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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Vert - Nine Types of Ambiguity

Name: Vert
Album:  Nine Types of Ambiguity
Year 2001
Style: Experimental, Ambient
Similar Bands: Aphex Twin, Mouse on Mars, Tricky
One Word Review: Fuzzy, Muffled bip bop soundscapes
Based Out Of: Berlin, Germany
Label: Sonig
 Nine Types of Ambiguity - Cover & Record
Nine Types of Ambiguity - Back & Record
Nine Types of Ambiguity (2001)
  1. Blindsight 4:51
  2. This Precious Meanwhile 4:30
  3. Codfish Dada 6:07
  4. The Tide Comes In & Then the Tide Goes Out 4:57
  5. Somewhere Between Here & Last Week 3:20
  6. To Be Is To Doo 2:21
  7. Drawers of Water 5:04
  8. Last Night From a Bus I Saw 7:45
  9. Scope/Lifetime 10:11
Album Rating (1-10): 6.0

Members & Other Bands:
Adam Butler - Sounds, Music (Mouse on Mars, Emmanuelle Somer, Carlito Verde, Wechsel Garland, Epiphany Project)
Christian Zimmerli - Mastering
Frieda Luczak - Artwork

Unknown-ness: I've never heard of this band. The artwork makes me think it will be minimal or maybe some Saddle Creek worthy folksy indie rock.

Album Review: Most of Vert’s music has been published on Mouse on Mars’ label, and he even opened for them on a 2001 tour. His music is more melodic and straightforward than others in his genre of abstract intelligent dance music (IDM).
“Blindsight” starts with echoing hypnotic chords, with light percussive clicks and taps that would feel right at home in Twin Peaks. A staticy electric drum beat gives tempo and drive to the continuing floating chords. Singular elements bleed in and out, adding to the sound scape, and creating a repetitive pattern. The chords leave, for a sort of background noise and skipping solo. The sounds increase and grow, with the electric sound from Orphan Black added in, until the chords come back, with a brighter and optimistic feel. The song has seemed to find its stable place, and it rides out the hook until the end.
“This Precious Meanwhile” has a muffled street performer percussive tempo, with some juggling wood block effects buried just below. A general hum and other organic jar tinking and tocking effects are added, along with a flute that seems to note when the repetitive loop starts over. Sampled vocals are used as another instrument, sounding a little like Tricky. The effects are stripped back one at a time, and the song blinks out.
“Codfish Dada” begins with a looped scratch. A watery & blurry synth xylophone is added with a simple repetitive beat. The song scurries along, fuzzy effect are added and taken away, some are deep, some squeaky. The song returns to the start with the scratches from the beginning. The song rebuilds, as if it is in the forest, with electronic birds tweeting, and other effects that offer a feeling of running through a forest or field. The song ends with the sound of violins and other string instruments in a frozen state of warming up, and the continued bird tweets.
“The Tide Comes In & Then the Tide Goes Out” starts out with some static ocean water lapping on the beach sounds, mixed with muffled wind chimes, and a bubbling, skittering effects. Other watery, fuzzed out effects that could range from underwater sounds to bullfrog murmurs are added. The whole soundscape changes, like scenery slowly morphing as one would walk along the beach. Near the end, most of the effects are stripped away, leaving the shuffling, bubbling wood block sounds.
“Somewhere Between Here & Last Week” is 3 plus minutes of a sort of two tiered medieval flute melody. Melody-less drips or clicks are added, sounding random in the background.
“To Be is To Doo” comes next, but on most listing, “To Doo is To Be,” a 7:47 min song is supposed to be next. This track reminds me of the melodies from Aeon Flux’s early vocal-less short days. An accordion, violin and a sporadic metal tuning effect are added to the song, which has a sort of eastern European sound overall. It is by far the shortest song on the album, but is also the most concise and straightforward theme.
“Drawers of Water” begins with a skipping in reverse audio track, and echoing, vibrating Aphex Twin like crystal sounds blink out two tones on pulse, answering each other. In the background, a digital clock tone ticks on by, married to vibrating synth notes which parallel the two tone sounds as they change in pitch. Then around the 3:15 mark, a disco melody violin is added, looped in the same time constraint as the tone and synth changes.
“Last Night From a Bus I Saw” spins like a scratchy record (or it may just be my record). Spoken words samples with an emotionless tone begin the song, followed by a sad, minimal piano hook. In the background echoes a wind, like putting your ear to a conch shell. Other groaning and slow moving effects create a scene of waking up depressed and in pain. Electronic tones, like something from a horror movie (at first) take over the scene, and grow like they are punishing the ear drums…changing in tone, but never offering leniency. They suddenly stop, and we are taken so a sort of thoughtless, naive and charming melody played on a squeezebox, accompanied with enlightened, optimistic effects that seem to assist the childlike melody along, like a guardian angel.
“Scope/Lifetime” is a ten plus minute song, that begins slowly with singular notes that seem unsure how to proceed…they almost seem accidental, or like they are discovering their surroundings for the first time. Or they might be secondary noises from a bunch of instruments that are being set up to perform. It is quiet and singular, accompanied with a consistent record skipping sound that sets the tempo with its broom sweep sounds. The piano notes begin to get more organized, but they are like a newborn still discovering their range of motion. Vibrating tonal effects, chimes and swirling electronic crystal sounds play together, invited in by the piano. The song gets a lot more crowded, once the skittering bongos and wah-wah electronic notes take over, along with a jazzy cymbal/percussion performance that morphs into electronic techo onslaught (that is not overbearing, however). The song continues to grow and it loses all natural instrumentation for a symphony of buzzing, vibrating, and oscillating digital effects that cruise together like a variety of winged bugs in a vacant lot. 

