Monday, October 29, 2007

Last Stop China Town - A new disease hits town


Honest. Raw. Not in terms of production, but in terms of emotion. Last Stop China Town plays raw, honest rock and roll. Some may call it alt metal, but really, those are just words, terms to try and sound cool or hip. Last Stop Chinatown doesn't care about that, they don't want to be hip, they just want to rock.

New Disease is a free (you heard me. . . Free!) 11 track CD included with the October issue of Classic Rock magazine, an excellent UK publication of, well, classic rock. And Last Stop China Town fits right in. With an armfull of Metallica cd's, a few Judas Priest riffs and a hint towards Creed-era metal, Last Stop Chinatown comes roaring at you with classic, honest rock.

Now, admittedly, the Metallic influence weighs a bit heavy. At times, this cd sounds like it could have been the natural successor to Metallica's Black Album. "Mind Games" and "Intruder" come at you with massive Metalica riffs and a slightly uncomfortable Hetfieldesque lead vocal that can't help but leave you wondering if you haven't heard this before. But to dismiss these guys as Metallica wantabe's would be doing them a huge disservice. These guys know how to play.

Songs like "Opinions Collide" come at you completely fresh. Traces of Opeth (dare I say progressive metal) lurk just underneath the surface of a crunching riff. Interesting time changes, occasionally jazzy rhythms and the courage to allow slow moments of acoustic guitar to run through their tracks let you know that this isn't your mother's Metallica. Another key point to separate LSTC from their Metallica mentors are the powerfully emotive dual vocal attack of Alon and Ollie. At times, their vocal interplay can literally propel the song forward, dancing over the riffs. I must admit, I love bands with two vocalists who can harmonize each other, yet augment each other; one voice hard and raw, the other slightly cleaner, dare I say, smoother. It is at moments like this that LSCT are at their best. Other songs like "Erase" and "New Disease" just simply rock.

Overall, New Disease is an excellent introduction to a band poised to make some noise in the future. Once they step out from under the Metallica shadow that looms over their heads, there's no limit to where they can go. Thrash, prog, alt-metal. Who knows. With guys this talented, the sky's the limit. I for one will be there, watching to see where they go next. -Racer X.

Check them out at www.myspace.com/laststopchinatown or www.laststopchinatown.uk.co



Friday, October 26, 2007

Jann Arden -- Time for Mercy/Living Under June


Jann Arden: Time for Mercy

Jann Arden, a legend in her native Canada, recently inducted into the CAB Broadcast Hall of Fame, remains painfully unknown in the United States. Here we'll look at her first two releases.

Time for Mercy, Jann Arden's first Canadian release, starts off with "I Would Die For You" introducing Jann to her audience in full bloom. As beautiful a love song as has ever been written, it is further accentuated by Jann's pleading, hauntingly beautiful voice. There has never been a singer who could convey such plaintive sorrow with the slightest inflections in her tone. This song was so well done that it was later re-released on Jann's Living Under June album, which became her American debut. The rest of the songs stand up just as well. "Waiting For Someone "is another plaintive song of longing and desperation. Her voice is particularly beautiful when she sings back-up vocals for herself, altering the tone so she harmonizes with her leads like an emotional echo machine.

This album reveals Jann's country roots, with songs like "Waiting for Someone " which would sound comfortable on a top forty country station. But Jann is not a country singer and this isn't a country album. Jann Arden, in her soul is a rock and roll singer, and when she rocks like on "Give Me Back My Heart," she can be explosive, with that dynamically painful voice breathing life into some rocking rhythms. "Will You Remember Me," another midtempo rocker, is easily on par with any of the efforts of the more successful female singer/songwriters that flooded the market in the late 1990's.

The only track which doesn't work is "We Do Some Strange Things," a plodding country-tinged number that doesn't have enough life in it to be interesting. Even there, however, you can see what an amazing instrument Jann's voice is, moaning and squeaking, cracking and purring like a fine woodwind. Overall, this was a stunningly strong debut for a major talent who deserves to find a wider audience.






Jann Arden: Living Under June


With her American debut, Jann came out in full force. The opening track, "Could I Be Your Girl," rocks hard and fierce, displaying all the typical Jann Arden writing quirkiness and vocal musicianship. Lost in the deluge of female singer/songwriter releases by Jewel and Alanis, this song easily should have been recognized as one of the better songs released that year. The rest of the album lives up to the promised hinted at in her debut. Jann managed to balance her love of the slower, country ballads with some fast-kicking grooves. Interspersed through the album, songs like "Looking For It", "Living Under June" and "Gasoline," punctuate her yearnings with moments of pure acoustic power.

"Insensitive "was the lone hit off this album, bouncing off the movie soundtracks and onto MTV, which served to awaken listeners to Jann's presence, but it certainly isn't the strongest track. "Gasoline" blows it away, with her voice in fine form, squeaking over muscular guitar riffs. "Good Mother" and "I Would Die For You" (culled from her Canadian release) stand out as other particularly stellar cuts.

