Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Back to The Future - The Eighties Reborn Featuring the Plimsouls and Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Live! Beg, Borrow & Steal: October 31, 1981 Whisky A Go GoThe Plimsouls - Live! Beg, Borrow & Steal

Living in LA in the '80's, you couldn't be faulted for thinking that everybody in the world knew about the Plimsouls.  Blasting "1,000,000 Miles Away" or "Hush Hush" through the speakers of KSPC radio, it just seemed natural that the rest of the world was tuned into what we all took for granted.. . . that the Plimsouls were just about the best damn rock band out there.  Imagine my surprise then when I found out the Plimsouls were actually more of a hometown legend than a world destroyer.  Well, that just couldn't be right.

But unfortunately it was.  While we had the chance to catch the boys live just about any night we chose down at any club in LA, the rest of the world wasn't so lucky.  And after disbanding, and Peter Case launching off on a cool, wandering troubadour singing career, it seemed that the rest of the world was just going to miss out on that high-octane mixture of garage, psychedelia and power pop that defined the Plimsouls.

Well, the rest of the world doesn't have to miss out anymore.  Recorded live on the Sunset Strip near the peak of their prowess, Live! Beg, Borrow and Steal demonstrates just about everything that made the Plimsouls our favorite little secret.   Check out that crowd reaction as the announcer brings on "LA's Finest."  They knew who these guys were.  They loved these guys.  And it's no wonder, launching immediately into the shimmering guitar riff of "Hush Hush," dropping right down into that near tribal beat, The Plimsouls brought it all that night.  This is a hefty dose of power pop songwriting skills still buried in the fuzz and grit of the garage.  Pure pop heaven, but not all cleaned up and pretty.  The Plimsouls, despite all their refinement could mess around with the best of them.

Right of the bat it's easy to see what made the Plimsouls so powerful.  In Peter Case they not only had a songwriter of world-class talent, but they also got a front man of tremendous charisma and a voice that just oozed soul in its throaty delivery.  If they'd had some pretty boy, soft and smooth tenor singing, it just wouldn't have worked.  Listen to Peter's voice barely hanging on during "Shaky City."  You just don't find soul like that mixed in with your power pop everyday.

Over the 18 songs, many Plimsouls classics appear, from the above mentioned songs to "Now," "A Million Miles Away," and "Zero Hour."  Each of those tracks are perfect, punchy and gritty, just the way I remember them from any number of club dates.  But thrown into the mix are a couple of surprises that just make this Live Album irresistible.   The 5th track is a frenetic moment of crunchy garage pop perfection as the Plimsouls take on the Easybeat's "Sorry," a song I'd always associated with The Three O'clock.  And damn, if they don't mine that one to perfection.  Another special treat comes near the end as the Fleshtones come on out and join The Plimsouls on stage for a definitively ragged rendition of the garage rager "New Orleans" and "Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!"   The fun those two bands were having that night was infectious, the audience wailing in approval, as I am right now.

If you're a fan of the Plimsouls, you don't want to miss one.

buy here: Live! Beg, Borrow & Steal: October 31, 1981 Whisky A Go Go

Welcome to the PleasuredomeFrankie Goes to Hollywood - Welcome to the Pleasuredome Deluxe 25th Anniversary Edition

You had to be there.

Way back in 1984, I was living in England, attending Cambridge University and basically sucking up as much British music as I could.  One night, I finally gathered up the nerve to ask Terese, a waitress at the dining hall, out to dinner and dancing.  After a fine (?) meal of local British cuisine (?) we made our way to the main underground club.  Electro New Wave was all the rage then, with bands like Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode and New Order dominating the dancefloor.  Then from out of nowhere, the DJ plopped on a brand new single he'd just received.  After a tentative moment of unfamiliarity, as the song crept up to speed through it's synthesizer intro, the beat started.  Holly Johnson's voice filled the speakers with his plaintive wail, and then . . . all hell broke loose.  Guess you had to be there, but as "Relax" gained in speed and power and tempo, the entire club went crazy.  Lights flashing, lasers streaming, smoke billowing,  it seemed like there had never been a dance song created before Frankie's "Relax," and it certainly seemed that there could never be another one after it.

Within weeks, Frankie t-shirts started appearing in the local market, then on the television, then all over the world.  Once the BBC finally realized how absolutely filthy the lyrics to "Relax" were, they banned the song, which only sent it into the stratosphere.  No one could get enough Frankie in those heady days of big hair and bad clothing.  I still have my very-banned copy of the "Relax" 12" that dared to feature the words Come and Suck on the cover.

When I got back to America, the Frankie Goes to Hollywood frenzy hadn't arrived on the Yankee shores yet, so it was up to me to spread the gospel.  I played that "Relax" 12" for anyone who'd listen, creating a swath of Frankie converts in my wake.  And it was easy.  With the intense density of the bass riff and those massive guitar chords, "Relax" became one of the few dance songs that even some metalheads could nod to.  "War" and "Two Tribes" followed, each 12" greedily added to my collection.  But my eyes were on the distant prize, the upcoming Welcome to the Pleasuredome album.

Now in America, it seems that Frankie never reached the heights they did back in the UK.  Probably, because in the US people didn't know what to make of the band.  They either took them too seriously or dismissed them as a joke, and neither response was appropriate.  Frankie were both, they were everything, and they were nothing.  They were totally over-the-top flamboyance in an age of flamboyance.  They were trend followers, not starters, who nonetheless created trends in their wake.  They were fantastic and awful all in the same breath.  They were a brilliant, sexy, blasphemous, decadent, and threatening pop cartoon.  That's what made them so damn outrageous.

With this 25th anniversary release of Pleasuredome, the world once again can lose itself in the Frankie spell.  "Relax," "War," and "Two Tribes," sound just as dancefloor pounding brilliant today as they did back then.  Songs that just refuse to age.  "Welcome to the Pleasuredome," has an added aura of completeness, the best of the new tracks that appeared on that album, with it's nonstop, undulating shear-hypnotic dance beat.  It was Frankie's call to action.  To lose your inhibitions and your hang-ups at the door, loosen up that thing you call an ass and find your place on the dancefloor.  Somehow, that tune sounds more epic today than it did in 1984.

The other songs, much like they did back then, offer a mixed bag of the brilliant and the terrifying.  For some reason Frankie's cover of Springsteen's "Born to Run" makes sense to me this time, some twisted, mutated dance anthem of rebellion.  "Wish The Lads Were Here," bakes in the sweat of its pulsating dance floor orgy mode, while "Krisco Kisses," is just positively filthy, a sexcapade wrapped up in a swinging bass line and a methamphetamine frenzy.  Even "Ferry" a song I despised at the time, sounds right this time around.  Other songs like the still bewildering inclusion of Bacharach's "San Jose (The Way)" still leave me mystified.  But then, that's Frankie.

But of course, any double-disc anniversary edition is only as good as the bonus disc, and on this one tons of treats await, from the 16 minute extended version of "Relax" to the Greek disco remix of "Relax" to the 11 minute never before released version of "The Ballad of 32." As good as these are, the real treats are the previously unreleased demos of  "Two Tribes," and "War," proving them to be just as powerful in their rawer, under-produced stages.  "Watusi Love Juicy," is an entirely unreleased song from the end of the Pleasurdome-era that will only go on to further the Frankie legend.

