15Smashing The Hopes And Dreams of Musicians Everywhere
15By: Clint Darling
15Starting with "Gems Of Italian Cinema" proved to be just the right jumpstarter for a blustery day in Portland. Laidback and groovy, baby, jumpin' and jivin', these wonderful bits drawn from 70's Italian films were ultranice. Trade in a couple of your old "lounge" collections for these real deals and turn up the lava lamps -- it's time to score.
15Hoping to continue in a similarly sexy vein, I jumped "Slingin' Hubs" from PHAT SIDY SMOKEHOUSE but was a bit disappointed primarily with the vocalist. I can't say he's doing it wrong but they could stand to work on vocal production a little more. Maybe swinging a little silkier in places, a little rougher in others might make this hop into bed and rumble but as it stands it's just an homage to those who have gone before. If I wanted covers, I'd buy the original.
15And here's an original to buy! JAMES SHOOK AND THE RESOLUTIONS "Fidelity" mines a little STEVIE WONDER, some funky tones and mixes BARRY WHITE with reggae but makes them sound like a whole new mix. Where the Smokehouse was content to recycle, these guys push a few extra buttons to put their own spin on a vintage style. This CD will be going on vacation with me for sure!! This is an all-night sex party!! The down side on my copy was a quick nod to The Man Upstairs (no problem there) and a quick slam on all of us down here (which always pisses me off). I can do without the preachy bitching. Thanks, Jim. As frosting on the cake, maybe balancing the hate-speech, the whole thing was recorded on a "single eight-track analog machine" which makes me wonder why it sounds so much better than the previous CD? Talent, inventiveness...the magic of necessity...or just the Hand of God?
15PI is another Pfilbryte project -- this guy is like San Francisco's answer to Glenn Ballard only not as successful by a long shot. "Irrational" starts out with a signature Pfilbryte sound but deteriorates across the album until you're stuck with just plain Pi and there's not much there. A good voice to be sure but a good voice is not enough reason to have a career in this business. Nothing on the album reaches out and shakes me enough to want to hear it again.
15PUTRID FLOWERS have a very descriptive name and it almost summarizes how really blandly awful they are at playing hard'n'fast punk rock. Again, a mere level of competency is not a ticket to superstardom. You need to have something interesting in the mix. Reading the liner notes I started wishing that the INS had done a better job at keeping several of these kids out of the country so that I wouldn't be subjected to this rancid shit. And, no, that's not a reference. RANCID had more to say.
15I have an image of RAY DETONE at home in his computerized studio, naked as a jaybird, high as a kite, shouting for his latest young girlfriend to get her "ass in here and listen to this! I'm tellin' ya, baby, this is gonna be the one that makes it!! We're gonna be big, baby, real big!" Uh huh. And I'm fa-reakin' George Clinton. Ray, "Strange World" is a cross between every bad folksy bit of LED ZEPPELIN, the awful lyrics of IRON MAIDEN and the vision of your average seventh grader...all of which adds up to a pocketful of not much. Pleeeeezzzz take your interminable guitar solos (yes, you play very nice scales, Ray) and your pre-adolescent lyricism and stuff them back inside your shitty job to percolate for a period of a decade or so. And give up on the idea of dating high school girls.
15AL FOUL AND THE SHAKES play solid rave-up rockabilly on "Spank That Ass" and while it does light up my Derivative Radar something fierce they do it in a manner that draws such a picture of authenticity that their world becomes real for the length of the album. Not a bad feat. This is music that will get your hair greasy and your knuckles scraped by the end of the night. Oddly, though, I get the idea that the crowd pictured on the back cover is watching something very very different.....
15Although never a COC fan, I was shocked to hear just how uninspired their most recent album, "America's Volume Dealer", really sounded. I might give more credit on this one had it come from some up-and-coming regional act but the bar is a little higher when you've been around as long as Pepper Keenan & Co. Heavy-handed plodding crap that was stale ten years ago does not add up to a breakthrough album. So sorry. Pepper's a schlepper.
15SAY UNCLE sounds eerily reminiscent of a better-funded DRYER but they sneak away from the country label fairly quickly to roam around the musical landscape with an element of fearlessness not seen in many bands any more. Before I read the small print I was actually going to suggest that the folks from Dryer and its spinoffs should track these guys down and do some dates with them but it turns out that Say Uncle are from Portland as well so that task should be easier. This is an album that bodes well for the future of this band...I may want to keep it around so I can say that I was there before they got big.
15I was looking for some industrially fucked-up noises to sample and play with and I believe I've found the perfect disc. Another Michael Gira production effort, FLUX INFORMATION SCIENCES start "Private/Public" with a dizzying (and nauseating) burst of noise and shouting that fall away to the beep and hum of video games gone awry. Eventually I quit paying attention. It's nice to listen to the noise for awhile but I do want it to end up somewhere other than shorter and shorter snippets of the same thing. Recommended for people who really got Yoko Ono and early adoptors of musique concrete. Oh, and Paper Magazine calls them "the best band in NYC" which I can only assume to refer to some kind of live sex show that must accompany this to stave off the boredom. The other, uncredited, blurb rings true, though -- this music really is "like being beaten up by a sexually enraged clown." Might I add, "in public"?
