Monday, October 31, 2011
Revenge of the Quick Ripple Bursts; featuring Old Californio, Fuck Knights, The Doggs, Sky Parade, The Parties, and Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Employing the same rootsy-bluegrass-desert-vibe post-Dead psychedelia that made Westering Again so charming, Old Californio come trotting back riding bareback along that old and dusty california trail. Bringing some Byrds-ian jangle along with some banjo, lap steel, wurlitzer piano, and fine fiddle playing to their already solid musical chops, Old Californio explore some vast bluegrassy terrirtory vacated by the Grateful Dead. And they do it first rate all the way. Rich Dembowski has a way with a phrase and musical turn, always finding the melody in his songs, and as ever, the band is tight while being loose all at the same time. Having had the pleasure of seeing the guys play live, I've seen the chemistry they bring to the stage, which can only lead me to believe that recording this album must've been a joy. "Learn to Cheat," is about as Grateful Dead a song as you could hope for with some dynamite harmony vocals, "Better Yet," rambles out like some old Pure Praire League shuffle, and "Allon Camerado," brings in some darker guitar tone muscle to the storm-brewing horizon. But the real standout here is "A Cool Place in the Light." With it's dynamite fiddle line singing and dancing over it's lap steel heart. A stick-in-your-brain-like-crazy-glue melody doesn't hurt either. All in all, another rootsy winner from these Californian floor stompers.
I don't know if there ever was a volume 1 or 2. Hell, I don't even know how the Fuck Knights ever got my address and starting invading my personal space with their cacophony of gargae rock mayhem. But thank God they did. Just when I thought the Fuck Knights story had to run out some day, the boys come back from their barely-audible, garage blitz frenzy The Recorded by Gary Burger from The Monks EP, and turn around and drop this bomb on me. Is this the same band? Are these my Fuck Knights? Is that a harmonica? A trumpet? A sax? Are they playing actual chords and managing to keep time? By damn it, they are! Suddenly all my previous notions of the band are blown the fuck away. These cats actually know how to play their instruments and can do it live no less! And play em they do. No other way to describe it, FuKn Live! is a retro-garage rock pizza pie of delight. Tons of fuzzy guitars (actually waiting in line to play their parts) a pounding rhythm section, a partying horn crew, and some impassioned vocals. No doubt about it, as much as I've loved the Fuck Knights since the first EP they sent me, this is the pinnacle of their (what I've heard) recorded career. No hesitation recommending this one. If bands like the Monks, the Sonics, the Jay Retard, King Kahn, heck, the Kingsmen and ? and the Mysterians light your fuse, you can't go wrong with this. And as a special aside, the Fuck Knights now win the Ripple prize-crown for being the only band I've reviewed 3 times in these pages. Don't know what it's worth, but that and $5 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.
Keeping the fuzz-hysteria garage vibe going, what we got here is the latest installment of Johnny Rotten meets the Cramps fuzz burst from the Doggs. While their last EP insinuated itself into my ears like a fungal infection, this latest 5-song toxic release smothers me like a putrid mustard gas. And I mean that in a good way. Distorto-decrepit garage punk is the name of the game here, and both the song writing and the playing have taken a major leap out of the dog pound since the last release. Yep, it's angry and vulgar and something that should be scrubbed off your toilet, but damn if it isn't some of the finest toilet scum you've ever heard. Christian Celsi's guitar tone sounds positively rotting, while singer Marco Mezzadri's Johnny Rotten-barely contained vocal approach must put fear into the minds of young children. "Hit Me," is an instant garage punk classic while "Dead City Bleeds" even terrifies me. "Life Kills," with it's monster bass intro and distorto guitar mix hits all the right nerves as Marco borders on the verge of some deep, demented psychosis. Yep, brilliant stuff here.
