Saturday, February 28, 2009

SXSW '09 Pick #10: The DT's

The DT's

Filthy Habits
Get Hip Recordings

Given the overwhelming dose of psychedelic garage at SXSW this year, The DT's are a super double shot of balls to the wall, straight up, hard and heavy soul that stand out as a loud shock compared to the rest of this year's lineup of performing acts. Hailing from Bellingham, Washington, these hard rockers were founded on the premise of good time '70s rock with a hard does of soul. Not only do they deliver on it, they bludgeon you with it! The DT's are about being loud, dirty, and nasty. As a perspective before one hears them for the first time, think of the Ike & Tina recording of "Proud Mary" when Tina says "You see we never ever do nothing nice and easy, we always do it nice and rough" and you get the picture. When Diana Young-Blanchard belts out "I'm gonna scratch out your eyes, pull out your hair, put my boot up your ass" amidst Dave Crider's heavy riffs, it's double proof that The DT's are here to give out a rockin' beatdown. Additionally, for everyone who loves saying "More Cowbell", you've got it here! The followup "Mystified" is ample parts Malcolm Young and power drumming from Mike Van Buskirk with the longest, coolest vocal carry from Diana that's going to make every rock 'n' roll fan stand want to shake their fists in the air. This is loud, hard, pure rock 'n' roll "fuck you" attitude. Although their music has commercial appeal in hard rock, The DT's sound almost too real to end up on that route.

"Freedom", which was also recently released on Get Hip Recordings as 7 inch vinyl, embraces what The DT's are all about: Loud, heavy, unrestrained power. In this case, when we hear "freedom from sin, freedom from religion, ain't got nothing to lose", it's a more universal call to "power, self satisfaction, I want it here and I want it now." It feels damn good to look at it in the way The DT's are portraying it instead of the concept of freedom that's been distorted in the last eight years by The Bush Administration to mean one's free as long as they follow and don't question a political idealogy. The kind of freedom The DT's sing about is an open road and a more "Born To Be Wild" sense. This is followed up by the soul rockin' "Crowfinger" with a personal fire of confusion and desperation much like the true theme of soul music in the sacred combined with the profane. The pounding uptempo of "Turn Loose" is another great guitar and drum, take no prisoners brawl that's strong enough to fulfill the lyrical point of being left alone after a breakup.

The slower, dirty blues of "Red Eye" is a standout as a super heavy, early '70s, slow starting rocker that's lyrically the result of "Turn Loose", but by now, a strong picture of Filthy Habits emerges as an album that's all about freedom, getting away, and liberation. In fact, the songs start to feel more like a story than a collection of songs. The Motown influenced "Sweet Words" is a great soul lament with some down south guitar licks and for the first time, some great blues keyboards. In keeping with the unraveling story of Filthy Habits, the awesome beat of "Sugar Pie" is a new romance that feels like both an up front offer and a soul plea. This song is perhaps the biggest reminder that we've had in a long time that rock 'n' roll is about getting some action, but the final song "When The Lights Go Out" fulfills that goal when Diana let's us know "When the lights go out, there's heaven in the dark. And when the lights go out, we ain't gonna talk about much."

Everything about The DT's Filthy Habits is dirty, sexy, loud rock 'n' roll that's blood, sweat, and spit. When one utters the words "rock 'n' roll", this band is a perfect description of it. One sways back and forth, stomps their feet, screams out for it, and feels it. But what makes Filthy Habits a standout in spite of it being so pure is that with a strong female frontwoman, it's more appealing and seductive than the stereotypical male in command of rock and therefore, sex image that most people are accustomed to. In the end the story behind Filthy Habits has more guts, power, and balls than most acts claiming to be hard rock, but what makes it great rock 'n' roll is that it's got more soul than what most people call hard rock. The riffs and rhythm might sound like '70s rock, but the sound and feel is all soul and therefore, a lot harder than what's typically heard. The DT's not only rock, they efinitely roll.

Filthy Habits is available at your local indie record store or online from Get Hip Recordings

SXSW Shows:

Mar 18 2009 8:00 pm Get Hip Records Showcase Habana Calle
6709 E. 6th St.
Mar 19 2009 2:00 pm Unofficial Day Show Cheapo Records and Discs
914 N Lamar Blvd
Mar 20 2009 2:00 pm Unofficial Day Show Breakaway Records
1704 E. 5th St.

Friday, February 27, 2009

SXSW '09 Pick #9: The Broadfield Marchers

The Broadfield Marchers

The Inevitable Continuing
Rainow Quartz Records

Among its origins, Psychedelic rock could be characterized as an early offshoot of garage rock. Fuzz pedals, Farfisas, and older Rickenbacker guitars with their classic twang integrated into garage rock to take it from basic to freaky. This progression not only took place in the '60s, but also in the '80s once punk bands integrated The Velvet Undergound into their sound, then later The Byrds, Thirteenth Floor Elevators, The Beatles Revolver, and others. That result was bands like The Soft Boys, REM, The Bangles, The Plimsouls, and others. Right now, we're witnessing the third wave of that progression that started in the mid '90s with The High Dials, Asteroid #4, and newer acts like The Urges, who stick to a loud, fuzzy garage rock, but also have integrated small elements of psychedelic rock, The Disraelis, and The Parties. In fact, one could say this is the year of psychedelic garage rock. A relative unknown to this third wave is The Broadfield Marchers, a three piece outfit that carries melodic psychedelia with a raw, lo-fi sound, and a slower tempo. In fact, they're a bit of a standout with the combination.

Considering they're on Rainow Quartz Records, a label long known for picking a lot of the best sounding, highly polished psych pop out there, The Broadfield Marchers are a bit of a surprise since it's not the crisp sound that many of use have come to expect from acts on the label. "Raul" is a strong, slow but heavy blast of low tempo, heavy chords that seem to have more in common with early Pixies than the band's labelmates, but the nearly out of nowhere guitar lick and the buildups to the chorus have more in common with the louder, heavier songs from The 13th Floor Elevators. One also notices that guitar/lead vocalist Dustin Zdobylak has a soft, high pitched voice that stands as a good contrast to his somewhat heavy guitar playing. If one has a genuine affection for lo fi, "Leopards With Empty Claws" is a wonderful fulfillment with it's Peter Buck, early REM style guitar, and although early REM was not exactly top studio production and has a great element of newness in its back to basics approach, The Broadfield Marchers have an even less frills sound.

