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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Ashtray - S/T

Band: Ashtray
Album: S/T
Year: 1992
Style: Lethargic Indie-Punk Rock
Similar Bands: Dead Milkmen, Butt Trumpet, King Missile, Half-Japanese
"One-Word" Review: Amateur-Garage-Punk
Based Out Of: Philadelphia, PA
Label: Shoe Records

Ashtray Cover

Ashtray Insert

Back Cover & CD
Ashtray - S/T
1. Sunday - 2.33
2. Dryspell - 2.47
3. Riding the Train - 2.53
4. Ed Hall - 3.52
5. Riverside - 1.33
6. Trailer - 2.53
7. Where Love & More - 2.32
8. Kitchen - 4.16
9. Yellow & Blue - 4.02
10. Out on the Highway - 2.15
11. Sand - 5.51
12. Looking Over the Houses - 1.50
13. Dell - 4.53
14. Corner Apartment - 2.45
15. Couch - 2.47

Album Rating (1-10):

Members & Other Bands:Joe Leifheit - Guitar & Vox (current art gallery [same 'Joe Leifheit?'])
Sarah Howells - Bass & Vox & the rest
Steve Fujita - Guitar (bass on Crown Heights [same 'Steve Fujita?'])
Bill Bussone - Drums (Square & the Roots [same 'Bill Bussone?'])
Scott Herzog - Engineering
Joe Talcum - Producer (Dead Milkmen, Low Budgets)
Mark Milliken & David Lounsbury - Mastering (3rd Story, Phila)
Karen Carpenter - Cover Art

Unknown-ness: I do not know why I got this CD. Perhaps it was to fill a 'Buy X for $Y.00's' need. The art-work looks low budget, but that alone does not note how the music will sound. The picture on the back of the band had a laid back, garage rock band look (probably because they are all lying down). And the song titles are basic words, not much metaphor or "love" inspired tracks. That is a good, non-cheezy sign. At least they are locally from Philly.

Album Review: After buying it, a friend told me that he knew one of the members of the band. Not a long or great story, but merely a point of fact. And at one point, back in 1991, John Peel played their song "Trailer." Now today, while trying to find anything out about the band, the closest musical connection I could find is that the son or at least relative of Joe Leifheit is in a band Flower Girl. Other than that, I've been on my own. The one connection I've been able to make is that the record was produced by Joe Talcum of Dead Milkmen, whom they sound a bit like. I'm sure this is not a coincidence. The songs sound of minimal punk rock, and the vocals are slightly off key. A girl/guy vocal harmony is used in quite a few songs for added depth. The male vocals can best be described as slacker, unemotional talk-singing. And the song structure is similar to the Ramones in its repetitive and simplistic nature.

The first track is a bouncy upbeat punk number, that repeats "In a burnt out building, that's where we'll be." Fun and energetic. The second song is slower with distortion and fuzz guitar & bass, and the vocals give tired, uninterested praise of how a girl "looks so fine." "Riding the Train" is a basic noise rock song with a nursery rhyme chorus. "Ed Hall" starts off as a slow, bass driven song, that picks up a little speed then just winds down. Its song structure has the basic alternative, haphazard feel. Short and fast are the typical elements for punk songs, and the minute and a half "Riverside" is just that.

"Trailer" sounds just like a number of Butt Trumpet songs; aggressive and strong musical background behind an angry feminine rant, where neither element relies on the other for musical direction. Poetry to music. "Where Love And More" is similar to the first song; loud, bouncy and upbeat. "Kitchen" is a slow, tired march. The lyrics and music combined to form strong imagery of self-reflection in the moment you discover yourself awake, standing in the kitchen at 3am. "Yellow & Blue" is another guitar driven song, with minimal lyrics, and a pure 90's alternative feel. Another quick punk song, "Out On The Highway" takes advantage of the fast guitars, and then throws in a couple of bass line breakdowns, which really give the song character, timing, and definition. "Sand" follows the same organization as "Y &B" except that halfway through the song, female vocals repeat the chorus, and then the music takes over. The bass heavy quick punk song "Looking over the Houses" speeds up until it runs out of steam and falls apart after the 110 seconds go by. "Dell" could have been recorded by the Violent Femmes as a sequel to "Country Death Song." The repetitive, country-style bouncy bass, and the introspective vocals give you the feeling of being in the mind of a man trying to escape the moral disaster of pushing his own child into a well. Corner Apartment is a sinister, almost metal, song that reflects on the life of a high school rock band with a dead-end life. To end the album is "Couch" similar to "Kitchen," as it starts off in a slow tired march. As the vocals finish, the bass kicks in and it becomes a fast paced metal song. Like ingredients to a cake, a melancholy guitar begins to play, and then it quickly turns itself into a guitar solo machine.

The songs are predominately musical sound-scapes of traditional punk recorded with loud, distorted alternative music style in mind, all with minimal production. The lyrics come and go, leaving long periods of music, where you are not sure if they mixed the vocals so low in the mastering that they are inaudible, or if they forgot to sing altogether. When they do sing, the imagery is very minimal in description but extremely clear in emotions and moods evoked. The vocal execution is ironically very similar with today's style of indie-rock. And the minimal music also has a place at today's hipster market. This album sounds like it could have been made last year, rather than 16 years ago. It is art-rock.

Stand Out Track:
Out On The Highway



  1. HA...I am Sarah from Ashtray and got a kick out of reading this article.

    Thanks for the nice things about the bass....


  2. Look! Sarah gets another 15 minutes. :)
    I was always a fan.