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Author: Brian Murff

There's no lying about the quality of this EP.

The four-song Demo EP from The Liars Club is one of those rare albums where, upon listening, I begin to wonder why this band hasn’t been signed and become outrageously successful yet. Their sound is tight and focused, like they’ve been playing together for way longer than they actually have. Lead and backup vocals are rich and full, and the instrumentals, while not complicated, are quite enjoyable for the listener.

The first track on the EP, “Wide Open Beaver,” is also the strongest.  The Liars Club has put together a really great sound, evocative of Queens of the Stone Age. The vocals are particularly impressive–very energetic, with just the right tone.

Unfortunately, the next song fails to maintain the excellent pace that “Wide Open Beaver” set. “Wedgewood Hop” is slower and unfocused–almost rambling, musically. This would pass for a decent song elsewhere, but it pales in comparison to the previous track. “Trust Fund” regains the band’s groove with a melodic, slightly haunting bass lick that stays with you even as the rest of the band layer over it.

The EP closes out with a slower, less energetic, more subdued track. With organ! The organ bit is great. “Born on a Friday” shows nice breadth of skill–it’s a total departure from the rest of the album, with periodic breaks into their typical style. This song is one part chill southern rock, one part upbeat Brit rock, three parts AWESOME.

The only thing I’ve come up with in criticism of this album is to suggest slightly more complicated instrumental tracking, because right now it’s a bit too basic. At same time, I really have no grounds for complaint, because they sound great as they are. The Liars Club has great balance and movement, with layering and background vocals that are excellent.

The Demo EP is a solid album, and I’m predicting it’ll only get better. I can’t wait to see where these guys go.

Do you like rock? Yeah? Well, I’ve got a surprise for you: the Demo EP from The Liars Club is free (the legal sort). You can download it here.

Wife: Consensual

Wife, the latest effort by St. Louis dark-wave ensemble Chapters, is one of those albums you’ve just got to listen to straight through – its impact builds over the course of the album. These guys combine rhythmic, beating melodies with compelling lyrics. You can’t help but get caught up in it.

The album begins with “Side Effect,” a brooding, dark track that quickly sets the tone for the rest of the album. The music is entrancing, but what really caught my attention were the lyrics. Frontman Vincent Marks opens with “Take it or leave it now/ Open your legs or not / Trust me, babe/ Ask your friends / I won’t wait on you.”

Marks was formerly a fiction writer, and it shows in his music. Slowly, phrase by phrase, each song reveals a story – something tragic. In “Critical End,” he relates – you guessed it – the end of a relationship, saying, “I only wish you knew/ How the time we had was pointless.” “Consensual” is about illicit relationships, and the betrayal, the guilt, and lies that go along with them. In contrast, “Climax and Exoneration” almost has a triumphant feeling, one of independence and moving on.

Whether you’re in it for the great dance music or for the emotional journey, Chapters is a solid band, and Wife is proof of that. The group has two distinct elements going on – the music and the lyrics. They act as a sort of yin and yang, at once reacting to each other and blending perfectly. If this album is any indication, Chapters is only going to get better. They tour regionally in Missouri and Illinois; try to catch them if you’re in the area.

The New (not so) Dumb

2008 album Let’s Get Lucky by The New Dumb can be summed up in one word: catchy. I don’t mean that in an ironic way, or with any sort of sarcasm. As I listened to their latest work, I found myself humming along, doing a little groove in my chair. I drew comparisons to The Raconteurs, with a hint of The Hives or The Killers. They’ve got a solid indie/punk/rock thing going on, and they’re worth checking out.

Allston, Massachusetts, band The New Dumb has been around since 2003, when, in their words, “Rock music was ready for a messiah. Instead, they received The New Dumb.” They’ve played mostly in Massachusetts and New York, though a 2007 tour saw them hit places like Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Washington, DC. Prior to Let’s Get Lucky, they’ve released This Could Be Disastrous, their debut EP, which came out in 2006.

