Album Name: Cafeteria Brutalia
Best Element: Extremely unique sound
Genre: Surf rock/Psychedelic/noise rock
Label: Sickroom Records
Band E-mail: email@example.com
Where to begin, and what can be said about the album, Cafeteria Brutalia?
Let me start with the basics: The band is called Triclops!. They are a San Francisco 4-piece, and they were formed in late 2004 from the ashes of such Bay area bands as Bottles and Skulls, Victim’s Family, Fleshies and Lower Forty-Eight.
That was the easy part! The difficult part now lies within explaining their music… All I know is for the last 25 minutes my aural senses were violated, defiled and debauched to extremes seldom spoke about but always enjoyed; kind of like the feeling of waking up after a week long binge on LSD and Mexican beer with no specific memories of what happened but knowing that you had one hell of a time.
Triclops! is a band which is not easy to dissect, and they are the first to admit they try to make music as uncomfortable as possible for themselves and others. Sounds come at you like darts from every direction at every conceivable speed and time. The guitar playing of Christian Beaulieu is a collage of sonic extremes, playing everything from surf rock to atmospheric dissonance in complete union with the drumming of Phil Becker. This duo is rounded out with the addition of Larry Boothroyd whose bass lines vary from self-sustaining open notes to spastic, driving rhythms. The last piece of this incredibly unique puzzle is John Geek whose vocal work deserves special mention. Drawing from influences that range from the likes of Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys) to Mike Patton (Faith No More), he competitively holds up his end of the ‘unique/crazy’ contract that would likely be required to play in this band.
Of the four songs I’d have to say the opener “Mi Plisboy” is my favorite track, beginning with rock and roll thunder ala surf rock style and plunging into the depths of space rock for the latter half of the song. The second song “Jewel of Oakland” is a juxtaposition of aggression and circus insanity. The EP’s heavy hitter comes on track three, as “Bug Bomb” is a ten minute song which visits every conceivable realm of the entity known as Triclops! At over ten minutes long the song meanders here and there but eventually ends even stronger than it started. “Salton” is the album’s shortest song and being a bit more streamlined then the other tracks it serves it purpose as the closer to Cafeteria Brutalia
Ultimately the music heard on this disk is aural equivalent of trying to dissect the meaning of life on a head full of narcotics. Yet, at the end of the 25 minutes all I could say was, “Please sir, may I have another?” And I did, over and over and over again. In fact, four straight listens and after all of this I still want another fix. Triclops! is a band worth watching…and most certainly deserves your attention.
Tracks from Another Planet:
Tracks to check out:
(all can be sampled on #1 Hits From Another Planet)
Performance – It’s Bad and It’s Just Begun
Performance is a ridiculously fun guy/girl group from England. They’re very new, and their influences are evident (think a synthpop Franz Ferdinand with some chirpy female vocals popping up sporadically – or an even better Matinee Club). This is not their single (that’d be the equally excellent “Short Sharp Shock”), but it’s a standout of their work so far. Opening with a sprinkling of synth that’s quickly joined by a shimmering dance beat, the song easily retains its momentum through its nearly four minutes, the best part being when the female backing comes in.
The Rinse – Naughty
I’m continually amazed. Just as the whole dance-rock genre should be getting old, I find another band that brings something new to the music. “Naughty” will draw comparisons to Maroon 5 and The Feeling with an added electro edge. In other words, it is unstoppably good. Frontman Will Bates has lived in both the UK and America, and the dual influence is felt in the band’s music. If you like this song, which you will, I encourage you to stop by their website and download the rest of them they have up for free. They’re all just as good.
Swedish for Beginners – This City Is Not for Me
If you’re not convinced by the rollicking classic rock-meets-electronic beat of this track, wait until the inescapable chorus. Like so many great rock/pop acts right now, it rekindles some magical energy from the past and twists it into something current. Swedish for Beginners (from Sweden, as if you hadn’t guessed) is primarily Johan Signert, who composes all of the music. Then he’s joined by up to eight people onstage for a true rock symphony. Sounds very cool.
Small Feral Token – A Girl’s Best Friend
Small Feral Token, in addition to having one of the stranger group names I’ve come across, are also eerily reminiscent at times of an electronically-backed Tori Amos split with (at times) Canada’s Tegan & Sara. The band consists of Lotta and Natalie, two young girls living in Stockholm. Their music is mostly downbeat in sound but very much alive lyrically. Best of all, like a few other bands from Sweden, their entire musical output is available for free on their website. Of the songs I’ve heard, “A Girl’s Best Friend” was the instant standout. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions from the lyrics as to what exactly a girl’s best friend is. Hint: it’s not a rock.
