Monday, March 31, 2008

The Dooberies - Omens

Life’s been a bit rough of late. In retrospect, I’ve got things pretty good. I don’t live in a mud hut in the middle of a desert being fought over by avocado overlords, so I’ve got that going for me. However, there have been quite a few extracurricular events going on that have just made opening my eyes in the morning that much more difficult. The Angels’ “Face the Day” immediately comes to mind. Sure . . . I could have the attitude of ‘that which doesn’t kill me, only delays the inevitable’, but anyone who knows me knows that I’ll find other ways to get by. And, if I don’t find that magical way of getting by, then something generally finds me instead. That’s the case with The Dooberies.

In the midst of an off the hook, mad capped day of dealing with ugly personalities and unreasonable attitudes, Omens arrived from jolly ole England inconspicuously packaged in a plain brown wrapper. I slid the gleaming slab of plastic into my cars CD player and immediately felt as if the troubles of the day were being picked from my aura by delicate, nimble, and loving fingers. Head Doobie guru, Georgie Butt, leads off the disc by singing about the pitfalls of consumerism, industrialism, and technology in a terribly poignant tune called “Progress.” I’m instantly reminded of Cat Stevens as he sang “Where Will the Children Play?” By the end of the song, I find myself questioning the way I live life, and for that I thank Georgie. What incredible power it must be to make someone stop and think!

The music throughout Omens is acoustic based, quasi-hippie, folk rock with heavy harmonica accents. Add a touch of down home blues, a pinch of rock, and a dry pass of bluegrass and blend for forty-five minutes. That, my friends is what you’ll get with The Dooberies. Georgie’s voice, at times, reminds me of the more laid back moments of Natalie Merchant, while the music takes me back to some of the finest music from the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. I’m sorry. Did I forget to mention that The Dooberies are a female fronted project? My bad. “This is Me” has a bit of a boogie vibe to it and has Georgie begging us to simply accept her for who she is . . . an honest music lover and heart felt singer / songwriter. “Climb to the Heights” touches the recent emotional turmoil that I’ve been feeling, leaves me feeling uplifted, and inspires me to shrug off the baggage of this material world and reflect on my inner self. Magical!

Peace and harmony are the theme for “Hey Hey” and we’re treated to some beautiful guitar work . . . almost has a jazzy feel to it. Love the line “even rich men can be poor.” Gets ya’ back to that whole thinking thing. Seriously woman . . . what power is this that you possess? “Wastin’ My Time” is tinged with a reggae feel and incorporates some great interplay between guitars and bass. The acoustic guitar flourishes after the choruses are well placed and have me unconsciously reaching for my drink with the tacky umbrella. Of course, there’s no drink with an umbrella. Hell . . . there’s no drink at all!

Along with “Progress”, “Freedom” is my favorite tune on Omens. I’m usually a fan of compelling social commentary, especially when it’s done this well, and this song is no different. It’s one of those special moments where heart felt lyrics, music, and voice work in perfect harmony to sell the song. Being a debut album, I’m encouraged for the future of The Dooberies. If they can learn from the mistakes on this disc, the future will be endless for Georgie and her crew. The song writing is there. The songs are good. Some of them are damn good. And, with Georgie’s angelic touch, I’m a convert.

I do suggest you listen to Omens on headphones simply because of the nuances within the music that seems to get lost otherwise. I also suggest listening to it after a piss poor day at the office in hopes that it will lift your spirit. And, if for some reason it doesn’t, feel free to abide by the words that Racer and I seem to live by. At the end of the day . . . there’s always alcohol. - Pope JTE

Friday, March 28, 2008

Echovalve - helloagaingoodbye

Sometimes, you've just got to go through hell and back to find out who you are.

The legend of the phoenix, while perhaps one of the most overused analogies in rock circles, is actually a truly powerful story. This mythical bird lives for 500 years, then as it prepares to die, it builds its own funeral pyre, is consumed by the flames, then rises anew from the ashes. This legend has become the epitome of describing the human ability to overcome hardship, to resurrect oneself in the face of adversity. To not only survive, but to thrive through near-death and emerge stronger on the other side.

All of which brings us to Echovalve.

Now, normally I wouldn't even mention aspects of a band's background in a review; what we really care about is what music they're capable of making now, not in the past. But with this raging four-piece from Atlanta, you gotta see where they came from in order to put the current moment in perspective. Not every band's history includes homelessness, living on the streets and drug problems so severe that one band member was declared clinically dead following an overdose (yes, Nikki Sixx, you're not the only one.) But while these problems would usually spell the end of a band, Echovalve used their past as fuel, a source of musical inspiration, to rise like that mythical phoenix from the ashes of their own self-destruction, now brimming with fire and passion and ready to unleash the monstrous beast of their music onto the world.

"Si Quieres," sets this beast loose, roaring vocals blaring through the massive bottom end of the riff. Quickly, however, you realize that this is no ordinary hard rock you're wrapping your ears around. As the riff breaks down to a staccato of individually picked notes, singer Mathieu Nevitt's vocals smooth to an exceptional Eddie Vedder/Scott Stapp-esque tone, still brimming with passion and the occasional gruff break out. Jay Langston's mastery of the guitar, through tone and texture is stunning, effortlessly whipping the song through moods of despair and anger. The rhythm section of Ryan Myers on bass and drummer Nick Randles feed the energy and emotion, like an engineer feeding coal into the fiery engine of a barreling train. "Si Quieres," in Spanish means if you want, and given the band's history, that intention is ominous. When Nevitt sings "Now I want to die," this isn't some emo teenage angst we're privy to. This is life-and-death, lost in the depths of anguish, the despair of the streets. With its sweeping chorus and soaring vocals, I defy you to find another metal song this passionate in its intensity.

And that's just the beginning. This is an unrelenting album in its energy and message. Each song follows suit, with brutal honesty, baring the soul of the band, through their pain, death and rebirth. Fierce neo-grunge rages through the first single, "Dirty Little Secret." Echoes of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden colliding with the earnestness of Creed, all done without the overblown pretense that could mire a band less proficient. "Loathe to Remember," hints at what lies at the heart of these guys, phenomenal musicianship, exacting precision in their riffery with the odd touch of near jazzy/prog passages and off time signatures. Not math rock by any means, but like Incubus or Mad at Gravity, they could be if they chose, their cohesiveness is that strong.

"You Don't Want Me Anymore," shows that the band isn't afraid to explore with textures, slower passages, near acoustic moments. Most impressively, in the hands of a lesser group, these songs might come across at best as maudlin or at worst as whiny. Not here. The passion is intense, the singing all encompassing, the lyrics devoid of cliche. This is a massive catharsis, both for band and listener. A purging reaffirmation of life. Just listen to "Anyone," and its naked lyric. "I am pitiful/I'm as weak as a flower to the ground/by your side/could you pick me up or hold me/til I die." You can see them whithering away.

