Friday, September 26, 2008

The Dials: Amoeba Amore. New Wave, Perfect Rock 'n' Roll.

The Dials

Amoeba Amore
No Fun Records

"New Wave" is the hardest thing in the world to describe. It's basically anything that didn't have guitar solos and a bunch of guys wearing leather, spikes, and long hair who played arenas in the '80s. It was something that most radio stations just didn't touch for a few years. It's hard to musically categorize new wave, but it was a mix of '60s garage/punk, early punk, post punk, Velvet Underground, and maybe some early psychedelic rock. That's a lot to go with. However, for one who was alive and listening to music in the early '80s, the word "New Wave" or "Modern Music" brings to mind bands like Devo, Josie Cotton, and maybe Oingo Boingo. It was fast, danceable, loud music that had some kind of quirky bend to it with a synth trading off prominence with guitars. Chicago's The Dials sound like a new wave band. It's young and new with hints of '60s girl groups and keyboard melodies but it still sounds like rock 'n' roll, just with a post modern keyboard/synth over it. Amoeba Amore couldn't be less than a "new wave" title. It's downright nerdy and cool to start with. That was kind of the calling card for new wave. It was out of the mainstream and not for the popular kids. They were busy listening to Ozzy, Rush, Van Halen, Twisted Sister, etc (No offense to those guys, btw). It was musically new ground there for the nerds, weirdos, and misfits that weren't angry enough to go punk. New wave aside, The Dials and their May 2008 release Amoeba Amore is more than a "new wave" album. It's actually full of great songs that defy comparison when combined into a single album.

"Antonio" is a girl group song amped up in power chords. Vocal/bass Rebecca Crawford sounds urgent, but strong and her voice slightly leans towards the "loud" than melodic end, which adds an element of youth and newness. It sounds like a '60s girl group, but it's also loud powerpop and a catchy chorus. The album's title track "Amoeba Amore" has a more trashy guitar sound from Patti Gran coupled with a lyric to excite the brain in anyone - "Don't want to be a, onomatopeia." Punk/new wave with a brain? Do you remember "Square Pegs"? If so, you'll get the quirked out weirdness of "3 Is Better Than 4," a definite new wave keyboard song somewhere between The Sparks and Devo that builds up to a louder guitar song with keyboard fading back into a cool melody.

"Aim and Shoot" is a departure because it trades off the power chords for a more subtle interplay of guitar vs. keyboard melodies which are very reminiscent of The Chameleons, and almost unknown but seminal dark Britpop band from Manchester, UK that was around inbetween fellow Manchesterites Joy Division and The Smiths but never found the recognition that they so aptly deserved. "Sharp Teeth" is a minimal approach that's both eerie and optimistic - "Tonight I'm going to make it right, so show your teeth tonight." In almost keeping a theme, the following "Blood Sucker" somehow reminds me of The Damned. I have no clue why. Maybe because it's a guitar track with the keyboard providing a slightly post punk/goth melody, Rebecca and/or Patti's vocals (they both do lead, so I'm not sure which one sings lead on each song) possess an almost dark command like Dave Vanian on The Black Album. Honestly, it's not that dark, but the hints are there.

One couldn't have a "new wave" album without a good '80s reference. "Joe Lies" is a perfect reference with an almost "Do You Wanna Dance" melody that's just as sweet and memorable with powerchords and "Ooh La La" harmonies. "Happy After All" is post punk in it's guitar note melody, but the chorus makes it a lot more fun. I'm not sure how to describe or rate their cover of Foreigner's forgettable "Urgent," but the Chad Romowski's beats and Emily Dennsion's keys make a crappy song about as good as it could possibly be.

