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Love Is All – Nine Times That Same Song

February 24, 2010 Leave a comment

What’s Your Rupture? Records, 2006

The note of “Sleeve By Josephine” means nothing to most, and yet this was one of the more stand out record designs that I’ve ever seen.  I liked the circular, jammed black and white newspaper look that gives off a combative sense of order and chaos.  The printed words that you can barely see in the album art repeat the name of the record over and over as if Jack Torrance was shedding his dull boy image and getting into indie rock.  The back of the record has a lot of pink dots, block lettering and faded type printing, so I felt that no matter what this sounded like it was probably going to have at least a little fun to it.

It turns out that Love is All is yet another rock band from Sweden that, as has been mentioned before via the Flaming Sideburns as well as other groups, continues to impress me as a country that legitimately deserves attention for its music.  Granted, unlike those other rock bands Love Is All pours on the dance rock element that is more popular these days.  Every song tends to have a rapid tapping of cymbals and break neck speed that could be considered punk if it wasn’t all sung by a high-pitched female.  Josephine Olausson, already established as the aforementioned artistic talent, sings urgently in nearly every song with a slight echo that sounds like she might be singing somewhere in a subway station.  Do they have subways in Sweden?  Regardless, the opening tune of “Talk Talk Talk Talk” is showcases the fervent pace and singing that the band continues for most of the record.  Nicholaus Sparding pitches in with a bunch of “one more time”s but it is all one big dash to the end of nearly three minutes of tune.

The band gets a little softer (and conceivably more available for marketing ad jingles) with “Turn the Radio Off” which incorporates some cutesy keyboard and sweeping saxophone.  Not having heard some of their more recent stuff, I might even say that this might be where the band could be heading if they got tired of the usual high exertion they spin into on songs like “Busy Doing Nothing” and “Spinning & Scratching”.  The band definitely hooks into a more typical indie move with a song like “Make Out Fall Out Make Up,” which I knew was catchy for a good reason and but did not make me necessarily like it.  You know those modern songs that start slow and build up anticipation for a big chorus, and then what do you know, the big chorus happens?  Well, that is exactly what this song does.  It pulls that stunt about four times under three minutes, so even though it is a short song it feels very long and a bit tired after awhile.  I threw it into the small listening station for you hipsters out there…

I like this record as it has enough edge and bombast to make the listener think these guys are going to do something great after their debut. Spinning a few of their newer tracks shows that they have definitely held onto the dance element, gotten a little more touchy feely, and shed much of the mayhem they established on this record. I figured that would happen, but I suppose that just means they’re growing right?  Ach.  Love Is All still has a lot of excitement about them starting with this record, so go check them out for some music that has a little less abandon than what you might get usually from the States.

Peter Gammons – Never Slow Down, Never Grow Old

February 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Rounder Records, 2006

Back in 2005 when this record was being made, Peter Gammons was likely smarting like the rest of us Red Sox fans from the fact that the team only went out and got Chad Bradford and Alex Cora at the trade deadline.  What a bit of a downer that was, and it would be a whole 2 years until the Red Sox won another World Series.  What a buncha … oh yeeeeah.  Gammons must have been so relaxed towards the team’s future that he went and recorded a kind of blues rock album with a bunch of relatively famous people.  It seems that the man behind the TV desk with the heavy makeup and the natural mysticism that surrounds a ‘man in the know’ had another talent he wanted to get out there to the public.  Since I loved this book he wrote as well as the fact that a pre-All Star Kevin Youkilis sings on the record, this was a no brainer to pick up, check out, and hope for the best.

As action-packed as that album art looks, one had to feel that this record was going to be a moderate rocker for the older crowd at best.  Gammons was not going to cuss at me, plink away at his mandolin, or peel my face off with scorching metal riffs.  He does, however, mostly spend time doing enjoyable renditions of songs he likes without getting too off track with each song’s original sound.  Warren Zevon’s “Model Citizen” begins the record with a steadily paced bar rock number that allows the listener to get used to the idea that Peter Gammons also sings (?!).  The only original number, and arguably the best song on the record, follows by the name “She Fell From Heaven”.  It has an upbeat Springsteen element to it with some mumbling word play, as well as a rib poking chorus line of “She fell from heaven/and landed on her face”.