It's a pleasure to see Jann pull it all together for this album, clearly her strongest work. If you only buy one Jann Arden album, this is it, but hopefully after you've had a chance to immerse yourself in Jann's stark, emotional landscapes, you'll search out her other albums as well. --Racer

Buy here: Living Under June

Buy here: Time for Mercy




Thursday, October 25, 2007

apb - Something to Believe In


apb is your average white three piece new wave Scottish funk band, and if that sounds like a mouthful of contradictions, then you'll understand why they're so damn good. Fueled by the manic bass playing of singer Iain Slater, apb rips through their new wave funk with enough rock enthusiasm and energy to make up for whatever shortcomings they may have. Each of their songs are laden with bass thumping riffs, accentuated by spastic guitar clashes and Slater's truly Scottish vocals. Fortunately, the majority of apb's songs hit their mark, finding that danceable funk/punk groove in early '80's new wave.
"Something to Believe In collects all of apb's import only 12 inch singles on such record labels as Oily Records and Red River Records. It also throws into the mix 6 unreleased gems that serve as a roadmap towards charting the bands development.
apb started out as an average Buzzcocks wantabee. Songs like "Chain Reaction" and "Power Crisis" roar with stolen riffs and lyrics, giving a pleasant early eighties muted punk sound, but certainly one that would never have gone anywhere. The band plodded along this course until 1982, when Iain Slater evidently realized two things. Number one: girls like to dance more than they like to mosh and, number two: damn it, he can play that bass. These two realizations led to "Shoot You Down", an explosive new wave tinged funk boiler, driven by Slater's pulsing bass that awakened the band to their true calling. "Palace Filled With Love" followed next and paved the way for the steady stream of pop savvy, funk rockers to come.
Lyrically, apb ranges from the insipid to the mundane, expressing wide-eyed innocent love infatuation of the early eighties. Listening to these guys, you get the impression that they were a group of Scottish lads, getting loaded in a pub, when they realized that the only people who ever got laid in their hometown were the musicians. With motivation firmly in hand, they formed a band, but then it dawned on them that they had absolutely nothing to say. Fortunately, they didn't let that minor inconvenience interfere with their grand plans, and instead ,they picked up their instruments and began to play. And man, could they play.
The soul of apb is Slater's bass playing, which borderlines on phenom status. He pounds, picks and slaps out lead bass lines that propel apb's best work through the stratosphere. Guitar is relegated to the role of rhythm keeper in the best of these releases, laying down tone and mood around which Slater weaves his bass masterpieces. Slater thumps through his songs with such complicated, overlying bass lines that you wonder how his fingers remain attached to his hands at all times. Slater's real talent however, was his ability to weave these monstrous bass lines into extremely catchy, melodic pop numbers.
"Rainy Day", "Palace Filled With Love", "One Day", and "What Kind Of Girl" all roar with Slater's bass and melodic genius, culminating in his grand epic de funk, "Danceability, parts 1 and 2" a mind-staggering explosion of slapping bass, polyrhythms, stuttering guitar fills and Slater's earnest pleading to get a little pussy. Early eighties music just doesn't get much better than this.
That period between 1982 and 1985 represented apb's halcyon period, as soon after the band expanded to a five piece, adding synths and percussion and occasionally female backing vocals. Buoyed by their early success, they set out to conquer a larger market, tuning their sound to the more popular British electrofunk of Heaven 17, Human League, and Duran Duran ,which were making inroads on the American charts. The addition of keyboards filled out the band's sound, making them more pop friendly, but also overwhelmed the space Slater needed for his bass and subsequently, he fell back into a more standard bass role. "Something to Believe in" and "Is the Music Loud Enough for You," are examples of this later phase of apb's existence that served to enhance their pop credibility and led to their signing with Link Records for their first full-length studio album, Cure for the Blues. These are buoyant, upbeat, pop-laden, hook filled tunes that on their own right would stand up as fine '80's pop, but remain a minor disappointment compared to the less structured free-for-all funk abandon of their earlier work.
apb's music is a timeless funk blend that doesn't sound dated despite the demise of new wave over 15 years ago. They ignored the trendier fads of punk and electronica and opted for some straight ahead funk, bass driven rock and roll. Perhaps Slater summed it up the best in "Danceability," all he's trying to do is make his rhymes make some sense and not get stuck in the days pretense.
--Racer X
Find the review of their newest album here.
Check them out at http://www.myspace.com/apbtheband or at www.apbtheband.com.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Ripple Effect
A Music Review 'Zine for Those Who Love Music


Thanks for checking out this inaugural posting of The Ripple Effect. Our goal is to provide you with an ezine that you can use over and over again, as a reference for building your music collection, with albums from the best-seller list to the cutout bins. We approach this goal, not as pretentious music critics, but as music lovers. We'll be reviewing a large variety of music, not just the cult hip bands, but also some of the larger, popular acts. We hope you'll find some of our reviews surprising. While its easy to rag on popular, mega-platinum sensations, let's face it, a band doesn't get to sell ten million copies without some redeeming qualities. We'll try to point out what these good points of the music are, as well as its flaws and provide you with some fun alternatives.

Our purpose here is very simple. We love music and love to share the music we love. There is such an abundance of great music,from all genre's that somehow manages to slip under the public consciousness. Whether the victim of poor marketing, bad timing or a hip band from a foreign country, these bands deserve attention and can offer a tremendous listening experience. Here, you will find all the bands we've mined from our years of ongoing research.

There are three of us at the Ripple Effect, with the help of some guest reviewers, representing a huge variety of musical tastes. Rock, jazz, blues, reggae, rap, trip hop,folk, prog, metal, punk, funk, soul, world music, chill, downtempo or classical, it doesn't matter to us, we'll spend our time mining the new and ancient releases finding the best for you.

In the end, it's all about the music. We hope that every once in a while, digging through our reviews, you'll find that one cool band you forgot about, or never heard of and will give it a chance. Who knows, it may turn out to be your favorite.
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