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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Rewinds - s/t

Name: The Rewinds
Album: s/t
Year: 2006
Style: Indie, Power Pop, Jangle Pop
Similar Bands: Redwalls, REM, Strokes, Fountains of Wayne, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Connells, 
"One-Word" Review: Mediocre Pushover Pop
Based Out Of: Birmingham, AL
Label: Livewire Recordings, 
 The Rewinds - Cover & Back Booklet Image
 The Rewinds - Lyrics
 The Rewinds - Center Photo & CD
 The Rewinds - Lyrics, Tray
The Rewinds - Liner Notes, Back
The Rewinds (2006)
  1. New Shade of Red 3:35
  2. Everytime 3:15
  3. Something Else 2:45
  4. Ghostriders 3:26
  5. Killing Me 3:11
  6. Fascination 3:39
  7. Sentimental Flaw 3:05
  8. Voice in My Head 3:37
  9. Melody 2:20
  10. Turns Out That Way 2:15
  11. It's Not the End 3:06
  12. Alone in the Dark 3:23
  13. See You In the Underground 3:59
  14. Calling Your Name 10:24
Album Rating (1-10):5.0

Members & Other Bands:
Michael Shackelford - Vox Guitar (Taylor Hollingsworth, Maria Taylor, Through the Sparks, Dead Fingers)
Glenn Drennen - Lead Guitar (All Tomorrow's Parties, Fireflight)
Chris Markham - Bass (All Tomorrow's Parties)
Brooks Marks - Drums (All Tomorrow's Parties, Grenadines)
Colin Cobb - Producer, Mixing, Recording, A&R, Marketing
Emily Lazar - Mastering
Mark Pollock - A&R, Art Direction
Becca Fishman - Promotions
Kelly Kennedy - Bookings
Marlise Paxman - Product Manager, Album Notes
Pamela Paxman - Photography
Lisa Monti - Marketing Assistant
Paki Newell - Publicity

Unknown-ness: I've never heard of this band, yet, the name is simple enough, that perhaps I have and forgot them. Based on the font, I'm guessing they sound like the Redwalls: a throwback to late 60's guitar sounds in garage bands, updated to the mid 00's. Their pictures look sweaty, so maybe they have the same energy as a Mooney Suzuki, but I'm guessing this will be less in-your-face.

Album Review: This band started out as a 3 piece All Tomorrow’s Parties, but after acquiring Schakelford, who became lead singer, they changes to this incarnation, but only had this one album.

“New Shade of Red” starts with a jangly multiple guitar attack. The melody is very repetitive, relying on the chorus. The melody kind of meanders around.
“Everytime” begins with a more stripped down drum beat and rhythm guitar, with a Strokes melody minus the swagger. The chorus is louder and fuller, but does not feature any of the angular guitars. Instead it is more of an alt-pop style.
“Something Else” has a little Fountains of Wayne power pop style, but is a little more jangly. It has some start/stopping like the strokes, but it does not grab for any attention.
“Ghostriders” starts off with no real pizazz, just sounding like an uninspired Toad the Wet Sprocket band. It feels phoned in, and nothing is really punchy, which feels like it was a deliberate production choice. Toward the end it tries to build an urgent, party like atmosphere, but it comes too little too late.
“Killing Me” slows it down more for meandering melody and some sorrowful vocals. At the instrumental, it balances out the sadness with some focused rectifying guitars, but overall, this is a sad, “just missed an opportunity” sentimental song.
“Fascination” has angular yet jangly guitars at the start that play as a call and response with the verse. They join up for the chorus, but overall, I think the guitar wins: the vocals are just too mellow.
“Sentimental Flaw” kicks in with a steady drum beat and power pop chords played on alarm-like repeat. The vocals are mellow and lofty, which does not complement the music for my taste; although it reminds me a little of the Connells whom I did enjoy.

“Voice in My Head” is so non-threatening that I feel like it could have been a mainstream hit on any radio station playing to parents who wanted music stripped of any feeling. On the second run through of the chorus, it is a little catchier, but just does not beckon for attention, like background music at a K-Mart.
“Melody” slowly and quietly begins with a chugging guitar. A couple of jangly notes filter in, and the sedated vocals feel added in as a second thought.
“Turns Out That Way” starts out with jangly guitars and medicated vocals floating away, trying to maintain a too cool for school nonchalance.
“It's Not the End” is more of the same with a looping jangly hook and broken lead guitar notes, but the vocals smooth over all of the character with a deadpan delivery. The song changes direction with a focused, catchy oldies-pop like hook toward the end, but it is not enough to save the song from mediocrity.
“Alone in the Dark” retreads the same ground: slightly energetic instruments which end up with a meandering melody, and bland AOR vocals that add nothing to the energy. This one has a little alt-country feel to it. The abrupt vocal change into the faster chorus is a little of a wake up, but it is short lived and glossed over very quickly. That is the hook they should have focused on, rather than the rest of the song.
“See You In the Underground” has a bold marching drum and guitar introduction, which quits to give way to the vocals. The electric guitar builds up behind the progressively building bridge that leads to a flat plateau.
“Calling Your Name” starts as an acoustic, swaying ballad that never builds up. Now this renaissance-folky, slightly psychedelic style is suited for his vocals. And it is nice that they just maintained one style in their wheel house without adding to it. The song lasts for about two and a half minutes, and is followed by the antiquated hidden track dead air. And right at about the ten minute mark, a couple of seconds of backwards played outtakes create a confusing psychedelic effect, but it is hardly worth the scrolling, let alone the wait.