I think a possible summation of The Dials Amoeba Amore is found on the ending track "Carnivale" with it's post punk structure combined with two female vocals that compliment each other but have a more tongue in cheek and less serious approach that's more raw, but the descriptions fall short. It's quite often that great music isn't easily categorized. The Dials have elements of '60s girl groups, the spontanaiety of NY punk, melodies that are either early '80s American new wave like Blondie, Devo or others, strong powerpop hooks, and those melodies often hint at darker post punk. Amoeba Amore has touches of all those things. It's fun and catchy, but successfully branches into darker territory without sounding like a different band. I would really have to point out right now that great rock 'n' roll is not a category but an overall approach. It can take you to new places or at least, ones you haven't visited in a while. The Dials Amoeba Amore is a great album for doing that. In the end, they prove that the categories are utterly useless in tying them to one thing. The Dials are a great band in their defiance of a category, but they have a growing following and have shared the stage with equally talented but more easily definable acts like The Woggles and The Briefs.

Amoeba Amore is different, challenging, and a lot to absorb. However, it's truly different and definitely original rock 'n' roll that leaves one wanting to hear much more of The Dials.

Amoeba Amore is available at your local indie record store and online at No Fun Records. There's also an upcoming review for The Avatars, another act on No Fun Records.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Paisley Underground Legends The Marshmallow Overcoat and their new release The Light Show is Fuzzadelic!

The Marshmallow Overcoat

The Light Show

The Marshmallow Overcoat were a Paisley Underground band. That's a pretty important distinction as it was the first garage rock revival. without bands like them, a lot of bands that we all find so important today might have never started. What's more, they're and always have been all about The Fuzz! They're new release The Light Show is purely fuzzadelic. It's slightly familiar, but these guys were the true originals.

Love's "A House Is Not A Hotel" is an ambitious choice to start off The Light Show. Not just because it's a cover, but because Love and their music were not particularly oriented towards electric guitar, but more LA folk based, multiintstrumental. Love made some of the best music out there and I highly recommend it, but The Marshmallow Overcoat turn their song into a loud but still melodic rock song as a great reinterpretation and homage. I'm not sure why "Santa Fuzz" is on this. Not exactly timely, and admittedly a silly title. On the other hand, this song is pure, heavy handed fuzz! Not only that, there's no other way to describe it! I'll take my present early this year, thanks! In the spirit of giving, the sweet sound of the Rick is pulled out and given the royal treatment on "She Don't Care About Time" by The Byrds.

The Marshmallow Overcoat have a sound from another decade, but they've got a great punch and throaty voiced abrasiveness that epitomizes the punk infusion of '60s garage rock. "Hate You Baby" is another superfuzz and Vox dirge that one can't help paticipating along with "Hate you baby, go away!" Vocalist Timothy Gassen is not a golden throat, that's for sure, but has an almost ghoulish "alright" that just could not be done any better. On the more melodic tracks, he's smoother, but overall, he sounds like a cool uncle who takes responsibility for teaching you what good music is. The album's title track The Light Show has a dark, eerie, deep Vox feel of the slower Doors work, but has a lot of subtlety to it that's so much better. On another keyboard based song "I Looked At You," Mr. Gassen sounds so scratchy and sad that it's almost perverse, but definitely fun. The downtempo "(Can't Stop) Thee Hands of Tyme" could have been the anti hippie downer song of '67. It has more Manzerek like keyboards and composition, but there's a psychedelic fuzz guitar assault in the middle that could make a flower wilt. "Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White" is a straight approach garage rock song reminiscent of "House of Rock" by their both timewarped and current counterparts, Hitsburg's own The Fleshtones!

The Light Show has eight tracks, but there are four bonus tracks and included in the CD-ROM version is a music video and a 28 song mp3 album. One can also order The Light Show with 27 Ghosts: The Best of 1986-2005 for $15 US postpaid. If that's not enough of a great offer to join the fuzzolution, their label also has the "Knights of Fuzz" DVD with 26 tracks from The Vipers, The Cynics, The Fuzztones, The Pandoras, The Gruesomes, and more combined with a CD from The Purple Merkins. Altogether, you've got some great choices about how to get your fuzzadelic on by getting music from a lot of great bands, but if you love fuzz, you're education and collection is nowhere near complete without The Marshmallow Overcoat.

