Friday, February 29, 2008

Brimstone Howl US and European Tour (and MP3)

Los Angeles, CA - February 28, 2008 - Nebraska's BRIMSTONE HOWL is heading back on the road in support of their debut Alive Record's release "Guts of Steel" - co-produced and engineered by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. The band will wrap their U.S. tour after performing several SXSW showcases then begin a month long European tour. Alive Records is currently offering an exclusive MP3 "Cyclone Boy," available for download on their website.

With a furious mix of 60's influenced garage and old school punk, Brimstone Howl's Alive Records debut has been described as "cranked lo-fi blues rock" by Uncut magazine, "razor sharp snake rock" by NME and "lo-fi, loose punk wallowing in the blues" by Kerrang. Delivering in-your-face live performances, they describe themselves as "Guitar sluts and hook thieves with hearts of chrome, but with pretty good lyrics," and their music as "burnt blues, steady tom beats, and looooooowwwwwd fuzz."

Brimstone Howl is rounded out by John Ziegler (guitar/vocals), Nick Waggoner (guitar), Austin Ulmer (bass) and Calvin Retzlaff (drums).

"If retro-styled garage rock gave you an icky feeling in 2007, take two listens to Guts of Steel and burn your red-and-white clothes in the morning. Production by Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach give Brimstone Howl some requisite vintage-sounding reverb, but there's nothing reverent about these Nebraskans'unholy hot-wiring of the Sonics, the Damned and the Blues Explosion." - MAGNET Magazine

Brimstone Howl - Cyclone Boy MP3

U.S. tour itinerary:
Mar 6 @ Nieches Buffalo, New York
Mar 7 @ The Oasis New London, Connecticut
Mar 8 @ Don Pedro’s New York, NY
Mar 9 House Show - New Haven, Connecticut w/Estrogen Highs
Mar 11 @ Billiken Club St. Louis, MO
Mar 13 @ SXSW Austin, Texas - Botticelli’s Day Show
Mar 14 @ SXSW Austin, Texas - TBA
Mar 15 @ SXSW Austin, Texas - Trailer Space Recordsw/Thomas Function
Mar 15 @ SXSW Austin, Texas Blackout Showcase, Blender Bar @ Blind Pig Pub

European tour itinerary :
Mar 20 Paris @ La Mecanique Ondulatoire - France
Mar 21 Tours @ Donald's Pub - France
Mar 22 Bordeaux @ Cafe Pompier - France
Mar 23 Tulle @ Opus Bar - France
Mar 25 Strasbourg @ Molodoi - France
Mar 26 Reims @ L'Excalibur - France
Mar 27 Karlsruhe @ Alte Haeckerei - Germany
Mar 28 Geneva -- tbc - Switzerland
Mar 29 Luzern @ Sedel (w/ Carbonas) - Switzerland
Mar 30 Konstanz -- Germany
Mar 31 Freiburg -- tbc - Germany
Apr 2 Kortrijk @ the Pit's - Belgium
Apr 3 Eindhoven @ Altstadt - Netherlands
Apr 4 Utrecht @ dB's - Netherlands
Apr 5 Gottingen @ Theaterkeller - Germany
Apr 8 Koln @ Sonic Ballroom - Germany
Apr 9 Groningen @ O'Ceallaigh - Netherlands
Apr 10 Haarlem @ Patronaat - Netherlands
Apr 11 Munster @ Gleis 22- Germany
Apr 12 Hamburg @ Beat Club - Germany

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

DVD: Tad - Busted Circuits and Ringing Ears

Label: MVD Entertainment

Released: February 19, 2008

Tad is the forgotten band of Seattle's grunge explosion, but there is a case to be made for them being among the scene's most important artists. In Busted Circuits and Ringing Ears, it is said that in 1989 "Yeah, I'm friends with Kurt," meant Tad bassist Kurt Danielson, not Cobain. They were perhaps the loudest and rawest of the bunch, giving even Mudhoney a run for their money, and their influence was felt throughout the tight-knit musical community. This film, chock full of interviews with everyone from the band members themselves to Jack Endino, Butch Vig, Bruce Pavitt, Jonathan Poneman and Charles Peterson, plus live footage and stills from the time, is really everything a rock documentary should be. It captures both the facts and feel of Tad's story.

Everything is covered, from Tad's first 7" (on which Tad Doyle himself played everything) and their European tour with Nirvana (where Tad was often the bigger attraction of the two) to their difficulty with MTV over the "Wood Goblins" video (MTV said it was "too ugly") and the legal and label troubles that plagued them each time they seemed on the verge of commercial success. Despite the difficulties, they came away with quite a few great stories including trouble with a Bill Clinton poster promoting their Inhaler tour and the lawsuit filed by the embarrassed parties over their 8 Way Santa cover.

All of this is set within the changing Seattle scene as grunge took off and in some ways left these favorite sons behind despite having left their mark on all of their friends who made it to the top. Best of all though, the film shows the real people behind the band. They deal frankly with their setbacks (including the role their own excesses played in their troubles). For a band that was on the outer limits of crazy, there's a surprisingly down to earth story behind it all. At the end of the film, Kurt and Tad get together after seven years. It's not a poignant moment after some bitter estrangement, just two friends happy to see each other and have a Sprite.

Rating: 8/10


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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Review: Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings - 100 Days 100 Nights and Angie Stone - The Art of Love and War

Label: Daptone Records

Released: October 2, 2007

Label: Concord

Released: October 16, 2007

It would seem that the essential component of soul music (old school or new) would be the soul itself, yet that is often just what modern soul and R&B lack. Too often even a good R&B singer has a tough time overcoming assembly line songwriting and synthetic backing tracks. It is this old versus new soul difference that separates the new releases from Sharon Jones and Angie Stone.

Without question, both singers have great voices. In fact, Stone's is probably technically superior, but that is the only place that she manages to measure up to Jones on these albums. When you strip away that sheen, what's underneath, the soul, isn't even close.

Years ago, Sharon Jones was told that she was too dark-skinned, too short, too fat and once she passed 25, too old. Jones didn't get a break until she was 40 (singing backup on a Lee Fields record). In the meantime, she worked as a Wells Fargo armored car guard and a corrections officer at Rikers (!), but she kept singing. Angie Stone's break came much earlier, having a hit record as a member of The Sequence before her 20th birthday as well as at least middling success until taking off in the last decade. I can't help but wonder if the "business" hasn't robbed Stone of something that it in turn augmented in Jones through her struggles. While that may not explain why, these two albums leave little doubt that Sharon Jones just has more soul.