Stand Out Track: Fascination


Red Heart the Ticker - For the Wicked

Name: Red Heart the Ticker
Album: For the Wicked
Year: 2005
Style: Indie, Folk
Similar Bands: Grandaddy, The Thrills, Mazzy Star, Rilo Kiley
One Word Review: Fragile Morning Peacetime
Based Out Of: Marlboro, VT
Label: Poorly Bird
For The Wicked - Cover & Back
For The Wicked - Liner Notes, Tray & CD
For The Wicked (2005)
  1. For The Wicked 0:36
  2. Go-Cart Thrills 3:31
  3. Racing Stripe Winter 3:57
  4. Steel Toe Drinking 2:47
  5. Where Are You Nashville 0:26
  6. Pilot Eyes 3:47
  7. Slightly Under the Weather 3:35
  8. Blinking 2:59
  9. Leather Boots 3:30
  10. Gravestone 2:46
  11. Depression 5:53
  12. Jackknives 3:17
  13. One Last Tear 1:51
  14. Drinking Cup 2:53
Album Rating (1-10): 6.5

Members & Other Bands:
Robin MacArthur - Vox, Acoustic Guitar (Joshua Marcus)
Tyler Gibbons Vox, Upright Bass, Electric Bass, Guitars, Glockenspeil, Percussion, Recording (David Berkerly, Dark Side Of The Cop, Joshua Marcus, Marco Panella)
Thad Debrock - Guitars, Dobro, Pedal Steel, Synth (Sharon Corr, Kina Grannis, Virgil Moorefield. Itaal Shur, Chromeo, Sarah De Bono, Kayleigh Leith, Rebecca Jordan)
Andy Eggers - Drum Kit, Percussion (David Berkerly)
Scott Ray - Accordian, Piano
Tyler Wood - Fender Rhodes (Glass Ghost, Joan as Police Woman, It's Official)
Frisbay - Trombone, Piano, Synth  (David Berkerly)
Chris Vatalaro - Drum Kit (Antibalas, Steve Reich, Elysian Fields, Bat For Lashes, Karl Hyde)
Bill Esses - Production, Mixing
Steve Kadison - Mastering
Ethan Murrow - Cover Art & Design
Claire Iltis - Cover Art & Design
Forrest Adzapfel - Photograph
Karen Scott - Managment

Unknown-ness: I feel like I may have heard of this band before, but where, when and why, I'm not sure. I imagine it to be a very hipster, indie album, with fey melodies and eccentric instrumentation. The base of the group is just the first Gibbons & MacArthur, so some sensitive lyrics will probably be heard too.

Album Review: This is the first of three albums for this currently active band composed of husband and wife duo that live in a (now electrically converted) cabin in the VT woods with two kids. They received a Creation Grant from the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. Robin’s grandmother was also an artist, releasing 9 folk albums, and collecting many more via reel to reel live recordings, some of which have appeared on later albums. This album was recorded in a barn. Three-Fourths of this record has sparse, minimal construction, leaving lots of moment for reflection.

“For The Wicked” begins the record with hushed whispering vocals and a gentle acoustic guitar with a sleepy melody.
“Go-Cart Thrills” picks up the pace a little more, but the fragile female vocals have a mystical tone to them, and roll along with the stepping, strobe melody. Toward the end as the chorus repeats, there is a strained vocals that companies the lead in recess.
“Racing Stripe Winter” employs the male vocals for this song, which feel like a strained, sleepy Grandaddy presentation. The tempo marches forward via the drums, taking its time.
“Steel Toe Drinking” starts with a fading up acoustic guitar, and haunting female vocals, similar to Mazzy Star. The vocals are supported by the male vocals in minimal fashion, and the song creeps along like a nighttime canoe ride.
“Where Are You Nashville” is just a fade up of backwards played music.
“Pilot Eyes” begins with classical country style female voice floats along the pulsing stripped down music. This feels la little like Rilo Kiley. The vocals and music are not naturally matched, but they do work well together.
“Slightly Under the Weather” has barely audible fret change sounds and creeks up as the volume slowly increases. An ambient daybreak hum supports the hushed playing as if trying to not wake the rest of the household on a cold early spring morning. Guitar is then added and the home is awake, but is still slow to move, with one note played at a time. The supportive rhythm sections halt suddenly, letting the guitar hook play its way to a fade out.

“Blinking” is another male lead song, where it feels like the singer has to struggle to get his vocals out. It is another quiet song, where it feels like the melody is just stumbled upon without any effort or trajectory. The female vocals pick up the second run through.   
“Leather Boots” feels more like a mellow Thrills song, with a more lively melody (relatively speaking) played by the guitars and percussive tempo. There is a little bit of Shins melody in this song. And after the first section of the song runs through, it almost rocks out. But it retreats back to the thin vocal styling.
“Gravestone” takes a step back to the introspective, quiet vocals and minimal acoustic guitar. The solemn melody drifts along like a conversation you forgot you were having.
“Depression” is a light, sentimental instrumental melody for the first minute. Slightly echoing female vocals break the instrumental theme with a somber reflection. They later cry out for the recipient of the song to “talk to me,” which seems like might be a hopeless request.
“Jackknives” peps up the mood with a country style melody. The vocals fit well with the style, which feels a little like a local train traveling the tracks through snow tipped hills.
“One Last Tear” continues with the country theme, but this is a sad song rather than a chugging train song sung by Robin.
“Drinking Cup” wraps the album up with a side to side stumbly ballad, starting out with male vocals, with the female vocals in for support. It picks up the tone and intensifies ever so slightly, but it continues to grow right into a brick wall, and stops to end the record.