It's not often that garage rock legends from when you were growing up reunite. It's almost never that they put out a new release and send it to you to review! The true Knights of Fuzz, The Marshmallow Overcoat are back and The Light Show is a timely and all too important testimony that shows us how it's done!

Brace yourselves. "Psilocybic Mind" and "The Mummy" from 27 Ghosts: The Best of 1986-2005 are more than enough to let you know what you've been missing.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fuad & The Feztones Want YOU To Build A Beeramid!

Fuad & The Feztones

Ricochet Sound

It's great to finally hear some good news from the Middle East! Saddle up your camel, through on the fez, and groove out to Fuad & The Feztones! And who said people from the Middle East can only rock when they're throwing one? Just kidding. Fuad & The Feztones are actually a garage/frat rock/soul band composed of Bobby Beaton and John Davis of Montreal garage rock icons The Gruesomes and fellow Montrealites Dave Hamelin and Liam O’Neil of The Stills. For a couple of dudes from The Great White North, they've definitely got a wild Nile groove on to come out with Beeramid. If one over tried making a beer tower alone, you'd realize the Beeramid is quite a monument.

This band serves up some pretty heavy handed doses of harsh reality on emotionally laden tracks like "Djibouti Call," a sweet little number with enough sweet sax to get King Tut himself groovin.' "Beeramid" is an invitation to make something out of one of everyone's favorite hobbies, drinkin' beer. It's not working for me. I'd rather drink beer. I don't have the patience to build a Beeramid like the pharoah asks. Then again, it would make it easier to walk around my place if the empties were more organized. One must admit that a pharoah who wants a monumbent of beer cans and bottles has to be a cool guy. Hell, with the invitation to sing along, a sweet beat, some funky bass, keys, and finally guitar all played for the pharoah, it's awfully persuasive to not only have one build a monument for the party pharoah, but it's so cool that it would make a great religion, only this one would actually make sense! "The Boogaloser" is about the rather out of shape, aging hipsters that many of us have become. For those of you who aren't, you'll get there. My description can't do the song justice, so some lyrical reprint is necessary:

Every night on the dance floor It ain't right
- he must be forty-four Or more He tries so
hard to be hip But he's a drip...

He did the Twist - but broke his leg He did
the Bird - and laid an egg How 'bout the
Swim? - well he nearly drowned He did
the Horse - they had to put him down How
'bout the Dog? - he up and died He did the
Chicken - the man got fried

There's plenty more where that came from. However, the music is downright cool. Frat rock is rooted in garage and soul, but kind of has a "coolness" to it exemplified by some '60s hipster pad where the owner is young enough to be cool, but would rather swing than rock. However, there's plenty of rockin' goin' on Beeramid on instrumental tracks like "Mo' Rockin," which has a swinging beat and features some nice blues guitar, but not too long or sad. Like most of the music, it's just enough to be really good but still laid back. A lot of us can't identify with "Brother in Law," but the lyrics can apply to a lazy roommate or any 'friend' who's constantly crashing on your couch, especially when they drink your last beer! Either you'll think it's the hippest or the strangest, but nuggets like "Man I sure feel awful...I musta ate some bad falafel...There's nothing left to eat round here and my dog drank all of my beer" from "That's Bad, That's Worse" is a thought that none of us want to experience in person. Luckily, the lyrics are included on the CD and we're encouraged to sing along with Fuad since he needs all the help he can get.

There's a few cool R&B/soul covers on Beeramid such as a great cover of "The Cool Bird" from early '60s St. Louis R&B legends The Five Dutones as well as the related "Little Sally Walker" by Ike Turner. In keeping with the St. Louis R&B influence, there's an almost 'surfy' cover of "Camel Walk" by The Ikettes.

While tracks 1-13 was filmed at the secret Mummy's Tomb, Beeramid also has seven bonus tracks from The Valley Of The Kings Session.

