Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Quick hits: Banquets — Top Button, Bottom Shelf

September 22, 2011

I like to write long reviews, ’cause I like reading long reviews. I want to contribute to the “long reviews” file of the world. However, BanquetsTop Button, Bottom Shelf resists that approach, and not just because this punk album consists of ten songs in an airtight 25 minutes.

Nope, the reason this review is short because there are a small number of elements in Banquets’ sound that set it apart immediately from other pop-punk.

1. There are few obvious verse/chorus/verse structures, meaning that this whole thing feels like one hooky stream of consciousness.

2. The vocalist is stellar, bringing the perfect mix of vocal acrobatics, muscle and melody to the music.

3. The guitarists turned down the treble knobs on their amps, creating a bass-heavy, immediately accessible sound. Similarly, the treble on the cymbals is (thankfully, thankfully, thankfully) cranked down.

4. The band hits it and quits it, never dragging out anything that could be made into too much of a good thing. Always leave ’em wanting more.

The best place to start is “Unforgiven V,” which is unsurprisingly the shortest song here except for the intro tune. A dual vocal approach and a sense of high drama that isn’t pushed into melodrama create the song of a summer I want to have. Mega.

So yes. Get yourself some Top Button, Bottom Shelf if you like pop-punk at all. It’s not your average “super-loud-pop-songs-yaallllllll” — it’s so, so much better.

The Psycho Nubs fall short

October 20, 2009

Once in a while, something comes across my desk and I just don’t know what to make of it. That was definitely the case with Alley of the Ignots by The Psycho Nubs.

This duo from Richmond, IN,  made up of Brandon Owens and Nich Shadle, is simply bizarre. The music is a mix of garage punk with a sort of high-voiced bubblegum pop that I found to be completely inscrutable. I’ve listened to the album several times, trying to determine what it is that I find so off-putting about this album.

First, I tried looking at the music. Instrumentally, the band is very solid. They follow a tried-and-true pop-punk formula that, while not entirely original, definitely works well. It’s hard to critique Owens’s or Shadle’s individual musicianship, since they both play guitar, bass and drums and sing for this album. They both show competence in this regard.

Then, the I realized the vocals were grating on my nerves. The band sticks with a high-pitched, wavering style somewhat reminiscent of Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes (a band that I really don’t like). That, combined with lyrics that seem to be trying to be witty and funny without quite pulling it off, make for music that I simply found annoying. Not all the songs are that bad, but many of them are.

I will admit, I really did like the song “PBR Me.” It’s catchy and it’s about one of my favorite social beers, but it wasn’t enough to keep me engaged.

All in all, I simply couldn’t get into Alley of the Ignots. I’m sure fans of Of Montreal and other bubblegum pop bands might find stuff to enjoy in here. It wasn’t for me, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not for you.

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

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