Stand Out Track: Leather Boots

NPR Tiny Desk
Woodbird blog
KEXP Live 2007
Monadnock Folk
7 Days VT

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

(the) Real Heroes - Greetings from Russia

Name: (the) Real Heroes
Album: Greetings from Russia
Year: 2005
Style: Glam Pop, Pub Rock, Alternative
Similar Bands: Velvet Underground, Bowie, The Presidents of USA, Urge Overkill, Zeppelin, The Sweet, 
"One Word" Review: Barroom Sequined Revivalists
Based Out Of: Austin TX
Label: PCT Music, Rec Center Records
 Greetings from Russia - Cover
Greetings from Russia - Back & CD
Greetings from Russia (2005)
  1. Elise, Elise 2:58
  2. The French Song 4:37
  3. Adjust Your Nightmare 4:16
  4. Ghost Tonight 3:06
  5. Animals, Animals, Animals 6:14
  6. Me is the Drug 3:37
  7. Move That Strut 3:00
  8. Beeswax 4:04
  9. You Medicate Me Baby 2:57
  10. All Made Up Friends 3:13
Album Rating (1-10): 7.5

Members & Other Bands:
Benjamin Hotchkiss - Vox, Guitars, Piano, Producer (Duckhills, Bongo Hate, Skyrocket)
Paul English - Lead Guitar, Vox (Skyrocket)
Kenneth Dowling - Bass, Vox
Kyle Crusham - Guitar, Synth, Vox, Production
Joey Spivey - Drums
Darin Murano - Photograph

Unknown-ness: I've never heard of this band. But the back of the record says it all with mid 00's style angular dance pop being the main critique, with a little Bowie comparison. Sounds good, but those are some high bars to reach, and there was an abundance of bands like that trying to break the surface back then.

Album Review: Real Heroes were a small three album band from Austin who reached peak potential in 2005 when their CD was released in Target stores. This version appears to be an edited version, perhaps the Target version, as the curse words are faded down in the final production.

“Elise, Elise” sounds like it is going to start out as an angular post punk band with the guitar. But the vocals have much more diverse energy and a The Presidents of the USA – meets Ted Leo style (which is comes off as a little embarrassing). They have some solid pub rock guitar solos, and a gritty sound.
“The French Song” is a quiet, relaxed song in comparison, evoking a little slyness like if Urge Overkill would cover “Watching The Detectives,” or maybe a little like Spoon’s earlier stripped down material. Lyrically, it is sexually forward, but I don’t feel the confidence it would need to come across as justified.
“Adjust Your Nightmare” is a guitar heavy, slow plodding, limp foot dragging song. It maintains the quiet reserve from the prior song, and stumbles around like alternative songs used to build. The vocals are full of emotion, and evoke a comparison to Led Zeppelin done in a Glam style.
“Ghost Tonight” pulses in with a beating keyboard. Power guitar chords support a soaring Glam / Detroit Rock music style vocal.
“Animals, Animals, Animals” starts out slow and drowsy, with a fast tapping drum. This is the first instance where the vocals fade down, assuming for cursing. The song floats along, kind of like a ballad, but with an uncomfortable, unfinished start stopping energy, channeling a little Bowie. The song takes a long time to end, stringing itself along on a couple piano notes and finger snaps. It regroups, and finishes out with an unnecessary, jammy classic rock section.

“Me is the Drug” is a fast, “Whole Lotta Love” paced power pop number, mixed with a glammed up “Ballroom Blitz.” I imagine this would be a fun song to perform live, with a sweaty result.
“Move That Strut” comes back to a more straightforward power pop intro, with Lou Reed Velvet Underground style lead vocals. Maybe a little Kinks too. The only problem is that it does not take advantage of the build into a satisfying chorus delivery. The monotone spoken vocals suck all the momentum from the bridge with “Ah-Ah-Ah-Ah’s” Otherwise, it could have been a solid power pop song.
“Beeswax” buzzes in with feedback and smooths out for a keyboard driven mellow pop song. The chorus reminds me of Guided By Voices, and is quite catchy. The vocals are delicate and wispy enough to disappear at any notice. But the chorus has a harmonized backing vocal, and some general alternative production in chord strength and a slacker melody. But this is probably the most straightforward and catchy song.
“You Medicate Me Baby” begins with a jangly hook, and crooning vocals (that try a little too much to be smooth) sung with a Shins-like melody. It never really builds into much more than the simple verse and melodic drifting, even if the jangly guitar continues on through the entire song unchanging.
“All Made Up Friends” has a marching drum beat and bass line to introduce the song. The Glam vocal melody is sung as if through a megaphone in back of the studio in a whiny, straining to be heard. The chorus repeats often, as the verse becomes truncated. It is a song with a fun, throw-away energy.

Stand-Out Track: Beeswax

Austin Chronicle
Lubbock Avalanche Journal
Rate Your Music
PCT Music
without sound
Hotchkiss 2013 interview

Sunday, March 29, 2015

(the) Records - s/t~, Crashes*

Name: The Records
Albums: s/t~, Crashes*
Years: 1979~, 1980
Style: Powerpop, Pub Rock, Glam
Similar Bands: Badfinger, Kinks, Byrds, Cheap Trick, Big Star
"One-Word" Review: Easy Going Harmonic Pop
Based Out Of: England
Label: Virgin, Atlantic Recording Company, Warner Communications
 The Records - Cover & Back
 The Records - Gatefold
 The Records - Lyrics & Record
 The Records - Sleeve & Record
 Crashes - Cover & Record
Crashes - Back & Record
The Records (1979)
  1. All Messed Up & Ready to Go 3:45
  2. Teenarama 4:00
  3. Girls That Don't Exist 3:38
  4. Starry Eyes 4:21
  5. Up All Night 4:33 /
  6. Girl  4:06
  7. Insomnia 3:00
  8. Affection Rejected 3:50
  9. Phone 3:20
  10. Another Star 4:38
Crashes (1980)
  1. Man With a Girl Proof Heart 2:47
  2. Hearts Will Be Broken 3:52
  3. Girl in Golden Disc 3:47
  4. I Don't Remember Your Name 3:38
  5. Hearts on Her Eyes 3:20/
  6. Spent a Week With You Last Night 3:09
  7. Rumour Sets the Woods Alight 3:06
  8. The Worriers  3:29
  9. The Same Mistakes 4:15
  10. Guitars in the Sky 4:08
Album Ratings (1-10): ~8.5

