Archive for September, 2009

Jucifer – Calling All Cars on the Vegas Strip

September 30, 2009 1 comment

juciferCapricorn Records, 1999

Found this record at the nearby Salvation Army thinking it had to be something interesting.  It had light blue colors as well as rather cutesy font on most of the record, yet the woman on the cover was aiming a gun at me.  I had no idea whether I had an indie pop record in my hands or some kind of experimental noise outfit.  Turns out I was wrong on both fronts.

Jucifer’s debut record is heavier than one might expect.  A band consisting of only two people, the duo lays a very gritty sound while Amber Valentine’s high pitched, girlish vocals switches from yelping to singing patiently throughout each song.  The band’s sound can’t be described as purely heavy metal with quick riffs and thrashing about, but it’s certainly not indie rock.  It’s more like musical sludge, where the listener has to wade through and search for the occasions that make one interested in further listening.

Jucifer mostly dabbles with the slower stuff, like “Code Escovedo” and the great “Malibu”.  Thankfully, they do manage to jack it up to a chaotic level with some explosive tunes like “Long Live the King” and “Superman”, which either come across as ripping headbangers or simply noise.  I feel they’re aiming for the former, even if I have no idea what Valentine is yelling/whispering about most of the time.  Then, suddenly, there’s a tune like “44: Dying in White” that has a chorus that sounds like it wants to be a surf pop tune, even if the music around it is certainly heavier.  So, not only is this record a bit confusedly diverse, but Valentine’s frantic guitar work and Edgar Livengood’s thumping drums insists you listen to each track to see what they’ll do next.

Go see what Jucifer are up to on their website and, while you’re there, listen to a few tunes on MySpace in some other window.

It might take a few listens to appreciate the record, but in an age where most bands are being a little too precious to stomach, Jucifer gives hope that different approaches are still tried. I’m very happy to see that these guys weren’t a one-and-done outfit and are still putting out solid records, including their well-received 2008 release “L’autrichienne”.  Since I’m still mining some appreciation out of this one, it was certainly a good dollar spent.  Check out some Jucifer, people!

Categories: Bargain Tags: ,

Shades Apart – Eyewitness

September 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Shades_Apart_EyewitnessUniversal Records, 1999

Can you guess why I picked up this record for a mere quarter at a downtown chain store?  Check out that cover, man!  It’s got a rather popping color scheme as well as a distinct film noir artistry.  The guy looks like he’s either going to get hit by a car, shot by the evil dude reflected in the circular side mirror, or pull out a Tommy Gun and have at it in the middle of the street.  I had no idea who these guys were but, like the Stratford 4, I felt I had to check this band out based on its very interesting cover art.

And so, that’s a quarter I would like to get back.  Shades Apart deliver some acceptable rock that, to their credit, wasn’t too much like the usual crap from the end of the nineties.  They didn’t go pop punk or rap metal, which was all the rage at the time thanks to Blink 182, Sum 41 and the Durst.  However, Shades Apart did lean more towards a more heavier sound that leans on 3 Doors Down a bit, though not nearly as unlistenable.  Songs like “Sputnik”, “100 Days”, and “Chasing Daydreams” are enjoyable as stock rock tracks, but one gets the feeling that the band held back for some reason.  There’s no real height or eagerness to any of it, which perhaps might have made itself more evident in a live setting.  On record, these guys have a very mid-nineties rock sound that never really gained much interest once the Gin Blossoms up and quit.

Have a listen to Shades Apart on MySpace if you wish!

This record ended up being a bust in my eyes because I (naively) expected much more from this record based on the cover art. If there was a song entitled something insipid like “Love is Forever” or if the band bothered to put their picture on the back cover, I may have been effectively forewarned. That said, the main issue with this record is that it didn’t have enough to make anyone take notice or care if these guys stuck around. As it turns out, the band only put out one other true record (with worse art) before calling it quits, so they probably got the message that music tastes were moving on.

Categories: Bust Tags: ,

Diamond Nights – Popsicle

September 25, 2009 1 comment

Kemado Records, 2005popsicle_cover

This record I actually knew one small thing about, and that is the first track of “Destination Diamonds”.  I still find this song to be fantastic.  It’s got a great build up, has a guy who sings with swagger and falsetto, and just a great riff throughout.  “Baby do you like to mess around?” There’s no real mystery to this track’s intentions, and I still think it’s one everyone should listen to.