Let’s Get Lucky opens with “Pea-knuckle,” a cool, entertaining number that really gives you a good feel for their sound – it’s got relatively simple rhythm, but it works. What really sets it apart from other bands’ songs are the vocals – both lead vocals, performed by guitarist Foster Hoyt, and backup vocals, done by bassist Jason Edmands. The group is rounded out by drummer Brian Rusnica (who, according to their promo material, hardly sings).

As I familiarize myself with The New Dumb, both through their music and by checking out their website, it has become obvious that at least one of these guys, and perhaps even all of them, have a great sense of humor. More than anywhere else, this is obvious in their third track, “The Viper The Bison The Weasel The Whale-Man” (from here on out, I’m just going to use TVTBTWTWM). The lyrics for the song are silly, frankly, and this is underscored by the accent that Hoyt affects for the performance. TVTBTWTWM opens saying, “Oh, the viper says/ My poison rests when I’m finally fed/ I don’t believe you/ The bison says/ But the bison is dead.” The instrumental side of things underscores the lyrics with up-tempo beats and explosive hits.

My favorite of this six-track album is the last – “Dance Solo.” It starts with a simple electronic intro, eventually adding in bass, drums, guitar, and vocals. More than anything, it sounds like a bit of Ok Go got mixed in, and that’s not a bad thing. This song is really fun – simple, but fun. “Dance Solo” is easily the best song of the album; it transitions perfectly from electronic-influenced stuff to rocking my face off in the span of about five seconds. On a side note, The New Dumb absolutely made my day with this one – near the end, they threw in some cowbell! Awesome.

Let’s Get Lucky is a cool rock album that is deserving of your attention. From “Pea-knuckle” to TVTBTWTWM, The New Dumb knows what they’re doing, and they do it with a swagger that few can pull off. If you’ve got some cash burning a hole in your pocket, this album would be a great way to spend it.

Spend some hours with Thistle

The guys in Thistle rock the indie music scene, and they’ve been doing it for longer than most people in the business. Formed in 1994, these guys have patiently developed their sound into something so formidable any mainstream band should be honored to share the stage with them. When listening to them, I drew parallels to Emery mixed with a little Jonezetta. There’s also a hint of the Hives, maybe even a bit of Weezer. Their most recent album is called The Small Hours, and it merits some serious attention.

Thistle is Toby Weiss on bass, Rick McCarty on drums, and Mike Montgomery rounding out the group with vocals and guitars. After playing with each other for so long, these guys have developed an incredible sense of balance, with none of them ever overpowering the others. Their sound is full and rich, a foundation of pounding drums and bass over which Montgomery’s guitars and vocals float perfectly.

Ironically, two of the songs I really liked on the album were “The Ground Begins” and “The Distant Talk of Brothers,” both instrumental tracks. I found them absolutely fascinating, entirely in keeping with the rest of the album’s sound, but reminiscent of work from post-rock ensembles like Explosions in the Sky and This Will Destroy You. Members of Thistle: if you’re reading this, I think an instrumental album would be really cool.

“Year of Frozen Limbs” is one of the better songs on the album – it seems like there are moments of clarity on this album, and this is one of them. The vocals seem clearer; they’re powerful without losing control. Frankly, I enjoyed Montgomery’s vocals on this song much more than on “Coffin Notes” (which is saying something, because that song was pretty good). Pounding, insistent refrains provide the perfect counterpart to the vocals on this track.

The last track on the album is the aptly-titled “The Departure.” An awesome guitar lick opens it, and bass and drums have a good intro point. Unfortunately, it feels like the vocals came in too early, subduing what could have been a really powerful build into the song. Overall, though, this seems more thought-out than the other tracks, and it’s a great way to end the album. It feels as though everything up to “The Departure” was just to prepare for this song. None of the parts are particularly complicated, but they’re pulled off perfectly – the blend is exquisite between bass, drums, guitar, and vocals. This is the sum of the album.

Thistle is one of those bands that grows on you. The first time I listened to the 2008 album The Small Hours, I was unimpressed. The more I heard it, though, the more I liked it. If you want to hear a great contribution to the independent music scene, I recommend looking at The Small Hours by Thistle.