Members & Other Bands:
John Wicks - Rhythm Guitar, Vox~* (Kursaal, Flyers, Rachel Sweet, Dave Nachmanoff, Josh Wink)
Huw Gower - Lead Guitar, Vox, Producer~ (The Ratbites from Hell, Rachel Sweet, Dragons, Magic Muscle, Carlene Carter, David Johansen, Graham Parker, Brian Copsey & The Commotion, Rick Springfield, Monks)
Phil Brown - Bass, Vox~* (The Janets, Rachel Sweet)
Will Birch - Drums, Vox, Producer~* (Kursaal Flyers, Rachel Sweet, The Paley Brothers, Richard Anthony)
Ian Gibbons - Keys~
Jude Cole - Guitar, Vox* (Moon Martin & The Ravens, Nugent, Del Shannon, Jewel, Lifehouse, Honeyhoney, Billie Myers, Beth Orton, Rocco Deluca)
Barry Martin - Guitars* (Kursaal Flyers, The Hamsters)
Robert John Lange - Producer~
Tim Friese-Greene - Producer~
Dennis Weinreich - Producer~
Bill Price - Engineer~
Dave Bellotti - Engineer~
Jeremy Green - Tape Op~
Richard Manwaring - Engineer~
Steve Prestage - Tape Op~
Peter Scarbrow - Management~
Neil Terk - Art Direction~
Wayne Maser - Photography~
Andy Cheeseman - Personal Management~
Craig Leon - Production, Engineer*
Gary Langan - Remix*
Mick Glossop - Producer, Engineer*

I've never heard of the records, despite their generic and obvious name. I found these Records records at two different times. I really like the first album's packaging, with the gatefold cover and obvious record store artwork plus Robert Palmer-esq girl shopping and standing in front of ragged concert posters. I assume it will be a gritty pub rock band, and probably power pop mixed in.

Album Review: Power pop best describes The Records, with a touch of Glam. Their biggest hit, Starry Eyes, was from their first album, Shades in Bed, released in the US as a self-titled album, reaching Billboard’s #41. Crashes did not yield any singles, and the record company lost interest in the band. Birch turned to managing bands and started a sightseeing rock bus tour company in the UK. 

~“All Messed Up & Ready to Go” starts with a steady, confident beat. Power guitars and pulsing vocal delivery characterize the song. The verse guitar is like a less-bubblegummy “Last Train to Clarksville.” The start of the instrumental break sounds like the Talking Heads.
“Teenarama” was also a single, and their second best known song. The vocals are calm and collected, yet the music is very jittery. The vocals are harmonized in a very smooth way. The chorus reminds me of Cheap Trick, where it’s just the title showcased in chorus around some catchy, hooky, chugging power pop chords. It’s a solid Fountains of Wayne style song mixed with a little Jellyfish harmony.
“Girls That Don't Exist” starts with a simple Spoon like guitar and drum beat and an anticipational Dismemberment Plan bass line. After the first verse, the song takes more shape as a Tom Petty classic rock song. After the instrumental section, the lead vocals are supported by high pitch bee-gees like backing vocals. The song is an odd mix of a variety of musical styles combined very well.
“Starry Eyes” was a big hit in the US, even more so than the UK. This version was the original version, not the re-recorded one that’s on the UK Shades in Bed. The guitar that leads off the song is a jangely hook. The vocals start, and it has all the tempo of a Cheap Trick song. The song is a perfect looping verse-chorus with a natural transition back to the start. It is not overpowering or slight, but a nice energetic blend of melodic guitars and power pop. The guitar solo hook sounds like what the strikes tried to recreate.
“Up All Night” begins with a rotating psychedelic guitar melody, and the vocals are mixed nicely with a little echoing reverb. This is a side to side swaying, Beach Boys style, atmospheric ballad. Lots of higher pitched harmonized sections come together for the chorus, which retains a lazy yet aware vibe. It is just an easy to listen to, enjoyable sound.
“Girl” starts off with whining guitar for a moment before picking up power chords with the rhythm guitar. The guitar chugs along rhythmically with the pounding keyboard and it breaks out with power pop chords in the chorus. 
“Insomnia” starts off as a running, training montage soundtrack with strong guitars and rushed tempo. The verse slows the tempo down, as if the insomniac is trying to relax and fell asleep. But the tossing and turning gets the better of the story’s main character, and the chorus brings back the frustrated training tempo. 
“Affection Rejected” begins like a smooth ELO song, with a little prog bassline. The tone is sentimental, and very Badfinger-like. Lots of harmonies and little power flourishes along steady, main melody.
“Phone” carries a very funky bassline, which along with the guitar playing chords with lengthy intervals, makes a sinister back alley tone, like Cold as Ice by Foreigner. The lead vocals are shared…the first set are deeper, and by the breakdown, the higher, Sparks like vocals come along. They then interchange for the second verse
“Another Star” is a more ballady combination of vocals and light electric guitar for the intro. Wailing guitars are added behind soon after, and along with the bass and drums, they create a smooth soaring, cloud hopping melody.