My advice.  Forget reading this review.  You know the songs.  Give in.  Find your place on the dancefloor my friend.  Lights out.  Decadence awaits.


buy here: Welcome to the Pleasuredome

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ripple News - VENOMIN JAMES Drummer Critically Ill; Family Needs Support

News that breaks our heart.  Long-time Ripple favorites, Venomin James, a truly devastating doom/stoner metal band from Cleveland need your help.  Jared Koston, the 40-year-old drummer, has been diagnosed with two brain tumors stemming from stage IV melanoma cancer. He was released from University Hospital in Cleveland to be at home with his family.

"Jared's started radiation therapy, but his doctors have basically said that we should prepare for the worst," says Venomin James guitarist Joe Fortunato.

"It has all happened so rapidly that it took us all by surprise. He had been getting chemotherapy, but a bad reaction hospitalized him, which is how they found more going on. Originally, it was only in his shoulder but has now spread to his spleen and brain. It may happen that he doesn't survive too much longer.

"We were planning to have a benefit concert for him and for melanoma charities, but it looks like he may not even be around long enough to see it, let alone play at it."

"Jared and his family need financial help immediately," says Auburn Records president Bill Peters."Jared has four beautiful children and a wonderful wife by his side.Anything you can contribute to the Koston family during their time of need is greatly appreciated.This family is doing everything they can to keep things going but can't do it alone.Jared and his wife Michele are both hard working people but had to leave their jobs while they continue to battle this illness."

"All of the money raised will go directly to Jared and his family to help cover medical and travel expenses. Please take a few minutes to contribute if you are able. No donation is too small. You can make a difference."

Cash, checks and money orders (payable to Jared Koston) can be sent to:

The Koston Family
3060 Princeton Drive
Madison, Ohio 44057

PayPal donations can be sent to: (be sure to mark "personal," then select "gift").

There also is a Koston Cancer Funds "cause" page set up on Facebook.

Michele Koston has organized two spaghetti dinner fundraisers at the Stadium Grill in Mentor, Ohio on May 3 from 6 to 8 p.m. and at the Wagon Wheel Restaurant in Madison, Ohio on May 24 from 5 to 8 p.m.

Michele, along with members of Venomin James, will appear live on WJCU's "Metal On Metal" radio show, hosted by Peters, on Friday, March 26 at 8:30 p.m. EST to talk about her husband's condition. Listen live at or 88.7 FM in the Cleveland, Ohio area.

Venomin James is about to release its second album, "Crowe Valley Blues", on Auburn Records in May. An advance track from the CD, "Cosmonaut", will appear on Poland's Hard Rocker magazine "Monuments Of Steel II" compilation CD.

Venomin James' full-length debut, Left Hand Man, came out in 2007 to a rave Ripple review.

In addition, Venomin James' lead vocalist Jim Meador also serves as a sergeant in the U.S. Army. He was called back to active duty in 2009 and sent overseas to be stationed on the frontlines in Afghanistan. He is scheduled to return home in May. During his absence, the band has been writing and demoing new material for its third studio album. They have also performed a couple of all-instrumental sets in the Cleveland area, including a benefit concert for WJCU in February, to remain active and visible while Meador is overseas.

Venomin James are one of Cleveland's hottest upcoming bands," states Peters, "and Jared is a standout drummer. The band is on the verge of breaking out of this market and going on to the next level. Anyone who has seen them live can attest to that fact. They are facing a lot of adversity but are staying strong and positive to overcome these obstacles.

"All of our thoughts and prayers right now though are focused on Jared's recovery and Jim's safe return home."

Ours too, our friends.  Ours too.

pick up Left Hand Man here.  Help support the band.  Left Hand Man

Monday, March 29, 2010

Lair of the Minotaur - Evil Power

The Pope has a new entry into his top ten list. Yeah, I know it’s only March as of the writing of this piece, but when an album punches you repeatedly in the face, kidney region, and groin area a hundred and sixty-two times before it’s made one complete revolution, then by default, said album has effectively muscled it’s way in. Lair of the Minotaur. Evil Power. Metal, metal, and more metal! Not since Skeletonwitch’s Breathing the Fire have I listened to an album that has felt so damned immediate, and folks, a lot of metal has etched it’s grooves into my desk in the past year. These guys bring the guts and the muscle and the violence and the imagery and all of those great classic metal elements that make testosterone amped lads act like escaped zoo animals. Their sound is raw and somewhat sludge-y, yet the sound grooves and is jam packed with riffs that will have you banging your head, crunching your abs, whipping yourself into a spastic frenzy, flipping over your desk with rage . . . a sound that is as unapologetic as it is honest. Metal not for the sake of being metal, but because this is simply who Lair of the Minotaur are.

For a quick comparison of sounds, let’s just say Lair of the Minotaur sounds closest to a mixture of Skeletonwitch, early Celtic Frost, and Mastodon . . . all injected with a gritty dose of hardcore punk and old school metal tension. Irreverent and blistering, Evil Power is the type of street metal or underground sound that accompanies destruction and ultra-violence. Brutally dense, but filled with great dynamic twists that are fueled by emotion rather than technical heroics, this album is a breath taking hell ride that strips the flesh from the muscle, the muscle from the bone, the bone from the marrow . . . leaving nothing but dust in its wake. I can only imagine that a live jam from these cats would leave more than a few bodies traumatically damaged beyond repair, and then, the psychological damage would be incalculable . . . glassy eyed zombies shambling their way through the city streets, mindlessly bumping into light posts, collapsing in spasm in gutters or on the hoods of parked cars after being assailed by the torment that only Lair of the Minotaur can bring.

Distributed through Southern Lord Records, this band has been labeled as doom . . . eh, okay. Let’s just call them metal coz’ really, they have all the elements. Just succumb to the chaos that is the opening track, “Attack the Gods,” and hear how the waves of pure, unadulterated metal pummels your body like the ocean waves to a distant seashore. Huge rumblings tones of bass amidst a flurry of guitar feedback and drums bludgeoning away, all put together to emphasize the sonic intensity of the music. Like that proverbial runaway train, this song barrels along, obliterating everything that stands in its way. The groove is powered by the guitar riff, but combined with the other instruments, in particular, the vocal attack this song becomes the ultimate chaotic metal masterpiece. The vocals, though gruff and brimming with aggression, aren’t so layered with guttural growls to become incomprehensible. I get it . . . we’re doing battle with the gods, and we’re probably going to die in the process, but damn it! What a party we’re gonna’ have during this conflict!

 “Riders of Skullhammer, We Ride the Night” bursts from the speakers with that compelling old school guitar chug that I found so compelling with Skeletonwitch. Nasty and distorted, vital and immediate, I throw my fist in the air and wave it in defiance of your ways, oh society, oh evil being that has kept the man down! This song injects a massive dose of “bring it on, bitch!” as it fills this listener with a sense of omnipotence, an element of cockiness that would inevitably lead me to many a broken bone and internal injury. All of two minutes long, the song is the perfect anthem for those who prowl the night and lay waste to everything in sight, in that its short, concise, to the point and basically does everything a good song needs to do. Then check this out . . . as the title track follows this anthemic gem, listen to the outstanding break towards the end of the tune. Perfectly executed metal precision just played from a looser mind frame, a more emotions-worn-on-the-sleeve type of reactionary metal. Raw as hell and fucking awesome!

