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Witches With Dicks – Manual

October 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Kiss of Death Records, 2006

So let me get this straight.  These guys named themselves after transvestite dabblers in black magic?  How many of those are there?  Well, needless to say they didn’t have to worry about the old question of “Wait, what if someone already named their band ‘Witches With Dicks?”  No chance guys, so congratulations.  Given the typeface on the album art and a song called “Your Job Does Not Rock Balls”, I had a feeling this record was going to be punk all over the place.  Ahem, I mean that it will more specifically be a punk rock record by transvestite dabblers in black magic.

Boston’s Witches With Dicks play loud, urgent punk that sticks with traditional speed and grittiness.  The four guys in the band all sing/shout at various times during the record, and even though there is nothing pretty about it, at least they sound honest.  On “How to Cook 40 Humans”, the band gets hopeful with the realization that despite a difficult time in one’s early days one can still come out on top if they just stick out the troubling times.  At least, that’s what I could get out of the lyrics, which for punk rock came across as surprisingly thoughtful.  The band’s unabashed dislike of certain types of men in blue on “One Whopper For the Copper”, a song that paints some of the more power-hungry policemen in a bad light.

I am still a fan of the title of “Your Job Does Not Rock Balls”, which of course is a quick denouncement of getting stuck in a cruddy job.  I am making a note of that phrase to get my point across succinctly if a weary friend needs it told to him/her straight.  Another example of Witches With Dicks trying to help out in two minutes or less, the band promotes cutting off deadbeat buddies in “Die Painfully”.  Why hang onto a relationship if there is no reciprocation?  Thanks Witches With Dicks.  My favorite line is “So take a walk outside tonight cause it’s nice/There’s fireflies.”  This is a sensitive punk rock band that wants to hold your hand and give you those knowing eyes!

And hey, any band that makes a reference to 8-bit Nintendo wins some review points automatically from me.  The tune “Skate or Die Two is Going to Be Awesome When It Comes Out” is so true.  Granted, the song doesn’t seem to have anything to do with “Skate or Die”, but it got me thinking that I should have another go at punching out that mohawked punk again in the 1-on-1 skateboard race.  That guy always seemed to sideswipe me near the back alley finish line.  And uh, let’s not get into my lack of virtual halfpipe skills, okay?

Give Witches With Dicks a few listens to a couple of punk tunes at their MySpace page.

This is not a bad record, nor is it a great record.  It’s a punk record.  Straightforward tunes by guys who knew how to turn up the volume and not drag it on too long.  If one likes that nineties-to-now punk sound then this is a fine enough grab for a dollar to hear a few solid, quick ones.  As for the band, according to a clip on PunkNews.org Witches With Dick are no longer together.  So, aside from a few singles and this “Manual” album, Witches With Dick made a short, somewhat minimal stay in the Boston punk scene.  Some may say that it’s no big deal since these guys sound like a lot of other bands, but for Boston fans, it’s a pity to lose a crew that were capable of blasting out some high energy.

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The Self Righteous Brothers – In Loving Memory Of…

July 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Black & Greene Records, 2006

The album cover looks like a couple of ghosts from Pac-Man got together and said, yo, forget this ‘getting eaten’ gig!  Let’s start a band!  The band name of Blinky and the Roadmasters was already taken, and Pac-Man Sucks probably reminded them too much of their old job.  So, due to their love of the Righteous Brothers’ song “Unchained Melody” from their favorite movie “Ghost”, they created a spinoff band moniker in tribute.  For a dollar I wanted to find out what the ghosts’ musical abilities amounted to after years of chasing and getting chased.  However, it is possible that the group is actually comprised of three Boston musicians.  But c’mon, that seems less likely.

