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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 (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
Ken Kessie - Engineer
Greg Calbi - Mastering
Trudy Fisher - Photography
Micharl Frondeli - Remix
Ron Macleod - Sampler

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

Links:

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
 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
Joe Holmsely - Producer
Lee Martin - Producer
Jeff Stocki - Producer, Bass, Percussion, Guitar
Ray Cook - Management
Ted Sweeny - Bass

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

Links:
discogs
Amazon
Rate Your Music
Reverbnation
Jeff Stocki.com
Last FM
Ted Sweeny page

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Voice of the Beehive - Let It Bee

Name: Voice of the Beehive
Album: Let it Bee
Year: 1988
Style: Pop
Similar Bands: Go-Go's, Bangles, Darling Buds, Primitives
One-Word Review: Bubbly Quirk-Pop
Based Out Of: London, UK
Label: London
 Let It Bee - Cover, Lyrics, Record
Let It Bee - Back, Notes, Record
Let It Bee(1988)
  1. Beat of Love 4:04
  2. Sorrow Floats 4:18
  3. Don't Call Me Baby 3:08
  4. Man in the Moon 3:17
  5. What You Have is Enough 2:41
  6. Oh Love 2:58 /
  7. I Walk The Earth 3:42
  8. Trust Me 3:19
  9. I Say Nothing 3:27
  10. Barbarian In the Back of My Car 2:43
  11. Just A City 4:13
Album Rating (1-10): 8.0

Members & Other Bands:
Tracey Byrn - Vox, Guitar (Bill Drummond, Brad Is Sex, The Bomb Party)
Melissa Brooke Belland - Vox, (Bill Drummond, The Bomb Party)
Mike Jones - Guitar, Vox, Keys, Programming (Moths, Xenon, Wallflowers, Cliffs, Brad Is Sex, Clientele, Dark Globe, NIk Turner, The Hit Men, Blood Necklace)
Martin Brett- Bass, Piano (I, Ludicrous, Rosemary)
Daniel Woodgate - Drums, Percussion, Programming (Madness, Bloodsport, Strawberry Switchblade, )
Hugh Jones - Producer, Mixing
Peter Collins - Producer
Vivid ID - Art Direction
Jerry Lee - Artwork
Dave Swarbrick - Fiddle (Fairpoint Convention, Whippersnapper, Ian Campbell Folk Group)
Kick Horns - Horns (James, Erasure, a-ha, Jimmy Somerville, Mighty Lemon Drops)
Heinrick - Keys
Marvin Etzioni - Mandolin, Piano, Producer (Lone Justice, The Satellites Four, Randall Kennedy, Counting Crows, Dixie Chicks)
Jimbo Barton - Mixing
Nick Launay - Mixing
Nigel Green - Mixing
Mike Owen - Photography

Unknown-ness: Picked this up (along with the Popguns album) in an Oxfam charity shop in London. From the initial reaction of the artwork, it looks like it could be anything from psychedelic dance like Dee-Lite to alt-glam like the Soup Dragons.Honest evaluation is that it will be far less interesting than either of those likenesses.

Album Review: The Voice of the Beehive is made of two sisters from California, daughters of one of the singers from The Four Preps. But it was not until they moved to London that they crashed the music scene. Being joined in their first incarnation with two members from Madness, they found surprise demo success and quickly joined a major label. It only really lasted for two albums, as the third found the band paired down to just the sisters. Also turns out that Andy Partridge helped write a song from their final album in 1996, so there’s that.