By the sixth song, Lair of the Minotaur bring absolute devastation with “Hunt and Devour.” What’s not to like about this beast? It’s heavy, and brutally raw, aggressive, all of the hatred is sparklingly brilliant as the musicians use the subtlety of nuclear explosion to convey their message . . . and they do it all in a minute and a half! I’ve never had that concise of a thought. Ever. The guitars are chugging heavy, the bass; a rumbling and ravenous beast, the drums shifting from hard driving to fairly intricate patterns as the sticks dance across the ride cymbal. And the vocals . . . the vocals are phrased perfectly in time with the music, the starts, the stops, the raw emotion of the music is reflected, and in many cases made more effective by the vocals.  

Evil Power is amazing! Every song kicks ass . . . “Blood From the Witch’s Vein,” “ We Are Hades,” but it’s “Death March of the Conquerors” that has me brandishing my armor, sharpening my steel, donning my war paint, and every other manly man thing I can think about as I prepare to enter battle against all those who oppose me. The build-up intro to this song is epic, irreverent as all get out, but I get it. It’s a call to arms as we’re meant to stand up against oppression, to do battle with those who marched on our lands, raped our ideals, and this is where Lair of the Minotaur shows their unapologetic nature the best. The best line in their tirade is “These fucking cunts fight like women.” Now, I know what a lot of you are gonna’ say, these guys apparently never fought the women I know, but that’s not the point. It’s more of a verbal assault against a foe than an attack against feminism, it’s a string of words used to inspire the gathered force, and it’s irreverently eloquent. Hell, after listening to this song, I’m ready to storm any blood soaked hill to avenge my fallen brothers!

Evil Power is the be all, end all, rawest, most virulent slab of metal that I’ve heard in the past year. Lair of the Minotaur have combined all of the elements that I love most about metal and created an absolute gem, nay . . . a must have album. Evil Power is the album that all of your metal friends are going to be talking about, and Lair of the Minotaur is the band that will lead a new breed of raw, emotive metal from the musty depths of the underground. Sure, some of the lyrics are based on fantasy, but it’s the underlying message that’s important here. Supplant witches and gods with corporations and politicians and the whole message becomes that much more immediate and relevant for today. The album is a call to arms, though not as black and white as the punk rock of yester year, it’s still pretty clear as to the meaning of the belly fire. Yep. It’s a certainty. Evil Power is at the top of my favorite list for 2010 and has the strength to top many of my previously favorite albums from any decade.  -  Pope JTE

Buy here:  Evil Power

The following video is from an earlier Lair of the Minotaur album called Carnage, but it should give you a pretty good idea of what Pure Evil is all about. Hopefully, we'll be able to host some newer video material for you in the near future.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Sunday Conversation With Moth Circus

Big, brash, loud, and heavy.  That's Moth Circus.  But most important in Ripple world, they do all that without ever losing their groove.  Manic, groovy metal, that's just the way I like it and that's just the way these Norweigian madmen bring it.  Naturally, we cleared off some space on the red leather Ripple interview couch, popped open some cold ones and couldn't wait for the circus ringmaster, Alien Ken, to stop by and enlighten us in the way of the Moth.

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard 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 epiphany's 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?

The first "rock" band I listened to was Roxette (Swedish pop band from the 80`s). I thought that was the most heavy music I have ever heard.  And then i got into this great Norwegian band called Ingenting. (Not to be confused with the Swedish band [ingenting]). They inspired me to pick up my guitar so I owe them a lot. Great band. I`ve been listening to them for 15 years straight, and I`m still not tired of it!  And then of course i discovered Nirvana.... Then there was no turning back! hehe . The latest artist that made my jaw drop was the first time I heard Buckethead. That guy is a genius and i love him. The guitar work he did in Guns n Roses Chinese Democracy is awesome... I love that record.

Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?

The music always comes first. Usually it starts with a riff and then I just build on it from there. I tend to bring a complete song to practice and then me and Johnny work together on the lyrics and vocal melody. We both carry around a lot of notebooks with various ideas and then exchange ideas and deep deep poetry.. hehe.

Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?

I really love David Lynch`s movies and i get a lot of inspiration from them. But my main motivation is the burning desire to make a change, to educate and inspire. I do not hold all the answers but I have something that needs to be said! Other inspiration sources for me are Mary Kate & Ashley Olsen, EBE, Tanya Hansen and the menstruation in my morning coffee.

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

We play Alien/Coffin rock like no other bands do. hehe.. We try not to get stuck in genres. If we think its sounds good then its okey. Way to many bands find a recipe and (ab)use it way to much... All their songs sound the same... I HATE that....

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

My musical intention is to inspire to make a change. I hope the audience gets a good feeling when they come to our shows or listen to our record. Open your mind........But don't let your brain fall out.

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

How do I bring the song together? Work, work, work and lots of dr pepper to keep me focused.  I never think about complexity or simplicity or anything like that when I make a song.  Its all about the feeling and what I think fit the song. I love the simplicity of Nirvana, but I also love the complex things Buckethead does...

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?

Spend a lot of time on the internet trying to make new connections. Myspace and Facebook are great places to spread your music and gain new fans. I find it really important that Moth Circus is a band that finds new paths, not necessarily follow in other people`s footsteps. I just try to do my best all the time and I`m really thankful for every new fan we get.

Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?

Hehe... Call our drummer Glenn for lots of cool stories.

What makes a great song?

It has to have a hook. Something to hold on to.

Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?

The first song I wrote for Moth Circus was "Death Living". I remember playing the lead riff for the others and Glenn burst out "We cant play that shit, it sounds like Iron Maiden!!!!". Hehe... He changed his mind. The lyrics are about abuse, and the track will be remastered for our upcoming record.

What piece of your music are particularly proud of?

I wrote an instrumental song for my grandfather for his birthday last year. I could see that it made an impact on him and that means a lot to me. He is one of the few persons whom have never judged me and always stood by my side no matter what. Moth Circus-wise I`m proud of all the songs but right my favorite is "Little Lo" from the upcoming record.

Who today, writes great songs? Why?

Dave Grohl writes good songs. He has the focus on the good melody and I like that. I also have to mention Axl Rose and the Chinese Democracy record. I think its one of the best rock albums to come out in the last decade.

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

 I still enjoy the CD

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

You know, there aren't many record stores left around here. Almost everybody is downloading illegally and I think that's a shame. But there is an old school record store that's still going strong. It`s called Record World and has lots of weird and obscure things that you don't find anywhere else. If you have seen the movie "High fidelity" you`ll get the idea

Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?

Thanks a lot for your support. Don't forget to visit Stay clear of drugs and keep watching the skies... The truth is out there.....

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ripple News - Parental Advisory Tour with Nashville Pussy, Green Jelly, and Psychostick Takes Off!

