Thursday, July 17, 2008

Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails: The Baseball Project, Vol. I Review!

The Baseball Project

Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails
Yep Roc

I'm not a sports fan. Very few people I know who are into music are. I've got an obsession with road cycling, but that's so weird and nerdy enough that it's just odd to most people I know. So I have sports heroes: Indurain, Anquetil, Merckx, McEwan, Pantani, and a score of other names that most of you never heard of or care about, so I'm not going to bore you by talking about it in too much detail. Nevertheless, the Tour de France is on right now, and it's actually my favorite time of the year since I get to see great epic battles take place on steep mountain passes or flats at 40 mph every day. In case you're wondering, an Aussie is winning it right now, but I know most of you could care less. Baseball's another story. It's such a perfectly American game. You stand around most of the time and then every now and then, all the pressure's on and you either save a game, win a game, or lose it all in a manner of seconds. Not my thing. I think it's pretty dull, actually, but The Baseball Project have an array of impressive talent from Peter Buck (REM, Venus 3), Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate, Miracle 3), Scott McGaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, Venus 3), and Linda Pitmon (Miracle 3) that demands to be heard. Besides, rock 'n' roll and baseball share a lot in common and not just because of they're American origin. Both have histories that played out similarly. A good example of that is the breaking of the color barrier. But being an American sport, it's also what many people grew up with and love it in the same way that many love great rock 'n' roll. In fact, there are many who share a passion for both of them. Besides, one doesn't have to be a baseball fan to enjoy the music. Also, rock and sports are intertwined and it's usually not in a good way, so maybe better music inspired by baseball will lead to more baseball fans acknowledging what good music is. I'm dreaming here.

In many ways, Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails is a fan's tribute to the game and it's legends. It's also a recognition of its pitfalls and not so glamourous events. The track "Broken Man" goes straight to current events with the steroid scandals in baseball, but takes it from a fan's perspective and asks just to move on. It's also a great song that's full of what these people do best in a great song of guitar chords and some nice solo work that's unmistakably Peter Buck. "Satchel Paige Said" pays homage to who many consider the best pitcher of all time but also one that never played in the majors due to his color, but offers a stronger perspective of remembering but still moving forward. Scott's harmonica and dead on Ray Davies vocals make it quite memorable. "Fernando" is a lot more confrontational in its theme if one considers that Mexican immigrant families were kicked out of their neighborhood of Chavez Ravine to make way for Dodger Stadium, then Fernando Valenzuela became a celebrity 20 years later. 20 years since then have passed and now the climate is again negative towards Mexicans in California. It begs the question if people might see things differently if another Mexican was a star pitcher.

Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails is a collection of stories. Like any occupation dominated by the young that's high profile and physically demanding, much like rock 'n' roll, in fact, baseball has its share of heroes who suffered unbeknownst to most as well as the villains and rejects of the game. It's their stories that are on Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails. One can find interest in someone's story and what they went through even if one has little or no interest in the cause. Greats like Sandy Koufax and a song about how his body suffered from the game and caused him to retire young, Jackie Robinson's trials of being the first black player in the majors, or a fond rememberance of Willie Mays. In summation, it doesn't matter if you're interested in the game or not. There were great people and great stories that came out of it. The Baseball Project is great music and therefore, is an even better homage and compliment to those who played, loved, and suffered for the game. In a brief moment, one also finds some common ground between sports and music. For example, Black Jack McDowell gets his due in "The Yankee Flipper:"

He's a friend of the Smithereens
an old pal of Eddie Vedder
He loved REM and he played a Rickenbacker guitar
but for a night on the town with Mike Mills you get hit pretty hard

...Jack loved the Replacements, and we drank enough that we became them.

I'm sure many, many of you had experiences similar to that last line. Black Jack McDowell was a formidable pitcher and yes, a big Replacements fan. His claim to fame was giving Yankee fans the middle finger when he left the game. He retired from baseball and started a band called Stickfinger.

Baseball just isn't my thing. Sports really aren't either except for pro cycling. Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails offers a new appreciation if not for the game, then for those who played it and whose history echoed rock as well as major shifts in American history, which by the way, rock 'n' roll also reflects. The parallels are there, but Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails is a welcome change in giving the sport some great rock 'n' roll. One can only hope that trend continues.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Prepare To Surrender To The Boss Martians! Pressure in the SODO Review!

Boss Martians

Pressure in the SODO
Musick Records

There's music that is so loud and catchy that you want to crank it up to full blast. On my list, bands like The Monarchs fit this category. They're loud, full of screaming guitar solos, and catchy songs that are just fun. Seattles Boss Martians are one of them. The music is simple, full of catchy melodies, guitar solos, and hooks galore that makes you want to put your headphones on full blast and wish that your friends could share the experience. It's not necessarily categorical, although it's called powerpop, but it's abrasive in volume, cleanly produced, and almost 'metallic.' The Boss Martians new release Pressure in the SODO has all those elements. It's one of those albums that's just so cool that no matter what kind of music the person you play it for is into, they're going to feel like doing the same things already suggested.

A lot of people have heard a snippet from "Hey Hey Yeah Yeah" on the new release in the E-Trade Commercial that originally aired three times during the Superbowl and retains a good rotation currently. With a title like that, you already know it's a party anthem, but the real standout in the song is the prominence of Nick Contento's keyboards, which add a poppy but '60s garage air to the song. Like most of the songs on Pressure in the SODO, everything is amped up and taken to its loudest point without feeling overbearing. It's hard to point to a dominant aspect of the Boss Martians since they're masters of the powerchord, Tommy Caviezel's pounding drum rhythms that stand out more than most bands, Evan Foster's tasty guitar solos and equally intense vocals, and Scott Myrene's equally heavy bass. The opening "Power of Doubt" is a good illustration of wondering why the Boss Martians are not everyone's favorite party band with a catchy chorus, organ/keyboard refrains, and some drumming that's so solid that you're nodding along to it.

Pressure in the SODO is full tilt ball rocking from start to finish, but it's Nick's keys that elevate their sound from basic rock to '60s garage pop. On "No one to No One," Nick's notes are what give the already fun song an extraterrestrial edge of weirdness. That's a great compliment considering nobody really considers being able to rock out to keyboards. If you like you're music loud, fast, but basic and slick, this one's for you. The 'slick' description applies to the recording since one can hear everything ot its fullest potential. On tracks like "Don't Want to See You Again," Evan sounds like a frontman rocker who's trying to get noticed by throwing his vocal intensity in competition with Tommy's drumming, which fully dictates the song through multiple rhythm changes that sound like a three songs rolled into one better song. The all but guitar chord refrains add a cool touch too. Other songs like "And She's Gone" take a British post punk/new wave approach that's a little more harmonic, but come off as nearly brilliant. Of course, Evan steps up some louder guitar midway through to add a distinctly metallic feel to a song that's almost an uptempo shoegazer classic. This song is a great standout with it's slightly dark melodic feel, which I doubt could have come from anywhere that doesn't have rain with it's almost layered atmosphere to it.

Pressure in the SODO is a fully charged rocker from start to finish, but the additional keyboards and the occasional synth sounds give it the otherworldly edge that fits the band's name. The Boss Martians are a rock outfit on the rise, though. Even Iggy Pop recognized the rock genius of this band and wrote a song for them called "Mars Is For Martians." He originally sent in the lyrics via a press agent and lead man Evan Foster did the music around it and made an a throttling loud rock song with an almost "Subterranean Homesick Blues" style, but Iggy himself decided to join them for the recording. The results are pretty damn cool with his narrative authority juxtaposed to Evan's all out intensity. If these guys are good enough for Iggy, that's all the proof you need. Pressure in the SODO has been ready for release for four months now and was pushed forward to now except in Europe, but the European version doesn't have Iggy on "Mars Is For Martians." Thus, we get a special treat for waiting.

The Boss Martians recently completed a long stint of touring in both the US and Europe and are currently playing around their home base in Seattle, but look for a new release on Wicked Cool Records this Fall and a likely tour to follow. Those of you who've seen them live know that the same intensity of their songs translates into a live show drenched in sweat, volume, jumping off of bars, and all out rock! The rest of you will know The Boss Martians have landed and will demand your allegiance soon enough.

The video doesn't do them justice. It's a little hint, though.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Monkeywrench Gabriel's Horn - The Stooges?