Stand Out Track: To Be Is To Doo

Vert Website
Full Album Bandcamp

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Turbines - Last Dance Before Highway

Name: Turbines
Album: Last Dance Before Highway
Year: 1985
Style: Garage, Surf
Similar Bands: Gringo Star, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, B-52's
One Word Review: New England surfboard with spurs.
Based Out Of: Boston, MA
Label: Big Time America
 Last Dance Before Highway - Cover & Record

Last Dance Before Highway - Back & Record
Last Dance Before Highway (1985)

  1. Skull & Crossbones 2:17
  2. That's the Way 3:21
  3. Highway 51 1:57
  4. Slop 3:34 /
  5. Wah-Hey 2:38
  6. Throw It Down 2:44
  7. Rock in My Pocket 3:37
  8. Hangin' Tough 2:57

Album Rating (1-10): 7.5

Members & Other Bands:
Jack Hickey - Rhythm & Lead Guitar (Lyres, DMZ)
John Hovorka - Vox, Guitar (2x4's)
Fred Nazzaro - Drums, (The Titanics)
David Shibler - Bass (Charlie Pickett & Eggs, UZI)
Brent Robin - Cover Design
Wayne Podworny - Band Photos
Fred Giannelli - Producer (Psychic TV)
Mark LeMaire - Mix Engineer
Rob Dimit - Engineer
Jeff Whitehead - Engineer

Unknown-ness: Never heard of this band. Based on the logo and cover, I imagine it has some energy to it, and is seeded in new wave. Possibly rockabilly based on the band image on the back. 1985 is not a reliable year, but the angular highway lines on the artwork, and the yellow relief are potential positive signs.

Album Review: Classified as a rust-belt obsessed twangy garage rock band, the Turbines had a total of 2 albums, and never made it in popularity outside of the Boston area, despite having blurb album reviews in both Spin & Billboard magazines. The whole album has the surf guitars turned up above the vocals, giving it an almost live feel, and the vocals come off as a little drunk, perhaps.Or at least like a sloppy Pulp Fiction Soundtrack contribution

“Skull & Crossbones” is a cover from a 1956 b-side from a singer named Sparkle Moore. It starts off with deep, nasally vocals with an echo, and twangy surf rock guitar. The melody is like a deconstructed “Hound Dog.” The vocals are not really sung, but forcefully and slightly melodically spoken.
“That's the Way” feels like a Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet song at the beginning. The art-like vocals are like a deeper Fred Schneider from B-52’s, which is not far off in genera with the guitar centric songs. There is a fake-ending, and the song repeats for about another minute.
“Highway 51” is the cover of the Curtis Jones, made famous by Bob Dylan. It sounds like it is right out of Pulp Fiction, almost 10 years later.
“Slop” is a shuffling, train chugging song, with percussion baring most of the weight to carry the song along. The surf guitar fills in sections solo, and rings out behind the chorus. A harmonica is added into the mix toward the middle.