The Parental Advisory Tour featuring heavy hitters Nashville Pussy, Green Jelly, and  Psychostick is underway.  Headliners Nashville Pussy, who has toured with the likes of AC/DC, Motorhead, and many others bring an onslaught of Southern Rock / sleeze metal with a ton of groove, melody, and a flat out rocking attitude.  Supporting Nashville Pussy, are punk rockers Green Jelly, who Danny Carey (TOOL drummer) played with for 5 years, and Psychostick, an underground / comedy metal band - you know you know the “Beer Is Good” song.  While yes,  Psychostick are funny, they unleash some seriously pounding riffs to let you know they mean serious business

March 25 - Orlando, FL @ Club Firestone
March 26 - Charleston, SC @ Halligans
March 27 - Charlotte, NC @ Tremont Music Hall

March 28 – Greenville, SC @ Gottrocks

March 30 – Nashville, TN @ The Limelight
March 31 - Indianapolis, IN @ 8 Seconds Saloon
April 01 - Fort Wayne, IN @ Pierre’s
April 02 - Geneva on the Lake, OH @ The Cove
April 03 - Covington, KY @ The Mad Hatter
April 07 - Springfield, VA @ Jaxx
April 08 - New York, NY @ Rocks Off Concert Cruise

April 09 – Southbridge, MA @ Millstreet Brews
April 10 - Rochester, NY @ Montage Music Hall
April 12 – Baltimore, MD @ Bourbon Street Ballroom
April 13 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Rex Theater – no GREEN JELLY
April 14 – Erie, PA @ Sherlock’s
April 15 - Flint, MI @ The Machine Shop
April 16 - Toledo, OH @ Headliners
April 17 - Columbus, OH @ Alrosa Villa
April 18 - Middletown, OH @ Sorg Opera House Theater
April 20 - Waterloo, IA @ Spicolis Grill And The Reverb Rock Garden
April 21 - Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s Rock Club
April 22 - Louisville, KY @ Expo 5
April 23 - St. Louis, MO @ The Library
April 24 - Merriam, KS @ Aftershock
April 25 - Wichita, KS @ Lizards Lounge
April 25 - Des Moines, IA @ House Of Bricks

April 27 – Tulsa, OK @ The Other Side Event Center

April 29 – San Antonio, TX @ Backstage Livesa

April 30 – Houston, TX @ Wired Live

May 01 – Austin, TX @ Red Eyed Fly

May 02 – Dallas, TX @ Skillman Street Bar

May 05 – Amarillo, TX @ The War Legion Underground
May 06 - Denver, CO @ Cervante's Masterpiece
May 07 - Grand Junction, CO @ Mesa Theater - no GREEN JELLY
May 08 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Club Vegas
May 12 – Sparks, NV @ The New Oasis

May 13 – Bend, OR @ Domino Room
May 14 - Tacoma, WA @ Hell’s Kitchen
May 15 - Portland, OR @ Peter's Room at Roseland
May 21 - Fresno, CA @ The Crest Theater

May 22 – Santa Cruz, CA @ The Catalyst
May 23 - Modesto, CA @ Fat Cats Music Lounge
May 27 - Santa Ana, CA @ Galaxy Theatre
May 29 - San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick
May 30 - Phoenix AZ @ Rhythm Room

Friday, March 26, 2010

Grant Hart - Hot Wax

Hot WaxGrant Hart has been busy in his garage.

And likely been eating a lot of omelets. How else do you explain the hard core, old school sound of Hot Wax? He has been actively stapling egg crates and foam to 50 year old 2x4s and perhaps even intentionally blowing a few fuses in a valiant attempt to capture that sound. The one that every garage band hits on cassette and then wants to clean up to sound “professional”. Well, Grant has re-engineered the organ, the strat going into the practice Fender, the beach towel in the bass drum and the ping pong table folded up on the far side to get that sound.

"You’re the reflection of the moon" nails it. Just fucking nails it. Its 1968 and you’ve just been listening to the Doors and Satanic Majesty’s and you’re itching to play. However, is there more irony that my sitting here saying how perfectly this recording nails that vintage sound? "You’re the reflection of the moon on the water/but you’re not the moon/you are the scent of the sea on the night wind/but you’re not the sea." Yes, this is the sound of the song from 1968, but you’re not the song from 1968. Who care? ? and the Mysterions are somewhere smiling. Turn it up.

"Barbara" gives us a dose of Beach Boys via England and Carnaby Street. The simple piano riff and gentle snare/timpani playing might even have more classic Who to it that Grant wants to admit. "Barbara is naughty/and I’m punished for her actions" sing the lyrics, and the fluegel horn sells home the homage/parody. Which is it? Does it matter? I’m still not sure that this wasn’t recorded on a vintage cassette deck and then just dumped to CD.

For all the lack of huge commercial success, Husker Du always had a serious commitment to the music and the stylistic whoring here isn’t pandering in the slightest. Its compliments paid of the highest order. While I’ve not an single idea what "Charles Hollis Jones" is about (perhaps he’s one of  those eccentric English odd balls that Ray Davies and Pete Townsend were writing about) , the rising and cascading organ that soon has the fuzz-drenched, out of phase guitar and pounding drums riding along with it is a great blast from the past. The vocals are buried down and to the left and serve, mostly, to get the band to start jamming along. Later on, "Sailer Jack" is patently a sequel to the Who’s "Happy Jack" and masturbating pornographer of  "Pictures of Lily". It doesn’t take too long to figure out the Grant has played Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy enough times to take it to heart. "Hollis Jones" is 4:23 of pure rock n’ roll, "Sailor Jack" is 3:59 of post-Who fun.

They count this one in but after the furious rock of the first couple tracks, "Schoolbuses Are For Children" plays it quiet and dips its toes into XTC weirdness. Played with all the earnestness in the world, the song swings from airplanes falling from the sky to who is a better Jew than another Jew. "Reach your hand across the aisle" goes the lyric, but it’s the keyboards that have echo we’ve not heard since mid-period Pink Floyd, and it’s completely at odds with the fact that the drums are still stuck in the garage sonically. It’s a nice track if you’re not listening to a damn word being said.

"California Zephyr" name checks the San Francisco’s Bay Area with an insider’s love. California is the story of a love story, perhaps the whole generation’s love affair with California, of one man’s coming to San Francisco and finding both life and death. How is it that such complex subjects can be played within pop songs? Here there is no doubt about the vocals: the lyrics are up front and center, the guitar driving the song and the rest of the band playing back but with fury.

How about closing the album with a torch song? "Knew All About You Since Then" isn’t the final track but it probably should be. Coded in black and white, with the film grain showing is a short but sweet noir love story that can only end coldly: with a cigarette flicked into the gutter and the storyteller sauntering off into the dark streets, collar pulled up against the night.

"My Regrets" closes the album proper and is pure classic Bowie and the Spiders. Not hard to imagine Mick Ronson on this track, but the drums are far more furious than David had back in the day. The vocals are a spectacular evocation of the 1970’s glam period, one that would surface and survive in the camp form with Rock Horror Picture Show’s music. No need to throw toast when this album is over however, we’re spared the sight of Tim Curry ruining his make up since we can flip the vinyl back over to "Reflection of the Moon on the Water" whenever we want to. Roll another one and start it up again.