“Beat of Love” is a bit of a wirey stopmer at the beginning, with guitars that ring out, and a fast, sing-song paced lyrics that are basically spoken at a rhythmic pace. The lyrics roll right off the tongue. The chorus slows the lyric delivery down, and finds the ladies harmonizing. Little effects and sonic elements are added into the mix, but the beauty of the song finds two catchy styles blended together to form a rewarding pop song.
 “Sorrow Floats” is a slow, swaying ballad. It reminds me of Belly a little from the beginning sleepy guitar sound. The vocals still carry a rhythmic pace, but it is not as fast paced as the opener. It does, however, follow a similar format, where the bridge could be a chorus, but the chorus itself is slowed down in the delivery, not exactly fitting in with the tempo of the rest of the song – in a good way. A rocking out electric guitar picks up right at the end, as the song fades out.
“Don't Call Me Baby” was a single. It begins with a simple kick drum, and adds jangly guitar, making it fit right in with the Bangles catalogue. Not an energetic go-go’s song, but not a slow sleepy song. The bridge into the chorus is where the energy is found. The chorus, which also acts as the verse feels like an oldies melody, or something the short lived US band The Like (or the Pipettes) might have performed.  
“Man in the Moon” was a UK single. It is a quirky, bordering on lyrically-embarrassing song that also starts off similar to a Belly song. It is a love ballad to the moon, and the qualities it possesses. The song feels like a peaceful and acoustic midnight canoe outing on a sleepy lake. Strings help out with the gentle relaxing, gliding melody.
“What You Have is Enough” is a fast pace, na-na-na-na song that, like the first track, seems to roll right off of the singer’s tongues. The sisters share singing duties, often moving to overtake, harmonize and solo at all the right times. The song keeps changing in that aspect in the first verse, but they join up by the chorus and rest of the song. The song continues at a driving pace, only relaxing on the dense sound with a dreamy section that moves at the same pace. The song relies on the “na-na-na” mocking tone for the ending of the song, but it feels like it ends much too quick.
“Oh Love” is another swaying ballad, this one sounding more acoustic and upbeat than “Sorrow Floats.” The song, drunk on love, stumbles along at a waltzing pace. The mandolin sets the tone for the mood that the song offers. This could probably be covered quite well by Jenny Lewis in today’s musical world.

“I Walk The Earth” begins with a bunch of overlaid harmonizing vocals. The song then takes off, with a bit of a rock and roll edge not seen previously on the record. By the time the chorus kicks in, the song presents its true hook, which reminds me a lot of what the band Bleached is currently doing.
“Trust Me” has a bit of an “I Want Candy” start. That comparison continues through the sing-song spoken vocals in the verse. The song kicks in at the bridge into the chorus, with a stomping drum beat, and a cut off right before it reaches the chorus…making this a very good potential build-delivery song. The second bridge kind of fizzles out into a plateau, and does not deliver on the build-up. But really, the bridge is catchy enough to sell the song.
“I Say Nothing” was a single. It is a jangly song that starts off with a kicking drum intro. The vocals again feel like they are trying to emulate Belinda Carlisle. I guess they made the singles to be void of the quirky nature the rest of the album has…this and “Don’t Call Me Baby” are covered in radio shine. Still, it is a solid song, with good build up to the chorus. The break down creates the perfect amount of anticipation for the song to break into the familiar instrumental melody.
“Barbarian In the Back of My Car” was played in LA radio station KROQ. This song also has some moderately embarrassing lyrics. It starts with a chugging guitar, which emulates a car engine. The vocals are sung/spoken in rapid fashion as they do, perhaps a little like Joan Jett. The chorus hits with a very simple three chord melody, but is very catchy. They actually edited their own lyrics, as there is an audible bleep in the “barbarian’s” quote saying I’ll f*ck you later, just get me to the bar.” Very unexpected from the na├»ve veneer they have created up to this point.
“Just A City” was also a single. It is a slow dance. The swaying 1-2-3 cadence would be great for a last middle school dance. 

