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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

(the) Magnolias - Concrete Pillbox

Name: (the) Magnolias
Album: Concrete Pillbox
Year: 1986
Style: Punk/Garage Rock
Similar Bands: Dead Milkmen, Social Distortion, Violent Femmes,
"One-Word" Review: Billy-Angst-Punk
Based Out Of: Minneapolis, Mn
Label: Twin/Tone
Concrete Pillbox: Cover & Record
Concrete Pillbox: Back & Record

Concrete Pillbox (1986)
  1. Reach Out 2:21
  2. Keep It Inside 2:21
  3. High Class 2:10
  4. Don't Know you Anymore 1:44
  5. Didn't Want It To Happen 3:42
  6. Together Again 3:48/
  7. Got No Place 1:45
  8. Entertaining Bad Thoughts 2:59
  9. My Own Life 2:33
  10. Going Down 2:38
  11. She Cracked 3:23
  12. One More Reason 3:57
Album Rating (1-10): 8.5

Members & Other Bands:
John Freeman - Vox, Guitar (Pushbacks, Acrtion Alert)
Grant Hart - Producer (Husker Du)
John Paul Joyce - Bass
Ron Anderson - Drums
Steve Fjelstad - Engineering
Tom Lischmann - Guitar
John Freeman - Cover Photo
J.P. Joyce - Painting

Unknown-ness: I've never heard of these guys. But the picture on the front of the album was very appealing to my musical sense. Since I classify my musical taste as evil carnival music, the cover photo of amusement rides in an abandoned lot amongst post-apocalyptic looking apartment buildings set against a nuclear orange sky could be great. The album name concrete pillbox also works as cookie cutter commentary, like the song “Little Boxes.”  Now, contrasting on the back, is an abstract art painting that usually strikes me as signifying overly-complicated artsy rock, or shoe-gazing blandness (even if the artwork seems to provoke the ideas of violence and blood). So I’m not sure what to make of the musical content. Even the label, Twintone is a good one, but had a variety of artists on its bill.

Album Review: “Reach Out” starts out with bass, and kicks in with a little rock-a-billy edge. But the vocals are nervous and rough, with a little angsty attitude behind them. The song is driving on a one track course with rocking guitar solos but it travels straight on a single line.

“Keep It Inside” begins with a distorted guitar hook that picks up into a garage rock style. The vocals remind me a little of Joe Jack Talcum from the Dead Milk Men: they have a similar nasally delivery, but the song style is similar to Social Distortion. It also reminds me a bit of the plain, simple nature of the Violent Femmes.
“High Class” has a bouncy bass line and a rocking, distorted guitar, complete with slide guitar sections. This is good, punk sense with garage rock application. It is intensely driving and remains catchy.
“Don't Know You Anymore” comes back to the Dead Milkmen sense of vocals, the cadence does not always match the melody, it can be stretched our or rushed through, but it carries with it an irritated personality that gives the music youthful energy, even if it is comes out chaotically or misdirected.
"Didn't Want It To Happen” is a more mellow, complicated musical heavy piece. After the first minute and a half, the vocals come stumbling in, feeling like they forgot their cue. But by the chorus, they meet their mark, and the lazy slacker rock vibe takes effect. And it was bugging me for a while, but the jangley guitar in this track reminds me of Fine Young Cannibals' song "Don't Look Back."
“Together Again” rocks out from the start with a short and repetitive guitar hook. With this song, I feel like I’m listening to a not-quite-as-angry NoFX, with the nasally vocals and repetitive chording guitars. The chorus consists of a bunch of La-La-lala-la-La-La’s

“Got No Place” goes back to the feel of Social Distortion music wise on a more amateur level. I could hear Mike Ness singing this song. Even the vocals have a similar cadence. The strained vocals, though, remain constant through out the song.
“Entertaining Bad Thoughts” is a pop-punky song still brimming with youthful angst, but with a much more melodic delivery. The vocals are nasally and lack a deep musical wealth, but work well with the music.
“My Own Life” also has the punk-rock-a-billy bass and lead guitar riffs. But over all, a casual listen might not reveal the theme. It is buried below the vocals and rough production.
“Going Down” starts with a jangely, short repeating guitar section. The theme carries through, with the only signs of “punk” being the vocals’ don’t-give-a-shit delivery.
“She Cracked” rings in with echoing guitar, and quickly takes off running with a chugging rhythm guitar tempo. The timing of the vocals feels punk, with short syllables mixed over down scale guitar chords. This recipe is mixed up a bit as the sections repeat.
“One More Reason” does not feel like an album closer. It has jangley production, mixed with rockabilly time signatures and foot stomping tempo. But it is a fun song, and it feels like it promises more material, not the final track.

Stand Out Track: High Class

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  1. Great find! I have and love this album! Just picked up another of theirs I didn't have recently for a buck at a flea market.

  2. The second album is still my favorite. Its called For Rent, you should try to find that one and give it a listen. BTW I was the lead guitar player in The Magnolias. My name is Tom Lischmann.