Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ripple News- A Free CD Giveaway

We'd threatened we were going to do it, and just like an upcoming Presidential election, we always deliver what we promise. Wait, I mean unlike a Presidential election . . oh never mind.

But since it's Halloween, we thought we'd give you your own little treat. You don't even have to do a trick to get it.

Here's the story. Once a month, we pick a name randomly from our ever-growing list of waveriders and toss a free Ripple CD your way. Love it, hate it. Do whatever you want with it. It's free!

And the winner this month of a free Cd, soon to be charging towards your postal box is . . .


Yea! Yea! There is much applause.

We notice that you seem to like '80's-styled rock, so we hand selected the dynamite new Grand Atlantic CD, How We Survive for ya. Hope you like it. Send us a comment under your name, so I know it's you, and then follow that up with an email to me with where you want the disc mailed and we'll get right on it.

The rest of you waveriders, hang tight, another free giveaway will happen next month. For the rest of you, just drooling at the thought of Ripple Music heading your way for the all inclusive price of zero, simply sign up to become a follower of the Ripple Effect and you'll get your chance to win.

--Your merry band of Ripple Lunatics

Friday, October 30, 2009

Field Report - Petty Crux @ The Dakota Lounge - Santa Monica

It’s no secret that Petty Crux are a Ripple favorite, so it should really come as no surprise that when we received an invitation to catch the band,s first live performance, with their new members in tow, that a Ripple representative would be in attendance. Little did I know that it was going to be lil’ ole me! After all, it was Racer who first heard their album All That Survived The Crash and was so high on these guys that he whipped out some bizarre form of Greco Roman torture, contorted me into pretzel form, and beat me over the head with the album until I fell in love with it. I was left aghast that he didn’t catch the first flight from the Bay Area for this gig, and even more aghast that he would think enough of my abilities to capture music in the live setting to send me off to tackle this assignment. So, with bags packed and a crash pad all set up, I piled in the Popemobile and made the relatively short journey up the I-5 to LaLaLand.

Slowly and organically becoming an industry hotbed for unsigned music, The Dakota Lounge, strategically located at 1026 Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica, played host for the night’s events. The staff of the club is top notch, friendly and approachable, and they gave the patrons of the club a feeling of belonging. I never once got the impression that I was trying to compete with the “pretty people” of L.A., but that I was taking part in an event where the music was taking center stage and my enjoyment was paramount.

It had been a long time coming for these guys to make their way back in front of a live crowd and to talk to any of the band members prior to the gig, well . . . one would see that they all had a distracted approach to the conversations. They were aching to get under the lights, strap on their gear, and cut loose. Like an athlete sidelined for an extended period of time, unable to perform due to some injury, but one who’s competitive fire was left raging unchecked . . . that was Petty Crux. Light hearted, yet focused on the performance at hand. And when they did eventually take the stage, the packed house shook. The band hand delivered a set of heavily melodic rock with efficiency, musical proficiency, and a level of professionalism that sometimes seems to be lacking in the music world.

With newly appointed bass meister, Zach, laying down a groovin’ foundation of low end, Petty Crux opened the night’s set with “What Do You Care.” Clemente’s smooth as aged whiskey voice crooned out the verses, and to see the glimmer in his eyes, one immediately got the sense that this is where he belongs, in front of a crowd, bearing his soul through his music. And the crowd felt it, too. The up tempo drive of the song had the crowd shaking their collective ass in time with the music and those who were familiar with the tune were in full vocal harmony. Maybe most importantly, to look at the band, to look at the faces of those in attendance, there was joy. Everybody was smiling and having a good time . . . and in these tough times, isn’t that all we can ask for? Music to take our minds away from the crap that surrounds our everyday lives? Petty Crux just may be the cure to our nation’s depression!

The band followed the opener with the jazzier toned “Heroes Are Lonely.” The spotlight immediately was pointed on the other new guy, Taylor, who hammered away at the keyboards with a spirit of Stevie Wonder in his hip pocket. Throughout the night, drummer Paul attacked his kit as if in retaliation towards some deed done wrong, but for this song, he kicked down the funky beats while Taylor’s keyboards grabbed everyone’s attention, and the collective ass continued to shake. These guys simply did not let up on the groove factor, and in combination with the humidity of the room, the masses became a single bumpin’ and grindin’ entity shining under a layer of sweat. Every bit of emotion and fire that the band put out there, the crowd gave back with fair market value.

Throughout the performance, guitarist Jason appeared to be auditioning for a part in one of the Cirque de Sole shows as he balanced precariously upon his effects board. Swaying back and forth on one foot, squeezing out every last decibel of sound he could from the vast array of pedals laid out before him, Jason seemingly picked out notes from the air, processed them in his own special way, and released them back to gyrating crowd. Before I knew it, Petty Crux were powering through what could possibly be the bands catchiest tune of them all in “Apocalypse . . . For Now.” This is the song that first grabbed my attention with these guys when I heard the album and even on this night, it’s the song that had me humming throughout the night, into the next morning . . . over breakfast, down the freeway to my next engagement. I think y’all get the idea. Racer said it first and everybody seems to concur with the term. Ear worm.

Finally, the night ended with a rousing rendition of the album closer, “Hello.” Fan-fucking-tastic! I was warned prior to the gig that there was something special in store with this particular song, but to experience it was something completely unexpected and uplifting. Singer Clemente had the crowd contributing its boisterous and somewhat off key pipes for a rousing sing-along that built and built and built with tons of emotion. As the last notes of the music died out, I got the sense that I got the opportunity to witness something pretty special here. Phenomenally catchy music played with a bit rock n’ roll muscle performed for a crowd who I expect will follow this band with a fiery passion. In so many ways, it’s hard to believe that this was the bands first show with this line up and after a fairly lengthy hiatus. Did I witness history? I think it’s a tad early to really say, but this is for certain, there was something so damn compelling about this Petty Crux performance that I wouldn’t be surprised if this band snowballs and we begin to see these guys on billboards across the globe. Y’all need to go to the bands web page(s) and keep tabs as to when they’re playing again coz’ you’re not gonna’ want to miss them. And when you do catch ‘em, look me up coz’ I’ll be there somewhere . . . ass a-shakin’! - Pope JTE

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Protometal Report - The Stooges – You Want My Action, Live 1971

Most fans of The Stooges are completely unaware of this era of the band. Everyone knows that Ron Asheton played guitar on the first 2 Stooges albums from 1969 and 1970 and switched to bass for the Raw Power era from 1972 until the end of the band in early 1974. But what a lot of people don’t know is that both Ron and James Williamson played guitar in the band during 1971.

Ron asked former roadie Bill Cheetham to play 2nd guitar on the 1970 Funhouse tour dates. Another former roadie, Zeke Zettner replaced Dave Alexander on bass and joined Scott Asheton on drums, Steve MacKay on saxophone and singer Iggy Pop to create a mega 6 headed Stooge monster. Drugs eventually caused this line up to fall apart and then James Williamson appeared on the scene. Bill and Zeke returned to the road crew, James was in and Jimmy Recca took over on bass. For years all that existed of that line up were some photos and a horrible sounding bootleg supposedly from St. Louis.

Easy Action Records in the UK has finally solved the mystery of this era and unleashed a 4CD set of extremely raw live tapes. They make it very clear on their website – these are audience recordings. As you can guess, the technology available to most people in the audience in 1971 was not great. The fidelity is going to be a problem for everyone except the most insane Stooge fanatics. Like me. I’ll listen to anything by the Stooges, MC5, Charlie Parker or John Coltrane no matter how it was recorded. If you can’t deal with the sound of The Stooges’ last stand captured on Metallic KO, don’t even bother with this. If you’ve ever heard the recordings that Dean Benedetti made of Charlie Parker (solos only, on a wire recorder in the late 1940’s), this Stooges box makes that sound like Dark Side of the Moon.