Beeramid has plenty of great schtick. Simultaneously, it's got a lot of soul. The tunes are tight and well thought out. They groove, make you want to sing along and shake a tailfeather or two. Fuad & The Feztones is what great rock 'n' roll is all about. Besides, the three chord, primal, loud fuzz of garage rock and its shared idea of having fun and getting your feet moving came from St. Louis R&B, not just Motown. The fact that it was done by a bunch of Montrealites is not surprise considering that people in so many countries took American Roots Rock 'N' Roll and R&B and made it their own, but Egyptians? It's only proof that we've got a lot to learn. But Fuad & The Feztones love rock 'n' roll and it shows. So if you grab some pals, throw on some fezzes and dancin' shows, then tap the keg and a few martinis to measure, Beeramid is the perfect soundtrack. Yes, it's technically frat rock, which is a less guitar chord oriented type of r&b that merged into part of garage rock later. Then again, since frat boys usually don't know the first thing about good rock 'n' roll, and that's a good thing. Fuad & The Feztones got it right. As garage rock fans, we love rock 'n' roll, not "garage rock." We dig the soul and the R&B that spawned it, but most of the stuff we really love still has that R&B influence that shows. Naturally, if you love rock 'n' roll, you'll really dig Beeramid. On the other hand, if you love to drink beer and have a good time, you'll like it, too. Finally, if you're lost in the dark and looking for a sense of purpose, then listen to Fuad & The Feztones, pray to the pharoah, and start building a Beeramid. Then again, it's not the weekend yet. start planning.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Halloween A Go-Go! Fuzztones, Stems, Minus 5 + More!

Halloween A Go-Go

Wicked Cool Records

A lot of us get into better music through compilations, whether official releases, playlists, or the still classic standby, the mix tape (Watch High Fidelity). The obvious example is the Nuggets compilations, but there's the Pebbles compilations and quite a few more that are known for getting people into music they might otherwise not hear or not care about until they can connect it with music they do like. In that spirit, at least before the rest of the spirits are appeased, Wicked Cool Records has released a little treat of great music on its Halloween special compilation Halloween A Go-Go.

With any good compilation, there are some expected standards and then some neat "treats" thrown in that one might not know about or hear otherwise. Although the songs aren't necessarily all about ghouls and zombies, there's an awful lot about bad dreams which also allude to perceived isolation or loss. A good illustration of this is the Electric Prunes classic "I Had Too Much To Dream." With a start like that, one can only expect more good things. There's also the almost "Pictures of Lily" mixed with LSD and a one night stand with Sgt. Pepper of "Walking Through My Dreams" from The Pretty Things. Also included with the dream/alternate reality theme is "Walking Through My Nightmares" from The Chesterfield Kings. Speaking of walking, it seems like a lot of creepy encounters have to do with walking on this compilation. There's "Walking With A Ghost" from Canadian indie popsters Tegan and Sara which has a nice touch of Gary Newman style synth, but the ultimate stroll comes from Roky Erickson And The Aliens "I Walked With A Zombie," which is an all time favorite that just about anyone can't help but to sing along to. Consequently, REM does a great cover on 1990's Where The Pyramid Meets The Eye: A Tribute To Roky Erickson.

Although one can say the songs are somewhat "traditional" (hmmm, "traditional" + "Halloween"?), the music used on the compilation runs the gamut a little more than others in an attempt to give good, ghoulish music that crosses genres to give a bigger picture of good rock 'n' roll. A prime example of this is "Put Your Cat Clothes On" by Carl Perkins, which is a cool, swinging rockabilly tune. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band on this compilation is no surprise, but the song choice of "Restless Nights," originally an outtake from The River, is a pleasant surprise with plenty of somewhat Poe like lyrics:

Wished we ran and lived as one
In another world my little one
Where strange trees and dark rivers run
I told a dream to you

The song also has a smooth organ part. Great song! As a side note, the "hit" from The River was "Hungry Heart," which was originally written for The Ramones by Bruce at Joey's request. Another suprising choice is "Season Of The Which" by Donovan, which by far one of his best songs.