The MonkeyWrench

Gabriel's Horn
Birdman Records

The Monkeywrench has been around for 17 years. If you've heard of them, raise your hands. Anyone? Maybe you haven't heard of them, but the band is composed of punk/garage legends: Mark Arm and Steve Turner from Mudhoney, Tim Kerr of Big Boys, Poison 13, and numerous bands and production work for others, Tom Price from U-Men and Gashuffer, and Australian drummer Martin Bland of Lubricated Goat, The Primevils, and Bloodloss. If there ever was a conspiracy to have Iggy Pop cloned, Mark Arm takes is the likely candidate. His howls, growls, and wails are so prominent and memorable on Gabriel's Horn that it might really leave you wondering. In fact, this album could easily be repackaged as the new Stooges album and would have been received much better than their actual release. "Low On Air" reminds one of "I Wanna Be Your Dog" so much that it's almost poetic.

Gabriel's Horn is consistently great from beginning to end. Everything on it is soaked in raw blues guitar cranked up. Surprisingly, it's complex punk rock on "That's What You Get" with Steve Turner's basslines and Martin's definite '60s beat drumming, but the guitar! Riffy, low, dirty, and loud with acid drenched crunching. It's a lot to take in, but like every song on this platter, there's a lot to talk about. Unfortunately, one isn't able to point out the individual talents when it comes to the guitar since Tim, Tom, and Mark all play Gabriel's Horn. One will have to accept the descriptions alone. This stuff is nothing less than heavy. "Black Plastic Tarp" takes place during a drive, but goes from "There's a rip in the sky where my mind should have been" to

There's a black plastic tarp that will fix up the sky
imagine the wonders it can do for your life
A black magic tarp, I found it, it's mine!
Got it wrapped 'round my head to keep out the sky

One shouldn't even think of understanding the meaning. I don't get it, but there definitely is one. Mark's vocal rasp and screams only emphasize that he's after something. Great art leaves an interpretation open. Remember what it was like to read a book before you saw the movie? As if we don't need further proof that Iggy is channeled through Mark Arm, "Flashing New Dance Moves" is all the proof you need. It's got the beat of a an older rock 'n' roll dance tune (yes, rock 'n' roll was intended to be music to dance to) much like Raw Power. In fact, "Come on, let's dance!" is in the song, but it's got sexual perversion like "Loose."

Gabriel's Horn also gives out a heavy dose of overall weirdness on top of the raw but still structured anarchy of Tim Kerr's production, which somehow sounds live, raw, unfiltered, yet all musical parts can be equally heard and felt up front. One can hear this talent on releases he's produced such as People Get Ready from The Mooney Suzuki, The Cynics Living Well Is The Best Revenge, and The Downbeat 5, of which the latter two were recorded only six months apart from each other. For example, as basic a blues structure as the slow, Arm penned "Sunnyland" is, there's a a simple blues riff that is prominent, but only shares the same space with the rhythm, bass, some of the finest crashed out drumming around and some heavy stereo effects at the end. The weirdness also comes from the purposeful stereo production. There's just too much "raw" at times, so the heavier production allows the instruments to sound in better harmony while the parts are really distinct. Thus, Gabriel's Horn is definitely a hi fi stereo recording and can best be appreciated with headphones at full volume. The occasional and well placed effects are a nice bonus of psychedelic ear candy, but you'll only feel and hear the "swishes" if you've got great speakers turned up load or on headphones. The overall picture of Gabriel's Horn is the rawest garage punk gone amok and beautifully tripped out.

As if that's not enough, the cover of The Thirteenth Floor Elevators "Levitation" is enough to make this album a must own, but there's also a cover of LA's legendary The Flesheaters. In true deference to Mark Arm's sarcastic lyrics, the words

He stopped loving her today
They placed a wreath upon his door
And soon they'll carry him away
He stopped loving her today

from George Jones's "He Stopped Loving Her Today" reflects just how brilliant The Monkeywrench is by taking what many consider to be the best country music song out of its genre and turning it into what sounds like their own song.

Gabriel's Horn plays loud, tight, riffed, rebellious, and shocking, and truly garage from start to end. Even the experimental instrumentals of "Gabriel's Horn" and "Gabriel's Horn (Slight Return)" also listed as "Random 1" and Random 2" on the player readout, with added pianos and xylophones have seemingly random instrumentation that actually combines together in form, but the attempts at choral voices by these garage rock legends are just cool.

One thing that should be pointed out is that the order of the songs on the release are different from the order they're listed on the cover. This doesn't matter. If it helps, what's titled "Echo Canyon" on the cover is titled "Open Your Arms" on the CD or mp3 player readout. If Birdman Records decides to press new editions with this discrepancy corrected, then the current version with the songs printed in their current order would become a collectors item.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Black Hollies: Casting Shadows

The Black Hollies

Casting Shadows
Ernest Jennings Records (US)/Rogue Records(Aus/NZ)

This band was around long before THE PAISLEY UMBRELLA, but their name, an obvious allusion to the '60s but a little "darker" and heavier, was intriguing, plus nobody I knew had heard them, so I was anxious to see what they were all about. Besides, with lyrics like "The colors and the shapes, really move me to the sounds, kitten heels shuffling around, blue paisley pattern ground," a review was just meant to be. Go to my blog for the full review and show times.

The Black Hollies are definitely psychedelic: Lots of garage fuzz guitar, echoes, distorted vocals, Indian influences, and a fair dose of phasing. Casting Shadows starts out with the Cream/Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd inspired "Whispers Beneath the Willows" is recognizable yet so different from anything you've heard in quite a while that it demands your attention. The follow up, "Paisley Pattern Ground" has a solid, soul dance beat, fuzz rhythm guitar, and echoed vocals from vocalist/bassist Justin Angelo Morey, with complimentary dual guitar phasing and jams that are loud and just long enough to be interesting without losing itself.

Other tracks like "The Autumn Chateau", with it's melody led by a sitar, courtesy of lead guitarist Herbert Joseph Wiley V, bring to mind "Paint It Black," but heavier at times. The standout track on Casting Shadows is "Hamilton Park Ballerina," with its slow intro that dives right into a loud, catchy chorus, settles into a tight, dancing groove, then wows with a brief psychedelic solo, but keeps a solid drumbeat, and a grooving baseline. "That Little Girl" is a fuzz guitar, catchy dance tune that showcases the incredible talent of rumored eight handed drummer Scott Thomas Bolasci, but falls just slightly short of brilliance because it's missing the visual accompaniment of at least two gogo dancers. The bluesy, wah wah vibed "Running Through My Mind" is going to make you think you're hearing a performance by five young, black clad Bo Diddley fans from some smoke filled London club around 1966.

The cool hooks, kicks, and grooves just keep coming on Casting Shadows. Instead of cooling off at the end, "Patient Sparrow," the final track, is a perfect climax with the simple introduction, built up by more hypnotic, rock 'n roll drumwork, followed up by a perfect sync of Justin's voice with the sitar, peaking with broad strokes of single note guitar fuzz that builds and then makes it's sudden exit.

The Black Hollies Casting Shadows is psychedelic mod rock in modern terms, but it's real psychedelic rock since the songs have a great soul base and then start shooting off in all directions, only to meet back with each other in perfect harmony. Although psychedelic rock has a strong notation for clich├ęs such as fuzz guitar, effects, phasing, Indian influences, and some loud, short jams, courtesy of a blues influence, truly good psychedelic rock was all about experimentation, and there were not too many bands that could do it well. The Black Hollies are damn good at it, which means their music will remind one of such greats as The Small Faces, The Master's Apprentices, The Mickey Finn, The Yardbirds, and a few more notables like the "Flowers" era Rolling Stones or the "Sold Out" era Who. That's a lot to put into one release, but psychedelic rock had about a good 4 years of existence in the mid to late '60s, so it had a brief explosion of great creativity that was followed up by the less exciting, various types of music that it spawned, which were not nearly as fun or inspiring, such as acid, progressive, and the always evil, mind numbing jam rock.

The Black Hollies are the result of what happens when you tape a pair of headphones on kids and play nothing but '60s London Underground Psychedelic Rock. They are PSYCHEDELIC ROCK with equal emphasis on both words. Casting Shadows rocks like nothing one's heard in years. That means you should prepare yourself for a heavy dose of a freakbeat/freakout for their upcoming SXSW appearances. I think a lot of people will be talking about them, and those that don't get to see them will end up wishing they did, like a choice number of bands who still have people talking about seeing them at SXSW from years before.
The Contrast

Perfect Disguise: Introducing the Contrast
Wicked Cool Records

I received a copy of Perfect Disguise: Introducing the Contrast almost a week before the official US release, so I was pretty excited to review a release that was not yet available. They're a great guitar driven powerpop four piece from Middleborough, Cambridgeshire, UK. This release is full of shimmery guitars, great melodies that are unique, short songs, all really catchy stuff.

