Monday, December 31, 2007

Dan Reed Network - Slam

Today we harken back to the halcyon days of 1989 when, for a brief shining moment a number of bands made an earnest effort to live and preach multiculturalism - which of course made them, for all their ernestness, an easy target to look as dated as the naive hippies sounded in the summer of '66.

And, yet, if you bear with me, can we, just for a moment, say that there is nothing funny about peace, love and understanding?

Dan Reed understands, and as a follow up to their eponymously titled first album, this Northwest based band enlisted funk-meister Nile Rogers to help produce their second album, Slam. While the politics may appear dated, Slam thrives on slick grooves, some great hooks and all the energy devoted to songs about loving your brother, getting along and hot sex.

Now this is the world that I wouldn't mind living in.

Make It Easy is a standout opener, from the minute that the needle hits the vinyl. Vinyl baby. Its 1989. While the debut album opened with a rap about treating each other with respect, Make it Easy is ten kinds of sex, and the groove puts it right in your face. Lyrics? It is what is says it is... oh hell, just watch the video. You like it, then read the rest of the review.

You with me so far? I have little tolerance for those that would say, I only respect bands that don't write hooks, because Dan Reed had hooks in abundance. Make It Easy, Slam and Tiger in a Dress all rock, and they're never ponderous. The band can swing, Dan's lead vocals have a confident charm (I would imagine that he was a good front man live), and the guitar work is solid. If anything, it is the power ballads that have dated poorly nearly 20 years on. Rainbow Child is an ernest one, as is Stronger Than Steel. But move on to the next track, Doin' The Love Thing, and we've moved back into religious sex territory. And again, the band can swing and rock.

Did I mention that I wouldn't mind living in this world?

Cruise Together, the 7th track in, is a stand out, building from sound effects and drums into a controlled bass and guitar combo that rides the back beat, builds and releases tension in a great bit of songwriting and arranging. Lover is a standout among the ballads, beginning not with the standard keyboard intro, but a clever bit of acoustic Spanish guitar that sets a beautiful tone for the song. Dan's vocals are pitch perfect, a well balanced song. And rather than ending the record with the lighter-in-the-air All My Lovin', the band throws out the fancy production for a rocking closer, Seven Sisters Road.

This album is solid enough, that even the slightly perfunctory songs, Under My Skin and I'm Lonely Please Stay are solid, and well played. Its a shame that grunge would raise its loud, ugly head and, for a while, sweep everything else out of its way. Dan Reed's Slam was a great record that was lost in the shuffle over time and it deserved far better. And that, my friends, is what Ripple Effect is all about.

Buy here: Slam

-the fearless rock iguana

Friday, December 28, 2007

Brides of Destruction - Here Come the Brides

A few years back when I heard that Nikki Sixx and Tracii Guns were putting a new band together, I thought, ‘Uh oh . . . someone’s trying to relive some past glories.’ How often do we see members of popular bands go off in a different direction and wind up floundering? So, I let out a heavy sigh and listened to the first single. Folks, let me tell ya’, I’ll be the first to admit when I’m a jack ass and apologize for my transgressions. Nikki . . . Tracii . . . I am sorry for prejudging your work before I gave it a fair listen. Brides of Destruction have released an album so much more aggressive and in your face than the aforementioned musicians prior outfits. Here Come the Brides doesn’t so much leave the Hollywood glam scene as much as it injects it with a healthy dose of attitude and fuck all y’all-edness. This album is a middle finger vigorously waved in the air and a rollicking good time!

The disc opens with one of the most urgent songs that I had heard in quite some time in “Shut the Fuck Up!” It’s a high tempo number that borrows a bit from bands like The Exploited and Sex Pistols, but what better way to get the point across, huh? “I Don’t Care” follows the leader with another punked out offering that highlights Tracii’s guitar work, particularly the riff through the verses, and London Legrand’s manic vocal stylings. Up tempo and bouncy, the song is seeping with attitude and sleaze. The entire band shows it’s chops on this tune, staying tight in the breaks and never leaving the flow. “Two Times Dead” opens with a great harmonic filled riff and simply kicks ass. Tracii offers up another sterling solo as well. “Natural Born Killers” kind of takes the listener aback in that the song starts off very poppy, but the chorus changes everything and that snotty Brides attitude reappears. Watch for the line, “I’ve got strychnine on my tongue and I’m felling F-I-N-E, Fine.” Classic song and you’ll be singing along with the chorus before you know what you’re doing. “Life” is another poppy-punk tune that would fit right along with a band like Jimmy Eat World, and again, I dare you to not sing along. Can’t be done, friends. “Only Get So Far” closes Here Come the Brides and is the lone track that harkens back to the bygone era of ‘80’s hair metal. It’s the closest thing to a power ballad, though I wouldn’t even categorize it as that. Think of it more as a mellowed out punk tune. Sentimental, but not sappy.