One can't have Halloween without the usual assortment of ghouls, zombies, and wolfmen. There are some prime choices here. Garage rock and Halloween just isn't complete without The Fuzztones. They've been around for 30ish years or so and are among the chosen few torch bearers of garage rock through the decades. An obvious but always entertaining track of theirs included in the compilation is "I'm The Wolfman." In keeping with the '60s horror flick theme, there's a also a great track from the stellar but barely known outside of the UK band Jarvis Humby with "The Man With X Ray Eyes." Like the movie, Jarvis Humby presents a somewhat psychologically disturbing image coupled with a perfect mix of '60s Garage and Northern Soul that remains virtually unknown but among the most original acts playing "garage rock" today. A true standout garage rocker is "Lies Of The Living Dead" by The Minus 5, a powerpop/psychedelic supergroup of Scott McGaughey, Peter Buck, Steve Wynn, Bill Reiflin, and an assortment of alterna rock legends like Steve Turner, Lee Renaldo, and many others. This one rocks and is a great surprise. The other special treat is "I Am A Demon And I Love Rock 'n' Roll" from Finland's Sweatmaster. This song is a must hear with it's handclapping beat and deadpan cool delivery, much like fellow Scandinavians The Hives, but with a lot more '70s punk.

Perhaps the spookiest song of all since it reflects a common experience that many of us have had is a perfect farfisa and fuzz number "She's A Monster" from Perth, Australia's The Stems:

She tried to kiss me
I was terrified
'cause she had changed right before my yes

The Stems were very influential but relatively unknown outside of Australia. However, their catalog is not only excellent, but whose subsequent offshoots such as The Someloves, DM3, Dom Mariani and The Majestic Kelp, and The Rosebud Generation are all brilliant, guitar based, melodic garage to garage infused powerpop outfits that mostly only available as imports. In fact, The Someloves 1990 release Something Or Other, with Dom Mariani from The Stems and Darryl Mather, formerly of The Lime Spiders is known by many to be one of the best powerpop albums of all time. At present, Get Hip Records has the only Stems compilation released in the US, Terminal Cool. They also have the import version of last year's superb release Heads Up, which will be available soon in a US distribution from the label.

A great compilation presents some general themes that fit around an idea, but includes a combination of material that's familiar but loved, stuff that is relatively unheard of but among some of the best rock 'n' roll out there, and some well picked nods to the past. Halloween A Go-Go has it all. Even if some of it doesn't quite scare out the demon in you, many of the bands and songs featured are true testimony that some of the best rock 'n' roll out there can come from anywhere in the world, but remains relatively unheard. Finally, an objective of a great compilation is to give those bands that fit the previous description some great exposure, much like Nuggets, Children of Nuggets, Pebbles, and many others. Halloween A Go-Go serves up a witches brew of great rock 'n' roll that's a perfect treat for the season, but with quite a few special tricks thrown in.

Wicked Cool Records also offers Halloween A Go-Go in a bundle with pint glasses, t-shirts, and a bag included for those of you who haven't grown up yet and want to go trick or treating. Remember to not accept apples, baked goods, and opened candy, please.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Love Me Nots new release Detroit!

The Love Me Nots

Atomic A Go Go Records

The hottest/coolest thing to come out of Arizona have returned with their second album wrought in spy/surf mayhem. Whereas their debut In Black & White packed punches in every song, Detroit pummels. Nicole's vocals are stronger, more seductive, louder, and more soulful, while Michael Johny's guitar is heavier, thicker, and louder. As if the two leaders aren't enough to batter you with fuzzed out surf and farfisa for nearly 40 minutes, bassist Christina Nunez and drummer Jay Lien equally join the melee with every thud and pound, although both left recently and were replaced by Kyle Rose Stokes and Vince Ramirez. In Black & White was a flawless debut that left many record labels pounding at their door. Alas, The Love Me Nots were left unimpressed with the possibility of major label exposure and losing certain rights as a compromise. As a result, the band kept their DIY attitude and outdid themselves. Detroit is the second album released on their own label, Atomic A Go Go records. This is an album that labels wish their artists could do.