One can tell The Broadfield Marchers are a basic psychedelic outfit by way of The Byrds and previously mentioned acts, but with the odd, sliding diversions on "Stutter Shaker" and "Watchful Hill People", one notices that The Broadfield Marchers use a good bag of psychedelic touches that are always original, exciting, and just odd enough in their contrast to the rest of a song that show that this band is well above doing anything formulaic. In fact, although "The Inevitable Continuing" is mostly downtempo with little guitar effects, they got quite a response at last year's CMJ showcase, where Dustin wowed the crowd to the point that a few likened them to early Nirvana! Possibly, what makes The Broadfield Marchers is that they've completely eschewed the '90s shoegazer type psychedelia for something much less refined and exciting. That's not to say that the songs border on catchiness, but songs like "Mondo from Growth" carry a much stronger air of rock 'n' roll than lush psychedelia of shoegazer music. Also, the songs just sound like they're being played in a room in front of you. They're great songs that although are quite well done, don't sound like they came from a studio. For example, Mark Zdobylak has a prominent, melodic bass on "Following Minds" that seems to be on its own melody at times and is just complex enough to be interesting. At the same time, Justin's guitar is best described as "active" and never predictable, but his voice possesses a clarity and almost innocence since it's so high that that it makes for a song that one could both sing along to but never be able to predict the music to it.

The combination of a minimalist approach with careful attention to the music itself is hard to come by. In fact, the band that always championed this approach was The Velvet Underground by doing few things and not relying on studio tricks. One of the greatest results of this idea was Loaded, which was an album full of great, basic rock songs that were often slow, but remain fresh and modern with every listen. The Broadfield Marchers have a natural affinity for this sound and approach on "Patterns Of A Glance" and "Eagles Prevail." A personal favorite is "Panic Imposed", with a near '70s beat from drummer Justin Carter and many creative touches combined with some similar decade guitar riffs over Dustin's high voice that seem to communicate a heightened sense of fear when he sings the words "Panic imposed". Another standout is "Rightness of Commands", with an almost familiar melody interspersed with flowing but almost disturbing guitar effects.

The Broadfield Marchers The Inevitable Continuing can best be described as striking. Most of 19 tracks on the album are sharp pieces that don't repeat themselves, but are definitely a great psychedelic trip because the album moves like being in an ever changing world with sharp turns and never knowing what's coming around the corner, but having Dustin's voice as a permanent tourguide. Even the songs that one can easily point to influences carry enough string disturbances to keep one from becoming too comfortable and feeling like they know what The Broadfield Marchers are all about. In summation, this is what psychedelic music should be like: raw, harmonic, but also never predictable and often, unsettling. However, the confrontational elements are never shocking, but some to come naturally as part of their talents. The fact that the songs on The Inevitable Continuing have what can best be described as on overall weirdness to them while retaining a rock 'n' roll sound instead of being experimental are testimony to the fact that The Broadfield Marchers carry a lot of talent in three people that have translated into incredible performances according to the few who have seen them.

If you love rock 'n' roll, a part of that affection is for an element of disturbance because it's a rebellion to something standard and accepted. Unfortunately, most elements of the music that we hold so dearly that once were rebellion are now packaged and sold for it. The Broadfield Marchers play music that is still rock 'n' roll, but psychedelic and somewhat off either in key in certain places or full hits of odd but never contrived noise that they will remain with us and not be co-opted like so many of our favorite acts have been. It's not anarchy, but The Broadfield Marchers create short masterpieces that really provoke thought and appreciation for melodies with more than hints of disturbance to keep one always interested without being musically overbearing. Not only is The Inevitable Continuing a fast paced, psychedelic mindtrip on an unfamiliar and changing path, but their live shows simply cannot be missed.

SXSW Schedule:

Mar 18 2009 4:00Pm Unofficial SXSW Day show: Go Ape @ Sonny’s Vintage Austin, Texas
Also on the bill:
The Hall Monitors
Los Coronas
She Creatures
The Breakers
The Urges
The Right Ons
Eli Paperboy Reid and The True Loves

Mar 19 2009 2:30Pm Unofficial SXSW Day show: Blue Velvet, Austin, Texas
Also playing:
The Orchid Highway
The Ripe
The Moog
The Urges
The Telepathic Butterflies
Love City

Mar 20 2009 3:00P SXSW Music Festival @ The Spiderhouse (Day Show) Austin, Texas
(check back for the full lineup)
Mar 21 2009 11:00P

SXSW Music Festival @ BD Rileys 9:00 pm (Rainbow Quartz Showcase) Austin, Texas
Also playing:
The Telepathic Butterflies
Deleted Waveform Gatherings
The Orchid Highway
The Parties

Sunday, February 22, 2009

SXSW '09 Pick #8: Outrageous Cherry

Outrageous Cherry

Wide Awake In The Spirit World: The Best Of Outrageous Cherry
Wicked Cool Records

Detroit's Outrageous Cherry has an impressive pedigree to start with. Frontman Matthew Smith played with Jack White of The White Stripes in The Go currently plays in Detroit's famous country/space rock foray The Volebeats with Detroit guitar legend John Nash (Electric Six) and occasional contributions from The Dirtbombs bassist Troy Gregory, The Volebeats, and has also collaborated with local staples His Name Is Alive, and former drummer Deb Agolli from The Gore Gore Girls. Matthew Smith is also a producer, so his pedigree spins out all over Detroit. Therefore, one could only expect a Detroit Staple to sound like Detroit. Surprisingly, Wide Awake In The Spirit World which is a compilation of their previous releases from Bar None, Third Gear, and Rainbow Quartz. Maybe as no surprise and comparable to numerous known bands from Rock City, Outrageous Cherry is a broader celebration of great rock 'n' roll, although heavily psychedelic.

In great local spirit, Outrageous Cherry is lo-fi psychedelic, meaning there's no studio effects but trippy songs that mostly run under three minutes. One hears a basic song full of muddy chords, acidic lead guitars and combined male/female vocals of The Mamas and the Papas on the opening "What Have You Invented Today," but instead of the semi-optimism of '60s pop for a sharper tongued accusation "Tell me how history works, when it's written by small minded jerks, their eyes on the prize of the lines where we communicate only with lies." One hears this song and know's it's a 60's psychedelic/pop inspired vibe, but the feedback combined with the vocal harmonies is something new because it feels like a DIY approach outside of record labels, which cleaned up the sound of so many great '60s acts to make them appeal to a wider audience. Another piece of feedback/psych perfection is "Why Don't You Stay For A Little While" with an underlied guitar feedback rhythm combined with the style of the late Syd Barrett. It's kind of heavy, but three chord simplicity. Since psychedelia was such a brief musical trend, there aren't many comparisons to draw from. Then again, nobody's come close to a reminiscence of The Beatles staple "Tomorrow Never Knows" like "Girl You Have The Magic Inside of You."