– Nick James
Band Name: W Robert Peek
Album Name: Adventures in Science Fiction
Best Element: Unique overall sound
Label Name: N/A
Band E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
It is hard to classify the music of W. Robert Peek. It does not fit into a specific category or niche within the normally defined categories of music. It’s a little bit of the synthesized 80’s sound, a little bit esoteric, and a little bit strange, all at the same time.
In Adventures in Science Fiction, W. Robert Peek paints pictures of societies captivated by, run by, or destroyed by aliens and technology. There are certainly some cleverly written songs and stories on this disc. The overall tone of the music matches the lyrical theme; monotonous, spoken vocals over ethereal and synthesized music. It sounds like what you would expect to hear in a science fiction movie.
Though there is nothing catchy, no singalongs or dance-inducing tracks, W. Robert Peek is sure to find his audience among sci-fi fans and has the potential for stardom as a cult classic.
Band Name: Veto
Album Name: There’s a Beat in All Machines
Best Element: Electronica that’s not a dance album!
Label Name: Tabu Records
Band E-mail: n/a
Danish band Veto have been praised by critics for their fearless sound and selected as the opening act for portions of the Killers’ European tour. The band is definitely hard to classify, as their full-length debut There’s A Beat In All Machines confirms. Most tracks are synth driven, but not in the same way as many of their peers. This isn’t simple eighties revivalist music, but instead an icier, brooding mixture of electronica and rock.
The album opens with the pounding, passionately sung “Can You See Anything?” Frontman Troels Abrahamsen immediately imbues the record with a tense, almost hysterical performance. It’s absolutely riveting. “You Are a Knife” is the obvious single, and the most immediately catchy moment on the record. UK band Muse seem to be an influence almost throughout the entire album, especially in the slow-building melodies of “Cannibal” and “We Are Not Your Friends,” both of which manage to challenge the rock norm while remaining compact and hummable. The band’s experimentalism doesn’t always add up to such heights. The scathing lyrics of “Short Fused” are let down by a song that seems to end just as it is beginning, while “From A to B” is perhaps too subdued for its own good. But, when everything comes together, the results are amazing. “Self-Made” is a hectic, brash pop song and the driving chorus is easily the album’s most energetic moment.
There’s A Beat In All Machines is a promising debut for a band with a different sound. It’s by no means a dance album, unlike most of the synth-driven music being produced these days. Instead, Veto have created a glacial song suite: lyrically probing and slow to sneak up on the listener. Once it does, though, it’s hard to forget. B
Key Tracks: “Can You See Anything?” “Self-Made,” “You Are A Knife”
Band Name: Underride
Album Name: Insanity Land
Best Element: Mixing up the sounds, rocking beats
Label Name: N/a
Band E-mail: email@example.com
Strap yourself in and prepare for the ride that is Underride. Right from the get-go of their latest offering Insanity Land these Seattle rockers let you know they mean business.
With a high pitched wail “Telephone” sends the listener careening into a head banging trip that slows a bit for vocalist Rev to introduce himself to the world. After a chill verse the band picks it up into an adrenaline-adding pre-chorus before exploding into a loud, crunchy, ballsy, chorus. Trust me, this song is rancid of the 1980s arena rock. Rev leads his cronies through another verse and chorus before allowing the dueling axe-men Rex Nomad and Dr. Pondscum to melt off the faces of the audience in a raging solo. The tune fires off another chorus before ending in a reverb-packed fix of guitar riffs. Drummer Jesse James and bassist El Barto keep the tempo flaring in “Fremont Street.” Rev continues his unique set of pipes while the guitars interrupt from time to time with low screeching notes. A double time chorus adds even more effect to the song before James and El Barto launch into a mellower rotation of grooving.
“Violate Night” is easily the best song on the album. Rev kicks his power vocals into gear, singing gruffer and lower than in any of the other songs, but it works, and works well. The sound echoes today’s superstars Black Stone Cherry, Shinedown, and other modern rockers, and also makes you wonder just why in the world Underride isn’t signed yet. Raunchy guitars, varied rhythms, confident solos, and Rev singing like he has a pair all combine to make a seriously kick ass tune. I literally put this song on repeat and head banged for two hours straight the first time I heard this song.