The 2 best sounding discs come from a pair of shows at the Electric Circus on St. Marks Place in New York City May 14 & 15th that were recorded by Danny Fields. Danny is the guy that signed The Stooges and MC5 to Elektra in 1968 and later went on to manage The Ramones, among other things. I’d always heard about how legendary these shows were – Iggy spray painted himself silver, puking on stage, huge amps blowing the roof off of a small club, etc. All of it’s true.

The band worked up a set of completely new material and don’t play a single song of off the first album or Funhouse. Later on, they never bothered to record any of these songs except for “I Got A Right,” which is the opener to all of the shows here. It’s pretty much the same version that we all know and love but it’s a little heavier and frantic due to the 2 guitars and the fact that it’s live. It’s pretty funny to hear the song fall apart on the first night about 30 seconds into it. Iggy just yells “take it” and the band starts over again.

They play the same set in the same order both nights of the NYC shows, but the 2nd show is a little more intense the first. It’s obvious that the crowd is bigger the 2nd night. Everyone who was there the first night must have told everyone how great it was. The crowds both nights are pretty rowdy. Lots of yelling back and forth between the audience and the crowd. Iggy announces that he’s gonna puke at one point. Rumor has it someone in Andy Warhol’s crowd was heckling him to vomit on stage. Iggy always satisfies his audience.

“You Don’t Want My Name” and “Fresh Rag” (or as Iggy introduces it one night – “New York pussy smells like dog shit”) are high energy headbanging affairs. It’s not exactly heavy metal, but they are certainly heavy and metallic sounding. It’s a shame they never worked on these songs more, they could have become Stooge classics. “Dead Body” is a junked out interpretation of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love.” It’s almost 10 minutes and has a great groove to it and killer lead playing from Ron. “Big Time Bum” and “Do You Want My Love” are both fast ones. If you’ve ever heard the Velvet Underground bootleg called “The Legendary Guitar Amp Tape” (recorded from the inside of Lou Reed’s amp during a feedback frenzied set) you’ll know what to expect on this one. The vocals are barely audible at times, probably because Iggy is somewhere out in the crowd. When you can hear him he’s screaming his head off. The Stooges played loud and in small places where the PA couldn’t compete with the wall of amps. But there is an acapella version of “The Shadow Of Your Smile” from the first night that the girls in the audience seem to like.

The previously released tape from St. Louis has been cleaned up a little bit. The sound quality is still pretty rough but is much clearer than the previously released version. Turns out this show was supposed to be in St. Louis but got moved to nearby St. Charles, MO to a club called the The Factory on May 27. They play the same set as the NYC shows, but ends abruptly. Apparently, Iggy clocked Ron in the head with the mic and knocked him out. You can hear Ron’s guitar hit the ground as the band grinds to a halt. The crowd yells for more but the show’s over. Iggy later went outside and hung out with the fans apologizing for the short gig. This was the last night of the tour and the last this line up ever played together. The band broke up, Iggy met Bowie in New York and went to England with James to start a new band, but later asked Ron and Scott to join them. That’s the beginning of the band being known as Iggy And The Stooges.

Disc 4 of this set actually first night of the tour from April 13 in their hometown of Detroit. The sound quality of this show is probably the harshest but the performance is good. At one point you can hear someone in the crowd say “Detroit sucks!” As a bonus, there are 2 songs from a show in July 1971 that Ron, Scott and Jimmy played without Iggy or James. One of the songs was called “Ron’s Jam” on a previous bootleg and that’s exactly what it is. Ron leads a power trio jam with tons of wah wah and attitude. It’s interesting to note that Ron played a Gibson Les Paul rather than a Fender Stratocaster like he did on the first 2 albums. The sound is a bit fuller and suits the material well. Jimmy Recca does his best Iggy impression on a song called “What You Gonna Do.” Who know how the rest of this night went?

With Ron Asheton sadly no longer with us, James Williamson has rejoined the Stooges, having settled his long-standing beef with Iggy years ago.

The revamped Stooges are due to play some shows in November and will be touring in 2010. Both Iggy and James have said that they’ll be focusing on Raw Power material as well as playing some of the first 2 albums and unrecorded gems. Chances are none of these songs except for “I Got A Right” will make the set list, but it would be cool to hear “Fresh Rag” live and insane in 2010.

There are only 1000 of these mothers so if you’re interested you better act fast. The packaging is pretty nice. Lots of great photos of Iggy going berserk and the band blasting through giant stacks of Sunn amps (which are very trendy to collect these days). If you’re scared about the sound, Easy Action has posted sound clips from all 4 discs so you can see if you can handle it.

Can you?


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mining for Gold - Discoveries Across the World Wide Web

Yes, we live in an interesting world. Wonder what a visionary like Jules Verne or H.G. Wells would say if they saw the plugged in, fiber optic-linked, satellite-fed world we live in today. Would the visionary of the Fax machine and the submarine be impressed? Would the predictor of alien technology stare gape-mouthed?

A while back, I was asked to write an article on how the internet was influencing new bands and artists. Was the ready access of a history's worth of music a boon to creativity or a bust to commercial overload? Did the internet instigate inspiration or quench it underneath a flood of sub-par product?

That debate can rage on forever, but what can't be denied is that any hardcore trek through the webpages of this world can turn up an unsuspected treasure. Sure, there's a lot of fool's gold out there, but every once in while, when the moon and stars line up just right, you strike gold.

Blah Blah Blah

Digging through the pages of Music Dealers, an online music licensing website, shovel and pick in hand, I turned over a cyber rock and discovered this treat glittering back at me in all it's radiant post-Smith's glory. From Chicago, Blah Blah Blah, meld the best of several phases of the Manchester sound with the forward indy pop sensibility of modern day Chicago. Impeccably lush and skillfully executed, you can find traces of old New Order here, like the keyboard textures underlying "They Don't Dance," or the shoegazing Stone Roses in the guitar crunch of "Why Am I the Only One Laughing." Post-Morrissey lives heartily in the vocal delivery of "After Midnight," while "Kill the Waiter," hearkens to a post Factory-rave, morning after calm down, with it's deeply distorted psychedelia and gentle, wispy vocal.

But don't go thinking that the Blah's are merely the sum of their influences. This multi-cultural band brings their own personality to British post-punk. Laying down the oh-so-essential bass tracks to power the songs forward, guitars layer in delicately, vocals spiral in and around the melodies. Each of the six songs loaded on the player is a shimmering, sugar-crusted chestnut of post-punk pop bliss. And when I say shimmering, I mean these songs positively glisten, 24 karat gold. Light radiates from their delicate compositions without seeming to airy or flimsy. Guitars shine, drums resonate, and vocals float. Truly, a pop confection treat.

Just listen to the aching, longing in Soloman's voice during "Kill the Waiter." This is wistful melancholia the likes of which can transport me to a netherworld of swirling emotion. Absolutely intoxicating. "They Don't Dance," adds a danceable backbeat but keeps the emotional sumptuousness front and center. This is music that just makes you lie back and wonder.

I checked out the band's Myspace page and still can't tell if they have an album out or not, but either way, it'll be well worth watching out for. If your a fan of the Smith's bittersweet melodies, and always wondered what they'd sound like with a touch of golden spirited optimism, or if you wondered what would've come next if The Hacienda hadn't deteriorated into a mire of drugs and guns, this band is for you. Sublime pop for the modern world.

