Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

The Brixton Riot pays attention, and it pays dividends

June 13, 2012

I don’t listen to a lot of guitar rock. I liked the singles when guitar rock was big in the early ‘00s, but when the crop of “The” bands died down, I was left with a lot of second-rate stuff that didn’t do it for me. So it was much to my surprise when Palace Amusements by The Brixton Riot (check the “the”!) fell into my lap. It’s straight-up guitar rock, but I couldn’t get the songs out of my head. From the catchy opener “Signal to Noise” to the slow-burning “Pinwheel” to the crunchy “Losing Streak,” I just loved it and I couldn’t really explain why. So I went to the source: Jerry Lardieri, vocalist and a guitarist for the band.

I shouldn’t have been surprised to find that the band is composed of long-time friends who just fell into a rhythm after playing together for a while. “When we started out, it was a lot more jangly. When Matt joined the band–he’s a big Husker Du fan–he brought a much louder drum style,” Lardieri said. There is still some jangle to be had, as “Hipster Turns 30” dials back the distorted charge for a mid-tempo tune. But on the whole, the drums and guitars go hard: their attack on “Canvas Shoes” is matched by a passionate vocal performance, while rambunctious performances are posted for both in the country-flavored “Carmelita.”

“ We’re big Wilco fans, from before Wilco got into the experimental stuff. We’re big fans of A.M. and Summerteeth,” explained Lardieri. But through the course of our talk, Lardieri mentioned The Jam, The Buzzcocks, Curtis Mayfield, The Afghan Whigs, Dinosaur Jr. and even Oasis—which gets a humorous shout-out in “Carmelita.”

That track plays a pretty pivotal role in Palace Amusements. The song numerically kicks off the second half of the album, and it’s a big connector track.The powerful “Pinwheel” and wry “Hipster Turns 30” don’t flow neatly into the upbeat rockers “Ocean Avenue” and “Strange Matter,” so “Carmelita” fills the gap. “There was a lot of argument about how to organize the record,” Lardieri said, noting that the band went back and forth with a number of configurations. They each made changes to the order before settling on a “definitive mix,” and it shows: the album flows neatly through moods while keeping an earnest, passionate feel throughout.

It’s detailed touches like that one which ultimately draw me to Palace Amusements: from easter egg lyrics to song order to repeated revisions of the songs (including cutting a whole intro to a tune because it didn’t work in the context of the album), the band put an unusual amount of effort into making the album work. It’s one thing to have great songs, like Brixton Riot does; it’s quite another in this fast-paced media age to thoughtfully, painstakingly, carefully perfect an album.

There’s plenty of great hooks and guitar riffs to be had within the twelve tracks of Palace Amusements, and that was what hooked me. But the members of The Brixton Riot appreciate the album experience, and that’s what keeps me coming back to this satisfying experience.

Imperial China! Phosphenes! I Have Seen The Light!

January 24, 2010

Phosphenes by DC’s Imperial China just might be the next big thing! I cannot stop listening to this album! It comes out Valentine’s Day, 2010, as a split release between DC labels Sockets Records and Ruffian Records.

On first listen, I hear this kick-ass, big beat, Battles-type stuff woven through tight, Gang of Four-type post-punk. I am pleased with the release’s total lack of DC-ness (you know… discordant guitars and super-slick, phrase-perfect drumming). The only ring of DC is track three, “Bananamite,” which sounds like a Regulator Watts or Hoover dub jam. Except, this song takes a more Animal Collective, swirly direction toward the hypnotic and repetitive… which serves the album well.

Let me stress that the album is not all instrumental. I would say Imperial China’s vocals sound like Richard Thompson singing for PIL (which – totally an aside – takes me back to my original what if/where is… the band that sounds like Curtis Mayfield singing for Led Zeppelin?).

IC’s artiness is not pretentious. The production of the album has something to do with that. It sounds like a well-mixed, live performance… like a band doing exactly what they do. Imperial China could be huge really soon! They are making intense music, simply, with just three members. Nothing sounds forced; it sounds like they’re having fun. That’s all of the battle!

The drums are smart, block-rockin’, dancey without being disco. The electronics are well-chosen, and very ear-pleasing… intelligent ambiance. The bass is big-bottom dub-dance pump-thump. The guitar lines are based in Metal yet not all slathered in high-gain blubber. The guitars are also quite indie/punk not unlike Minutemen or something from, say, “A Place Called Today” by Hurl. Sorry to use so many “sounds likes” in this review, but Phosphenes took me to a good place!

The band: http://www.myspace.com/imperialchina
Label: http://socketsrecords.blogspot.com/
RIYL: Gang Of Four, June of ’44, Tortoise, Nice Nice, Trans Am —Gary Lee Barrett

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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