*“Man With a Girl Proof Heart” picks right up from the first album, with catchy melody, chugging guitars. In this case, the vocals are more nasally, and a little like the Ramones or Graham Parker. But the root is still in catchy power pop.
“Hearts Will Be Broken” starts with a whiny rhythm guitar loop, and then the vocals take it back a laid back notch, to smooth power pop easily comparable to Big Star or Badfinger. 
“Girl in Golden Disc” takes us into the gritty bar, for a guitar heavy pub rock intro, and the song flows into a power-prog verse. The bridge into the chorus builds well, and the chorus turns out to be the same as the bridge melody, with a fuller sound. The vocals fade out near the end, leaving the drums pushing on alone. Then the vocals rebuild the song with the lead vocals singing the chorus, and the whole song returns for a short final section.    
“I Don't Remember Your Name” floats in with a fade up and a power guitar melody installs the initial hook. It has a very Beatles structure, with short building verses that end in harmonies, and the repeating hook which has a very Beatley sound.
“Hearts on Her Eyes” was the lone single from this record. It starts with a mid-toned, jangly guitar, and a staggered dual layered voice. It follows a simple, intuitive melody that is not incredibly catchy, but it’s very folksy and nonthreatening. 

“Spent a Week With You Last Night” has a swaggery Beatles guitar-like intro, and the vocal melody also ends in harmonies, again, like the Beatles. As the song progresses, it unveils a sort of southern bluesy rock to the tempo and rhythm, capitalizing on the sound at end.
“Rumour Sets the Woods Alight” builds momentum right from the beginning, with the guitar chugging along as the tempo conductor. The vocals flow over the musical base, and they possess a gentle release when they finally get to the chorus. The song has a nice structure, which keeps it interesting. The short instrumental section is followed by a pause, making the listener think the track is over, but it then picks right back up at the bridge. I do particularly like the melody in the chorus of the song.
“The Worriers” has a bold power pop guitar driven base, but the vocals don’t carry the energy that would match with the music. It does not detract from the music, as these songs are all so full of catchy hooks, but it makes the songs non-threatening, perhaps by design: like a muzzle on a menacing looking dog.
“The Same Mistakes” carries along a simple variant on the aggressive guitar work balance with soft, smooth harmonized vocals. The punishing drums behind the chorus pound the hook into the listener’s ears. The drums build coming out of the chorus, leading into a verse that falters just a little. But the bridge finds its way, and leads into a cereal commercial level of vocal delivery and catchiness. The next breakdown is a little psychedelic, with a “turning me round,” spinning, echoing vocal production and are brought back to finish out the song.
“Guitars in the Sky” feels like a mid-album track, not quite an album finisher. The momentum is building in the verse of the song, not letting the listener come down from the power pop on the rest of the album. This is a song that promises more. There is a little metal mentality in the chord changes and driving guitars and drums. Cheap Trick is again brought to mind.

Stand Out Tracks:~Starry Eyes
*Rumour Sets the Woods Alight

John Wicks & The Records site
Trouser Press
Will Birch Site

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

(the) Rakes - Retreat EP

Band: The Rakes
Album: Retreat EP
Year: 2005
Style: Brit Pop, Angular Post Punk
Similar Bands: Franz Ferdinand, Razorlight, Futureheads, Bloc Party, Art Brut, Gang of Four, Strokes
"One-Word" Review: Angled Ricochet Bouncing
Based Out Of: London, England
Label: Dim Mak, V2 Music Limited
 Retreat EP - Cover & Back
Retreat EP - Liner Noted & CD
Retreat EP (2005)
  1. Retreat 3:00
  2. Strasbourg 2:31
  3. Dark Clouds 2:58
  4. 22 Grand Job 1:47
  5. Something Clicked and I Fell Off the Edge 2:30
  6. Retreat (Phones Remix) 5:45
Album Rating (1-10): 8.5

Members & Other Bands:
Paul Epworth - Producer, Remixing
Paul Schroeder - Producer
Anne Caruthers - Producer, Mixing
Simon John Roberts - Sleeve Design
Nick Pimental - Dim Mark Release Layout
Philip Morais - Management: CEC
Alan Donohoe - Vox (Groove Armada, The Champagne Campaign)
Jamie Hornsmith - Bass
Lasse Petersen - Drums (Dead Pixels, Wolf Gang)
Matthew Swinnerton - Guitar

Unknown-ness: I have a vague recollection of hearing about this band, but I don't know what genre they fell into. I am assuming general hard rock indie, just by the minimal packaging. But they do allow for a remix, so that probably makes them a little more dancy-electronic. Other than the co.uk website, marking them as British, there is not much else to go by.

Album Review: The Rakes lasted from 2003 – 2009, and produced 3 albums and this EP in that time. The three of the first four songs here come from their first album Capture / Release, the first and forth songs were singles. They have not done anything too big since the acclaim they received from their first album, when they were part of the Franz Ferdinand style angular post punk dance movement of the early-mid 00’s.

“Retreat” has a bass line to start the song, like it is being chipped away. Then a disco dance drum beat is added and the short, angular, menacing guitar chords create an art punk style song. The chorus chant, followed by the monotone countdown “wash-rinse-repeat” style chanting both borrow from the pop culture ushered in by Franz Ferdinand.
“Strasbourg” is a fast-strummed, jittery song with strokes like singing, guided vaguely by the guitar melody. The chorus is shouty, but it is a nice angsty release to the hooky verse. The music ends before the vocals finish out the final verse.
“Dark Clouds” begins with surf chords strummed over highly echoing/reverbed vocals. The vocals stay smooth and collected as they glide over a charging guitar attack. This song uses a lot of start stop guitar chords for a stuttering, chaotic effect. The vocals are darker and more sedated than the energetic music or other songs showcase.