Stand Out Track: What You Have is Enough

Links:
Wiki
Discogs
Allmusic
Tripod history
Yinpop

(the) Swimming Pool Q's - Blue Tomorrow

Name: The Swimming Pool Q's
Album: Blue Tomorrow
Year: 1986
Style: Jangle Pop, Folk
Similar Bands: Let's Active, Bongos, dB's, Shakespears Sister. Frank Black
One Word Review: Celestial Twang
Based Out Of: Atlanta GA
Label: A&M
 Blue Tomorrow - Cover, Sleeve & Record
Blue Tomorrow - Back, Lyrics, Record
Blue Tomorrow (1986)
  1. Now I'm Talking About Now 3:59
  2. She's Lookin' Real Good 4:21
  3. Pretty on the Inside 2:56
  4. Laredo Radio 3:52
  5. Wreck Around 4:30/
  6. More Than One Heaven 3:39
  7. Corruption 4:33
  8. Blue Tomorrow 3:58
  9. A Dream In Gray 3:40
  10. Big Fat Tractor 3:32
Album Rating (1-10): 5.5

Members & Other Bands:
Billy Burton - Drums (Coolies)
Bob Elsey - Guitar (Kevin Kinney)
Jeff Calder - Vox, Guitar, Sax, Theremin (Supreme Court, Glenn Phillips, Hot Place, Amazing Journey, Girls, Guns and Glory)
J.E. Garnetts - Bass (Atlanta Rhythm Section)
Anne Richmond Boston - Vox Keys, Art Direction (Marti Jones, Face to Face, Widespread Panic, Supreme Court, Drive By Truckers)
Greg Q Quesnel - Engineer
Scott Harmon - Asst. Engineer
Donal Jones - Asst. Engineer
Ron Christopher - Mix Engineer
Dennis Blackham - Mastering
Howie Weinstein - Mastering
Charlie Brusco - Direction
Jeff Gold - Art Direction
Richard Frankel - Art Direction
Douglas Brian Martin - Design
Britian Hill - Photographer
Karin - Stylist

Unknown-ness: I feel like I may have heard of this band, but as to their musical style, I do not know for sure. I can guess, with the sillyish name, year of '86, font and fashion choices, that this may not be too enjoyable. It looks like it may be overly complex, and very dated to the mid 80's pastel and jangley yet meandering production. The ponies per person does not really help, but gives it a folksy feel.

Album Review: The Swimming Pool Q’s, name taken from the phrase “swinging pool cues” in a novel, were a new wave band in the Atlanta area in the early 80’s. Often lumped into the Athens scene of the B-52’s, REM and Pylon, they were still a very different band. As the token new wave band, they often opened for bands that came through town like Devo, Klaus Nomi, The Police and Lou Reed. They released 4 albums in the early part of their career, and then reformed and released a fifth album in 2003. They even used Kickstarter to remaster and reissue their earlier albums.

“Now I'm Talking About Now” starts the album on a celestial cloud of sorts. A soaring, trumpeting synth hook repeats, as if beckoning a new king. The song continues down the renaissance path, with some Indigo Girls vocals, and come echoing percussion (think- Tom Petty’s “Don’t Come Around Here No More”). The instrumental section offers a spotlight to the electric guitar, which continues to soar and dip in the background under the vocals. The angelic harmonies toward the end of the song only enhance the lofty vibe the song emits.
“She's Lookin' Real Good” pulses with a bass beat as it begins, and jangly guitars play with percussion clicks. The song is led with male vocals, and has a bit of a bluesy, country twang to the delivery, particularly with the echoing vocals. Some of the vocals lines end with Frank Black’s style of execution.
“Pretty on the Inside” transitions back to a lofty, celestial scene, placed on the back of the lead vocals, and toe taping, non-threatening music. The guitar solo soars, but does not detract from the flowing, meandering melody.
“Laredo Radio” is a definition of Alt-Country, with its rural guitar, and slightly gruff male vocals. The song feels like generic background music. The surf guitar instrumental does breathe a little life into the song, but it is far too brief, and the song transgresses to its tedious melody far too quickly. The chorus tries to build up, but it does not have any teeth to make it memorable.
“Wreck Around” begins like it is entering a dream state, with methodic bass notes over a jangly guitar loop. The flip flopping shared vocal duties takes us back to the haunting female vocals. The song has a Fleetwood Mac feel to it (as far as my uneducated impression of them goes).

