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Moving Units – Dangerous Dreams

February 14, 2012 Leave a comment

Palm Pictures, 2004

No, I do not love the eighties art.  Well, that’s what it looks like to me.  If I had to title it I would call the piece “Smurfette Gives the Erotic Demon a Slap”.  Obviously, it may not be the album art that truly makes one want to know what band is behind it, but the name of the band reminded me that I had wanted to check out Moving Units at some point.  You know how it is; you may not know why certain band names stick in your mind, but you still feel obligated to at least say you tried to give them a shot.  Plus, I would hate to find myself in that awkward situation eight years later when an old friend says “Hey, did you ever check out Moving Units like I emphatically recommended eight years ago?”  Yeah, definitely don’t want to break out the umm-ahh-errrs.  I’m preparing myself for all situations, you see.

Before I get into the value of “Emancipation”, the first song off the album, I have to admit that at certain points throughout the record vocalist Johan Boegli gets on the nerves.  When he’s simply singing at his even tone, then his voice can concurrently convey cool (alliteration points!) attitude and mysteriousness.  However, when he enters the upper registers it sounds like he is either getting kicked in the balls or is whining that his toy was taken away.  I know he wishes to emit spontaneous energy once in awhile, but it’s too much of too much.  As great as a band may sound, if the vocalist is deemed taxing by a listener then it doesn’t even matter if the band exists.

Thankfully, Boegli doesn’t get carried away too often and tends to deliver songs in a more subdued yet pained way. “Between Us and Them” proves to be one of the better tracks on the record due to its powerfully catchy bass hook and, of course, the upbeat danceworthy tempo.  I also like the moodiness of the keyboards in “Anyone”, which provides a beat that people can shuffle emotionally to.  Yeah, I suppose the track won’t trigger an indie party to start hopping, but it definitely stands out amongst all the maxed out burst occurring around it.  Even the last track, which usually has a low chance of succeeding of being anything worthwhile, is actually pretty good.  “Turn Away” mainly features a simple guitar riff and Boegli’s slowly building presence.  After a whole lot of drum thumpin’ and head noddin’, the final song is a very good (and much needed) reprieve.

Unfortunately, not all of the songs are nearly as catchy as “Between Us and Them” nor as thoughtful as “Turn Away”.  “Going For Adds” is a radio-themed tune that, well, may have played itself off the radio with its jilting guitar and the ultra repetitive “everybody’s on the radio” line.  “Birds of Prey” sounds excellent 80% of the way through, but then Boegli sounds like he’s getting his teeth pulled during the final hurrah by screeching out a few painful “aaaaaaaaah!”s.  Too bad about that one.  Most of the other tracks have their moments, but a lot of it sounds the same.  Quick cymbals, rapid guitar/bass, wailing from Boegli … on repeat.

Have a listen to Moving Units at their website or MySpace page.  My favorite track on the record, “Between Us and Them”, has its own fan-made video on Youtube for a more visual experience!  Check out those sideburns…

Unfortunately, though Moving Units and Bloc Party used similar methods to drive up the rush, I feel that Moving Units falls short of making a true impact on this effort.  As mentioned before, I think it’s mainly due to not having too many standout tracks and instead finding a common ground amongst all of the tracks.  As in, everything’s so-so and digestible but not great enough to make everyone demand more.  I still think it’s a pretty solid album that has some good songs, but I can understand why people weren’t talking about Moving Units a whole lot back in 2004.  These guys were victims of a trend that other bands were doing better.

Moving Units is still around making music as evidenced by their latest EP “Tension War”.  They still have a little of that dance rock element, but the music and vocals sound so much better.  In fact, “Until She Says” is a great tune that features a toned down Boegli along with what sounds like electronic piano.  Even though Moving Units may not have had the best record out in 2004, I think they’re certainly worth a look nowadays.

The Sounds – Living in America

February 18, 2011 Leave a comment

New Line Records, 2005

Do you remember those Geico commercials with the Neanderthals getting all angry about the hint that they aren’t very intelligent?  I thought the early ones were amusing, especially the one where two of them pull up in motorcycles and are approaching ladies in bright leather outfits like a young Michael Jackson used to wear.  The jagged, retro music that provided the backdrop fit the slow motioned commercial quite well so I sought it out.  It was the Sounds’ “Hurt You” from their second album and thus a mental note was made.  Unfortunately this isn’t the album that has that song but, as mental notes and a few quarters will go, I figured the Sounds were worth a spin.

Perhaps this has been discussed already, but the Sounds consist of four lightly leathered and loose men and a blonde chick as the lead singer.  They also utilize keyboards as well as a punk rock swing yet aren’t very edgy.  If you guessed Blondie the Sequel, you are in my head all the way.  Therefore, perhaps unfairly, I will sometimes compare these guys to Blondie throughout the review.  Do the Sounds have their own “Call Me”?  Do they slip into a “Heart of Glass” rap at any point?  Are they in a phone booth it’s the one across the hall?  Man, I love that cover.

In the year 2005 the indie music scene was caught up in a swamp of Interpols and Bloc Parties, so it’s not too much of surprise that the Sounds also specialize a bit in the punk dance genre.  They’ve got plenty of bursting choruses like on “Dance With Me” as well as fist pumping glitz on “Seven Days a Week”.  Maja Ivarsson (the concerned-looking lady on the leather jacket) who does emit a light raspy force that fits well with the style.  However, early on I felt that she easily gets drowned out by the tsunami of volume coming from the band of dudes.   Ultimately, after just a few songs I found that the Sounds might be trying a little too hard to pump up the masses.  If the whole record sounded similar to the first three songs then it would get tiresome rather quickly.