Reviewed with his platforms on – the fearless rock iguana

Buy here: Hot Wax

Thursday, March 25, 2010

California Crossover - featuring Virulence, Fu Manchu, and Nebula

Virulence – If This Isn’t A Dream…1985-1989 (Southern Lord)

Fu Manchu - Signs Of Infinite Power (Century Media)

Nebula – Heavy Psych (Tee Pee)

If This Isn't a Dream... 1985-1989Fu Manchu and Nebula play mid-temp heavy rock that owes a huge debt to the 1970’s but their roots come from the aggressive hardcore punk scene that exploded in California at the end of that decade and bled deep into the 1980’s. Virulence is a hardcore band that existed from 1985 to 1989 that included future Fu Manchu and Nebula members Scott Hill and Ruben Romano. The hardcore scene went through big changes during this period in time. Most of the pioneers like Minor Threat, Black Flag, The Misfits and Dead Kennedys were either gone or about to expire and hardcore began mixing freely with metal to create crossover styles that became huge.

Virulence played in a style that owed a huge debt to the intensity and aggression of Black Flag, Circle Jerks and Suicidal Tendencies but combined it with the heavy, slower punk style of the Melvins and Flipper. BL’AST! is another obvious influence and probably the closest musically to their style. This is the kind of punk that could only come from California. It’s pissed off suburban rage played as loud as possible. The lyrics are full of confusion and alienation and vocalist Ken Pucci delivers them with a lot of force. Scott Hill’s guitar playing is full of Greg Ginn style twists and turns. He even played the same clear acrylic Dan Armstrong guitar that Ginn used during most of Black Flag’s existence, and Hill still uses one today in Fu Manchu (look for the SSD sticker next to the pickup). This CD collects the complete studio recordings that were issued on their 1987 album, EP’s plus live recordings, including a killer version of Void’s “My Rules.” The earlier material is mainly short blasts of punk fury and the later recordings are slower dirges that make Black Flag’s “Nothing Left Inside” sound like Huey Lewis.

Signs of Infinite PowerWhen Virulence called it quits in 1989, singer Pucci went to college and the rest of the band formed Fu Manchu and changed their musical direction. Signs Of Infinite Power is their 10th studio album. Very little has changed since their debut album No One Rides For Free in 1994. Fu Manchu continue to crank out loud, distorted kick ass rock that combines the heavy 70’s groove of The James Gang, Black Sabbath and Grand Funk Railroad with the California punk of Bad Religion, The Germs and The Adolescents. If you liked the other Fu Manchu albums then you will like this one, too. The overall sound recalls some of their earlier albums. The guitars are very fuzzy and the drums pack a powerful thud. Fu Manchu’s music is perfect for highway star driving and fast ones like “Bionic Astronauts” and “One Step Too Far” will get you a speeding ticket for sure. Slow pounders like “Gargantuan March,” “Webfoot Witch Hat” and the title track are great for banging on your steering wheel when the jerk in front of you won’t get out of the way.

Heavy PsychNebula came into existence when guitarist Eddie Glass and drummer Ruben Romano left Fu Manchu in 1997. Heavy Psych originally came out as an EP in Europe but has been issued in the US by Tee Pee with some extra tracks. Nebula’s current line up consists of Glass on guitar and vocals, bassist Tom Davies and drummer Jimmy Sweet. While having a lot in common musically with Fu Manchu, Nebula has always had a more pronounced Hawkwind influence and this album continues in that direction while also adding in elements of Roky Erickson, Jimi Hedrix, The Groundhogs, Electric Sun and UFO (Mick Bolton era).  

Here in NYC, it’s absolutely freezing and the ground is covered in ice but listening to these 3 records really puts me in a California state of mind. I’m just not sure if I should go spray paint the walls, joyride the highway or take some shrooms in the desert.


Buy here:If This Isn't a Dream... 1985-1989
Buy here: Signs of Infinite Power
Buy here: Heavy Psych

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Syn - Matter of Time

What were you listening to in 1993? I know I was listening to whatever was floating around the airwaves of California’s Inland Empire. Tangent: The Inland Empire is no empire unless you’re a meth addict or have an unhealthy appetite for porn. Anyway, odds are I was listening to something from Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Live, Faith No More . . . basically any of the alt rock, grunge, or bizarre metal of the day. I certainly wasn’t listening to Syn’s album, Matter of Time . . . and that’s really a damn shame. This album is shockingly good by all accounts. It has strong songwriting, excellent musicianship, songs that have a perfect balance between ballsy rocker to sweet and sentimental ballad, but the album never gets sappy; catchy tunes that become instantly recognizable, and I have my brother-in-arms, Racer, to thank for turning me on to this gem.

It was one of those fabled Rasputin’s bargain bin dives some years back where we were driven slowly insane by the repetitious clickity-clack of plastic CD cases, cold concrete floors driving joint ache deeper into our bones, and the open hostility of shop keep’s and fellow shoppers due to our senseless banter and idiotic behavior. Hey Racer . . . remember, you double dog dared me to break dance in the aisle! Anyway, at some point in the six hour marathon, he handed me this disc from Syn and told me it was good, give it a listen, try it . . . you’ll like it. So, I did. And, I did and still do. Obviously. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be tippity-tapping on my keyboard to tell you about it. The music on this gem is rock, but it hits the listener from a number of different directions. One minute a little Kentucky fried, a little swampy, but not really full on southern rock, then Syn dips their big toe in the murky waters of grunge/post-grunge, before throwing in huge elements of good ole modern rock vibes.

The first two tracks on this disc are impeccable rock songs, full of hooks, catchy melodies, nuance, rich vocals, and high quality musicianship. “Love On My Side” is simply beautiful and a great way to catch the listeners attention, powered primarily by some slick, though somewhat raw production work, and vocals that have aged for anywhere from seven to ten years in an oak keg somewhere in the back hills of Kentucky. The constant hum of the Hammond organ provides the song with that southern feel, but the song doesn’t come across the same as a Skynyrd or Allman Bros. tune . . . maybe it’s the modern recording of the track that makes it sound more vibrant, I don’t know the reasons, but it’s a solid track. “Love On My Side” initially reminds me of The Wallflowers first album, but that quickly vanishes once the vocals push their way to the front of the mix. The song just has an earthy, organic vibe to the whole thing; it lacks all pretention and just evokes emotion on so many levels.

“Bleed” follows up the lead track in perfect fashion, a heavier dose of straight up rock led by some serious wah’ed out guitars. This track has a bit of that early 90’s Pearl Jam driving rock feel, but the vocals sound like a mixture of the late Michael Hutchins (INXS), especially as he croons his way through the verses, and the quasi-banshee wail of Chris Cornell. The guitar solo is something straight out off of Ten, which isn’t a bad thing, full of dynamic wah pounding action; tapping a bit of that Hendrix vein as the notes bend to unnatural notes. In 1993, this song could easily have been in rotation with any of the “grunge” bands, especially Pearl Jam, as it has that classic rock meets modern aggression thing going on . . . crisp production mixed with the classic rock n’ roll swagger.

