July 21, 2001, by Bill Ribas
Volume I - CD Reviews:
Punchy, Just My Type
Second Left, Fruitful Abyss
Peelander-Z, Rocket Gold Star
Psycho Charger, Psycho Charger
Rosie Flores, Speed of Sound
Joe Davis, Hope Chest
Sean Croghan, From Burnt Orange to Midnight Blue
The Franc Graham Band, Sugar Free
Tsunami Bomb, The Invasion from Within
Dry Kill Logic, The Darker Side of Nonsense
Atomic Mint, A Better Mouse Trap
Electric Eel Shock / The Get-Go, G.E.
Zoo Story, Zoo Story
Heather Eatman, Real
Click here for Volume II
Punchy, Just My Type (© 2001 Pinch Hit Records)
From Austin, Texas comes another outfit with a rootsy rock feel that can do no wrong. Is it the water down there? The beer? The cattle? Hmmm… anyway, with a sound that's along the lines of a young Tom Petty or the Kinks, the quartet, consisting of the tried-and-true two guitars, bass, and vocals, knock off 11 songs that grab your ear and don't let go. "By This Time Tomorrow" is a relatively simple three-chord (mostly) number that illustrates the band's talents well. There's the lazy lead guitar that doesn't miss a note, the dynamics, the fact that you can listen to the song dozens of times and not get bored. Oh, and the other 10 tunes are all as good or better. Maybe it's time for a Texas vacation for me.
Second Left, Fruitful Abyss (© 2000 Silica Music)
The first cut is "Happy Jam." And, jeez, if it don't sound like another knock-off Grateful Dead cover band I'll eat veggie burgers for a month. Oy. But the press kit said they were a bit of this, a smidgen of that. Well, the second cut, "Mexico," sounds a bit Steely Dan-like and by the third cut, we've definitely strayed from Dead country. So why open with a cut that sounds like the Dead, when the other cuts don't? Welcome to Production 101. The boys from Jersey tend to waver stylistically (the fourth cut is again Dead-like), but the overall impression is light, drug-and-alcohol-free, jam-based soft rock. You won't hurt your head by banging it to the music. You might not be moved at all, though if you're a fan of the Dead and their offspring, it's up your alley.
Peelander-Z, Rocket Gold Star (© Eat Rice Records)
Japanese punk rock. What can one say? Well, it's more punk than what's been called punk stateside lately (like Green Day). It's raw, rough, fast, and loud too loud in spots, since the sound is clipping more than a marine barber. Never ye mind though, it's punk through and through. And for those who don't speak Japanese, the lyrics have been translated; which are funny in the way translations can be. "Gattai," for example, goes like this: "Nobody is at home. We are going to have a party. Come to my house!! I can't stop my peanut! It's gonna be Godzilla! Give me a chance!!" The lyrics have an abstract, beat poet feel to them, and the music kicks. What else could you want?
Anyone, Anyone (© 2001 Roadrunner Records)
Before the labeling of bands became more diversified and before bands found the need for multiple influences when you said heavy metal, you had a pretty good idea of the sound. Like Led Zeppelin. Or Rush. The band Anyone brings us back to this time. With influences such as the previously mentioned acts, Anyone rocks, and heavily, moving through slow, throbbing sections to the fast and furious ripping parts of the songs. Riz Story's voice might remind you of Geddy Lee or Perry Farrell when he gets in the upper ranges, but the sound fits the music well. Story also plays a mean guitar, whether plucking harmonics or just cutting loose, in a blazing-gun kind of way. Drummer David Murray and bassist Static provide a solid rhythm backing for Story, as they pound away like maniacs on the close of "Don't Wake Me." So if someone asks you if you've heard Anyone playing good heavy metal lately, just say yes.