Sharon Jones' voice is everything that a good soul voice should be. It can be bold, soft, sultry, strong, defiant. She connects on a human level, because she sings with more than just her voice. After all these years, there's no going through the motions. She has hunger and confidence despite being ripped off. Her energy isn't angry though, just righteous. Her backing band, the Dap-Kings, whose horns helped light the fire on the otherwise soul-deprived Amy Winehouse's debut, is the kind of natural, organic band that has crossover appeal in the rock world. They have more in common with the Family Stone or even the Allman Brothers and Black Crowes than they do with modern R&B sounds. Rhythmically, they propel the music, giving Jones even more force. The horns are so natural that they work in the capacity of background vocals. They're just that rich. The intense interaction between Jones and the band is what makes the album so big and bold, so natural and alive. 100 Days, 100 Nights is essentially a 60s soul album, but it doesn't come off like a revival. The record is very much in the here and now despite its vintage approach.

There's no doubt that Angie Stone has the voice to make a great record, but The Art of Love and War is just formula R&B. The beats are measured and precise. The piano has all the emotion of light jazz. The background vocals are generic. The result is an album that sounds as if all the pieces were recorded in isolation and queued up to have Stone's vocals recorded on top like karaoke. There's none of the human interaction that makes Sharon Jones soar. Instead, it's just cold, synthetic music that robs Stone of any emotion she may have brought. Neither Stone nor the backing tracks have any touch, any feel, any swing. While this might be acceptable fare for an indiscriminate modern R&B fan, anyone looking for real soul, the kind that would crossover into other genres, will be sorely disappointed. This is a superficial soundscape and you don't have to poke very hard to find that it's paper-thin.

Whether it's their past or their present or some combination of the two, there's a world of difference between these two very talented singers on their latest albums. Quite simply, Sharon Jones has made an album that knows the true meaning of soul and Angie Stone has not.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
Satriani: 8/10
Zappa: 5/10
Dylan: 7/10
Aretha: 10/10
Overall: 9/10



Angie Stone
Satriani: 7/10
Zappa: 2/10
Dylan: 4/10
Aretha: 4/10
Overall: 5/10



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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Redd Kross spoof on the cover of LA Record Magazine

I came across this on Redd Kross' myspace page and thought it lent itself to a good trivia question: What album cover is being spoofed here?

Unfortunately, I don't have any good prizes to give away so this one will have to be for honor.

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DVD: Inside the Smiths

Label: MVD Entertainment Group

Released: January 22, 2008

This is the story of the Smiths through the eyes of Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke. Who you ask? The guys who sued Morrissey and Johnny Marr a few years back. Oh yeah, they were also the rhythm section of the Smiths. Under the circumstances, I expected Inside the Smiths to a bitter, one-sided history that mars the story of one of rock's great bands, but that's not what I found. Instead, Joyce and Rourke seem only interested in telling their story, not in badmouthing their former, richer bandmates.

The film, made up of a series of interviews interspersed with music, old photos and film clips, portrays a very human side of the story from the Smiths' roots in Rourke and Marr's friendship all the way through the break-up, with only minor mention of the lawsuit. It touches on the odd set of influences that came together in the band (Buzzcocks, Neil Young, Rory Gallagher), the making of the records, the drug problems and the differences even about when to call it quits. While the subsequent lawsuit would make it seem like the band was divided two against two, it really seems that Morrissey was the one out there on his own much of the time. As Mike Joyce says, Morrissey didn't want to live in his world and he didn't want to live in Morrissey's, but that tension was positive. Joyce and Rourke make no secret about the dominance of Morrissey and Marr, yet they don't express this with bitterness or anger. In fact, at one point Rourke even expresses a desire to mend his relationship with his old friend Marr. When he and Joyce speak of Morrissey, it is frank, but not disparaging even when Joyce in particular recalled times when he was most annoyed with the singer. Rourke deals very openly with his drug problems, making no excuses and even having a laugh about it with Peter Hook. Their story brings a human angle to the moment when Johnny Marr left and to the ensuing confusion of trying to carry on.

The film is, of course, incomplete for lack of input form half of the Smiths. However, it does a lot with the half that it has and certainly tells the lesser known side of the story. It has a very conversational and intimate approach that makes Joyce and Rourke seem very accessible and human. While I doubt Joyce when he says it was a "great friendship" until they broke up, I do recognize that the statement comes from a hopefulness that pervades this film as opposed to a dishonesty that's happily absent.

Rating: 8/10

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Against Me - Baby, I'm an Anarchist video

This comes from their acoustic show in Chicago last Thanksgiving.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Flipper DVD Release Event

Flipper played a show at Amoeba Music in San Francisco on February 18th. Check out the pictures from the show and check out the DVD.

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DVD: Nirvana - Unplugged in New York

Label: Geffen Records

Released: November 20, 2007

I have long felt that Nirvana is grossly overrated. Bleach was a good grunge album and Nevermind managed to both transcend the genre and be in the right place at the right time, exploding into the faltering world of commercial rock. Even so, it's more commercially important than musically. In Utero, however, is one of the two "Emperor's New Clothes" of 90s rock (the other being U2's Zooropa). After all, who wants to admit that they don't get it? Well, I get it...all too well. It's the bloated ramblings of someone selling their punk rock soul for self-importance. Sure, I'll give Cobain credit for not just spitting out another Nevermind, but it would have been nice if he hadn't believed the hype about his genius, because if In Utero proves anything, it's that Cobain is no genius. His death cemented the album's inflated legacy and protected it from ever being reconsidered outside of the euphoria of having mainstream rock finally say something other than "let's party." To me though, Nirvana was a dead end street at this point, a one trick pony who couldn't learn something new, but was too . Nothing anyone has written or said has ever made me reconsider this. Giving In Utero countless second chances hasn't either. But one thing has: Nirvana's Unplugged in New York.

For such a good idea, MTV's Unplugged had been a spotty affair. There were some great ones to be sure, but most were mediocre reworkings of hts and covers. So, when the broadcast of Nirvana's Unplugged session was on the horizon, recorded just a short time after the release of the, to me, very disappointing In Utero, I wasn't exactly jumping up and down. All of that changed when I saw it. Kurt Cobain's struggles with fame were absent. He seemed comfortable in his now famous skin for the first (and perhaps only) time. The band's ability to translate their loud, abrasive music into this more refined environment and be more powerful speaks volumes about them. Even the three songs they perform from In Utero have that power. The guest appearance by the Meat Puppets doesn't stink of rock snobbery. Instead, it's a natural collaboration that likely would have failed (much like the Meat Puppets' next album) had it appeared on a regular studio album. They didn't play all the big hits. It was intimate. Quite simply, Unplugged in New York was the creative pinnacle of both MTV's and Nirvana's existences. It all went down hill from there.

The original MTV broadcast is on here, but the main feature is the full concert as those lucky enough to be there saw it. The MTV News: Bare Witness feature has some interesting moments, but is largely full of stupid memories colored by years of Cobain worship following his death. The rehearsals show a bit more of the band's personality, a nice bonus, but are certainly not essential. While the bonus material isn't great, it doesn't have to be, because the main feature is still amazing, even for those who, like me, aren't caught up in the cult of Nirvana.