I was pleasantly surprised by a few tunes on this record, for I didn’t think I’d fall into step with the sound nor did I think I would enjoy hearing Gammons sing like he came right off the farm most of the time.  I found that his version of “Cinderella Superstar” with the lovely Juliana Hatfield on backup vocals, was excellently low key.  The cover of the Clash’s “Death or Glory” seemed quite harried, yet I appreciated the fact that Gammons gave it a good go with Theo Epstein on electric guitar.  By the way, this explains my earlier rant about the 2005 Sox because Epstein might have spent too much time perfecting his power chords and not enough time thinking about getting another bat.  I digress.  The stompin’ “Promised Land” with George Thorogood and a bunch of Red Sox players as (cough) backup vocalists had a lot of great energy to it, while “Bad Teeth” was more of an amusing number that kept the good feelings going as the album headed off into a few fifties-sounding rock numbers.

I gotta call this a Bargain because I think this collection of Gammons’ Favorite Hits turned out as a pleasant surprise from beginning to end.  Unfortunately just before the release of this record Gammons suffered a brain aneurysm that he has thankfully been recovering well from.  With his return to television, as well as his recent move to the MLB Network, one has to wonder if Gammons is also feeling up to another record.  I suppose this will depend on if he wants to do another record like this one to benefit the Foundation to Be Named Later charity or if David “Big Papi” Ortiz is available for a duet.

Dollar Bin Tragedies (or When I Cry in Public): Scratched Discs Part 2

February 19, 2010 1 comment

I was going to write a feature article regarding something else as I’m apt to do sometimes for Fridays, but my recent quick trip to New York City made me want to elaborate a little more on scratched discs. In part 1 of this, er, series, I wrote about the unfortunate happenstance of finding a CD that is scratched up after the excitement has built up within you … only to come crashing down in a sorrowful plummet of realization.  However, that only covered half of the issue at hand.

Those CDs I discussed earlier were found at charitable locations of ‘take all’ mentality, like the Salvation Army.  Places such as this don’t care what condition the discs are in or even if the discs are original copies.  Yeah, I’ve seen some Salvation Army stores try to offer those delectable CD-R copies for sale.  What I’m trying to say is that the Salvation Army is not checking what the discs look like and are ignorant of the fact that you may or may not get hosed if you don’t bother to look at the contents of the CD you’re buying.

Music stores, on the other hand, have no excuse.  If they’re buying used CDs individually or in bulk from a person they know exactly what they are getting because it is in their best interest.  There is no way they’re going to spend money on picking up garbage whether it is mint or trashed to bits.  If it doesn’t sell, it doesn’t get acquired.  It is with a similar thought that music buyers will go into a store and expect the quality of product to be at a listenable level given the expected sticker price.  Well, that ain’t always the case.

Read more…

Nine Black Alps – Everything Is

February 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Interscope Records, 2005

If there is a band that is not from an earlier decade and yet seems to find itself in every dollar bin, it’s Nine Black Alps. I’ll get into why in a bit, but the group’s debut record has found that it is quite likely the first, non-mainstream indie rock acts that has found itself tossed about into bins of neglect everywhere. I’m surprised it has not been picked up more given the fact that cover art screams indie, artsy, and probably emotional. That pastels look, as well as a visage of something that seems to resemble a bunny rabbit smoking a beat up cigarette, should be automatic buying material. So what did I do? Yeah, you guessed it. I’ve gotten more predictable in these reviews, eh?