Ghetto Recorders guru Jim Diamond turned the knobs again, but this time, every thing that was so great about In Black & White was turned up to 11! An Arizona band turned into natives of The Motor City, definitely. Detroit is heavier in volume and power. Farfisa/lead vocal Nicole Laurenne's voice is enough to leave everyone bowing their heads in awe on the opening track "Walk Around Them," but the keys blast in like ice against Michael Johnny's wailing guitar, but the chords have an echo that fills up every corner of a room. There's also a cool pre-solo of melodic bass fuzz that one can't help but nod their head in approval. "Bulletproof Heart" and "Secret Pocket" has almost Arabian guitar intros and later solos that is nothing less than authentic if one considers that surf guitar legend Dick Dale is of Lebanese descent and used Arabian melodies as a major influence in his work. Jay's drumming on it is tough, primal, and to the point, but Nicole's almost hypnotic keys on "Secret Pocket" have a swirling, almost mesmerizing effect that could make anyone swoon if it weren't for the fact that all the other instrumental and vocal parts demand notice. "I'm The One" is almost a 'traditional' garage rock song with it's simple beat, but the keys are eerie enough to throw one into a zombie movie. "Love Letter" is almost a refrain from the previous tracks in it's simpler delivery. Whereas the songs before it have an almost punk assault in delivery, "Love Letter" is a freakbeat dance song that can fill the floor. "Work" is a pure r&b foray that showcases a fuller range of Nicole's vocal prowess in that it's smooth and seductive, but the added tambourine rhythm is a great surprise as well as the certainly Motown style background vocals.

Detroit is undeniable fun that is far better in its intensity and simplicity than most of what's out there. The 60's surf, garage, spy movie and fuzz/farfisa are all there, one can instantly pick out the influences, but the delivery is punk in volume and one can only slightly pick out influences to say what they sound like. For example, "Shuffle" has loud, dark surf guitar and the beat that could have been at home on Hulabaloo, Shindig, or Beat Club, but it doesn't really sound like anyone. An exception is the commanding Black & Blue that hints at The Sonics "Have Love, Will Travel." Then again, that song is such a staple that an awful lot of great bands have a few songs in their repertoire that hearkens back to it. Although Birthday Present has the same beat of In Black & White's "Move In Tight," the Farfisa is nice and muddier than the other tracks, Nicole's voice into full command as well as the others. "Shaken" is a slower, subtle but still intense, and desolate lament that's a perfect ending for the album.

Unfortunately, the prophecy that I made in my review of In Black & White that The Love Me Nots would not be playing in small places for much longer has not come true. The music business has yet to adjust and profit from the digital age. Thus, bands make most of their money via publishing and getting their music on TV, film, and commercials. Naturally, record labels are demanding larger chunks of those rights. It's really sad to think that great music is a soundtrack to sell cars, computers, cheesy teenage dramas, and just about everything else. On the other hand, bands like The Love Me Nots prove that great rock 'n' roll that's raw, energetic, and fun is out there for those who want it. Even better is the fact that without the major recognition, The Love Me Nots hold their listeners and viewers at live shows in the palms of their hands with their sound and presence. In conclusion, the labels can have whoever they can sign and make money off of someone else's hard work. The Love Me Nots belong to themselves and to us, the music fans. Their choice to go it alone made no difference. Detroit is not only great, but it's proof that great bands can make better music without a label bankrolling the recording then taking most of the royalties as payback. As a development and natural progression from In Black & White, The Love Me Nots take their distinct musical parts and have combined them skillfully and with louder volume to the point where Detroit lives up to The Love Me Nots new symbol, a shiny, blinding silver go go boot. It's not just a perfect illustration of where they've come, but an even better middle finger of defiance to the music industry by holding that shiny boot up as if to say "We did it without you and its better than almost anything you got!" Fuzz on!