Underride tosses in homage to rock ballads with “Save Me from Myself,” the slowest tune on the album. The rock is eased back, the feeling is melancholy, but these guys manage to keep your toe tapping. An epic and wah-aided solo carries this song to a peaceful middle where Rev vocalizes with the music in serenity. The rock returns with “Issues,” the final track on the EP. Pondscum and Nomad riff it up before James and El Barto set the tempo. The high-powered vocals and catchy melody in this song make is a solid ender and one of the better tunes on the album.
After cruising through this almost eighteen-minute adrenaline rush, there is absolutely no reason why you won’t immediately want to listen to it again. You will crave Insanity Land like a cocaine addict craves his fix. In a world where most teenage and college-aged bands are spewing out the same blend of indie and emo, it’s refreshing to see some guys with vision and the courage to bring back arena rock.
Band Name: The iOs
Album Name: In Sunday Songs
Best Element: Spans the entire pop spectrum
Label Name: Kanine Records
Band E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
I love Third Eye Blind. Their 90’s power pop was a template that should have been copied and ripped off by many a band – but not many tried it. I suppose that true talent cancels out effective ripoffs. But my love of Third Eye Blind was rekindled when I heard the iO’s In Sunday Songs. The iOs sound like a band that would have shared the stage with 3EB, and that excites me.
Yes, the iOs play exuberant, jubilant, excited, all-out power-pop. It’s got quirky synths, huge guitars, girl/guy vocals, and enough charm to make an emo kid break out in a smile. The Rhodes-led girl-sung “Who’s the Blonde?” is one of the best 2-minute slices of pop joy I’ve heard in a long time, complete with ooo’s, lyrics like “I’m a lion!”, and rumbling drums that make everything sound epic. “Resident Alien” is deceptive – it seems mindless from the title and the lyrics, but it’s extremely well-crafted and mercilessly hooky.
But right when I was beginning to get accustomed to the adrenalized cheeriness of the iOs, “Rockets” starts off slow, effortless, and fluid – a comforting break from the peppy up-and-at-‘em of their previous offerings. The song builds into an epic, as would be expected from a great pop band, but it’s definitely a stylistic shift.
And after that stylistic shift, the iO’s spend the second half of their album exploring the more morose side of pop. This side is no less orchestrated or catchy, but it is less cheery. In fact, it’s a tough call on which side of the album I like more – the bright party music or the mellowed-out pop. The fact that an underwater, ethereal track such as “Deeper Sleep” can coexist peacefully with the manic “Neveright” is just tribute to how successful the iOs have been at their quest to create meaningful pop – they’ve mined the highest highs and low lows to create a thoroughly impressive album. From the blasting forth “Come True” to the solemn closer “Still Finding Out,” there’s been a lot of ground covered in under 40 minutes.
It takes brains to write music that you can listen to without thinking. This may not seem like a very complicated album or a very heavy-hitting genre to be in, but the iO’s have taken pop and excelled at it. This album is fantastic, and definitely one of the surprises of the year.
Band: Tuesday’s Debut
Album Name: Raise Your Glass: We’re Armed and Jealous
Best Element: Balance of creativity and mainstream appeal.
Genre: Alternative, Pop-Rock.
Band E-mail: email@example.com
Besides having one of the best album titles of the year in Raise Your
Glass: We’re Armed and Jealous, Louisiana’s Tuesday’s Debut have a bit more to offer than your average pop/rock band on this EP.
After being rather startled by their Southern looking, boy-band-ish press photo, I was unsure what to expect when I slid the disc into my computer. The album’s opener “Bring Matches, Bring Fire” put my worries to rest, pouring out of the speakers with a near-perfect blend of creative merit and mainstream appeal, reminiscent of the great Minus the Bear. With an abundance of spacey guitar melodies, dynamic rhythmic interplay between the bass and drums and soothing voice to cap it all off, Tuesday’s Debut really hit the mark on this track and put their best foot forward to open the album.
As a reviewer and musician I have to admire a band which is able to walk the line and appeal to the masses without alienating critics with simple pre-packaged radio fluff. Now don’t get me wrong: the entire album is catchy. All six songs scream radio-ready, yet they each of the songs have their own artistic touch, which really gives you a look into the potential of the band. Take for example the last minute of “Art School Special,” the intro to “Simply Put Slightly” or the guitar work in “Wolf in
Sheep’s Clothing” as great examples of the band’s creative extremes. However, the album is not flawless. They do occasionally dabble in the realm of cliché pop rock, but never to the point of no return. Behind almost every twist there is still an abundance of well grounded alternative pop-fusion.