“Wah-Hey” was a single. The song starts with an echoing bass line that carries the basic melody that the vocals follow. The chorus is a build-up of the “Wah”…and is punctuated with the “hey!” from the background singers. There is a little Devo in the bass line.
“Throw It Down” carries with it a strong punk tempo (sounding a lot like Violent Femmes Prove My Love) and style filtered through the surf-tinted instruments. It has a great energy and staggered vocals that sounds like an almost live production, as the vocals are mixed far behind the instrument (minus the fade out at the end).
“Rock in My Pocket” is slightly- and I mean slightly- slower tempo, but it is generally more of the same.
“Hangin' Tough” has an “I Fought the Law” melody to it in the verse, yet again, filtered through extra loud surf guitars. The chorus does not continue the familiar melody, but takes the song in its own direction, albeit, not as catchy.

Stand Out Track: Throw It Down


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Whistle - s/t

Name: Whistle
Album: s/t
Style: Hip Hop, Rap, R&B
Similar Bands: DJ Jazzy Jeff, Full Force, ABC, New Edition, Bobby Brown, Run DMC, Fat Boys, Young MC
One-Word Review: Nonthreatening Story Rap
Based Out Of:  NYC
Label: Select Records, Champion Records
Whistle - Cover & Record
Whistle - Back & Record
Whistle (1986)
  1. Rest In Peace 5:01
  2. Damn Thing 3:12
  3. (Nothing Serious) Just Buggin' 5:02
  4. Chance for Our Love 3:58/
  5. Please Love Me 4:35
  6. Just For Fun 3:34
  7. We're Called Whistle 3:52
  8. Barbara's Bedroom 5:05
Album Rating (1-10): 7.0

Members & Other Bands:
The Kangol Kid - Producer (UTFO, Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam)
"Hitman" Howie Tee - Producer, Scratching
Questar Welsh - Engineer
Dee Dee Scott - Backing Vox
Herbie Powers Jr - Mastering
Larry Kazal - Jacket Design
Nancy Feldman - Jacket Design
Arthur Field - Photos
Jazz(y Jazz) - Lead Vox, Rhymes, Backing Vox (Group Home Productions)
Kool Doobie. Rhymes Backing Vox
DJ Silver Spinner - Scratches, Backing Vov

Unknown-ness: I never heard of these guys, but I'm guessing they were a borderline band between hip-hop/rap, and smoother New Edition style R&B. Not typically my genre, but I'm always game to check out solid 80's rap acts.

Album Review: These guys never had a big following, or went on to become famous names. K.D. tried to go out on his own at one point after 2 records as a solo artist to equal obscurity.

“Rest In Peace” starts with an off tempo kick drum and an electric guitar that almost sounds like industrial. The notes are samples, and there are a lot of synth “surprise emphasis” effects. The second verse through changes a little with scratching. It feels a little dated, but still bright and fresh, with Run DMC style rhyming and a solid rhythm that constantly moves forward.
“Damn Thing” Also starts with a rock-influenced sampling tempo, and a story-rap verse. The chorus is fun, ripping on some guy who never does a damn thing, with a secondary vocal calling out “What?” in a school yard call and response melody. Retroactively, this reminds me of Young MC. It ends a little flat.
“(Nothing Serious) Just Buggin'” was a solid single, reaching #17 & 18 on the US R&B & Dance charts, and #7 in the UK. My dollar bin purchase of the record came with the Just Buggin single with alt versions shoved in the jacket. The song introduces their name, and is a playful skipping tempo, and lots of samples and effects from the era. The chorus is the word Bug stretched and manipulated through a vocal emulator, reminds me a little of They Might Be Giants samples. Later on, the samples sound like they were used in the scratch collage of “Pump Up the Volume”
“Chance for Our Love” gets a little sentimental, with a slower, swaying beat, and high pitch synth. The vocals are harmonized and light. Apparently, this was a sign of what was to come for the group. The uttering of the word Girl is a little like the awards show skit from Mr. Show.

“Please Love Me” was a second single that charted at 91 in the UK, but did not chart in the US. This song begins more in line with many of the dance/radio hits from the mid 80’s. A comfortable beat, a cowbell and whistle, a hilly melody and some hand clap drum kit percussion. It is not bombastic or overly excitable, just a mid-range sweaty groove. It even dips into a little new wave territory with an synth organ.
“Just For Fun” was their third single, peaking at #61 on the Billboard Hot Black Singles chart. It gets back to hip hop, with a spoken intro and synchronized verse punctuation with emphasized one word rhymes. The MC’s take turns on the mic, introducing themselves, in an all but lost art today.
“We're Called Whistle” starts with some scratching, and sets the tone with a funky tempo and some sound effects (that Pump Up The Volumne effect). The lyrics are scratched and sampled vocals pieced together with other effects. No real vocals, this is an instrumental of sorts, considering the sampled vocals are not live.
“Barbara's Bedroom” was the final single, hitting #31 on the Billboard Hot Black Singles chart. It starts with come vocoder altered “I’s” setting up the melody. The vocals are straight forward Rn'B, and tell a sorta braggart story of being in “Barbara’s bedroom” The instrumentation is minimal, a little new wave synth at the early middle, and a synth drum beat. Layered, harmonized vocals make up the chorus, 

