Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ripple News - $10 for 10 Hardcore Tour

Want something to do this summer? Want a ton of great music without breaking your bank account? Want to check out some of the best hardcore/punk bands all at one venue?

Then have we got a treat for you!

Punk mongers Ferret Records is sponsoring this years $10 for 10 Hardcore Tour.

This is a blast from the past, return to the hardcore package tours of yore with great bands at affordable prices and name venues. And is truly a labor of love for all involved.

Headliners will be Poison The Well every night with legs from Madball, Bane and Vision Of Disorder. Supporting will be Death Before Dishonor, Trapped Under Ice, Crime inStereo, This is Hell, Mongoloids, War of Ages, and more.

Find more info at: myspace.com/10for10tour

Monday, June 29, 2009

Black Bone Child - S/T

I have no idea what's in the water there, but damn if Austin hasn't gone and done it again.

The rightly christened live music capital of the world, and mecca of the American Indy blues scene, Austin has no end to the dynamic bands and performers it continually manages to unleash onto the music lover's ears, and let me tell you, the fine City's latest offering is just about as tasty as they come.

Black Bone Child is a two man blues-rock outfit that quite simply blows the doors off your perceptions. Now, you may think that the two-man blues thing has been done to death, but trust me, don't let that misconception steer you away from checking out what these cats have to offer, as Black Bone Child sound nothing like those who've come before them. Avoiding the more constant garage-y flavor of The Black Keys or the tendency of the White Stripes to lose themselves up their own arty ass, Black Bone Child have learned that the secret to making their music work is the groove. It's got to have that groove, baby. It's the funk in their rock, the soul in their blues. And let me tell you, these cats can dig into a groove with more tenacity than a train car full of miners hunting for gold.

In a nutshell, this is straight-on rust and whiskey, hard-core blues, kick-the-hay-outta-the-barn, bring-on-the-electric guitars-and-let's-have-a-party, rock and roll. It only takes a few seconds of the opening track "Time Pass Me By," to realize that we're tuned into something special. Kicking off with guitars and bass, the riff here positively percolates, rumbling out of the speakers in down-home, ass-kicking form. Now I don't really know which bone child, Kenneth M. or Donny James, plays which instrument or sings which part, and it doesn't really matter. This is a group effort, a seamless merging of the two musicians into one unadulterated attack of ballsy, smoke and leather flavored rock. These guys lock onto the groove with all the passion of an escaped convict heading out of town, driving that baby all the way to the hills. The vocals, whether solo or in harmony, are laced with the trueness of a weathered heart, bleeding with moxy and soul. Then when the drums come in, thick and mean, our whole blues barn gets tossed into somebody's garage. No matter how you slice it, this is a rollicking good funky, pound your beer and shake your ass tune, and an instant grabber for what turns out to be an album full of such songs.

"Ha Ha Hey Hey," brings in one scorching mean harmonica to go along with the loosely strung, swamp acoustic guitar. This song rumbles and rolls like some freakish monster pulling itself outta some East Texas swamp. Again, it only takes the boys a few seconds to lock onto that groove, and I'm sure it only takes the audience a few seconds more to head out onto the dance floor; tight cutoff short wearing women swinging their hips in abandon while men do the male grunt dance, both sexes jumping in for the sing-along chorus. Another harmonica solo midway through the song dispells any doubts you may have of the boys soul. It's right there, bleeding for you.

"Light up the Sky," pounds out next sounding like that old lost 80's band King Swamp, fierce and mean and looking for a fight. The riff of this song bubbles along like the boiling of a hot Texas chili, staggering between big bass notes and the mutated guitar. I won't even talk about the groove here, because what's really important is that three songs in, we can see these cats are no one-trick pony. Employing their own mix of fuzzed slide guitar, big distorted bass line, throbbing drums, heaping doses of swamp southern funk, and wailing harmonica, each song brims with it's own fresh energy. Often times, the problem with two-man blues outfits is that their sound isn't rich enough, or layered enough to really fill out a song, much less a whole album. Nonesuch here. As "Light the Sky," blends into "Watch it Burn," there's no doubt in my mind that Black Bone Child haven't even begun to explore the full depth of their muse.

Then as if on cue, " Make Me Bleed," brings in a whole new side of the band. Following the understated AC/DC'ish guitar intro and the screaming harmonica solo, the boys lock onto a groove that can only be described as britrock funneled through the deep south. This sounds like Oasis, drunk and homeless, camped out on the shores of Lake Travis, and loving every second of it. A slight distortion and vocal inflection bring on a sound similar to the vocals of The Stone Roses, while the band pound out their mutated blues-britrock hybrid. Check out the bass breakdown two-thirds in, followed by a chiming guitar tone we've yet to experience on this album. Damn, when I say it's good, I mean it's really good.

"Mine," follows next, riding some bizarre bass tone, and immediately resets the stage from the displaced sounds of London to the swamps, rollicking on thick and syrupy, positively exuding the heart of blues and soul. An understated song, deceptively simple in composition, it still is amazing effective. Especially when the boys drop it down for the guitar solo, a burning, snaking, absolutely serpentine creation, high-lighted by some nice rolling drums that keep the hips shaking on the dancefloor.

Then, just as you're getting past the point of sweating from the dancefloor workout you've had in some random hot and humid, wooden-floored blues hall, Black Bone Child drop it all down into a slippery and sultry bass heavy burner, "Nothing to Lose." This one's designed to get those girls in the cutoff shorts to roll up the belly's of their t-shirts, revealing a muscular stomach of hot glistening sweat. The bass continues to roll on, as seductively alluring as a bass can be, while the guitar layers on in shortened thrusts, probing through the melody, sung in whispered and hush tones. Moistened tongues peer out to wet parched lips, while the unrelenting drums beat on and on. As if to throw this whole erotic-fest over the top, the vocals let lose a mantra of released inhibitions, repeating, "You've got nothing to lose/You've got nothing to lose." Wow!

Ok, after my shower, we dash through the raving alt-blues rock of "Fill Me Up," with it's Edge-esque guitar harmonies, to the bass fuzz garage explosion of "You're Gonna See," the swamp rock blast of "Going Down Slow," to the closer, the subtle loose-sting acoustic lament of "Ask for Forgiveness." Then if you're like me, you'll pick up the CD case for your 15th time, and stare again in awe of the two (and only two) names of the musicians who just crafted this amazing set of funkified alt-blues. Then, (if you're like me) you'll talk to your partner The Pope and state that hell or high water, we're making it out to Austin next year for a long weekend, because, I just have to see these cats live.

The men of Black Bone Child aren't reinventing rock and roll with this release. Rather, they're mining back deep into rock's roots and investing it with a freshly charged dose of modern energy. What the boys are creating is good-time rock and roll, deep and nuanced, dirty and nasty, funky and sultry. This is for when you want your backyard bar-B-Q to move beyond the gentile stage and get interesting. Dig in. Enjoy.


