Thursday, November 27, 2008

Raw Guitar? Feedback? Female Vocals? You've Got To Hear The Avatars!

The Avatars

Never A Good Time
No Fun Records

Aaah. Finally! Something that is loud and abrasive, but swinging, catchy, and bubblegum at the same time! Ann Arbor's The Avatars take '60s girl groups, the beat and fun of The Ramones, hints of '80s powerpop like Nikki Corvette (maybe Josie Cotton too), and some seriously loud guitar from X with tons of feedback. They've got a powerpop sound but it's louder and harder at the same time. Not an easy feat. "Honey Do" is a good, catchy powerpop tune that treads on familiar powerpop territory with more guitar fury from axmen Charlie Lorenzie and Chris "Box" Taylor that is always loud and never predictable. In fact, it's hard to imagine a guitar or pair of them sounding better. "Somethin' To Say", the second track, has a raw bass and guitar fury that musically hints to X's legendary debut Under The Big Black Sun. Serious chops indeed, but some extra feedback at the end is toe curling.

Out of all this loudness arises many great memorable songs. The title track "Never A Good Time" has a strong Ramones but includes vocals from lead Mariah Cherem that are both smooth and strong and perfectly compliment an essentially loud rock sing a long. The gears chane on "There Was A Time" to a hand clapping, '60s girl group groove that nicely provides some bass and drums only reprieves for Mariah's voice to really shine. Eric Stollsteimer The Elevations, Mondo Mod) adds some cool vibraphone, too. As if to break one from their own nostalgia, the followup "Revolution Revival" punches in with a faster beat and enough guitar mayhem to damage the ears of a garage rock purist. "Wait" is a classic take on The New York Dolls and other basic but loud glam punk. The songs are loud, they rock, but they're so damn fun. At this point, 5 songs is enough to make one conclude that they'd be an incredible live experience.

"Hey Girl" throws in some great organ courtesy of guest artist Johny Hentch (SSM, The Hentchmen) that lend an older feel again to mix in with a girl's rock anthem. "Sooner or Later" hits a stronger chord with a punk anger in its warning of "You better stop forgiving all the lies that I've been living." "Warm 44" is a shocking surprise as a fast beat dance song with slide guitar and Theresa Keiffer's bass that would be at home on Nick Cave's "The Curse of Milhaven." The rockabilly beat from drummer Claudia Leo does little dissuade this feeling initially, but the crashing cymbals and tempo changes add some impressive complexity. The listed ender "Wondering Why" has a sensibility hits into earlier Pretenders territory back when Chrissie Hynde used to go barhopping, but a saxophone courtesy of Jeremy Abbey (Superdot)? If The Fleshtones can do it, it's worth a shot. Perfect touch, actually.

There's a hidden track that's different from the rest, is really good, and can't talk about it out of not wanting to give away all the secrets of The Avatars Never A Good Time, but this quintet has an album of songs that combine raw garage rock guitar and more ambitious noisy feedback into into crafty but never contrived full buzz rock 'n' roll fronted by a powerful female voice and an equally top notch rhythm section. Every song is just loud fun, but they're all memorable and really, really good songs, too. As if no surprise, Never A Good Time was recorded by Jim Diamond at the legendary Ghetto Recorders. The Avatars are impressive, but one full listen to Never A Good Time is just so good that it will cause the listener to wish they could see them live. Hopefully, that opportunity to do so outside of Michigan will come soon.


Wonderin' Why








Never A Good Time is available on CD & LP from No Fun Records as well as from the home of all great rock 'n' roll, Pittsburg's Get Hip Records

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