15The subtle hints on the cover seem to urge some kind of high volume approach to SKRAPE and all this band needs is a few funny marks over the 'A' to round out the shit-metal connection. I'm sure you'll see them on the Family Values tour real soon promoting "New Killer America" because they sound exactly like every other shitty metal band ever. Every so often I think that the vocabulary of volume is so fucking stunted that there is simply no future there but it seems like bands do come along to blow it all open again. Who would have thought that metal would rise from the goddamned dead with Metallica leading the way in 1983? Or that Soundgarden would point the way for a new paradigm at the end of the 80's? Helmet? I will even stand up and shoulder some responsibility for liking Limp Bizkit -- they wrote at least a couple good songs that put them above the pack. Korn? But I have no time or sympathy for bands that simply retread the Marshall-stack-and-vocal-echo approach. Maybe these guys should tour with COC. And AC/DC.
15Now this has something weird going for it. LINDA & THE BIG KING JIVE DADDIES (whew, take a breath after that one) are an all-Japanese neo-swing outfit that have, uh, catapulted to huge success in their hometown of Nagoya and are barnstorming Japan to bring the new American sound to the masses. Or something like that. I'm...I'm...wow. These kids are good. Linda sounds amazingly like Anita O'Day while the band gets the production elements right to sound like a vintage combo. No points for originality but I bet these boys get laid alot back home.
15Coming across like an electronic PRIMUS or a darker ROBYN HITCHCOCK without the silliness, MYTHICAL BURROWING ANIMALS string words like BECK and musical phrases like refugees from a free jazz acid freakout. Like much art, I'm not convinced that it's for everyone but it certainly is interesting. Songs like "Fresh Meat Sunset" nod to ZAPPA before tweedling off into the same. If these guys sell half the number of albums that Skrape will sell I'd be...well, I'd be amazed. And horrified. And secure in the knowledge that there's hope for life on Earth yet. If they used a home studio to do this it makes everything else worthwhile.
15DIESEL MACHINE's album is titled "Torture Test." Song titles are as follows: Torture Test, Bones And All, Dissection, The Punishment, Borrowed Time, Rage, Sick, Driven By Pain, Black Box, State of Panic, Self Destruct. If you like these songs titles you might like this album. If these are not part of your daily diet, I suggest steering a wide berth. The music is mundane and the vocals are self-inflicted. I hope they live far, far away from me. Yes. They live in Germany. Now I have new fears.
156GIG break up the incessant chunka-chunka with a little compressed-tinny-radio-with-echo vocal. I wonder where they learned to do that? "Tincanexperiment" has some decent writing and some nice sonic stylings but it's still a dime a dozen and I'm not buying. I am, however, beginning to understand how totally weird bands get such great press -- after hearing fifty versions of "the next Korn" I'm ready for anything that sounds even remotely different. And I'll shove it down the throat of America's teenagers until they start swallowing, bright blue eyes dulled a bit from the pain of repetition, blonde hair sticky on their cheeks.....whoops. Wrong column. Anyway, 6Gig is better than Skrape or COC or Putrid Flowers but not ready to play prime time quite yet. Watch out for 'em next time around because they could pull some kind of Black Hole Sun-move and really fuck up your kids.
15CALL ME ALICE aren't your average bunch of death-rock-goth-chicks-and-guys-who-paint-black-stripes-on-their-faces....NOT! On "2000" they revel in some lush production to put together some intimidatingly fey music. Wow, they sound like a chick-fronted goth version of PEARL JAM. This could be on somebody's webradio in a heartbeat. And probably is since it's a year old now. Hey, we're working through the backlog. Download the MP3's of this for your teenage daughter to ward off cheerleading and ballet class expenses. Remember, the kid will rarely ask you for money for the drugs but will always pester you for new shoes and outfits if they get into that twisted world.
15Wow. BLUE SPARK is like a sunshower after the last few albums. Sounding like FREEDY JOHNSTON on really clean cocaine, "Transmitter" kicks off with the sentiments of a "Better Me" before slowing down to look around the vaguely alt-country genre. Some of these cuts would be great background music for a party on the back porch with a lot of beer while others would go nicely with a late night drive and a flask of whiskey. They're going to need some work on lyrics in places before hitting the bigs (or just learn that chunka-chunka thing!) but these guys don't sound like they're looking to quit their dayjobs, just looking for a good time. NOTE: it turns out that they probably don't have dayjobs, being refugees from the bigs. Nice job downsizing, guys.
15GREY FELIX is one gloomy bastard. The opening cut mines a nearly-uptempo circus carnival rendition of emo before wandering off into a world of hurt and sloppy production. Not, mind you, bad production...just sloppy. So here's my little rant of the day about local bands and especially about self-producing, self-recording locals and I hasten to add that this encompasses some of my very favorite local bands over the last decade. GET SOME FRESH EARS! The Grey Felix disc suffers horribly from botched vocals and since studio time isn't costing anything why not do it again and again until you can double yourselff successfully or both you and the backing vocalist know hot to hit the same note? Or at least a complementary note? Please? I've heard studio efforts where the musicians labor over every guitar phrase (when a freaky-wrong phrase might not be noticeable to anyone else) and then toss off the vocals in one or two takes and shrug, saying "well, I suppose that's good enough." Vocals, vocals, vocals. Vocals vocals vocals vocals. Can I say this one more time? Please work harder on your vocal production!!!! No one is going to buy shoddy vocals. Selling a hundred albums a month might mean something to you right now but the difference between that and a thousand albums a month or a hundred thousand albums a month is production production production. I'm desperately trying to remember any self-produced or self-recorded album (locally) that didn't tank directly to back catalog or get "touched up" by the major label for rerelease. Stop doing it if you want to be commercially successful. Thank you.
15Oh, and think about backing off once in a while and giving the song some goddamned breathing room. OK? Good night.
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