Buy here: Buy the CD


Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Sunday Conversation with Neil Nathan

Singer/songwriter Neil Nathan has applied those final touches of color to his new album The Distance Calls and is now waiting for this beautiful piece of music to hit the streets. We were able to catch up with Neil for a few minutes to see what made Neil, well . . . Neil. Here's what he had to say.

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, and Simon & Garfunkle, the first time I ever hear Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphanies since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.What have been your musical epiphany moments?

As a kid, my first 45's were Neil Diamond's "Desiree" and Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me." I was rocking Shaun Cassidy's cover of "Da Doo Run Run" too. So, hooks, hooks, and more hooks were hammered into my head from a very early age. Plus listening to the oldies station CBS 101 in the car with Mom gave me that sense of pop taste and history. Later on, the big ones came from AC/DC's Back in Black and the immensely tasteful and rocking Who's Next. I played both cassettes over and over until they broke. There's something about that feeling of playing the absolute shit out of record til it actually falls apart that is lost with the advent of modern techonology.

What is you musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?

Huh, very deep question. I'll give you the narcissist's answer.

For me, songwriting in general is intensely personal, therapeutic and meditative. I usually sit down with the guitar and hear a chord progression that speaks to me and then the melody and lyrics come through from the ethers or the deep subconscious. Certainly from a place or mindset that is more grounded and wiser than my conscious state. Then I edit a bit here and there and try to translate as best I can the signal that is coming through. Sometimes the songs pop out almost complete as if they existed somewhere else and I just channeled it. Other times an unfinished idea will be there for a year or two and then it pops back in there and I know where to go with it. But I digress, at their best, my tunes help me process an emotion or whirlwind of conflicting emotions in a focused fashion. Hopefully, the song, regardless of the lyrics, gives the listener a sense of what that feeling or feelings were like for me to deal with. And perhaps they have gone through exactly the same thing, and thus we connect! Woo hoo! The power of song.

In songwriting, how do you bring the song together? What do you look for in terms of complexity? Simplicity? Time changes?

I try to go with the song and what it is asking for. But I am straight ahead to a fault. I usually err on the side of simplicity in theme and structure. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, solo, chorus or perhaps a quality outro, which makes me the happiest for some reason. Richard Ashcroft and The Verve as well as GNR do that quite well. I'm not the kind of guy who says I need a bridge here for the sake of having a bridge. If verse, chorus, verse, chorus with no solo seems to feel right, then that's fine with me.

Time changes might happen live and organically but certainly not on purpose on record. I prefer one groove that continues. Why fuck with what's working? A catchy, emotive melody, a simple chord progression and structure with some thoughtful lyrics that aren't too fancy, and a good groove. That's what I strive for. And if that's working, the song sounds as if it always existed in an effortless realm of natural wonder.

For you, what makes a great song?

The above plus an emotion I am experiencing or have experienced. Or that just makes me feel cool when listening to it. Isn't that what we all want? To be cool!

What piece of your music are you particularly proud of?

I'm proud of all my babies, but some I feel more responsible for than others. On The Distance Calls, I'm absolutely flabbergasted by "California Run" and "Better Be Goin'". They are both the result of a very positive collaboration with my producer, Bobby Harlow (The Go), and the fantastic musicians he brought to the session in Kenny Tudrick (Detroit Cobras, Kid Rock), Joey Mazzola (Detroit Cobras, Sponge), John Krautner (The Go), and Dean Fertita (The Dead Weather, Queens of the Stone Age). "California Run" has an Otis Redding/Eagles breeze rock vibe that is a perfect example of that natural quality I referred to earlier, and "Better Be Goin'" is a T Rex on steroids modern blues rocker that is sexy as hell. When going into the session I didn't have a clue that those tunes would come out like that. And although I'm a solo artist, it's the collaboration of all these talented folks and the surprises that come out of that collaboration that make those songs what they are and made the experience so worthwhile.

When you write a piece of music, do you consciously write from the mind set of being different than what's out there now?

No. I write something that I would dig and that usually means it comes from a mélange of influences, both past and present.

The business of music is a brutal place. Changes in technology have made it easier than ever for bands to get their music out, but harder than ever to make a living? What are your plans to move the band forward? How do you stay motivated in this brutal business?

Though writing, recording and playing live are motivation enough for me, total creative and monetary freedom are always the goals. I've got a licensing deal with North Star Media that I'm excited about. Hopefully more tv and film placements like Californication will bring in the necessary funds to sustain my addiction to recording. I'm slightly prolific, so I've got backlogs of quality tunes up the whazoo. My only goal is to record them at a clip that keeps my A.D.D. mind entertained. That, to me, means a full album a year for the next five years along with singles, ep's, and myriad videos thrown into the mix. Content, content, content!

Spending any amount of time in the music business opens the door for many a “Spinal Tap” moment. What’s your best moment?

Well I've certainly worked with many a guitarist that felt the need to turn up to 11 regardless of the level of any of the other instruments in the room. That's funny when Nigel does it, but not so much when you're rehearsing in a 12x12 space.
And another.....

I played a solo acoustic show the other night at a small bar and while I had the entire audience rapt and entranced with my finger picking version of Jeff Lynne's "Do Ya," the sound guy was screaming in the back to one of his friends about his last Judas Priest show. I smiled while the audience glared back at him.

Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?

There is nothing like the warmth of Vinyl. And with sales doubling last year, it seems like the younger generation are catching on. We, as a culturally advancing society (at least in terms of time) are getting to the point where we can combine technologies and styles of the past that worked with what's new and amazing now. Bell bottoms and skinny jeans are cool now (as far as I'm concerned) and they were cool then. The same goes for Vinyl. CD'S should be a thing of the past. Vinyl and MP3's are where it's at. The best of the past and the best of the now. The quick fix portable version and the slow food, glass of wine, joint smoking home version. I have a vinyl geek listening club called The 33's and we come together once every month or so and entertain each other by spinning the records we bring and sharing the stories behind them. If everyone did this, we'd have world peace in a year!

We, at The Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. When we come to your town, what's the best record store to visit?

Bleecker Street Records is the mother load if you've got the cash and the time or if you don't have the cash, the discipline to say no. House of Oldies on Carmine Street is great little spot with a very nice and well informed owner. I picked up an Equals record there a few months back at a great price that I'd been looking for over a year.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

Rumors Heard in MySpace, Vol. II, Episode 6

Hey friends, I hope y’all have recovered from our last journey across space and time. This month, we’ll take it a little bit easier. One reason for that is we can’t go working you guys too hard . . . you may never sign up for another trip like that. Another reason is that I’m headed out on a full on Ripple trip that’s going to cut into this month’s Rumors Report. No fear, friends . . . this abbreviated episode still has some great nuggets of information for you and will inevitably have you circling dates on your calendar. And, once I do return from this Ripple assignment, I’ll have an even greater wealth of goodies to pass on your way, so don’t hate me because I’m in demand. Hop on my shoulders and we’ll make the best of it. What say? Shall we get into the rumors? Perfect . . . let’s do it!