Rating: 10/10

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

DVD: Iron Maiden - Live After Death

Label: Universal Music

Released: February 5, 2008

The fact that this DVD flat out rules is no surprise. Iron Maiden is one of metal's most technical and most literate bands and, as if that's not enough, they're a blast live. Other than a few foggy Spinal Tap-esque moments during the epic "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," Maiden never comes across as self-indulgent. Their stage, with all its Egyptian props and its huge, animated Eddie, is quite a spectacle, yet it never (even in those few clichéed moments) overwhelms the music. Bruce Dickinson, already one of the genre's top vocalists, is also an incredibly dynamic performer. He's everywhere, never stopping. Nicko McBrain is more exciting live than on record and Dave Murray and Adrian Smith put all the technical skill they have in the studio on display. And all of them pale next to Steve Harris. He is not only metal's best bassist, but one rock's best as well and he does it without being flashy. Any questions about Harris' skill are answered right here. In some shots, his fingers are moving too fast for the human eye. Literally. He's just that good and like Dickinson, he's wonderfully engaging on stage.

Unlike the superficial content of so many of their peers, Maiden has always been able to translate a good command of literature and history into great rock n roll. This is never more evident than in Dickinson's gratuitous drug reference of the night. Any other band would just ask the crowd if they liked beer or pot, but Dickinson's pot reference involved stories about Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Queen Victoria! Even when he's being stupid, he's smart.

It's no surprise that this film has held up well over the last 23 years. Iron Maiden was so unique and so few bands have even come close to matching them that they're still fresh today. And Live After Death is one of the great concert films of all time, catching a truly great band in their prime. Why, oh why didn't I catch them live back then? The DVD isn't a substitute for being there, but as consolation prizes go, it's nothing short of awesome.

In addition to the original concert that was released on VHS in 1985, this DVD re-issue comes with a second disc which includes videos, stills, live footage and two short documentaries. As if disc 1 wasn't enough, the bonus material isn't just the regular third-rate add-ons. The footage from their trip to Poland is particularly interesting. It was a bold move by a bold band and those young Polish rock fans of 1985 probably have an appreciation for Maiden that none of us can even understand.

Rating: 10/10


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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

New contest from Deep Elm Records

To celebrate the release of Ride Your Bike's Bad News from the Bar, Deep Elm has this awesome contest:

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Review: Marah - Angels of Destruction!

Label: Yep Roc Records

Released: January 8, 2008

I usually listen to music on the cheap stereo in my little Toyota. But as I've listened to Angels of Destruction! over the past few months, I've encountered a problem that I've never, ever had before.

The sound is just too big.

In my book, big sound is a good thing. I complain because Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" wasn't really much of a wall at all, and I get annoyed at all the empty sonic space on albums like My Bloody Valentine's Loveless and Curve's Doppleganger.

But for some weird reason, Angels of Destruction! kind of freaks me out when I listen to it in the car. I can't explain it. On headphones, the first track, "Coughing Up Blood," sounds great, with the buried layers of rhythmic backing vocals and bells and a harmonica and a bunch of other stuff that I'm too deaf to identify. The song is exciting, and the production is as thick as my fat belly after ten years of being a desk jockey.

But put it in my car, and I get nervous. Tense and nervous, can't relax. It's tough for me to get past the first couple of tracks. Seriously. This review is a month overdue, that's how bad it's been. I've been too nervous to write it. Crazy, crazy Chuck.

The thing is, Angels of Destruction! is awesome. It's not quite as good as 20,000 Streets Under the Sky, but that's one of the best rock albums I've heard in the past few years, and I don't think Marah will ever release another album that connects with me like that one did.

It's still great, though. First of all, there are some incredible words on this album. I hear a line like "Your laughter is my Jesus, cut down from the cross, shaken but alive..." and I'm blown away. I've heard laughter like that, and it's a powerful thing. That's the kind of laughter than inspired me to stop drinking, and could probably inspire me to start again.

Then you have songs like "Blue but Cool," which is one of the best summaries of a stale relationship that I've ever heard. It's the kind of song that makes me want to copy all of the lyrics right here, right on this blog, because I want you to feel what I'm feeling as I listen to it. But you won't feel it, because you're not listening to it. But you should. You should go out right now and sign up for Rhapsody or buy the song on iTunes or listen to the stream on Marah's web site, because it's a good song with really powerful and descriptive words like
"Cowering afraid in the corners of togetherness
look at what we made out of all of our old loneliness
and now that we are one, darling, how come it is we feel more like two than ever before?"
Really, just go take a listen. Or don't, whatever, It's your loss. Obviously, you don't really care for music, do you?

(Is my guilt trip working? Are you listening? I'll give you a minute, and then we'll carry on.)

Okay, welcome back. I've been talking a lot about the lyrics. What about the music, though? Well, it rocks. There's no other way to describe it. It's not super-technical or super-showy or super-rootsy or super-hip, but it certainly is super-good. There's energy in the music. There's heart in the music. There's soul in the music, and not in a "What's the target demographic for the new Anthony Hamilton record?" kind of way. The things I love about rock music? They're pretty much all here.

So my point to all of this is that I think you should give this album a shot. You should listen if you like rock music, or well-written words, or songs that bring their characters to life. Don't worry too much about what Marah sound like, because all that matters is they sound good. They captured something special on Angels of Destruction!. Just listen.

Satriani - 6/10
Zappa - 6/10
Dylan - 10/10
Aretha - 9/10
Overall - 9/10



If you're curious about my rating categories, read the description.

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Review: Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe - An Evening of Yes Music Plus

Label: MVD Entertainment Group

Released: February 19, 2008

After a brief introductory piece, this live recording from the 1989 ABWH tour moves into solo medleys by Anderson, Howe and Wakeman. While these clearly demonstrate things we already know (Wakeman and Howe are top notch technicians and Anderson is likely the not-so-distant descendant of an elf), there is little of real interest aside from a version of "Owner of a Lonely Heart" that feels quite different without Trevor Rabin. Things pick up with the group material, running through both Yes classics as well as new ABWH material. The album does lack the pristine sounds they created in the studio which would be a happy trade-off to capture the electricity of a live show. Instead, it's a trade-off for some alternate arrangements and a bunch of noodling, some of which are more interesting than others, but none of which is particularly compelling. Essentially, this is yet another live Yes recording, because ABWH is the first line-up since Tormato to even approach that of the classic Yes. The problem is really two-fold: First, Yes was a studio band that never offered much in the way of live energy on their live recordings even if they often reproduced the quality of their studio work and augmented that with alternate arrangements. Second, they were way past their prime. If a live Yes album is what you really want, stick to 1973's superior Yessongs or even 1980's Yesshows, because they capture the the band (along with their old friend Chris Squire) at a better time. The ABWH material on An Evening of Yes Music Plus is fine, but a step down from the studio versions as well as previous live recordings. This is essential (or even enjoyable really) for serious Yes fans only.