As if the muddy feedback and guitar effects without the overwhelming studio manipulation isn't retro enough, "Pretty Girls Go Insane" introduces a horn section that's ambitious like Love Forever Changes, but again with sharp tongued lyrics and guitar that might be considered as definitively Detroit. The "swirly" psychedelia is traded up for a trippier, Velvets minimalism on downers with "Young and Miserable" that serves as a modern song that would not have been considerable in the psychedelic days. "You're young and miserable, but I like it that way."

Outrageous Cherry is psychedelic. Easier to type, but harder to pin down. '60s psych pop vocals, psychedelic guitars, trippy echoed vocals, but collapsed into mostly short, basic garage rock songs. Maybe if VU played Brian Wilson's songs. "Our Love Will Change The World in to a strange place that we don't recognize when we look into each others' eyes." This makes one think of what bands like The Byrds and perhaps so many other well known '60s LA Rock acts might have played behind the backs of their record labels. In other words, the artists are dictating their music and their attitude without the intervention of the suits and ties above them.

Outrageous Cherry's Wide Awake In The Spirit World: The Best of Outrageous Cherry is psychedelic, but garage rock in the delivery and even more acerbic in it's sarcasm and bite. The music might sound happy at times, but the songs themselves have no optimism, which is pretty cool. It's a better tribute to so many great influences cited above when one considers that people like Arthur Lee or Jim (Rodger) McGuinn were practically forced into using their talents to make music that would sell records instead of putting more confrontational words and chaos into their music like they might have wanted to do at times. The result is that Outrageous Cherry has no compromises. It's great music. Even "New Creature" with it's la la la harmonies and handclaps is somehow rebellious and new. Wide Awake In The Spirit World: The Best of Outrageous Cherry is over 50 minutes of pessimistic psychedelic perfection. A more apt comparison is The Paisley Underground Movement in the '80s, when bands like The Plimsouls, The Bangles, Salvation Army, and Australian counterparts The Stems picked up Rickenbackers and made music against the grain by combining the punk rock attitude with garage rock psychedelia, only Outrageous Cherry takes this a step further with LA Folk Rock harmonies. For many, it's going to sound derivative, but a real listen reveals the depth and originality that's truly characteristic of a real rock band. Matthew Smith and his bandmates' Detroit pedigrees have already spoken for that. Naturally, there's a lot more to it.

For being so sharply critical, Wide Awake In The Spirit World: The Best Of Outrageous Cherry is also a lot of fun. Even more, the influences are obvious but the lo-fi, muddy production communicates a stronger sense of confusion, which has a greater feel of confrontation. As so many of us know, the spirit of confrontation by going against the norm or acceptable formula by taking the basics and twisting it is the cornerstone of what we call great rock 'n' roll.

Our Love Will Change The World


SXSW Appearances

Wednesday, March 18 12:00 a.m. Headhunters (720 Red River St (8th St Entrance))
Friday, March 20 8:30 p.m. Red Eyed Flay (715 Red Rever St.)

Friday, February 20, 2009

SXSW '09 Pick #7: Garage Rock Legends The Chesterfield Kings!

The Chesterfield Kings

Psychedelic Sunrise
Wicked Cool Records

It ain't too new, but it ain't old. So goes good rock 'n' roll. Throw in some mid '60s Stones, the larger than life early '70s sounds of The Who, add the feedback and psychedelia from The Byrds, add a little weirdness from The Electric Prunes, invite Roky Erikson and the ghost of Syd Barrett, then add the energy and volume of The Ramones, and maybe it will add it up to The Chesterfield Kings latest gift to rock 'n' roll, Psychedelic Sunrise. These guys have been around about 30 years forever but are also up and coming 30 years young. They have cult band rock status, but a new lease since Little Steven picked them up, got them the exposure they always needed and deserved, then set them free in the studio to rock, shake, fuzz, and freakout the world. Psychedelic Sunrise is the second platter released on Wicked Cool Records. We all should be thankful for it.

Lead vox Greg Prevost has always had this semi-gutteral voice without much tone, but it's always sounded damn cool. I always loved the decisiveness of his lyric "Out in the darkness, I light my cig-uh-rette" from "I Don't Understand" on 2003's The Mindbending Sounds of The Chesterfield Kings, which was also reissued to much better reception in 2006. That's only proof that The Chesterfield Kings had to wait for the world to catch up to them. The first thing you notice about Psychedelic Sunrise is it sounds BIG. The opening "Sunrise (Freak OUt)" tells you to get ready for something huge and then it hits like the first song at a gig where the band makes their presence known in a larger than life sort of way. Claves on a rock 'n' roll song? Why not? It's just a little touch that makes you think "Wait a minute. This is pretty damn cool." Psychedelic Sunrise is the inevitable outcome of letting loose four serious rockers into a studio toystore full of instruments to play with. On the music credits, each band member plays between 7 to 12 instruments. It's not Smile, though. It rocks and swings too hard to sounds multi-instumental prog/arty. Lucky for us. It gets down and dirty basic with the channeled "Jumpin' Jack Flash" swagger of "Up and Down" and sounds just as cool and groovy. No one can be really sure what they were going for on "Rise and Fall," but you'll probably end up swinging your grog back and forth to it. There's also the baroque swoon of "Inside Looking Out." I'm not much for string arrangements, but we can allow them the indulgence as part II of "My Sweet Lady Jane." They make it work somehow.