As for the rest of the record, well, sometimes the swagger falls a little short.  The vocalist, Morgan Phalen, doesn’t fare as well without the heavy blend of instruments of “Destination Diamonds” and sometimes has a peculiar affectation in his voice that resembles Britt Daniel from Spoon.  Daniel is able to make his vocals work given the craftsmanship of Spoon tunes, whereas Phalen sometimes comes across as a bit annoying to listen to.  I think the slight let down of “Saturday Fantastic” and “Drip Drip” kills the momentum of “Destination..”, but thankfully the rest of the record turns in some great rock.

“It’s a Shokka”, “Red Hex” and “The Girl’s Attractive” are just great rock tunes.  As the record rolls on, it’s apparent that if Phalen just stuck to singing without trying too hard to sound cool, then all of these songs would work.  It’s evident as well that Diamond Nights need to stick to rock all the time, for they really make for an exciting, interesting listen.

Check out a few of their tunes on their MySpace page!

Even though I only expected a handful of good songs on this one, I got my money’s worth and more. Dude, this is totally worth a buck fifty.

Categories: Bargain Tags: ,

Shesus – Shesus Loves You … Loves You Not

September 23, 2009 Leave a comment

Narnack Records, 2003shesus

I’m a sucker for eye-catching album covers as well as album design, so when I picked up a very yellow, fold out record by Shesus I thought this one should be good.  I wasn’t a fan of the band name … I mean what is this, some kind of lazy name decision based on what people say in close calls?  Why not “Oopsie!” or “DUDE”?  I imagine they wanted to go with ‘Jesus’ but then thought better of it and opted to alter that due to the high number of females in the band.

As one could imagine, a shattered record on the album cover wasn’t going to get any soft pop coming out of the speakers.  The first track, “Holidazed”, sums up the energetic rock that Shesus blankets the entire record with.  It’s this that they care about and not necessarily any kind of catchy element.  In fact, due to the rather raw vocals and sometimes squealing guitars, Shesus rides the line of being catchy without truly endearing the listener to any one song.    It reminds me of listening to grrl rock in a way since that kind of rock tends to be more brutal and awkward, though Shesus is more listenable.  However, it is this non-catchiness that sinks the record, for people tend to like their rock n roll to have force but to also make them want to listen to tunes over and over.  I couldn’t really find any songs on this record that I could identify as a ‘must listen’.  So, despite the fact that they do a pretty good cover of David Bowie’s “Hang Onto Yourself”, this debut from Shesus really only comes across as a straight forward rock record that doesn’t have legs to it.

Since the band disbanded in 2004, there isn’t much to be found on the web about these guys.  I’ll leave you with some clips, though.

Shesus clips

It might have been interesting to see what Shesus could have done for an encore second album, yet going out so early might destine this record to be long forgotten in dusty dollar bins across the country.  But hey, cool cover!

Categories: TheRest Tags: ,

The VaGiants – Short and Hard

September 21, 2009 Leave a comment

No record label, 2002vagiants

This was one of those records that just stood out to me because of the rather colorful band name.  Turns out there are two bands who have gone by ‘vagiant’, as there are these guys from Winnipeg (the disc I bought) and another band with four ladies from Boston (the disc I thought I was buying).  Oh well, both bands have never heard of Belle and Sebastien in the way they crash about.

This nine-track record is a very quick blast through a collision of cymbals and loud riffs.  The singer, J-Rod Godriguez, is the one that makes the album merely because she is a rock chick all the way.  None of the prissy singing here, as Godriguez has a rather husky voice that doesn’t deviate much from the shout/sing style throughout the record.  It blends in perfectly with the heavy rock the three guys in the band slap together and I would imagine these four would certainly get a place jumping in a live setting.  All nine songs are fun rockers, but “Nice and Easy” and “Bury Me Standing” stands out to me.

Unfortunately, these guys are probably long gone and no one is likely to miss them given the fact that there’s plenty of hard rock bands out there already.  I did manage to find a pretty good live version of ‘Bury Me Standing’ on YouTube that represents them well.

