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.
Every once in a blue moon, Independent Clauses covers modern rock. South Cry‘s album is literally called Blue Moon. I took that as a challenge.
If we’re going to count modern rock on its playing field, we need to be checking for anthemic riffs, soaring vocals, vaguely dark moods and guitar solos. By the 2:00 minute mark in opener “Paradox,” South Cry has delivered all of these things. They’ve even thrown in acoustic guitar for good measure. This band sounds more like Creed than Creed does (and, in this context, that’s a very good thing). And, although critically maligned, Creed sold a bajillion albums. This bodes very well for South Cry.
It helps that they’re actually good at all of the aforementioned parts. The vocalist has a powerful croon that stays locked in to the notes, even when casting off lines nonchalantly (“Lord of Sound”). And their riffs are pretty great too; I had my iPod on shuffle when “L.I.A.R.” came on, and I thought it was a Foo Fighters song at first. Other tunes call to mind Lifehouse and even Silversun Pickups (who, in turn, call to mind Smashing Pumpkins).
The members of South Cry are a bunch of guys from Brazil trying to break into the American scene, but you would never know from the sound. They sound like a melodic modern rock band through and through. If you’re still lovin’ that modern rock sound, you should check these guys out post-haste. Blue Moon is a great collection of modern rock songs that showcases vocal and guitar prowess.
“Spiduh Man”: I like the groove on this song. Weezer meets lo-fi rockers The Mountain Goats. “When I grow up/ I want to be like spider man” (Should I have spelled that ‘spiduh’?). Heavy distortion on the guitar – waves of grungy, garage-rock goodness. Very unfinished sound, which is fitting for them. Slight echo on the vocals.
“Vampiress”: Overall echoing sound, like it’s at the bottom of a well. Vocals here are slightly reminiscent of Creed or maybe Audioslave.
“Gloomy Together”: Slow, rolling bass and acoustic guitar. This one has a slight doom-rock tinge to it. Very heavy sound, almost overpowering in the chorus. Monork To Die doesn’t have very complicated lyrics or instrumental tracks, but it works, I think.
“France”: Kinda relaxed, laid-back sound. It’s present in the entire album, but especially obvious here. More crazy-distorted guitar. Slight dreamy sound. For chorus, something about “Tell momma I’m moving on to France.” There’s a bit of sixties vibe, maybe Beach Boys.
“Weaker”: Starts with drums and acoustic guitar; totally got a Smile Empty Soul sound going on. Raw, emotional, throbbing music. Vocalist has a bit of swagger in his voice, if that makes sense. Still got a Creed/Audioslave thing going. This song is one of the better applications of their sound and tendencies.
“Jenny Don’t Read No More”: Rhythmic guitar and bass, with vocals taking a stronger position than previously. A bit like ’90s punk – simplicity of sound, fun lyrics, etc. Unfortunately short.
“Dark One”: meh.
“Carpet Cleaner”: Borderline metal. Kinda caught me off my guard. “She’s cleaning up my stain,” cute. Much more energetic than the rest of the album.
“The One Thing Under The Sun”: Odd mix of “House Of The Rising Sun” (both the Eagles’ version and the Muse cover, if you were wondering) with southern rock.
Overall, Reason is a good album. Monork To Die has a good thing going with their music; it just needs a little more focus. I’m all for a band trying out different sounds, but not quite this much in a single album. More of the likes of “Spiduh Man,” “France,” and “Jenny Don’t Cry No More,” please.
Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.