“Hey John” is a nice sentimental ode to John Lennon. The song is packed with Beatles references and these guys do a good job of making it an interesting song when it very easily could have come across as sappy and full of gimmick. The vocals on this track come out sounding like a bizarre mixture of Dave Matthews and Adam Duritz of Counting Crows, but they’re effective in conveying the emotion of war and peace and the apathy of society towards the violent world we all live in. Gotta’ say, I love the bass tones and sound the production team got out of the drums! Both instruments sound huge without overwhelming the song, without burying the message of the song or crushing the guitars as they strum out their melodies. Pretty frickin’ cool song!

Matter of Time closes as strongly as the disc opens. “Take It Back” is another ballsy rocker littered with some damned fine guitar work, heavy textural stuff, volume swells, huge waves of chorus and delay . . . simply put, great elements that add flavor to the music. Note the low end work as the bassist strays out of the pocket just enough to keep the listener guessing, adding flourishes of interest as the guitars create ambient sheets of sound. The vocals, as they’ve been throughout the album, are a solid, powerful entity. It kinda’ has that Live sound, especially in the guitars, but also in the way Syn composed the song, grandiose and epic while remaining confined in a five minute piece of music. Album closer, “Matter of Time,” is a piece taken straight from the mind of Page/Plant. The arpeggios plucked from the acoustic six string combined with the vocals give the listener the sense that something big is happening, something epic, and sure enough . . . when the band goes electric and the chorus hits it’s crescendo, it’s like all of those great Zeppelin moments revisited. This song also has me hearing a bit of Doyle Bramhall II, in particular, the Welcome album.

I can’t find a damn thing on Syn other than a few references that they did exist at one time or another, and that they released Matter of Time. Other than that, they seem to be another band that’s been lost to history, another carcass left to rot on the side of the rock n’ roll highway. It’s really too bad too coz’ if this album is any indication of potential future music, then we could have had a nice collection of honest, high quality rock that would have made the 90’s feel like less of a wasteland. Though they constantly remind me of other artists, they never sound so much like anyone else that it sounds like they’re lifting anybody’s schtick. There’s a good combination and balance of old and new sounds mixed within these songs and the album is worth every cent that you spend on it, especially since most of the copies that you find will be in the bargain bins. Matter of Time rocks, it soothes, it’s soulful and high energy and ultimately, a gem of music that was grossly overlooked when other, much less adequate, music engrained itself in our social conscious.  -  Pope JTE

Buy here: Matter Of Time

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Right The Stars - S/T

Be on the lookout for this alternative pop jazz rock monster of a release by music producer Rich Jacques under the name Right The Stars.  It is FM radio ear candy.  Mainstream alternative - a contradiction in terms but totally understandable.

Think of a combination of these influences -  banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck, Jason Mraz,  almost a decade of knowledge as a music teacher to the stars and almost an equal amount of time as a music producer - and you start to get an idea about what Jacques is trying to do.  Or, should I say, has succeeded in doing. Waves of sound, soothing and soaring vocals - a memorable chorus or line.  Tight instruments.  These songs do not display instruments as lead vehicles. The instruments are used as intricate parts in a tightly constructed framework of sound solely intended to support each song.  Voices are used as instruments but instruments are rarely used as voices.  The writing and orchestration are finely tuned.  There is agony and grief in the lyrics, but, there is also hope.

Where does it come from? Jacques spent a year working with the We Can Pediatric Brain Tumor Network, a support group for families of children with cancer.  He even helped write a song about survival to help children cope with their diagnosis.  The pain shows in the lyrics. Empathy and passion can be overwhelming and you can hear it in the writing - it is extraordinary. From the hesitant hopefulness of the song "Making Deals With Gods" to the outright bursts of joy in "We Got It All" (which is being used by Honda in its Australian CR-V advertising) Jacques, with the help of a panoply of other writers, makes these emotions palpable and you can empathize. The African influences in "Life In A Northern Town" made me wonder whether Jacques went with Bela Fleck to Africa on Bela's recent tour,

Yes, the music is "commercial." Right The Stars' music will appear in the Brooke Shields and Brendan Frasier movie Furry Vengeance which is scheduled for release on April 1, 2010. However, just because it is "commercial" that doesn't mean it is bad.  In fact, in this case, it is wonderful.  Let the music seduce you.  Releases like this don't come along that often 

These are huge hits waiting to happen. 

 - Old School

Buy here: Right the Stars

Monday, March 22, 2010

Lighten Up - Absolutely Not

Lighten Up is easily the best hardcore band that Philadelphia has produced since Homo Picnic. Absolutely Not is their debut album and is out now on Jump Start Records, available on CD (only 5 bucks!), mp3 and LP. The first time I listened to this I could have sworn it was a reissue of some forgotten album on Toxic Shock from 1984. Their sound is total old school hardcore that fans of the Zero Boys, D.O.A., A.O.D., Minor Threat, The Descendents and the Dayglo Abortions will love. The whole thing only takes 17 minutes to listen to and I guarantee you’ll play it 2 or 3 times in a row.

These 4 obnoxious youngsters warmed my tired old heart with their kick ass brand of aggression and fun. 11 of the 12 songs are very fast and very short. “Bet II” clocks in at 14 seconds and ends on a big “fuck you!” “Boyz II Wolves” is 15 seconds but manages to fit in a Misfits “woah-woah” sing along. Most of the other songs are about a minute of fast blasting punk the way it should be. “I Don’t Think So Tim” is a great song about telling someone to piss off. Album closer “Personality Implants” is 5 and half minutes of heavy ass Flipper style middle finger rage.

Their anthem “Born To Perspire” lays out the bands philosophy that playing music is “is the only way to escape this mess, and I’m pretty sure it’s relieving stress.” It seems to be working for them. Listening to this record is a great way to blow off steam so Lighten Up!


Buy from Jump Start

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Sunday Conversation with Believe

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard 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 epiphany's 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 were a few such moments. The first fascination was with T.REX thanks to my brother. From that moment I took up playing the guitar and fell in love with rock music. Then were hard rock bands such as Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple which were followed by Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes, and King Crimson.

Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?

Music comes first, then a riff. So I returned to the roots of rock music the basis of which was a guitar riff. Next we arrange the whole track, i.e. riff, musical section, vocals and lyrics.

Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?

We look for inspiration everywhere. This is life which is becoming increasingly harder. Lots of things have improved in Poland, but musicians do not have it easier. A lot of music is marketed for a bit primitive commercial mass. Nevertheless, we are still fighting and inspirations are brought to us by life.

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

Yes, you are right, marketing specialists do categorize music. That is often confusing for the label records. Once you start switching those categories they will not know what to do.

I think that our music is first and foremost melodic, melancholic and even sad with a great doze of emotions.

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

Every artist always wants his listeners to get his music the way He wants. However, I guess that not many of the listeners do so, but that would be fantastic. I would like my listeners to feel the emotions: sadness, joy and melodies. It is good to hear that somebody is singing your song: that is very nice.

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

There is no strict pattern for composing music. There are different moments and different songs in which something needs to be added (e.g. a solo) or the tempo needs to be accelerated. All that depends on the very song itself.