Now of course I know Sky Parade. After all, we at Ripple put out their top 20 indy rock hit, "I Should Be Coming Up (But I Keep Coming Down)" split single with Grand Atlantic. And I've seen Tommy and the boys play several times, last one as recently as a month ago. But truth be told, I'd never really had a chance to immerse myself in their back catalog. Now, as I start digging, their 2005 debut CD Fire in the Sky, graces my CD player, and damn. If I hadn't already worked with the band, I'd be looking them up now. Plying a mid-tempo, post Stone Roses brand of trance/danceable psychedelic pop, Sky Parade sound so fully formed on this album that it's stunning it didn't race up indy radio. "Fire in Your Heart," with Tommy Dietrick's halting, whispered vocals and Daniella Meekers accompanying backing is simply sumptuous. Matthew Lindgren layers on just the perfect tone of lead guitar to ignite the fuse as the song launches off into trance/psych nirvana. "My Eyes Are Bleeding Tears," follows next, burning through the mix with its pulsating bass and searing guitar leads which blends right into the strutting, dancefloor frenzy of "Losing Control." There's Primal Scream here, some Dandy Warhols, some Oasis, some Church. All Sky Parade. All good.
Another band I've had the pleasure of seeing twice now (both times with Sky Parade) is the parties and everything they bring so powerfully to their live shows in on exhibit right here, there 2010 CD Coast Garde. Moving away from the Church-esque vibe of Sky Parade, The Parties are all maximal jangle, all the time. Bringing in a 12-string Rickenbacker into the mix, you can't help but bring in the Byrds reference, but The Parities aren't Byrds-rip-off-wanna-be's. This is pure, unadulterated jangle powerpop with a bouncing psych flavor poured over the songs like syrup on pancakes. "Let's Call it Love" is pure Byrds, but with a melody and chorus that could've come from The Three O'clock., while "Can't Seem to Mind" could be Beat-inspired power pop. "Twenty-four" rumbles with a newfound menace before that beautiful jangle dances in a Stone Roses moment of perfection. "The Target Smiles," is retro-Beatles pop at it's purest. No fan of jangle pop will be disappointed here.
Fellow Ripple scribe Woody, nearly filleted me and served me live to his dogs for reviewing Frankie Goes to Hollywood's first album, so what am I to do? Review their second, of course. See, Woody wasn't there in England when "Relax" first broke and didn't drink that song in everyday like ale, as I and the rest of the UK did. He didn't get infected with Holly and Paul and the boys. I did, God help me, I did. Having said that, I'd never heard Liverpool before this comprehensive Ian Peel curated reissue came to me. I guess having left England before this album was released, I lost my Frankie mojo. And let's be honest. Welcome to the Pleasuredome had some fantastic songs on it, but it also had quite a bit of filler. So perhaps Frankie caused me to lose my mojo. With that in mind, Liverpool, just never caught my attention.
But it has my attention now. While there's no "Relax" or "Two Tribes" or "War" on Liverpool, overall, it's probably a better, more fully realized album than Pleasuredome. And one thing Liverpool does, is waste no time in proving once and for all that Frankie were a real band, and damn it they came here to play. "Warriors of the Wasteland" is, dare I say it, heavy. I mean heavy. Way heavier with a much beefier riff and electrifying guitar solo than you'd ever expect from Frankie. And angry too. Damn angry. One thing that hasn't changed is Holly's vocals. Like Frankie or hate em, you gotta admit that Holly could sing. "Rage Hard," keeps the energy and anger going as raging hard doesn't refer to partying or raving (as I'd thought) but raging against the status quo. Yes, it's a Frankie song of rebellion, and in truth, underneath the glam and glitz and hype, that's what Frankie was about. Resistence. Fighting. Claiming ones own. That vibe keeps going through the melancholy "Kill the Pain," and the electro-sublime "Maximum Joy."
As a bonus, Ian Peel has included several bonus outtakes of cover songs from various sessions. While Frankie doing "Suffragette City," may not seem too much of a stretch with Frankie's glam leanings, I gotta admit, their cover of The Doors' "Roadhouse Blues," caught me way off guard. Frankie and grit blues just doesn't add up in my world, but Holly does a good job of roughing up his vocals and the band lays it down as if they owned it. We'll call this one a near miss. But a true winner is their glammed up, electro-ed out, Frankie'd up instrumental dance mash up version of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." Nearly unrecognizable from the original, this is pure hedonistic fun. A whole bonus disc of special mixes awaits also. Good Frankie fun.