“More Than One Heaven” is a nice break in the meandering melodies, and presents one true fun, bouncy, pop song. The hooks are short, and full of energy, as does the echoing drums and steady, driving tempo. The vocal melody is a rollicking, fun to follow course, and is harmonized, to give it a nice thickness. The layout of the song is predictable, and enjoyable, even if the song has a little of a goddy vibe (the “take me on up” bridge). The male vocals give a spoken word sermon over the transitional breakdown to the final verse of the song.
“Corruption” has an angry, country version of Frank Black feel again, and this feels more like landscape rock, like The Alarm or Big Country. The song is slinky and dirty, but is kind of empty of substance. There is an electric guitar solo in the middle that does feel a little like hair metal.
“Blue Tomorrow” is the title track to the album, and begins with a jangly non-hook. The synth keyboard adds the necessary hook, which is quite catchy, and gives off a Belle & Sebastian vibe. But the male vocals are in this song: a break from the male/female switches. The song is catchy in an Americana Pop vibe, and is basic, yet pleasant. You think the melody of the chorus will be the first instance of Blue Tomorrow, but then the melody shifts to give you a different interpretation of the melody and it works quite well in its building of energy.
“A Dream In Gray” has a little swagger. We’re back on track with the switch to a female fronted song. It sways side to side, thanks to the slightly disjointed guitar hook and complimentary drum beat. The song does not give much chance for itself to change, adapt or build, so it remains a little one-dimensional. Falling back on the staggered guitar building blocks, at least the vocals do change up from deep reverberating to free flowing angelic hums.
“Big Fat Tractor” has a country, less-campy version of Fred Schneider’s vocals, and the female vocals do well to parallel his vocals, in a similar style to Kate Pierson also of the B-52’s. The song is down and dirty country honky tonk song, with a few odd breaks and emotional vocal offerings, which are often pinched out. It is an interesting, and parts of it grind out with metal guitars. It is a nice chaotic, near-experimental end to an album that held back for almost its entirety. 

Stand Out Track: More Than Just One Heaven

Links:
Website
Wiki
Discogs
Allmusic
Popmatters
Perfect Sound Forever

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

T.C. Matic - L'Apache

Name: T.C. Matic
Album: L'Apache
Year: 1982
Style: EuroRock, Industrial, Post-Pumk
Similar Bands: Killing Joke, Gang Of Four, KMFDM, Borghesia, 
One Word Review: Barren Aggressive Propaganda Machines. 
Based Out Of: Brussels, Belgium
Label: EMI Belgium
 L'Apache - Cover, Sleeve, Record
L'Apache - Back, Sleeve, Record
L'Apache (1982)
  1. Middle Class and Blue Eyes 3:16
  2. Que Pasa 2:45
  3. Touch Me 2:59
  4. Rip-Off Poppoff 2:40
  5. Mon Ami Louis 2:23
  6. Just Another Joke 2:50
  7. Le Java 3:30
  8. I'm Not Gonna Listen 3:46
  9. Les Zazous 2:53
  10. Stay Scared Stay Alive 3:04
  11. La-Bas 3:31
Album Rating (1-10): 5.5

Members & Other Bands:
Danny Willems - Cover
Jan Bultheel  Cover
Jean-Marie Aerts - Executive Producer, Writer, Guitar (Jo Lemaire, Urban Dance Squad, Plastic Bertrand, Big Bill, Johan Verminnen, Sonia Dufour, The Neon Judgement, Arno)
Arno Hintjens - Writer, Vox (Tjens-Couter, Freckleface, Sonia Dufour, Charels and the European White Trash Blues Connection, Machiavel)
Ferre Baelen  - Bass (Tjens-Couter, Sonia Dufour, The Neon Judgement, Arno)
Rudy Cloet- Drums (Tjens-Couter, Sonia Dufour, Arno, Yasmine)
Serge Feys - Keys (Tjens-Couter, Sonia Dufour, Arno, Noordkaap, The Candy Men, The Bollock Brothers)
Christian Ramon - Engineer