Our first stop this month is going to be in Estonia where we’ll sit in on a jam or two from the straight up hard rock act of House of Games. I stumbled on these guys a little while ago and was struck by the sheer beauty of the songs that these guys have posted on their page. It’s the furthest thing from the mind bending terror metal that I typically gravitate towards, and here’s the thing . . . the songs are well written and melodious. Listen to “My Child” and you’ll hear the lush keyboard passages and that singer’s rich voice crooning out the melody. It sounds slickly produced, but not the point that the songs sound candied in layers of sugar. “24” is a bit more of a rocker, harder edged and darker in its tones, but no less romantic and addictive. It looks like House of Games has a CD available for purchase called Rise and Shine and you can probably get it from the usual outlets like Amazon and CD Baby. Check ‘em out, they’re worth the few minutes it takes to go through the songs on their player. www.myspace.com/officialhouseofgames

Heading over to Sweden now, we’ll drop in on our good friends Katatonia as they make their way into the studio to begin work on their next album. It seems like a life time since The Great Cold Distance was released, so I’m keeping an avid interest in the goings on for this recording. It seems that the band will be posting a studio diary on their page and it may behoove you to check in on occasion to get the latest and greatest from these guys. It appears that they’re aiming for a release on Peaceville Records in October with the drum tracks already tackled on the 10th of June. www.myspace.com/katatonia

Heading over to the UK, we’re going to stop in and catch up with Steve Wilson and the lads from Porcupine Tree. They too are working on a new album to follow up the critically acclaimed Fear of a Blank Planet album from a couple of years ago. Scheduled for release in September on Roadrunner Records, PT is planting one ambitious foot in front of the other on this project. The album is called The Incident and will be a double CD. It looks like the first disc will be a 55 minute track while I have no idea what’s happening with the second disc in the set. Folks throughout the U.S. need to clear their concert schedules as the band are booked for a number of shows in September before hitting the European roads through October and November. That’s all pretty exciting news, isn’t it? www.myspace.com/porcupinetree

Back in North America we need to catch up with our Canadian brothers in Voivod. By the time you’re reading this, the band will have released the follow up to 2006’s epic Katorz. The album is called Infini and will be released on Relapse Records. Infini features the last tracks recorded by Piggy before he passed away a few years back and Relapse is issuing the disc in a deluxe digi-pack format, as well as a double vinyl 12” . . . I’ll give you one guess which format I’m picking up. The band has a couple new tracks posted on their page and they sound awesome. It’s got that quintessential Piggy sound coating every aspect of the music. Damn . . . I’m looking forward to this one! www.myspace.com/voivod

Back in the Lower 48, we’re gonna’ make our way to Austin, Texas to check out a punk band that we were turned on to a few months back by the one and only Marky Ramone. You see, he came on the radio show back in December and told us about a band that he was high on called Riverboat Gamblers. And being that it came from Marky Ramone, we listened. These guys are a straight up punk band, complete with snotty vocals, head bobbing tempos, and catchy melodies. Stop by and soak in their infectious sounds, and then hit the road with the boys as they make their way across parts of the U.S. and Canada through June and then make their way to Europe to kick out the jams. www.myspace.com/theriverboatgamblers

Finally, for those who like their metal on the progressive side, but with enough blistering attack, then you’ll be interested to know that Nevermore are entering the studio with their sights set for a new album being released sometime in 2010. The band has booked studio time in August with producer Peter Wichers, who also happens to play guitar for Soilwork. The album is scheduled to be released through Century Media. And that’d all I know about anything this month. www.myspace.com/nevermorefans

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ahkmed – Distance

I always thought I was the only one who liked Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma album, but it sounds like the 3 guys in Ahkmed also dig it. I think it’s safe to say that these guys have thoroughly absorbed Space Ritual, Funhouse, Tago Mago, Maggot Brain, Meddle, In A Silent Way and the Mick Bolton era of UFO. Probably some Sun Ra, too. If you’re gonna play space rock this well, you must know something about the man who said “space IS the place.”

Ahkmed is a 3 headed unit from Uranus sent down to free the shackled minds of planet Australia. Their mission will tolerate liberating mental slaves throughout the rest of the galaxy as well. Their deployment began in 1998. Four EP’s were released prior to their new CD titled Distance. Chances are I’ll never get to enjoy this record correctly: under the influence, staring at a lava lamp in a dark basement with a clean bucket to drool in, but I can dream about it.

If you’ve worn out your copy of Pink Floyd Live At Pompeii, you owe it to yourself to pick this up. This sounds like the late night set they played under the stars when they let that stray dog run the mixing board.

The 7 songs of Distance comprise an hour of uninterrupted music. The songs flow into each other but also stand on their own wherever you decide to push play on it. The 9 minute opener “Strega” starts off with some tribal drumming before the space echo guitar comes in. Eventually the bass joins up with them and it’s an echoplex explosion of sound with some slowed down space announcements. Trippy. An actual human voice doesn’t appear until about halfway through the 3rd song “lemanja.” It’s almost unsettling to hear a humanoid in the middle of the cosmic mist and thankfully the vocals are not groaned in some kind of Isis/Neurosis style. The drummer is also the singer of Ahkmed, which is always a plus in my book. The tempo picks up a little towards the end of the record in “Temple” before orbiting back to the home planet of the title track.

People of Earth need to buy this record so Ahkmed can buy a huge light show and travel the spaceways.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Five A.M. – Raise the Sun

Serendipity. The act of things happening without planning; by coincidence, but with a decided, almost predetermined outcome. Destiny. It’s a cool word, and one that completely captures my experience with Five A. M.

I first learned of these guys through the tracks of a recent Indy Sampler, this particular one benefiting eating disorders, and was so impressed with their song “Be Still,” I dropped the boys a letter and quickly found their full-length third album perched on the Ripple desk. As with all discs, it was placed into the ever-growing “to be reviewed” stack where it continued to wait.

This is where serendipity comes into the story. After a brief Ripple road trip down to Santa Barbara, I awoke the next morning, grabbed a ritual cup of java, climbed into the Ripple mobile and headed back home. Wanting the perfect soundtrack for the journey, not too loud, nor too soft, I popped Raise the Sun into the player. Now, it wasn’t 5 am, it was closer to 6:30, and the sun was pretty much risen, but still, there couldn’t have been a more serendipitous musical choice. Driving along side the Pacific Ocean, the early morning sun reflecting off the waves, light shimmering off the glassy surface in a prismatic glow, the music of Five A.M. was a glorious, near transcendent experience. The soundtrack to everything my senses were experiencing; the beauty of every day’s sunrise, celebrated and smooth, yet laced with power and emotion, ultimately soul-touching and uplifting.