All in all, Here Come the Brides is a great album and a good time. It captures the essence of the four musicians and the environment that they call home. It’s a tough guy album that takes no prisoners, and really never let’s up until the last track. But, that last track is there so that we can all kind of catch our breath and collect our wits just before we throw it on for another spin. The songs are catchy, but never come close to wussing out. They’ve got stones, but not in a meathead fashion. Beneath all of the punk vibes, there’s still a ton a musicality that can only be found from life long rockers and metalheads. Brides of Destruction come across more as a punk outfit than their Hollywood surroundings would traditionally have them seem. And to quote my good buddy, J.D., this is the sleaziest rock album since Appetite For Destruction. Is there really a better selling point than that? - Pope JTE

Buy here: Here Come the Brides

Monday, December 24, 2007

Midnight Oil - Red Sails in the Sunset

There comes a moment for every great band when it all comes together. A creative peak matched perfectly with a cultural zeitgeist. The resulting magic launches the band into a new stratosphere of performance and success. For U2, that moment was The Joshua Tree, an amalgam building on the dynamism of War and the atmospherics of The Unforgettable Fire.

For Midnight Oil, that moment was Red Sails in the Sunset.

While it was their next album Diesel and Dust that would rightfully be the one to break them in America, it was Red Sails that finally saw the band come together, shedding the pub/punk rock surf roots displayed on their first albums and adding the political urgency that blasted off of 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Listening to this album, there is no way to describe it other than epic.

Uncompromising in its political intensity and defiant Australianism, Midnight Oil roared out of the gates, protests marches carefully wrapped and packaged as they launched into a nonstop rant against nuclear proliferation, the plight of the aborigines, consumer greed and the corporate ethical vacuum. “When the Generals Talk,” starts off as a slight musical misdirection as to what the rest of the album hid inside. Behind a near-funky break beat, punctuated with spasms of Moginie’s guitar, Peter Garrett warns that “When the Generals talk/you better listen to him,” which takes on new meaning when it becomes apparent that the Generals he’s most afraid of are more likely General Motors, General Electric, and General Insurance than a military force.

“Best of Both Worlds,” immediately follows, raging from the stereo before the first track can even finish. Driven by a pulsing bass and as crunching a riff as Midnight Oil would write, guitars screech behind Garrett’s pleading warning that, “The real world is not as calm as it appears to be from here/The small world is not as strong and the testing ground is near.” Fierce and unrelenting in its intensity, the guitar wails through its solo, while the backing riff bellows underneath.

Then, just as the intensity reaches the breaking point, it all comes crashing back down. Following a fiercely strummed acoustic guitar, a foreshadowing of their excellent use of acoustics on Diesel and Dust, “Sleep,” portrays vividly the human rights abuses of the aborigines that truly are universal. “In the back of the cell/the plug and the cord/shoulder dislocation/bruised in isolation.” Garrett’s vocals never before achieved such a perfect blend of passion, melody and urgency. “Minutes to Midnight,” which follows reigns as perhaps the best anti-nuclear song written, “I.C.B.M.’s, S.S. 20’s, they lie so dormant, they got so many,” sung over a single acoustic guitar and protest drum beat.

As perfectly crafted as the prior songs have been, with a stunningly flawless melding of acoustic and electric instruments, never losing their punch and urgency even on the slower passages, it is “Jimmy Sharman’s Boxers,” that is the emotional core of the album. Telling the true tale of aboriginal men who were unceremoniously paraded across the country where white settlers would bet on them as they battled against fighting kangaroos. The song starts as a slow funeral dirge and with each stanza a new instrument, acoustic or electric guitar is added, until Hirst’s drumming rages like a war drum, the guitars screaming underneath Garrett’s wailing vocal, “Why are we fighting for this? Why are you paying for this? You pay to see me fall like shrapnel to the floor/ What is the reason for this? There is a reason for this? What is the reason they keep coming back for more?”