Unknown-ness: I've never heard of this band...or is it one artist? Not sure. Picked it up, and hopefully will not regret it, as it looks like it might be tedious jazzy lite-rock, with overproduced synths and an uber-smooth sheen. I probably should have left this to sit in the bin, but since I was just starting out (this is an early record I picked up) and I'd never heard of it, I bought it for a dollar or so.

Album Review: TC Matic was a band from Brussles, Belgium, and experimented in an odd mix of styles and genres from American rock and new wave to industrial, blues and avant garde styles. They made four albums from 1980-1986, and some minor hits came from other albums, but not this one. Singer Arno has gone one to be quite the prolific solo artist, usually joined by one or more TC Matic members. His stage presence has been known to be intense and diverse, since he sung in English, French, Dutch, Italian German, and his Ostend dialect.

“Middle Class and Blue Eyes” has a synthetic, nervous pulsing bass and keyboard beat. Then the Gang of Four style guitar plays its hook of individual notes. The vocal cadence has a bit of a German or industrial monotone authoritarian speech. The instrumental breakdown has a prog-like, perhaps a little Middle Eastern guitar section.
“Que Pasa” is sparse, a bit like a Tom Waits song at first. Just individual bass notes and skittering drums. The vocals are very declarative, and still follow the stern declaration. It is quite industrial in production
“Touch Me” has a bit of a Gang Of Four, chugging, shuffling tempo, with a little Clash as well. It features a weird squeaky synth effect, and odd off-note chime effect as the vocals yearn as they shout the title during the chorus.
“Rip-Off Poppoff” feels like a post apocalypse theme. It is barren, cold, and features drum machine claps and power chords that resemble metal grinding machines rather than a guitar. The vocals shout again, like propaganda brainwashing.
“Mon Ami Louis” starts with crystalline synth effects, and what it would sound like if KMFDM covered Clash songs with grinding guitars, simple drum machine style beat, and other new wave melodies. The chorus is brainwashingly repetitive.
“Just Another Joke” begins with tinkling on the upper ends of the guitar, and bombastic drums. The shouting, broken vocals begin over an almost hipster-island guitar melody. But the chorus is bolder, and makes me think of a Rocky 4 Russian training montage. For the instrumental breakdown, the sunny guitar line is layered under sizzling electric vibrations.

“Le Java” has a driving deep bass rhythm driving the song, with bold drums and mockery style vocals. The guitar is more poppy for this song, almost sounding like a Nintendo/Mega Man level
“I'm Not Gonna Listen” is heavy and complex, with off-note chords and angry shouting vocals. The vocals and a sparkly synth trade focus for the chorus. The vocals sound like they are just devolving into reactionary noises. Soaring guitars drag the song along, but do not cross paths with the vocals.
“Les Zazous” is a combination of classical/chamber rock with post punk drum and bass. The vocals are trying to maintain a grasp on control, like Einar from the Sugarcubes. In the instrumental section near the end, a piano plays a familiar-yet-suspicious melody
“Stay Scared Stay Alive” has a drum machine like beat to start the song off, and whiny “wakka” guitar. The vocals are not as brash and chaotic as before, and here remind me a little of Rodney A. from the Dead Milkmen, particularly in the chorus.
“La-Bas” is motivated along by an alarm/metronome marching beat and rumbling guitars. The song is dark, with the way the guitars echo, as if played in a dark, empty warehouse. The vocals are strained as they try to reach the microphone aggressively. Maybe a little like some of Nine Inch Nails material, maybe? 