"Walk Around Them"

With many indie acts, you're not going to find them in your neighborhood corporate record store. For those of you who want instant gratification, Detroit is available on iTunes. If you're of the wisdom that great music is art and art has value, then buy the CD. Yours truly has already done the digging. The most direct route is from the band themselves at Their official online store. Another cool place to get Detroit is from Get Hip. They're not only a label that's home to great acts like The Cynics, The Breakup Society, and The Ugly Beats, but they're also a distribution company that exclusively carries some of the best garage rock out there from acts like The Stems, Paul Collins Beat, and The Black Hollies, just to name a few. They're a premier, independent American garage rock label that has a lot of great music and some really great people to get it from. Not only do they love their rock 'n' roll and they show it, they also have a special affection for vinyl and those that like it. Besides, they're really cool people and they'll get your order out fast.

NOTE: There's an upcoming review of the original Arizona Knights of Fuzz Legends The Marshmallow Overcoat and their new release The Light Show coming up soon, as well as heavy Rickenbacker psych rockers The Quarter After's new release Changes Near. Subscribe to the blog if you want to get notifications when new reviews are posted.


Upcoming Shows

Sep 11 2008 8:00P
SPIKE'S BAR Rosemead, California
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Oct 10 2008 10:00P
STUDIO 66 @ LO-FI GALLERY Seattle, Washington
Oct 11 2008 10:00P
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Nov 21 2008 10:00P
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Feb 7 2009 10:00P
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SXSW March 18-22 Austin, Texas
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VEGAS SCOOTER RALLY 2009 Las Vegas, Nevada
Apr 15 2009 8:00P
European Tour TBA April 15-26 TBA

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Urges-Psych Ward. Review, In US stores 9/2/08!

The Urges

Psych Ward
Wicked Cool Records (US)

Although Psych Ward was released in Europe a almost a year ago on Germany's Screaming Apple Records, this release that has garnered so much praise both far and wide overseas is due for release on American shores tomorrow as remastered version on Wicked Cool Records. I'm not going to join in with an opinion, but having two different options is a good thing. Recorded at the growing legendary Circo Perrotti Studios in Gijon, Spain by Jorge Explosion, who recorded Pittsburgh legends The Cynics latest offering Here We Are as well as releases from Billy Childish, Los Immediatos, and The Dee Rangers to name a few, Psych Ward is almost a purist's delight of '60s garage punk. Fuzz, psychedelic Farfisa, zombie howls, harmony vocals, you name it, it's here. In fact, us Americans are now kind of late in our discovery of The Urges and their debut Psych Ward. Reviews from all over have hailed them as mistaken for a '60s garage punk band, leaders of the new generation of psych/punk, to the missing link between '60s garage punk and '80s Paisley Underground. Then again, that last reference is over two decades old. Since then, garage rock, garage punk, and many psych tinged manifestations on it have emerged with bands that are both backwards in their influences but forwards in their sound. However, The Urges sound like all of those things combined and fans leaning towards every angle are going to pick up on it.

The opening "Jenny Jenny" is a raw '60s Brit Beat number with lyrics that bear an eerie resemblance to "If I Ain't Got You" by The Len Price 3 - "Without you I'm just a ghost of myself" although with a bit more of a louder garage rock twang. However, "Jenny Jenny" was released in 2005 as a b-side to the debut single '(Around &) Around Again'. Subsequent to that, in 2006, the song was included on a French garage compilation named 'Gloria' (http://www. gloriaclub. fr/compile1/) which coincidently included the Len Price 3. One might pick up traces of The Chocolate Watchband or The 13th Floor Elevators on "I Gotta Wait," but there are simultaneous traces of raw guitar much like early Stones and The Downliners Sect. The following track "You Don't Look So Good" lines up well next to The Wheels but adds more fuzz guitar, a stronger beat, and great harmonies. The Urges manage to break out some great surf guitar and a pretty strong Chesterfield Kings style farfisa melody, but the overall feels is still older and louder. "You're Gonna Find Out" is a tripped out mix of The Remains and even a touch of early Cynics. This sounds like an awful lot of "sound like" to stomach, but if you take parts of all of your favorite bands and put them together into one, The Urges could be it. "The 13th Floor" could be mistaken for a '60s garage psych classic, but somehow it's also a deeper rock lament that's both psychedelic but without some of the forgettable experimentation of early garage psych. One could guess that this what it sounds like when a garage punk tries something psychedelic. It's more urgent, compact, louder, and much more focused. "Salvaje" is a fuzzed out stomp that unmistakably could be The Mummies and throws in some great, ghouly Cramps laughs. Among the more straightforward songs is "So Uptight," which sounds a little too much like "Stepping Stone," only much better. "The Urges Theme" is a muted reverb, dark, surfy, echo laden song with some truly impressive tremolo and building beats.