England’s Nine Black Alps are a pulverizing young rock band that slaps you across the face immediately with the bludgeoning opener “Get Your Guns”. Indeed, the tune sounds like some kind of call to arms for rockers due to the fact that the sheer volume … “Cosmopolitan” does not let up whatsoever with the aggressive vocals of Sam Forrest tearing into another rousing number that, if one can catch any of the flurry of lyrics, sounds like a puzzling relationship situation.  “Unsatisfied” is also pretty heavy, and yet it is one of the first songs that isn’t in your face with sound.  Forrest actually sings more casually as he deals out his frustration regarding a difficult acquaintance.  His somewhat sneering delivery reminds me a bit of Oasis’ Liam Gallagher, even if Gallagher tends to sound as if he’s sneering in all of his songs.  Either way, the song sounds great with the band’s back and forth between hard and soft riffs.

Of course, every hard rock band inserts a breather amidst a slew of napalm, and that tune comes in the form of “Behind Your Eyes”.  If one didn’t know that these guys spent more time knocking your brain around, one could think that the pretty guitar work and softened vocals could be from a typical indie rock band.  However, as if to respond to anyone thinking that maybe these guys should stick to the light stuff, the group immediately careens into another harsh rocker in “Ironside” so people don’t get too comfortable.  The rest of the album is pretty much the same in the sense that it’s all adrenaline and spit.

If you’re interested in hearing Nine Black Alps yourself, check out their website or their MySpace page.

Perhaps the record got too monotonous.  Perhaps consistent rock n roll is no longer in demand.  Okay, it better not be that.  The only other reason I could think of that Nine Black Alps’ debut record is in quite a few dollar bins is that they sent out too much product to be reviewed before release.  That, or they sold their debut for an exceptionally cheap price so that people didn’t feel too badly in letting it go.  Whatever the reason is, this record should be in more shelves of rock enthusiasts.  The fact that the band is still putting out records should give folks ample opportunity to pick up a copy of this record before checking the band out live somewhere.  If you ask me I think these guys should be bigger than they are, so if you are going to believe the somewhat baseless claims of one cheap music blog writer this year, well, consider believing me!

Velocity Girl – Simpatico

February 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Sub Pop Records, 1994

Heading back into the nineties and a slight recollection of a favorite group that my fellow radio DJs were into around that time, I brightened up from a sense of vague recollection when I found this disc in a dollar bin nearby.  It helped my interest by the sheer party atmosphere that the album cover conveyed, and though I didn’ t really recall what the group sounded like, I figured the combination of cover art blast as well as a rather cutesy band name meant this was going to be some standard pop fare.  Plus, look at the way “!Simpatico!” is written; girly cursive is a dead-on sign that this isn’t going to hurt the ears whatsoever.  Finally, as if this wasn’t already a purchase in waiting, “simpatico” is translated to “nice” in Spanish.  Yeah, this detective got allll the clues.

Sub Pop records were quite busy at the time that this record was released with all that grunge stuff, yet the label still managed to dabble with other elements of music to diversify their sound a bit.  The label, as well as Velocity Girl, hoped that the second release from the group would be just as successful as other label mates’ popularity.  The group wastes no time in popping you out with an excellent opener of “Sorry Again” that showcases a sound that is quite indicative of the nineties.  The song has got the layered, fuzzy guitars as well as the blended group vocals that highlights Sarah Shannon’s range from soft to sharp.  It’s followed by an equally bouncy “There’s Only One Thing Left to Say” which, admittedly, I like a little better due to its casual build up to the chorus.

Truthfully, every song has its own set of predictable yet effective pop guitar riffs and none of them tend to stick around too long to annoy you.  Okay, well, there is the nearly five minute epic of “Rubble” that, unlike the first two songs on the record, has a more serious tone to it as well as a slower pace.  This doesn’t turn out to be too bad in the end, but if a band is trying to thrive on quick pop songs of cheery disposition, it probably would have been best to lop off a couple minutes of this one.  Thankfully the band makes up for this lodestone of a tune by smashing out a few speedy, bright ones at the end of the record.  “Medio Core” reminds me a little of the lower tone of “There’s Only One…”, and the switch of lead vocals to Archie Moore on “What You Left Behind” sounds great for a change of pace.  As the suddenly soft, melancholic “Wake Up, I’m Leaving” trails off the end of the record, one has to feel that Velocity Girl had to feel pretty good about their sophomore pop effort.

