Monday, July 13, 2009

The D.I.Y Ethic Lives On - More Homemade Candy for Your Ears

Man, I've been so excited to write up this month's D.I.Y Ethic column that I've been chomping at the bit like some racehorse dying to jump out of the starting blocks. Well, maybe I'm no racehorse, but at least I've been chomping like some quality quarterhorse at a riding school. A mule in a hayfield? A broken down burro in line at the glue factory?

Whatever, I've been so excited to write this column that I secretly jumped it ahead in the schedule so I could shout out about some of the great independent bands out there, slaving away on their own dime, dishing out some quality tasty treats for your aural consumption.

So without further ado . . .

Music Lives Here Volume 1- Red House Benefit CD

We're starting off this column with something a little bit different. Rather than a D.I.Y. band, we're kicking the gig off with a D.I.Y. effort, and an exceptional one at that. The Red House is a quality music school, recording studio, performance venue, and free form jam get together located in Walnut Creek, California, about 30 miles east of San Francisco. In addition to being a musical meeting mecca in the East Bay, and the venue responsible for starting off the careers of such notable Ripple favorites as Miggs, The Red House is also the home of the international Guitars Not Guns Program ( Now, truly, there can be few worthier efforts than GNG to write about in the Ripple. The organization's mission is to offer kids an alternative to life on the streets and in the gangs, and instead, turn them on to their natural talent and the joys found in playing music. To that end, Music Lives Here is a Red House produced benefit CD, featuring several bands with roots to the Red House. And the way it works is simple. For every 10 CD's sold, one child learns to play guitar.

Got your attention yet? If not, then the line-up of this CD certainly will. 12 songs of quality independent music lives within the silicon and graphite of the disc, including the previously mentioned Ripple men of Miggs, who blaze across the CD's second song with their scorcher, "St Rita," a rarely heard modern rock gem from their hard to find second album. But the goodies don't stop there. Every song pulsates with a modern rock energy that keeps the album driving all the way to the end. All Heroes opens up with a terror of a reggae-inflected agit-pop gem. Dear Kerosene show off some serious pop smarts with their song, "Long Island Sound." Now We Are Six plow a fertile field across a post-punk, modern rock field with "Devereux Martyrs," and Route 111 bring on a slightly rootsy flavor to their pop nugget, "Never Before." And that's just a cursory glance at what awaits inside. 12 tracks from 12 bands committed to the Red House and the Guitars Not Guns program.

Last I checked Music Lives Here Volume One is no longer available on the Red House website, but Volume Two, a collection of the Bay Area's best high school rock acts, is. Inside, you'll find an amazing collection of talented bands, working hard to create music they believe in. Check it out. You just may find the stars of the future and help a great charity at the same time.

Modern Science - S/T

In all honesty, I looked forward to listening to this CD with all the enthusiasm I had for my last hernia exam. Don't get me wrong, I try not to pre-judge albums, but looking at the cover art, I just had the sinking suspicion that I was about to unleash some nerd-fest of dweeb rock that would bore me to tears with soul-less techno-geek wizardry.

Man, I couldn't have been more wrong!

Don't make the same mistake I did. Run, no sprint I say, sprint as fast as you can to your computer (oh wait, you must be at your computer already) and rush to to get this amazing delectable treat of funky power-pop majesty. And it's a free download! I'll say it as clearly as I can, I love this disc, and you will too. Freaking love it.

Essentially a two-piece, studio creation, Modern Science unleash the funkiest bunch of white boy song craft since the finest material released by Was Not Was. Every song on this platter is a delicious nugget of walloping bass lines, crafty synths, and impeccably tight song writing. And when I say tight, I mean Difford and Tilbrook masterpieces. Listening to this was like walking into my favorite old-fashioned ice cream parlor where all the juicy tidbits are lined up for you to pick and choose, but your mouth is watering so much from the sheer delight of the selection that you can never make up your mind on what's your favorite. Certainly, "Look Where You're Walking," is as tasty as they come, riding a bass line sweeter than pralines and cream. But every song is so laden with with honey-dipped vocals, power pop guitar bursts, glorious harmonies, and damn hummable choruses, it's like an IV-infused sugar high guaranteed to keep you bopping in your bucket seat as you motor down the freeway.