Stand Out Track: Damn Thing


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Steady B - s/t

Name: Steady B
Album: s/t
Year: 1986
Style: R&B Rap, Hip-Hop
Similar Acts: Rob Base, Biz Markie, Fresh Prince, Schoolly D, Beastie Boys
One Word Review: Minimalist Storyteller Rap
Based Out Of: Philly, PA
Label: Pop Art
 Steady B - Cover, Record
Steady B - Back, Record
Steady B (1986)
  1. Bring the Beat Back 3:54
  2. Get Physical 3:28
  3. Surprise 4:11
  4. Cheatin' Girl 3:57/
  5. Stupid Fresh 3:58
  6. Hit Me 4:13
  7. Nothin' But the Bass 4:09
  8. Yo Mutha 4:00
Album Rating (0-10): 7.0

Members & Other Bands:
Warren McGlone - Vox, Emcee, Writer (MC Boob, Sabir, CEB)
Joe "The Butcher" Nicolo - Engineer
Lawrence Goodman - Producer, Mixing
DJ Tat Money - Scratches (Terrance Thomas)
Grand Dragon KD - Scratches
Toni Kersey - Album Design
Marley Marl - Producer

Unknown-ness: With a general-sounding name, and a lack of in-depth knowledge of mid-80's rap, I can't say I know this. I imagine it is similar to Run DMC or Rob Base, as the style, angular artwork, and overall appearance lend it toward those hip-hop artists.

Album Review: Steady-B, aka Warren McGlone was caught and sentenced to life in prison without parole for a botched bank robbery and the murder of police officer Lauretha Vaird (first female phila police officer killed on duty) along with fellow rapper Cool C. This event sadly now overshadows the prestige and hype Steady B brought to West Philly back in the mid 80’s. He went to school and grew up on the same scene as Will Smith, following on the heels of Schoolly D, MC Breeze and Lady B.

“Bring the Beat Back” was a single. Steady electronic drum beat and scratching start off the minimal track. The chorus is a combo of samples and scratches. The song pauses about 1:45 and a drawn out “wellllll” kicks the track back in. There are a handful of breaks where it seems the song could end. The style is aggressive but not angry.
“Get Physical” was a single. The production feels raw, and live, with an auditorium echo around the vocals. The lyrics involve the stauts of the MC rapping and trying to get girls.  It is still a minimal drum beat with some samples peppered in throughout.
“Surprise” has a denser drum machine kicking off the track. The rap style is much more story-song like “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” and the vocal tone sounds more adolescent, too.
“Cheatin' Girl” begins with more radio friendly effects bips and bops surrounding a jazzy drum kit and vibrating bass. This too follows the basic story-song rap format, but a little more aggressive, closer to Beastie Boys and Run DMC. The chorus is a skipping, scratched version of the song title.

“Stupid Fresh” was a single. A bass and clap drum beat kicks the song off, and the aggressive rapping begins, reminding me a little of Chris Rock’s voice. The scratching and FX include some dated sounds like those from electro-scratches from Axel F and a couple sax notes.
“Hit Me” has some synth wood block notes buried below the cymbal drum machine and other rotating percussion effects, along with some synth bursts. It is still a fairly minimal instrument song, showcasing the vocals. The chorus has female vocals sampled.
“Nothin' But the Bass” has a pounding bass, then cuts with an electronic drum hit added. The word “Nothin’” is studdered, and the song feels like it is a motivational song to get people out moving. It features cowbell, scratching, sampled bursts, and is an all-around solid track.
“Yo Mutha” features a drum beat that is almost industrial, and falls into the story-song rap. There is a deep sinister bass line in the song creating an ominous feeling. The song is comical and an insult track, putting down, of course, yo mutha. The title is scratched and skipped to create the chorus.