Perfect Disguise is full of great songs. From the opening "Mystery 1" starts off with a catchy guitar riff that tells you to pay attention to them, "Can't Stand the Light" has a slower feel with some great jangle guitars and a few other surprises that you're going to have to listen to it to find out. The Contrast are a band that have combined the best elements of different bands into something their own. Off the top of my head, I can think of The Buzzcocks, The Bangles, The Plimsouls, and The Stranglers with Tom Petty and Paul Weller writing the songs together, with a good touch of The Smithereens. With great influences, the work retains its own and doesn't sound like anyone else because great powerpop relies on the tried and true: Simple chords, great guitar hooks that get you interested, some great harmonies, and a beat that you can't help nodding your head along with in the least, as well as obvious references to bands that came before. However, almost every song on Perfect Disguise is unique and memorable. Most of the songs will have something different in them that makes you stop and listen, from the higher pitched guitar bridge on "Caught In a Trap" to the occasional voice only song closings like "Ansaphone". Lead singer David Reid's vocals are really hard to place, but have a deep, resonant quality that although quite different both in tone and range, rises above a foundation of great music where each player has their own distinction and lead, much like Roger Daltrey's voice emerged as a competitor to his fellow bandmates during the height of The Who.

This is a must own for any serious powerpop fan, but after listening to Perfect Disguise, I felt very disappointed to find out The Contrast have been putting out music on Rainbow Quartz Records for 8 years and that the CD is a compilation of tracks from earlier releases with two new songs, "World's So Different" and "How to Tell." Little Steven has played them regularly on his Underground Garage show and regards them as "One of the best bands on the planet – and ....England.... too," and they have five previous full length releases that are worth finding. At the same time, Perfect Disguise: Introducing the Contrast is their debut on Wicked Cool Records and it's only too obvious why it's mostly a compilation of previous material. Like most great garage and powerpop, great music is most often overlooked and only appreciated well after it's time since it's influences are obvious. A little bit of background research resulted in finding reviews that often said something to the effect of "They would have been great 15 years ago," which is a pathetic copout of a music critic in not understanding what makes great rock 'n roll. So according to him, I bet The Dirtbombs would be considered a band that would have been great on Motown in the late '60s and early '70s since their music has both the Motown influence and a '60s garage rock fuzz on it, or The Ramones were a noisy '60s tribute band since over half of their catalog are '60s soul and garage covers. The truth is that it's great rock 'n roll. Even if something sounds different, some low self esteem critic is going to say it sounds just like something else they've heard before or it's not cool since it doesn't sound like current popular music.

If you think of countless other bands that many of us really like, they have the same story of not being recognized in their own time for being as good as they were because they took their queues from great rock 'n roll bands that came before them and are happy to show that, and although it's not really the record label's fault, a lot of indie labels simply have limited resources to bring their artists into circulation so people will know about them, no matter how great the band is.

Perfect Disguise: Introducing The Contrast lives up to its title. The songs are mostly older and repackaged since they didn't get their due when they were originally released, but because of their lack of exposure and new release on a record label with a lot more recognition, this signals "The Contrast has arrived. Hear for the first time what you've been missing."

The Love Me Nots: In Black & White

The Love Me Nots

In Black & White
Atomic A Go Go Records

There's a lot to be said about Phoenix, Arizona's The Love Me Nots, but as a band that has an almost worldwide buzz right now, almost everything I wanted to say about them has already been said. 2 gals, two guys, and a lot of Farfisa and Fuzz! You can't go wrong there. Those words just sound too enticing together. So the elements are there. A lot of bands have those elements and play differing versions of the same things: garage, surf, 60's r and b, and hard rock soul. The Love Me Nots don't pull "it" off. Instead, they rock, groove, swing, wail, shimmy, and shake so hard that you'll wish you could say they were always your favorite band in the world. After you hear and see them, they will be.

Like I said, the musical elements are there, but you'll be amazed at what all those things combined create. Lead vocalist/Farfisa mistress extraordinaire just sizzles. .. in Tight,' the opening track on on their 2006 debut Black and White, every phrase is a command that causes your subconscious to just obey it. "Move a little closer, yeah, move in tight! Move a little to the left, move a little to the right." Vocalist/Farfisa mistress indeed, but I'm only talking about her voice so far. She also plays the organ (the musical instrument, guys!) with the same ferocity used for her singing. It's up front, loud, spy novel/Munsters groove that takes center stage in between her drill sergeant commands. In fact, if you watch the video clip for "Move In Tight," you'll notice the Farfisa as at her side so she can face the audience to give them the full effect of her presence.

That's just Nicole, you've got the rest of 'em to contend with now. Michael Johny Walker is a maestro who punches in just that right amount acid drenched surf guitar fuzz, and I mean lots of it by "just the right amount," which is really needed to compete with the presence of Nicole on tracks like "Keep Talking." Drummer Jay Lien pounds out the loudest, tightest, fast but most perfect garage rock dance beat while Phoenix musical veteran Christina Nunez matches it with her tight bass equally to keep the rest in line. This is truly a great band. Nicole stands out at first, but all of them play and rock just as loud and dominating as her.

Other tracks keep up the tempo and show off the real powers of The Love Me Nots. "Voice In My Head" is foot stomping, cave pounding one-two beat fuzz rocker that that will imprint this band as the voice in your head, while "Keep Talking" is a full out buzzsaw guitar, spooky organ, up tempo, shimmy and shake, girl seduces boy themed song that's unforgettable. Unlike the CD title, The Love Me Nots are not black and white. Slower, more bass led tracks like "Cry" sound like a soundtrack for the end of the road, smoky bar in a film noir movie when a main character is about to get shot while the tough but sad sounding, female led band is so good that the fatal gunshots are overshadowed by the music. Then there's the epic "Alley" that would make any guy, or girl for that matter, melt in seduction to the slow groove and lyrics like "Every hand tries to pick me up, every man with a plan is a sucker" followed up with "Let's do it right here in the alley, do it real slow and trashy, your lips are hard and dizzy, even when your hands are freezing."

The Love Me Nots are getting a lot of press lately. It's no surprise. Nicole is an incredible Farfisa player who can take command with it, but has a phenomenal vocal power and range that can go from a cool seductress to the wailing, up front blues singer without the rye soaked, cigarette burned scratchiness of one. That rasp is replaced with an almost forceful, lower toned voice that demands of you to listen. Michael Johny Walker can wail his guitar in such a way that everyone takes notice and rocks along, Add in Christina Nunez plays so well that it forces the other two to compliment each other, then Jay Lien's swampy, tribal beat keep them all marching in line but is so loud and fast that the rest of the band has to keep up with him. In fact, they all seem to be leading and following each other at the same time, which one probably cannot think of a better compliment to a band; they all play lead and they all play for each other.

This is one great band! You need to see them soon. It's likely to be your last chance to see them in a small bar. They've had rave reviews all over the map from writers, fellow musicians, and fans alike. In fact, they're getting a lot of attention right now. Black & White was helmed by Jim Diamond as both engineer and producer, so the sound is raw but still clear. They also recently finished recording and mixing their soon to be available second release with him.

Garage rock is a great genre because of its basic formula. As my other reviews have noted, when it's done right, it's incredible because it holds up as real rock 'n roll: basic, loud, and fun to dance to, which results in a strong connection between the band and the audience. There are a lot of great bands out there that can do this and do it well. The Love Me Nots have something extra. I don't know what it is, but you can tell when you hear them. They are going to become the band that EVERYONE wants to play/tour with. That's not just my prediction, it's in almost everything I've read about them. Go see them, buy Black and White, then keep your ears open for their new release, because there's a strong likelihood that they'll become one "the" garage bands and won't be playing small clubs anymore in the very near future.

The Thunderchiefs: Dig

The Thunderchiefs

Wormtone Records

How do you review a surf album? It's surf music! It takes a careful ear and an incredible background in surf music, which had its apex in 1963. I'm no expert, but lucky for me, surf music and the sounds contained purposely describe the feeling of surfing. I'm at a loss again. I don't surf. Back to the drawing board. Okay, a couple of things I know. Muted reverb and tremolo. I'm not a musician, but I understand the terms now. Here goes.

How can a landlocked surf band be a "real" surf band? The answer is simple. Most well known surf bands like The Trashmen and The Ventures were not from places where people surfed. Surf music is based on feeling and attitude. The feeling is simple in attempting to recreate the feeling of surfing, which conveys ideas of freedom, skill, and most importantly, "carving" out something distinctive but doing so within boundaries of the music, which is itself the "wave." In other words, drums, bass, a rhythm guitar playing muted reverb, which sounds kind of like "bubbles," giving the sensation of water. It's then the job of a lead guitarist to do some carving within the musical framework. Kind of cool, huh? The attitude is therefore individual, but like hanging ten, it's laid back. One can't go too much against the surf foundation, but one can push the limits sometimes. The feeling of freedom also affects the attitude and therefore, surf music has always had an element of rebellion since surfing itself is an individual activity. Those feelings later transferred to hot rods since they were an expression of youth and freedome that more could identify with.