Even though they’re from Sweden, the Sounds do tend to get swept up with American and British stylings of the time often.  However, they do have moments that harken back to the earlier days of music from the countries they are emulating.  “Hit Me!” is one of the better tracks on the disc if only because it doesn’t sound so convulsingly overwhelming with audio flair.  It actually does sound like something Blondie might have managed in their earlier days, which is a good, quick rock song that primarily features Ivarsson’s vocals and Felix Rodriguez’s steady punk riff.  Also “Mine For Life” has a fantastic extended synthesizer solo … yeah, I said that.  It definitely tore things up like a neon light dance club from the eighties.

As one bops along through the album, one gets a feeling that these guys are not just trying to get in your face with their synthe-zeal given their early impression.  “Reggie” proves to be an excellent track with just enough modern trends to make it urgent but not too musically gluttonous.  In fact, it is better than any of that stuff they hurled at the listener early on.   “Hope You’re Happy Now” doesn’t have the strongest lyrics but Ivarsson sounds particularly miffed (if not husky) in what can be topically ascertained as a song that essentially flips off a former interest.  By this time the synthesizers have actually grown on me, so as the Sounds punk their way out on “Riot” I felt that this group may have earned their right to open for Blondie in an alternative universe time warp kind of way.

The Sounds are still making their way around Sweden, so if you happen to be out on that island these days then perhaps you can catch them in person.  If not, listen to a bit at their website, MySpace page, or Last.fm!

Dammit, I just looked around … some other sites have already compared these guys to Blondie!  Blast!  Well originality down the tubes, the album “Living in America” could be considered the Sounds’ attempt at getting familiar by being familiar.  They are still around putting out records that go a bit heavy on the electronically punk air, but I suppose that is what the popular flavor is these days.  Despite the mixed feelings gained from this record, I do believe I should catch up on what the Sounds, er, sound like these days.  I bet they’re fun.

Black Kids – Partie Traumatic

December 23, 2009 Leave a comment

Almost Gold Recordings, 2008

Rarely does one find something in the dollar bin that those hipster kids really like these days.  You’ve got a simple yet noticeable band name, strange headwear, and the bubbly typeface that alerts the viewer that this is an indie band.  You can even hear the deep voice from a speaker far off calmly stating “Warning, warning, this band may try to overdo it with the dance rock that has over-saturated the market!”  Indeed, Black Kids fall into line in regards to what can easily be expected before the album is slotted in the discman.  As embarrassing as it may sound, I did put on my thick, black-rimmed glasses and tussle my hair a bits before I coolly slipped this onto the store counter to purchase for a buck.  I didn’t want anyone thinking that I wasn’t worthy of such a candied treat, but after I stole out of the store thinking my ruse had worked, I noticed I forgot to pop the collar of my polo shirt.  BLAST!

There’s two types of stereotypical indie music these days.  One type is to get all intricate and sensitive where the musicians try to turn you into emotional goo.  The other type prefers to act as if there is a party going on because they are the party.  This is what Black Kids try to do, for the first song off the record, “Hit the Heartbrakes”, is a rousing number about an obsessed ex who has decided to try and renew the relationship.  Hey, I’ve heard songs like that before.  However, this is the first one that infuses some nonsense into the narrative, like “call the ghost in your underwear”.  Mmm-hmm.  Despite some of the lyrics, what is incredibly enjoyable about this song is the back and forth between the monotone backup singers and the pained wailing of lead vocalist Reggie Youngblood.  The song also has a dance element to it, but there is a great interweaving of guitar solos, synthesizers, and quiet pauses that keeps it all fresh.  Essentially, the tune works.

The rest of the record takes it a little higher with the intensity of Youngblood’s vocals and the volume of the band. Nearly every song eventually jacks up the juice by halfway through, so it is quite apparent that Black Kids want you to make this your feel good album of some clubby evening. “Partie Traumatic” essentially details what life would be like if I ditched this 9-to-5 and went out every night to the socialite locales. You know, sharp clothes, smooth shaves, aloof attitude, uh, glitter. Good times with this one.  I also really enjoyed “I’ve Underestimated My Charm (Again)” not only for its fantastic, narcissistic title but for the fact that Youngblood just sings as if he’s full of himself and can’t be bothered to deal with yet another confused female.  It’s yet another song that I can envision scores of t-shirted and alt-hairstyled youngsters hopping up and down and doing who knows what with each other.  I can sorta envision me hopping around with them.  Okay, fine, you know what, this record sends me back a decade. I can’t find anything wrong with that or this album.

Reading around a little bit, I found out that apparently Black Kids had a decent deal of hype leading up to the release of this record based on their first EP. Hey, I totally missed it. See? Being unhip can have its advantages, at least in terms of musical bias. Therefore, I declare that this record is quite a bit of fun and I can certainly picture blasting it while cruising down some well lit city main street on some busy evening. I don’t care if Black Kids fall squarely into an indie stereotype; this was one of those rare modern records that made me want to listen to the entire thing multiple times. Oh yes, it gets the Golden Dollar many times over.