“22 Grand Job” kicks right in with a pounding drum beat, and the vocals are layered over the music without consulting it like an Art Brut spoken-discussion song. It is a fun song, as the timing between vocals and music is spot on, even if the melodies (or lack of a vocal melody) don’t quite lineup. The guitar rises and falls like an ocean tide on time lapse photography.
“Something Clicked and I Fell Off the Edge” carries on the Art Brut spoken story idea of singing further with the dialog over choppy, distorted guitars. The chorus only consists of an “Ahh-WOOO.” The angular guitar that blends with the vocals is fun, as it would be solid work on its own. The variation of the chorus changes so that the Ah-Wo is layered in time with the main vocals saying “I need a cigarette / I need a drink.”
“Retreat (Phones Remix)” feels like Gang Of Four’s more recent work, with electronic bips peppered in a repetitive guitar hook. The dance drums are kicked up a digital notch and skitter more than on the single. The vocals feel a little more synthesized, and the melody is stripped down in a cold, sterile, dark wave style. At one point before dark wave characteristic twinkling bells are employed, the vocals get stuck skipping on the obvious word “repeat.” 

Stand Out Track: Strasbourg


Radio Therapy - Adjusted Frequency

Name: Radio Therapy
Album: Adjusted Frequency
Year: 2003
Style: Alt Pop-Rock, Jangle Pop
Similar Bands: Cure, Bowie, Hank Williams, Rentals, Young Fresh Fellows, Counting Crows, Joe Jack Talcum, Hootie & Blowfish, Barenaked Ladies.
"One Word" Review: local pub house band
Based Out Of: Bay City, Michigan
Label: self released
Adjusted Frequency - Cover, Insert Back, CD
Adjusted Frequency - Inner Notes, Back
Adjusted Frequency (2003)
  1. Say Hello 2:27
  2. Something to Believe 4:46
  3. Electric Life 2:49
  4. Partners in Crime 3:23
  5. She's Mine 3:44
  6. Bondage Love Song 3:21
  7. I Love You To Death 3:24
  8. My Blood is Red 5:42
  9. Last Night I Saw Your Ghost 3:33
  10. Fool Like Me 4:23
  11. Do You Wanna Live Forever 3:05
  12. Life on Planet Hell 3:44
  13. No More Sunshine 3:10
Album Rating (1-10): 5.5

Members & Other Bands:
Robert Atha - Lead Vox, Guitars, Producer, Mixing, Cover Photo (Round & a Distant Few, Screaming Casanovas. Fantastic Four, The Savior Machine)
John Cashman - Vox, Drums (Round & a Distant Few, Fantastic Four, The Savior Machine)
Kurt Cunningham - Lead Vox, Bass (Round & a Distant Few, Screaming Casanovas)
Tom Towns - Bass, Guitars (Round & a Distant Few, Fantastic Four, The Savior Machine)
Marko Musich - Guitar on "Say Hello"
Patrick Archer - Mixing
Jeremy Pawlak - Graphic Design, Back Cover Photo

Unknown-ness: I've never heard of this band. But the production looks very DIY, from the color ink rubbing away on the crease, to the generic font on the mare-to-order CD, and crappy low-res band photo on the back. Knowing that this came from a friend's discarded selection makes me think that this will be some alt-pop-rock outfit, Perhaps some cheesy lyrics and straight forward chord progression. It does remind me of an early Sugarplastics record, so that is nostalgically promising.

Album Review: In the middle of the evolution of bands by the same core group of friends in Bay City, MI comes Radio Therapy. Incarnations came before it, and a majority of the members are currently working in The Savior Machine. The album here has been described as a compilation of the member’s influences, as it is not strictly pop, new wave or country, but a generous mix of all three at different times. Some songs are just good, and some songs are terrible. Also of note, John Cashman owns his own comic book shop, Cashman Comics, in Bay City.

“Say Hello” starts out with fuzzy glam guitar chords. The vocals are nasally and nerdy: A little like Joe Jack from Dead Milkmen. The straightforward alt-rock sound reminds me of the Rentals. They repeat the hook a little too much, even if the song is less than 2 and a half minutes.
“Something to Believe” has a Matthew Sweet-style guitar riff in the background, buried below the drum beat and muted vocals, that sound a little like Hootie & The Blowfish or stylistically like Blues Traveler. It just sounds poorly recorded, and jammy, with the rhythm guitar being the main focus.  
“Electric Life” has power pop hooks played in a fuzzy “alternative (Urge Overkill)” style. The vocals don’t feel all that confident, and the shaky performance seems to sap energy from the music. The lead guitar meanders around, just making a backdrop for the rhythm chords.
“Partners in Crime” starts with a jangly train tempo song. Then the slide guitar comes in the background, and between that and the melodies, this is the ham-bone slappin’ Alt-Country story-song the reviews promised.
“She's Mine” slows it down, still carries a jangly guitar, and features sympathetic harmonies. It is not really a slow dance song, rather, a thoughtful reflection with a steady, lazy pace. It feels like it could be on a Gin Blossoms record.
“Bondage Love Song” chugs right along energetically with the vocals, unfortunately, mixed down in the back. It has a very college radio, Lemonheads feel with fuzzy guitars and a simple-to-follow melody.
“I Love You To Death” was a parody of Oprah’s show about people who wanted to kill themselves after their loved ones left. It is a guitar heavy song pairing a fuzzed out constant guitar and a wah-wah lead guitar. It is a solid song with a template verse-chorus, but they flow nicely into each other, and it is playful and silly lyrically, as long as you don’t take the lyrics to heart personally. “I love you to death / I wanna blow my head off, maybe hang myself instead.”