One not only need the attitude and feeling to create great surf music, but since guitar and solid music are so important, they need exceptional talent too, but they don't necessarily have to be surfers. Therefore, Austin's The Thunderchiefs are a landlocked surf band. On their debut album Dig, one hears and feels not only the elements of surfing and surf music, but also the different influences that created and contributed to it such as latin and Arab music.

Dig has a mix of both instrumental and vocal tracks, mostly recorded in mono. There's always been debate among surf music fans concerning adding vocals. Some consider surf music to be strictly instrumental, while music with vocals and a similar style are "beach music." However, the argument is a difference of opinion, not a definitive. Among the songs with vocals on Dig is the surf ballad "Pretty Eyes," which conjures images of a night time campfire after a day at the beach. Another vocal track "Our Last Night" breaks the surf ballad mode by using a lower male vocal that hearkens back to the '50s, but also features some great latin flavored surf guitar. Other tracks go straight to the water! The opening "Cry Of The Thunderchiefs" is a fast romp laden with muted reverb, which are the "bubbling" sounds you hear! The lead guitar is tight, loud, and rides with the waves of the songs while "carving" out some tasty parts much like the lead guitar in traditional surf music. In tribute to the lighter hearted side of surf/hot rod imagery and humor, "Drag-n-Fly" is a hot buzz that sounds decidedly vintage with an insect guitar coupled with some more familiar, Dick Dale inspired licks that keep flying to keep "the buzz" from spoiling the picnic. As if one insect isn't enough, "Buzzard Coupe" is another fine track that echoes of revved up engines on dirt tracks.

A special treat on Dig is the Sir Finks classic "Wound Up!" with a melodic lead and some great reverb held into a traditional surf track. An ambitious effort with incredible results describes "Comanche Moon," a famous High Noon instrumental that has a beat and reverb reminiscent of The Shadows classic "Apache." As in historical parallel of the replacement of surf music by garage rock in the mid '60s, the last titled song on Dig is a raunchy, lo-fi garage rocker a la Sonics mixed with subtle background vocals that could be nothing but flavored by The Kinks "You Really Got Me" that bears little in common with the rest of the album except for the lead guitar with a bit more distorted reverb.

The Thunderchiefs Dig has a lot to offer. It's mostly recorded in mono and the music and instrumentation lean more towards traditional surf rock, so it offers surf music fans a great nostalgia trip, but the musical result is raw and free, much like the lifestyle and the ocean that spawned the genre. The Thunderchiefs are also somewhat of an Austin surf garage supergroup with Joe Emery on bass, one of Austin's most talented songwriters and performers and member of The Ugly Beats, Mike Guerrero, formerly of the memorable surf trio (then foursome) The Sir Finks, but also known as a premier surf guitar player, followed by former Fink (and others) drummer Bobby Trimble, then rounded out with Shaun Young, an amazing guitar player for the Austin rockabilly legends High Noon and The Shifters. The incredible blend of talents and rock roots in The Thunderchiefs result in superb, mostly traditional surf rock, but the combined talents and backgrounds in roots rock music results in surf rock going backwards to become new again. It's great rock 'n' roll. If this is my introduction and education in surf rock (ands your too), we're off to a damn good start.

The Lackloves: Cathedral Square Park

The Lackloves

Cathedral Square Park
Rainbow Quartz Records

Since powerpop is such a sugary indulgence, us fans have a sweet tooth. This new release from Milwaukee's The Lackloves is the cure! It's not a bad addiction since powerpop is melodic, guitar driven songs with good hooks and vocal harmonies that manage to retain a good, basic edge. Ex Blow Pops Mike Jarvis and Tommy Dougherty, along with new bassist Kevin Ponec have found that magic formula based on Townshend's power chords, Lennon/McCartney's catchy vocal harmonies, and some of Roger McGuinn's jangle to creat a collection of songs that are loud, catchy, and fun with quite a few surprises packed in. "Hallmark Stars (Take a Seat)," a track that's getting some airplay on indie/college stations lately, is laden with The Church styled jingle jangle guitars, some vocal harmonies that are unmistakably "Abbey Road," but the song itself reminds one most of "Tracks of My Tears" from The Miracles. "Dance With Me" takes a basic power chord approach, but has this superb bassline from Kevin Ponec that gives it a deeper feel than usually implied by powerpop. Another surprise is The Everly Brothers like track "Marlena," which has some of the best vocal harmonies one's heard in a while. As if great powerpop doesn't do enough already to give one a better rock 'n' roll edumacation, "Another Kind of Girl" rolls along with an almost country-rock style of Buddy Holly and definitely shares his romantic optimism but contrasts it with the fear of experience in lyrics like "But she's gonna take my time, And make me lose my mind, Oh God I wonder how it feels inside (How's the weather inside?), But there's another girl I see, In your eyes."

"Space Age Romeo" has a faster, louder tempo like an arrow straight to the heart of a Jam fan, but the prominence of the theramin gives it a tripped out, psyhedelic burst that might hint at the creation of a new genre, psychedelic punk, while "Summer Rain" takes it inspiration from a more faithful rendition in the style of The Byrds "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better," only the vocal pitch is "sweet." One doesn't sense it at first, but a few listens to it and one senses a stronger Cathedral Square Park lean not only to Byrdslike guitar, but beats that are unmistakably country influenced, which is something that The Byrds used throught their career more than anyone else. Although Roger McGuinn's guitar style or sound is one of the most familiar and appreciated cliches for '60s garage inspired rock 'n' roll, The Lackloves country tinged approach is a hint of true genius because they don't just pull it off, but like The Byrds, they're among the very few who can do it well. The result is that Cathedral Square Park departs from the British Invasion standard by adding an earlier roots rock approach that's authentic.

Cathedral Square Park's opening track "On My Way" is a sure standout. The guitar hooks are just addictive! The hook is another riff stolen (with highest regard, of course) from The Byrds, but the melody is straight out of The Soft Boys "The Queen of Eyes," which cause me to stop the track midway through and listen to what felt was the inspiration for "On My Way." Strange as it may seem, it's a great compliment if a band gets under one's skin and itches enough to make you want to hear one of your favorite songs. However, the second approach to "On My Way" caught a few cool surprises like a furious drummed buildup from Tommy Dougherty and a "swirling" chorus that gives the song a bit more chops. Unfortunately, it's a great illustration of why great bands like The Lackloves don't have broader appeal. Unlike what usually sells, good powerpop is dense musically. It's catchy and sweet, but has a strong basis in actually being good music. Therefore, the approach is similar to powerpop's insprirations like The Beatles, The Kinks, The Who, and other British Invasion bands. The idea is to make great music and not make hits. The substance is greater than the taste. Most people don't care about the subtleties or the ingredients, but want the instant gratification. By coincidence, one really can allude to eating a blow pop, which is the name of Mike and Tommy's first band: Do you savor the candy shell or bite straight into the bubble gum center? I'd prefer to enjoy it all, but most ignore everything but the bubblegum. Then again, those people don't think about their music, either.

The Lackloves are a true force of powerpop sugar, but Cathedral Square Park and its sweetness lies in a great combination of different ingredients that mix the familiar with newer, subtle flavors. I guess that makes it gourmet food, but something that's so carefully thought out and well prepared is much more appreciated. Therefore, The Lackloves will make your mouth water a lot more and will leave the powerpop sweet tooth much more satisfied. if one buys a copy of Cathedral Square Park, they'll get their addiction to powerpop satiated regularly with a purer quality fix!

Songs from Cathedral Square Park have not been made or recorded into video form yet, but "The Radio's Mine" from their 2004 release The Beat & The Time is a great listen with its own surprises.

The Gruesomes: Cave-in!

The Gruesomes

Ricochet Sound

It's a fact: Cold weather means great rock 'n' roll! Sweden and Norway come to mind. If you were stuck indoors all the time, wouldn't you start a band, too? Like the States, Canada had its own garage rock scene in the '60s, including The Ugly Ducklings, The Jury, Q'65, The Guess Who, Les Jaguars, Les Lutins, Les Miserables, and Les Napoleons, to name a few. A few of these bands made it on to Nuggets Volume II, in fact. I'm sure our neighbors to the North had plenty more up their sleeves. You'd be surprised. They really do! Mark Sultan (King Khan), Sexareenos, and Les Breastfeeders, to name a few. Montreal's The Gruesomes developed a classic image of bowl haircuts, black turtlenecks, and Beatle boots, which is pretty cool in itself. They also ravaged Canada in the '80s with their high energy live shows where one could rarely find a soul who wasn't grooving to them. Sadly, the band's breakup in 1990 made them a footnote until they reunited in late 1999 and released Cave-in!, a collection of super fuzzed out garage rock that cannot be interpreted as anything less than a garage rock release of legend, which was followed by sold out shows all over Europe and a memorable performance at Cavestomp 2000. Luckily, Cave-in and Tyrants of Teen Trash have been reissued by Montreal's Ricochet Sound, along with The Gruesomes: Live In Hell, a famous performance at The Pub Flamingo in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1989.