Turns out these are a bunch of Boston guys mixing up between pop, rock, and some experimental tendencies.  The opener of “Floyd” is a sometimes abrasive, sometimes dated rock affair that introduces the listener to what the Self Righteous Brothers can sound like, even if it is not that interesting.  Despite their choice of introduction, it doesn’t take long for the group to slip into their primary sound of pop rock.  On “Alan Watts” the Self Righteous Brothers wanted to sway kindly when they sang about the late British philosopher, who was all about the Zen.  This carefree sound continues into the forlorn “Graduated Cylinder” as well as the catchy “When I Want To”, which is actually half moody instrumental and half nineties indie rock.

I was beginning to like the Self Righteous Brothers, mainly because the pop songs as well as the pensive instrumentals of “Didjeridon’t” and “48 to 6”, really kept the variety interesting.  Sometimes the group would venture a little too far from what they’re good at (like unfortunately funky “Electric Boogaloo”) but they are generally quite palatable after that “Floyd” number early on.  They do manage to slip a few zingers in periodically, as is evident near the end of the album on “Sidecar Jesus”.  As the record appears to finish on an upbeat pop note, the Self Righteous Brothers couldn’t resist finishing the cheery “Sidecar Jesus” with a confusing noise guitar segue as well as a sped up, louder version of the chorus.  (sigh)  Perhaps they didn’t want to end on a predictable note, though listeners may not appreciate the non-Zen interruption.

Listen to a few tunes by the Self Righteous Brothers (one of which is a Beatles cover) at their Myspace page.  Er, read about wedding arrangements in, uh, Japanese at their website?

Despite a few hiccups, this is a decent pop rock record that has a few good songs on it.  Most of the weirdness is contained on the album cover as the Self Righteous Brothers prefer to be easier listening than those bizarre ghost masks may infer.   With the limited amount of information on the internet about these guys (and not the Australians by the same moniker) it appears that this was the group’s one and only album.  Perhaps their confusion about what they really wanted to sound like did them in, or perhaps it was just time to move onto more focused projects.  Like running away from that juiced up, yellow ghostivore!  Gahhh!!

Gigolo Aunts – Minor Chords and Major Themes

June 29, 2012 Leave a comment

E Pluribus Unum Recordings, 1999

When you like a band once, you keep checking to see if you still like them.  I truly enjoyed “Flippin’ Out” so their follow up record was a must spin for me.  Even if I hadn’t heard of these guys before, the retro album cover with the purple trim is certainly grabbing.  However, showing pictures of contented dudes in a studio screams light music, so anyone else who was willing to dish out the dimes and nickels to hear what Gigolo Aunts were about probably left the hard stuff on the shelf and poured some lemonade as they popped this disc in the player.

The early part of this Boston pop group’s third record can easily turn off some of the more grounded listeners.  The overwhelming positivity of “C’mon C’mon” will give many people a toothache with its sugar impact.  The lyrics of “C’mon c’mon/can’t you feel something going on?” get repeated effusively and, aside from a few bits here and there, they are the only lyrics for the song.  What kind of a tune is that?  Then there’s “Everyone Can Fly” whose title made me gag just by reading it.  Who titles a song that sounds like it was lifted from Sesame Street?  It’s a much softer song in sharp contrast to “C’mon C’mon”, so I am not sure what the point was in getting everybody in a sky high mood only to douse them with light guitars and melancholy vocals.  So yes, the album starts off a bit awkwardly.

The tunes get back to more vibrant pop with “Half a Chance” and “Super Ultra Wicked Mega Love”, though the latter has a few power guitar riffs that heavily remind one of the early to mid-nineties, never mind the late nineties.  As the album quietly slides into “You’d Better Get Yourself Together”, Dave Gibb’s high vocals become very noticeable.  Five tunes in he’s gone from singing with exuberance, singing with balanced aggression, and finally to an absolute feeling of soothing gentleness.  It’s on “Together” that really makes Gigolo Aunts stand out as not just another power pop band.  Gibbs’ vocals help, but the sharply contrasting composition styles give an impression that Gigolo Aunts aren’t going to be predictable for thirteen tracks.