Stand Out Track - Touch Me

Links:
Wiki

Monday, January 9, 2017

DJ Spooky (That Subliminal Kid) presents Haunted Battle Breaks

Name: DJ Spooky 
Album: Haunted Battle Breaks
Year: 1998
Style: Hiphop/Triphop, DJ, Electronic, Experimental
Similar Bands: Tricky, X-ecutioners, Jurassic 5, Cut Chemist, DJ Shadow, Badawi, Aphex Twin
One Word Review: Haunting Collage of Steady Break Beats.
Based Out Of: Washington DC
Label: Liquid Sky Music, Home Entertainment
 Haunted Battle Breaks - Cover, Record
Haunted Battle Breaks - Back, Record
Haunted Battle Breaks (1998)

Album Rating (1-10): 5.0

Members & Other Bands:
Paul D'Shonne Miller (DJ Spooky / That Subliminal Kid) - Writer, Composer, Producer, Performer (the Alchemist)
Dan Yashiv - Engineer
Chris Flam - Compiler (Matthew Shipp)

Unknown-ness: I had heard of DJ Spooky, but I am not familiar with his music or style (or even that familiar with his genre). Figured I'd pick this up when I saw it in a thrift store and see if it was interesting at all.

Album Review: DJ Spooky, AKA That Subliminal Kid (name taken from the William S Burroughs book “Nova Express,” is a DC native, and has been making experimental, electronic music and spinning trip hop since 1996. As he has flown somewhat under the radar, he has worked with a great many people, is the executive editor of Origin Magazine (Art, Music, Humanitarianism, Sustainability, etc.) and is a professor of music/meditated art at the European Graduate School.

Since are no song tracks or names, I’ll be reviewing the album in full, with the style breaks where I can figure them out.

The record starts with a couple of samples scratched. Starting with vocals and flowing into a hip hop song. Then a steady drum-cymbal-woodblock hip hop beat flows steadily. My knowledge of this genre and other examples of it is depressingly low, so I’ll just equate this to a Beastie Boys rhythm for about 3 min.
The beat and rhythm becomes funkier, pulsing jazz horn, akin to James Brown. The beat is skipped and scratched rhythmically, and other funky “Fatboy Slim” effects are thrown over top, like a swirling Doppler effect, and bucket drum beats.
The “third” section begins with another vocal sample scratching, followed by repeating eerie space effects. A skipping bass heavy drumbeat stutters and hobbles along in tip-hop style.
Part four begins with scrabbling, paper crunching effects that birth a muddled, back skipping drum beat.
The next shift begins with some eerie horror movie atmospheric notes, and after a bit of skip-scratching, bombards the listener with an energetic, in your face, skittering drum beat.  It ends with an Atari-like bomb-drop trill.
Section six is slow moving at first, sounding like static electricity focused through a zoob-tube. The sound grows and fades, and halts suddenly,
Shifting to what could be called a war-scape. A windy echoing void is filled with artillery fire, non-steady percussion and chimes that fade in and out on repeat.
More vocal and song samples begin the next track, with “We Gonna Get Ya” followed by voices, some with a beat, followed by a flat siren. Chaotic samples feed in one after another, with popping bubbles filling the space along with screams, quotes, footfalls and other war-oriented effects. Basically, the track comes off like channel surfing, but has a unifying, underlying meaning. This is basically an audio collage. Crowd cheers bleeds into electronic pulses that begin phase two of the collage. There are some haunted themes, along with war, and hip hop that make up the overall soundscape.