One's not going to be able to help drawing parallels on "Spanish Sun" to "Paint it Black." Who cares? It rocks. Besides, Brian Jones rocked on a sitar and so can The Chesterfield Kings! Mike Boise's wall of sound drumming gives the song a little more thunder than it's inspiration. Through all the big sounds, multiple instruments, a few tape effects, multiple hand held percussion instruments, Vox and Hammond organs, a dulcimer (???), and just about everything else that the vans got overloaded with from raiding the high school music room, Psychedelic Sunrise plays like a good 'ol dirty blues rocker that's as much at home in Muscle Shoals or New Orleans as it is in a club in New York or even better, at some outdoor festival in Europe, which like many great rock 'n' roll bands, The Chesterfield Kings have always enjoyed better success in Europe since there's less of a genre barrier and according to many, including The Chesterfield Kings themselves, a greater enjoyment for just rock 'n' roll. The Chesterfield Kings have always drawn comparisons to The Rolling Stones. This is a well earned and deserved compliment and not a generalization since The Stones embraced the heavier Delta Blues sound to make their music a little less clean but more appealing. This approach is perfected on "Stayed Too Long" with it's boogieing piano and outrageously Ron Wood inspired riffs. Good Stuff! You just listen to it and think "Yeah, that's it." They slow down and give a stronger blues treatment on "Gone," but the added organ and '70s classic rock guitar solo give an old approach something new. Even with the southern influences, The Chesterfield Kings and fuzz guitar have always been inseparable terms. They give us a heaving dose of it on "Outtasite!" that lives up to its name- "That's hip, that's cool, that's great, it's outta site, yeah!" The acid rock tinged "Yesterday's Sorrows" that's loud but just trippy enough to put you in London's UFO Club in the mid '60s for a few minutes. But it's all about the rock 'n' roll. "Dawn" is a raunchy howl of a track to end Psychedelic Sunrise, but a confusing in sequence since dawn comes before sunrise.

The second release by The Chesterfield Kings on their Wicked Cool Records, Pyschedelic Sunrise is unashamedly steeped in better known rock influences. There's a lot more to it, though. The best rock 'n' roll, including The Rolling Stones and other legendary acts, was made from mixing a bunch of previously independent influences into something new. That is what they're known for. Rock 'n' roll itself is a mix of blues, r&b, soul, gospel, country, and some other far off influences to varying degrees. It's not an original form of music in and of itself. Most great rock bands have those influences that are easily recognized. That makes great rock 'n' roll. Psychedelic Sunrise is exactly that. Nothing less, but a lot more because it's rock 'n' roll that's tied and true and it's damn fun. In the end, that's really what it's all about and therefore, Psychedelic Sunrise is a quintessential rock album since it's rooted but is good enough to be timeless.

The best way to get the full effect of Psychedelic Sunrise is on vinyl. Additionally, the fine people at Wicked Cool Records the vinyl with the full length CD, which includes four extra tracks. Among them is they heavy, sitar soaked, psychedelic drone of "The Angels Cry", which builds into a full on, stereophonic experience that definitely feels like a trip. This is followed by the equally hallucinogenic drenched "The Wrong Place To Hide", which has great multiple climaxes of full on blues/psych rock. Another surprise is "Stop! Hey! Take A Look Around", which is definitely among their strongest songs built with great, full band vocals, and a strong leaning towards both the jangling trademark of The Byrds, which is not surprising given the lyrical homage to Buffalo Springfield, but also has a foot in more textured neo-garage psych. The final "There's A Time" has a it of a dark sound, but that's quickly forgotten with the interplay of two lead guitars, one of which develops a violin like sound, along with great organ and a deeper beat that would have made made the original garage/psych pioneers feel at home, but wish they could have participated in it. Altogether, the extra tracks a little "trippier" than the original 12 tracks, but at times, more involving. The whole picture of Psychedelic Sunrise is incomplete without the extra songs, which are all dense, hypnotic and highlight a band at their creative peak, where they can draw from all of their influences and come up with something a lot more intense. If anything, The Chesterfield Kings have their own trip going and demonstrate that they can create super heavy psych rock that's still rock 'n' roll, but takes us to a few more places than one would expect.

SXSW Schedule:

Mar 20 2009 1:00P - UG Showcase, The Magical Mystery Mondo Matinee
Antone’s (SxSW) 213 W 5th St, Austin, Texas 78701

March 20 2009 8:00P - Wicked Cool SHOWCASE, Cowboy Angels And Gypsy Pirates A Go-Go
The Red Eyed Fly (SxSW) 715 Red River St, austin, Texas 78701

Up and Down

Stayed Too Long

Chesterfield Kings - Stayed Too Long

One Of The Best Unknown Acts from the '80s

This one just came up by random chance today while I was doing some video shopping for my future reviews. The Chameleons UK were a band from Manchester, UK. Unfortunately, being chronologically in between Joy Division and The Smiths and mostly releasing material available only in The UK left them mostly unknown. Not surprisingly, their sound falls in between the two mentioned bands as well. The Chameleons were a great band and have a small, but amazing catalog of dark, psychedelic Britpop. I hope you enjoy them.

SXSW '09 Pick #6 and New Act: Choo Choo!

Choo Choo

subversiv records

Aside from the fact that they're from Switzerland, it's initially hard to tell what Choo Choo is. The songs are almost viral in catchiness, great vintage organ melodies, and definitely a dance beat, but the songs show an affection for '60s Motown vocal groups. There's also great, echoey, definitely crunchy guitar chords with garage rock written all over them. Dan Choo's guitar chord intro on "Your Heart Is Breaking Down" is loud and raw, making them not just a statement, but an announcement. Lilli Choo's poppy, vintage keyboard melody kicks in, Dan Choo's teenage rocker, sweet voice comes in, and it's a pop song with strong influences from '60s Motown vocal groups. However, we're ignoring the music by narrowing it down to that since it's a lot louder. "All I know" has a furious and long drum start that makes me think of Animal, but it's really Sam Choo, human being. It's a tough choice. The songs are instant sing alongs, but the music is garage rock made into pop songs. A few things are prominent for Choo Choo, such as Lilli's keyboard melodies being what one might be humming along to, but the guitar sounds great! It's loud most of the time and with little embellishment other than a few chords, an intense punch, and some very strong familiarity to the ears. Once it's noticed that Jim Diamond (Dirtbombs, White Stripes, Von Bondies, Love Me Nots) at Detroit's famed Ghetto Recorders produced and collaborated on the arrangements, it all makes sense. No matter how different the bands are that he works with, the guitar on songs like "Half As Good" takes on a lot of familiar fuzz that's somehow so perfect that it's simultaneously clean, but still more distinctive for each band that has worked with him. It feels like Detroit Garage Rock and has soul from the same place to back it up, but the songs just stick like sugar; rock candy is a better description, maybe.