Essentially an alt-rock band firmly in the mode of Matchbox 20, Raise the Sun is crafted with such exceptional skill, executed with such perfect musicianship, and laden with such a cache of indelible, unforgettable melodies that it easily elevates above the many pretenders to Matchbox’s throne. This isn't some new-fangled trendy band, or some flavor of the month single for the hipster set. Simply put, this is immaculate pop, rich in tone and texture, infinitely romantic and spiritually-tinged. Deeply affecting, each song brims with release and emotion. A triumph of pop music, Raise the Sun is just begging for national radio airplay. And I'll tell you, if the big corporations won't do it, we at the Ripple will!

“Still in Love with You,” sets the disc off across the back of a precious, chiming guitar that shimmers across the melody like the early sun dancing across the ocean. The vocals are perfectly textured to carry the band’s music; gruff enough to sink into the emotion of the lyrics about love and hope with a sense of complete honesty. A fat snare tone propels the song over the diaphanous intro, until the bass drops in about 40 seconds in, filling the song with a rich depth. Then it all takes off, a positively rousing, soaring chorus elevates the song to a place few pop bands ever reach, a near spiritual plane. As if timed to perfection by some supreme being, just as the chorus began to soar, a flock of 15 pelicans swooped by my car, mere feet from my window, skimming across the ocean, soaring unfettered across the water. I watched them, as the fat snare pounded out time with their wings, until the second chorus hit, launching off with so much power, so much celebration, I had to raise my hands above my head, sticking them through the sun roof, feeling the wind against my palms, celebrating the arrival of the day. Five A.M. and I had reached synergy. I was officially a part of the song, they were a part of me, and damn, if that isn’t the dream of every songwriter, I don’t know what is.

Elated, I listened as the power and drama of “Still in Love with You,” gently receded to the hushed piano and cello somberness of “Be Still.” The track that first captured my ears to the band, sounded so different in this context. Rather than a random track on a sampler, here it was a part of something sublime. I watched a sea lion pop its head above the waves as the vocals called out “The world rushes by/with tears in her eyes.” Then, as before, another soaring chorus freed my ears. Damn, can these cats write them! Choruses that almost seem to be church devotionals. Choruses that simply rise to the heavens, begging for spiritual release. The sea lion dove under water and the pelicans headed west towards the horizon, and “Be Still,” gently faded to silence.

“Just Say Anything,” picks up without a lost beat, adding a slightly jauntier vibe to a song that seems to be truly searching for spiritual guidance. Jangling guitars gather into a rousing congregation. A tone carried to an even more powerful climax with the title track, “Raise the Sun.” This is truly a fantastic song, a standout on any band's album. Laying on some meaty power chords and a driving bass, this track adds some serious rock to the affair without ever losing the driving melody. And even when the guys rock, the sound still simmers with emotional intensity, filled with exceptional playing, instruments, layering in delicately rather than simply plowing through the song. Big guitars ride through the verse, but listen for the glistening guitar tones that sprinkle throughout like a gentle spring rain falling down. Dig that meaty bass breakdown after the first chorus. The vocals are positively impassioned here, singing with a raw emotion rarely heard in pop of this caliber.

And in the end that’s what gets me about Raise the Sun. The production of the album is immaculate. Each tone crisp and shimmering. But rather than drowning out the human energy, or glossing over the rawness of a broken heart, or a soul filled with regret, the band and production meld together perfectly, leaving in it’s wake a deeply touching, gorgeous sounding album of honesty and pain. A must listen for anyone who wants to feel touched by a song, elevated by an emotion. Moved by a verse.

Pick this one up and lose yourself in just how good pop music can be.

Buy here: Buy the CD


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pat McGee - These Days (The Virginia Sessions)

Without wallowing in it, the heartbreak is worn right on the sleeve, the pathos is sold completely by the final twist of the chorus on the opening song, “Guess We Were” to Pat McGee’s These Days (The Virginia Sessions). I don’t know what it is/that s tearing you up/you keep saying you/have never been in love/but I guess you were, Pat sings, but guessing the final reel of the movie before it gets there, we all know how it ends after a sweet little legato guitar solo: you keep saying you/have never been in love/but I guess we were/ I guess we were.

Dispensing with fairly useless descriptions like “nu-country” Pat McGee’s newest album combines bits of rock and country but borrows whatever sounds it wants. The organ that fills out the chorus of “All Over You” works hand in hand with the percussion that we catch glimpses of in the break and behind the lyrics. The melody may sound like classic country but the interplay of the organ and guitar interspersed throughout the song takes it to new places if you’re listening closely.

With an insistent driving rhythm, Pat’s vocals jump into the back seat of a car doing 80 down the highway on a song that sounds as dangerous as the relationship that “Hand That Holds You” describes. The slight clipped edge to the rhythm guitar, the racing percussion, the horn section that appears from nowhere: this is one of the highlights of the album. Its taken you so long/when you should be so gone/there’s gotta be something somewhere to pick you up somehow. The breakdown at the end of the song has the organ careening over the band into a jam section that should explode on the concert stage. Picking back up the sax, guitar and horns along the way, the percussionist stays deep in the pocket, driving the whole thing.

When John Cusack’s Nick opened up High Fidelity with the hypothetical question to the audience: “Why don’t we worry about the millions of heartbreaks that we’re exposed to through pop music growing up?” With a soaring chorus, “I Don’t Think I’m Listening” takes up to the heart of the conflict: waking up alone and lost. I try to tell myself /I’m not myself at all these days/but I don’t think I’m listening. The band is in fine form, the arpeggiated bits on the break, the piano both augmenting and filling out the bits behind the lyrics, the subtle slide guitar and delicate picking up playing up the main vocal melody: a masterful orchestration of instruments for a great little pop gem that could have arisen out of Nashville as easily as Los Angeles.

Against the stark piano and drum loop, “Come Back Home” takes another lost soul into the modern world: the production only allows the sound the fill out the world around when we get to the chorus. For the first part of the song we’re as isolated from the vocals as he is from his home. After the first chorus, the world is filled with reflective production touches that match the lyrics: the echo of the vocals over the lines haunted by everything you said, the chorus of Pats singing here come those tears again, the ghost of voices during satellite/a million miles above my bed. McGee sells yet again on the loss without sounding trite or corny, a feat in itself. The real world would intrude on the pop one twice with this song, first with the long time drummer for the band passing away suddenly, as well as losing the younger brother in Iraq. "Come Back Home" would be used in a video to honor returning soldiers from the US involvement in Iraq.

“End of October”, “You Want It All” are fine efforts as well in an album with more than a few standouts. Pat is perpetually on tour and his live efforts are outstanding from the recordings. Keep your eyes on this tour list and try to get your butt out there when he comes round. And in the meantime, pick up These Days, a great recording that you’ll be spinning again and again.