After a solo acoustic guitar passage with vocal atmospherics, "Suffocate," displays Nevitt's finest singing, releasing his voice into that mythical fire as the riff rages underneath, setting it free.

Through all the fierce rock energy, the most impressive thing is that the boys never lose melody, that all important melody. In fact, the soaring choruses propel the songs forward. This is an amazingly well-crafted, heavy-hitting debut, brimming with more confidence than any band should be able to display on their first outing. While much will rightly be said of the band's past and message, what really matters is that these guys rock. Where the band go from here will be another beast of their own making, but wherever it is they deserve to be heard.

Clearly, just like our mythical Phoenix, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and Echovalve are here to show you just how fucking strong the human spirit can be.


Buy here: helloagaingoodbye

"Dirty Little Secret" from Echovalve on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Braintoy - Vehicles

I can only imagine what it must have been like for people to first hear albums such as 2112 from Rush, or Dark Side of the Moon from Pink Floyd. I was too young when those albums came out to know what a truly unique sound was being produced by these fine musicians, and the cultural impact that those albums had on the population. I do, however, know the history. Out of the miasma of frivolous cock rock came a thinking man’s music, or at the very least, music that was compositionally more advanced than what was being consumed by the masses . . . yet no less musical. As of a few days ago, I think I finally understand how those music fans of the ‘70’s must have felt. You see, I received a copy of Braintoys latest release entitled Vehicles, and I was immediately astonished by the array of sounds that found their way to my ears.

The title track kicks things off with a building piano / synthesizer intro, as the accompanying instruments gradually join the fray, the keys suddenly disappear and the listener is propelled into a world of swirling musicality. The guitars of Christian Anderson are tastefully distorted as he lays down a technically proficient riff that’s like peanut butter on the brain. I’ve found myself humming that riff for the past three mornings, and I couldn’t be more pleased to have that versus something annoying like “Yellow Submarine.” As the song flows, the tension is in constant flux and I can’t help but latch onto the lyrics of new vocalist Tristan Green as he croons “it can’t be ignored.” No . . . it can’t be ignored. Braintoy have firmly positioned themselves to become the champions of progressive rock / metal for years to come. Keep an ear out for the multitude of poly-rhythms at the choruses, they add a nice touch.

“Computational Symptoms” picks up where “Vehicles” left off, with a great guitar and keyboard opening that just melts into the succulence of Tristan’s vocals. As the song kicks into a higher gear, we get an unobstructed view of the true power of this band. The rhythm section of Devin Gasteiger and Riley O’Connor provide the most outstanding display of acrobatics this side of Cirque Du Soleil. Never have I heard a band this tight, yet retain such a keen sense of melody. Christian’s guitar solo could easily be placed along those of any of the great prog guitarists and his approach towards the riff leading out of the break is a lesson in style.

“Theft Prevention” should be in heavy rotation on any of the rock stations around the world. It has all of the elements that make a song great. Excellent opening riff that flows seamlessly into a melodic chorus. Heavy ass, attention grabbin’ break. Musical technicality that separates itself from the rest of the radio jargon. And, baby . . . that groove is what great music is all about!

As all the great bands do, Braintoy change things up and keep the listener challenged. It’s not all about the band challenging themselves, but bands have to give the music fan something that has them constantly returning for more. “Banyan Tree” is an acoustic driven tune that highlights more of Tristan’s beautiful vocals. Devin adds little piano flourishes over Christian’s guitar work, and it’s not until we’re nearing the end of the tune that we finally hear from Riley. Being the most accessible tune on Vehicles, “Banyan Tree” will more than likely find it’s way on the radio at some point.

As the mellowness of “Banyan Tree” fades, Braintoy return to flexing some musical muscle with “The Projectionist.” The song opens with Tristan’s vocal wail over a distorted bass line before it breaks into utter chaos. That dynamic tightness is on full display again, yet countered with uber-melodic vocals. The interplay of bass and guitar after the break are a great touch. Again . . . thinking man’s music. Consistently keeping the listener on their toes. Always having the listener suspect what’s going to be around the corner, but never really knowing.

“Sputnik II” is an incredible sonic piece of art. Droning keyboards and effect laden guitars layered over impressive drum work introduce the tune. In fact, Riley’s performance on this tune is top shelf and all drummers, up n’ comers and established skinsmen alike, should take note. Tristan’s vocals have a Chris Cornell quality to them and add a sort of familiarity to the music. It’s a masterpiece, folks. Braintoy intermingle the heavy aspects of rock with the jazzy overtures of the keyboards, throw in some mellower, sensitive moments, and ultimately have this listener catching his breath at the end of the song.

“Interlude” is a shadow of Porcupine Tree’s quieter moments with it’s layers of vocal harmonies and ambient keyboard textures. Again, the vocal work shines like the stars on a cloudless night. It’s “Surgery Sink” that may be the most striking tune on Vehicles. The clean guitar arpeggio’s lay down the foundation of the song while the bass and drums interweave around each other before all coming together to create a pummeling groove. “Charles Justice (The Ballad of . . . )” is a true metal moment and shows the boys can stand toe to toe with any of the heavy weights out there. “Arsonists and Architects” is a well written lyric that provides us a social / political commentary (depending how you interpret the words) on the policy makers of our world. And “Said and Done” puts a bow on the whole glimmering package with it’s ambient piano / keyboard driven vibe.

Vehicles is the album I’ve waited for years to hear. It has the classic prog rock elements of Rush and Pink Floyd, yet perfectly blends the elements of the modern prog giants like Tool and Porcupine Tree. It’s heavy music with a touch of compassion, sensitive without being wimpy. It’s a combination of all the things that we love about music, but it sounds fresh. It’s an album that can’t be overlooked because the music industry needs this album to bring real music back to the airwaves. I know the year is early, but Vehicles is my early favorite for Album of the Year. There’s no weak moment on it. It’s diverse enough to keep things interesting for years to come.

There you have it . . . the Pope decrees that you scroll down, click the link to the Braintoy home page, purchase the album, and then call every radio station you can and demand that Vehicles be in steady rotation. If you don’t, who will? - Pope JTE

To purchase, hit link below

Monday, March 24, 2008

Mos Generator - Songs for Future Gods

Back when I was in high school, there was a guy named Forney who's parents had a huge ranch way down a country road outside town. Let me tell you, there was no bigger night waiting in store for us hormone-crazed teenage boys than when the battle cry of "party at Forney's" soared through the air of the school halls with all the velocity of an airborne virus. Forget all the "high school" movies you've ever seen, the true definition of a "kegger" was a Forney barn blow-out; beer kegs piled on top of haystacks, a sea of black Cameros outside dueling with the pickup trucks for parking, drunk high school girls in way-too-short shorts, the obligatory testosterone-fueled fist fight, freshmen puking in the corner, and of course the music.