Satriani: 8/10
Zappa: 5/10
Dylan: 7/10
Aretha: 3/10
Overall: 5/10

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Review: Twilight Hotel - Highway Prayer


Released: January 29, 2008

It's not often that I find a record that offers as much musically as it does lyrically (unless, of course, it's bad at both). On Highway Prayer, it's hard to decide which Twilight Hotel does better. The songs fill the whole spectrum from the fun, upbeat opener, "Viva La Vinyl," a song about record collecting, to the stark, longing closer, "Sand in Your Eyes," which pleads, "I want you to be my muse again, pull all the beauty from me that you can."

The most striking thing about Twilight Hotel are the vocal harmonies of Brandy Zdan and Dave Quanbury. Perhaps the intimacy of their personal relationship brings their voices together in a special way, but whatever the reason, they have an innate sense of each other as singers. Even apart, they each have great movement in their voices and together that movement creates color and texture. The instrumentation behind the vocals might not jump out, but is superb nonetheless and equally at home with blues, country, Latin, cabaret, pop or whatever road the song takes. This isn't the typical session musician ability to play flawlessly in many styles, but a true connection with the music. It's the kind of near-perfection that never sounds slick, because it's far too human.

Lyrically, they can convey everything from good times to quiet desperation, running the full range of human emotion. The title track walks successfully through the difficult landscape of the often misused travel metaphor. "No Place for a Woman" could almost be mistaken for sexy, yet tells the harrowing story of a woman working in the male-dominated world of coal mining. The real gem is "The Ballad of Salvadore and Isabelle." This is protest music the way it should be done (and is done by the best). It doesn't rail against the system. It doesn't scream, "Revolution!" Instead, it tells a story, a sad story that is likely all too based in reality. The protest is implicit in the story, but never supersedes it, because the story, the characters, the human part are paramount over ideology. The ugliness in the song isn't ugly because the band doesn't like it, but because it violates human dignity. In these days where celebrity "protest" has become common, there are quite a few who could take a lesson from Twilight Hotel.

Highway Prayer is musically rich and lyrically vivid, a combination that makes it accessible to almost anyone, because it can connect on so many levels. Whether dark or bright, protest or party, the songs are consistently colorful and manage to find equal success in being bold and subtle. Even the untitled instrumental tacked onto the end is played with soul.

Satriani - 8/10
Zappa - 6/10
Dylan - 7/10
Aretha - 8/10
Overall - 8/10



If you're curious about my rating categories, read the description.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

New ratings

Lately, I've really struggled with the numeric rating in my reviews. Because one album may be great based on technical prowess and another based on innovation and another based on soul, it's hard to determine how to put all of these together into one rating. So, I'm going to try something new. I will now give ratings in four categories and then an overall rating. The categories will be:

Satriani - This category is based solely on technical ability and no one illustrates technical ability and absolutely nothing else better than Joe Satriani.

Zappa - This category is for innovation. In order to score high here, an artist must be successfully pushing musical or performance limits. Unlike Zappa, this won't always correlate to technical skill, but I felt he was the best choice for pure innovation.

*** It is important to note that the Zappa scale is different from the other three. For instance, a 1 on the Aretha scale would be "no soul." On the Zappa scale, a 1 would be a lot of innovation, but the innovation would be entirely bad. No innovation at all would be a 5. So, in a sense, it starts at 5 and goes in a negative or positive direction while the others start at 1 and only increase.

Dylan - This one is just about the songwriting. An artist could score high here and do a terrible job of performing their own great song. Dylan couldn't sing, but when he was on, he sure could write.

Aretha - Who better to represent soul than the Queen of Soul herself. However, don't be confused by the terminology, because this doesn't refer to Soul Music, but the soul of the music or its truth (even if that truth is just about good times).

The overall rating will not just be an average of these four categories, but it will be based on them. I'm not going to disclose the formula, because it may need to be tweaked as I go. Besides, anyone who loves rock and roll should know which is most important.


Friday, February 15, 2008

Live: Rude & the Rekkless, We Are the Fury, New York Dolls

February 12, 2008, Rams Head Live, Baltimore, Maryland

I wasn't sure what to expect of the audience at a New York Dolls show in 2008. Would it be mostly an older crowd who'd known the Dolls from their earliest days? A group of thirty-somethings who know the them as the influence on bands they liked say twenty years ago? How about the young hipster crowd looking to show how much they know about the roots of punk? As it turned out, it was all of that and more. This show took "all ages" to heart, running from kids whose parents probably dropped them off to people older than the Dolls themselves. It was a little light due to bad weather, but all were seemingly quite happy to catch the Dolls kick off their 2008 tour. The fans really ran the spectrum from punk to goth to glam to I'm-not-worried-about-dressing-up types. Over the last 35 years, the Dolls have managed to pick up a pretty good variety of fans.

The opening act was local Baltimore band Rude & the Reckless, made up of former and current members of several local punk outfits. The played their gritty journeyman punk with conviction, including a good cover of the Vibrators' "Baby, Baby, Baby." While their set was straightforward and fun, they did push their song "TV Addict" nearly to the edge before reining it back in. It was old school punk played by a group of guys that had been around awhile yet happened to have a ton of youthful energy. They may not have broken down barriers, but they rolled through their short set and got a fairly lackluster crowd excited.

Toledo, Ohio's We Are the Fury followed. Their brand of 70s glam-influenced rock was a good fit for the Dolls. They set high expectations when they came on stage to the music from A Clockwork Orange, but delivered. They tapped into Ziggy-era Bowie and Sweet primarily and like those artists, they weren't afraid of pop music, instead wearing it on their sleeves. With piano parts so flamboyant Elton John would be proud and a frontman who could keep up with Rod Stewart in his prime (even though his voice was far cleaner along the lines of Sweet's Brian Connolly), they were equally comfortable with slow boogie ballads and showtune-turned-rocker pop. Despite multiple unheeded attempts to engage the audience ("move up, this is a rock and roll show" and "there's no mosh pit, you don't have to be afraid of the music"), We Are the Fury was undeterred in the effort to put on an outstanding rock show. Surely they must have found the crowd's lukewarm response to be frustrating, but that frustration never showed beyond the puzzled look on singer Jeremy Lublin's face before diving back into the enraptured fit of raw, androgynous sexuality that was his performance. Too bad for the audience, because We Are the Fury was outstanding.