- the fearless touring rock iguana

buy here: These Days (The Virginia Sessions)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday Morning Metal Report

It’s Monday morning, friends! And if you’re like most of the folks in the U.S., you celebrated Father’s Day yesterday, cooked some meat product on an open fire, consumed a beer or six, and stay up way past your bed time. That alarm clock is an ugly and vile creation and should be shot! But have no fear for the Monday Morning Metal Report is here to inject some life into that withered body you call home. Grab a cup of coffee, slap the following discs in your player, and get out there! Life waits for no man and this healthy dose of belligerent metal will undoubtedly be the kick in the ass you need on this, or any, Monday morning.

Grief of War – Worship

Coming to us all the way for the tiny island nation of Japan is Grief of War and these guys borrow heavily from the past heroes of thrash metal, yet inject the sound with enough modern nuances to make the music sound much more in the now. Worship is brimming with some exciting metal moments complete with the thrash prerequisite speedy passages that stop on a dime and fall into electric mid tempo grooves that are certain to work out the abs. The vocals remind me of Bay Area thrashers Vio-Lence as they cut through the mid range distorted guitars and double bass drum thunder, while the rest of the band resembles early era Exodus or Testament. Slip into your skin tight black denim jeans, cut off the sleeves to any one of your black t-shirts with some demonic looking logo on it, strap on your white high top sneakers, and prepare to mosh yourself into oblivion!

“Crack of Doom” opens Worship with a razor sharp guitar riff played a million times light speed. Perfectly distorted, those guitars plow through the senses like a runaway train down the side of a mountain. And then, before you know it, the classic mosh part kicks in. Just after the band joins into a gang chant of the songs title they shift the tempo to something with a bit more room to breathe, a little more space for the guitar solos to flex their muscle and show a thing or two before getting buried by the weight of the speed riffagery. And speaking of guitar solos, man . . . these guys have some serious chops! Note the technical shift from the solo over the mid tempo break to the solo over the speedy passages, and then as the two guitars return together and harmonize with one another . . . well, it’s just fucking special!

“New Kind of Wicked” features some more stellar guitar work as these guys flutter their technical proficiency over a great mid tempo riff. Excellent break at the midpoint of the song! Nice effect of dropping the band from the groove, allowing the guitar in the left speaker to power out its carnage, and then the timing of the re-entrance of the band into the groove is as powerful as it gets. “Lost” has a distinctive Metallica vibe going on . . . think “Blackened” and prepare to thrash your way through the day. Full throttle speed metal with little flourishes of guitar virtuosity make this tune a stand out, pushing the band to their limits, yet keeping the whole thing together and bringing the tune home with a touch of class. I’m not sure how the guys at Prosthetic Records keep finding these gems, but we’ll let them continue doing what they’re doing coz’ they do better than most!

Hebron – Resurrection

Coming out of Wisconsin, Hebron have deposited one hell of a brutal slab on the unsuspecting. Resurrection is gritty fair that stands an arm’s length away from current American metal masters, Lamb of God. Detuned and explosive, Resurrection is the sound of big and burly dudes beating up wimps with other wimps as weapons. There’s a savagery to this album that doesn’t sound planned or refined, it’s all very natural and violent sounding, and that’s a good thing. Like ravenous beasts running wild in nature, hunting down their next kill, devouring the young and the weak . . . Hebron’s approach feels more like a lifestyle or a matter of survival than a hobby. It’s called integrity; folks . . . more bands need to subscribe to it.

“Reformed” opens the album with a blistering onslaught of double bass drums, guitars distorted to the point near muddiness, and vocals so raw that one can almost envision chucks of flesh from this guys throat being propelled through the air with every bellow uttered. But, while all of this brutality is being unleashed, there are moments of technical proficiency shining on. Subtle little things like one of the guitars adding flurries of notes to counter the straight ahead pummeling of the second guitar. And then, of course, there’s the midpoint break or mosh part that drops in and hammers away at the senses. This tune is well executed in that it provides the metal abrasiveness that we’ve all come to know and expect from the genre and melds with subtle dynamics that keeps this form of music interesting.

In fact, Hebron does a good job of mixing in the virtuosic moments throughout the course of the album. “Ignorance,” for instance, features that wall of dissonant aggression but the band mixes in just enough melodic guitar work to show that they have their chops in place. The slowed down portion at the end of the tune gives us a glimpse of the layers of talent that these guys possess. And then, as “Ignorance” drifts away, the intro to “Projection of Death” eases us into a place of complacency, which lasts all of a couple of seconds before the walls of sound assail our senses again. And then, there’s “Devil Cleaning” and the nifty guitar flourishes that are dropped on us before the heavily distorted guitars chug along, shifting from one speaker to the next, and then burst into an overwhelming flurry of angst. It’s an amazingly heavy tune that demands your attention. You’ve been warned! - Pope JTE

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Sunday Conversation with Leprous

Hot on the heels of the release of the instant classic Tall Poppy Syndrome, Norwegian prog-meisters Leprous are on the campaign trail to tell the world that don’t simply exist but that they’re going to raise a few eyebrows with their technically proficient yet completely soulful approach to making extreme music. We were able to coerce lead vocalist / keyboardist Einar Solberg with the tempting comfort of the red leather couch, a soothing cup of tea, and a brief nap before his next promotional engagement. Here’s what Einar had to say about the art of songwriting and the creation of Tall Poppy Syndrome.

The music on Tall Poppy Syndrome is filled with complex time changes and technical riffs, but there’s also an underlying soulful groove throughout the album. Was this a conscious effort to achieve such a varied feel to the music?

Well, it actually varies a little bit on how we proceed to make a good song. But the procedure we mostly use, is to create the "magic" together all of us. Everyone has to contribute to get the sound we’re eager to get. First of all, either me, Tor Oddmund, or Øystein has made some drafts at home (a few riffs) and then we meet all together on the rehearsal room to work things out. We usually make a first version of the song, then when the song has begun to sink in, we go through the song and perfect it as much as possible. We´re all pretty dependent on each others contributions in order to make the "perfect" song. We don´t create songs to impress people with our technical skills, we just create stuff that we really enjoy ourselves, and if it doesn´t get the goosebumps going, it isn´t good enough, hehe. So to sum up, the reason for the varied feel in our music is that we´re five different persons adding our own personal flavor to it.

How is to work so closely with a metal legend in Ihsahn, and how did that working relationship come about? What life lessons have you picked up from him?

It is really great to work with Ihsahn. He is a very good musician, an excellent songwriter and a great guy, which we all have admired through the years. He´s also a very nice and sympathetic person, and a pleasure to work with. I´m actually Ihsahn's brother in law, so I guess that´s how we met, hehe. Emperor needed a keyboard-player that also could sing the seconds for the Emperor re-union shows, and since I´m both a keyboard-player and a vocalist, and also live in the same town, I guess I was a suitable choice. The reason for him choosing Leprous as his band, is because we were from the same town, and already knew each other.

What life lessons? That´s a hard one, hehe. First of all, he has been the guitar teacher of both our guitarists. I can´t think of anything more specific right now, but he has been a great inspiration both as a person and a musician.

Most music fans can pin point a particular piece of music that was a major musical epiphany for them with several others through life. What have been your musical epiphany moments? What events changed the way you listen to music?