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?

Yes, it is becoming increasingly more difficult. That is because of the free access to the music via Internet, appearance of baskets with CDs next to the socks in a supermarket. That in turn led to disappearance of positive attitude of the public to music, CDs and musicians.

In my opinion the status of musicians, being something more than a typical man, suffered a lot. The consequence of that is the fact that everyone thinks of himself as an artist when he writes a song on his computer. Admittedly technology has made composing music easier but it has also brought about a lot of rubbish and pseudo artists.

It is difficult to predict anything, but what I can advise to others and myself is just to love music, however strange it sounds.

What makes a great song?

Of course, there are no such songs, but as far as I am concerned, it is the melody that makes up for an ideal song.

Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?

That was a song about a prostitute that I fell In love with when I was a young boy. Together with my friends I visited a place called kongresowa which is located in Pałac Kultury, a characteristic place in Warsaw. You will definitely notice the place once you come here. The song was made up of a very simple riff and lyrics telling the story that I fell in love with a girl which turned out to be a prostitute.

What piece of your music are particularly proud of?

I do not think about that and just keep composing New songs. Every new song is the best one.

Who today, writes great songs? Why?

A lot of artists. Peter Gabriel and that is not only for his music. I find him a very interesting person. He is a member of Amnesty International and co-founder of Witness organization. He takes active part in various charity events (46664 concert or Live Aid).

I like his style and his characteristic voice and that is why I think his artistic work is great. I think that if anyone else tried to sing the same compositions, I would not like them and they were not so attractive.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ripple News - Exploding in Sound Releases Fifth Album in their Massive Free Compilation Giveaway Series

Over the years of Rippling we've met tons of cool people who's work we just have the utmost respect for.  Exploding in Sound is one of those.  Exploding in Sound is a website/blog created by Dan Goldin with the sole purpose of promoting and spreading great rock music.  GLORIOUS NOISE is the “must listen” fifth release in an ongoing compilation series aimed at breaking new artists and gaining exposure.  The first four, including December’s Circulatory System and the ever popular Future Legendary have been met with critical praise and wide spread acclaim.  As someone who owns all these comps, I can honestly say that if you haven't downloaded them, you're missing out on some dynamite new music!

 Glorious Noise is a true exploration of rock music, with a sound so massive you need to hear it to believe it.  The album is an international affair, with submissions from the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Europe. Great rock music with integrity, intelligence, and intensity is being made worldwide, and Exploding In Sound is dedicated to bringing you the best of the best. The bands comprising the compilation deliver an assorted array of genres including post-rock, grunge, shoegaze, alternative, indie, acoustic, post-punk, and more. As always, the compilation is a 100% FREE digital download, containing artwork, band descriptions, links for further enjoyment, and more.



1.       Traindodge – If I Pass You on the Street

2.       Mr. Gnome – Vampires

3.       LIONS – Poster Child

4.       Regular John – Language

5.       The Blind Pets – Fever

6.       Disco Doom – The Magic Arc Song

7.       And So I Watch You From Afar – A Little Bit of Solitude Goes a Long Way

8.       White Belt Yellow Tag – You’re Not Invincible

9.       Let Our Enemies Beware – Personal Space Invaders

10.   Stereo is a Lie – What We Do

11.   Battleme – No Time For Blood

12.   Apteka - Traitors

13.   Turbo Fruits – Mama’s Mad Cos I Fried My Brain

14.   Postdata – Tobias Gray

15.   Talons – Keys & Codes

16.   Sugar Army – Building Castles

17.   Ceremony – Dreams Stripped Away

18.   Prayer For Animals – Neutral Bees

19.   Black Nite Crash – Jonah Dive

20.   Veil Veil Vanish – Anthem for a Doomed Youth





Friday, March 19, 2010

Carina Round - The Disconnection

The DisconnectionCarina Round’s 2004 album Disconnection is exactly the sort of music that reminds me of what New York smells like.  Armed with a sound that at one time we would have called “indy”, but which has become so diffuse as to be meaningless, Round attacks her songs in a heavenly voice, but one that is paired with snare heavy drums that slice through the production like an illegally obtained box cutter, a chugging bass and guitars that aren’t afraid to hit you with a slab of distortion right between the thighs.

"Shoot" opens the album, with the hollow reverberating drums, an off tempo cadence, keyboards and the sound of a hollow body guitar being fed through an amp with more than a little of the edge rolled off. Carina pulls no punches early her Wolverhampton accent coming through on the laconic delivery, but she’s not here to give it to you easy. There is an undercurrent of menace, you’re surfing the edge of an explosion and the band rides the beat until you get thrown off of the musical mavericks wave. Very few women will open with lyrics like these:

Come with me falling through the red clouds helplessly
Come kiss me so that I can read your lips

I feel a shoot
I feel a thunderbolt
Undo my body
I feel a shoot
I feel a thunderbolt
The entrance of your soul

She doesn’t lay off for a minute. You expect a respite? "Into My Blood" evokes so much more, echoing early PJ Harvey’s delivery when the discordant guitar takes up the rhythm:

I wait all my life
Just for the rush
The passing of fire
Into my blood

All the reasons that raced through my mind
Just to keep me twisted and dry
I leave them behind

And lets address it right now: Round has heard Harvey’s Dry and is mining much of the same territory sonically, much in the same way that the Black Crowes were mining the same rich earth as the Rolling Stones in their first two albums. Nothing wrong with that. Harvey’s Dry was a huge game changer in the music world, and there is plenty there to still be explored musically. Round absolutely expands the vocabulary of the trio that Harvey had at the time when the horns come in on Lacuna, or when the mellotron keyboards start to mirror the vocal melody. Round’s self confession "There's a lot to be Said/for this morbid self-attention/The problem lies in my external obsession" comes across as both revelatory and inevitable. She knows it and shes not going to change. 

Perhaps I can still smell the café smoke of the Champs-Élysées, but the snappy rhythm of the acoustic guitar that rules "Paris," the pop of the horns on the chorus and double tracked Carina’s make this song a delightful little breath of fresh air. Very few would write lines like:  "I used to float in your eye stream to weigh up my beauty day by day/I know broken bones don't come close to the pain of hidden truth/I caught your dream in mine, I saw us walking hand in hand and mean it," but yes, she does, and when the photo album snaps shut the song ends like a book. Slammed shut.

If the self confession exists in "Lacuna," "Monument" is a travelogue of the soul, paired with too many details to make it the fiction that might otherwise become. The sound starts out quietly, delicate rhythms being played on the sides of the drums, but the fullness of the guitar and the swooping of the fretless bass belays the innocence. "Will it rain then and drown this out/I could die here and never be found out/Sweat freezes on my face/Moving forward from this place/Screaming into a new world."  We’re time shifting back to the romance of Paris, to the ripped apart future of the new york taxi, perhaps screaming through 6th avenue on a nighttime ride back from JFK, and the with the breathless Oh, god, just this once, let it come, the band takes flight the way that Led Zeppelin would 3 minutes into the song, a coked up guitar suddenly taking up a double time rhythm signature, the drums becoming relentless, Carina’s delivery becoming breathless, the song exploding into the new, leaving the Gare Du Nord behind.