The best track, “The Big Lie”, could have been a big radio hit if it got out of Boston.  Well, and if boy bands and teenage pop princesses didn’t rule the airwaves at that time.  The tune has an urgency during its chorus, which turns out to be Gibbs’ profession that he’s not the right guy for whoever it is.  This is also a song that got stuck in my head for a few days, probably because it actually built up the adrenaline during that aforementioned chorus.  The band doesn’t let up for too long before “Rest Assured” bursts out a few tracks later.  It’s almost as if the band knew their listeners might be nodding off at this point to include two really strong power pop tracks so close together.  The reason is quickly apparent, however, when the last few songs resemble a steep decline into the nice soft pillow that is “Residue”.

Listen to a few tracks by Gigolo Aunts on their MySpace page if you need a power pop shot in the arm.

My body got the shakes from listening to this record, mainly because its energy level got jerked around so much.  I went from snapping the fingers, looking forlornly at a sad puppy picture, swiveling rabidly in my swivel chair, and then passing out.  These songs are everywhere, which can be very frustrating if one wants dwell on a particular side of Gigolo Aunts music.  I personally liked the group when they were energized, but I felt that they sunk too much into the lightweight stuff so that any sort of momentum was quickly eradicated.

Gigolo Aunts did manage to put out one more record in 2002, but the pop band called it quits after a decade of power popping.  It is too bad that their sound is no longer with us, but perhaps they went the way of the Gin Blossoms when they realized everyone (sadly) was listening to nu metal or throaty pop songs.  To think that if they had only stuck around for eight more years they could have caught on the Train bandwagon and sugared us over with crappy songs.  Except they wouldn’t be crappy, for despite my misgivings with the numerous soft tunes I still think that Gigolo Aunts are a great band.  Definitely check them out on 1994’s “Flippin’ Out” or even this album.

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.

Nurse & Soldier – Marginalia

September 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Jagjaguwar Records, 2007

There are album covers that grab you right away, and there are album covers that don’t do much of anything.  I felt that despite the utterly plain design of what looks like embroidery and a few letters of interest, this group might be worth a light purchase.  Maybe it was due to the record label, Jagjaguwar, which also released some of the new Dinosaur Jr records.  I’m a big fan of them, though I didn’t know anything of what Jagjaguwar might also have on their roster of releases.

The Boston-based Nurse & Soldier consists Bobby Matador (Oneida) and Erica Fletcher.  Even with just the two of them, the songs sound very full due to layers of guitars and electronic sounds.  This helps make a song noisier when they wish it (“Capture the Flag”) or quite serene (“Satellightning”).  Although both members tend to sing solo more often than not, when they combine their vocals it adds yet another pleasing instrument to their arsenal.

One of my favorite tracks occurs early on in “In the Dark”.  Honestly, I feel that the group sounds like a mix of the poppier side of Brian Eno and earlier Magnetic Fields on the track.  The latter band sound is likely due to Fletcher’s vocals, which sound simultaneously uninterested yet emotional if one listens closely enough. The scratchy, fuzzy guitar meddling in the background nicely adds a little bit of urgency to the song as well, even though its tempo gives the impression of pensiveness.

“Back In Yr Corner” sounds like it should’ve been the college radio anthem of 2007.  It has the twee sound that also doubles as a comforting pop embrace with the constant presence of a warm keyboard sound.  That twee sound only shows up after a somewhat moody tempo begins the song, so the combination of twee and moody really seems to work here.  Along with Fletcher holding some higher notes and the duo dishing out a few “ohh ooh ohh ooh oh-oh”s, it is a rather infectious song.

As for other tunes I like, “North of Baltimore” gives off the impression of being a Galaxie 500 song that didn’t make the cut due to not being sparse enough.  It’s a great song with Fletcher’s lilting vocals chiming in nicely amidst the engaging guitar work.  The band isn’t all quiet and nice, as “Lies & Alterations” picks up into more of a light pop rock sound that reminds me a little bit of those indie nineties bands.  “Brought Up Too Soon” is as fast as Nurse & Soldier get with its lone fast track.  Even when momentarily quicker in pace, Nurse & Soldier still come across as enjoyably pop.