The garage rock injection is prevalent, but the songs are short pop songs, too. "You Don't Understand" is kind of new wave, early Blondie, but while the guitar chords carry the song along, one gets bursts of garage fuzz interspersed with the sing-a-long chorus. Although Choo Choo are great vocal harmonizers on top of all this happy ruckus, "Losing Balance" stands out since the harmonies seem to take on a stronger melodic dimension while the overall melody balances slight sadness in a bright package. In many ways, that description fits the combination of two very different acts that Choo Choo notes on their myspace page as among who they listen to: The Monkees and The Sonics. That's really hard to ponder! By extension, one should imagine Neil Diamond playing with The Sonics! Cool picture, isn't it? A modern and more easily understood comparison would be to the '60s garage/powerpop melodies of The Ugly Beats. We're not quite done since Choo Choo's talents come from other directions on songs like "I Hope You Feel" and '80s neo garage on "Tired of Waiting". There's also the faster tempo of the ending "I Ain't Coming Home (No More)" that bridges Motown and early garage to The Paisley Underground bands and slightly beyond in its slight angst.

An overall conclusion of Choo Choo's debut release is that everything about them sounds really, really good. There's no sense of elements missing. It's loud, heavy, catchy, garage rock and dance music with keyboards that also sounds like new wave when it was a term that was cool since nobody really knew what it meant. The results don't make it less heavy, but brighter. Everything sounds perfect! Vocal harmonies, a lead vocal from Dan that sounds young, songs about breakups that sound a little heartfelt, and a rhythm section with power that's not overbearing, but exciting. If you ever wanted to have super fun and sugary powerpop, you'll like Choo Choo. If you like slightly new wave dance tunes that are rock but have a strong melody led by an old keyboard, you'll like Choo Choo. However, if having all that with some strong, echoey, crunchy, empty room guitar and plenty of fuzz that's all Detroit, GARAGE POP is your thing and Choo Choo is your band!

Watch out for them at South By Southwest this year. It's a guarantee that everyone who sees them will love them. This is a band that a lot of people are going to be talking about.

Mar 15 2009 9:00P Lounge on Elm Street Dallas, Texas
Mar 16 2009 11:00P The Mix San Antonio, Texas
Mar 17 2009 11:00P St. Patrick’s Day Show @ Red Scoot Inn Austin, Texas
Mar 18 2009 8:00P SXSW TBA Austin, Texas
Mar 19 2009 9:00P OFFICIAL SXSW SHOWCASE @ BD Riley’s Austin, Texas
Mar 20 2009 2:00P SXSW Daytime Party @ Breakaway Records Austin, Texas
Mar 21 2009 2:00P SXSW Daytime Party/Paisley Umbrella Showcase @ Rockin Tomato Austin, Texas
Mar 21 2009 10:00P Home Party @ College Houses Cooperatives Austin, Texas
May 9 2009 10:00P CHOO CHOO @ Kornhauskeller Waldshut Waldshut, Deutschland
Jun 20 2009 8:00P CHOO CHOO @ 5. Solothurner Sommerfest Solothurn
Jul 6 2009 8:00P Club Mirror Kisses @ Madame Jo Jo’s London, London and South East
Jul 23 2009 10:00P KKL Luzern Luzern, Luzern

See how Choo Choo recorded their debut Album in Detroit with Jim Diamond at Ghetto Recorders!

I Ain't Coming Home (No More)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

SXSW '09 Pick #5: Detroit7


Thirds Star From the Earth and other material
Rudie Records

Japanese rock, no matter what kind of style it is, whether punk, pop, garage, etc. is an animal unto itself. The Japanese seem to take any American cultural phenomenon and then add something to it that gives it more energy that makes it more fun. Japan's Detroit7 is no exception. Although the real exciting part of Japanese rock and roll is a live performance, this band sounds great recorded too. Unfortunately, the language barrier has alway been an obstacle for great bands who either don't sing in English or when they do, it's hard to decipher. That's unfortunate for us but also unfair for them, considering American and English bands are popular all over the world and people in non-English speaking countries will sing along to every word from a band who might only know English. However, not knowing the language also leaves one's ears open to really listen to the music. "Owari wa Hajimari" has a Stooges influence but has the organ addition, which works well. Detroit7 just rocks. It's loud, fully of choppy riffs and great attitude. The band's name definitely applies. The songs have a heavy Stooges influence. Everything is loud and cranked all the way, but the Japanese sensibility puts it all up a new notch and into its own place. It doesn't matter when you can't decipher most of the words to "Raise High" except those two words when it's a feedback laden guitar assault with a fast, tight, but complex beat and Kotajima's bass line that's both subtle but not basic.

One could probably never imagine themselves nodding along to a loud, nasty track that has a chorus of "We're gonna lay in the sunshine," but one just might sing along once they hear it after noticing how tight but original Miyoko's drumming is. "Akai hana" is a great song that makes one think of The Pretenders' more melodic work but with a heavier feel. The only word I could pick up from the song is "Arigato", but the melody and structure are enough to let one know it's a lament that has a universal emotional appeal, although one also hears influences from '90s indie rock in the song. Lead singer/guitarist Nabana has both a great wail and a narrative tone that gives one a strong confidence in her role as front of the band. When she sings "Don't feel so blue, I've got your blessing" and then wails on the guitar in "Beautful Song," one only comes to realize that Detroit7 are the real thing: a great, loud, rock band that stands equal to some of your favorite garage influenced rock bands that really deserve to be BOTH seen and heard.

It's quite a task to review a band when you're not able to understand them, but as cheesy as it may sound, a love of great rock 'n roll is universal. If it weren't, American and British bands would not have a worldwide following, but we'd also not have such influential rock acts from Scandinavia or other places like we do. A lot of us love to see Japanese rock 'n roll bands because they bring an energy and enthusiasm that almost flatters us since they're doing something in a musical language that we can understand but is new to us since we're not familiar with it. Unfortunately, that makes some great bands seem like novelty acts to us. Detroit7 is not a novelty: They're a great band with great music and talented people who stand up and rock equally, if not better to many of our favorites. They really deserve a listen.