Unlike so many people, I was unimpressed with One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This. To me, the album was made by old men trying to sound young. The live show, on the other hand, wasn't like that at all. The only thing that indicated David Johansen's age was the little bit of pudgy belly that stuck out between his tight bell-bottoms and pink rhinestone studded shirt. Otherwise, he had all the engaging energy that he must've burst onto the scene with 35 years ago. Sylvain Sylvain was like a giddy little kid and was so excited to play that he exuded a kind of corny enthusiasm (the kind that would cause him to try to grab Johansen's package at one point and seem charming in the process or to continue playing through a broken string as if nothing had happened). Guitarist Steve Conte, bassist Sami Yaffa (ex-Hanoi Rocks if you were wondering) and drummer Brian Delaney kept the energy going, but had the good sense not to interfere with the magic between Johansen and Sylvain. It was that magic, as much as the music itself, that made this show so intimate. For just an hour or so, we were all New York Dolls, sharing the wild fun that continues to make them a great rock and roll band.

Typically, a reunited band generates the most excitement with their old classics, but the Dolls actually got as much out of this crowd with their newer material. "Fishnets & Cigarettes" got every bit as much of a roar as "Personality Crisis," which they tore into after sitting down for second then getting up and calling it their encore. They may be taking this opportunity to make some of the money they've long been due, but there's no doubt that they're willing to earn it in the here and now and not just cash in on their lauded past. Even if this wasn't the opportunity to see a bit of history that it was, a band who's influence extends across 35 years and far outshines its only meager commercial success, it would still have been a great time, because the New York Dolls, even at this point, put on an outstanding and outrageous show (without even dressing in drag). At one point, Sylvain announced, "It's a great thing to be alive!" Indeed it is, indeed it is.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Thao Nguyen on tour

The following dates are with Xiu Xiu. Check out my review of Thao's latest album We Brave Bee Stings and All here.

Mar 07 Portland, OR - Someday Lounge
Mar 08 Seattle, WA - Chop Suey
Mar 10 Salt Lake City, UT - Urban Lounge
Mar 11 Denver, CO - Hi Dive
Mar 13 Ames, IA - Maintenance Shop
Mar 14 Minneapolis, MN - Triple Rock Social Club
Mar 15 Chicago, IL - Reggies
Mar 16 Mount Pleasant, MI - Rubble's Bar
Mar 17 Toronto - Sneaky Dee's
Mar 18 Ottawa - Babylon Nightclub
Mar 19 Montreal - La Sala Rossa
Mar 20 Bennington, VT - Bennington College
Mar 21 Boston, MA - Museum of Fine Arts
Mar 22 Annandale, NY - Smog, Bard College
Mar 24 Purchase, NY - SUNY Student Center
Mar 23 Brooklyn, NY - Music Hall of Williamsburg
Mar 25 Bronx, NY - Fordham University
Mar 26 Philadelphia, PA - First Unitarian Church
Mar 27 Washington DC - Black Cat
Mar 28 Columbus, OH - Skully's Music-Diner
Mar 29 Newport, KY - Southgate House
Mar 31 St. Louis, MO - Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center
Apr 01 Springfield, MO - Randy Bacon Gallery
Apr 02 Oklahoma City, OK - Conservatory
Apr 03 Fort Worth, TX - Lola's
Apr 04 Houston, TX - Orange Show Center
Apr 05 Austin, TX - Mohawk
Apr 07 Santa Fe, NM - College of Santa Fe Sub
Apr 08 Phoenix, AZ - Rhythm Room
Apr 11 Los Angeles, CA - Echo
Apr 12 San Francisco, CA - Bottom of the Hill

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Review: Desoto Jones - Aurora

Label: Deep Elm Records

Released: February 18, 2008

At this point, emo is pretty played out, so even the genre's best bands struggle to be interesting. Desoto Jones is certainly among emo's best, but the real question is, do they transcend its confines. Oddly enough, emo has become a genre more concerned with technical skill than emotional release and Aurora is generally a good example of that. The band is tight and both rhythms and riffs are complex without being overbearing. At times, the guitar even soars. Where most emo bands look to the maudlin moodiness of the Smiths, Desoto Jones ties into 80s pop music (was that shades of A-Ha I heard in "Don't Fail Me?"). They use intricate layers that create real movement in the songs. Along with solid songwriting, these traits make Desoto Jones rise to the top of the emo game, but they still fail to break its confines until "Courtesy Call," the album's second to last track, where they go back and draw a bit of Pink Floyd's crisp psychedelia into their sound. If only they could do this throughout the album, it would be bigger than emo (much in the way My Chemical Romance were on their last album). As it stands, Aurora is just a very good album in a genre that's not very good anymore.

Rating: 6/10




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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Check out Parks and Records

Parks and Records was started by Jon (Rum Diary) and Mimi Fee who were responsible for the amazing "" comps from the early 00s. The label has a focus on DIY as well as green ideals. They have one release out and apparently will be releasing the new album by Shuteye Unison, featuring Jon and Daniel of the Rum Diary. It sounds like they a lot to offer both our ears and our consciences.

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Review: Mongrels - Oshawa

Label: WeirdBeard Records

Released: November 2007

Before they had an album out, I wrote about the material Mongrels had up on their Myspace page. It was a raw, manic mix of garagey soul (or soulful garage). Either way, they tapped into the excitement of the late 60s Detroit that would profoundly influence much of 70s hard rock, even if few bands down the road had proven capable of keeping pace.

On Oshawa, they've become a little more tame, perhaps tapping their old sound and refining it into something with a broader appeal. Don't be fooled, because the energy is still there, but it's no longer channeled through the MC5 and Mitch Ryder, so much as Deep Purple and Heart. The nice thing about Mongrels is that they don't lose all of the craziness of their pre-Oshawa recordings. Instead, a song like "All in My Head," with a great pop chorus, is even bolder than before. Plus, they further capitalize on Amy Torok's fantastic wail and a drummer for each channel (yeah, you get Tim Dwyer in the left speaker and Dusty Rails in the right) as well as the whole band's recognition of the role of soul in great rock music.

On Oshawa, Mongrels have found a way to both clean up their sound and make it bolder. Gone is the wild garage noise, but the cleaner sound has greater breadth and intensity. There is a certain retro hard rock appeal to Oshawa, but Mongrels manages to bring the 70s with them as a part of their sound rather than returning to the past and being contained by it.

Rating: 8/10


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Video: Against Me! - Ocean (acoustic)

Here's a message from the band: "We just posted a YouTube clip of our acoustic performance of "Ocean" at our special Thanksgiving Day benefit show in Chicago this past November...Hope you enjoy it!"

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Review: The Out_Circuit - Pierce the Empire with a Sound

Label: Lujo Records

Released: February 12, 2008

For this review, Chuck and I decided to collaborate. We both queued up the album at the same time and had a conversation about our thoughts. It came out more as the anatomy of a review, but the result was at least interesting. We'll be trying this again (maybe every other week) to see how it goes.