God bless that music. With speaker's perched precariously on outdated farming equipment, the music set the tone for the night. It didn't matter what it was. Sometimes, AC/DC alternating with Ted Nugent. Other times Thin Lizzy with a little Skynard. Zeppelin, April Wine, UFO, Scorpions. It was all the soundtrack of my life.

For all of you out there who remember your own 70's high school party blast, or were born too late but god-damned you wish you'd had one, Mos Generator is the band for you. Firmly committed to bringing back that monstrous riff-heavy rock of the seventies, but dragging it kicking and screaming into the new millennium, Mos Generator create their own version of a great beer party blowout soundtrack.

A power trio from Washington, bringing in rock veterans Tony Reed from Treepeople, Scooter Haslip from Voodoo Gearshift and Shawn Johnson from the lost classic band Mind Funk, these guys play it clean and hard. Blasting off with a furious NWOBHM staccato riff before dropping down into a massively bottom-heavy Sknyard-esque groove, "Silver Olympus" sets things off revving at 400 hp. A custom-made air-guitar freakout, this is the type of song that would've had the guys at Forney's head bobbing in a massive group, trying to impress the girls with their freakish air guitar mastery. Of course, the girls would've looked on bemused, but truthfully not giving a fuck.

Just listen to the way that first track segues down to "NandV", the riff not stopping but slicing into a muscular, mid-tempo rocker. Tony Reed screeches out all Paul Stanely in his vocal approach, but actually a better singer. Better able to carry a tune with gruffness and some southern soul to his vocal chords without ascending into Stanley's habit of screeching the high notes. In some ways, this track may best represent what Mos Generator is really all about. This is Kiss in a head-on collision at the demolition derby with Skynard in some god-forsaken Alabama town. Not stoner rock, the guitar tones are too clear, this is a return to the muscularity of classic 70's rock in all its bastard glory.

"Son of the Atom Smasher," continues on, jackhammer heavy 70's metal being belched out from the pit of the tractor pull. "Wizards of the Prophecy Pen," drops in a touch of Sabbath riffing, then again that Skynard vibe highlighted by some quasi-mystical, sci-fi lyrics. But in reality, its all about the riff. That freaking riff, guaranteed to loosen a few brain cells from your head thrashing in time to the groove. Bass and drumming are solid, just as they are through out the whole disc. Mos Generator is a tight unit, obviously playing what they love.

But just when you think you've got the guys totally nailed, "Acapulco Gold," sets you off soaring onto a Steely Dan inspired ode to that delectable herb. This is Mos Generator's "Sweat Leaf," but complete with jazzy breaks and a near Santana-esque guitar tone. Then suddenly, "Sleeping Your Way to The Middle," launches back to the full-on 70's metal freakout, a great bass line tripping underneath the searing guitar. Insert image of hands raised in Ronnie James Dio devil horns here.

While it's impossible to describe Mos Generator without making reference to all those classic 70's acts I've named dropped, it doesn't mean these guys are derivative. Rather, it's a compliment. If you asked them, they'd drop these same names as bands that they've worshiped, been inspired by and emulated. They set out, pockets loaded with testosterone and a clear disdain for all the watered down, pretty boy, sensitive pop currently dominating the airwaves, to bring back good, old-fashioned pile-driving riff rock. This is classic rock for the future, made by guys who aren't afraid of their own testicles.

Now go out and buy your own kegs of Budwieser, find an abandoned barn, bring a Camero full of air guitars and clear some space for the freshmen to puke in. High school is back in session and Mos Generator are bringing on the soundtrack. Be prepared, fights will break out. You've been warned.


Buy here: Songs for Future Gods

Friday, March 21, 2008

Rush - Grace Under Pressure

Good day and it’s good to see you all could make it! I ask that everybody step, in an orderly fashion, into The Ripple Effect 3000xl Turbo Charged Wayback Machine™, strap yourselves in, adjust your head rest for your desired comfort, for we are traveling back in time to 1984. What a marvelous year! On your left, you’ll see the Van Halen brothers with DLR singing about Panama! And on the right side, if you squint, you may see the Boss dancing in the dark. Oh my . . . he seems to be crooning about being on fire! Oh look . . . there’s a young Madonna reminiscing on being a virgin! Dear God . . . look at all that hair! Now, that we’ve passed the wilder animals on our journey, let’s stop and gander at these three fine looking gentlemen. Hhmmm . . . the placard says they call themselves ‘Rush.’ Stunning example of musicianship, wouldn’t you say? Right . . . right.

The dark and brooding Grace Under Pressure was unleashed on the masses during the same time that the above mentioned artists, performers, and circus freaks were living la vida loca. This album is a direct reflection of the life and times of the world under the watchful eye of then U.S. President Ronald Reagan. The human ability to navigate through the chaotic storm of nuclear paranoia, the Cold War, totalitarianism, and technological advances serve as the themes for the tunes on this lost epic. Maybe the world wasn’t ready for such a vivid commentary of the ways things actually were in the world, but Rush were. They faced “the enemy within” while the American people wanted to hide in the fog of their inebriation and ignore their fears by masking them in consumables. The problem was, they had to wake up and face reality at some point, and the question now becomes, are they still asleep?

The boys return from the keyboard drenched Signals to the more straight up guitar driven sounds of Grace Under Pressure. Though there are still a ton of keyboards being used, they’re used more diplomatically and in conjunction with Alex Lifeson’s guitars rather than simply drowning them out. “Distant Early Warning” and “Afterimage” are great examples of the keyboards and guitars giving each other enough space to breathe, yet creating such incredible tensions that one begins to recognize how befitting the album title really is. “Red Sector A” features some of the most vivid imagery courtesy of Neil Peart’s masterful ability to work with the English language. The tale of life in a prison camp (past, present, or future doesn’t matter . . . hell is hell) is described with such conviction that this listener can perfectly visualize the barbed wire cutting through the skin of the prisoners clutched hands. I can practically smell the fear of death and torture, and feel the sense of desperation mixed with the dwindling rays of hope. Geddy Lee does a wondrous job of vocalizing Peart’s lyrics with the emotion that they deserve.

Rush were always more heady than their peers, some even went so far as to call them pretentious. The truth is, they translated their intelligence into a musical form that was far more complex than that of their contemporaries. If intelligence makes a band pretentious, then I want to be pretentious too. Someone show me the way to the library! Grace Under Pressure has the perfect balance of rock and sensitivity that makes it as important today as it was in ’84. “The Enemy Within” and “The Body Electric” have the same classic Rush prog-rock sensibility that made the band famous, but there’s an underlying kindliness in the way the music and lyrics weave around each other. We can see the band embracing technology to further advance their music rather than simply showing off and making noise for the sake of making noise. “Kid Gloves” bounces it’s way through the learning of lessons the hard way, and we’re treated to a pretty spectacular guitar solo. To this day, Lifeson doesn’t get the credit he should for his approach towards guitar playing. I kind of set him gingerly next to Andy Summers. Both gentlemen are phenomenal beyond reproach.