Psycho Charger, Psycho Charger (© 2001 Skully Records)
Okay, I'll admit it up front. I love these guys. It's not just the hard-charging, nitro-fueled rockabilly music they play, not their pseudo Elvis/white-trash/take-no-shit appearance (guitarist Jimmy Psycho has that Stallone Rambo look, but my guess is he'd beat Stallone like a rented mule in a cage match). It's that their music also lifts you up and takes you away, to a sweaty little dive somewhere, so smoky you'll take two showers when you get home. You know, the kind of place where there's beer, whisky, and beer, and you dance like a lunatic even though you never dance, and your face hurts from smiling so much, and it's four in the morning and you just don't care. Did I mention in the liner notes they thank Pabst Blue Ribbon beer? If you need a lift, here's your prescription: Psycho Charger.
Rosie Flores, Speed of Sound (© 2001 Eminent Records)
The title cut penned by Flores has that alt-country hit sound all over it sultry and slow, some wicked lap-steel lines, and lyrics like "She drives through the night looking for redemption, travelling beyond the speed of sound, she wants to hide from everything that's ended, the memories repeating long and loud." Ever felt like that? Oh yeah. The bad news here is that Flores only wrote three of the ten songs on the disc. Others tilt toward rockabilly or western swing, like "Rock-a-bye Boogie" or "Don't Know If I'm
Comin' or Goin'," which are fine, but pale compared to her own stuff. The Buck Owens classic, "Hot Dog," seems a poor choice, and just doesn't seem to gel; but her cover of Marshall Crenshaw's "Somewhere Down the Line" is very nice. It'd be cool to see a full disc of just her own stuff maybe it's a confidence issue, or someone's telling her what covers to play but I say go girl with your own material.
Joe Davis, Hope Chest (© 2001 In Music We Trust)
Aside from the upbeat "Dancer" that opens the disc, a bouncy four-chord number reminiscent of the Lemonheads' "It's a Shame About Ray," Hope Chest is a collection of rather depressing, moody, minor-key numbers. And the subject matter ain't too perky either. On "Small," for example, Davis sings "I've got needles in my arms, pinball in my room, and they still can't tell me why, I am so small." Not even Dick Clark would venture to dance to it. The problem with the disc and the tunes is the dark tones, lending a sameness to the cuts. And even though "Buster" rocks a bit, without lyrics, it feels like filler. If you find the need to feel down though, give the disc a spin.
Sean Croghan, From Burnt Orange to Midnight Blue (© 2001 In Music We Trust)
His voice reminds me of a young Elvis Costello. It's a guttural thing, hard to explain, but you'd know it if you heard it. And there's an early EC feel to his music as well, although without as many chord changes. Croghan's voice may not be opera pure he wheezes, approaches notes cautiously, veers into falsetto territory from time to time, and though it may bother you a bit on the first cut, by the end of the disc it's kind of endearing. The closing cut, "Otis Tolstoy," is a smoking soulful ballad that builds nicely, crashing left and right before it ends. Pick of the disc is "Cupid's Credit Card," which has a cool guitar slide that sounds like a mistake, and just grows on you.
The Franc Graham Band, Sugar Free (© Franc Graham)
Let's see; if you know the play The Glass Menagerie, you'll have an idea of hazy, southern environs, where life is slower due to the heat and humidity, and the characters are a bit whacked. Franc Graham may or may not be whacked, but her music has that lazy, hazy feel to it. It's similar to the Cowboy Junkies, but more beat poet like, there's probably bourbon involved. Sultry, I guess, is the word I'm looking for. Her arrangements aren't your standard 1-4-5, and her chording isn't standard either. The band members play minimally, and her smoky voice simply floats over the room. Though no song gets crazy wild, you get a sense that something could break loose any second. "Disappear" plays with the dynamics nicely, and it's that apprehension in each song that makes it so much fun to listen to.