I guess one of my musical epiphany moments were when I watched the "Eyes wide open" dvd by King Crimson for the first time. I hadn´t much knowledge of the band at the time, neither had I shown much interest for progressive music in general, since I was more of an extreme metal guy at the time. But that dvd changed everything. It really opened my eyes for a whole new world of music. King Crimson is still one of my favorite bands, and I guess it will always be. It never gets boring and they´re always challenging the listener.

Genre's are so misleading and such a way to pigeonhole bands. Without resorting to labels, how would you describe your music?

I´ve always had a hard time describing our own music, but I´ll give it a try.

It´s metal, flavored with jazz, progressive rock (70s style) with a little dash of classical music at the top.

Let the music speak for itself, hehe:-)

Norway seems to always be in the forefront in the way of giving the world outstanding music. Who are some of the lesser known acts that have caught your attention?

I don´t know if they are lesser known abroad, but a band called "Shining" (http://www.myspace.com/gninihs) are one of my personal favorites. Not the Swedish black-metal band, but the Norwegian prog-jazz band. They sound like nothing else, in the good way.

There´s also a new interesting band called "22" (http://www.myspace.com/tjueto) that has caught my attention. Halvor and Tobias (our bassist and drummer) are completely hooked on that band, and I´m starting to realize why.

The business of music is a brutal place. Changes in technology have made it easier than ever for bands to get their music out, but harder than ever to make a living? What are your plans to move the band forward? How do you stay motivated in this brutal business?

First of all, you really gotta believe in what you´re doing. Because if you don´t, who else will? And that´s also one of the keys to motivation for me. I also love what I´m doing, and I wanna do everything I can to keep doing it. Of course, I have to be realistic and realize that there's a chance I might not be able to make a living out of doing my own music, which is one of the reasons that I´m a music student these days. Then at least I have an education if we don´t make it with the band.

The future plans for the band are to keep making music that we really enjoy ourselves, and also try to get it out to the masses. Now we also have a good management (intromental) and a good label to support us and help us forward. We´ve started making music for the next album, but it is too early to say when we´re ready to enter the studio once again.

In your opinion, what makes a great song?

That´s a question I really don´t have a good answer to. That depends on so many parameters, so I´m sorry to say that I´ll have to pass this one.

What piece of your music are you particularly proud of?

I´m very proud of Dare You from "Tall poppy syndrome". That song ended up even better than we´d hoped for.

Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?

Well, I grew up at the age of the CD, so I guess CD is my answer to that. I´m a CD collector. But then again, digital format is better for the environment, so I´m facing a dilemma in the years to come.

We, at The Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. When we come to your town, what's the best record store to visit?

We live in a very small town with only 12 000 inhabitants, so we only have one record store in our hometown "Notodden". It´s a store called "Desibel Notodden", which is actually specialized in metal and prog. I used to work there for some years ago, hehe.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ripple News - Talent Trove's Michael Kelly Guitar Contest

Here's some cool news.

We just learned that the Michael Kelly Guitar Company is sponsoring a contest with TalentTrove.com for the Best Guitar Solo. Michael Kelly Guitars will award the grand prizewinner a Patriot Custom electric guitar along with $500 provided by TalentTrove, and a Nostalgia 60 SJCE acoustic guitar for the runner-up.

The contest runs between June 15 - July 22.

TalentTrove is a free social media site that helps aspiring artists develop and promote their skills and careers. TT gives exposure via their site, Internet TV channel and iTunes radio station. All the media on those three outlets are user-generated compositions. TT supports audio, video, image and text media so whether you're an actor, band, chef, photographer or poet there's a place for you there.

Check em out at www.talenttrove.com

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sound & Shape - The Love Electric

Imagine if the Mars Volta were transported in time back to the 1970's and decided to form a pop band, and you'll begin to get a feeling for the marvelous, complex-yet-infinitely listenable 5-song EP from Nashville's Sound & Shape, The Love Electric.

Combining mind-bending guitar arpeggios, soaring harmony parts, colossal baselines, and octopus-armed drumming with simply gorgeous songwriting and melody, this three-piece stand right at the top of the pack of the new brand of punk/pop/prog. Touches of Pink Floyd, loads of the Mars Volta with a heart of punk run rampant through the complexity of the arrangements, all infused with the sweet vocal harmonies and melodies of '70's pop AM. A contradiction in terms? You bet, and all the damn more impressive because of it.

"The Love Electric," sums up just about everything that these guys have to offer. Kicking off with a blistering guitar and bass run, reminiscent of Return to Forever, or Al Di Meola-style prog jazz, the band immediately drop into a sugary sweet vocal harmony right out of the 10cc catalog. This is a vocal line to capture your imagination, set it adrift upon the wild ride you're about to take, as seconds later, dissonant guitar rips through the verse and a series of time changes follow that mutate between themselves faster than the human mind can conceive. Another remarkably beautiful vocal verse follows, perhaps suggestive of very early Ambrosia. The tone of the guitar solo two and a half minutes in is sublime, then the time change seconds after that launches the song into a new level of intensity. And after all this drama and precision, we're still only half way through.

Perhaps most amazing to me, is that despite all the richness of layers and the positively serpentine nature of the composition, the song never wanders aimlessly. Yes, the boys veer off the beaten path to explore whatever musical idea happens to drift through their songwriting ADD, but it all hangs together, remarkably well. In fact, the song craft is so strong, and the performances so tight, I somehow feel smarter just listening to this piece of music. It clearly was created by a group of intensely intelligent minds, and every time I play it I keep hoping that IQ will rub off on me. It hasn't so far, but that's my own personal problem.

As hard as it is to believe, this is the work of a three-piece band. Ryan Caudle on guitar and vocals, Jerry Pentecost on drums, and David Somerall on Bass; each musician telepathically linked to the others to create some mind meld of musical synergy. Just taking one look at Ryan, a bearded bear of a man and you can see that he's an unassuming frontman, but don't let that put you off. Ryan's clean tenor adds just the right tones to bring these musical explorations into the here and now, emotionally evocative without being overly reaching. David's bass work is subtle, never flamboyant, yet fully anchoring for the band. Meanwhile, Jerry throws in time changes, fills and rolls at the drop of the band's astronaut helmet. And overall the strong songwriting allows the boys to explore the vast universe of their own musical ideas, jutting off on spatial journeys of whimsy, without ever letting the whole thing sucked off into some self-masturbatory black hole.

"The Space Between," picks up right where the title track left off, shards of spasmodic guitar piercing over the spartan back beat. Spacier vibes whoosh in, like the sprinkling from the dust of a near-flying comet. Again, despite the flourishing prog textures and tones, real melody lies at the heart of these tunes enhanced by the perfect blend of clean and harmony vocals. This is big, expansive prog, but down to earth and intimate at the same time. As I listen to this song, I can't help but feel that I'm being privy to some secret private performance in some ridiculously cool club that very few people know of yet. But outside, as the sound whispers up through the open vents, a crowd is beginning to form. Enchanted by what they hear, they're drawn as if to the piper.