"Overcome" weaves itself on the loom of the acoustic guitar and Carina’s delicate breathy vocals, but finds the one possible vocal melody for the chorus “I will overcome” that doesn’t drift into cliché but seems somehow like something new that you’ve never heard. Even here, as the strings come in, that nothing is settled, that the musically schizophrenic match does nothing more than take what might be the sweetest song on the album and infuse it with just that little dose of unease. I will overcome/I will over/Black wings spread overhead/Lover, didn't you know me.

Sit tight, the next to last track is slow poetry, almost a duet except for that Carina sings an indy cabaret, all red velvet and smoke and elbow length gloves right before last call. Her art betrays her in the lyrics: no female punk would sing:

Restraint is the frame that you have found
But I see your soul as Juan Miro
Or maybe a Chagall
Escaping through your eyes like a liquid time

and no female punk raised only on the guitar trios would move to the funk guitar and hand claps of the break . once again, Round plants her feet firmly on sonic ground at the beginning of the song only to take us unexpected places along the way.

Round closes the Album with "Elegy," and its main fault is that it sounds like an album closer. It builds up from the sparse guitar opening to perhaps the longest solo on the album 5 minutes into the song, but while good, it pales in comparison to the sonic innovation that precedes it. I hate to be critical to a song that’s merely good, but it might be, in my opinion, the most lightly regarded track on the album only because its what you expect her to end it with.

--Rock Iguana

buy here: The Disconnection

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lost Classic - Foghat Live

LiveWhat can you say about Foghat Live except that it ROCKS! And that means everything about it ROCKS – the music, the awesome LP packaging, the band’s giant droopy mustaches, you name it. The only thing disappointing about this album is that it’s only a single and not a double. This is one you need to have on all formats – LP for the killer die cut sleeve, CD for the car and mp3 for your ipod. Captured in concert on their never ending 1977 tour, Foghat Live kicks ass from start to finish. It’s impossible to listen to just one song, you just gotta play the whole thing and boogie!

Side one starts off with a simple intro – “ladies and gentleman, please welcome FOGHAT!!” The crowd goes nuts and they crash into “Fool For The City,” a hit single in 1975 and title track of their fifth album. It sets the tone that everyone is going to rock HARD and have fun. “Fool For The City” is such a great song. It has everything you could ever want in a rock song – a simple but memorable riff, big sing-along chorus, funky breakdown and great lyrics. “Air pollution, here I come!” Brilliant.

The energy dips just a hair for “Home In My Hand.” With an arrangement reminiscent of Free’s “All Right Now” it gets the party people clapping to the beat. If you turn your stereo up loud enough you can hear the guys putting their girlfriends on their shoulders so they can get a better look at these hairy English guys and their tight satin pants. Side one finishes up with an awesome 8 minute reworking of Muddy Waters’ “I Just Want To Make Love To You.” This jam really shows off the bands strengths. Drummer Roger Earl hammers the beat like a pissed off carpenter while bassist Craig MacGregor grooves alongside him. Rod “The Bottle” Price plays some blistering leads and vocalist Lonesome Dave Peverett sings his heart out while also laying down some funky rhythm guitar. The dueling wah wah guitar solos in the middle jam really get the crowd rocking.

The great thing about having this on CD is that you don’t have to put down your bong to get up and flip the LP over. But if you’re listening to this on vinyl you can catch your breath with the mid-tempo boogie of “Road Fever.” You’ll appreciate the break because when Lonesome Dave says they’re gonna get “energized” with “Honey Hush” you better be ready because the full tilt boogie is about to get unleashed. Originally written in 1953 by rhythm & blues shouter Big Joe Turner, it got its first rock n roll workout by Johnny Burnette's The Rock and Roll Trio in 1956. Foghat takes that version and turns the heat way up. Rod goes nuts with the slide and wah wah pedal during his multiple solos. People who saw Foghat back in the 1970’s say they played really loud. You can tell, too. Bands don’t sound like this unless they really crank it up. And they had super cool speaker cabinets covered in white shag carpeting!

The album wraps up with an extended work out on their biggest hit, “Slow Ride.” Is there anyone who doesn’t love this song? Flat out, it rules. It’s so simple but it’s impossible not to get excited when that “Iron Man”-esque bass drum intro thuds through the speakers. When the guitars come in everyone knows that the party is in full force. Even without a lyric sheet, everyone knows the words. The funky cowbell pattern during the sing along part is pure class.

Sadly, Rod Price and Lonesome Dave are no longer with us but Roger Earl still leads a version of Foghat that plays anywhere that serves beer. Even though Foghat Live has been certified double platinum in the USA, it deserves a place in every home. The government should send a copy to everyone who gets a tax refund. This album is instant happy hour wherever and whenever you play it. If you already have it, track down the King Biscuit live CD that came out a few years ago with killer live shows from 1976 and 1974. What are you waiting for?


buy here: Live

Official Foghat

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Flying Machines – S/T

Flying Machines
In the early 1970’s Queen burst onto the scene with its conversion from hard rock to a new genre that Freddy Mercury and Brian May pioneered – operatic rock.  One of Queen’s progenitors, Sparks, took the genre in a related direction.  They added a harder- edge with lyrics and vocals that bordered on theatre.  Yet, ten years before the death of Freddy Mercury and the demise of the original Queen, Sparks’ music fell into relative obscurity even though the band continues to turn out albums.

In 2003, a modified version of the operatic rock pioneered by Queen and Sparks returned with the British band The Darkness. With its hit “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” The Darkness reinvigorated a nearly dead rock genre that seemingly expired with Freddy Mercury.  Not long thereafter other bands picked up the operatic rock banner and pushed it forward with a harder rock reminiscent of the early “Killer Queen” era of Queen and Sparks. One of best of those bands that I have heard is the New York-based band Flying Machines.

On their new album, also named Flying Machines, the operatic vocals of lead singer William Ryan George are reminiscent of Freddy Mercury, but have the vocal oscillations heard in Sparks’ music, and the vocal clarity of former The Darkness lead singer Justin Hawkins. The musicianship on the album may not be Brian May, but, it is impeccable. While the album may not break new ground, it is a joyous romp through the operatic rock genre punctuated here and there with a dose of orchestrated U2, Coldplay and Fountains of Wayne soundscapes. The song “Video Games” especially had me walking around humming “I’m never going to get the timing right.”

The sound is multilayered and produced in a manner that envelopes the listener. The band is tight.  I do wonder whether it will hold up live since, with all the layering, it is rather hard to duplicate in concert. There are just four band members and John Wlaysewski plays both lead and rhythm guitars.  Add keyboards, also played by Ryan George, drums and percussion by Ken Weisbach and bass by Evan Joyce, and that is it.  I was blown away by how large this quartet sounds and can only hope it is not all studio tricks, especially since the album liner notes thank a plethora of members of the “Flying Machines Squadron.”

This album is well worth a listen.  I can see how Flying Machines could become the band that again brings operatic rock to the forefront and takes it to a new level.

 - Old School

Buy here: Flying Machines

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