In terms of musicianship the entire band is more than capable for a young band. The guitar playing of William Ferguson and Chris Brennan is a great mix of fluid rhythms and melodic, spacey leads. The left-right recording process works brilliantly on the songs. The bass playing of James Yarbrough registers perfectly in the mix, his smooth bass lines combined with a nice sense of groove flowing perfectly with Austin
Aguirre’s drumming. Ferguson also handles the vocals, which are strong and shine through the mix. His voice is suited perfectly for this genre of music and has a strong sense of familiarity. I can’t think, however, that it is begging to be further explored similar to the experimental guitar work heard on this disk.
Overall I am confident that this album will satisfy the vast majority of its target audience. It is bright, colorful, catchy, yet still a rather original blend of amalgamated styles. There is a lot to absorb in just 24 short minutes. I’m curious to see what direction Tuesday’s Debut will now take. Let us hope they continue pushing the artistic envelope and expand further with the direction they were heading on this album… So raise your glasses to this Louisiana four-piece and give the album a listen.
Poison the Well, Save the Scene
In the past month one of the rarities of underground music took place: a band which had worked its way up through the underground scene and managed to land a major label deal announced that it had signed with a label known in the for its ability to work as a launching pad for new bands. The band in question, Poison the Well, signed with underground hardcore powerhouse Ferret Records last month. This announcement came as the band was beginning to promote their up coming release Versions. Poison the Well’s last release (You Come Before You, 2003) was released by Atlantic Records. The band has stated that they walked away from Atlantic because of “creative differences.” While walking away from Atlantic Records is understandable, the decision to sign on with Ferret has been a huge surprise.
While Ferret Records has grown substantially over the past five years, the label is still not a major force in mainstream media. Promotion of albums and the ability to get CDs out to chain media stores (Best Buy, Circuit City, etc.) is one of the greatest problems facing Ferret. The problem does not lay solely on Ferret Records though: many of these stores do not see a market for the CDs that Ferret is promoting. And once again we come back to the everlasting struggle of working in underground music: promotion. It really is a double edged sword. There are quite a few bands out who are working with smaller labels like Ferret, Eulogy and Eyeball that deserve better promotion than what these labels can give them, but are unwilling to work with larger labels. It really comes down to whether the bands are more worried about selling records or making their music.
I guess what I’ve been trying to say is that I’m amazed and very impressed with Posion the Well. I guarantee that they are not getting nearly as much money from Ferret as they were from Atlantic, but PTW is going to be able to make more of the album they want to make. Basically, support bands like PTW; they are going to save underground music.
Band Name: Pineross
Album Name: Pineross
Best Element: Kevin Larkin’s ability to cram an incredible amount of story into each of his songs.
Genre: Neo-Western Folk.
Website: http://www.myspace.com/pineross, http://www.pineross.com.
Label Name: N/A.
Band E-Mail: Kevin@pineross.com
Pineross: the name of Kevin Larkin’s neo-Western folk band; the title of the first full-length CD of said band; the piecemeal, mythical soundtrack for our Western heritage; the musical embodiment of a dead or dying ghost that is the Great American West. This eleven-song CD shades in the gaps between The West’s endless highways, stumbles through tumbleweed-ridden expanses, encounters and outruns bandits, waxes quixotic, drinks itself to oblivion, turns country legend, and rides off into the sunset, six-gun shining at Kevin Larkin’s side. Larkin’s website defines Pineross—the project—as being, “Two parts highway; 1 egg; 2 cups ground nails; 6 pints beer; 1 empty afternoon; 2 tsp paprika; a dash of doubt – Bake for 30 min at 325. Serves 4.”
Larkin shines when weaving myth into memorable, catchy song. Mandolin dances over the mythological union between Cervantes’ Don Quixote and the West in “Soy Quixote.” A drunken mid-song hurly-burly is summed up as the chorus cries: “I lost my mind out in the desert / you’d lose your mind out in the desert just the same.” My favorite tune, “Country Legend,” gathers the reflections of self-christened criminal; here Larkin’s knack for character-development is most evident. The incriminating and borderline-mythological chorus relates, “And in the press there’s news I’m out on the loose / I’m going to end up like a country legend, / and only fade away; / and only fade away.” Larkin re-casts an American past; he does so fluently, with eyes as encompassing as Walt Whitman’s.