Tsunami Bomb, The Invasion from Within (© 2000 Tomato Head Records)
This six-song EP from the California band is a pleasing collection of fast-paced power-punk pop, similar in spirit and sound to No Doubt. The songs have enough appeal and hooks to keep your attention, and the interplay of two female voices (count 'em, two well, one plays keyboards, and maybe it's just overdubs) catches your ear as well. Production is smoking, thanks to Dennis Mackay (Bowie, Queen, Eno), and the band sounds as tight as a packed subway car during rush hour. There is a leaning toward the horror-type rock on the title cut, with an organ weaving in and out, but the pop stuff works better for my tastes. Is the country ready for another band in the vein of No Doubt? We'll see.
Dry Kill Logic, The Darker Side of Nonsense (© 2001 Roadrunner Records)
A quick note for confused fans; the band was called Hinge, but a note in the press pack mentions the name change. Another heavy, angry-vocals, machine-gun-drums, thumping-bass, and screaming-guitar outfit for those looking to quench their heavy-metal/hardcore thirsts. A bit like Tool, Pantera, and Alice in Chains, it has that creepy, West Coast-grunge feel, while still pounding away relentlessly. Although I'm not a big fan of this style of music, the band keeps from being obnoxious by not going full throttle all the time, dynamically bringing the music down and then back up. "Weight" is interesting for that reason, as well as texturally. There's a severe head-banging quotient on this one, so brace yourself.
Atomic Mint, A Better Mouse Trap (© 2001 Atomic Mint)
With the words "quirky" and "eclectic" peppered in the press kit, I feel somewhat obligated (well, more like a programmed Stepford wife) to use them. So Atomic Mint is a quirky outfit from San Francisco, and the songs are, well, eclectic (that's twice now for each). The opener, "I Don't Even Know," is a funky, folk-rap type song, and both the voice and quirky guitar playing of Brianna Wanlass shine. Bassist Dave Hermocillo and drummer Amadeo Donofrio are the rhythm section, and the simplicity of the arrangements provide a clean and clear sound. "Picnic" finds Wanlass playing a Television-like riff before veering off, while "Milkman" has a jazzier acoustic sound. Overall, a splendid effort, and if you like the quirky and eclectic, you're in luck.
Electric Eel Shock / The Get-Go, G.E. (© 2001 MM-010)
Two bands, one CD, providing some more interesting stuff from Japan. EES seems to have studied some of the early heavy metal groups like Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, as their songs are more blues based. Yet they manage to inject a healthy dose of energy, making it more like metal funk. Once again, there's fun to be found in the lyric translations. The Get-Go appear to have studied the Smashing Pumpkins releases intently, and sound almost like a cover outfit. But there is melodic fun to be had, as on "March of the Get-Go Hoodlums," a Munsters-like instrumental.
Zoo Story, Zoo Story (© 2001 3:33/Universal Records)
The first cut on the disc, "Mantaray," is a rocker that blends the sounds of U2, Queen, and Led Zeppelin. Really, it does. And as weird as that blend may sound, it's fun for the ears. "Blind Sympathy," the next cut, shows more of the Queen influence, with a hint of alt rock. And that Queen thing is partly due to the vocals of guitarist Randy Coleman, who colors his voice at times to make you think of Freddie Mercury. But it's not pervasive, and doesn't give you the sense that this is just a cover band that wrote a dozen tunes of their own. The music is hard without being too heavy, melodic with hooks to catch your ear, and the aforementioned influences pop up from time to time, providing an introduction to the band through familiarity. If you're missing the days when FM rock clashed with the birth of new wave, check out Zoo Story.
Heather Eatman, Real (© 2001 Eminent Records)
Eatman's music seems to lie stylistically somewhere between alt country and just plain alt. Her lyrics are compelling stories of confusion and desperation, and her band is a crackerjack bunch of Nashville players. So what's not to like? For me, it's her voice, a breathy, childlike bleating that after several spins, I still can't seem to get over. But hear me know and believe me later; don't let my tic stop you from giving Eatman a listen. Songs range from bluesy numbers, "Train," to big-sounding ballads like "Heaven Help Us," to the soulful "Too Wild." All in all, it's a fine effort. And again, though I don't dig her voice, that's just me.
(Review of Heather Eatman in concert.) www.eminentrecords.com
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