Big Rock Candy Mountain - Hey Kid

Continuing my mining mission through the cyber-desert, my mule, near delirious from the desert heat pulled over in the shade of mountain for rest and water. Little did that poor mule know which mountain she choose. Combining the sinusoidal synthesizer spasms of classic new wave with the angular post-punk guitars of modern post-rock and the musical ambition/schizophrenia of punchy neo-prog, there was no way that poor mule was going to rest in the shade of this mountain. Fuck that, there was no way the shade was even going stay still for long. Propelled by maniacal drumming, shape-shifting song structures, epileptic outbursts of spiky guitar chords or frenzied arpeggios, this whole damn mountain is a pulsating, heaving, jumping, constantly-in-motion dance made physical.

As insane as all that may sound, in the wild and wacky world of Big Rock Candy Mountain it all makes perfect, completely mad sense. Stellar songwriting brings all their disparate elements, chord ideas, song dropouts, and drums blasts together into one coherent whole. It truly is the sum being greater than the parts here. Yes, that seems like a random guitar outburst, or an out-of-left field vocal breakdown, but it all works in its own freakish angular world. Moments that seem like they should be too chaotic to be listenable, fall into place as if a higher deity was positioning pieces on a chessboard. And besides the strength of songwriting, the glue that binds all this together are some of the most gorgeous, memorable, delectably sugary melodies I've heard in ages; the type that could induce a coma in most diabetics.

References are too many to mention, but to me, I'm reminded of the brain-melting post punk of Wire or Pere Ubu, bands that weren't afraid to take punk structure and fuck with it, twist it inside out, rip out it's innards and replace it with some damn fine funk or whatever moved them at that moment. Big Rock Candy Mountain takes snippets of Joy Division brooding, toss it into a blender with a strong dose of Mars Volta randomness, and the out-of-left-field approach of the Flaming Lips, and the amped up beat of Daft Punk, and turn out one juicy, positively jumpy concoction. Guitar heavy choruses are catchy, the vocals are soulfully sincere, and the bass and drums make the whole thing danceable for the quirky, epileptics who like to seize on the dancefloor.

Not an album you can digest in one sitting or 100. Something new, surprising, and stunning, leaps out of every random corner with each listen. A new counter melody, a new guitar run. Wait, did you hear what the bass just did? How'd they do that? I don't know if this is the work of absolutely brilliant minds or completely demented ones, but either way, it's genius. If this was a virus it'd be catchier than H1N1. To which I can only say, "avoid the vaccine. Contract the illness." It's much more fun.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Single Life - Another 7 inches of Fun

Mighty High - Drops a Deuce - Cable TV Eye b/w Hands Up! (live n nasty)

There's no doubt about it. Mighty High really is Brooklyn's most "regressive rock act." Draped by some of the most mind-blowing R. Crumb style artwork imaginable (courtesy of Wayne Braino Bjerke) Mighty High really do drop a deuce onto an unsuspecting, slightly horrified public with this amplified, hellified, fuzzified blitzkrieg of raving retro, primal, bone marrow rock and roll. Just imagine someone driving a big old rusty drill bit right through the brain of MC5 into the skull of Black Flag, then dripping some Grand Funk Railroad into the gaping hole left behind. Stick your finger in the goo and that's Mighty High in all their flaming/smokin' glory.

With the High boys, it's all about the riff and the groove, in the punkest use of the terms. And it's all here, laid out on display like some plastic bags of hash on the counter of a head shop in Amsterdam. "Cable TV Eye," is a worthy follow-up to the freak out of stoner punk fuzz that was the Mighty High debut album, and if anything "Hands Up," builds upon this manic energy. Retro, regressive, whatever, this is pure adrenaline punk and stoner roll and it's a flaming blunt full of fun. Together, we get two slabs of basal, Spicoli, get-outta-my-way-I-need-to-get-stoned delinquency. Music to scare mothers of small babies. Music to scare parole officers. Music for hydro-hoofin'.

With it's marbled blue vinyl 7" and stare-at-it-for-hours cover, this is the complete package. Yep, Mighty High has delivered once again. This isn't rocket science, it's rock and roll. Don't even think about it, just buy it.

Blane Fonda - Opportunity Rocks b/w Salacious Love

Not really a 7" single per se (but could be!) rather this review is of a couple of mp3's the band sent my way over a period of time. "Opportunity Rocks," introduces Chicago's Blane Fonda and their energized, synthesized, fully-glammed out modern power pop. So many names run through my head in thinking about their sound, but in the end, that's all crap. It doesn't matter who they listened to, all that matters is what I'm hearing right now, and it's a stadium full of propulsive hooks, melodies and choruses. It's a distillation of every glam punk/pop band that had genesis in the eighties, wormholed through a time warp continum to the new millenium. "Opportunity Knocks," features some raving guitars, huge bass lines, monstrous melodies and some of the most elastic vocals I've ever heard. Deep and thoughtful, soaring and uplifting, wicked and psychotic, all from one set of vocal chords. Big symphonic synths, cybals crashing like hail on a tin roof. It's all here, and it's all perfect.

But in truth, it wasn't until "Salacious Love," crossed my computer that I knew I had to write about these guys. Bringing back the best of the New Romantic Glam movement, "Salacious Love," is nothing but esquisite. Beginning with a very Supertramp-ish keyboard intro, and a deep and emotive vocal, the bass bubbles underneath, immediately elevating this song to the now. The instant. An amazingly sensuous melody percolates to the surface, another huge, soaring chorus falls into place. Everything builds, slowly, evenly to a climax of spiky guitar and sythns. Then, like any good moment of sex, immediately the song falls back to a slower, more deliberate pace, only to build once again; steadily, unflinchingly. For a post-punk junkie like me, this song is one long aural orgasm.

Whew, out of breath.

Higher Giant - Al's Moustache

With a pedigree that lists members from some of the leading bands of the New York Hardcore scene (Kid Dynamite, Lifetime, Grey Area, Warzone, The Arsons and Token Entry), I think any waverider could be forgiven for expecting Higher Giant to sound like a agglomeration of all the New York Hardcore that has come before them. Truth be told, you couldn't be more mistaken. Despite a super-group lineage, or maybe because of it, Higher Giant sound nothing like what would be expected of them. This isn't hardcore. Sure there are moments of frantic, monster-drink pumped up energy and crashing guitars, but it ain't hardcore. In fact, it's hardly punk. Sure there's a snotty-edged tone to the vocals (vaguely reminiscent of bands like The Planet Smashers) and a better-than-emo quality to the songs, but it ain't punk. Not in the traditional sense of the word anyways. So then what is it?

Higher Giant sounds like the next evolution of punk. Once you break out of the hardcore scene, but still want some speed and punch to your music, but get nauseated by the emo-crap out there, there's Higher Giant. These cats break out with a 4-song 7" single filled with raving hooks, big choruses, spikey guitars, steamrolling drums, and a large dose of manic energy; never forgetting their hardcore roots, but transforming that sound with clean vocals and a hefty bag of songwriting chops to create a powerful road all their own. Pop hardcore? No. Thrash pop? Maybe. Don't know what to call it, so dispense with labels and just listen to the charging guitars and melody of "See You Later, Chopstick." Chugging guitars keep the energy flowing but in a bouncy, bopping fashion not a bludgeoning. Nice guitar work slices through the mix, showing these cats know their instruments and aren't afraid of progging up their tunes. "Bad Investment," kicks off with a dynamite swing-tom drum line before wrapping itself in a delicious melody and chiming guitar. Again, the band's not afraid to play with dynamics, dropping out the sound, kicking in a big drum, squeezing in a disharmonic bridge, before finding a groove just not found in hardcore. "Just Go," is actually a pop confection dressed up in hyper-energy and attitude, avoiding all the pitfalls of emo. "Union Square," is just a stone cold rock/punk get-off. Punchy and brimming with piss.