Though there hasn’t been much regarding updates, one can still try and catch up with what Nurse & Soldier are up to on their website.  They also have a few songs to listen to on MySpace.

So yeah, I’m definitely glad I took a chance on the plain album!  As for Nurse & Soldier, the duo hasn’t released anything since this record and it sounds like they’re quite busy raising their child.  I imagine, though, that as the little one ages this group is far from done.  This is what I hope, for I think this sound could really win over quite a few indie music fans.

Seks Bomba – Operation B.O.M.B.A.

July 27, 2011 2 comments

Ya Ya Records, 1999

I’m an absolute sucker for James Bond films. If they’re on the tube and I’ve got some time to kill (or not), I will watch whatever daring episode Bond finds himself in no matter what cheeky humor is going on amidst the gunfire. I know that after Sean Connery left the series there was this big hullabaloo over the merits of Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and some guy named George Lazenby. I thought Pierce Brosnan was okay, even if the movies were much too sheen. Thankfully Daniel Craig rekindled some of the grittiness aspect of the films and, thus, my interest. Therefore, any record that has this fetching of a cover will automatically get some money thrown at it on my behalf. Plus, and I wasn’t sure if it was for real, but the record hints at being a soundtrack for a film. I’m not so sure if I’ve heard of a movie entitled “Operation B.O.M.B.A.” (even if I wish there was), but who cares?! I figured this was going to be good.

Seks Bomba were a band out of Boston, surprise, that specialized in surf and lounge music. Boston is certainly more known for its garage rock and pop, so it’s nice to see that there was a little variety in the scene. “Operation B.O.M.B.A.” does showcase the talents of the band along the lines of a soundtrack, even if it would be hard to gather any sort of continuous plot line from the song titles. Regardless, the whole album an invigoratingly entertaining spree of music.

One could say that Seks Bomba opted to show three sides of themselves. The first, most obvious side is their surf rock affection. “Jet City” opens the album alternates between a frenzied cacophony of organ and drums and a cool, pensive surf style. “Klown Car” sounds like “Jet City” ignited, where it doesn’t opt to cool off at any point during its nearly two minute tenure.  The last track on the record, the double agent of “Seks Bomba Theme, pt. 1-2”, alters between a peaceful accordion introduction and a rousing surf track that befits the band well as its theme.  If you’re looking for some good modern surf music Seks Bomba know how to do it right.

There is also a lot of swing going on throughout the record, including a bouncy “The Right Track” sung by the very crisp, strong vocals of Chris Cote. He gives off a sound that one could easily mistake as being from those days of fedoras and speakeasies, or at least, the type we have seen in the movies anyway. “Bright Lights and You, Girl” is even better with its tone variation between tense emotion and splashy love song. Cote sounds like a guy that could be depressed late night on the strip or skipping through the slot machines as he passionately finishes up the song with one last round of the chorus.

While Seks Bomba has a lot of dazzle with its surf and swing songs, it is their lounge act that transitions each number quite smoothly. “Theme from ‘Mondo Edgar'” and “Rum Holiday” are typical lounge instrumentals, where the latter makes one feel that they’re vacationing on a secluded beach somewhere with drink service.  Seks Bomba’s chippy cover of Burt Bacharach’s “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” has all the cute aspects of the original, except this time Dionne Warwick’s vocals are replaced with what sounds like a distorted guitar.  Those classic “woah woah woahs” and “bah bah bahs” are all there, though.

But oh man, the BEST track on the record is easily the surf force that is “Main Title & Love Theme From ‘Satan’s Shriners'”. It is an absolute tear through a rapid clashing of drums, organ and guitar.  After about a minute and a half it comes to an abrupt halt with some eastern-sounding vocals, only to conclude in a blitz.  Although the following song of “Last Call” (a live, raspy and rambling track) could be deemed as the only dud on the record, the energy buzz from “Shriners” carries the listener on for a few tunes until the end of the record.