The Vagiants – Bury Me Standing

Unlike previous reviews, this is one of those records that features a band that was a small blip in a Canadian scene but will most likely fade into deep obscurity. If you do happen to find this record somewhere, though, it’s not bad for a swift kick to the senses.

Categories: TheRest Tags: ,

The Flaming Sideburns – Save Rock ‘n’ Roll

September 16, 2009 Leave a comment

Jetset Records, 2002flameSideburns

There are apparently many places that a garage band can come from, but if you had to guess where the Flaming Sideburns originate from, would you say “Finland”?  These Finnish guys look like they’ve got a lot of swagger on the cover of their third record, though that wasn’t why I grabbed it.  I just couldn’t resist checking out a band named the Flaming Sideburns.  Better than Where’s Finland On a Map, at least.  However, by having a stellar band name meant that these guys had to deliver.  I mean hey, look at the Killers.  They don’t kill anything except my attention span.

I found that on first listen there are many great rock tunes on this record, though one would be hard pressed to tell most of them apart.  They’re all energetic, have a lot of shouting, and never supply any tired moments.  The best song on the record, “Up In Flames”, is absolutely mindwrecking in its velocity and urgency.  Just a fantastic tune.  Other songs, like “Street Survivor”, are more representative of how the album sounds, though.  It has Eduardo Martinez’s scream at the beginning that sets the anxious tone, while the engaging hook from Ski Williamson’s guitar keeps the tune blaring along.  It’s certainly predictable after the first chorus, as are most of these songs, but usually that doesn’t bug people.  The Flaming Sideburns are quite consistent in what they rock forth.

The Flaming Sideburns on MySpace

These guys are a great band to listen to when you need a shot of energy, though it is too bad that their later records veered away from too much of this kind of sound and got a little softer.  Perhaps this record is their ‘The Bends’, which I suppose makes sense because a band can only do so much garage rock, right?  Wrong.  Flaming Sideburns, if you decide to try and save rock n roll again, let me know and I’ll give you another listen.

Categories: Bargain Tags: ,

Honolulu Jazz Quartet – Tenacity

September 14, 2009 Leave a comment

HJQ Records, 2007honoluluJazzQ

Woah, a jazz record! That’s right, even this was found for a mere dollar not too far from where I live.  If you’re not a fan of jazz, well, then you probably would discount this record even further based on taste.  However, I figured I would take a chance on a record that looked crisp, professional, and outside of an elevator.  Unlike a lot of indie rock and electro stuff that I usually end up getting on a chance, this looked like it was even less risky since most bands that end with the words ‘jazz’ and ‘quartet’ usually consist of serious musicians with talent.  Well, that’s what I thought at least.  If the band name was ‘Screamo Jazz Quartet’ I might’ve put it back, I admit.

As a rather slightly educated fan of popular jazz (re: Miles, Coltrane, Ellington, etc) I wasn’t sure if this would sound how I liked my jazz.  That is to say, it needed to be interesting without too much chaos while being available as a background soundtrack if needed.  Perhaps that is what qualifies as boring for hardcore jazz enthusiasts, but I have to say that the Honolulu Jazz Quartet put out a very nice record in “Tenacity”.  The title song, as well as “Midlife”, sound exactly how I want my jazz with the smoothness of sound entwined with a real pep from the piano work of Dan Del negro and the saxophone of Tim Tsukiyama.  One can also derive from the compositions that these guys are truly experienced, which is certainly helped from the 25 year jazz veteran, bandleader and bassist John Kolivas.  After the epic “Midlife”, the quartet knows how to take it slow as well with ‘The Indians”, which is a nice cool down. “Wayne’s Bounce” is also a nice midtempo tune that most might not pay attention to amidst the more energetic tunes, but it signifies the diverse moods that these four guys can attain.

Kick back and give these guys a listen on their MySpace page!

This really is a record that one can have in their collection that would not only sound good at any function in one’s home, but it also would add a nice bit of diversity for those who spin too much of the usual stuff.  I’m not sure if these guys are known all that much off of their island of Hawaii, but for the price they’re worth looking into.  Since I was fully expecting some kind of outdated sound, as well as the fact that I was pleasantly surprised by a record that sounds excellent all the way through, I’ve gotta give these guys one of my Golden Dollars.