Although The Gruesomes were known for a "punk" attitude, Cave-in has an attitude that's less snarl and more snot. Musically, it's nothing but pure fuzzed garage rock that anyone who fancies themselves a garage rock fan must own, no buts. In fact, the instrumental opening track "Cave-in" has two fuzz guitars, courtesy of Bobby Beaton and Gerry Alvarez. That should get your attention. The followup track "Stop it, Girl" is the stuff that rock is made of with John Knoll's drum rolled intro and enough blues guitar to sound cooler than anything you've heard, but goes to garage rock heaven with Bobby Beaton's teenage scratched voice chiming "Everybody knows that you're a fabulous bird, but you're goin' 'round town with some kinda nerd." Additionally, the tempo lends perfection to a teenage anthem of the cool guy and the flighty girl. This stuff actually sounds like rock made by black clad, boot wearing, teenage bowlheads! An endearing aspect of these guys is that it's all about girls. Not a new theme or new situations, but it somehow sounds new every time. "You're Not the Boss of Me" and "The Deal" take familiar territory, but the former has a guest organ that creates great freakbeat while "The Deal" shows some definite inspiration from The Sonics "Have Love, Will Travel" except it picks up into a frantic upbeat parts that will make you want to dance The Shake in a frenzy! "You Gotta Believe Me" sounds a little older with Gerry Alvarez's almost detached, crooner voice, three chords and...fuzz make the same theme as "Stop it, Girl" make it more empassioned plea than the younger feeling of desperation. There's also a deep bluesy solo that compliments the deeper emotions in its slight complexity.

One of the things that great garage bands are known for is their covers of lesser known, obscure but great songs. It's a way of turning new fans on to great music that didn't see much light of day for its time. The results are substantial since it not only turns fans on to earlier garage/r&b, but makes great rock 'n' roll always relevant regardless of when it's made. The Gruesomes take no exception to the rule by throwing in four covers that are mindblowing, the first being "No No No No" from the lesser known British Invasion band The Sorrows, who can be credited for creating a sound that later became known as "freakbeat." The fast guitar chords and solo that lies somewhere between surf and r & b definitely have the feel of an older song but seems so influential that hearing it will make one feel surprised or embarrassed that they never heard of The Sorrows. This is followed up by Jackson, Barnes, and Tubbs "Come and See Me (I'm Your Man)," a lesser known hit from R & B/Soul singer J.J. Jackson. Bobby Beaton howls the "soul" out of it, and the louder guitar detach it from the original but give it an appropriate agressive lift while still making it a fun song. A special treat is The Wailers "You Were Not Using Your Head," which showcases Gerry Alvarez and his laid back, cool voice mixing in with a slow but catchy garage rock classic, completed with perfect surf guitar. "Hypnotize" seems to lend itself as a song title for a large number of garage rock acts, almost as if it's the new "Louie Louie." The Missing Links, White Stripes, The Singles, and Muck & The Mires (upcoming release and title track "Hypnotic"), to name a few. However, The Gruesomes run chronoligically second in this race since The Missing Links were a '60s garage band. "Hip-no-tyzed" starts off with Twilight Zone keyboards that bring a deja-vu feeling that one could swear they've heard this song before, the echoing fuzz guitar bring to mind The Electric Prunes, but John Davis' sinister spy bass melody, Beaton's surf licks, and Gerry's vocals are reminiscent of Johny Rivers' "Secret Agent Man." Great Combination!

So what's the point of a reissue? The answers are obvious. Either somebody needs more money, a great piece of rock didn't get its due the first time around, or in some cases, the demand far exceeds what's available. In the case of The Gruesomes were not around for long and had no American distribution, which is still the case today. Therefore, Ricochet Sound. When one considers that the value of the American Dollar is dropping, $15 for music that is an absolute must own for anyone who thinks they're garage rock fans is a bargain. In fact, owning a copy of at least one of The Gruesomes started seven years later than The Chesterfield Kings, they were they're Canadian cohorts for a short time. The music is fun, loud, definitely '60s garage inspired, but but The Gruesomes have A LOT more fuzz. They defined FUZZ!

One can also find The Gruesomes on The Knights of Fuzz DVD along with The Chesterfield Kings, The Marshmallow Overcoat, The Woggles, The Cynics, and many more.

Here's some great footage:

The Grip Weeds: Infinite Soul: The Best Of The Grip Weeds

The Grip Weeds

Infinite Soul: The Best of The Grip Weeds
Wicked Cool Records

Introducing a band that's been around for 14 years. Sound familiar? A lot, but not too many older releases always have a new life when you hear them. New Jersey's The Grip Weeds provide a case in point. Their new release Infinite Soul: The Best of The Grip Weeds is a compilation of their four full length albums plus a remake of the 1993 single "She Brings The Rain" set in random order. The best way to describe the band is psychedelic, but it's a lot to discover. Like the super technicolor album cover, it's a mix of British Invasion, LA folk rock, and late '60s to early '70s Who, with some loud, heavy powerchords but with some slight lean towards different elements like Cream, at least that description is a good start. The opening track "Every Minute" from the 2003 release The Sound Is In You is a fresh blast or guitar chords and loud, frantic, Moonesque drumming whose BIG sound is reminiscent of "I Can See For Miles" and "Pinball Wizard" without the synthesizer experiments. It's a little simpler, more like one might guess '60's era Who attempting to do their early '70s material. Let's just say it's louder, but the chord emphasis makes it powerpop, a term actually coined by Pete Townshend to describe their music in the '60s, only "Every Minute" has enough volume to sound edgier than that. It's also a perfect illustration of one of the ways The Grip Weeds describe themselves: The Who on psychedelics! That's an awfully gutsy description. Lucky for them, it works!

The followup track "Salad Days" was dubbed "Coolest Song in The World" by Little Steven (14 years after it came out)! Although the overall feel of the song is melodic due to the vocal harmonies from drummer Kurt and rhythm guitarist Rick Reil, with the added vocal of lead guitarist that throws a slight twist that is definitely cool, Rick's guitar takes a stronger approach to playing jingle jangly rock, but Kristin's licks provide the louder, '70s rock feel. Another great point of the song is that because it's psychedelic, there's a lot going on that almost equalizes everyone's role, whereas if the music was more basic or leaned towards their basic influences, Kristin would be walking away as the most important member of the band since she plays lead guitar. Luckily, her loud riffs blend in and contribute to a greater synthesis. This balance and overall loudness alludes to the second way The Grip Weeds use to describe themselves: The Byrds on steroids. However, that extra kick comes from a woman playing lead guitar, which is a rare but very cool thing. Kristin also takes lead vocals on one song, "Closer to Love," a song that can match the heart and great song structures of Fleetwood Mac's Rumors (I know what you're thinking, that's not rock 'n' roll! In fact, it is. Everyone in the band broke up with each other during the recording, so it's an album full of people falling apart, angst and sadness that they channeled into someting great. Besides, Lindsey Buckingham is cool), but relies on a stronger acoustic guitar base and sitar that could overpower the '70s greats to the point that they would think "I wish I could have done that." An odd but pleasant surprise on The Grip Weeds is "It Ain't No Big Thing, Babe," a Nashville tinged heartringer originally penned by Val Stecklein of the '60s folk/psychedelic greats that remain mostly unknown, The Blue Things. Surprisingly, it doesn't feel very psychedelic, but more like Bob Dylan. It's quite a great curveball and shows that The Grip Weeds have a lot more to show us. Luckily, they're currently recording an album of all new material at their own House of Vibes studio, not just a little piece of heaven somewhere in Highland Park, New Jersey, but an impressive space in the basement of a house stocked with digital and analog recording equipment and a bevy of vintage musical instruments. As if not a suprise, The Smithereens recorded their album Meet The Smithereens there with Kurt co-producing.