It is this unflinching honesty and unrelenting brutality of lyric combined with the beautiful playing and melodies of the right band at the exact right moment in time that propels Red Sails to levels never heard by them before. Other tracks like the Oil’s classic “Kosciusko,” and “Helps Me Helps You,” continue this amazingly high standard of craft. Acoustic guitars, strummed with passion, create more dynamic tension than most metal bands could create with a roomful of electric strats and an arsenal of effect pedals. When Garrett sings about the plight of the aboriginals on “Kosciusko,” “No stranger to hostility/Now they want to be somewhere else/No stranger to brutality/Now they want to be someone else,” you can’t help but feel the pain of the people who he’s lent his voice to and the passion with which the band brings that message forth.

Diesel and Dust may have been the moment that broke the band, but it was Red Sails in the Sunset that made the band.

—Racer X

Buy here: Red Sails in the Sunset

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Thieves - Where the Bright Lights Bloom

If there were true justice in this crazy, mixed-up, muddled-up world we live in, The Thieves would be huge. I mean gargantuan. Bands like The Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs would be scrambling over themselves just to be their opening act. Jet and the Datsuns would be lowering their guitars in respect, bowing down at the Thieves altar, offering gifts and sacrifices for the opportunity to riff along with the masters.

How do you like your rock n roll? Fast and furious but with a melodic edge? Rough and raw, but filled with clear vocals and soaring, catchy choruses? So full of driving emotion and energy that it gets pumped into your veins like an I.V. infusion, making you just damn glad happy to be alive?

On this six song EP, the Thieves dispatched with the gloss that shimmered over the production on their terrific full-length debut, Tales from the White Line, opting for a more garage-based sound. And I mean that literally. Where the Bright Lights Bloom was recorded in the band's LA garage on breaks from touring with the aim of trying to capture the band's dynamic live energy. And they succeeded. With this release, The Thieves have officially left the relatively sedate environs of their past lives in Oxford behind and become honorary crazy citizens of jet-fueled California. Gone are the layered textures of their brit-rock past, replaced by the fierce edge of the Sunset Strip and manic energy of Venice Beach.

"Tell Me Something," rages out of the stereo, adrenaline-hyped and revving at 100 mph. Even the vocals match the ferocious pace of the driving riff, coming at you half sung, half spoken, faster than any human being should be able to speak. The chorus is vintage Thieves, melodic and memorable, with the added extra of some fine female backing vocals, reminding me of, dare I say it, Lynyard Skynyrd. Not that the band sound the least bit country, mind you, but the female singers harmonizing behind Hal's vocals just adds that kick-ass southern touch.

Without even pausing to let the sweat dry on your blistering skin, the disc spins right into "Oxford Town," the Thieves official goodbye to their old hometown. Sam Stokes and Jamie Dawson keep the song propelled with a tight rhythm section. The highlight of the disc though is the out and out, one-two punch of "Oh Lord," and "Velcro Colors." The riff from "Oh Lord," rages at you supercharged, speeding like a bullet train into your brain. Again, in my perfect world, this track would be the soundtrack to any number of sports greatest hits films, guys pummeling themselves senseless on the football field, hockey ice or (with deference to my Oxford buds) the rugby pitch. This song should blare from every stadium's loud speakers, welcoming the home team to the gladiatorial arena before the bloodletting begins. It would pump the crowd into a frenzy better than a thousand "Welcome to the Jungle's."

"Velcro Colors," may be the best song the Thieves have done so far. Starting with a stuttering guitar riff over Sam's bass, Hal's vocals carry the perfect hint of road-weariness as he sings, "Blind illusion keeps you far from home/What am I to do?" Slightly more complex in structure than the previous arrangements, "Velcro," is the closest hint to the Thieves sound on White Line, but still amped up as if they'd spent all night raiding the Red Bull display at the local liquor store.

Sadly, Where the Bright Lights Bloom, was billed as the Thieves last official release, but all may not be lost, Sam has recently hinted that he and his brother are playing together again and may get Jamie back into the fold. While we can hope that the world will not be long deprived of these guys' particular brand of melody-tinged garage rock, what we can do in the meantime is soak up their adrenaline charged output so far. Cruise on over to the good folks at, peruse through the Thieves listing and check out Where the Bright Lights Bloom. You wont' be disappointed. As the boys say, "This is the closest sounding record to our live sound that we ever got. Turn it up loud!" Amen to that, my brothers, amen. --Racer X

Buy the CD

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

John Wesley - Shiver

Listening to this album reminds me of everything that irks me about the music industry and American radio. Good, verging on great, music that’s constantly overlooked and never given the attention that it rightly deserves. And all because some dude in a posh office is making the calls on what he feels we, the American people, should be spending our hard earned money on. Oh ho . . . but not here, friends! Here at The Ripple Effect, we will do battle against impossible odds and champion the artists who are so casually tossed aside by “big business”. We will take artists such as John Wesley, hoist them on our shoulders, and parade them through the streets as if they had just won the Stanley Cup!