Musically, Larkin is ambitious, combining aspects of traditional American Western music, Irish fiddle and bouzouki, and Spanish-influenced rhythms into a seemingly impossible whole. At times, his ideas seem to overwhelm the album’s unity. The inclusion of vocal and radio sampling in “Back ‘n’ Forth,” seems out of pace with the album’s steady ride. And although the Irish fiddle tune “Nopal” is undoubtedly a gem in and of itself, it seems a stretch for an album with a Western heart. This aside, the songs on Pineross are all well written, and these infringements are overshadowed by Larkin’s wonderful storytelling.
His stripped down recording set-up—“an old beat-up laptop computer and two mics,” —would leave most albums feeling thin, but the production here matches Larkin’s style: straightforward and unassuming. There is simple beauty in this. Pineross is a sound choice for a cross-country road-trip companion. “Every Time I Turn the Radio Up,” a song of leaving, captures the tensions of a relationship winding over desert roads: “I wondered about your silent ways behind the wheels for days and days / feeling free out on the road.” It repeats, in a stripped-down chorus, “And every time I turn the radio up, you turn the radio down.” And in “Nantucket,” Larkin croons, “And sometimes a foreign land / reminds me of my brother,” charmingly relating distance to those who are distant.
Larkin’s Pineross doesn’t ride off into the sunset… it paints a Western landscape then invites you to wander off into its dusty haze.
Band Name: O Pioneers!!!
Album Name: Black Mambas
Best Element: Passion and unflinching simplicity
Label Name: Team Science Records
Band E-mail: www.myspace.com/opioneers
In a world of over-produced, formulaic, pretty-boy pop-punk, it’s only natural that a resistance should pop up. And resistance has appeared, right where it should: the underground. Led by Latterman! and now O Pioneers!!!, true punk is clawing its way out of the grave pop-punk would bury it in.
There’s really no way I could bash this, even if I didn’t like this – based on the amount of crap that’s been tagged with the name ‘punk’, anything that truly gets back to the roots of the punk movement is worthy of praise. It’s a good thing that O Pioneers!!! is great.
It takes some getting used to, as the stripped down sound leaves no room for “well, I kinda like it.” In fact, when I first heard the guitar/drums/yells that are O Pioneers!!!, I was disappointed: the creeping feeling of “that’s all there is?” started to come over me. But over time, the simplicity got to me. The intense passion behind the ragged out-of-tune yells, frantically strummed guitar and rock-solid drumming is really a revolution unto itself – forsaking the overdubs, layering, and factory-produced charm that comes with the modern scene and getting to the core of songwriting.
The songwriting here is really good – as there are no tricks associated with O Pioneers, the burden of proof lies squarely on the guitar. It doesn’t disappoint, as it serves up more than the just four chords in even time. From the shifty, sliding guitar work in “Autographs are for Rock Stars and Official Papers” to the surf-rockin “Enemies on Speed Dial” to the awkward strum patterns of “The Weather Underground”, the duo manages to mix up the songwriting enough so that you can stay focused on the lyrics and vocals without getting bored by monotony.
But even with all the variations thrown at us (the non-chord intro to “Motley Crue, Probably Saved My Life”, the start/stop of “Remember When it Meant Something”), this still gets tedious to the listener not accustomed to listening to a straight half-hour of yelling. One problem is that this album isn’t an album to make an album – it’s an album so that people can memorize the words and then go scream them back to O Pioneers!!! at a show. Everything in the lyrics (“connection” appears in multiple songs, as well as “friend” and “heart”) and in the delivery (I can only imagine what the minute-long call and response sections on “Remember When It Meant Something” are like live) points to the fact that you have to see O Pioneers!!! to become a true believer in them.
Another problem is that as a reviewer, I’m accustomed to hearing a lot more going on in music. Maybe it’s everyone and not just reviewers, but the best bands of recent that I have been listening to have been complex. And O Pioneers!!! is not complex.
All this to say that O Pioneers!!! is really great. You may not like Black Mambas, but nevertheless, they are one heck of a band. Anyone with this much passion, idealism, and good songwriting must be commended, and that’s what I’m here to do.