takes us back to the beginning of this track with the “Close Encounters” style notes popping in controlled chaos as the focal point. At 21:50 what sounds like squeaky shoes, or a racket ball on glass sound is added in a musical scale. A lot of these effects remind me of Atari Game sound effects, like when you die in Indiana Jones, that one pops up near the end of this segment, and probably introduces the next stage.
“And Central Game 30:00” incorporates a very high pitch flute-like effect that parallel’s the prime melody of the song, not detracting at all. The pings are louder, but have been for a long enough time, and have come back more frequently. But they are suddenly cut off by the synth effects that bolster the flute, which now come in a solid sonic wave. They soon blend together making one solid sound.  
“Promise 36:00” is only differentiated by a low volume, humming and warm synth texture. Otherwise, one would hardly noticed anything has changed. The sound is replaced by an echoing electric guitar, plucked one note at a time, with a bit of slide action. The melody greatly mimics the ever present stable rhythm and tempo. The guitar sound reminds me of some “good” house and dance music from the late 90’s. There is some “Santana” type guitar work, with its plucked, Spanish guitar sound, played at simplistic speed. The guitar work ends about 35 minutes for a brief pause, and comes back at first in short minimal doses. It builds to a minor intensity, which probably signifys the next track
“Queen a Pawn 41:00” is noted as a dual, 2-layered guitar segment. The tinkling guitar work is coupled with a deeper, secondary rhythm section for a couple short bars in the beginning, and the main guitar sets forth, driving the song with a faster, and more intense drive, also scanning the spectrum of high to low pitch, and at 39 minutes includes a bunch of strummed chords paralleling the original melody, and the tinkling guitar which sounds mighty close to a synth effect is layered overtop in pin prick accuracy. The tinkling and chord strums have become the focus of the track at this point.
“Glorious Fight 44:00” brings an ocean wave as the changing point, and is followed with a deeper, bass like accompaniment to the strummed chords that quietly echos behind the main riff. The echoing, watery pings return from the beginning of the album, and the formerly rhythmic chords now overlap in a hurried and forced manner. A note-by-note solo guitar is layered overtop of everything absorbing the attention.
“H.R.H. Retreats (With A Swing) 53:00” finds the guitar work in a lower, deeper frequency, yet is still as entergetic as before. The other elements are hushed in the background, but they are all still there. The whole background feels like it is back off in the distance, like we’ve travelled along a beach, away from the beginning of a song, walking along this electric guitarist who begins to bring the playing out of the lower frequency and all over the place, but well in control. The guitar finds a couple of favorite notes around the 49 min mark, and hovers with a repetitive motion around them. I can still hear the Atari Indiana Jones’ death sound repeat in the background.
“And Sovereignty 56:00” removes many of the background eccentricities and focuses on the guitar work in a simplified melody now. The driving synths in the background still persist, but that, and some minor drum machine sounds are all that remain of the underlying tempo.
“Draw 59:00” for the remainder of the track, we’ve left the electric guitar behind in the path, and now travel forward with a smoothed out backing synth, ocean tide foaming up and reaching the shore and retreating out, and an island drum loop: all present from the beginning of the track, just noe slowing down and becoming simplified. The drums are stripped away and the static from the ocean sounds persists over a dying melody that sputters rather than grooves, and just fades away, just leaving white noise for the last 20 seconds or so.

Stand Out Track: One track...in its entirety

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