Shiver is a rock album laden with lyrical paintings and great stories, acoustic guitars mixed in with the electric variety, musical virtuosity, and passionate vocals. You know, all the things that make music so cool in the first place. John Wesley is all about the music. No frills. Nothing flashy. A hint of a southern swag with an Americana flair, folksy without that twang. Just a good songwriter expressing every emotion with every note he plays.

The album opens with a great riff and some nifty bass work before Wes introduces us to his wonderful mastery of the English language. Gotta’ love the line about “challenging the very gods in the sky.” By the end of “Pretty Lies”, John’s vocals scream with the passion of his message. The musical break at the 2:41 point of “Used Up” reminds us why we love music . . . so much passion, man! “Always Be” treats us to some beautiful interplay of acoustic and electric guitars, bass rumbling neatly in the back of the mix. Then, we’re served some clever phrasing in a tale of childhood ideals with “The King of 17”. The lyrics, “I got twenty dollars/ it’ll get some gas/ we won’t get to far/ and we won’t get there fast/ but, it’s twenty dollars farther from here” paint a great picture of two kids just trying to get away. Every time that part of the song pops up, I have to smile and think, ‘If only it were that easy.’ The centerpiece of the disc is “Swing” and opens with a beautiful finger picking melody on Wes’ acoustic, but then takes a dark twist and shows us that John can pack some punch with the six string. “Your Round” is a strong tune that takes some shots at the senselessness of violence and is driven by a heavy and quite bad ass acoustic riff. Shiver is wrapped up by the beautiful and pleading “Please Come Back” . . . John’s voice works exceptionally well as it breaks and cracks over the chorus. Damn it, son . . . it brings a tear to my eye!

When I first heard of John Wesley, it was through his work as the touring guitarist for Porcupine Tree, so naturally, I thought that his music would sound similar. Far from it. Other than Shiver being mixed by the great Steve Wilson (Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, No-Man), there’s no outstanding PT sounds. In fact, I’ve tried to find another band or artist to compare John Wesley to, but nothing comes to mind. John simply has a unique voice, and thank God for that! It’s refreshing to hear music that doesn’t immediately make one think, ‘Oh, that sounds like so-and-so.’ As mentioned before, this is no frills, no fluff rock music. It’s that rare type of music that can pick you up and get the blood flowing, as well as mellow one out after a rough commute down the bumper to bumper speedway. You should enjoy it.

I’m gonna’ go ahead and set John down now. That parade was murder on my shoulders. - Pope JTE

Monday, December 17, 2007

54-40 - Sweeter Things- A Compilation (Fiftyfour forty)

It’s raining this morning, the droplets pouring down from a thick shroud of grey layering over the hills. I’ve already brewed a fresh pot of coffee, got a muffin and have no desire to go outside. It’s a good day to just plop down on the couch with my steaming mug and let the day pass me by. But what to listen to? It’s not a downbeat, chill frame of mind. I still want to rock, but nothing that will make my ears bleed or break my mood. Jazz is too, well, jazzy. I want something not downcast, not melancholy, just . . . somber.

I want 54-40.

It’s not normal that I’d throw a Greatest Hits CD at you for review, but with a band like 54-40, when you’re trying to catch up on a career that spans 25 years, this is a great place to start. Nearly legendary in Canada, 54-40 burst onto the scene with a rootsy, earnest sound that immediately labeled them the Canadian R.E.M. While there is some similarity in their sound, especially in their early albums, one listen to this compilation culled from their first five releases immediately lets you know how much of a disservice that label is.

Considering that they come from Vancouver, with it’s grey chill and wet winters, it should be no surprise that 54-40 bring a touch of the overcast northwest to their music. “I Go Blind,” is probably 54-40’s best known song south of the Canadian border, and that’s mainly on the back of the Hootie and the Blowfish cover. But whereas when Hootie sings, “In the morning/I get up/and I try to feel alive/but I can’t,” it seems more like he’s complaining about a post-frat party hangover, than the existential angst expressed in Neil Osbourne’s slightly nasal baritone. That’s not to say that 54-40 is a downer. They’re definitely more uplifting than say, the American Music Club. They’re just. . . somber.

