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Quintaine Americana – Needles

March 30, 2012 Leave a comment

CherryDisc Record Company, 1996

I believe I once saw these guys opening for the Melvins with a buddy of mine.  My friend said that he had really wanted to see Quintaine Americana because he heard they were heavy.  It was a show that gave us a mixed reaction (okay, not heavy enough I guess) but the power was certainly there.  It was also there when I picked up this disc and saw the dog corpse on the cover.  Ah man, that’s not what I really needed to see.  I tried to envision the live show when I put this disc on the counter to buy and not the band’s strange interest in deceased family pets.

Quintaine Americana is a Boston area band that gives off a progressive hard rock sound that was a familiar sound in the nineties if you went looking for it.  “Needles” is their debut album that arrived the same year as Tool’s “Aenima”, whose sound is an obvious influence.  Knowing what the band sounded like before I spun the disc I was a little worried the record would get sludgy and monotonous by the third track, but it turns out the album gets better as the tracks progress.

“Aunt Ruth” has a real meaty, deep bass line that permeates throughout the song that I really like having there to keep the mood.  Granted, bassist Marc Schleicher doesn’t have much else to do during the song as he keeps playing it for nearly five minutes … so maybe like Ringo Starr he gets a bit bored playing the same thing.  Rob Dixon’s vocals remind me of Steve Albini’s in Big Black such that they have a menacingly flat tone that you feel can erupt at any moment.  It never really gets there in this song, as the guitar spends most of the time in the forefront.

Dixon’s vocals definitely prove to be the weakest element as the album thunders along , though perhaps I’m the only one who listens to heavy rock and bothers with vocal criticism.  His voice does work on a few tracks, however.  “Retarded Whore” gets the eye-rubbing song title award for the record, though I have to say it builds up the anxiety pretty well with the slow guitar chugging building into a noisy chorus.  The song stands out a little bit from the rest, though that is because the rest all have that chugging bass, squealing guitar, and those grating vocals.  One my more favorite songs is the quick and simple “JT, Fire at the Trailer Park”.  Something about its urgency and steady riff throughout probably wins me over, but maybe it’s also because I never had time to get sick of it given its two minutes of length.  Honestly, if you can take a page out of Wire’s mantra of getting out before getting boring, then take it.

“The Rifleman” begins with a guitar riff that one might hear when wandering the desert; it has a hopeless yet sharp effect as it repeats early on.  The heavy chorus introduces itself quickly and through the collision of guitar and bass Dixon’s despairing vocals blend in very well.  It’s one of the stronger tracks on the record, succeeding in not getting too routine in its length.  Unfortunately, some songs are not engaging whatsoever.  “I’m Sorry” sounds like another stark tune given the sparse guitar strums early on as well as the monologue that seems to refer to a father-son rift.  A fine lyric:  “The only thing I hate more than myself is people who actually like me.”  Yeesh.  After “The Rifleman” it is not only a downer in spirit but a downer in expectations.  I guess the band chose this moment to mix things up, but it didn’t work out well.  The rest of the record sounds a lot like the early part, so despite this dud of a song at least the band finished up well.

A few songs of Quintaine Americana’s heavy output can be heard on MySpace if you’re interested.

This isn’t a record that I would likely return to often since other groups have done this better and, frankly, Dixon’s vocals aren’t all that impressive here.  Quintaine Americana did go on to make a couple more records within a decade’s worth of time before calling it quits.  Given that Boston tends to produce a lot of garage rock bands that pack the bars, Quintaine Americana filled a niche that was sorely needed in the area.  Since their last record came out eight years after this one, it would be worth the time to spin it just to see how these guys ended up.

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The Stomachmouths – Born Losers

March 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Subliminal Sounds, 2003

I suppose my first question was why these guys named themselves after two body parts strung together.  It’s almost like the band had a deadline to submit their band name to the art director and, lacking any ideas, asked the nearest two year old kid to make something up.  They probably had to throw out initial suggestions such as “Mmmmmjuice!” and “What’s A Band?” before deciding on the strange moniker concoction.  Apparently they had no problem with image, but my second question is why the ruse about the art cover?  C’mon guys, I know you’re not from the 1890s.  Honus Wagner did not listen to your music either, so it is clear that you are either from the sixties or trying to be from the sixties with those haircuts.  Since sixties bands tended to name themselves after objects you might see in hallucinations (and not nightmares … stomachmouths indeed!), I figured I had a retro band here.  Those kind of groups are always worth a dollar to me.

So indeed, the creases and sepia-toned album cover matches with what the Stomachmouths deliver in music.  They are absolutely a retro garage rock band from that sixties period, even if they’re from Sweden.  I imagine when they fuzzed out their guitars and let the quivering keyboard quiver in the studio, those mop top haircuts had to swaying all over the place.  There were also probably a lot of empty bottles of Pripps Bla and Norrlands Guld beer lying around the studio as well heh heh.  What?  Impressed that I know my Swedish beer?  … okay, I looked them up.

The opener of “Don’t Put Me Down” sends the listener careening through a haze of guitars, constant rapping of drums, and the sneering vocals of Kery Stefan.  It oozes that old garage rock sound, which is pretty much the norm throughout the rest of the disc.  As one might expect from the psychedelic sixties (even though these guys were from the eighties … and Sweden …) there’ the slower grooves of “Dr. Syn” as well as the screamers of “Cry”.   They’ve also got an instrumental song like “Eegah!” which is a cross between a rock ‘n roll barnstormer and a surf track.  I enjoyed hearing the keyboardist trying to keep up with all that bash and reverb.  No matter what act these guys were trying to emulate at the time, the record is non-stop momentum.

Unfortunately, a lot of the music seems potted up much too high, as if it’s trying to hard for volume that it sort of irritates the ears a bit.  I noticed this halfway through the disc during “You’d Better Find Out”, probably due to the overabundance of guitar and Kery’s singing.  “Hold Me Now” has the keyboardist holding one note throughout most of the song and it is always present in the foreground.  Hey, I’m all for loud music, but something about the production seems piercing and muddled.  At least the energy still comes across, but a little breathing space isn’t bad to have once in awhile.

Oddly enough, the last thing I thought I’d hear is a pretty dead on impression of Cartman (from “South Park”) on “Something Weird”.  I know that Stefan was probably trying to sound bizarre given the song title, but he probably didn’t know that he could have been the inspiration for a humorously politically incorrect cartoon.  Despite the resemblance, I’m glad this is a one and done approach … something about going nasal on a rock song doesn’t really do anything for me.  Thankfully typical rock songs like “Speed Freak”, “Heart of Stone” and “Keep On Looking” keep this record afloat with great grooves.

You can certainly hear a few tunes from these guys on their MySpace page, but I like the live Youtube video from a Stomachmouths show.

I like the disc enough and I think I would have really enjoyed seeing the Stomachmouths play live somewhere, but the music has obviously been done before (aka the sixties) and there aren’t too many standout tracks that I might particularly return to.  They had to be well-loved in Sweden though, or at least that is what the extensive liner notes give the impression of.  The Stomachmouths are, of course, no longer around but this compilation ultimately gives as good enough of an impression as one will need if they want to know what they missed.