SXSW Schedule:

Friday, March 20 1:00 a.m. Elysium (705 Red River St)

Akai Hana

Courtesy of zlobnij

Beautiful Song

Courtesy of kuchiburu3

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

SXSW '09 Pick #4: The Cute Lepers

(Reposted from an earlier review with updated show times)

The Cute Lepers

Can't Stand Modern Music
Blackheart Records Group

A Briefs spinoff? Oh, man! I can't tell you how many times I bobbed my head around singing "She's got a knife to my head, alright!" in my cube at work. Seattle's The Briefs have to be one of the funnest bands out there, so a project with Steve E. Nix already has the bar set pretty high. Goods delivered! "Can't Stand Modern Music" is full of catchy beats, handclaps, and some of the coolest new wavy/punk riffs that remind one of how punk/new wave rock used to be fun and just silly in a tongue in cheek sort of way. "Terminal Boredom" is a perfect opener with tribal beats and high pitched chords punctuated by Steve E. Nix's "An hour goes by and....(um, you have to hear it to figure it out)! "Cool City" is a dead on homage to The Circle Jerks with a more narrative vocal, catchy chorus, and melodic riffing. The stuff is punk rock, but catchier and definitely not to be taken too seriously. One kind of can't help it with a lead singer who goes into vocal spasms much like the never taken seriously until he became a composer Danny Elfman from Oingo Boingo. Other tracks 'feel' more of a straight on, early '80s, So. Cal. punk like "out of Order," but the handclaps, Oh-Ohs, and female harmonies are a little too inclusive just to be punk rock.

The Cute Lepers are right. Modern music sucks. The best music out there involves taking the basics from the past and bringing them into the future without cleaning them up. The cleanup is modern. Like Steve E. sings in "Terminal Boredom"-"Aint nothing on the radio, no hope, But that stupid band called chemical...Oh what a mope." The album ends on a semi serious note with an optimistic call to arms on "Opening Up," but the harmonies still rock.

Why does this band have seven members? One can only guess that they wanted to include as many people in the fun as possible. "So Screwed Up," like many of the tracks on Can't Stand Modern Music, is more loud punk rock with harmonies. Somehow those two things don't fit together well. I guess like other reviewers, the focus on good songs and catchy tunes with a guitar base can only be called powerpop, but I think a more apt description is punk rock in its joy and irreverance without regards to conventions, including the sometimes uptight idealism of those who want punk to be considered as serious. Yeah, punk rock was about rebellion, but it had plenty of silliness and fun at the same time. Call it what you want: Powerpop, Pop Punk, whatever. To many, The Cute Lepers are just great punk rock. Although his current whereabouts are unknown, Mojo Nixon is smiling right now.

SXSW Showcase:

Friday, March 20

Red 7 Patio (611 E 7th St) (All Ages)

Devil Dolls Booking

Kepi: The Band 8:30 p.m.
Poison Arrows (GA) 9:15 p.m.
The Cute Lepers 10:00 p.m.
The Dollyrots 10:40 p.m.
The Pink Spiders 11:20 p.m.
The Girls 12:00 a.m.
Teenage Bottlerocket 12:35 a.m.
The Queers 1:15 a.m.

Free Day Show:

Breakaway Records (1704 E 5th St)

Mar 19 2009 12:00 p.m.

afternoon show @ with
The Girls
The Pranks
The Cute Lepers
...and more

Terminal Boredom

So Screwed Up

Monday, February 16, 2009

SXSW '09 Pick #3: The Orchid Highway

The Orchid Highway

The Orchid Highway
Rainbow Quartz Records

Vancouver, BC has a great connection to the UK. Rain! It's no surprise that band based in '60s Britpop harmonies and psychedelia come from there. The big surprise is that The Orchid Highway is both slow and upbeat. The music grabs you in places, the lyrics do in others, the harmonies get you, the guitars do, or combinations. Like where they're from in the more forward thinking but '60s sense, the album was recorded on analog and has a rich, deep sound that invokes a life spent indoors out of the rain. Great rock 'n' roll can also be about a really good listen. The Orchid Highway is very good ad it. Their self titled filled with enough jingle jangle guitars and a penchant for touches of other instruments akin to Love and Brian Wilson that you'll dig through your closet to find those paisley shirts again. Sofa Surfer Girl is such a great song title to start an album off with. One automatically knows what it's about. Although "getting the girl" is only next to "losing the girl" in common rock themes, a Sofa Surfer Girl is very particular and instantly familiar. Besides, it's an ode to the perfect girl for every guy who's single (or was) and goes out to see live music. Sofa Surfer Girl should take its place as a term from now on.

Medicine Tree is a demonstration of perfect vocal harmonies that have a shimmering quality and a catchiness that's undeniable and a guitar based sound that can only compliment it. If you ever thought what happens when you mix surf rock with grey skies, Let's Stay in Instead is the perfect slow epic for a rainy day, but the added flute gives some optimism for clearer skies. Let's Stay Instead is the walrus running through the strawberry fields.

Next World has an opening psychedelic riff with just the perfect hook to excite you about hearing a great song for the first time, but the cool trip gets a great accentuation with some distant keyboards and a piano thrown in here and there that's a nice touch, but the harmonic psychedelic guitar work keeps one fixed on the song. It's a great one. Other tracks go into a slower territory that's thickly tripped out enough to stick in your brain when your head is too clouded to hear something faster, but the effect has a permanence. The aptly titled Opiate recalls Riders On the Storm by tempo and organs, but with stronger dual guitars with enough blues to make it more exciting than it's comparison. The full length debut from The Orchid Highway is a challenging diversion since down and uptempo songs are mixed enough that the overall tone of the album changes from track to track. Some songs are upbeat and catch you with hooks and harmonies like Pop Tart Girl.

This is still based on what rock 'n' roll is all about. Since it's only from the point of view of the gender preference of whoever's singing, the listener has to apply whatever's appropriate for their preference. It's still the common theme of "Girls!" Put your own preference into that and then everyone can identify with it. This album might be better titled "Songs About Different Kinds of Women." Then again, hundreds of great albums can share that title, too. The influence and power is switched in Tea With Chandra when we're confronted with "She asked me if I want to lose this crowd? She said you know that I'd make love to you here, but I don't think it's allowed!" The story goes to her making our protagonist tea (!!) and advising that the weather will be bad and that she hopes he hasn't made any plans. The rest of the song is open and metaphorical. A tryst? A crash at someone's place? a great time in company without sex? There's a lot of interpretations to make up. It's no suprise that The Orchid Highway is from Vancouver considering that there's a lot of stuff on their full length debut that takes place indoors and involves "new" experiences or ways of looking at them, at least that's part of the album. Afterall, the songs reflect a progressive environmment that definitely has sex but interprets them as open ended experiences instead of the act. It's those experiences that we grow on since they can be positive on so many different levels and ways without being ultimate. Nevertheless, one might think they're songs about girls taking a break from their second year at Evergreen when they decided they needed to "see the world" after reading On the Road. Not quite hippie girls yet, but not the squeaky clean image, either.