Completely accessible yet at the same time not a put off to the punk crowd. Higher Giant have found the right mix.

The Kut - Doesn't Matter Anyway b/w Closure

Apparently there's a new scene developing in England, South London to be specific, New Cross to be dead on. Emerging from the labyrinth of underground punk, rock, and glam clubs, "basement rock," has been bandied about to describe the guitar heavy, punky attitude, garage-y rock sound of these bands that eschew normal commercial channels and make their name by playing the squat or underground circuit. Fusing big, big guitars, with heaps of glam and a fashion sense of a mutated 1920's flapper, The Kut are one of the main bands to break out of this scene and head towards US shores.

And based on this debut double- A single, "Doesn't Matter Anyway b/w Closure," its not hard to see why. Ignore the fact that this is an all girl trio for a moment. Ignore the fact that they have a killer look, completely natural yet massively marketable. Ignore the fact that they got tons of underground cred, and what you have left over is a freaking dynamite burst of punchy, poppy, raise-your-hands-in-the-air, dancefloor-filling indy punk/garage/glam amalgamation. "Doesn't Matter Anyway," rides a choppy guitar riff from verse to chorus over rolling bass lines and solid drumming to deliver a gem of female alt-rock as tasty as anything put out there since the Go-Go's. This is a hummable, danceable, singable, pogo-able, head bop-able, slab of prime indy pop. Great hooks, great chops. Beautiful, nuanced, emotive vocals without being whiny or snotty. It's all there, and it's about as damn near perfect as you'll find.

Then, as loose and choppy as "Doesn't Matter Anyway," was "Closure," shows immediately that these girls aren't one-trick ponies. Trading the alt-punk roots for a deeper, denser vibe, "Closure," flows out like some female Cure. Elvira's deep plowing bass lines lead to the big crunch of the chorus, highlighted by some tasty drum fills by Jade. Listen to the guitar tone here, it's ear-grabbing, and makes it no surprise that frontwoman Maha just signed an endorsement deal with Marshall.

Yeah, just go ahead and forget anything that sound like hype or gimmick about this band. I friggin' love these girls. Rock hasn't been this much fun in ages. --Racer

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dala - Everyone Is Someone

I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting when I dug this disc out of the pile of submissions that’s seemingly growing by its own volition next to my desk. I vaguely remember seeing the cover of this Dala album as I popped the disc from its housing, and knowing my mindset, I’m almost certain that I was filing this one into some sort of inspirational ambient trance vocal category. Well, it is a vocal thing, and definitely has some inspirational aspects to it, but I never expected Everyone Is Someone to have the effect on me that it did. I mean, there were times during my initial listen of this disc that I simply had to stop, look up from the paperwork or internet maintenance that I was doing, and voice to no one in particular that the song in rotation was absolutely beautiful. I fear the day someone installs a hidden camera in my office. I’m sure I’d look like someone who needs to be committed . . . talking to myself . . . looking around as if I’m expecting someone to answer. Ah, the lonely life of a music reviewer.

All kidding aside, Everyone Is Someone is a spectacular, beautiful, and emotional collection of songs that I’m guessing may fit well with singer / songwriters such as Sarah McLachlan. I say, “I guess,” because I’ve never really listened to McLachlan, though her song “I Will Remember You” haunts me with its emotion every time I hear it, much like every song on Everyone Is Someone has been doing for the past week or so. Emotional. Y’know, that word pretty much sums up the entire mood to this album. It’s well defined and touches the nerves like no music that I’ve ever heard. For me, well . . . I found myself tooling around town, reflecting on loves lost, choices not made, and journeys to be traveled. And through it all, I felt the emotions welling up to the point that I suddenly felt sad. Not the doom and gloom, oh-my-life-is-so-awful kind of sadness, but more of that I’m-lonely-but-empowered kind of sadness. Big on vocal melody and staggering with those same harmonies, Amanda Walther and Sheila Carabine brought me to my knees with their roots-y, folk-y take on pop music.

“Lonely Girl” opens the disc with airy vocals over some ambient backgrounds, but then the acoustic guitars rise out of the mix and the two women harmonize all over the place. Heartfelt and well phrased lyrics paint a great picture of the various characters getting by, but man . . . the chorus shatters the senses. The way the two voices dance around each other is mindboggling and more moving than any music that I can remember hearing. Ever. I can’t remember the last time that I sat back, listened to a song, and felt, with such a strong sensitivity, the emotions welling up within me. While listening to this song, a part of me wants to cry while another part wants to wage war against every man who has treated anyone with disrespect. Myself included. As the song winds down, I can easily see myself holding my beloved glass of bourbon in a darkened room, contemplating the wrongs I’ve committed. “Lonely Girl” just broke me down to my core being. What a moving song . . . more please!

Well, all of Everyone Is Someone has that affect in one way or another, but tracks like “Crushed” and “Stand In Awe” carry a similar weight as “Lonely Girl.” Both tracks are equally moody, melodic, and addictive. If you can’t feel something from these songs then you’re just dead inside. The single voice is powerful, as it sings through the verses, but when the second voice comes in, the emotion can be overwhelming. I’m wracking my brain to recall ever hearing anything quite this heavy. I’m not talking heavy metal heavy, I’m talking so emotionally charged that it feels like a twenty pound cat sleeping on your chest. I’m talking about the pressure one might feel while deep sea diving or of being at the bottom of a dog pile. Yeah . . . that kind of heavy!

For a little levity, Dala kick out the first single with “Levi Blues.” The song must have been included in a television show or movie recently because I had a feeling a familiarity right off the bat. Great fun lyrics, memorable, catchy . . . c’mon, give me another adjective! Upbeat and light hearted, I can’t help but dance in my chair, sing a line or two, maybe even crack a smile. It’s the type of song that will stick with you throughout the day. Saccharine sweet melodies drive this song, and odds are that even after a full day of not hearing this song that you’ll be able to pull it from your memory banks and hum it in its entirety. But, as fun a song as this is, and as good a song as this is, I keep going back to the more melancholy tracks coz’ I’m a sucker for the heartache.

“Northern Lights,” “Face In The Morning,” and “Horses” are all fantastic tunes that will have you staring out your window on a rainy day, reminiscing on days of young love or contemplating the path you’re gonna’ be walking. “Horses” is a crusher. I have to do the wide eyed man stare in fear of shedding too many tears as this one hits just a little too close to home. And it’s not just the lyrical content, but the way these two fabulously talented women convey the emotion with their voices. Again, those harmonies have the power to tear down walls and knock down skyscrapers. Aw hell . . . I’m welling up as I type this . . . I gotta’ wrap this thing up.

Okay. Maybe that was a little melodramatic, but I think it helps get the point across. Wow! It’s a moving frickin’ album that must be experienced to be believed! Everyone Is Someone has rocketed to the top of my all time favorites list on the strength of emotion alone. The songs are out of this world, the subject matter is poignant, the performances . . . a step away from Heaven. I tried to explain to Racer that the music is so powerful that, while listening to it, it’s like some sort of chemical reaction is taking place in the body that separates the raw sensitivities from our emotions and brings them right to the surface for maximum exposure, emotions that are suddenly exposed to all of this pain and pleasure and sadness and joy, just being barraged and absorbing the experiences that life has to offer. Wonderfully exhilarating!