I'm finding it really hard not to talk about every song on Psych Ward. Every song is packed with something great. One might hear The Seeds influence on "Out of Time" while others will hear traces of Mickey & The Milkshakes and The Electric Prunes. That's actually a fine example. Take your pick of something really good and you'll hear some of it, no matter what decade of the garage spectrum you lean towards. "Curse It All" is an all out surf romp that seems to cross territory into fast paced Irish pub and Russian drinking music. The guitar is fast and all out impressive, and the beat holds time with it just as frenetically. The last track is "Psych Ward." It's just as impressive as the rest, but heavier on the Electric Prunes styled delerium and the only "psychedelic" studio effect on the whole album thrown in at the end.

One could look at The Urges Psych Ward in two different ways. Before I start on the negative, I need to use the disclaimer that those who can do music do it, but those who don't succeed critique. One can easily narrow The Urges as a band who listened to their parents' record collection and all volumes of Nuggets religiously and studied them to come out with a sound that has all those influences without allegiance to a single one. As a result, It's great music, although not original. I beg to differ. As I've said before, don't listen to rock 'n' roll if you want to hear something original. It's rock 'n' roll! It's basic. Guitar, bass, and drums. The real truth is that great rock 'n' roll never gets old. If one combines great parts of 60's garage rock, garage psych, garage punk, zombie films, surf music, Paisley Underground, and everything else that's been out afterwards that's worthy of one or more of those labels and is good, it would sound like The Urges, but it's definitely original. Psych Ward has the fuzz of garage, the faster, sharper guitar of surf, the psych garage of Farfisa, but the youth, focus, and volume of garage punk. '60s garage purists, mod music fans, surf afficionados, psych rockers who want some good vocal harmony or melodic embellishment on guitar, and garage punks who want to hear loud wails and basic chords will hear ALL of those things in each song. In the end, you'll hear at least one thing you like in every single song; one thing that reminds you of another band that you really, really like, but different from them at the same time. This band sounds both like seasoned '60s garage staples AND loud, snotty punks with attitude. According to their bios, they had little to no musical experience. After listening to Psych Ward, one would find that really hard to believe. It's that fucking good.

I would strongly recommend buying the Wicked Cool Records release because the stereo remaster is a great listening experience on headphones or a personal stereo. One can hear every subtlety and realize just how great these guys are. The Wicked Cool version of Psych Ward is also available on LP with a CD included of bonus tracks, so that's a must own. On the other hand, the music is loud and DAMN fun. It's meant to be heard that way. Therefore, the original mono release from Screaming Apple Records (Off The Hip in Australia) is also a must own because it can live up to a louder, less refined live club experience. Additionally, a mono recording sounds good with or without two speakers, so one can still hear everything. Besides, it was recorded in mono on purpose, like all recording from Circo Perrotti Studios, it's just damn good the way it is. Besides, one will not appreciate the remaster as much or the album as much without hearing the what it was originally intended to sound like. The final conclusion is to buy both since The Urges are that good and deserve your money. Psych Ward is not only one of the best full length debuts out there, it's definitely in the top five releases of the year (counting late last year) for many who have already heard it overseas. It's time we caught up.

Here's a cool cover of The Omens' "Searching."

"The Urges Theme." Utterly convincing.