Without revealing all the EP's secrets, the final three songs throw their own muses into the mix, like altered reggae beats, maracas intros, spiraling saxophone solos, and more mind-melting guitar work. And still nothing will prepare you for the jazzier prog touches of the epic closer, the 11 minute-plus "The Solitary Journey." Guitar lines twist and turn, snaking in and out of the melody, faster than changes in the cosmic winds. And while some passages veer towards noodling and progged-out experimentalism, as a whole the song never loses it's roots, it's basis in melody, it's overall direction.

We've been blessed recently with a new wave of prog-punk bands, such as Farflung and now Sound & Shape, and our musical landscape is all the more wealthy because of it. I use the term "punk" here very loosely. The music isn't punk in sound, but has a punk heart beating in it's chest. This is prog from the underground, just bursting against the invisible ceiling, begging for release. For anyone with an ear for a sound that soars well beyond our stratosphere, The Love Electric will find a home.



Thursday, June 18, 2009

Musical Martyrs - Led Zeppelin - Presence

Another installment in our Musical Martyrs; the Vilified Albums series.

Led Zeppelin’s 1976 album Presence is the overlooked step child in their discography.

A lot of Zep fans will say it’s their worst album but will also admit to not listening to it for many years. But most serious Zep fanatics will claim it as a favorite alongside Led Zeppelin III. The truth is that Presence is not their best album or an all time classic like I, II or IV but it’s way better than Houses Of The Holy or In Through The Out Door. It’s Jimmy Page’s favorite and it’s the only Zep record I listen to in its entirety. There’s also the bugged out record cover designed by Hipgnosis with “The Object” as a part of everyone’s daily life. Somedon’t care for the art but the stark graphics match the mood of the music quite well.

The album was written mainly in Malibu, California by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant towards the end of 1975. Plant had been in a bad car accident that forced the cancellation of a big world tour. Conspiracy theorists say this is the beginning of Led Zep’s back luck mojo that would follow them until John Bonham’s death in 1980. Following the writing sessions the band went to Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany where they recorded and mixed the entire album in less than 3 weeks. Jimmy Page was doing a LOT of drugs back then and has said that he stayed up 2 days straight doing guitar overdubs. This was the fastest the band had recorded since the first album and the sound of it is big, warm and spontaneous. It’s a stripped down sound with lots of guitar and no keyboards. It really sounds like you’re listening to a band playing in the room with you. That’s probably where the title Presence came from.

“Achilles Last Stand” is the thunderous opening song and is one of the absolute jewels in the Zeppelin catalog. Ten minutes ofunrestrained trampling. “Kashmir” has been played to death on the radio since it first came out in 1975. Radio programmers were probably scared of the dark, heavy groove laid down by John Paul Jones and John Bonham. Jimmy Page’s layers of guitar swirl around Robert Plant’s trippy sword & sorcery lyrics. It’s hard to imagine Plant cutting all the vocals on this album from a wheelchair, but that’s what he did. It’s also probably why he’s a little more restrained on this album and there’s less screeching and “OOOOOOH BAAAAABY” stuff going on. You can hear how this song had a huge influence on both Iron Maiden and the Jesus Lizard. Heart had a big hit with “Barracuda” in 1977, which completely apes the rhythm of this song. Jimmy Page is often accused of stealing riffs (and is usually guilty, too) but nothing like this song existed before or since.

The pace relaxes on “For Your Life” with Jimmy putting the whammy bar of a Stratocaster to good use. If you turn it up really loud you can hear it squeaking a little bit because he’s pressing so hard on it while Robert asks if you want “cocaine cocaine cocaine?” This is probably the closest Zeppelin ever got into Rolling Stones territory, probably because Jimmy was becoming a big a junkie as Keith Richards. A good song, but at 6 minutes it could have used a little editing. A wild night in New Orleans inspired the song “Royal Orleans,” named after their preferred hotel in the Crescent City. This is probably the only throw away song on the record. It sounds kind of like a cousin of “The Crunge” from Houses of the Holy. It’s the only songwriting credit for Bonham and Jones on the album. It probably has something to do with a reference to “kissing whiskers.” Rumor has it JPJ woke up with a transvestite in New Orleans once. Maybe Robert and Jimmy figured that cutting him in on the royalties would prevent him from complaining too much.

Side two of the original album opened up with the flanged out sounds of “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.” The lyrics are mainly swiped from Blind Willie Johnson and the music is sort of in between Zep’s “Black Dog” and “In The Light.” Clocking in at 6 and a half minutes there’s plenty of time for a good harmonica solo from Plant and a typically great guitar lead from Page. This was the song that got some radio play when the album came out but has long since vanished from classic rock radio’s playlist.

The twisted rockabilly of “Candy Store Rock” is another stand out. The riff sounds kinda like Link Wray trying to play James Brown while Robert Plant pays homage to Elvis. Bonham lays down plenty of tasty fills while JPJ’s rolling bassline keeps everything glued together. “Hots On For Nowhere” was another song from the album that got some radio airplay. Every time this song comes on, I always think about skipping over it because I’m not crazy about the “la la la” chorus but the weird guitar solo always grabs my attention. This is another one that features some heavy Strat whammy dive bombs.

I’ve never been a big fan of when Zep would play a slow blues but “Tea For One” is an exception. This one really captures the feel of the blues. Plant’s vocals are relaxed and it actually sounds like he has the blues and not blue balls. It has a real “last call” feel to it and contains no overt steals from any old blues masters. Buddy Guy could do a great version of this song, who probably inspired it in the first place. It’s almost ten minutes long, but when the groove is this good, what’s the hurry?

Robert Plant has gone on record as saying he’s not happy with Presence and he was not given enough time to recuperate. As mentioned before, a lot of fans don’t like it at all and it’s one of Zep’s poorer catalog sellers – only a mere 3 million copies sold in the US. The follow up, In Through The Out Door, has done 6 million to date and only Coda has sold less, with 1 million. The monster sales of Zep IV is currently at a whopping 23 million and counting.

The tour supporting this album in 1977 was volatile. Recordings attest to the awesome live power of Zep on a good night, like the famous Destroyer bootleg from Cleveland 4/27/77. Then there’s total duds like the show from the Houston Summit 5/21/77. Page sounds completely smacked out. He’ll start some solos brilliantly before they completely fall apart, sometimes they start off bad and get great. Even Bonham had some bad nights on this tour. Insiders say he was dabbling with smack, too around this time. Video footage from Seattle 7/17/77 is also pretty disappointing. The tour ended on a sour note with an ugly, violent incident in Oakland involving promoter Bill Graham’s crew. Not long after that tragedy would strike Robert Plant’s family with the sudden death of his son and it was a very different band that resurfaced in 1979 with In Through The Out Door.