-- Pope JTE

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Sunday Conversation with Killing Lazarus

Recorded on a simple 8 track recorder, the Killing Lazarus self titled mini epic thrilled the Ripple offices with its multi-faceted themes and emotions. It may have toiled in the pile of submissions for longer than I would have liked, but it ultimately struck such a chord with us that we had to pursue the masterminds behind the music. So, this week, we got the opportunity to sit with the lads of Ireland's best kept secret to find out what makes the music of Killing Lazarus so damn compelling, as well as to what they have cooking for the near future.

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, and Simon & Garfunkel, 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?

There’s so much good music out there that you could have a musical epiphany every week. Playing as a band is like having an epiphany all the time. Especially when we play something new and we all enjoy it and add our own twist. Also when each one of us puts something new into the music the light bulb appears. There have been too many musical moments in life to single out any one particular moment as every epiphany is as relevant and important as the next.

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

We seem to have fallen into the prog rock category which wasn’t really our intention but there is definitely some in there, other styles I would say are stoner rock, dark folk and I think maybe even a hint of post rock. We each like different types of music so it’s hard to get a basic genre sound together.
For us we would have to describe it as mood music, the music takes on a life of its own and so individually the songs form into an element of their own , like different moods at different times With that in mind our songs cross a couple of different genres so we just like to call it Mood Rock. It’s entirely up the person to come to terms with what they are listening too and if they wish to label the music, off they go. But the important thing is that once the music strikes a chord and gets some emotion at some point, well that’s the job done, So Emotion digger music LoL.

How did you approach the writing and recording of the Killing Lazarus self titled album? Is there anything that you would do different on the follow up?

What we have so far is only a demonstration of what we can do and in the future we would like to re-record everything we’ve done so far in a studio, for better sound quality, content and deliverance. We didn’t really have a specific idea about writing songs, what we did, we enjoyed and other people liked it, which is an added bonus. Our approach is simple, have an open mind and enjoy the ride.
Given the interest we have in the band and the interest that people seem to have about us now, we thought we would take it a step further and put the music out there, also for the follow up recording we would definitely book a studio with a producer so we could enhance the songs more.

What’s the musical climate like in Ireland these days? Does the population expect every band to come out sounding like U2?

The music scene over here is pretty good and there is some absolutely amazing music in Ireland at the moment, but you have to dig deep to find it, we get a lot of good bands on the move and a lot of good gigs to pick and choose from. It’s a shame that Ireland is so small due to the fact that bands can’t get off the ground. Also the thing over here is getting your music heard as we’ve only got one semi decent radio station, but the web is a big help in getting music to the masses. People just get used to listening to a type of music and it’s very difficult to break that habit. So in essence people would love to hear U2 rip offs so they don’t have to dig very far to get what they want. But there is nothing new or delivering in that.

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

We’ll talk through ideas we might have and try and figure out the structure for the track, I guess the rest just comes from the vibe. The vibe and feel of songs dictate to us how they should be played, the song is already there all you have to do is find it, if you try too hard to feel the song it will show and will feel strained. It’s also got a lot do with the moment you’re in, Sometimes it’s easier to go along with the rhythm and other times you feel it should take a different direction.

Describe to us the ideal (realistic) record label and how you'd work with them, and they with you.

That’s a tough one…… Our own, because we would get everything we want, only joking. Ideally to work with a label that had a wide range of artists on board so as we wouldn’t be getting tied in with one particular genre, A record label that would treat the bands with respect and dignity. We’d work well in the way of getting things done; we’re pretty opening minded and enthusiastic. A label to give space and time when its required and to understand that creation wasn’t made in a day, Legally bound but liberal at the same time too, we would like to own the band and our music and not have some bank own our music. So we would be able to enjoy the music for years to come and what more would you want? But to be honest record labels nowadays don’t seem to be doing as much for the artist’s as in the past and the “go it alone” approach for the time being is more realistic to us .

For you, what makes a great song? What do you look for in a song to get you going?

It’s all about heart, if that’s not in it then, what’s the point! It can be a slow song or a fast song and all the in between, but if it doesn’t have heart it’s going to be lacking! And plain and simple enjoyment, the songs can be simple or technical, it doesn’t matter! If it feels good and strikes a chord, then hopefully other people will feel the same.

What piece of your music are you particularly proud of?

Geminate, together with the spin backs and the way the samples came together in the end , It just brings the listener on a musical journey with the samples from Network being very relevant to what’s going on in this fucked up world today. Although all the songs we have, are our proud moments. It’s to be able to listen and enjoy what you have created even if no one else enjoys it, we do.

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?

We have a lot of plans for the future, gigs coming up, recording in the studio, setting up our own website, where our fans will be able to buy our material as well as t-shirt’s and merchandise. It would be great to get a record deal and tour the world but in this day and age you have to be realistic. If we can make a living out of playing music for the rest of our lives’ then that’s the dream right there. We can only hope that our plans come to reality. We will deal with whatever is thrown at us, but for now we’re ticking the boxes and setting up shop, Motivation is easy, if you enjoy it, do it.

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

All formats that play music have their own little perks, but for us there is no other way to enjoy music other than live.

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?

If you’re looking for rock and metal then sound cellar is the best bet. If you’re looking for alternative and independent Irish music or just want to know what’s going on in the world of music Julie and Dave at Road Records will always be happy to help. If that doesn’t work out come out to one of our houses and we will let you go through our music collections, you will find a lot of better music there than most music stores in Ireland.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ripple News - Fountains of Wayne, The Posies, Syd Straw and the Smashing Pumpkins Benefit Concert

One of the things we like best about being part of this biz, is when we realize that a lot of the artists we love, are actually just real people. People who care about others. Work hard to help each other. That's certainly the case here.

Dozens of musicians will perform a benefit concert Sunday November 8 at the Echoplex in Echo Park for fellow musician Laura Ann Masura. Masura, a former member of Evil Beaver, Motorhome, the Prescriptions and Dime Box Band, suffered a motorcycle accident in September that almost resulted in the amputation of her foot. As she heals at her Echo Park home, friends and fellow musicians have banded together to raise money for costs that Masura’s health insurance doesn’t cover.

Josiah Mazzaschi of the band Light FM has organized an impressive line up for the concert, which starts at 5 PM and costs a mere $12 per ticket. (ALL proceeds go to Laura Ann. The Echoplex’s Liz Garo has generously donated use of the venue.) To appear: The Happy Stars (Brian Young from Fountains of Wayne and Joe Skyward from The Posies), The Pulsars (Dave and Harry Trumfio), Tim Rutili (Red Red Meat, Califone), Syd Straw (Golden Palominos) Pity Party, Light FM, and The Backward Clock Society, featuring Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins, Kerry Brown of Ancient Chinese Secrets and Mark Tulin of the Electric Prunes. Rotary Rachel (Rachel Lichtman of will emcee and DJ between band sets.

JAM FOR LAURA ANN is more than a concert. There will be items raffled all evening long; a fortune teller (none other than Madame Pamita from cult all-girl surf band the Neptunas); and a BBQ in back of the venue. Jars of Laura Ann’s Jams, made artisanally by Laura Ann this past summer, will be for sale. (In fact Laura Ann was on her motorcycle, en route to a farm for strawberries for the jams, when a car hit her.)