“My Blood is Red” starts with a muted heart pulse drum beat, whiny vocals, and more jangly guitars. The tempo is slow and steady like “She’s Mine.” But there is a poor-man’s Counting Crows feel to the vocals here. This song is just really kinda bad, with a chord progression kind of like Bush’s “Glycerin.” And it is the longest song on the album.
“Last Night I Saw Your Ghost” starts with a water-echoy jam rhythm guitar. The vocals are harmonized sleepily. The song tries to kick in, and it just kind of hangs there, the vocals like a controlled, emotionless Dave Pirner. Also, the lead solo vocals sound a little like Barenaked Ladies.
“Fool Like Me” starts off as a pub / garage rock song featuring mini guitar solos and a side to side, yet driving tempo. The music teeters on aggressive, but the vocals bring it back to the harmless side. The end has a power drum finish in time with the guitars.
“Do You Wanna Live Forever” is more aggressive, as it is a faster, driving song with gradual chord shifts. The vocals are a little nasally and not very melodic. The repetitive chorus reminds me a little of Cheap Trick. The song winds down into a slightly chaotic bashing of instruments and warped guitars.
“Life on Planet Hell” starts out with a few power pop chords, and a bit of a Dramarama like presentation of vocals. Actually, as the song progresses, it feels like a Joe Dead Milkmen song: simple, a few chords and similar vocal delivery.
“No More Sunshine” is a jammy acoustic ballad, in the same vein as an alt-country Hootie song. That said, it’s no good.

Stand Out Track: I Love You To Death


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

(the) Producers - You Make the Heat*, Run For Your Life~

Name: (the) Producers
Album(s): You Make The Heat*, Run For Your Life~
Year: 1982*, 1985~
Style: New Wave*, Power Pop* Yacht Rock~
Similar Bands: Squeeze*, Rod Stewart~, Kansas~, Rick Springfield~, Shoes~, Tommy Tutone*, Planets*, Cheap Trick*, Michael Bolton~, Genesis~, Journey~
One Word Review: Naive-Pop* Dad-Rock~
Based Out Of: Atlanta, Georgia
Label: Portrait Records, CBS, Marathon
 You Make The Heat* - Cover & Lyrics
You Make the Heat* - Back & Record
 Run For Your Life~ - Cover, Liner Notes, Record
Run For Your Life~ - Back, Liner Notes, Record
You Make the Heat (1982)*
  1. Back to Basics 5:10
  2. She Shelia 4:36
  3. Operation 4:19
  4. Dear John 5:59/
  5. Breakaway 3:44
  6. You Make the Heat 3:33
  7. Merry Go-Round 4:19
  8. Chinatown 3:53
  9. Domino 3:36
Run For Your Life (1985)~
  1. Run For Your Life 4:25
  2. Slow Dancing 3:57
  3. Depending on You 3:39
  4. Tight Rope 4:15
  5. Can't Cry Anymore 5:35/
  6. Boat Song 3:29
  7. Table For One 3:40
  8. Friendly Fire 5:01
  9. Big Mistake 3:51
  10. Waiting on a Train 4:24
Album Rating (1-10):*8.0

Members & Other Bands:
Van Temple - Guitar, Vox* (Cartoon, Rainmen, Reason Y, Steve Morse Band)
Kyle Henderson - Bass, Vox* (Whiteface, Laura Branigan, Kyle Henderson's Blue Eyed Soul, Boy Meets Girl, Kansas)
Wayne (McNatt) Famous - Keys* (Billy Joe Royal, Cartoon)
Bryan Holmes - Drums* (Cartoon, Pat Walsh, Charlie Mars, Ultraphonic, Nelson)
Tom Werman - Producer* (Cheap Trick, REO Speedwagon)
Tim Smith - Bass~(Jellyfish, Umajets, Sheryl Crow, Lynyrd Skynyrd, David Mullen, Pat Walsh, The Perrys, Cricket, Stevie Nicks, Curly Corwin, Arvel Bird, Legacy Five, Molly Bancroft, Rusty Truck, Greater Vision, Abby Burke, Meghan Hayes, Jason Burton, Bonnie Bramlett, Emmylou Harris, Hennifer Hammond, Boots Randolph, Mr. Groove Band, Mastedon)
Joe Blaney - Production~
Rick Diamond - Photography~
Chuck Fedonczak - Engineer~
Louis Hajosy - Asst Engineer~
James Flournoy Holmes - Design~
Bob Ludwig - Mastering~
Linda Mitchell - Design~
Kim Parks - Sax~ (Bluebusters, T Lavitz, Pat Coli)
Luis Stefanel - Congas Percussion~(Dardanelle, Larry Saunders, Curtis Mayfield)
Unknown-ness: I've never heard of this band. I got these albums in two purchasing trips seperated by many miles and many years. What looks like a standard pub rock, perhaps with a little power pop and new wave influence via the artwork and photo portraits on the first album, changes form on the second, to be a art deco, mid 80's style of adult contemporary pop. I'm hoping both lean toward the earlier guess.

Album Review:Starting as a Beatles cover band, they decided to write their own stuff and were picked up right away by CBS. Two albums got them some MTV airplay, and even a headliner spot in the MTV’s 1982  Rockin’ NYE. On their third album, they co-wrote a song “Can’t Cry Anymore” with Kansas, and it is featured on both their and Kansas’s albums. Aside from reuniting once in a while, the now hold as varying as taxi driver to carpeting & flooring labor.

*“Back to Basics” starts with a drum beat that you are not sure if it is going to go into an angular new wave song, or a reggae influenced song. And it kind of walks that line of ska, at least in tempo. But it falls more into the new wave camp, with the bouncy bass and cowbell. The vocal melody is kind of whiny, as it rises in volume and pitch. It is a descent building song, with good vocal energy, but it never capitalizes with a big hook. It feels a little like the Planets.
“She Shelia” was a single and popular MTV Video. It starts with a single synth note pinging around, creating a nervous tempo. Then an icy bell synth line is added over top, and the song has a steady progression. The vocals take the song off the ground and creating a solid new wave guitar driving song. The song powers through a steady template of single songwriting, and it trickles away with the beginning synth songs.
“Operation” begins with a dazey, loopy melody, reminding me of the instrumental winding down part of “School’s Out.” Guitars try to power themselves into the fray, but the song teeters on a half-steady tempo. There are some strong vocals in the chorus, which are followed up with some long, power guitar chords and some Cheap Trick vocalization.
“Dear John” chugs away with guitar power chords to introduce itself. It finds a natural Americana groove, and the song drives forward. Minus the small addition of some synth effects, the song has a little of a grungy, alternative style that was 10 years too early, with alarm-style guitars and choppy, slacker melodies. The end of the song falls into a Foreigner “Urgent” style loop.