"Every Little Thing," positively bounces across it's jaunty rhythm. "I'm The One (Pick Me)" is glorious, quirky, white boy funk pop. Somewhere Don Was is absolutely green with envy. "Baby Please," is that lost Squeeze classic that was finally discovered mining through the lost caverns of Tibet. "Whatever You Say," may be what George Michael would have written if he hadn't forgotten how to write pop gems. Seriously, if those references appeal to you at all, this is the disc for you. This is about as good as funky pop gets. Check it out, go over to their myspace page, and download the entire album for free! I'm so confident you'll like it that if I was selling these I'd hand em out with a money back guarantee. And not one person would take me up on that.

Swift Ships - Rebel Renaissance

I'm thrilled to be writing a new review of Swift Ships because in many ways they (along with our long-time waverider Dimaension X) are responsible for this column existing in the first place. It was the sudden appearance of their latest disc, the aptly-titled Losers and Sluts, with it's alt rock, funky, bluesy soul that inspired me and the Pope to dedicate a special space in the Ripple (and our hearts) for those who toil alone, crafting and creating music to please their own inner muses, regardless of the potential for commercial success. And let me tell you, Swift Ships can craft some beauties.

Stepping backwards in time, Rebel Renaissance is the album that pre-dated the S/T and in it you'll find all the same glorious quirks that made Losers and Sluts such a revelatory find. "Wedding Day," percolates out, a mid-tempo, slightly blues-weary ode to . . . well, I'm not exactly sure. But between Ben Shanaberger's disaffected vocal delivery, Scott Lovings searing guitar work and a steady, constant, driving rhythm, this track is a winner of alt-angst. "Gunslinger," features what may be the most impassioned singing I've yet heard from Shanaberger and another Fourth of July burst of Loving guitar fireworks. Hard to declare a standout track among so many fune songs, but I defy you to sit in your seats for the entire 3:30 of "Flatland." Damn, between that funky-ass, scratching guitar riff, a bopping bass and another masterpiece of impassioned, yet disaffected vocals by Shanaberger, I can never get enough of this song. Expect to hear it on Ripple Radio. Soon and often.

From there, the whole album is one beautiful ride of alt-angst funk, like the stuttering guitar of "Nice Guy," the charging drive of "Pursuit Race," or the tin-pan alley depression of "Under the Weather." Don't really know where Swift Ships plan on setting course next, but count me in as deck hand. I'm on board for the sail.

Tok - Long Tall Cobra Box

Now, it's not very often that I'd let a band's self-penned description influence my review of their music. Lord knows, bands can sometimes be prone to hyperbole when it comes to themselves. And it's even rarer that I'd actually let that band's words make it's way into the review itself, but damn if the boys from Tok haven't captured the imagination and hammered the nail right on the head with the handwritten note they scrawled to me. "(Our music) is like if the Replacements, Nirvana, the Pixies and the MC5 got in a fistfight. Then someone scooped up all their blood and teeth and rubbed them all over a golden skeleton, and the golden skeleton had a flying V carved out of woolly mammoth tusks. So he's wailing on that thing and some grizzly bear is eating people and playing drums, and every time the bear hits a drum someone's head explodes in a beautiful shower of confetti." Um . . . yeah, that just about does it.

So what does all this mean for the uninitiated or less imaginative? It means one flaming, chaotic, bad-ass mess of punked up rock and roll of the ilk that would make our Ripple brethren Mighty High proud. "What Can I Do," is without a doubt the standout track on this collision of insanity. If you ever wondered what it would sound like if Henry Mancini lived during the punk rock revolution, pierced his cheek, wore a Mohawk, tattered jeans, hated humanity, and wrote the Peter Gunn theme while strung out on uppers, here's your answer. An absolutely devastating, brash demonstration of rawk and roll, driven by that massive drum and bass "secret-agent" riff while the boys, full of snot, wail on "Every night I hope and pray that the world becomes a disaster/I don't mind if you don't bother me, I'm gonna keep on being a bastard." Absolutely incendiary stuff. A song so addictive it's already been outlawed in several states and been responsible for the formation of 19 detox centers. Not content to stop there, the Tok brothers, Bryan and Matt Basler, rage through meth-speed rave-ups like "Dracula Time, "I'll Get Even Later," "Hot Rod Goat," and "Been Thankless," all overflowing with MC5 mania. They even slow it down for a punk jazz torch song, "All The Time."

In truth, the album is a bit rough around the edges, and nothing quite lives up to the sheer shove-it-up-your-ass-and-smile brilliance of "What Can I Do," but it doesn't matter. This beauty is worth listening to for "What Can I Do," alone. And if that song is any inclination of what the Tok boys are capable of, then I'm willing to bet they got lots more gems up their sleeves, just waiting to be unfettered on a helpless population.


Modern Science


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