Buy here:Presence

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

War Tapes - The Continental Divide

Sometimes there’s something beautiful about a piece of music so deliciously dark. It may seem like a somewhat odd thing to say in that so many of us have been born and bred to believe darkness equals bad. But the truth of the matter is that there can be beauty in all things not just that which society deems acceptable. Enter War Tapes. Now, I don’t want you Waveriders thinking that these guys are some morbidly dark, simmering evil cavalcade of church burning metalheads. Far from it! These guys harness the dark arts much the way bands like Depeche Mode or The Cure would do. Finding those sullen tones, morose vibes, and using gloomy imagery to create a quasi-gothic sound that borrows as much from that of the 80’s sound as they do more modern stylings.

The Continental Divide is a complex album that really shows two aspects of War Tapes. On one hand, there’s a ton of hugely melodic and pop sensible numbers, on the other hand, those same pop drenched numbers have fair amount of up tempo hard edged rocking going on. Best of both worlds? Perhaps. “The Night Unfolds” kicks the whole thing off with that balls to the wall type of tempo, filled with some incredibly distorted guitars and frenetic rhythms, but layered on top of the dissonant sounds are the rich vocal melodies of Neil Popkin. Sometimes haunting, other times uplifting, but never once boring, Popkin’s vocals add such a variety of texture that it’s practically impossible to think about anything but the lyrics. Even though this track is wide open and full throttle, the band do a great job of keeping it accessible and melodious, and I think a big factor to the sound remaining lush throughout the hectic tempo is the approach of the guitars. Big, fat, and distorted when they need to be, the players found that they can create even more tension by breaking things down and letting the instruments breathe on their own. The more subtle approaches to the guitar work the song to spectacular and create a great mood, and not just on “The Night Unfolds,” but on the entire album.

The dark and brooding “Mind is Ugly” is a haunting standout track. Leaning into the darkened goth-y tones, the song reminds me of the more metallic goth / doom bands like Katatonia or Paradise Lost. Heavy guitars and driving rhythms propel this song into the dissonant arena, but those aforementioned guitar subtleties and the tortured vocal performance plant this song in a genre all to itself. The female vocal harmonies make me want to hide further from the penetrating glare of the sun, prop gargoyles around every gable of my house, and clothe myself in the darkest fabrics known to man. On top of all of the great physical affects that these vocals have on me, they also provide additional texture to an already vibrant track, giving it deeper dimensions and an air of mystery. Again, the song shows War Tapes ability to meld hard driving rock oriented music with infectious and memorable melodies.

“For Eternity” erupts from the speakers like a long lost Cure song. You almost get the sense that you’re about to hear Robert Smith start crooning about boys crying or being love on some particular day of the week, but instead, the more gravelly timbered voice of Popkin chimes in and takes us in a completely different direction than one might expect. The chorus laden guitar notes channel that great Cure sound, but War Tapes have done a masterful job of adding their own voice to the sounds of the past to create something unique.

“Dreaming of You” is my personal favorite from The Continental Divide, mainly because it speaks to the romantic in me. The lyrics are focused on living life in a dream because it’s just easier to get what you want that way. The vocal performance at the chorus comes across so damn compelling that I fall head over heels into Popkin’s dream world. I would so much rather live in a world where I get what I want rather than live in a world of continued disappointment and subsequent misery. And, though the lyrics tug on the heart strings, the words would feel less complete if it weren’t for that awesome melody! The composition of the song is solid, the individual performances sell the soul, and the subject matter is something that most people can relate to. This is a shit hot song!

What more need be said? The Continental Divide is a strong disc that gets better with every listen, though quite honestly, War Tapes had me from the first struck notes. It’s an album that will have you staring out the window during the next rain storm, your mind wandering to that one person who touched your heart the most . . . or the worst. Stellar musicianship, especially in the way of the guitars. These guys have captured the guitar sound that made The Cure so damned lovable, but with a touch of modern pop / rock sensibility. And the vocals . . . can’t get enough of that deep rumbling sound emitting from the diaphragm of Neil Popkin. Strong marks and I highly recommend y’all check this one out. - Pope JTE

Buy here:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Danny Echo - S/T

If there was any justice, in a world safe for classic pop music (you know, with silly, inconsequential things like melody and harmony and actual instruments), Danny Echo would already be making a nice little footprint in the world as a pop band from Vancouver that “made good.”

Their 2009 debut shines with lots of great songs and great song craft and does a great job of referencing pop stylings from Badfinger to Oasis, which both a small and big leap when you think about it. The core of the band, Danny, Mark and Ian are all is the biz, and have plenty of collective skills behind them to make this disc more Beatles than garage band. Some of the highlights are like getting into the Magical Mystery Machine for a good old fashioned pop tour.

"Killing Me" kicks it up on the second track, including a chorus that you think you’ve heard a million times when in reality, you’ve heard it once: Hey girl/your lying is arriving right on time/leaving you is leaving me so blind/I can’t believe you’ve left it all behind/ leaving you is killing me inside. All skittering drums, playful bass the song careens back and forth, great slashes of guitars punctuating the lyrics of yet another love gone wrong.

Referencing classic Brit Pop is "I Can't Take It Anymore", mashing up a couple different generations of pop genius: the short jabbing guitars of The Knack, the insistent drumming and vocals of The Jam, and the keyboard backing of Devo. Mashed up and careening into stadium rock, the song is pretty much insta-pop while never sounding derivative.

"Tomorrow Today" is classic Danny Echo, opening with some nice vocal harmony and clever verbal play in the lyrics before the band kicks ion behind a mid-tempo beat. Difford and Tilbrook might have stopped by to help on the lyrics as well, but the song is classic ‘60’s pop with just a dollop of Beatles.

"It's Up to You" might have been left of the floor by XTC, picked up and dusted off by John and Paul and given to Brian Wilson the finish off. "Help Yourself" derives it timing from a loose spring that twangs in the background, but in the foreground the band harmonizes like Badfinger and the guitars tell a sad song, right into a classic solo that might have been ripped from George Harrison’s song notes.

"Given Up, Giving Up" is pure Oasis, with a vocal that reaches deep with its echo into Verve territory as well as deep into the lyrics. The quiet breakdown in the middle only amplifies the beauty of the Paul Weller guitars that drive the verse section of the song.

"Barely Getting By" edges into Barenaked Ladies territory, without playing the more cloying aspects of the song. Structured like a power ballad, we can rise up again/ we can win in the end/broken dreams never die/you’ll never feel alive til you’re barely getting by is the sad but true story of a million bands that you’ve seen on a bar stage.

Heres hoping that millions more discover the joy that is Danny Echo so that the band isn’t playing "Barely Getting By" in VH1 15 years from now and remarking how prescient they were. With Vancouver wishes and caviar dreams, the world could use a few killer melodies and even more beautiful harmonies. Pick up the new Danny Echo and enjoy a few yourself.

- the fearless rock iguana

buy here: Buy the CD

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...