Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Junebug Spade is everything to everyone (and that's great)

December 5, 2011

Most ’90s radio rock was just really loud and distorted pop songs. Somebody probably would have noticed eventually that Boston’s “More than a Feeling” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” were pretty similar, but Nirvana self-disclosed this by at least once singing Boston’s words and melody over their song.

And while some a lot of ’90s bands took rock way too seriously, some simply wrote great songs; the ones that figured out rock was pretty much loud pop were among the best at this (Blur, Oasis, Nirvana, sometimes Bush) and the absolute worst (Candlebox, Creed, sometimes Bush). Live, on the other hand, took rock very seriously, and they made awesome music too. This isn’t an exclusivity clause.

Still, really loud pop songs make Junebug Spade‘s Extra Virgin Olive Oil my favorite straight-up rock’n’roll release of the year. It takes a lot to get me psyched about ’90s-inspired rock, but a good starting point is a killer melody, and JS has those in spades. Both the guitars and the vocals layer on the catchy, and the results are dynamite. When both of those elements come together on “Slow Your Roll,” it’s clear that Junebug Spade understands this: guys wanna rock, girls wanna shimmy, and everyone wants to sing along, either at the show or in their car. They provide the goods for all of that. This band makes everyone happy. That, my friends, is admirable.

The basic elements of this band are nothing new: a songwriter/guitarist/vocalist, guitarist, bassist and drummer. Bassist Kyle Mayfield is high in the mix, which is a standard ’90s move that provides a nice counterpoint to the melodies. The drummer wails away. The guitars go after it in the aforementioned awesome way. Vocalist Peter Seay caps off the sound with a slacker-tastic vocal delivery that makes it sound like he’s totally not even working that hard to deliver these songs. It’s not the sterilized/rote vocal performances that sometimes took over radio rock; there’s a non-southern drawl to his vocal, and it fits perfectly over the tunes.

All five tunes are money, but “Public Display of Affection” takes a perky, Strokes-ian riff and totally morphs it with a mega chorus. “Slow Your Roll” employs an awesome tempo change and a wicked slide guitar riff (!) to close out the EP. “Aborigine” has Blur all over the guitar line, and I love it, because Seay’s voice is nothing like Albarn’s, so it sounds like an homage and not a rip-off.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is entertaining all the way through. For a guy who doesn’t cover hardly any straight-up rock anymore, this is a pretty dramatic statement. Fans of rock shouldn’t sleep on Junebug Spade.

Unnecessary distortion covers up quality sound from Dan Webb and The Spiders

November 20, 2009

Dan Webb and The Spiders have put forth a new album that hints of greatness underneath layers of unnecessary mudding and distortion.   Released in fall 2009, The self titled album features 9 tracks that take the listener on a roller coaster ride of catchy vs. unmemorable.   The sound ranges from that of garage punk to California beach-rock.  Though the band is Boston-based, they have an appeal that resembles the “west coast sound” often featured on teen shows like The OC (rip).  Think Nada Surf meets garage punk and seasoned with an extra helping of distortion. Continue readingUnnecessary distortion covers up quality sound from Dan Webb and The Spiders…

Beautiful Lies plays it a little safe

November 4, 2009

For a ’90s kid like myself, Boston-based Beautiful Lies sounds like a blast from the past that I can actually remember. The mainstream music of the ’90s has been subject to (unproductive?) debate, but it can’t be denied that this time period popularized fuzzy garage sounds and the pop-punk category. Beautiful Lies’ revival of the ’90s in their most recent release Yeah, Finally will remind many listeners of this era, but whether one wants to be reminded of awkward roller-rink birthday parties in elementary school is a question yet unanswered.

Yeah, Finally opens with “The End,” ironically, which takes a much bigger cue from alt-country than the rest of the album, and from the group’s previous releases. The very first words, however, don’t let the listener forget that they are listening to a faithfully pop-punk group: “‘You’re an asshole’ was the last thing that she said.”

The up-tempo sing-along “Running Down the Aisles” is more typical of Beautiful Lies, with its persistent drumbeat, tantalizing hooks that lead into catchy choruses, a breakdown three quarters of the way through the song, and slightly formula lyrics. Like much of Yeah, Finally, this song is a bit predictable, but also quite easy to find yourself singing along to before it even ends. “Untitled” seems to take note of this, with its repeated request for the audience/listener to “sing along if you know what I’m saying.” New Found Glory and Blink 182 are channeled in “Running Down the Aisles,” but “Untitled” has more of a minimalistic, power-chord Weezer feel.

“The Answer is Always C” has a sarcastic and caustic tone that can also be found consistently throughout, but its scorching guitar licks and heavier emphasis on punk make this track stand out. Another noticeably different song is “One Thing,” a cutesy plea for people to be nicer to each other (“I wish my waiter could be more polite/ I mean how hard is it to smile?”). The song has some potential, but its collection of clichés and easy rhymes are groan-worthy even before it breaks the fourth wall (“I just want to be clear/ I’m gonna put a new verse here/ but only when I’m sure/ the words will mean a little more”). However, the slower tempo, delightful harmonies, and simple, no-fuss style still make this song worth a listen.

Yeah, Finally, overall, is fun, but also safe. I’d like to see Beautiful Lies take a risk or two, and shake things up lyric-wise.

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of instrumental music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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