“Red Lenses” is a groovin’ tune that happens to be Peart-centric in both lyrics and in the drummers gravitation towards all thing percussive. The lyrics will have you stopping in mid step to follow the correlation of the words while the rhythms become a mind bending thrill ride. “Beneath the Wheels” closes the disc in an epic album closing manner. The interplay of keyboards and guitar create the theme of the song and build more of that aforementioned tension. By the time the chorus kicks in, the melody breaks you down into a whimpering mass of humanity. All three member of the band seem to be doing their own thing, flying at different speeds in completely different directions, but somehow make one of the most musical tunes on Grace Under Pressure. The passion of all performances shines through, especially during the guitar solo and Geddy’s vocal approach on the final chorus. Thank God they started playing this one again on recent tours! If you haven’t seen them live, do so.

Rush will never be confused with the pretty boys of the wild party days of 1984, but they did create one of the most remarkable albums of the decade. Unfortunately, I may be the only one who remembers it for it’s brilliance. Far too often it seems that Grace Under Pressure is given harsher criticism than it rightly deserves. Quite honestly, I can’t find anything about it to not like. Okay . . . maybe it could stand to be digitally remastered to bring more life out of the drums, but c’mon . . . that doesn’t affect the overall quality of the album. It’s brilliant . . . that’s why it’s on our tour of 1984! And with that being said, it’s time to return to our proper time and place. Everybody back into The Ripple Effect 3000xl Turbo Charged Wayback Machine™ and strap yourselves in . . . unless, of course, you want to remain in the land of day-glo apparel and parachute pants. - Pope JTE

Buy here: Grace Under Pressure

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Bongos - Numbers With Wings / Beat Hotel

Way back in 1983, I was a young disc jockey at KSPC FM in Los Angeles. A great time to be in the industry, music was changing back then more than at any other time before or since. Not just bands, but whole new genres emerged overnight; The New Romantics, Synth pop, Gloom and Doom, Gothic, Post-punk funk, LA punk, the Athens sound, Power pop, Rockabilly, Cow punk. It was endless, the variety, the choices, the styles.

So what was a young DJ to do? Being the owner of the prime-time slot on Saturday night, my job was to warm up the party hounds before they hit the road (hopefully not literally) and partied it on til dawn. Get the revelers revved, but not burned. There was only one problem. I couldn't find my vibe. Sure, I liked lots of the tunes coming out at the time, but I wasn't a fan of the overproduced synth stuff, hardcore made my ears hurt and frankly, nobody has ever partied to an R.E.M. record. No, I was a DJ in search of a sound. I needed a mojo.

And the Bongos came to the rescue.

Coming on the heals of their debut collection of singles, Drums Along the Hudson, their new EP Numbers with Wings arrived just in time. Combining the urgency of their prior singles with a lusher production and the benefit of second guitarist James Maestro, The Bongos made a quantum leap forward in terms of craft and musicianship.

From the very first moments of the first track, "Numbers With Wings," its apparent that we're listening to something special. As the muted guitar synth gives way to a driving beat, highlighted by the passionately strummed acoustic guitars, Richard Barone's gorgeous tenor lilts across the melody. This is impeccably crafted pop, beyond the league of nearly every other band of its time or since. The instruments layer effortlessly onto each other, guitar notes here, a rolling bass line there. The result is timeless, a sumptuous transportation of listener into a lush magical land. Guitar pop nirvana.

At his best, Richard Barone always had this ability. Barone's melodies are so sweet, they're like a confection, dipped in honey, dripping in sugar. Never bubblegum or saccharine, Barone's greatest talent is his ability to take this perfect melody and marry it to that essential beat, that exquisite guitar chord, that driving passion. Like Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel, when it all comes together, it can take your breath away.

Whereas on Drums Along The Hudson, the Bongos concentrated on short, punchy songs, brimming with melody, but driven by an undercurrent of quirky time structures and lyrics, here, the band take their time and allow the songs to unfold leisurely, losing themselves entirely in the beauty of the melody. And beautiful it is. Take one listen to "Tiger Nights," and I defy you to find a more beautiful melody anywhere. Now, add to that the fact that the crystal-clear guitars are chiming over a beat full of life and energy, one that can energize a listener, and this DJ suddenly found his mojo.

"Barbarella" keeps things moving briskly, pounding out after one of the most perfect drum beat intro's since the Knack's "My Sharonna." And just when you begin to think that the extra production may have stripped away a touch of the quirky spontaneity that made Hudson so special, the strumming guitars give way to a funky tribal break, drums pounding, Barone's vocals calling in hoots and emotive fits. "Skydiving," oozes out next, percolating over a dynamite funky bass line by Rob Norris, underscored by bongo percussion. A guitar chord. A single note. Shimmering. Glistening. Another triumph in melody and dynamics. "My Sweet Blue Cage," the final song on the Numbers with Wings EP, is pure honey. There's no other way to describe it. Achingly delicious.

Just the five songs of Numbers With Wings should be enough to entice any lover of perfectly crafted power pop to plunk down their hard earned dollars, but add to that the inclusion of The Bongos only real full-length album, Beat Hotel, and it's an embarrassment of riches. For some reason, Beat Hotel at the time didn't seem to generate the vibe it deserved. Perhaps it was the band's return to slightly shorter, punchier compositions that left behind the lovers of the Numbers EP. But, give it another listen. What Numbers had in atmosphere, Beat Hotel has in energy. And underneath it all is that damn perfect Barone melody.

"Space Jungle," launches off as fast and furious as any power-pop of the time, easily on par with the best of the Plimsouls. "Apache Dancing," brings in that Bongos percussion, off-time signatures and a soaring chorus. "Brave New World," steps out as the true successor to Numbers. "A Story (Written in the Sky)" chimes and weaves like the best of the Athens pop. And "Come Back to Me," is simply perfect. In retrospect, Beat Hotel is the faultless union of the quirky themes explored on Hudson fused with the more mature craft of Numbers.

The two-fer CD released by Razor and Tie can still be found without too much digging, but now both albums have finally been added to itunes. Check it out. If you got a thing for that perfect guitar pop sound, you won't be disappointed.

In fact, it just may be the mojo you've been searching for.