The Out_Circuit is the work of Nathan Burke (ex-Frodus). The album includes guest appearances by a variety of artists, including Sean Ingram (Coalesce) and Dustin Kensrue (Thrice). If you don't have the patience to read the whole back-and-forth of our discovery process, skip to the summary. And now, here's what we had to say about The Out_Circuit's Pierce the Empire with a Sound:

taotechuck: The thing I like about these guys is they seem to have a very unusual set of influences.

bob_vinyl: Yes… Fugazi and Eno. That's eNo, not eMo.

taotechuck: The first track reminds me of Skinny Puppy, but then he goes into this Linkin Park part in the chorus. Linkin Park is a good band, as commercial pop-metal bands go, but the whole scream/sing thing was played out when Taking Back Sunday's first album came out, and that's been what... almost 10 years?

bob_vinyl: The Linkin Park sound doesn't bother me, because it's part of a larger whole. This is just one piece here, but it's a whole album for Linkin Park. Out_Circuit has a lot going on. Like at the beginning of “Passchendaele” with the throbbing ambiance. I like the whisper's a nice contrast to “Come Out Shooting.”

taotechuck: I agree. The first four tracks show many different sides of Burke's personality, yet they all sound like the same band. I'm torn on the vocals, though. He's not a great singer, and drowning his vocals in reverb then burying them in the mix was annoying when all the crappy indie bands were doing it 15 years ago, and it's still annoying.

bob_vinyl: I think he makes it work well, because at times it fits with the fluid nature and other times, it cuts through it.

taotechuck: The transitions between songs work well.

bob_vinyl: I agree and I think the album is better than individual songs.

taotechuck: The problem with the album, though, is the same problem that bands like Tool have. By the fourth or fifth song, you've pretty much heard all of the band's tricks, and the songs become redundant.

bob_vinyl: There aren’t many bands that that isn't true of, but if the tricks are good, I'm fine with a second and third look at them.

taotechuck: Sure, but a ninth or tenth look?

bob_vinyl: I didn't feel like it was that redundant. The songs themselves move very subtly with layers moving in and out. You should like that, because it's what good dance music does.

taotechuck: Good point. But good dance music does more than shift layers of sound. The tempos change, the keys change, the energy changes. The beauty of a good DJ set is that the DJ takes you on a journey. You build up, you climax, you recover, you chill out, and you start over.

bob_vinyl: The whole album is mellow, but it also finds ways to cut through that mellowness and it's interesting to wait and listen for those things. I found it to be a very cool ride, but not like a roller coaster. “The Contender” has more ability to stand on its own than most of the others.

taotechuck: Dude, that's totally some comment that you recorded on your little voice recorder. "This is bob_vinyl, today is February 6, I'm listening to out_circuit, and I find that it's a good ride but not like a roller coaster. That's a roger, Roger. We have clearance, Clarence."

bob_vinyl: Actually, it's not, but I understand why you suspect that. I haven't been referring to my notes.

taotechuck: Wow. Spontaneous thinking. Look at the big brain on Bob.

bob_vinyl: I like how “The Contender” was harsh in and harsh out, but “The Hexagon” eased in, got a little uppity and then eased back out.

taotechuck: “The Hexagon” does stand on its own, which is especially surprising since it's an instrumental.

bob_vinyl: Holy crap, it didn't even occur to me that there were no lyrics. “The Fall of Las Vegas” has the alternating harsh and melodic vocals, but at least the melodic side isn't whiny.

taotechuck: Do you have some kind of magic equalizer that lets you turn down the whiny?

bob_vinyl: I don't think the vocals are whiny. Mopey perhaps, but not whiny.

taotechuck: No. I mope. Morrissey mopes. This is whiny.

bob_vinyl: The strings at the end seem a little disjointed.

taotechuck: Yes, they are a little disjointed. And now, with “We,” we're back to the same sound as on “Passchendaele.”

bob_vinyl: I don't know what you expect. Is he short on ideas or did he show his hand too soon? I have yet to get bored.

taotechuck: The guitar in “We” is another one of those little surprises you were talking about earlier, how if you are patient and listen, you hear something really nice.

bob_vinyl: Patience, young Skywalker. Or dogwalker, as the case may be.

taotechuck: This is definitely an album that requires patience.

bob_vinyl: But it rewards you for your patience.

taotechuck: It does. But do you know what I'm missing? This sounds like an album that was recorded by one guy, with help from some friends. And frankly, he’s not Eno. I don't think his imagination or talent runs that deep. I'm missing the rewards that come when two or three people put their ideas together, and the cream rises to the top. This sounds like one guy's ideas, with no checks or balances.

bob_vinyl: Well, not being Eno isn't a very harsh dig, because Eno is the gold standard for this stuff, but I have come across the same thing before where it's a one man show and I agree that it usually comes up short. It also has a tendency to not feel very organic, because there's no life and no interaction, but this album does not suffer from that latter flaw at all.

taotechuck: No, it doesn't. It feels very organic and alive. And I don't expect him to be Eno. He has good ideas, but if he were more involved with someone else who has compatible but different good ideas, he could conjure up some magic. Like the vocal collaboration on “Across the Light.” That's the strongest vocal performance on the album, and it's where he had someone else to complement him.

bob_vinyl: I'd rephrase to say more magic, because I think there's definitely magic. There were a lot of people involved here, but I don't know how deeply. I think it was performances, but it sounds as if you're looking for collaboration in the writing?

taotechuck: Yes. I think the collaborative performances are why the album doesn't feel lifeless and synthetic. But the writing is very monotonous. The chord progressions are all very similar, the key signatures are all similar, the tempos feel very close... his songwriting is decent, but it's not strong enough to carry an entire album.

bob_vinyl: I'm not with you. I think the songs are strong enough that I stay interested and want to return. That doesn't mean that more collaboration wouldn't help, but I don't think it's as necessary as you seem to.

taotechuck: The child's voice on “Scarlet” gave me chills the first time I heard it.

bob_vinyl: Wow. That's cool. That's a big deal.

taotechuck: I wonder if this is his kid.

bob_vinyl: That's interesting. Maybe. It's well done if you even ask that.

taotechuck: If this had been an EP that went “Come Out Shooting,” “We,” “Across the Light,” “The Contender,” and “Scarlet,” I think it would've been bordering on great, maybe a 9/10. As it is, I'd probably give it a 6. There are some weak points, and “The Fall of Las Vegas” should've been cut completely, but the strong songs make up for the weak ones.

bob_vinyl: I loved it and I don't share your reservations. I'm giving it an 8/10.

taotechuck: One other thing. I hate what they did on the packaging, with the lyrics printed in a blue/gray text on a black background.

bob_vinyl: I agree. I tried to look at the lyrics and just gave up.

taotechuck: If you're going to put lyrics in the notes, especially for an album where the lyrics are treated more as part of the overall sound than they are words to be understood, at least make them legible. If you want form over function, then don't include the words. This is the kind of graphic design that really irritates me.

bob_vinyl: The cover itself is well done, so the lyrics thing is a surprise.