Psychedelic rock was not as much of a genre as an approach to making music that attempted to replicate the experience of taking hallucinogenic drugs, which many bands experimented with literally and musically during a brief time period from about 1964 to 1969. Although it was cited most for albums like Revolver, Sargeant Peppers, Her Satanic Majesty's Request, Fifth Dimension, and Piper at the Gates of Dawn - from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Byrds, and Pink Floyd respectively and one can hear these influences in The Grip Weeds, heavier, more blues oriented outfits like The Yardbirds, 13th Floor Elevators, Jimi Hendrix and Cream also made their own forays into psychedelic rock that were a little harder. That extra 'punch' of harder edge influenced by the heavier acts is what helps push The Grip Weeds into a rock 'n' roll band and not a psychedelic band. Although the songs sound too well crafted to be "garage rock," the term "psychedelic rock" was actually coined by Roky Erickson of The 13th Floor Elevators, a band revered by many as a "garage" band. The "fuzz" guitar effect as well as a Hammond or Farfisa were considered essential instruments for psychedelic rock, but coupled with a 12 string electric guitar. Also, the literal loudness and affinity for powerchords maintained by The Grip Weeds give them an edgy rawness that certainly rocks.

"Life and Love, Times to Come" is a track including tabla, hammond, mellotron, and mandolin that draws from Love's "Red Telephone" with added Eastern sounds and builds up so well that one is taken on their own mystic trip while listening. Other tracks like "Infinite Soul" and "She Brings the Rain" are a little more straightforward but rock with great melodic guitar plus The Grip Weeds now aptly described psychedelic touches like sitars, harmonies, and full on power chords. Infinite Soul: The Best of The Grip Weeds comparable to "Alice in Wonderland" because there's something new around every corner, but things run awfully fast and it never gets boring or predictable. The songs stick to mostly the basic garage rock structure: 3 chords and short songs, but it's amazing what The Grip Weeds have packed into those short periods of time. It's rock 'n' roll with something new to discover with each rotation. Songs on it that one might not be enthusiastic about grow on you. The songs are short, loud, and incredibly dense, making them a music fan's listening music, but still have the powerpop punches to make you get up and rock. The Grip Weeds have set a new standard for powerpop. It's never been done this way before. Infinite Soul: The Best of The Grip Weeds and their anthology Infinite Soul: The Best of The Grip Weeds offer a great taste of new adventures to come.

"Astral Man" is a great song that sums up their talents- vocal harmonies, intense psychedelia, some '70s guitar licks, some loud drums! It's a great video, too!

Note: The band's name came from John Lennon's character private Grip Weed in the relatively unknown movie "How I Won the War."

The Downbeat 5: Smoke & Mirrors

The Downbeat 5

Smoke & Mirrors
Steel Cage Records

Boston's The Downbeat 5 have been around for nine years. Since founding members JJ Rassler and Jenn D'Angora both have careers in the music industry but not as musicians, only two studio albums have been released. Their third release, Smoke & Mirrors is an unedited recording from an in studio performance with 100+ since it was more practical then getting recording equipment into a bar. With the free beer and pizza supplied by the band for those in attendance, it was a novel idea to bring the bar to the studio. The Downbeat 5, although musically oriented towards British Invasion and garage rock, have a certain Boston grit that translates musically into a bluesier but a loud, raw bar band at the same time. The opening cover of "Come on Now" by The Kinks is an old standard that JJ played in his 1965 band The Deserters as well as with Boston garage rock legends DMZ, of which he was a founding member with Jeff Connolly of The Lyres. They're version is a lot tougher and garners a hard distinction with rhythm guitar/vocalist Jenn's trademark blues scratch and howl. "Army of One" from 2005's Victory Hotel is a heavy rocker that falls somewhere in between garage rock but then winds up as punk a la Patti Smith. One of the traits that make The Downbeat 5 sound more like a bar band is their affection for any number of revolving covers in their live sets. An odd treat on Smoke & Mirrors is a cover of Velvet Underground's "Foggy Notion", which bears only a slight resemblance to the original in Jenn's attempt at emulating Lou Reed's quirkiness, but the pace and energy they put into it almost makes on think of how the song would have sounded if covered by The Ramones. The surf rock original "Thief of Baghdad" has some super laid back, groovy bass from Mike Yocco, but just blisters in continuous drumrolls from Eric Almquist that go well beyond most surf instrumentals. The continuous refrains are punctuated by some of the coolest guitarwork characteristic of the genre, but louder, harder, and with enough differences in each new lick to make it exciting.

Anyone who's seen The Downbeat 5 can attest to their power as an act. What takes most immediate notice is Jen D'Angora's scorching vocals. Her scratchy throated pipes pack a whallop that's somewhere between Janice Joplin in her heyday, but even tougher. At times, it's really hard to imagine someone of her stature belting out songs that sound rougher and tougher than most people you've heard. It's impressive. When one adds JJ Rassler's great songwriting, distinct guitar punch on top, then an assemblage of well placed covers, it's an awfully loud, fun rock 'n' roll night at the bar. But the adjective that really describes The Downbeat 5 is raw, whether it's Jen's throat, JJ's axe, some of the best 'live' drumwork or the entire thing thrown together, these veterans play it raw; with all the enthusiasm and energy one could attribute to great rock 'n' roll. Their cover of The Yardbirds "Rack My Mind" is a good illustration, but the words still don't do it justice. The cover of The Animals "Outcast" has a similar approach but goes to a whole new level in sounding Jen is leading everyone and they're trying to keep up. The music is perfectly in sync while the backing vocals approach a beer lubricated bar sing a long. I think you gain a new appreciation for a lot of great rock songs that nearly none of us heard live and for many of us, haven't heard at all by having them taken out of their original context and thrown into a lively bar scene. In doing so, one gets a glimpse of how great the songs are, but also how great a band has to be to pull them off so well by making them sound new and full of more energy that they originally had. On Smoke & Mirrors, The Downbeat 5 not only succeed, but bring those garage rock songs into bar room glory. I seriously doubt if there's a better way to appreciate those songs. Also, The Downbeat 5 are essentially a live band. Although their two studio recordings, The Downbeat 5 and Victory Motel are great and have some real surprises like "Dum Dum Ditty" or The Shangri Las "Out In The Streets," the real power of this band is in their live performance. There aren't too many bands out there that can stand equal to them for a live show.

I've included two videos since one isn't enough to give a good idea of them. The first of from South by Southwest 2007.

The second couldn't be used on its own since it's not a bar, but you can agree that performing New Year's Eve 2007 on the front steps of the Boston Public Library in Copley Square is just a great song and great footage. Enjoy.

Len Price 3: Rentacrowd

The Len Price 3

Wicked Cool Records

Great stuff. Enough said.

Take the noise, feedback, and general chaos of the early Who, speed it up a little and compress it just enough so the delivery has punk sneer. How could it not be loved? It will remind you of when Paul Weller played his Rickenbacker like he meant it, slammed ale and shook his fist in the air instead of sipping his little cappuccino and strumming white soul. Let's face it, the track "Rentacrowd" sounds like "Subsititute." Alot. So what? It's brilliant! If you want to say you're a mod punk band, then that is what YOU SHOULD sound like! However, the lyrics are punk in their directness: "It ain't all about just the way you look. The clothes you wear and the drugs you took. It ain't all about the way you look. You're going nowhere. Going nowhere." Wow! That vocal harmony sounds like Pete Townshend, though.

It gets better! The followup track "If I Ain't Got You" is proof of rock 'n' roll. The British freakbeat plus what I think I'm hearing is a little bit of the cover of "Police and Thieves" covered by The Clash? The tempo change is dead on familiar, but hard to place. "Concrete Jungle" from The Specials? I think I'm just tapping the surface. Maybe some Rezillos and early Undertones in there? "Turn it Around" has the beat of "'A' Bomb in Wardour Street?" The answer to all of the above is a resounding yes. Brilliant! If you think it sounds too much like something else, you're missing what great rock 'n' roll is all about. Rock 'n' roll was never truly original to begin with, at least that's true for the best rock 'n' roll because it is not just rooted in, but remains closely tied to r&b. R&b spawned rock 'n' roll, rock 'n' roll spawned garage (also originally called punk), garage spawns punk. The better stuff always sounds like its predecessor and not just related to it. Honestly, many of us understand that good rock and roll is r&b/garage/punk mixed, but what makes it the best rock 'n' roll is how one can pick out those genres distinctly and not just hear the influence, making it all basic, simple rock 'n' roll. After all, everyone knows that the simplest is always the best. So if everyone steals some sound that came before them, why not do it right by making your foundation obvious? The Who and the first three Jam albums are damn good ones to start with. Most great bands had few influences. Ever heard of The Ramones? They were so predictable that it was once said that you listen to them, don't get that every song sounds the same at first, then after a while, you realize it's the greatest thing ever.

"Doctor Gee" is a Byrds inspired Rickenbacker classic that just sounds and feels great. Again, Enough said.