Since life is complex and challenging, but rewarding at the same time, rock 'n' roll can have that element, too. The Orchid Highway is both slow and upbeat. The music grabs you in places, the lyrics do in others, the harmonies get you, the guitars do, or combinations. Like where they're from in the more forward thinking but '60s sense, the album was recorded on analog and has a rich, deep sound that invokes a life spent indoors out of the rain. Great rock 'n' roll can also be about a really good listen. The Orchid Highway delivers on this without sounding dated, dull, too complex, or over the top. With a good '60's base that's simple and has its garage rock roots because of it, 12 string psychedelic guitars, British invasion harmonies, great hooks, some blues, and recording on analog tape only with an ear towards not only making a great sounding recording, but one that is very organic in it's cohesiveness musically, The Orchid Highway is a perfect illustration of what The Paisley Umbrella is all about since it takes a broader, more inclusive approach with different elements that make great rock 'n' roll, but leave a slight challenge to go beyond the standard formula. It sounds great and will hopefully have a broad appeal. As far as the experience and elation of a live rock show goes, these guys are well known for their delivery, so their polished sound on their debut release only scratches the surface. Great rock 'n' roll is a discovery. The Orchid Highway is that discovery. These guys are not full of power chords that epitomizes garage rock, but if you love the elements, you'll know it once you hear the results. Like the motto of their label, Rainbow Quartz, it's pure pop perfection: A combination of '60s melodies and hooks with a little bit of complexity to make it interesting without missing the beat.

Saturday, March 21 BD Riley's (204 E 6th St): TBA

The She Creatures
The Parties
Deleted Waveform Gatherings
Broadfield Marchers
Telepathic Butterflies

Next World

Saturday, February 14, 2009

SXSW Pick '09: The Black Hollies

(Reprinted from 3/2008 with minor changes and updated show times)

The Black Hollies

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

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 has to be “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 HolliesCasting 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 appearance. They're easily remembered, like a choice number of bands who still have people talking about seeing them at SXSW from years before.

Casting Shadows is available all over, but notable from Get Hip Distribution

Friday, March 20 The Independent (501 N IH 35) 12:00 a.m.

Paisley Pattern Ground

The Black Hollies @ The Knitting Factory, June 2008. Courtesy of thecalicowall

Garage Rock: Everything! Nothing Less. The Revellions!

The Revellions

Dirty Water Records

It's only fitting to write about my true thought that the greatest rock 'n' roll is being made today. I've always known it, and there's more proof of it. We need primitive, nasty rock 'n' roll. The sudden passing of Lux Interior makes it only more evident. That guy had did more than Keith Richards tripled, but also looked a lot beter at it. Everything about Lux was primitive. It was smooth, seductive, but still primitive. Kinky, but not dirty. Therefore, I find myself sharing with you Dublin's The Revellions. Not exactly ghoulish or zombie rock, surf, garage, or garage punk, but a glimpse of perfection somehwere in between. It's nothing less than primitive, but it's a sound. The music itself is steeped in floodlike surf and blues that goes beyond, but with a farfisa! If there's one thing to ascribe to them, it's garage rock.

"Ain't No Fool" gives the heaviest Farfisa out there. It first hints at Strawberry Alarm Clock with darker overtones, but Ali Moore's vocals are scratchy, '60s garage punk. It's somehow melodic, intense, but raw at the same time. One of the common themes in rock 'n' roll is teenage angst no matter what genre, but once we grow past our teen years, we find that slight angst in songs about girls that put us in another time. One can't say The Revellions leave that element intact: they are that element, but James Lister's semi dissonant guitar echoes make the relationship confusion more prominent. On the other hand, the vocal harmonies "Don't say you will" sound early beyond most of our years. Other tracks like "Down On Your Luck" take on "Have Love, Will Travel" with a little bit of Yardbirds, while "It's Up To You" have a tribal beat that takes center stage, but James Lister puts out some great vocal chops that are quite convincing when he shouts "It's up to you". Another thing one notices is something that permeates the whole album: most songs have great backup vocals that lend a wholeness to The Revellions as a complete band.

The following tracks like "I Don't Mind" and "Groundswell" show off the fastest true surf guitar around, but "Groundswell" is so fast and loud that touches on punk! The Revellions don't hesitate to give full effect to Thomas D'Arcy's Farfisa on "Not The Attraction", but the combined howls and guitar are almost heartbreaking. Children of The Cramps, indeed. Reminders of "Human Fly", "She Said", and many others are found throughout The Revellions, but that's also the mood many of us are in. Another standout track is the organ heavy "Have It All" with additional tremolo guitar added, but the song also a great reverb cascade that's nothing less than shockingly good, but a great organ solo follows it that's equally sonic. There's also the Mick Smith's primitive, fast beat of "You're Tellin Lies", a song that falls inbetween ghouly surf, fuzz, and organ swoons. In a final gesture to eeriness, the slow psychedelia of "one Of A Kind" adds either a theremin or a monophonic keyboard and a smooth, detached vocal on slow parts, but the tempo changes and what follows is primitive garage rock much in the spirit of Electric Prunes or 13th Floor Elevators, only with great surf guitar and beats.

The Revellions had their album release party last night in Dublin with the equally talented, fuzzed up countrymen The Urges. It's my honest opinion that this was probably the coolest show to take place anywhere in the world. I'm sad I missed it. The Revellions are fuzzed out surf/garage punk/psychedelia with great beats, howls, and everything else one would want and expect for great garage rock. In fact, the next time anyone asks you what is garage rock, tell them about The Revellions. Blasting surf guitar, loud, primitive beats, great sweeping organ, some psychedelia, and a lead singer who can both scream and sing chills up your spine AND make the your hairs stand up. As if by no surprise, the album was produced by Mike Mariconda and Jorge Explosion at Circo Perotti, where The Urges, Hollywood Sinners, The Cynics and others have gone to make monumental rock 'n' roll. The Revellions are too good (that's an understatement) for anyone to let pass under your radar. If you love garage rock, this is your album.

Presently, the album is available directly from Dirty Water Records and online retailers, but you should all be screaming for it from your favorite online indie retailer or local store.