Side B starts with gunshots, bubbles and a haunted organ. More channel surfing effects like an old modem dial-up and hip-hop lines transition to a steady, jazzy dance-hop beat with some punctuating synth breaks.
A light breezy hook, followed by a vocal quote leads into another drum and racket ball beat.
Some tape rewind effects lead to a jazzy background to accompany an olde-timey vocal, which is then supported by old-time music, like a broken down take me out to the ball game and other rewinding effects.
This short segment is then replaced by a darker drum beat, with an echoing shock-synth break effect. Second verse incorporates funky bass, various classic hip hop samples: scratches and vocal samples. It ends abruptly, and some scratching intros the next track.
More tape rewinding effects are featured, and a couple haunting vocals, which leads to a steady, haunting reggae beat. It stops abruptly
Pipe percussion comes on next, and is replaced by a jazz-heavy, high hat drum beat. Thicker bass beats are added overtop, and the song cruises along steadily.
The song shifts, and an echo-fading sad siren repeats high and low octaves, supported by a back skipping, trippy drum beat.  The beats stop for a moment, but kick back in after one combo-rep of the siren.
The last track is not too much different than the one right before it, but the production is more industrial, and the deep bass rumbling percussion bubbles along, replacing the octave shifting siren. The whole album ends with a sudden halt of all instrumentation.

Stand Out track: A-5 (or A-6?)

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

TRB (Tom Robinson Band) - Power In The Darkness

Name: Tom Robinson Band
Album: Power In The Darkness
Year: May, 1978
Style: Pub Rock, Punk
Similar Bands: The Clash, Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, English Beat, Kinks
One Word Review: Blue Collar Relatable Activism
Based Out Of: London, UK
Label: Harvest, Capitol, EMI Records Limited
 Power In the Darkness - Cover, sleeve
 Power in the Darkness - Back, Sleeve
Power in the Darkness - Records
Power In the Darkness - Records
Power In The Darkness (1978)
  1. Up Against the Wall 3:32
  2. Grey Cortina 2:08
  3. Too Good to be True 3:32
  4. Ain't Gonna Take It 2:52
  5. Long Hot Summer 4:42/
  6. The Winter of '79 4:29
  7. Man You Never Saw 2:37
  8. Better Decide Which Side You're On 2:48
  9. You Gotta Survive 3:12
  10. Power in the Darkness 4:53/
  11. Don't Take No for an Answer 4:35
  12. Martin 2:53
  13. Glad to be Gay 5:00
  14. Right On Sister 3:25/
  15. 2-4-6-8 Motorway 3:18
  16. I Shall Be Released 4:35
  17. I'm Alright Jack 2:29
Album Rating (1-10): 8.0

Members & Other Bands:
Brian 'Dolphin' Taylor - Drums, Vox (Billy Karloff & Extremes, Go West, Spear of Destine, Stiff Little Fingers, Techno Twins, Techno Orchaestra, Marius Muller-Westernhagen)
Tom Robinson - Bass, Vox (Cafe Society, Sector 27, Faith Folk & Anarchy, JOhn Wesley Harding, TV Smith, NO55)
Danny Kustow - Guitar, Vox (Planets, Spectres)
Mark Ambler - Organ, Piano (Red)
Chris Thomas - Producer
Bill Price - Engineer
Jerry Spencer - Green - Asst Engineer
Terry O'Neil - Back Cover Photo
Pete Veron - Inner Sleeve Photo
Brian Palmer - Art Direction
Wally - Mastering

Unknown-ness: I've never heard of TRB, but I bought it in the same lot as the Michael Stanley Band, and other Americana rock. Although, the back has UK references, and a bold association to Rock against Racism, which would have been a big political platform back in 1978, and a quote from Tom Robinson himself. So perhaps it is a double punk record, which might give a better idea of their cover logo of a fist.

Album Review: TRB was an essential band for the development of punk rock in the late 70’s and equal rights activism. Proclaiming it as an important cause on their album, they introduced many people to the organization Rock against Racism. They were also proponents for equal gay rights, Robinson being gay, himself. Some of their music was banned early on, but because record labels liked what they saw, and the uprising of politically charged music was un an uprise, they were signed easily. Unfortunately, their second album was not received as well, and it marked an end to the band as it was. Robinson went on being a solo artist and has found success (and is still active) as a radio personality and activist.