Check out everything you need to know and hear on Seks Bomba’s comprehensive website!

Unfortunately, if you had noticed the past tense from earlier, Seks Bomba no longer exists. After releasing three records, playing 250 or so shows, and hanging up the instruments after a show in 2005, Seks Bomba are now part of the history of the Boston Scene. Even though they played a lot of music that was mostly popular in the sixties and seventies, Seks Bomba showed with their longevity that there’s still an audience for such genres.  Since I haven’t heard this kind of music since the last time I saw one of those James Bond films, I have to give this record one of my golden dollars due to the good vibe I got.

Halfcocked – The Last Star

November 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Megatronic Records, 2001

Oh the overload.  Unlike other records covers where you can find a moment of blank space to take a visual break if you need it, Halfcocked believes in no breaks.  You WILL experience this band or else, dammit!  This cover is full of rock out looks, action guitar shots, and a shot of someone who might be a crazy purple-haired princess.  The best shot is in the lower right, where the singer gives you a look that either is trying to entice you or frighten you.  Of course, crazy purple-haired princess can’t be bothered and is staring at a peculiar light.  It’s clear from the cover that the band wants to be in your face, so for a quarter (yeah that’s right) I got ready to experience this band or else … dammit.

This is actually the third record from the Boston-based Halfcocked, which surprised me.  Usually this kind of image flaunting is a debut sort of thing to do, but I guess the group wanted its major label debut to stand out amongst all the other flamboyant and artsy covers of its time.  Honestly, they could’ve squashed most of the competition by simply using the inside cover that showed two of the three female band members with their exposed midriffs.  Well hello!  I should’ve been in marketing.

Like the album’s cover, every song has an implied edge to it.  All songs have some sort of guitar solo and none of them ever come off limp and lacking energy.  “I Lied” starts off the album with a pretty good, heavily riffed tune about a backhanded break up.  It is four minutes long and, truthfully, it does get a little tiresome towards the end when the band gets temporarily quiet (oooh).  However, it encapsulates the forceful blow that Halfcocked wish to deliver for the rest of the album.  Since the momentum doesn’t stop for an even quicker “Always” or a flaming “Drive Away”, it is quickly apparent that Halfcocked never plan on taking a break.

As with any rock ‘n roll album that wants to deliver a savage pop in every track, there is the risk of sounding redundant.  If one doesn’t stop to pick apart the instrumental choices made by the band, “Drive Away”, “All By Myself” and “Held Under” could all sound like a big mush of rapid drumming and heavy riffs.  The album does get a little better and more varied later on (see “Thanks for the Ride”) but it is this early period that can make one easily write off the group.  That said, if all one is interested in is straight up attitude rock then hey, one may not care less for all the similarities throughout the record.

The best aspect of Halfcocked, aside from some of the leads that Johnny Rock blares throughout most of the songs, is Sarah “Starr” Reitkopp’s vocals.  I was ready to pile on the laughter before listening to this disc given the ultra-serious looks Starr has emblazoned in every photo included with the album.  However, her voice really carries the sweeping “Over”, which doubles up her voice to give the track a little more power.  Given that most tracks make every effort to get in your face, the slightly slower “Sell Out” showcases how well she can sound in a softer tone.  Say what one will about some of the repetitive compositions of these tracks, but one can’t fault Reitkopp’s vocals too much.

Unfortunately, since the group disbanded soon after this album released there isn’t much to find on the web regarding their music. They do still have a MySpace page up so you can hear a few tunes from this record.

Looking around on Amazon I did notice that this record was appreciated by a few listeners, so it was likely a let down for some that the group called it quits.  Despite the fact that the group never managed to make it big after moving to Los Angeles it is good to know that at least they gave super stardom a shot.  I’m just glad I don’t have to move out to L.A. to become a superstar music blogger, because I am already rolling in the fame.