Check out some Velocity Girl at Last.fm or, hey, this video:

Velocity Girl is not known by many and yet they put out a very good pop rock record during a time when people tended to focus on musical aggression or vice.  Due to some band member shuffling, the band only managed to put out another record in 1996 before ending their all too brief tenure as a band.  It’s a pity, for other bands that had a similar interest in audience (Gin Blossoms, Cracker) had a lot more publicity that Velocity Girl could have reaped as well.  If there weren’t such a product of the times, it would be refreshing to have Velocity Girl return in a day and age when pop music tends to be overproduced or over-hyped.  Ah well … would you hate me if I began living in the past?

Categories: TheRest Tags: , ,

Whoa, where’d that week go?!

February 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Oops!  Well what can I say, some things get away from me.  Let’s just say it’s been a busy week and I haven’t had a chance to really write up some reviews that would inspire you to spend your weekend thrift shopping for music.  This week that shall be remedied!  Thanks for reading…

Categories: Author blabber

Powersolo – Egg

February 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Crunchy Frog Records, 2008

If I’m not loving rock n roll, I’m loving breakfast.  So hey, if you’re going to throw an egg on the cover of your record I’ll consider hitting up a diner nearby and read the liner notes with a side of pancakes, sausage, and home fries.  I’m not sure what possessed Powersolo to feature the egg prominently in all the photos for the record, but it certainly stands out without too much effort.  If only the music was equally worth the appetite.

The Danish trio Powersolo are certainly a rock band but with a quirky twist.  This approach could be a bit of a risk around here, for a) Americans like their rock and b) Americans may not like quirk with their rock.  Maybe it’s a Danish thing, for I had trouble thinking of too many tongue-in-cheek bands that have had a prominent stay in our musical consciences.  The only one I could think of was the Presidents of the United States, and they’re not from around here either.  Regardless of what these guys find funny, their musicianship is quite enjoyable if you take out the words.  “Messerschmidt” is an excellent, mostly instrumental dragster-like rocker that features some crafty organ work by a guy named Palle Hjort.  The energizing background of “Dans Les Rues De Paris” reminds one of some kind of updated 60s dance track with people doing the mashed potato with pointed enthusiasm.  However, the song is in french and translates to “In the Streets of Paris”, so for all I know they’re jamming wildly about berets.

Unfortunately, the quirkiness aspect of the group just frustrated me.  The vocalist, Kim Kix, varies between sounding like Moby and fiddling with his tone so as to be rather obnoxious at times.  In “Dumb Dumb Dumb” it sounds as if he’s trying his best Bee Gees impression, despite the band playing a fine, sinister-sounding composition that could have been written by Tomoyasu Hotei.  So, in a sense, Kix ruins it.  Then there’s the similarly hard western-sounding rocker of “Plasma Crystal Dope” that has Kix sounding like a nu metal guy raving about smoking that crystal dope.  Trust me, it sounds awful. I will admit that the pensive sound of “Gentle on the Nards” is complemented greatly by an agonized ranting towards the end, which has the singer throwing himself at the listener’s feet and desperately wanting not to die.  It is an interesting way for a record to go out, but it was only one of a few tracks that made me think these guys were remotely amusing.  The band clearly feels that their songs with a wink are hilarious, but I felt that the record would have sounded better if it was all instrumentals and they left their humor in Denmark.

I must say that I don’t musically know much from the Dutch … but there’s gotta be other Danish rock bands out there that don’t try to be clever, right?  Know of any?  I’d like to give the country another chance, because these guys didn’t do it for me despite the delicious cover art.  Powersolo has been releasing records at a pretty good rate and, if longevity is to be considered credible, the group must be somewhat popular in their home country.  I’m sure if they ever tour around here they’re probably a laugh to watch in person, but from what I’ve heard from this record, they’re mostly causing groans.

Categories: Bust Tags: , , ,