It's rock 'n' roll, not rocket science. Rentacrowd is '60s British beat thrown into the tightest tight 3 chord garage and a punk rock attitude. That combination is good enough. I take it back. It's perfect. However, '70s British punk expanded with enough bands that new directions were forged and new ways of playing that garage rock sound were invented. Similarly, Rentacrowd explodes with Glenn Page's raw, choppy guitar that gives the music more gut when combined with the tighter sound. Although it brings back memories of the late Stuart Adamson and The Skids, it's played with a lot of confidence, volume, and a faster rhythm that he might have not foreseen. The slower tracks like "Mesmer" and "Australia" recall the more ambitious experiments on "Pet Sounds." Although that's all too familiar territory, everybody tried to do something as good when it came out. Again, citing the familiar because it's the best.

Rentacrowd loud and fuzzy garage rock, tight, hook driven powerpop, and a tempo that runs circles around everyone else. Notice that bassist Steve Huggins maintains the same tempo for the whole three minutes on "Sailor's Sweetheart," dig how "Moonishly" drummer Neil Fromow pounds the skins on "Girl Like You." The music is instantly famaliar, but you hear more with each listen. Combine the music with "we know exactly what we're doing and we are who we are. Take it or leave it" attitude, which shows more determination to stick to one's principles, an ideal that epitomizes punk rock.

The "we play it because we like it and won't be something else to make you money" goes a long way. Although this ethos is a regular theme in Rentacrowd, the point comes home on "No Good:"

Listen to all you cunts
That want to put us down
Cos we don't conform to the latest sound
We don't care what you're thinking
We don't care whay you say
Cos when you're laying the boot in
We continue to play

Rentacrowd is rock 'n' roll: r&b, garage, British beat, and punk. Let's all hope they continue to do their own thing. Cappuccinos are for wimps anyway.

Len Price 3 - Rentacrowd

Hollywood Sinners: We Won't Change Our Style

Hollywood Sinners

We Won't Change Our Style
Dirty Water Records

One can't talk about The Hollywood Sinners without going into how Spain is a garage rock Mecca. Never mind that some incredible bands like The Shake, The Gurus, and Los Guajos just to name a few, it's bigger than that. Gijon, Spain is home to Circo Perotti Recording Studios, an all analog studio where garage rock legends Mike Mariconda, musician and well known producer for The Mummies, New Bomb Turks, Downbeat 5 and countless others, and co-producer Jorge Explosion, known most recently for producing the last Cynics release Here We Are, but also for his own band, Dr. Explosion, who recorded a rocked-out version of "Better Days" from Vindicated: A Tribute to The Fleshtones. The studio uses all analog equipment, much of it from Abbey Road Studios or The BBC, and ONLY record in mono! just a sample of who's recorded with Mike and/or Jorge at Circo Perotti Recording Studios include The Masonics, The Urges, Billy Childish, and The Longboards. The result of recording in mono is that the recording sounds good anywhere, at any angle and without the compromises inherent in stereo recordings when one listens to it on a system without perfect speaker placement. In fact, stereo sounds best on headphones. Besides, rock 'n' roll should sound great anywhere. Additionally, the primitive nature of r&b, roots garage rock lends itself well to mono. Therefore, it's no surprise that The Hollywood Sinners and their new release, We Won't Change Our Style is recorded in "100% mono loco!" This stuff is so primitive and basic that it might pre-date stone tools. Call it raw and savage, if you will. Better explained, it's totally ape!

If you're a garage rock purist, you can't get any more authentic than We Won't Change Our Style. One gets a straight punch of beer soaked realism that's the closest thing to a reproduction of a live show on "Wild Man," while "Quero Ser Como Wau U Los Arrrghs!!!" is exactly what is meant by the definition of rock 'n' roll having heavy beats, loudness, and a delivery that's anything but subtle. This is the kind of stuff that scared parents in the late '50s and is abrasive and loud enough that it lives up to rock 'n' roll being something your parents won't like. "I'm a Martian" is bound to make you want to scream along and shake your head until your neck hurts. "Blow My Mind" will conjure up your fondest memories of seeing the loudest, most incredible and memorable bands at your favorite local dive where the beer flows freely while the audience is all in the same mindset in their awe of the band that was brought about by rock 'n' roll hypnosis, while the band connects with the audience by shooting sonic adrenaline straight to the brainstem, which is the most primitive, reptilian part of our brains that is responsible for the basic ruling of emotions. No need for complex thought here, We Won't Change Our Style goes right to the origin. It's not art since that takes complex thought, but who needs that when you got rock 'n' roll? There is a lot more to The Hollywood Sinners, of course. Songs Like "Wonderful Feeling" have such a heavy drum intro from Oscar and feedback surf/fuzz combined with a heart felt howl that's unmistakenly brilliant in rawness and appeal. when one hears guitar/vox Edu Sinner screaming "Girl!," one knows exactly what the feelings are behind it and immediately identify with it.

An added treat on We Won't Change Our Style is a scratchier, louder cover of The Sonics "Boss Hoss" that's such an awe inspiring, noisy adulteration of the original that it can be seen as equivalent to what The Sonics did to rock 'n' roll/r&b songs themselves by making them louder and faster. The Hollywood Sinners are unrestrained garage rock 'n' roll in all its raw, unrefined, early anthropoid glory. We Won't Change Our Style is a must own for true garage rock fans. It's full of power, noise, and teenage rebellion, but adds in a high held middle finger in total disregard and contempt for not only all the crappy music that's out there and that most people listen to, but also for the over adulterated way most of it is made. There's no need to explain it or write about it anymore, for that matter. You get it. Now go listen to it and buy it!

Viva Hollywood Sinners!

The Detroit Cobras: Tied & True

The Detroit Cobras

Tied & True
Bloodshot Records

The Detroit Cobras and are reknown for being a cover band. That doesn't seem like much, but they've managed to carve out a reputation and a name for themselves by taking mostly obscure r&b songs, recording them with a classic Detroit garage rock cigs, hard liquor and leather jacket style, then bringing them to a wider audience that those songs deserved but never got the first time around. By matching that with their constant touring as both headliners and as a supporting act, The Detroit Cobras have not only rocked their way to a great following, but have also made a tremendous contribution to rock 'n' roll by giving so many great but unknown artists modern rocognition. Most of us love bands that somehow influence us to discover older rock 'n' roll that's groundbreaking and wasn't given due credit in its day. After all, most of us didn't start with bands like The Sonics but got into newer bands that influenced us to look backwards and gain a greater appreciation for where garage, punk, or loud, unadulterated rock 'n' roll came from. Although Tried and True was released last year, The Detroit Cobras are touring right now in support of that release as opening act for the all original lineup of X.

In truth, the The Detroit Cobras always seem to be on tour. It's easy to summarize their sound by Rachel Nagy's top shelf whiskey smooth voice that's almost the true definition of seduction combined with the super lean and tight guitar of Mary Ramirez. Aside from major contributions from Greg Cartwright of The Reigning Sound, their musical trademark is the only constant. In the span of five albums, they've gone through 11 lineup changes, 2 record labels, and countless live shows, but they've also grown musically with a deeper, more soulful, fuller sound. Tied & True is a strong addition to their catalog that highlights this band's growing talents and abilities.

The opening Bob Elgin/Norman Meade penned "As Long as I Have You" gives a strong promise of great things to follow with the line "Born in darkness, but I fought my way up to the sun." The line itself shows the origin of soul from in its gospel theme as an allusion to ascendence, but Rachel's voice range equals that theme by sounding better than it ever has before. It's perfect and only hints at what's yet to come. The song's origin as a "filler" for Garnett Mimms also illustrates how The Detroit Cobras find some of the best songs ever written but never heard and give them the exposure that they deserved but never got the first time around. The Flirtations signature song "Nothing But a Heartache" is a sweet shot of Northern Soul, a term used to describe mid to uptempo soul that had a deeper sound than funk and was embraced by the mod movement prior to psychedelia. A surprising inclusion on Tied and True is John/McDougal/Turner's "Leave My Kitten alone" since it's been covered by The Beatles, The Sonics, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, The Gruesomes, Peggy Lee, Sam the Sham and The Pharoahs, and countless others, but the lyrical change to "Bitch, I'm gonna have to hit you on the top of your head" in combination with Rachel's voice, the cutesy "meow" background vocals, and the driving rhythm and guitars take it somewhere completely new. It's almost like the song was meant for The Detroit Cobras.