Buy here: Beat Hotel/Numbers with Wings

Monday, March 17, 2008

Susperia - Unlimited

The first time that I heard Susperia was one of those moments where time kind of stopped. I stood in the middle of my living room, dripping wet mop in my hand, and stared befuddled at my television. There may have been some drool . . . I can neither confirm, nor deny that accusation. You see . . . I had tuned in to one those music channels so that I had something interesting to accompany me while I did some house work. I’ve since found that having those channels on is not the most conducive mode for working in an efficient manner. I’m an easily distracted lad and, much like pretty lights dancing around the head of an infant, intriguing music can distract me from the most important of tasks. Simply put, you wouldn’t want me performing surgery on you while there was music playing . . . otherwise, I may remove something that need not be removed. That . . . and I have no medical training in the least bit.

So, some years later, I picked up Unlimited and gave it a spin. Initially, I was impressed with the virtuosity of the musicians, but then realized that this disc had something else to offer. There’s a groove to it. There’s a melody in there. I suddenly realized that this isn’t at all what I had expected. “Chemistry” opens with some guitar noodling, but quickly shifts to an all out thrash metal pummeling. The vocals are gruff, but not the traditional “cookie monster” growl that has become so prevalent in the metal genre. The voice is strong enough to carry a melody through the chorus, but doesn’t lose that great metal intensity. “The Coming Past” will have the head rocking up and down due to the great riff work, killer breakdowns, and the steady drum work.

I was expecting more of a black metal / death metal vibe from Susperia, mainly because they’re album art is so creepy. But, once the needle hit the record . . . .er, laser hit the disc, I realized that these guys had more in common with Testament and some of the Bay area thrashers of the late 80’s than they did with Old Man’s Child or Mayhem. Listening to “Situational Awareness” takes me back to those days when the riffs would start and stop at such break neck speed that you couldn’t help but fall out of your chair as you grooved along with the rhythm. “Devil May Care” sees the band adding additional female vocal harmonies, which give the song just what it needs to be different from the rest of the pack. The guitar work at the solo is stellar!

“Years of Infinity” is a double bass drum, swirling guitar lick, head banging thrill ride! The vocals are so in your face that you can practically feel the spittle pelting you from the speakers, and just as you’re ready to wipe down, the vocals switch to a more melodic vein. And then to top things off, vocalist Athera channels his inner Rob Halford and screams the tune to a close. “Home Sweet Hell” is the standout track with it’s melodic guitar work, break neck tempo, and urgent vocal lines through the verses. Again, it’s the chorus melody that separates this song from being a run of the mill metal track. Absolutely brilliant work and a tune that I’ve often found myself humming through the course of a tedious day.

“Mind Apart” and “Beast By Design” begin closing out the disc with more unadulterated metal madness. Great break at the 1:21 mark of “Beast”, and in case you’re not sure what the Bay area thrash sound is, refer to this moment. It pretty much epitomizes the genre. By the time “Untouched” comes to an end, you’ll find that the whole musical experience only lasted for a little more than forty-five minutes! Kind of reminds me of Slayer’s Reign in Blood in that regard. Relatively short, to the point, concise. If only I could learn to write a review that way! I know . . . then The Ripple Effect would lose some of it’s charm. - Pope JTE

Buy here: Unlimited

Friday, March 14, 2008

Proto-metal report: Sir Lord Baltimore - Kingdom Come

People will debate endlessly about who founded that musical beast we've all come to know and love as heavy metal. And while arguments can be made that Blue Cheer unleashed the world's first heavy metal song with their noise-core version of "Summertime Blues," or that Cream or Zeppelin laid the foundation, the argument is really moot. In the end, Black Sabbath created and defined all that is heavy about metal. God bless their horror-movie inspired souls.

But let's twist the question just a little bit. Which band was the first to ever be called heavy metal? Hmmm, now that's a scratcher. And if it wasn't for the name printed across the top of this review, I myself might not have been able to figure it out. But there it is. Way back in 1971, Mike Saunders reviewing the 1970 SLB release Kingdom Come for Cream Magazine said, "Sir Lord Baltimore seems to have down pat most all the best heavy metal ticks in the book." There it is. The first use of the phrase Heavy Metal to describe a type of music.

And a legend was born.

Employing a sound far heavier into distortion than almost any other band of the time, Sir Lord Baltimore in their own way helped to define heavy metal, and in particular, pave the way for what would evolve into my personal favorite metal bastard, stoner metal. Add on top of Louis Dambra's screeching guitar noise, the infamous siren vocals of drummer John Garner and some serious bottom-heavy distortion coming from bass player Gary Justin, and it's no wonder these guys are thought to influence everyone from Pink Floyd to Kiss and beyond.

So what's the album sound like? Like a whirlwind ravaging the earth; fierce and loud and mean and everything that became heavy.

"Kingdom Come," starts the disc off, roaring out of the speakers and from the very first massively detuned, fuzzed out bass note, you know you're in for something a far cry away from the Beatles Abbey Road. This is where it all began. This is Monster Magnet, while Dave Wyndorf was in diapers. This is where Fu Manchu and Kyuss first nuzzeled at the breast of metal, drinking in the milk of all that's mutated and heavy. When the spaced out guitar rips in spasms and fits like a massive dose of electroshock therapy, it ushered in a whole new era of guitar effects. Finally John Garner's baritone wails forth, bellowing out quasi-mystical preaching and SLB have officially ushered in a new era of rock. Still seeped in psychadelia, this is clearly the end of the flower children bringing forth something altogether darker. Without overstating anything, "Kingdom Come," should rightly be heralded as a proto-metal, stoner rock masterpiece.

Remember, this album came out in 1970, the same year as Sabbath's first album, and the amazing thing is that SLB manage to sound pulverizingly heavy without sounding anything like Sabbath. This is heaviness in mood and intent, and it is magnificent. Garner's vocals, the subject of much accolade from fans, went on to influence a generation of singers. Sounding nothing like Robert Plant or Ozzy, Garner struck out and created his own avenue for heavy vocals. In his soaring baritone you can hear shades of what would become Ronnie James Dio and even Bruce Dickinson. He set the tone.

And the album doesn't let up. While the quality of some of the songs may be debated, classics such as "I Got a Woman,""Hell Hound," and " Lady of Fire," rock as fiercely as any thing from the era. Searing guitar lines slicing through and bottomless pit of heavy bass. Just listen to "Helium Head" in the video below. Freak out on that guitar tone, dig into that riff, the scratching chords, the Bill Ward drums. This is the birth of metal, baby, in all of its ugly bastard intensity. And it still holds up today.

Sir Lord Baltimore never rose to the international acclaim that should have been their destiny. After Kingdom Come, they only released one other album, the self-titled Sir Lord Baltimore, before dissolving. Nicely, that second album is packaged here as well, given you the entire SLB output. While not as raw or fierce as Kingdom Come, the second album still contains some great proto-metal guitar theatrics, demonstrating a band searching to find their sound.