“Breakaway” starts off side two like a different band. The song is sunnier, and poppier, and just all over catchier. Only the chorus has a touch of the metal edge, heavier guitars. But it is really a shiny power pop nugget.
“You Make the Heat” is the chugging start stop nervous song, with a slight dark undertone, that can really stand out in a band’s catalogue. It features a superbly catchy ska-tinged bridge that delivers some massively effective bopping release. It repeats enough times that it sticks in your head, and you anticipate it whenever the song comes on. I often questions when bands name an album after one sub-par song, as if that’s the sound they were going for. But here, this is a good model to try to live up to. The entire song is not that attractive, as the verse is a little sloppy and directionless. But the bridge and chorus more than make up for it. At the end of the song, the backing vocals carry the chorus out, while the lead vocals take an alternate melody/path.
“Merry Go-Round” follows up as another catchy, pop nugget. It bops side to side, and then up and down, like a happy name sake. Then there is a bit of a psychedelic part (like the break in Ugly Kid Joe’s “Everything I Hate About You”) part that they count down a couple days of the week. If this was produced a little differently, it has an ability to be an angular song, in a computer / Devo sort of way.
“Chinatown” was the b-side to “She Shelia.” A drum solo introduces the song, and then the guitar has a little of an “What I Like About You” for a burst, then it slows down to a dreamy sequence. The burst of guitars come back for the chorus, which has a bit of a Phil Collins emotional vibe to it, mixed with some island keyboard synth sounds and the Romantics riff.
“Domino” begins with a guitar hook, that sounds like the intro of XTC’s “Senses Working Over Time.” But the song itself grooves with a much less sinister tone. The underlying backing vocals that echo the lead vocals add a nice pop characteristic. The chorus comes out of nowhere and is just a shout of “Girl,” followed up with “I’m not a domino” that’s basically a refuting catcall. The second half of the song is basically a combination of the backing pop vocals with hair metal lead.

~“Run For Your Life” twinkles into existence with spaceship synth and a breathy running w/ footsteps. So the idea is of running from aliens. The vocals are a little smoother, or reigned in, more like Rod Stewart here. But there is no energy that would signify running for your life. After two run throughs, the breakdown features a bouncy keyboard and melody reprise. The synth that takes over in the instrumental is the complete opposite of threatening, taking meaning away from the song.
“Slow Dancing” is a slow-ish song, with a pendulum, guitar melody, which sweeps side to side. The song is about wanting to slow dance with a girl. It has a little mellow Def Leppard feel to the song, as a simple power rock attempt. More like Def Kitten. And it fades out without so much as a whimper
“Depending on You” was a single. It introduces the elements of the song in the intro. The guitar then picks up and chugs along under an uninspiring vocal melody, akin to Michael Bolton. It shifts gears slightly for the breakdown leading up to the instrumental, which is a sad guitar ballad.
“Tight Rope” starts off with a smoothed over prog-style synth melody (Mid-late Genesis), and vocals that walk a fine line between Rod Stewart and hair metal-styles. The build in the second half of the song is nice, but it leads into a spring-like synth instrumental that sucks the life out of the song.
“Can't Cry Anymore” was a collaboration with Kansas, and was also on their 1986 album Power. It starts as a slumping, leg dragging slow dance, punctuated with bell chimes. The vocals are reserved, but ready to burst like in a Journey song. The song is ambient; echoing like it takes place on a windy sailing vessel. It’s very sparse in production and instrumentation. And when it finally gets to the instrumental it is led by Yes-style keyboards.

“Boat Song” has marching drums, and a hooky synth line fade up from some boat horn sounds. The structure is a fun prog melody, and all things considered, is a strong start to side two. The loop of the jangley guitar is disjointed and chaotic, which makes it fun. They overlaid a lot of slight melodies, creating a complex song that actually works in the realms of Rush Prog music.
“Table For One” continues with the fun, almost Devo like guitar hook. But then the vocals begin, and it has an island-style cover band feel, with a Steve Nieve like piano in support. There is a conga breakdown, after a vocal overdub seating a guest at a table…for one, and the song embraces the island theme.
“Friendly Fire” fuses jangley guitar with a bunch of overproduced studio instruments creating an impotent jazzy adult contemporary pop song. There is a synth xylophone effect that reminds me of some of the later Oingo Boingo songs, but the song is just so tame, it cannot evoke any kind of emotion, but it could be used as backing music for a Miami Vice montage. And it just seems to go on for about an extra minute and half after it should have faded out.
“Big Mistake” begins with a bass driven lonely melody, reminding me of Heart’s “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You.” The vocals take any similarity away, but the melody feels like it could follow the same path. Instead, the song barely transitions from verse to chorus with any noticeable difference. As if to date the song further, they employ a gloomy sax.
“Waiting on a Train” begins with conductor announcements unintelligible and echoing at a train station’s vast cavernous size. The song’s melody sounds familiar, like a slow, sad Michael Bolton song, or a bad Richard Marx melody. The song is about the gloom associated with leaving a girl, and prolonging the grief by waiting for a train.

Stand Out Tracks: *You Make the Heat (labeled wrong in grooveshark)
~Boat Song

fan site
Promo Photo
2012 Reunion article
Ear Candy Mag interview
2014 Article NOLA