Tied & True goes on to some greater leaps with the cover of Willie James's "Try Love." A slow burner where Rachel's voice considerably softens but keeps a sharp edginess with it's outdated lyrics. There's some further ground broken for the Goffin/Cornfeld/Wine classic originally recorded by one of the first girl groups, The Cookies, with the introduction of acoustic guitar providing the rhythm and some almost Rubber soul based electric riffs sprinkled in. A personal suprise on Tied & True is the transformation of Leadbelly's gospel lyric themed "On a Monday" into a "country music gets fuzzed up Detroit style" rockabilly barndancer. That's an awful lot to combine, but it's almost as if the essence of all forms of American music excluding jazz: Delta Blues, Gospel, Country, and R&B is perfectly combined into one song. If it hasn't occurred to you yet, this combination is cited as what created rock 'n' roll. Therefore, the ambitious version done by The Detroit Cobras actually defines rock 'n' roll. You can't get much cooler than that. Then again, that description is so academic that it's too serious. On Tied & True, it's just great rock 'n' roll that's there for all to shake their hips and get down and dirty. For The Detroit Cobras and for the rest of us, that's how it should be.

Although this video is from an older song, it best describes what it's like to see The Detroit Cobras live:

Barbarella Girl God: Introducing The Chevelles

The Chevelles

Barbarella Girl God: Introducing The Chevelles
Wicked Cool Records

After practically 20 years of existence and success in Australia and Europe, The super loud powerpop guitar attack of Perth, Australia's The Chevelles finally hit American shores next week with Barbarella Girl God: Introducing The Chevelles. The American debut is well earned. The Chevelles have changed members many times over. Nevertheless, the musical pedigree is pretty impressive. Founding members include Richard Lane and Gary Chambers of the legendary and seminal Perth garage act The Stems as well as their second and current Stems drummer Dave Shaw. Founding Chevelles members Duane Smith from The Freuds, and Jeff Halley from The Kryptonics. Although well known in both Europe and Australia, a multitude of singles, EPs, and full length releases plus one small, joint Australia/American release At Second Glance in 1998, international recognition has eluded The Chevelles due to the familiar story of bad business decisions by record labels, bankrupticies, and a periodically changing lineup mostly involving drummers. Fortunately, that was where the Spinal Tap parallel ended, so no sudden deaths from spontaneous combustions, bizarre gardening accidents, or worse. Their current drummer Paul Di Renzo is a solid powerhouse, so he'll hopefully be there for the long haul. Nevertheless, Barbarella Girl God: Introducing The Chevelles is further proof that the Aussie garage scene spawned some of the best rock 'n roll out there. Luckily, with current reissues from The Hoodoo Gurus, The Hitmen, The Screaming Tribesmen and the extensive Do The Pop Redux: Part I with Parts II and III soon to follow, plus recent new releases from Radio Birdman and The Stems (go here to read the review for The Stems late 2007 release Heads Up), some of the best garage acts ever are finally being heard for the first time. Therefore, the "best of" release Barbarella Girl God: Introducing The Chevelles could not have been timed better.

The Chevelles play the loudest powerpop known on this Earth! That's undeniable. There's something for the girls since it's catchy and has super syrupy sweet vocal harmonies, but there's something for the guys with dual feedback laden powerchords whose mere sound screams damage to human eardrums at any volume level, both courtesy of Duane Smith and Adrian Allen. Although categorized as powerpop, The Chevelles are like their Aussie cohorts since their garage heyday had bands that occupied shades of grey with various mixtures of powerpop and the more basic garage rock. Although everybody sounded different, the connections, common roots and in many cases, the fact that the scene was small and everyone played in each other's bands at one time or another gave all the Aussie garage bands a common interest that was equalled to their common music influences with each band tending towards one side or another to varying degrees. So although The Chevelles are by their own admittance powerpop, their music falls almost more in line with the louder garage rock influences. One of the earlier tracks on Barbarella Girl God: Introducing The Chevelles is 1990's "She Don't Come Around," a three chord poppy rocker with some great '60s style guitar. Suprisingly, the song was released as a dual single with the Richard Lane penned "Be My Friend," which gained more praise and was noted by a critic to "rock harder and louder than any Stems song" and is unfortunately, not included in Barbarella Girl God: Introducing The Chevelles. However, Lane "departed" in late 1991 and used many of the songs originally penned for the band for his new project, The Rosebud Generation. Therefore, the music written by Duane and Jeff is highlighted on this anthology since they are the remaining original members and the purpose of Barbarella Girl God: Introducing The Chevelles is to bring them into the present as a current band and not a full retrospective.

Some standout tracks taken from the 1995 release Rollerball Candy include "She's Not Around," a super hyped vocal harmony song that treads the line between catchy pop and straight three chord '60s garage rock and an edgy remake of "For Your Love," originally made famous by The Yardbirds. The majority of the tracks on Barbarella Girl God: Introducing The Chevelles are pulled from their 2002 releases Sunseeker (Spain) and Girl God (Australia, USA and UK). Although all of them are great, crunched up powerpop songs with the distinctive Chevelles feedback power chords on two guitars, the 'cute boy' vocals for "C'mon Everybody" are almost deceptive since it sounds like somebody at least 10 years younger than any of them were at the time, but the nod to fellow Aussies The Sunnyboys is really cool. "Sleeper," another track from the same era, is a psych-metallic, riffed up melodic guitar rocker juxtaposed with vocal harmonies that are perfected together. "Angelina Jolie" is cheesy just for the subject matter, but it will still pop your eardrums, so we can allow them that indulgence. Included on Barbarella Girl God: Introducing The Chevelles are three new tracks: The powerful "Get It On," the incredibly cool but basic 3 chords of "Stacey Loves Cocaine," and the primitive, psyched out ball-rocker "Barbarella," a science fiction worst case scenario of what happens when two best friends come accross a hot woman adrift in space and longing for company.

As we all know, anyone can write and play catchy songs and anyone can play them loud, but the real genius comes in when they can do both and combine the catchiness with the rawness better than most. The Chevelles not only succeed in making super loud songs with catchy hooks better than most, the feel is unique and comes across as a a few laid back surfers bending their axes to their own will in a casual but controlled style much like they might do on their boards. In other words, they make it look really easy, fun, loud, but laid back; and that's the way it should be. Barbarella Girl God: Introducing The Chevelles might appeal to the casual rock listener while still pleasing the serious rock and garage fan with its catchy vocals and trashy loud but still slick guitar rock. On second thought, the casual listener will probably think it's too loud.

Barbarella Girl God: Introducing The Chevelles is 16 tracks and almost an hour of supercharged powerpop that is certain to get them the recognition in The States that these Aussie garage rock veterans deserve. In truth, this album is so fucking cool and loud that it's the most fun one could ever have without taking their clothes off or killing their brain cells! They also have an upcoming album Accelerator due for release later this year. Hopefully, our ears might still be functional by then.

To take a look at their photo album from South by Southwest this year, click on the photo.

Thee Exciters: Spending Cash, Talking Trash

Thee Exciters

Spending Cash, Talking Trash
Dirty Water Records

I couldn't list the title in the bulletin since it sounds like a rap album. And trashy Thee Exciters are! These guys sound like they crawled out of a gutter, picked up some instruments, and proceeded to completely empty a bar's liquor supply. Vocalist Paul Le-Brock sounds like he spent the night taking shots of whiskey and chain smoking only to wake up the next day and start over early in the morning while Justin Cunningham's tube amp is turned up to "11" and channeled through a three fuzz boxes. A scratchy voice and some mean, fuzzed out and downright nasty guitar. Spending Cash, Talking Trash is for the garage rock purist. It just doesn't get any more garage than this.

To make things even more primitive, there's a true caveman rocker complete with ape noises on "Ugly Face" combined with just a hint of surf and a pounding beat from Richey Walker that could scare your parents. That's a damn good thing. Rock 'n' roll should always scare your parents. A standout track is "Guts for Garters" which could easily be mistaken for "Your Body, Not Your Soul" from Cuby and The Blizzards, but only after making sure the original tape is sandpapered down almost to the point of not being playable.

Spending Cash, Talking Trash is 12 tracks of fuzzed out garage rawk that will sucker punch any garage afficionado into realizing that Southampton is only secondary to Detroit. These guys sound like a Stooges vs. Sonics bash over the head with guitars brawl, but with survivors! The songs are basic r&b thrown in battery acid. "Bringing Me Down" highlights that basis and then amps it up with a super loaded bass from Alex Tapps and then trashed up with Justin's riffs and occasional Townshend monkey swings which sound like emphatic statements. One also just can't get away from the perfect scream-howls from Paul, but the song descends into an all out guitar/bass wail that goes beyond the basic. The following track "Chillin' Truth" follows the same premise but has it sped up to a southern fried beat that will get even the most knuckle-walking troglodyte to the most uptight, tailor made drainpipe pants hipster to stand on two feet and start moving.

Spending Cash, Talking Trash, the debut full length album from Southampton's Thee Exciters has too many good songs to mention. It was also recorded in mono, which makes it sound even more uncivilized. If that's not enough to get your RAWK on, the CD version contains an entire live set from Dirty Water Club's 10th Anniversary weekend in October 2006.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your brain:

This is your brain on Thee Exciters:

Any Questions?