So today, let's go for another ride in the Ripple Ghia and see what's spinning on the player.
Hurt - Goodbye to the Machine
In this world of post-Nickleback, post-grunge soundalike/lookalike bands, how’s a gang of earnest alt-metallers, with a love of their influences, some serious chops, and a knack for a melody supposed to pull themselves out of the masses? That’s the question that Hurt probably had to answer daily as they prepared this, their third album, their first after being released from their major label contract. And, let me tell you, the answers they came up with surprised me to no end. Forget the straight ahead crunch of nu-metal, Hurt tosses a busload of disparate elements into the mix, delving into the world of neo-prog, expanded song structures, flipping time changes, off-time passages and heaps of expertly played acoustics into the mix. In doing so, Hurt have produced an infinitely listenable disc that I just can’t seem to get out of the Ripple player.
Eschewing digital technology, Hurt recorded this album old-school, with analog tape, and the results are far better because of it. The sound is intimate, warm and full, sounding . . . complete. As much as this album rock, and drops down to gentle passages, mixing up it's approach to each song, nothing ever sounds forced or out of place. It just is, if that's a Zen enough explanation for you. As far as the influences go, you'll find them all here, from Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and the aforementioned Nickleback, to Tool, Seether, Radiohead and more. I suppose most importantly, Hurt manages to transcend these influence, creating a multi-varied album, full of twists and turns, slinky surprises, gorgeous melodies, and ambient beauty that never once forgets how to rock, nearly blowing the doors off my 42 year-old car. "Got Jealous," may be one of the most straight ahead rockers on the album, raging in all it's post-Nirvana glory, until the entire bottom drops out, plunking us down into a stunning moment of acoustic guitar and J. Loren Wince's startlingly naked, deeply emotive vocals. "Pandora," for some reason reminds me of a band like Anathema, (and that's a good thing) rocking out in it's own chiming guitar and bass-loaded groove. When the guitars come in, they crash down like the angry hand of God, wiping the Earth clean of sinners. Then, what is that? A violin? The metallic crunch fading away to an acoustic piano? Didn't see that coming, and appreciate it all the more.
"Wars," tackles the ideology of human kind's mad quest for self-destruction amongst a brutally powerful ascending guitar riff, layered with piano, bass rolls and effects. "World Ain't Right," starts off a mini-set of acoustic songs, Wince's vocals sounding most reminiscent of Layne Staley here, particularly with the Jerry Cantrell-like harmony vocals. "Sweet Delilah," keeps the acoustic vibe going, though at a quicker pace, while "1331" actually brings in a touch of Red Hot Chile Peppers, in it's light-hearted funk approach. Until the chorus blows your ears off, that is. "Role Martyr," brings the alt-metal roaring back, riding on the spine of a crunchy riff, before layering down into it's groove. What I haven't told you though, are all the twists and turns, breakdowns and time-changing bridges the boys have tossed into the mix to this point. And we're only halfway through. This is an album that rewards repeated plays, unfolding at it's own place, deciding when it wants to reveal it's treasures. And after a good 10 listens, I'm still mining, discovering new, hidden gems each time. An impressive, extremely mature, definitely rocking affair.
buy here: Goodbye to the Machine
Rock 'N' Roll Monkey and the Robots - Back to Beatsville
Besides having a freaking cool name, Rock 'N' Roll Monkey and the Robots have an equally cool sound to go with it. Equal parts early-period B-52's and "Goo Goo Muck,"-era Cramps, a big dash of surf-inspired garage punk, and a heaping dash of "Peter Gunn," uber-cool, RNR Monkey occupy a little corner of their B-movie, sci fi universe all on their own. Listening to this disc is like stepping into the world's most super-cool lounge, populated with a bizarre mix of beret wearing, goatee bearded, poetry-reading zombies. Dancing alien Go-Go girls surround the stage, while sexy, beaded-dress, hip shaking witches tear up the dance floor doing The Sprinkler and The Swim.