Leading up to the November 8 event, two very special items from the early days of the Smashing Pumpkins will be auctioned off starting this Wednesday without reserve via Ebay to help defray Laura’s medical bills from her accident. The first item up for auction is the drum kit that Jimmy Chamberlin used on the Smashing Pumpkins’ influential and platinum Gish album in 1991 and subsequent tour. The kit will be signed by both Jimmy and Billy. Billy will also be auctioning off the original Smashing Pumpkins bass guitar that he played at the band’s very first show (it is also the bass that he used for the early demos). Both items will be available for bidding via the official Smashing Pumpkins memorabilia ebay site:

Despite surgery scheduled for October 29th, Laura Ann will attend the benefit show—“Even if we have to wheel a bed in!” she says. People unable to attend the event may donate to Laura Ann’s recovery fund (no amount too small!) at


Sunday, November 8th
Doors: 4:30 Showtime 5:00 Tickets: $12
purchase in advance:
The Echoplex, 1154 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA, 90026

Friday, October 23, 2009

Kamchatka - Volume III

It doesn't take more than one second of this dynamite new release by retro-seventies rockers, Kamchatka, before you feel it. Listen to that low rumble of bass approaching, thudding towards you like an approaching seismic event. Feel it carrying something heavy in it's momentum. Something ominous.

Something groovy.

When the words "retro-seventies" rock are bandied about, it's usually followed by the term "stoner." Don't make that mistake with these guys. This isn't stoner rock, or psychedelic, or acid rock for that matter. This is simply an outrageous guitar-heavy, ultra-groovy eruption of heavy rock. Emphasis on the word groovy. Also, don't make the mistake of letting the three-piece alignment fool you into thinking their sound is limited. I've seen Kamchatka referred to as a power trio, but this does nothing to capture the sound of the band. Sure there are three of them and sure their music is laced with power, but this ain't no Rush we're hearing. Or Budgie, Motorhead, Triumph, or even Grand Funk Railroad. "Power trio" does nothing to capture the cosmic waves of psychedelic exploration these cats bring, or the out-of-the-blue jazz passages, or the intense rumble of the blues based, massively distorted riffs, or the endless fertile pastures of jam rocking.

No, power trio doesn't work. Stoner rock doesn't work. We need another label, a whole new vernacular to describe this band. A new language that incorporates everything these mind-friers bring to the table.

For now, we'll just call it Kamchatka rock.

So what exactly is Kamchatka? Well, for starters they took their name from the volcanically active Russian Kamchatka Peninsula that divides the Okhotsk and the Bering Sea, and that's as good a place to start as any. That God-forsaken stretch of land, barren and whipped by terrible seas, is home to about 160 volcanoes. If you were to go there, your face would be buffeted with the force of the wind, your soul would stir from the stark beauty, and the ground would rumble under your feet from the power of the thermonuclear energy beneath you.

That's Kamchatka.

I'm not just tossing around hyperbole here. These cats take the basis of seventies rock and simply put it through there own thermonuclear blues reactor and watch it bubble to the top in an overflow of molten rock. When they lay down a riff, it's like bedrock foundation, steadfast in its intensity and searing with it's heat. Take that riff and sprinkle across it the delicate touch of jazz, prog exploration and some freaking mind-bending extended jamming and we're getting closer to describing their sound.

"681" starts us off with that previously mentioned rumble of Roger Ojersson's bass, laying down the inherent groove that flows through this album like a vein of hot magma. By the time the guitar sears in, the song simply erupts in molten seventies rock splendor. Thomas Andersson has an amazingly warm voice, laced with a belly-full of soul, and a tone to his guitar that's as incendiary as flaming ash. There's no other way to say it, this song just simply grooves, familiar in all the right ways, yet totally it's own creation. Two minutes and forty-nine seconds will never pass so fast as when you're rocking out to this treat.

"Pathetic," erupts next, riding on the explosive thunder of Tobias Strandvik's drums. The riff is as threatening and powerful as the colliding of Teutonic plates. You've not heard this riff before, it's totally new, like the earth being created out of the lava flow. It's mean and nasty, just as the lyrics describing a love relationship turned angry and spiteful. Yet, despite that intensity, or maybe because of it, the chorus break comes across as a beautiful break from the darkness, like a sliver of sunlight slicing through the volcanic cloud. Midway through, the song simply plows through as metal a section as you'll find on any stoner rock album, before disintegrating right before your eyes, into a stunning, mesmerizing passage of near-pastoral prog/jazz rock. The transition is seamless and breathtaking. Instantly, your grip on the nastiness that preceded evaporates and you leave the gravitational field of this planet, soaring high above the steam and destruction below. But don't worry, before you know it, the riff rages back, full of all the bitterness of a scorched heart. Amazing stuff, I know my Ripple brethren the Pope will freak over this one!

"Astrobuck," lives up to it's name, launching off with a rolling, muscular stoner-esque riff, before breaking down to a quieter vocal passage. Ojersson, who shares songwriting and singing credits, shines here, his bass pummeling the song like a barrage of expulsed basalt lava. When I say this riff rumbles, I mean it rumbles seismically. It registers on the Richter scale.

Then, just when you think you've got the terrain surveyed, the boys shift the landscape with the full out prog excursion of "Look Over Your Shoulder." But don't let that "prog" term scare you, this isn't endless arctic noodling, this song possesses an amazing warmth and delicacy. Acoustic strummed guitars hinting at a fragile beauty underneath Andersson's voice. Slowly the organ fills in from underneath, impeccable jazz drumming tripping across the snare and cymbal like a Pacific rain. Slowly, the song builds in intensity, like the accumulation of siliceous magma, kinetic energy accumulating just under the surface. Don't miss the organ freakout 3 minutes in. They just don't write em like that anymore.

All that energy stored during the last song reaches it's boiling point with "See," riding across as low and thudding a bass tone as you're likely to hear. Melted into their "stoner" riff madness is a definite jazz feel. It's there, in the textures of the organ, the composition of the verses, the smoothness of the chorus. How many times have you ever called a riff-fest stoner cavalcade beautiful? Well, here it is. Stay seated while the song fades away, breaking down to a soulful excursion in guitar-based jamming. How gut wrenching is that solo? Dripping with emotion. Then, when the riff roars back, . . . oh mother. Nicely done.

No doubt about it, this album, will be in my 2009 year end Best of List. Guaranteed.

Are you getting a picture of these guys yet? If not, how about this. Being one of the most seismically and volcanically active spots in the world, in 1737 a mega thrust earthquake rocked the Kamchatka Peninsula. 9.3 on the Richter Scale, laying waste to the region. That was followed immediately by a series of gentler aftershocks, looser movements of the earth, that rumbled and grooved after the heaviness.

That's Kamchatka.


Buy here: Vol. 3

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Two from Southern Lord - Black Cobra and Eagle Twin

Black Cobra – Chronomega

Eagle Twin - The Unkindness of Crows

Black Cobra is an extremely heavy duo from San Francisco and they are pissed! Chronomega is their 3rd full length album and first on the Southern Lord label. If you’re new to the band, like me, get ready for an intense assault of down tuned guitar and thrashing drums with aggravated vocals.

Unlike a lot of bands on Southern Lord, Black Cobra is pretty speedy and the songs are usually 4 or 5 minutes. Thankfully, there are no “post-rock” quiet interludes just one bone crushing riff after another. The guitar sound of Jason Landrian is huge and has so much low end that you don’t really miss the bass like in most rock duos. The album was recorded by Billy Anderson, who’s also worked with The Melvins, Sleep, High On Fire and Neurosis among many others. He knows a few things about getting massively heavy guitar tones. Rafael Martinez’s drums have plenty of room in the mix to show off his constant barrage of fills and crashes. Jason Landrian also handles the vocals and he sounds like an angrier version Tesco Vee of the Meatmen.

The opener “Negative Reversal” tells you everything you need to know about this band. Loud, fierce and uncompromising. The title track is another highlight with a rhythm that’s reminiscent of Accept’s “Restless and Wild” while “Storm Shadow” is like a longer version of “We Bite” by The Misfits. A few songs have slower parts, but Black Cobra stick to mainly uptempo jams, which helps separate them from the usual snail’s pace of doom metal.