“Baby Ran,” is a jaunty breakup tune with an infectious chorus. Watch the video at the bottom of this review and see for yourself if you’re not singing “Baby ran/she ran away/why she ran?/I’ve got to say/I’m lonesome/all the time,” for the rest of the day. The chorus works it's way into your consciousness. And the rest of the album follows suit. Whether the percussive riff of, “One Day in Your Life,” or the anti-apathy chant of “One Gun,” 54-40 know how to create a mood, textured with the rare mournful trumpet bellowing behind the jangling guitars.

54-40 long dispatched with the R.E.M comparisons, but unfortunately, never found a home here in the U.S. And it’s too bad. “Alcohol Heart,” “Miss You,” and “Me Island,” are as rewarding as any of the best Athens output, or early Matchbox 20. So, the next time you're hanging on a rainy day, break out Sweeter Things, and revel in the misty somberness of north of the border rock.

Now please pass my latte. –Racer X

Buy here: Sweeter Things: A Compilation

Friday, December 14, 2007

Prong - Power of the Damager

There was a time when I felt that Prong was the most important metal band devastating my ear drums. This was around ’90 – ’91 and Prove Your Wrong had taken up permanent residence in my CD player, and in comparison to most of the music being released at that time, the competition could only hope to bag Prong’s groceries. Fast forward to 2007, look at the gray creeping into my facial hair, and take a listen to what band founder, Tommy Victor, has delivered us! I was ready to claim this album as the best album that Prong has done almost immediately, but I wanted to take a bit more time to spin the hell out of it and make the most informed decision that I could. Hey . . . I’m just trying to be responsible!

And here it is . . . Power of the Damager is the best Prong album to date. Arguments can always be made about Beg to Differ and Cleansing, but the fact is, Damager is the most complete of them all. It hits all the high points just right, and the low points . . . well, there's nothing worth mentioning. It borrows so heavily from the earlier era of the band, yet shows Tommy and company are so comfortable with the music’s direction that the whole thing just sounds fresh. The riffs are as head bobbin’ awesome as ever and the guitar tones are the heaviest since Cleansing. This should keep the hardcore Prong fans happy and should bring past fans of the band back into the fold. On top of all that, Power of the Damager is vital enough to introduce the band to a new group of fans who swore that nu-metal was true metal.
Hell, for those latter folk . . . the entire Prong catalog should be studied and revered.

The album starts of with an in-your-face beating of “Looking For Them”, and continues the pummeling through “3rd Option.” Hard driving songs that will have your neck aching the next morning and much of the day. “Pure Ether,” shows a bit of a twist with Tommy singing in his more melodic voice . . . just enough to catch your attention, then the band busts into another hard groovin’ set of riffs. The title track kicks in as a very typical Prong tune, packed with pent up aggression and killer riffs. The chorus sums up what we’ve all come to know and love about these guys. And then, we’re reminded why Prong are one of the best metal bands around. “The Banishment,” is classic industrial metal served up Prong-style. A heavy groove riff in the vein of “Beg to Differ,” or “Broken Peace,” is the strength of the tune, which acts as the centerpiece of Power of the Damager. The overall musicianship of the band on this track deserves much more praise than I could ever give. Tommy gets a bit introspective with “Spirit Guide” and “Messages Inside of Me,” but don’t think for a minute that he’s going soft on us. Far from it.

This is an album that will make people who think Disturbed or Slipknot are heavy grab themselves and soil their shorts. “Changing Ending Troubling Times,” seals the story of Damager with an intense, multi note intro, to a multi dimensional beat down. More praise for a band so absolutely drenched in what they do that it all feels so natural.

Prong have been a much overlooked band by an industry that’s in serious need of an enema. They never wavered from what their vision of metal should be. They experimented with their sound and dabbled with a more industrial feel for awhile, but bands that want to mean a damn in the future need to tweak their sound once in awhile. As long as they don’t stray so far from their original sound, they should stay vital. Tommy Victor has managed to drag Prong out of the miasma of indecision and redirected the band in the ways that made them metal legends. I chip my teeth in the mosh pit in honor of your efforts! - Pope JTE

Buy here: Power of the Damager

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Answer - Rise

Every generation needs a new group of teenagers who find their ideal voice during their years of struggle in the wailing feedback of a guitar chord torn out of a Fender Twin. The only problem is that rock, essentially, is a rather limited pentatonic language, and finding something new to say can be difficult in the extreme. Someone once asked a guitarist in the ‘80’s why we didn’t have a lot of riff driven songs and he famously replied, “well, there are only 12 notes, and, you know, there are only so many combinations, and Jimmy Page used a lot of them.” And, no, it wasn't Nigel Tufnel.