SLB were working on their third album when they disbanded. Recently, John Garner and Louis Dambra have gotten back together and completed the tracks that would've been that album. It's available from Garner's web page as Raw, and well worth picking up. Ask nicely, and Garner will even autograph it for you. Not bad, how often do you get the signature of a legend? A review will be coming on this disc later.

For now, all ears should be on Kingdom Come, must hearing for fans of all that is heavy and rock and an absolute classic for the lover of that great, lost proto-metal vibe. Take my advice, turn on the lava lamp, refill the bong, turn down the lights, slip on the headphones and suck in the infinite heaviness of the birth of stoner rock.

And don't forget to pass the munchies.


Buy here: Kingdom Come/Sir Lord Baltimore or order directly from:

John Garner
Po. box 61035
Staten Island
NY. 10306-1035

Even though the pics look the same, the two videos below are two separate songs, "Hellium Head" and "I Got a Woman." Turn them up loud!!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Echobrain - Echobrain

Alright, Waveriders. Pop quiz time.

Raise your hands if you thought Echobrain’s debut album was going to be the hardest rocking disc this side of Metallica’s “Black” album? C’mon . . . you can be honest with me. Okay. I’m starting to see a few hands out there. It was a understandable mistake to make, after all, this is Jason Newsted’s first project since leaving Metallica. Why wouldn’t it be heavy? The answer to that . . . it wasn’t necessarily Jason’s project. Sure, he assisted with the bass playing, but he provided more in the way of song writing and production than really being the voice of the band. And who was the voice of Echobrain? One Mr. Dylan Donkin, that’s who.

Echobrain’s debut album is a varied mixture of introspective acoustic prog inspired gems and bombastic angst ridden hard rockers . . . all of which contain an uncanny ability to melt the soul with melody. “Colder World” jumps in your face with an up tempo melodic rocker and has a kind of David Bowie “Changes” groove going on in the background. The track fits the opening slot well and sets the tone for “The Feeling is Over,” the second track being an acoustically driven tune with a bit of wah guitar for added textures. Dylan’s vocals work well in expressing the emotions of either love lost or death. To some . . . it’s really all the same, for without love . . . what do we really have? Sorry, got a little introspective there for a minute. I’m better now.

“Spoonfed” highlights one of the bands more in-your-face type rockers. Distorted guitars and a more punishing beat mix well with Dylan’s smooth vocal stylings. And as he states in the song, “It’s a strange enjoyment for all.” Watch for the cool interplay of guitars at the solo. Some of which is brought to us by ex-Faith No More guitarist, Jim Martin. Echobrain returns to a more acoustic tune with the mournful and contemplative “Adrift.” This is one of those tracks that almost sounds better listened to through headphones. Whining violas, violins, and keyboards add a spacey texture to end the song and sound huge that deep in the ear. The band come back with more grit on “Keep Me Alive”, yet add the variety of more obscure instruments to keep things interesting.

Echobrain did a nice job of adding points of interest throughout the album. Violins and violas in “Adrift” and “Keep Me Alive” and the cello in “Ghosts”, show the band using just enough studio trickery to keep things from being one dimensional, but never over doing it to sound overblown. Hats off to the production team for recognizing when enough was enough. I liken production work on music to that of the special effects used in Star Wars. The effects were used to enhance the story . . . not to tell it. The same can be said with Echobrain’s self titled effort. The songs are good without the effects, but the effects just make it so much more stimulating. The best track on the disc, in my opinion, is “Suckerpunch.” Great melodic guitar work played over a steady rhythm section that just explodes into a soaring vocal melody at the chorus. Extra special bonus for the guitar solo provided by our second special guest of the review, Kirk Hammett. Such a gritty and emotional approach, and one that I’d expect from a player such as Slash before Hammett, but damn cool and one of the highlights of the disc.

“Highway 44” is a groovin’ rocker with Donkin’s vocals adding so much swagger, while “I Drank You” is a melodic pop fest. The album closes with the brooding and epic “Cryin’ Shame.” Newsted lays down a trance inducing bass line that carries the tune along it’s course. Donkin’s guitar cries along with lyrics at just the right time with splashes of distortion and squeals of pain to act as additional color. Acoustic guitars begin to climb in the mix to give the song some extra tension, while the vocals croon along with the electric guitars. It all comes to a head as all of the instruments join together at the crescendo and a wave of tension is released . . . and then it begins again. Great arrangement and a truly emotive tune! And really, it is a cryin’ shame that this album was virtually ignored by the masses. The songs are well written, well performed, and well produced. What more do you really need?

Heads up, pencils down. Our lesson for the day is now complete. Please pass your paperwork to the person in front of you. Class is dismissed and have a great day! - Pope JTE

Buy here: Echobrain

Monday, March 10, 2008

Mardo - The New Gun

I've got a thing.

Actually, that came as a total surprise to me. But in the last several months since we lauched the Ripple Effect onto an unsuspecting world, it's become more and more apparent.

I've got a thing.

Dare you, oh loyal waverider, ask what my thing is? It may not be what you think. Turns out, I got a thing for classic style garage rocking bands fronted by a couple of brothers. Previously, in these hallowed pages I'd sworn up and down the accolades of my favorite brothers-fronted band from Oxford, the Thieves and their groove of garage rock with classic rock roots and brit rock flourishes. Now, it's time to move our musical compass west, way west, to the baking shores of Southern California, the home of my favorite pair of Californian garage-rocking brothers, Aron and Robert Mardo, and their grand statement to rock and roll, Mardo.

And man, do the brothers Mardo know how to rock. Blasting off with a double shotgun drum detonation before tearing into an incendiary guitar riff, "Lolita Live and Learn" explodes off the The New Gun, blazing in garage rock fury. And that riff!! That riff and the chorus will work their way so deep into your brain you'll need a pneumatic drill to dig them out! Don't go looking here for lyrics about the deep meaning of life, this is an unabashed avowal of love to a trouble-making, tight-jean wearing seventeen year-old siren and all the heartbreak that comes with it. Any one who ever grooved to Jet's "Are you gonna be my girl?" has got to give this song a whirl, but be prepared, the adrenaline is amped up to 10 on this one.

"Killer on the Dancefloor," rages out next without missing a beat, muted guitar blaring over the drums until the main guitar riff kicks in. Simple, yet effective, it's been ages since an American band sounded this damn much fun. And the song couldn't be more aptly named. Check out the video below. When Mardo sings, "You gotta shake it, girl, shake it baby, shake it/ You gotta shake it like a bang, bang bang," over that pulsing beat and that killer riff, you better believe you'll be leaping to your feet and shaking it as well. Writing this review, I couldn't help myself. I kicked my computer aside, jumped right up onto my desk, swung my arms in the air and boogied my ass a full 360 degrees.