Eagle Twin, on the other hand, like their jams long, creepy and noisy. Another heavy duo comprised of Gentry Densley (ex Iceburn and ascend) on baritone guitar and tortured vocals and Tyler Smith on the drums. They describe their sound as “amps on fire” and that’s exactly what they sound like.

About half the album is comprised of 6 minute songs and the other half is longer songs. The whole thing sounds like early Melvins but recorded in hell. The vocals are deep, tortured and, well, hellish. There’s no other way to describe it. Maybe like Tom Waits sitting in with Hellhammer. The guitar is tuned low and played through a mountain of amps and the drums sound like 1000 of Satan’s slaves rowing against the tide of the river Styx.

My suggestion would be to pick both of these up and play them mixed together for maximum negative impact. Black Cobra are for when you’re hyper and pissed off and Eagle Twin take care of all your slow boil needs.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Steve McLeod - Human Uniform

Who in the heck is Steve McLeod? At least, that’s what I’m assuming most of you are asking yourselves. I know. I asked the same thing when this disc slid across my desk. In fact, even after running through this brilliantly realized musical opus, I’m still asking that question. Who the heck is Steve McLeod? Well, there’s no simple answer to that one, Waveriders, but there is one word that comes to mind to help define the man based on the strength of his album, Human Uniform. That word is genius. Yes. It’s a big and bold word, one that is bandied about far too frequently in the music world. A word that, in some respects, has lost some of its power due to this frivolous use, but one I shall use anyway. For, really, there is no word that endears itself to me quite like this word. Genius.

Steve McLeod, for all intents and purposes, writes and performs a funkified R&B style of song with a curious amount of pop rock, but that alone doesn’t elevate the music or the man to genius. That all occurs when the man takes the standard structure of a song and infuses it with musical elements, compositional twists and turns, that makes the music suddenly sound unique. These dynamic shifts and unforeseen sonic adventures add a new wrinkle to a style of music that has relied on pure passion and soul since its inception. McLeod approaches R&B from a world all unto his own, and I can do nothing but heap tons of praise upon his work. Me? Gushing? Shit yeah! R&B can get downright boring, no matter how much soul power is pumped into the stuff. Over the years, the compositions have become tired and the themes all about the heart, blah, blah, blah. Steve McLeod’s approach is different. Yes, there are the straight up R&B styled tunes on Human Uniform, but there are a handful of dandies here where he attends the party in an outfit that damn near clashes with those already in attendance. The colors of his pimp suit in clear defiance to the black tie requirement.

“Push the Pedal” acts as the perfect album opener as it’s packed with funk rockin’ R&B and a groove that gets the hips shaking regardless of where you’re listening. In your office chair? Hell yeah! In your car? Hell yeah! In a church pew? He, er . . . heck yeah! With a voice somewhat reminiscent of Lenny Kravitz, McLeod lays down a vocal tone that immediately grabs the attention. There’s a sexual vibrancy percolating away in there, and as it layers over the musical tracks, every little piece falls into place. Fuzzed out guitar tones on top of an off timed beat and a staggering bass groove make the first verse sound like some bizarre jazz fusion piece. But then, it all comes together for the chorus and this sucker drives straight through the heart. “Push the Pedal” has such a unique sound, combining that 70’s jazz fusion thing with elements of rock n’ roll and that soulful R&B sound. This is just a shadow of McLeod’s genius. “Winter Love” drifts out of the speakers with a funked out and meandering bass line before we’re treated to a distorted guitar strumming out a melodic riff. The tune suddenly soars with an uplifting chorus that would fit well amongst any of the pop rock acts that are flitting around the scene, but what caught my ear was the breakdown near the 3:00 mark and the subsequent guitar solo. Where the hell did that come from? There’s the genius that I’m talking about. What was a good song on its own suddenly became a hundred times more interesting with the addition of a well timed break. Give me a quality product and then add something unexpected, well . . . ha! You’ve got a customer for life!

Alright. Now here’s where things get super interesting.

“Unknown Afternoon” is a stunningly beautiful, summertime shiny, Hawaiian sounding piece of brilliance that requires a pair of sunglasses to listen to. So soulful and so much damn fun, McLeod nails the good time vibes with this tune. I defy you to listen to this track and not smile, bop along for the ride, or even clap your hands with the rhythm. The lyrical phrasing is compelling as we listen to Steve sing about having his guitar and his girl having her dreams. There’s a fusion of hip hop style vocalization mixed in the background with the subtle strumming of an acoustic guitar in a pattern similar to one found in the South Pacific. Much like “Push the Pedal,” this is a song that I can’t get enough of, and one that seems to get better with each listen. Okay . . . now I’m snapping my fingers with the beat. Great track!

“Sounds.Like.Adam.Versus.Eve.” is a sultry R&B burner with its mid 70’s Daryl Hall & John Oates rock n’ soul mixed with that toe curling orgasmic vocal power of Corey Glover. Steve McLeod captures that passion and emotion of R&B so dead on with this track, yet he keeps the music forever interesting with great, understated use of power within the guitar production. This is one of those steamy, sexually charged numbers that, with a bottle of wine, a lazy fire in the fireplace, and dimmed lights will ultimately lead to arched backs, eyes rolling in the back of the head, and finally, a heap of sweat drenched and exhausted lovers. Hot, hot, hot! Nothing more need be said about this song. It’s perfect. Except that it eventually has to end.

Human Uniform is a fantastic listen as it touches on so many different musical styles while remaining rooted in the soulful sounds of R&B. Steve McLeod planted a proprietary flag into the middle of my ear drums, claiming them in his name. Throughout the album, McLeod’s voice is sultry smooth and reminds me of every Wednesday night as I tip back a finger or two of bourbon. His compositions, also rooted in the familiar, invariably shoot off in a different direction than expected, and that’s what draws me to this recording. I’m tired of tired music, and thankfully, Steve McLeod approaches his craft from a fresh perspective. I want to meet this guy face to face, shake his hand, maybe dare a hug, and thank him for giving my ears, giving my soul something to while away my imagination. Oh, and to reiterate this man’s genius factor, how about I throw in that he wrote every song, played every instrument, and recorded every note himself. No partners in this project. Just him. One word for you Waveriders. Genius.

-- Pope JTE

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ripple News - Ray Davies New Album - The Kinks Choral Collection

Another nifty little Ripple tidbit here. Ray Davies, the legendary lead singer of the Kinks, long one of our favorite bands, has a new project coming to disc soon.

The Kings Choral Collection presents new versions of classics such as "You Really Got Me", "All Day And All Of The Night", "Waterloo Sunset" and many more, all featuring the 65 member Crouch End Festival Chorus.

Choral Kinks. How cool is that?

Produced by Davies himself and with uplifting, sometimes epic, choral arrangements by David Temple, Steve Markwick and Davies - The Kinks Choral Collection features a six-song suite from the 1968 album The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, widely regarded as The Kinks' masterpiece.

Often referred to as "almost indisputably rock's most literate, witty and insightful songwriter," Davies had the ambitious idea to collaborate with the 65-strong Crouch End Festival Chorus at the 2007 BBC Electric Proms in London to create The Kinks Choral Collection.

Ray said of his Crouch End vocal colleagues; "With a song like 'Waterloo Sunset', I feel as if the people I wrote it for are singing it." Hearing 'See My Friends' recast as an acappella gospel hymn is instantly striking, hugely magnifying the impact of Ray's life-after-death lyrics. Overall this album offers much to explore and admire from fans who own the entire Kinks catalogue on vinyl or to complete newcomers.