The Answer, straight outta Northern Ireland, should be commended for not spending a great deal of time trying to over analyze how to sound “fresh” or “current” or anything that requires an annoying amount of deconstruction. In fact, the first track hits you like a bus when you've just stepped off the curb. Under the Sky is a stunning little bit of rock ‘n’ roll straight from 1975, and its riff already sounds classic. Thats a Black Beauty Les Paul ripping it up, and Cormac Neeson stole his wardrobe straight from Plant's closet circa 1970. The third track, Come follow Me, is Thin Lizzy on speed, and I mean that in the best possible way, with a Nuno Bettencourt solo hiding in the middle just to let you know just how good their chops are. Memphis Water, the 5th track, shows that their blues are as close to Memphis as Rod Stewart was when he sang You Shook Me in the Jeff Beck Group. They are simply so outrageous that you just want to let them go. Preachin’ asks the same indulgence from us: the closest these boys have come to pickin’ cotton is at the local Marks and Spencer. Its goofy and fun and they clearly love what they’re doing. Let ‘em go. As much as the hyped up Whitesnake with David Coverversion and Kingdom Clone were pretenders to the Zeppelin throne, it has been bands like the Answer and Earl Greyhound that really come close to hitting the mark.

No Questions Asked is simply a showstopper. Played at reckless Communication Breakdown pace, Ask no questions (my baby don’t care)/tell no lies (she don’t care) and you’re hearing the best wail since Robert Plant told us that a lover breakdown will drive you insane. OK, maybe the best since Chris Cornell. But damn its good. The interplay with the guitar, vocals and bass in the break builds it back up to a killer finale. I’d pay to see this one song alone live. Into the Gutter channels Sabbath in the intro, and Sometimes Your Love has a Kiss chorus so solid that you could shelve hardbacks on it in your living room.

If there is a failing, its that these Irish boys know how to rock, but they fall into the trap of believing that they need to slow down and chill out and let you go the back of the club and get a beer. Be What You Want, the 4th track, falls into Black Crowes circa Three Snakes and a Charm. The band sounds like they were told that then desperately need a lighter lifiting show closing power ballad for the single. And it shows. Always does indeed close the album, and I’m sure a lot of bars. Its not bad, but it never transcends the formula, succumbing to a keyboard build-up at the chorus that screams Winger, and so many of the other songs do that I’m just going to continue to annoy the neighbors with the other 9 tracks.

All said, Rise is simply Audacious in execution. There are moments of rock ‘n’ roll as pure here as anything from 30 years ago. Go download a few of their MP3s, go buy the album. Lets support getting these guys over to the USA from the UK!

the fearless rock iguana

Buy here: Rise

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Angels (Angel City): Face to Face

Nobody will deny that AC/DC's riffs can shatter concrete and that their boogie rocking blues makes for some good times, but if you're searching for something with lyrical content beyond songs about women's butts and groupies with the clap, Angel City is the band for you. Amazingly huge and known as the Angels in Australia, they had to adopt the moniker Angel City in America due to the dying glam band, Angel fronted by Greg Guiffria. This nomenclature schizophrenia would torment the band throughout it's existence, once forcing them to take up the unruly moniker of The Angels from Angel City. But don't let the name confusion steer you away from what they have to offer. No matter what they called themselves The Angles knew how to rock and Face to Face, a compilation of the best songs from their two prior mega-platinum Australian releases, is a great place to lose yourself in their particular brand of madness.

The key to Angel City (the Angels) were the bone crunching riffs of the Brewster brothers on guitar and the enigmatic, raving personality of the lead singer, Doc Neeson, who's vocals had more in common with Johnny Rotten than Bon Scott. In fact, Angel City comes across as the perfect combination of AC/DC get-down-boogie with the Sex Pistols edge and urgency. More often than not, it seems like Neeson is about to explode off the CD, his vocals barely contained within the framework of the song. And it's that energy and excitement that makes this Angel City album so damn much fun to listen to.