It wasn't pretty. I think my wife is blind now.

And just when you think these guys are all about the adrenaline rush of classic garage rock, "The Healing," lilts out, acoustic guitars strumming while Aron Mardo sings plaintively a prayer to God or whatever higher spirit moves him. Expressing a feeling we've all known at least once in our lives, asking for just one good reason to keep on living. But rather than being overwrought or morose, the song soars to a rousing chorus, with a composition and vocal harmony line that must be making Def Leppard kick themselves in the ass that they didn't come up with it first.

Then the rock kicks back in. Blasting through blazers like "Bombs Over Broadway," with its goddamned funky call and response vocals, through the slightly more polished production of "Thin White Line," all the way to the show stopper, "Bang Bang: The New Gun," with its fiery guitars, 70's hammond organ and soul-filled horn breaks, the boys never let up. Clear to the hidden track at the end,there's no better compliment I can give this CD except to say; it's fun. And in the end, isn't that what it's all about? Rock doesn't always have to be a gloomy trip through self-depreciation and pity in shoegazer land, it can be fun. Good old fashioned balls-out fun.

And I'll defy you to find an album that brings the fun back to rock n' roll with half the cajones as The New Gun.

My partner here at the Ripple, the Pope, has told me that Mardo slayed it when he saw them opening for King's X, which has now given me a new mission in life. Some day, we at the Ripple are going to form a record label of only the best damn rock bands on the planet and our very first act will be to round up the Mardo boys and take their funky-ass rock out on the road touring with The Thieves for a down-and-out garage rock freakout. Maybe, we'll give my thing a total workout and invite the Living Things to join in as well. There's three brothers in that band.

How much fricking fun would that be?


Buy here: The New Gun

Friday, March 7, 2008

Rumors Heard in Myspace, Episode 2

Keeping an ear to the ground can lead to one of two things. You either end up with a really sore ear, or you hear about some really cool stuff that’s about to happen. In my case, the latter has happened and I am here to share some of those findings with you.

Richard Barone, formerly of The Bongos, is in the production phase of a musical / theatrical performance that will incorporate aspects of his new book, Frontman. The performance is due to take place at Carnegie Hall on October 1st, 2008. I, personally, haven’t read the book yet, but sounds like a compelling work that I could lose myself in for hours at a time. If you don’t know much or anything about Richard Barone, Primal Dream is quality stuff and a great place to start you Barone collection. Also, for the Bongos fan, itunes has finally released Numbers With Wings/Beat Hotel after much demand. All fans of exquisite power pop need to check this out. (

Word coming down from Los Angeles is that The Thieves are preparing to go back out on the road. Now, if that doesn’t have everybody around the Ripple Effect Command Center all aflutter, then nothing will. The tour event of the year? Depends on what you like, and for us, it doesn’t get much better. (

There are a number of highly anticipated releases scheduled for 2008. First, legendary rockers King’s X are releasing a new album on the 20th of May. It’s been a few years since Ogre Tones was released, so I’ve been a bit ancy for some new tunes. As always with these guys, I have no earthly idea what musical style they’re focusing on with this album. They seem to change the direction with every album, but there’s one thing that should remain the same . . . it’ll be another great piece of music! (

Kataklysm’s follow up to In the Arms of Devastation will be released in North America on the 27th of May. The title is Prevail and should keep in the great Kataklysm tradition of being the most extreme music on the face of the planet. (

Dream Aria are putting the finishing touches on they’re new disc called Transcend. If you don’t know much about this band, check out the review that mi compadre, Racer, wrote up for their premiere album In the Wake (,) and then go to their page and drop them a line. They’re a great bunch of people on top of being stellar musicians!

Halo Trail, hailing from Belgium, will be in the studio during the beautiful months of March and April to record their new album. The songs that they have posted on their page ( are awesome and I highly suggest you check these guys out before they pass you by. Don’t let it be said that I let these guys slip under the radar. I’m standing on my PC, arms raised to the sky, singing the praises of yet another unheralded group of fine musicians. There’s room on the bandwagon just behind Racer’s huddled form in the corner. Hop on board!

Finally, as most metal fans who are in know should know, Swedish prog-death metallers Opeth ( are preparing to release a new disc entitled Watershed. I haven’t heard of an actual release date, but it seems that the boys have pretty much completed the studio work and are in the post-production phase. Stay tuned . . . once I have a release date, you’ll probably already know too.

Speaking of Opeth, they’ll be performing on the Melloboat festival ( happening on the 8th and 9th of March. This festival is a music lovers wet dream . . . at least, this music lovers. Performing at this gig along with Opeth are their good chums Katatonia, ambient prog rockers Anekdoten (such a cool band), my personal faves Trettioariga Kriget, Qoph, Leaf Hound, Bo Hansson, and the legendary Comus, just to name a handful of the uber-talented musicians afloat on the Baltic Sea. Unfortunately, my press pass didn’t make here in time so I’m going to be waving from dry land and wishing all involved a good outing. Hopefully, a similar opportunity will be afforded me in the future because this event is a heartbreaker to miss.

In the flavor of upcoming shows, the second annual Indianapolis Metal Fest ( is scheduled for September 26th & 27th in, you guessed it . . . Indianapolis! I’m not at liberty to disclose the bands scheduled to perform at this point, but let me put it to you this way, you’re not going to want to miss this one. Once I’m given the green light by the organizers of the festival, I’ll hype the shit out the show with as many of the pertinent details as I will have at my finger tips. Stay tuned, Waveriders . . . if you’re a fan of the hard and heavy stuff, you’ll want to pay close attention to the rumblings coming from America’s Heartland!

On a sad note: one of my local record shops recently closed the doors to their store and ended up opening an online shop. Talk about sucking the soul out the music! The store was called Blue Meannie and was located in the East County area of San Diego. This was the kind of store that you could go into just about anytime of the day, flip through bin after bin of music, and shoot the shit with some of the most knowledgeable music fans around. These guys knew their shit and they were always good for guiding like minded music fans in the right direction. Blue Meannie . . . you will be missed, old friend. So, on that note, get out of here . . . go to your local independent record store and hug the cashier. Well, buy something that they recommend first, then hug the cashier . . . it might seem a little too weird otherwise. - Pope JTE

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The K23 Orchestra - Whisper of a New Born Ghost

It was only back in 2006 that Nas proclaimed that hip hop was dead. And he was right. As a genre, hip hop had descended from its once esteemed heights of creativity, street grittiness and innovation into a white-washed, super-glossed barren vacuum of producer driven drivel. With real instruments and even the creative use of samples stripped away, replaced by a stunningly vacuous bank of computer-generated tones and beats, each new artist's sound became a carbon copy of whatever the latest focus group determined would sell to the masses and still be able to fit comfortably into the next McDonald's commercial. Hip hop and rap had become consumer-focused, corporate banality. After all, you don't want to offend any of your super-sized Big Mac buyers.