“Up Against the Wall” is a punk rock slice of 3 chord magic. The vocals are stumbling over themselves in an important and urgent delivery. The song really feels like a Graham Parker song. It is anthemic and bold, clearly sending its message. But it is a clean and relatable anarchy, unlike the Sex Pistols (whom I’ve seen compared), who are dirty, sneering and comparably off-putting.
“Grey Cortina” starts with bouncy piano pub rock, reminding me of The Blasters. The guitar is urgent, and the vocals remind me again of Graham Parker. The guitar solo is electric and raw, but the song relies on safe pop hooks.
“Too Good to be True” is basically Van Morrison’s Moondance.
“Ain't Gonna Take It” rushes off after the slow song with power chords and aggressive, urgent vocals. This song falls in line with their whole image and message, referring to anti-racism, anti- homophobic and equal rights stances that are still relevant today.
“Long Hot Summer” is a little darker, but features an upbeat organ in the background. This song also sings of resistance against aggressive policing, and how the heat of the summer parallels the heat of conflict. It speeds while still being slinky (thanks to the organ), giving contrasting elements that work well together.

“The Winter of '79” begins with a couple of power chords accented by drums. A power guitar takes over the spotlight, and the song gets kinda jangly with a pub rock backbone. It feels like a story song, similar to John Cougar Mellencamp and other relatable blue collar bands.
“Man You Never Saw” is a toe-tapping, driving song that follows a basic, rewarding melody that invests all of the catchy hooks in the verse, basically eliminating a chorus.
“Better Decide Which Side You're On” is another slinky, blues heavy alley stomper. The theme asks if you support gay rights or are you against us.
“You Gotta Survive” sounds like a typical 70’s AOR rock song. It has a somewhat funky bass line, smooth vocals supported by keyboards, and a bluesy guitar hook here and there.
“Power in the Darkness” begins with a funky bass line and ELO-style harmonized vocals. Once the lead vocals take over, they get up on the soapbox and give promise and motivation to people in despair. The instrumental breakdown is a little psychedelic, and features an overdub of stuffy British spoken vocals illustrating the political side trying to keep diversity down. The vocals get angrier as they run through a list of racist and bigoted terms they despise.

“Don't Take No for an Answer” and the next three songs were bonus tracks on the US release of the album, but comprise their second EP (live recording), released right after the 2-4-6-8 Motorway single, which was also included on the B-Side of this EP. It is organ heavy, and a powerful driving guitar and drum beat. The vocals are controlled by shouty. The chorus has the vox and music synch up to form an unopposable force.
“Martin” feels like a Kinks song. It is a reflective, story song about a childhood brother/friend.
“Glad to be Gay” is a retort and message to the World Health Organization, who classify being gay as an illness 302.0. It too feels a bit like a Kinks song, with a sing-song melody that stumbles along with a slightly drunk cadence. It describes how it is to be treated as a homosexual, but calls for other gay folks to stand together in proclamation and song.
“Right On Sister” is a rocking song from the get go. The energy never lets up, and it honors women, suffragettes, and equal rights.

“2-4-6-8 Motorway” was their first single, released a year before this album came out, and reached #5 on the UK charts. It is a toe-tapping pub rock song with a steady marching, hand clapping tempo. Apparently, the song’s content refers to a gay truck driver.
“I Shall Be Released” was the B-Side to 2-4-6-8, and is a Bob Dylan cover. It is quiet and almost country-ish in a sad ballad manor.
“I'm Alright Jack” was the B-Side to the Up Against the Wall single. It starts with a Social Distortion like guitar, and quick-paced British accent. I enjoy this nervous melody quite a lot, and the power-arena rock chorus slows the pace down if only for a moment. 

Stand Out Track: Ain't Gonna Take It
I'm Alright Jack

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Death note of boy on UATW single cover