As a whole, the compositions are strong, with heart bursting riffs, thudding drums, and lyrics concentrating on Neeson's glaring paranoia and Orwellian view of the present. Couplets such as "Hold tight! Big brother/callin' in the name of liberty/Lot's stone take your place/Looks like it's comin' down on me" give you a peak through the keyhole into the scary place that is Neeson's mind.

"No Exit" reigns as the stellar track, with a stunning, hauntingly brutal riff, but every song has its merits including "Can't Shake it," later copied and bastardized by Great White. I have to give Great White credit though, in taking "Can't Shake it", and "Face the Day" from Angel City's second album, they showed that they had the where-with-all to steal some great rock and roll that was going largely unheard in America.

Face to Face
contains some of the Angels best known songs, including their own twisted version of a love song, "Am I Ever to See Your Face Again." Riffs such as those on "Take a Long Line" and "Marseilles," could rest comfortably on any AC/DC album, but what really made Angel City stand out was the range of material they created, from the Velvet Undergroundesque "Out of the Blue" to the raging punk of "Coming Down on Me". Think of them as AC/DC for those with a measurable IQ. -- Racer X

Buy here: Face to Face

Friday, December 7, 2007

PopeAlopes - Slowest Eye

A number of years ago, Racer X and I were perusing the bargain bins of a certain Bay Area record store in search of . . . well, something. At the time, it didn’t really matter what that something was, as long as it was cool and a bit different. I remember that I was openly mocked for one of my countless selections on that day, but here I stand some ten years later, head held high, and feeling somewhat vindicated. That selection just so happened to be Slowest Eye, the fourth release from PopeAlopes.

In the comfort of Senor X’s leather clad sports car, we sat back and listened to the opening strains of the title track with raised eye brows, and then . . . it was unceremoniously mixed into the pile of other discs from that particular trip. Somewhere along the course of my most uninteresting life, Slowest Eye found permanent residence in my music collection. And why not? Contrary to the initial (lack of) respect that we gave the album, it’s damn good! It’s uplifting in its originality. It’s moving in its somberness. Mesmerizing passages awash in feedback let the mind wander, releasing the weight of the everyday pressures of life. Great dynamics that can only be accomplished by great musicians.

PopeAlopes have a sound completely unto themselves. In fact, I’ve never had so much difficulty describing a band before. At one point, they come across as any typical college radio band, but then they’ll change it up and open the volume knobs to pummel the listener with waves of feedback. Every song has something new to offer. The aforementioned title track and it’s clean toned string bending madness. “War Dream” with it’s chanting over the distorted vocals and guitars. “Grand Anvil Chorus” has that driving-in-a-convertible-with-it’s-top-down feel, crooning vocals reminiscent of Michael Stipe, with a hint of Neil Young. “Noontide” has a beautiful acoustic guitar strumming in the background while the rest of the band rock out around it. “Yellow Paw” with it’s haunting undertones and grooving bass lines happens to be my favorite on the disc. And it goes on from there . . . shifting and changing like an electrically charged amoeba.

Categorize the band anyway you like, but you’ll ultimately come back and say, “PopeAlopes”. That’s the best description for these guys. The sad thing is, Slowest Eye was their last proper release and apparently only released in Italy (yes . . . I’m the envy of all those at The PopeAlope Fan Convention held in my mind every October 4th). However, the internet is a fabulous and ever-so powerful tool to track things down. Also, there are still three albums out there prior to this one! So, get out there . . . click on the link below and get in touch with the band. As always, you can thank me later. - Pope JTE
And for more behind the scenes info on the making of Slowest Eye check out

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Mr. Plow - Cock Fights and Pony Racin'

I don’t really ask for much.

When it comes to stoner metal, all I ask is that you pummel me senseless, hit me with a detuned chord so damn bottom heavy that it makes my lower intestine spasm, bring on the bass in massive rolling waves of cortex melting riffs, wash the bastard in a thick miasma of feedback fuzz and sing over the whole mess with a voice, rich and textured, deep and raw. Oh yeah, and make the whole thing groove. It’s got to groove, baby.

Mr. Plow is a metal collective from Houston leaving their mark on the stoner world with a handful of CD’s that wear their influences proudly on their sleeves. Tones of stoner-rock God’s Kyuss, meld with Fu Manchu, Nebula, Monster Magnet, and of course the whole disc is painted in the great thick colors of Black Sabbath. That’s not to say that Mr. Plow is derivative. Rather, the guys dig deep into their roots, suck down their bongwater and belch out a fantastic, spaced-out, sci-fi ode to the Stoner genre.