But from the very first funk heavy guitar riff that K23 Orchestra unleashes in "Big in El Portal," you know you're in for something different. Mixing the dynamic soul/funk tones of seventies-era Curtis Mayfield and Issac Hayes with the freaky jazz fusion blowouts of Billy Cobham and Herbie Hancock, K23 take us back to the future of rap/hip hop. Rapping over a fantastic wah-wah guitar, Alfred Howard makes his street weary statement, while the bass and live drums drive the rhythm. The groove-heavy, seventies-era guitar blast of a chorus drives the urgency of Alfred's protests, that he'll wake up, break out of the crime and despair of urban life and make his escape. Fuck, it's been ages since rap/hip hop sounded this urgent.

"Whoop Tee Dee," is just a bonafied jazz-fusion/funk masterpiece. Leading off with a down home funky-ass bass riff the likes of which haven't been heard since "Superfly," the guitar and organ pile on top like individual ingredients being carefully stirred into a boiling pot of gumbo. And as this concoction reaches temperature, the song bubbles over and spills out of the pot in a pulsing stew of funk and jazz. With organ under-pinning Alfred's rap, he declares that, "Crooked master break these chains. We will be free." Where the song goes from there is unknown territory for rap as it evolves into a full-on jazz-rock-funk jam.

"Ace," switches gears, in terms of pace, but not intent. Over a slower, percolating funk jam, the clean guitar tones pick out a beautiful melody. With Alfred's street poetry name dropping Alice Coltrane it becomes clear what we're experiencing here. This is Gil-Scott Heron for the new millennium. Lynton Kweisi Johnson of jazz-rock fusion. A lyrical statesman, a man with a message, a musician, a composer. This is the rebirth of rap as something vital, as a voice, as a statement. As something with a future.

After a brief classical chamber quartet interlude with "Drifting Nexus," (yes, when was the last time you heard a cello on a rap record?) and the desolate piano tones of "Pulse," K23 picks up the funk again with "Connected." Amongst the jazz organ and deliciously picked guitar lines, guest vocalist Rosey-Dawn Selwitz bursts across like a supernova. And what a find she is, as we listen, we're hearing the astral birth of a star, someone to keep an eye out for as her solo career reaches orbit. The way she blasts off the record is reminiscent of Caron Wheeler exploding to super-stardom after her first few tracks of Soul II Soul.

I could go on about each track, but it'd be better if you just checked it out yourself. K23 has taken bits and pieces of the great artists that came before them in jazz, funk and rock and transformed the collage into something new and vital. And by doing so, they've breathed new life into the decaying corpse of hip hop, got its heart to start beating again and rekindled it's once brain dead mind.

In doing so, K23 have proved that Nas was wrong. Hip hop isn't dead, it was just waiting for some freakishly cool new Dr. Frankenstein to come along and bring it all back to life.


Buy here: Whisper of a Newborn Ghost


Monday, March 3, 2008

Mother Tongue - Mother Tongue

A number of years back, I had started working at this warehouse pushing furniture around until the wee hours of the morning. Then, I’d go home, eat dinner (usually at or around 3:00 a.m.), go to sleep, and do it all again the next day. It was at this job that I met a dude who kicked me down a copy of Mother Tongue’s self titled album, and it, along with Mad Season’s Above, became the soundtrack for the summer of 1995. So, every time I hear a tune from this album, it takes me back to a simpler time. Working hard and playing hard. My concerns weren’t centered around mortgage payments, but around getting my drunk on. Man . . . there was a lot drinking in those days. Sigh. You can’t see me, but I’m smiling right now.

Mother Tongue is a gritty explosion of groove rock expelling from the sound system. They have a touch of funk. Dabble in hard rock a bit. Add a few metal moments . . . raise the horns. But, for the most part, Mother Tongue have their own sound. The darker, more brooding bastard cousins of Red Hot Chili Peppers? Perhaps. Yeah . . . let’s go with that for a spell.

From the opening notes of the wah’ed out guitar of “Broken”, you simply know that you’re listening to an album with balls. Quite a bit heavier than the funk rock that was groovin’ around at the time, but far from being so heavy that the soul is lost. The song has a great break midway through and features some beautiful blues guitar to accompany the soulful vocals. The bass line opening “Mad World” is the epitome of groove . . . your head will act like a buoy bobbing away in the ripples of a lake. The combination of guitar and uber-passionate vocals will send shudders through the body. Truly an amazing performance by all members of the band on this one.

“Vesper” opens with an acoustic guitar mournfully strumming away and a pair of cellos adding background texture and deeper emotion. Again, the vocals touch the soul with a rich raspiness and integrity only found from one who’s felt an intense kind of pain. With a minute and a half remaining, the band kicks in as a full unit and brings the track home. Remarkably intense and sweat provoking! Mother Tongue’s most interesting moments come when they incorporate varying levels of light and shade. “The Seed” is a dark, bluesy number that is carried by a smooth bass line and sultry vocals, but eventually explodes with a wall of volume to drive the emotion through the soul. This is another fantastic performance by every member of the band. Mother Tongue came and went way too fast, and it’s a damn shame because if they could have improved on this album . . . shit . . . I don’t think my emotions could have handled it. Listen to “Damage” on headphones and enjoy a wonderful experience in sound!

There’s no weak performance on this album and every song has something new to add. “Fear of Night” for instance, has the vocals switch from being soulfully charged and ventures into the realm of a darker, dare I say, demented David Byrne. It’s those little nuances that make Mother Tongue an edge-of-the-seat kind of ride. “Venus Beach” may very well be the most commercialized track and, in some ways, I’m surprised this wasn’t a huge hit in the mid ‘90’s. It’s got a great melody and some beautiful lyrics, yet stays true to the Mother Tongue sound. How did it miss? Oh right . . . no promotion, no radio play, no Mtv . . . the usual suspects keeping quality bands mired in anonymity. While the industry was busy trying to make us care about performers, the true artists were wallowing in the mire of apathy. Fucking injustice!

Racer mentioned a few weeks back about The HattersMadcap Adventures of the Avocado Overlord album being the best album that you weren’t listening to in ’94. I’m here to throw another disc on that pile, which will inevitably continue to grow. Mother Tongue is rich in emotion, musical proficiency, attitude, soul . . . you name it, and it deserves the unbiased and loving attention of your ears. Who knows? As it has become for me, it may become the album that defines some of your fondest memories for years to come. - Pope JTE

Buy here: Mother Tongue

A bit of an apology must go out right now, for after penning this review, it was brought to my attention that Mother Tongue is still around and as vital as ever. Check 'em out . . . you won't be sorry!

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