Craig Campbell's disaffected vocals work perfectly for this monster mash, particularly when accompanied by the Kate Pierson-esqe backing vocals of Jackie Herman. The whole scene works best when the Monkey and his Robots push their B-movie, cool lounge shtick to the ultimate, on songs like "Hitch a Ride to Beatsville, "Time Machine," and the aptly named, "Do the Rock and Roll Monkey." Garagey guitars, cool beat-era horns resound and the whole shebang is just infinitely groovy. A cocktail party no one would want to leave.
Admittedly, the sound can wear a little thin at times, and I have no idea where they're going to go on the next album. Personally, I'd like to see them rough things up just a little, adding a bit more bite to their guitars on a few numbers, picking up the pace. But still, this baby is a keeper. All onboard, we're all heading back to Beatsville.
Reel Big Fish - Fame, Fortune and Fornication
The continuing adventures of one of America’s favorite frat rock bands. Reel Big Fish come dancing, skanking, and drinking their way back to toga parties and beer bong freak outs the world over with their latest release of party-anthem ska-punk. To be honest, I wasn’t just sitting around in the Ripple office dying for an album of Reel Big Fish covers of classic rock and roll songs to be tossed onto my desk by our fearless postman, but once it landed with a thud on my desk, I was intrigued. What sort of beer-drenched, co-ed friendly assault would The Fishsters lay on tracks like "Talk Dirty to Me," or "Mama We're all Crazy Now?"
Well, pretty fricking drenched in fun is the answer. With its big horn-section attack, roundly pulsing bass, and neo-punk guitar "Authority Song," will get the freshmen running from the kegs to the dance floor for some sloppy slam dancing and call-and-response shouting. You can nearly taste the spilled beer on "Nothin' But a Good Time," and only a creation of Dr Frankenstein would be able to resist the ska-filled skanking dance groove of "Brown Eyed Girl," and "Veronica Sawyer." "Mama We're All Crazy Now," positively radiates in this remake as a scratch guitar ska burner. Should be mandatory listening at every frat house across America, or at least given out along with the tap with every keg of beer sold. Bikini posters optional.
Buy here: Fame, Fortune, Fornication
The Automatic - This Is A Fix
Coming hot on the heels of their perennial Ripple favorite debut, Not Accepted Anywhere, The Automatic (the Automatic Automatic in the US) are set to take the world by storm with this, their sophomore release. Changes have hit the band since their debut, with the departure of Alex Pennie who provided the band’s trademark (though questionably annoying) high-pitched ghosting vocals. So the real question is-how has the band responded?
Employing the same infectious, bass-heavy groove that propelled songs like “Monster,” and “Recover,” to become staples of the Ripple Radio Show, This is a Fix blisters with a new-found confidence and sense of experimentation, finding the boys digging deeper into their newly developing bag of songwriting chops. With some of the electrofunk elements gone with Pennie, this turns out to be a heavier, harder affair. Confidently, I can say that maturity hasn’t tempered these Welch-post-punks, rather it seems to have made them pissed and damn ready to let the world know. Riding a storming Gang of Four thromping beat, with splices of stinging guitar fills, “Responsible Citizen,” positively rails against government intrusion into their God-given right to get pissed at the local pub. Anger has never worked this well on the dance floor before. An unadulterated blast of pure groovilicious mania. “Steve McQueen,” looses none of the riotous energy of the opener, Robin Hawkins’s voice even more snotty and spitty as he sings “I was the teenage Steve McQueen/my best performance escaped me.”Guitars scream in scorching wails over the propulsive beat. Another future Ripple Radio staple.
“Accessories,” positively pulses with punk energy, bringing a hefty dose of The Undertones energy to their bass thumping, raving against the feeling that the boys have become accessories to the big machine. Elsewhere, as on “This Ship,” “Sleepwalking,” and “In the Mountains,” the boys ditch their heavier funk tendencies, mining a more fertile traditional britrock field, but don’t worry, the gang hasn’t forgotten how to rip out a funky burner, as the title track shows aptly. This is when the boys are at their strongest, when they unleash the snot-nosed funk. Rather than collapse under the changes, The Automatic, have taken stock, found their strengths, grown up a bit, and knocked out a more mature sounding, but still just as scorching corker.
Buy here: This Is a Fix