Posts Tagged ‘piebald’

Piebald – If It Weren’t For Venetian Blinds It Would Be Curtains For Us All

September 13, 2010 1 comment

Big Wheel Recreation, 1999

I have a love/hate relationship with Piebald.  I will get into more of that later on, but at the time of seeing this album stuck between a few unknown local bands I had to save this one from its high-speed path to the scrapper.  Piebald, no matter what anyone says, had a strong rockin’ grip on the local Boston fans when they were around.  I felt that it was my duty as a Boston guy to give this record a chance.

What I like about Piebald is their volume and enthusiasm.  Every song on this record, even if it starts off slow, rises to a level of rock ‘n roll cacophony.  “We Believe in Karma” and “Rules for Mules” both begin comfortably with light guitar and some singing, but eventually end up with the full force of guitars and drums like all the other songs.  For a fan looking for consistent rock ‘n roll music, this can’t be a bad thing.

Travis Shettel’s dejected vocals in “All You Need is Drums to Start a Dance Party” fits in very well against the band’s chugging backdrop.  It’s a short song but it stands out because of its lower tone, whereas many songs including”If Marcus Garvy Dies, Then Marcus Garvy Dies” tend to go up up up in level.  That approach certainly builds the fury, but it obviously makes songs like “Drums” stand out as more unique.  Piebald’s best slew of songs come at the very end of the record, with “Still We Let It Choke Us”, “Location Is Everything” and “Fat and Skinny Asses” providing a consistently excellent burst to the finish.

Despite some songs that I find to be very good, there are a few problems I have with Piebald and this record.  First, I just can’t get into Shettel’s vocals.  Something about them grates on me, as if he’s trying too hard to sing high notes that just do not fit his level.  When he does sing at a lower level it’s more listenable, (like “Drums”) but that is a rare occurrence.  In a live setting I’m sure he gets drowned out or at least doesn’t sound as strained, but on this record it’s a bit irritating.

Some of the songs also have some compositional issues that I can’t get past.  “Grace Kelly With Wings” is a fantastic opening song to the record and should’ve been a surefire re-spin in my Discman (wink).  However, there is a point during the song where the band repeats the droning chorus four times!  It wasn’t all that great once, never mind four trips through.  I think the first time I heard this tune I thought the CD was skipping.  Another tune that is otherwise excellent is “Dirty Harry and the Thunderbolts”, but halfway through the song the band kills the momentum and spits out some riffs that sound as if their amps were broken.  Just a poor choice that lacks enticement.

Piebald may have called it quits, but they’re still up on their website and MySpace pages for a quick listen.

As you may have gotten a taste of from a review of one of their later records, I still can’t call myself a complete fan of Piebald.  Perhaps it’s just this album that gives me an impression as a mixed bag, for I actually did like the “All Ears…” one.   Ultimately, I generally like their sound and I do wish I could have caught them during their exciting period around Boston in the late nineties and early 2000s.   It is a real pity that they are no longer with us, but at least you could still be a part of their departure by having a look at their epic, 3 hour final show DVD.  That’s probably more worth the price than their reprinted back catalog because, well, you can still get their old stuff for a buck.  (grin)

Categories: TheRest Tags: , , ,

Piebald – All Ears, All Eyes, All the Time

November 23, 2009 1 comment

SideOneDummy Recordings, 2004

Piebald is known around the Boston area as an energetic rock band that was rather shy on national success (per usual) but full of local success.  I also have grown to like these guys because they don’t come across as pretentious or run of the mill, and coupled with the fact that they’re local to me, I do appreciate them even if it’s a tempered reception.  Like I said, they’re a good band, but despite all their records, they may not be everyone’s taste depending on a few minute elements.  This can get a little hard to explain.

Piebald’s fifth release has an exceptionally fetching album cover as well as the rather full compositions that one may not expect from a typical rock band.  There’s only four guys in the band but they fill a lot of empty space with layers of guitars as well as creative drumming by Jon Sullivan.  The vocals of Travis Shettel can be a deal breaker for some, for although he sings clear and rivals the energy amassed by the entire band, I can’t help but hear traces of a smug cleverness.  It probably isn’t his intention, but you know how it is with vocalists; people are drawn to some while repelled by others for little things like pronunciation or style.  If one reads into the lyrics they don’t reek of obnoxiousness, so whatever you hear from Shettel at least you can appreciate the writing.

It could be that Shettel only unnerves me for some tracks more than others because track itself comes off a little too cheeky.  “Haven’t Tried It” has a catchy flow but sounds a little too cutesy for these guys, which makes me think they wanted this particular song to become popular with its overall feeling of handclappy feel goodedness.  I hate that stuff.  However, Piebald does have a few great tunes like “The Jealous Guy Blues”, “Giving Cup”, and “The Song That Launched a Thousand Ships” that clearly illustrate they can burst out with rock when they need to (or just should).  “Get Old or Die Trying” is another winner with its heightened force from the guitars and drums before the album slips into a few sleepy tracks.  A few tunes to listen to:

You can check out a few of their songs on their MySpace page.

I have to call this dollar bin grab a Bargain because there really are some great rock tracks on this album that illustrate how good these guys were.  Piebald only put out one more album after this one before ending their long career together, which is bound to happen even with some of the most supported bands.  I do like the fact that these guys didn’t buy into the dance rock or electronic effects stuff that some more modern bands try to pull off.  Piebald certainly stuck by the approach that had worked for them for years, which is why this record is as good as any to check to see if one might like them.  For not very much money, I think they certainly should be.  I need a few more casual fans like me to wait for the reunion gathering.

Categories: Bargain Tags: , ,