And if you've never had the chance to hear a whole choir accompanying Ray Davies as he goes through Kinks standards like "You Really Got Me" or "All Day and All of the Night," then you have a special treat coming.

2. Waterloo Sunset
3. You Really Got Me
4. Victoria
5. See My Friends
6. Celluloid Heroes
7. Shangri-La
8. Working Man's Café

Tracks 9-14 Village Green Medley:
9. Village Green
10. Picture Book
11. Big Sky
12. Do You Remember Walter?
13. Johnny Thunder
14. Village Green Preservation Society
15. All Day and All Of The Night

Monday, October 19, 2009

Rammstein - Leibe Ist Fur Alle Da

No doubt about it. This is it.

Anyone who, like myself, fell under that absolutely brutal spell that was the Gothic industrial masterpiece of Sehnsucht knows what I'm talking about. I first heard that album at a listening station at the now defunct Tower Records. It didn't take more than a minute of the opening title track and a few seconds of the following track "Engel" to know that I was hooked. Like a junkie in desperate need of a fix, Rammstein raced through my veins like an I.V. infusion. Sehnsucht was every thing I needed at that time in my life. Pulverizingly brutal, with some of the best riffs ever recorded on a industrial metal album ("Du Hast"), ramrodded through a punishing production that brought out the ultra-metallic sound of the guitars, married to Gothic overtones, snippets of operatic vocals, and the whole thing wed to a back beat and bass that could keep the strobe lights flashing on the dance floor. Throw in the guttural German vocals and lyrics that spoke to unknown disasters that I couldn't understand, and I was transfixed. White matter-meltingly brutal and grooving at the same time. Jesus. Line me up. Tie on the tourniquet, find a vein and inject me full. It was the album I'd been waiting for.

For about 2 years, that album became my signature war cry. Playing center defense on a competitive soccer team, hours before each game you knew where you could find me. In my beat up pick-up truck, terrorizing my speakers with Sehnsucht at full volume. My head whipping into a frenzy with the mania of the guitar crunch, my neck whipping like an uncoiled spring in time to the industrial drums. To play at my best, I needed to be mean; angry; pissed-off and ready to do battle. I pitied the poor fool who tried to rush the ball through the center of my field after my Rammstein pre-game ritual. Blood was spilled. Bones shattered. Red cards flew.

But let's be honest. As much as I ingested Sehnsucht, the follow-up albums have been a mixed bag. Not that Mutter, or Reise, Reise, or Rosenrot were bad albums, they were just . . . lacking. They didn't have that special X-factor that Sehnsucht had. The brutality married to the beat. The crushing blows to the midsection married to the loving kiss upon the lips. I bought em, I still own em, but I don't listen to em. When I want to hear Rammstein, I'd always go back to Sehnsucht.

Now, I have another album to play. Simply put, Leibe Ist Fur Alle Da, is the rightful heir apparent to Sehnsucht, another epic masterpiece of purely Teutonic, gutturally brutal, yet hauntingly beautiful industrial metal. No band has ever sounded like Rammstein, before or since, and with Leibe Ist Fur Alle Da, the band dig back down into their own souls and unleash the dark monster that makes the band tick. Combining all the grinding machinations of metal-snapping guitars that marked their earlier work with the expanded production and dynamic textures of the later albums, Rammstein have created a beast worthy of being caged with their own creation. An ugly, fucking brutal, beautiful album. A classic of haunting, grinding, distinctly German metal.

"Ram stein" literally means, "a battering ram made of stone," and that's when Rammstein is at it's best, ramming their Teutonic grind right down the listener's throat. And that's exactly what they do with the opener "Rammlied." Beginning with a classic-sounding Rammstein synthesizer, and German cabaret vocal intro, the razor guitars slice into the song like a bone saw tearing through a rib cage during an autopsy. And what a riff it is, after the initial terror of the guitars tearing into the flesh, the whole song drops down into a riff/groove of such perfection it could actually rival "Du Hast." Bass rumbles like some approaching panzer division under the ghostly female backing vocals, Till Lindemann's vocals sound even more disturbing, twisted, and demented than ever before. Synths swirl the song straight into dancefloor territory, but the rupture of the guitars never lets you forget that this is metal. Purely crushing, chew-you-up-and-spit-out-your-tendons metal. With it's stop-start riffing, gentle middle passages, full production, and undulating pulse, "Rammlied," is everything that every Rammstein fan has been begging to hear since Sehnsucht.

From there the album is one epic of thinly veiled Rammstein insanity. "Ich Tu Dir Weh," kicks off with a firing squad guitar/bass sputtering intro before heading into "Engel" territory with a roaring locomotive of a grinding guitar riff. Without ever losing its pacing and beat, this song roars down those metallic tracks, gaining speed with every broken guitar string and shattered cymbal. A song worthy of following "Rammlied," shit, this song is worthy of following Sehnsucht on it's own. A rousing, soaring chorus only further serves to elevate this one to the memorable.

As always, the entire album is sung in German, and yes, it's perfect that way. Absolutely perfect. The guttural nature of the language is an outstanding mesh with the intensity of the music. It actually make the music more brutal, more cryptic, more like that ramrod made of stone, powering the lyrics into your brain. What ever happens, I pray Rammstein never succumb to industry pressure and record in English. I saw a review where the reviewer stated " . . . showcases the very weakest links in the band. Whether it be the tonal qualities of the German language to foreigners, or just Lindemann's vocals as a whole, when it's not pantomimic, it's just plain disconcerting." To put it as mildly as I can, that person is an ethnocentric idiot. Put him in a corner with his English language Jonas Brothers CD's and his Mylie Cyrus, because he doesn't get it. He just doesn't get it. And true Rammstein fans don't want him to get it anyways.

"Waidmanns Heil," keeps the fire-spewing engine charging headlong down the tracks. This song has more power and urgency behind it's riff than I've heard in ages from my discarded stack of industrial CD's. Again, the production works perfectly here, reigning in the madness, containing the fury with snapshots of beautiful synths, dropped out guitar parts, and accapella verses, while doing nothing to restrain the out-and-out fury of the guitars.

Rammstein bring enough disparate elements to their industrial crunch, like the pure '80's synths of "Haifisch", the constant overlapping female Wagnerian vocals, brooding Gothic overtones, and flashes of nostalgic Brecht cabaret that it's really about time we started recognizing this music for what it is, German prog metal at it's finest. Anyone who tries to pigeonhole the band into the mind-dead genre of pure industrial metal is missing all the nuance, texture, and intelligence that makes Rammstein stand out. Just listen to the gorgeous acoustic pasage that rounds out "Haifisch," and how this blends immediately into the robotic, android synth of "B********" which goes on to be one of Rammstein's most demented, horrorshow, pulverizingly heavy songs in ages. Not many bands have this depth of range and dynamic. Fewer still could make the whole thing hang together this effortlessly, this satisfyingly. Even fewer bands can transport you to a world entirely of their creation that is so brutally terrifying, devastatingly heavy, and fantastically beautiful. And very few can get me to go on that ride willingly. Hungrily.

Rammstein is back with their best album in a decade. Jump on board. The train is leaving the station on some bizarre metallic journey through the fire-spewing hell of some altered German dimension. It's an ungodly, terrifying, all together brutal journey. And you don't want to miss it.


This album cover is for the 2-disc special edition with 6 bonus songs. Oh yes!

Buy here: Liebe Ist Für Alle Da (Dlx) (Dig)

Buy here: Liebe Ist Für Alle Da (standard version)

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