Summary: Overall, I think we both thought Pierce the Empire with a Sound had a good bit to offer. If there was a weakness we could agree on, it's that the album may have benefited from more collaboration in the early stages of its development. Nonetheless, I found it to be a compelling ride through an ambient, post-hardcore soundscape. Chuck felt there was too much repetition down the stretch that distracted him from the album's truly great moments. Chuck found the vocals to be grating at times whereas I saw them as one of the many ways Burke found to create harshness in an overall fluid album. We both agreed that the album, being largely the work of one person, was still able to be very organic and while it took patience, it did provide a return on that investment.

Rating: 8/10 (Bob); 6/10 (Chuck)


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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Video: Gypsy Pistoleros - Un Hombre Sin Rostro, Pistoleros

Here's a new video from the great shining light in glam these days:

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Video: Teletextile - ampm2

Brooklyn’s Teletextile have just released two new music videos, and the latest, from photographer Jessica Attie, is for “ampm2” from their debut LP, Care Package. It's a pretty neat video. Check it out.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Review: Thao with the Get Down Stay Down - We Brave Bee Stings and All

Label: Kill Rock Stars

Released: January 29, 2007

We Brave Bee Stings and All begins and ends like it may be a simple twee pop album. Both songs have a thin, light pop sound that could be mistaken for a novelty. What happens between those two songs, however, is anything but. There is no doubt that a twee influence runs through the album, but there is so much more. Unlike cutesy twee songs, there is real pop substance here. Thao's voice can be sultry and subtly brooding, which gives the music real substance beneath its pop sheen. The hint of darkness under the bright, shiny surface is the album's real texture and color. The Get Down Stay Down is an inconspicuously good band. They run from shades of twee to folk to jazz to reggae to calypso to vaudeville to, most importantly, soul, but all with an understated, low-key performance that makes them both essential and nearly transparent. The instrumentation is thin and the rhythms sparse with only light percussion and a bass line that lives quietly in the background. Even when horns get into the mix, they're almost unnoticeable, yet their absence would significantly change the song. "Bag of Hammers" is immediately memorable, yet on a second listen, just about every song had found its way into my subconscious. That's the sign of really good pop music.

Rating: 8/10

"Bag of Hammers" mp3



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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Review: One Win Choice - Never Suspend Disbelief

Label: Jump Start Records

Released: October 23, 2007

There are two things that outsiders often attribute to punk rock: angst and nihilism. While both of these are prevalent even today, to assume that these two things the very core of punk dismisses an awful lot, among which is One Win Choice. They replace angst with anger and nihilism with hope. This is the punk rock that's spoken to me for over 20 years and anytime I hear it, it reminds me of why I still don't feel old and why my heart has yet to die.

Never Suspend Disbelief is an album fueled by righteous anger in a world gone wrong with the intensity of hardcore and just enough melody to serve up their message. One Win Choice is relentless across the half hour of time they spend spreading both music and message. The fatal flaw that many bands in this position face is placing ideology over humanity. I usually look for a little bit of humor to temper this, but One Win Choice finds another way. It is the grittiness, the commitment and the very human passion they convey that makes the music connect with anyone who's willing to listen. If there's any fire inside, Never Suspend Disbelief will fan those flames.

Singer Dan Kloza said the bands' goal is writing "meaningful songs and playing them as often and for as many people as possible." One listen to Never Suspend Disbelief and you'll convinced of the first part and hopeful that the second parts means an opportunity to catch them live soon.

At the end of "New Rome," the album's final track, they quote a Howard Zinn essay, "The U.S. is in search of an empire and it will fall as the Romans did. Remember when Ali fought Foreman. He seemed asleep but when he woke up he was ferocious. So will the people wake up." One Win Choice has woken up. What are you waiting for?

Rating: 8/10



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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Review: Lafcadio - Kibosh

Label: Joyful Noise Recordings

Released: January 22, 2008

In a nutshell, Lafcadio could be described as King Crimson meets Dillinger Escape Plan meets Black Flag meets Black Sabbath meets Shel Silverstein. If you're not immediately turned off by the threat of that, then their new album Kibosh is probably for you. At times, they are as refined (though not quite as safe as) late 70s/early80s King Crimson jazz/prog. At other times, they play what sounds like noise, except...there's something to it. In between these two extremes is the heavy, discordant noodling that can likely only be picked up by locking oneself in a room and listening repeatedly to side 2 of Black Flag's My War. Just in case you're tempted to take all of this too seriously, check out that album cover with its 70s catalog spoof and the track list with the likes of "freewillynelsonmandela." That's right, on some level, it's all supposed to be fun. The result is hardly accessible, but for the brave and silly alike, there's something here that will catch you when you're not looking.

Rating: 8/10


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DVD: Flipper - Live Target Video 1980-81

Label: MVD Entertainment Group

Released: February 19, 2008

Flipper is one of those bands that no one really likes for the music. It's poorly constructed, disjointed and generally just a big mess. Nonetheless, they have fans, even 21 years after the death of singer Will Shatter and a spotty catalog at best since that time. The question then is, "Why?" The noisy, atonal confusion of their set at Berkeley Square in 1980 isn't nearly as inspired as I expected. Nor does it rise to the level of mayhem that I expected from a band that doesn't seem to do anything in a conventional manner. Even in the studio, there are hints of insanity that I hoped would be exponentially greater live and they weren't. It was perhaps mildly crazy and aside from crowd participation on "The Wheel," the whole thing was just plain dull.

The Kezar Stadium show from 1981 is more organized (though you could never call it tight). While it still lacks the madness I expected from Flipper, they do have a rather ominous presence in contrast to the silliness of the Berkeley Square gig. Even a better show doesn't quite get this over the hump of watchability though. Flipper remains an esoteric experience that likely requires being in the mood even for their biggest fans. Spending 71 minutes watching two concerts that are difficult to make sense of even in their best moments is a chore. As an historical document, the DVD does provide some additional evidence of just how wide open punk still was in San Francisco in the very early 80s, but it fails to really convey what I felt like. I guess you had to be there.

Rating: 5/10

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Review: Thieves & Liars - When Dreams Become Reality

Label: Facedown Records/Dreamt Music

Released: January 22, 2008

When Dreams Become Reality would be an ambitious album even if it was the fourth or fifth release for San Diego's Thieves & Liars. As a debut, it's even more impressive. They draw on a lot of influences, some of which entrench them in hard rock and others which allow them to step outside. The music sits on a solid hard rock basis that ties the album together. From there, they reach out to a variety of influences. At times, they focus on the space rock freak-outs of early-to-mid-period Pink Floyd and at others on the powerful energy of Led Zeppelin. The album has no shortage of heavy power trio riffing, but still makes room for occasional touches of both Deep Purple and Motorhead. I suppose I could do without the overblown, power ballad strings on "Alone," though, oddly enough, not on "Forgotten," which expands well beyond the silly 80s soft-side-of-hard-rock conventions. Still, these are minor points. The biggest trouble is that, despite their ability to maintain a consistent sound beneath the overt influences, they never seem to bring several things together at once. Instead, it tends to be more like Thieves & Liars & Floyd on one track, followed by Thieves & Liars & Zeppelin on the next. They certainly have the ability to incorporate some of the best heavy and trippy rock in history into their sound, they merely need to stir it up a bit more. Does this keep the album from being good? Certainly not. It is very good and perhaps a few tweaks short of great.