“Festivus,” sets off Cock Fights and Pony Racin' with all horses blazing, hammering the riff right out of the speakers. Bottom heavy and thick, the fuzzed out tones should’ve been the mandatory anthem at every abandoned-barn beer party I attended during high school, blaring out of the Jensen tri-axle speakers mounted in the back of a sea of’67 Cameros. It really is that good.

“Electric Sheep,” pays the most homage to Sabbath, the opening riff sounding as if it would have been comfortable on any one of the classic Ozzy albums. “Autozone,” brings out the more Fu Manchu-esque tones in its head-bobbing riff and car-obsessed lyrics. Soloing is sparse but tasteful, feedback drenched and pointed, not flashy.

Truthfully, I hear more Fu Manchu than Kyuss in Mr. Plow’s blend of stoner bliss, but whereas Fu mines a familiar mid-tempo seventies vein, Mr. Plow have a clear progressive artery running through their pounding heart. “The Only Reason You Got in Front of Me was Because I Let You,” intones a slight sci-fi-ish guitar tone to its tale of an urban drag race, bringing to mind a touch of Monster Magnet. Mr. Plow’s prog tendencies, however, are on best display during the twelve minute instrumental, “Ode to Gandolf,” a festering stew of fuzz guitar, drum solos and jazz breaks that somehow manages to hang together for the duration without ever coming across as filler or self-indulgent. Other songs like, “Louder than Larry,” and “The Dude,” just simply rock.

The low-fi production works well for the overall fuzzed texture of the work, but one can’t help but wonder what these guys would sound like with a budget and a big name producer that “gets” them. I’d love to hear the bass brought out more into the light and the vocals more prominent in the mix. But these are minor suggestions, really. In the end, Mr. Plow does everything I ask of a good stoner band, hitting it hard and heavy, but never losing sight of that all important groove.

These guys deserve to be heard. Now will some one please refill the bong. That last riff made me spill the damn water all over my rug. –Racer X

Monday, December 3, 2007

Imogene – Imogene

I love it when a band comes along and adapts the pre-set rules to their advantage and sets their own standards. Imogene have done something pretty damn remarkable by creating their own sound from a rich palette of primary influences. Imagine, if you can, The Moody Blues mashed up all gnarly-like with Black Sabbath. Heavy, yet with this melodic, psychedelic vibe. Not metal by any stretch of the imagination, but neither are they a radio-friendly bunch annoying us to random acts of violence. I hate using the term “indie-rock”, but for lack of a better one at this time, it will do.

Imogene are one of the most unique bands that I’ve heard in quite some. On their debut self titled album, they mix ‘60’s melodic sensibilities with the raw sound of retro garage rock. And most incredibly, without the use of a traditional guitarist! They utilize two bassists (one on the traditional 4-string, the other on an 8-string), keyboardist, and drummer to create a veritable mélange of sound. Rich and vibrant colors ooze from the speakers . . . bubbling from the sound system like liquid from your lava lamp.

“Imogene” opens with Happy Communing and immediately hits the listener with a sound oddly familiar, but considerably different. Almost like seeing a person for the first time in thirty years. You recognize that person, but they’ve grown older and perhaps wiser. Imogene have taken a sound from a bygone era and made it valid for a whole new generation of music fans. Paper Dolls and Sunny Day Child carry on with the same tones as the opener . . . dreamy keyboards, reminiscent of The Doors, add colorful texture to the brooding drone of the dual bassists. And then, the listener is taken on a serious psychedelic trip with Wormwood Raindrops. Mind bending sounds permeate from the speakers and mesmerize the listener to question reality. By the time we get to the end of the album, we’re pretty spent. Daath spooked us into a glass eyed state. Seraphim has come and haunted us to soberness. Tongue and Groove spoke to our primal urges and got us rocking out a bit. In all, we’ve experienced a life time of emotions.

I’ve heard talk that it would be a shame for these guys to “make it big” because it would essentially ruin the “indie vibe” of the band, but I disagree. I firmly believe that the members of Imogene are so comfortable with the sound that they’ve created that the future will bring us some very interesting music (samplings from their upcoming album affirm this belief). Recommended listening conditions include a little herb, a nice comfy dark room, burning incense, and a lava lamp aglow in the corner. Enjoy and new trip down an old road and pick up “Imogene." --Pope JTE

Buy the CD

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