There isn't much video available, but one good turn deserves another.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sweetness In A Better Portion: The Cocktail Slippers - St. Valentines Day Massacre

The Cocktail Slippers

St. Valentines Day Massacre
Wicked Cool Records

As if not to spoil one's appetite with too much chocolate, Wicked Cool Records is offering up a little treat from Norway's all female act The Cocktail Slippers, with a digital single and 7" release only. The title and release date reveal an eye towards the holiday, the Little Steven penned title track has a swirling, carnival like keyboard from Lisa Farfisa that gives one a longing for Summer while the song itself takes on a story line that goes through the year, ensuring the song will outlive the season. The b-side "Heard You Got A Thing For Me" is a great tune. Musically, it carries pure simplicity in a few basic guitar chords from Rocket Queen and Squirrel, evenly spaced by a slow, heavy beat from Bella Donna. However, the timing of guitar and drums combined with Sugar Cane's bass create music that's full of nooks, crannies, and great little subtleties to pick out. Additionally, the keyboard parts give it an '80s neo-psychedelic pop mood, but what's noticed most is the simple but great sounding, '60s influenced vocal harmonies.

The appeal of St. Valentine's Day Massacre lies within its simplicity for great '60s pop songs. It's fun, simple, and catchy, but it's also great music. The release of a single also brings back a tactic used by The Beatles in whetting one's appetite for more. Additionally, the vocal harmonies on "Heard You Got A Thing For Me" are more than impressive in being a great compliment to the first all girl, '60s influenced band The Bangles, who happened to be more talented, played better music, and had better, simple hooks than many of their counterparts. It's a great compliment to see The Cocktail Slippers following in their footsteps, but staying original by rocking out just a little harder.

The Cocktail Slippers will be performing in Austin at South By Southwest Music Festival. Showtimes to be announced.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Redwalls Aren't From Great Britain

The Redwalls

...self titled
MAD Dragon Records

What exactly is "British Invasion Music?" There's more than one wave, so it's too much there to pinpoint. The first wave? The punk wave? The new wave? What is it? Ahh, It's Chicago's The Redwalls! Their self titled third album is based on '60s mod beats, catchy vocal harmonies, commanding lead vocals, and some psychedelia. Surprisingly, it sounds modern and not rootsy. The opening track "Hangman" is a dirty guitar, handclapping introduction with a great backing vocal harmony and a scratchy lead vocal from Logan Baren that's both confident and commanding. "Modern Diet" is a three chord hit that sounds like a '70s rock anthem and a great, shakin' beat and verses that get your attention to listen, but the chorus is so catchy that one will be singing along to it immediately. The Redwalls are really on to something here. "Summer Romance" is a tender but very rockin' moment about how for a short time, the world stops and there's nothing but you're romance. It's a wonderful story with a big heart that sings of the perfect moment wrought with meaning that eventually fades with "Time goes on and seasons change, infatuation fades away, the ties that bind begin to fray". If you've every had an intense whirlwind romance, this is going to stick to your chest and the chorus will stay with you long after you hear it.

The basic '60s and early '70s rock is enhanced with great string arrangements on "You Can't Forget Yourself" that hearken to early '90s British psych revival, but the arrangements are much better and the feel is modern. The added instruments give a great texture and reveal more of The Redwalls as a strong band that are not easily categorized, but the following "Put Us Down" leans a little bit towards Strokes territory, although I'm very hesitant to call anything The Strokes do as their own territory. It's got their derivative rhythm but much better and occasionally innovative guitar work. This self titled third release paints an overall picture of a band coming into their own, so the stretches that they make with orchestration once and the addition of very strong slow songs like "Game of Love" are very reminiscent of the early to mid '70s when the influential and popular '60s act started to sound like themselves and less like their influences. "Game of Love" is just heartbreaking, though: "I tried to break her and I don't know why, but she's leaving me today, it's so clearer in the bright sunshine...It's a sad day, when you're losing your friend, you've got to hold out, think of where it began, but you're trying to have it be like it was, but it's so hard, for all the reasons above." As if pulling another card from their sleeves, "Don't You Wanna Come Out" is just loud mod fun.

A little bit of chaotic string arrangements were needed for the aptly titled "Into The Maelstrom". Wait. That song rocks! A great tempo change and a lot of great riffs, but the string melody is dark and oozing. One can't ignore vintage Rolling Stones in The Redwalls, but one can simultaneously point out that it's been a long time since one's heard the blues like on "Little Sister" done so heartfully and true since "Wild Horses". One really can't put these guys into any "sounds like" category despite the easy references. "They Are Among us" is paranoid and definitely familiar, but it just can't be placed. This is how one's roots and influences become one's own sound.

It gets hard to point out song structure or arrangements when one's confronted by The Redwalls. A lot of craft went into this album, but the technicality is overpowered by the fact that all the songs are really good, but at least half of them are great. Songs like "Each And Every Night" are heavy, lush, psychedelic, but also simple. That's the overall impression of The Redwalls. Their songs are meaningful as rock 'n' roll somewhere in between purity, early '70s British Invasion, and using the studio as an art space and not just a work space. If one thinks about what made some of the late Faces and early Rod Stewart solo work so good, the talent of The Redwalls and their music is understood. These are songs that more commercial '60s and '70s influenced acts wish they could do. Some of the influences are easy to find, but not easily at times. In the end, The Redwalls show a love for great bands and great music that never comes off as derivative. The studio production is thick, but never overbearing. One gets the impression that The Redwalls knew exactly what they were doing. This speaks volumes for their followup, but in the mean time, the listener of this album will feel like they discovered something that's fairly accessible, but too good for the mainstream.

The Redwalls and their self titled third album is a pleasure that everyone should indulge in.

One can't talk about The Redwalls without bringing up their record label. Shortly after finishing their album, they were dropped from a major label and taken up by MAD Dragon Records, an independent label run by students and faculty at Drexel University. This is a great symbiosis with the label as a nesting ground for both the artists and those looking to get hands on but real world training for a career in music. The artists and the label are both young and growing with each other. At a time when like everyone else, the music industry is suffering from a terrible economy, this is a new business model that inherently respects personal independence as part of a higher education institution, but has reliable funding and hopefully as a result, some longevity since it's part of an academic curriculum. With this new idea, let's hope that other bands out there with talent and potential will have a chance to grow and become great artists without having to pull apart under the weight of the economy and overall, an industry that's still trying to cling to its old ways of making money for itself and not the artist, but happens to no longer be viable.

Modern Diet

Game Of Love