As if bringing together a variety of sounds wasn't ambitious enough, When Dreams Become Reality is a concept album. It follows the story of St. Joseph as he is faced with the difficult decision of being engaged to a pregnant girl. Remember, this was a time and place where adultery resulted in some unpleasantness, often stoning. Joseph is given a mission from God and yet he can decide to ignore that if he chooses. For Christians and non-Christians alike, the story is an inspiring one, particularly in trying times when the right path isn't always the easy one. The concept album is tricky territory for even a more experienced band and often results in either the music being compromised or the concept itself becoming muddled. Thieves & Liars avoid both difficulties, producing music that can both stand on its on and work within the story. Most importantly, particularly for a young band, Thieves & Liars don't get bogged down being something they're not. Sure they have some trouble mixing their influences at times, but through it all, they always manage to sound like themselves.

Rating: 7/10



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Static Radio NJ recording debut full-length album

* Recording to begin at production studio in late February
* Album scheduled for Summer 2008 release by Black Numbers

Fresh off their supporting slot on the Hot Water Music reunion show, Static Radio NJ (New Brunswick, N.J.) has announced plans for their yet-to-be-named debut full length via Black Numbers.

In late February, the band will begin recording in Hoboken, New Jersey with acclaimed production company The Machine Shop (Armor For Sleep, Boys Night Out, Every Time I Die). Will Putney will be producing.

After recent tours of the U.S. and Europe, the next few months will find our boys sticking close to home to work on the record, but plans for the early summer release of Static Radio NJ's debut full length include a U.S. / Canadian tour as well as an extended trip to the United Kingdom and mainland Europe.

Static Radio NJ's debut EP One for the GoodGuys is available now through Black Numbers. Listen to a free mp3 for the title track here.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

De Novo Dahl to appear on Sci-Fi and VH1

From the band's Myspace page:

De Novo Dahl will be featured in a commercial on the Sci Fi Channel starting TONIGHT (Feb 1st) promoting the new Friday night line up of shows like Stargate Atlantis and Flash Gordon. We're expecting a sharp increase of Star Trek fans at our upcoming shows...

The commercial will be featuring our song "Shout" from Move Every Muscle, Make Every Sound, our new album available March 25th!

Also, two De Novo Dahl songs will be featured in VH1's new show called Free Radio that airs on Feb 8th. Be sure to watch this show to hear more new music from Move Every Muscle, Make Every Sound. It might be your first chance to see our album art after the show!!! Don't worry if you miss the first airing, we're pretty sure they'll re-run it again between I Love New York 3 and Scott Baio is Pregnant.

Check it out!


Review: The Mars Volta - The Bedlam in Goliath

Label: Universal Records

Released: January 29, 2008

The Mars Volta really scaled things back for this one. Gone are the super-long songs (the longest here is comparatively radio-friendly at nine and a half minutes). All sarcasm aside, they run completely wild with music that's almost impossible to follow, yet just as impossible to ignore. On previous efforts, their bold explorations have never broken down, pushing to the very sonic limits of rock music. The Bedlam in Goliath, while it too reaches the upper atmosphere of experimentation, does get lost and confused at points. For the first time, the Mars Volta may have pushed too far or, more likely, not held on tight enough for their own ride.

Right away, "Aberinkula" makes no secret that the band intends this album to challenge the boundaries they had continuously pushed on their previous albums, particularly Amputechture. With its near chaos of manic virtuosity at full tilt, it's still possible to pick out their love for Mahavishnu Orchestra and Ornette Coleman. They seem to bring things back to this world on "Ilyena," but even that ultimately goes bananas as well. When "Tourniquet Man" also devolves into the nearly unlistenable (or completely unlistenable, depending upon your tolerance), the band might have given up too much control.

Still, their ability to mash-up Latin and thrash and intersperse it with spacey prog on "Ouroborous" or to transition the funk-infused energy of "Cavelletas" into Black Flag guitar noodling is amazing. In fact, the influence of Greg Ginn's playing on Omar Rodriguez-Lopez pops up in a few places and speaks well of both Ginn's underrated playing and Rodriguez-Lopez's ability to recognize it and incorporate it into his own seemingly boundless bag of tricks.

Always pushing, the Mars Volta find a home for Middle Eastern and classical, free jazz, prog, metal, punk and probably every other style under the sun in the boiling pot that is The Bedlam in Goliath. While there are a few moments when the music may crumble under the weight of its own ambition, Omar and company still hold the mania together over the course of the album even if the music can be as esoteric as the lyrics. The closer, "Conjugal Burns," breaks into free jazz and spacey electronics toward the end, but returns to its structure with about a minute to go as if to assure us that, despite the meandering ride, the Mars Volta is very much in control of the destination.

Rating: 9/10

The limited promo EP that many record stores were giving away (every store in my area was out of them by the day after the release) contains a cover of the Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd tune, "Candy and a Currant Bun." The Mars Volta certainly put their stamp on the song, but it's more for the serious Volta fan (do they even have casual fans?). Sometimes, too many crazy geniuses spoil the soup. The really great thing about the EP is that it's a CD on one side (that also contains the video for "Wax Simulacra") and vinyl (yeah, I said VINYL) on the other. That's as crazy cool as the band themselves!



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Review: A Wilhelm Scream - Career Suicide


Released: October 9, 2007

A Wilhelm Scream doesn't exactly break down all the walls on Career Suicide, but they do manage to put forth a solid album that isn't the same old fare over and over again. The album is largely a metally hardcore affair, but its layered sound (particularly the guitar parts) gives it far greater dimension than their average peer in the genre. This layered approach and their melodic moments do give them a bit of an emo feel at times, but they usually attack the songs with rhythms too blistering to be sappy. In the less metal moments, they tend a bit toward the agility, though not the fun, of late Descendants material (which is no surprise as the album was co-produced by Descendants drummer Bill Stevenson). Already a cut above the average hardcore/emocore band out there, A Wilhelm Scream get another step on the competition with lyrics that are a bit more clever than most that deal with the common theme of disillusionment. They may not be on the verge of greatness here, but you could do a whole lot worse than to pick up a copy of Career Suicide. Actually, in hardcore, you couldn't do much better.

Rating: 7/10



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