Stand Out Track: Nothin' But the Bass


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Rubber Rodeo - Scenic Views*, Heartbreak Highway~

Name: Rubber Rodeo
Album(s): Scenic Highway*, Heartbreak Highway~
Year(s): 1984*, 1986~
Style: New Wave, Alt-Country
Similar Bands: Roxy Music, Wilco, REM. Let's Active, Cockrobin, Annie Lennox, Tori Amos, B-52's, Enya, Pretenders
One Word Review: Collegiate Cowboy Prairie Ramblers
Based Out Of: Rhode Island
Label: Mercury, PolyGram
 Scenic View - Cover, Liner Notes, Record
Scenic View - Back, Liner Notes, Record 
Heartbreak Highway - Cover & Record
Heartbreak Highway - Back, Record
Scenic View (1984)
  1. Need You Need Me 4:39
  2. Slow Me Down 3:31
  3. Anywhere With You 4:40
  4. Walking After Midnight 3:56
  5. City of God 5:13/
  6. The Hardest Thing 3:15
  7. House of Pain 4:45
  8. Mess o' Me 5:03
  9. Before I Go Away 5:57
Heartbreak Highway (1986)
  1. Heartbreak Highway 4:33
  2. If You're Ever Alone 4:10
  3. Everybody's Talkin' 3:40
  4. Souvenir 3:48
  5. The Civil War 4:14/
  6. Deadtown 4:43
  7. When Worlds Collide 4:13
  8. Look Who's Back 4:11
  9. Maybe Next Year 4:28
Album Rating(s)(1-10): *6.0

Members & Other Bands:
Bob Holmes - Vox, Guitar, Mandolin, Violin*~ (The Crusty Gentlemen, Raining Violet)
Trish Milliken - Vox, Keys*~
Gary Leib - Synth*~
Mark Tomeo - Pedal Steel*
Doug Allen - Bass* (The Crusty Gentlemen)
Barc Holmes - Drums*~
Hugh Jones  Producer, Engineer*
John Doelp - Bass, Musical Direction* (The Commercials, Human Sexual Response)
Hal Cragin - Bass~ (Iggy Pop, MOno Puff, Hal Y Burton, They Might Be Giants, Vic Chestnutt)
Ray Gantek - Pedal Steel, Dobro~ (The Two Tons, Randle Chowning Band)
Ken Scott - Producer~
Don Rise - Executive Producer*~
Frank Opolko - Accordion~ (Sting, Corey Hart, Dutch Mason Blues Band)
Howie Weinberg - Mastering~
Ian Taylor - Mixing~
Mars Williams - Sax~ (Waitresses, Billy Idol, Psych Furs, Power Station, Audio One, Boneshaker, Cinghiale, Everplastic, Harrison Bankhead Quarter/Sextet, Keefe Jackson's Likely So, Liquid Soul, NRG Ensemble, Slam!, Switchback, Trio Red Space, Witches & Devils, Swollen Monkeys)

Unknown-ness: I've never heard of this band, but based on the years and artwork, it seems like it will be some sort of honkytonk midwest new wave. 

Album Review: Rubber Rodeo basically all went to school together at the Rhode Island School of Design, and even featured the married songwriting team of Holmes & Milliken. They started out on fire, even getting a Grammy nomination for Long Form Video in 84, for Scenic Views. Their second album was not received well, and although they were dropped from their label, they kept going for a few years more. Once the band ended in the late 80’s, the married couple ended their union shortly after.

“Need You Need Me” starts with a few chants, and follows up with some road weary, echoing cowboy guitar. The vocals are shared by both husband & wife, and there a western movie set imagery is created by the song. The chorus of back and forth repetition of the song title between the couple is pretty catchy, especially how it comes in after the lone-range guitar. It does draw out and last a little longer than it needs to.
“Slow Me Down” possesses more of arena rock soundscape architecture with long and drawn out chords. There is a bit of an urgency in the verse, which is medicated by the chorus, which does in fact, slow down
“Anywhere With You” was a moderate hit. It is a peppy new wave song with lots of hooks and jangly guitars. It builds well, making you anticipate an emotional release in the chorus with a solid build. This is fully sung by Trish. There is a backing female chorus supporting the lead vocals. The chorus plays out to a fade, and although it too is a little too long, it is a solid hit and example of the era.
“Walking After Midnight” is a Patsy Cline cover. It offers a few sound effects hinting at a haunting, slow tempo. The country twang guitar kicks the song into a reliable structure. The female vocals are deep, and strained a bit. The whole atmosphere the song creates feels sparse.
“City of God” continues with the loud, power chords that swell with arena rock. The male vocals here feel like they are fluttering with emotion. So yeah, it feels like a quite preachy song of religious, evangelical enlightenment of not being able to go back to his former life, having found the city of god. I’ll be happy to never hear this song again.

“The Hardest Thing” was the first unsuccessful single. It has some echo-y bass and keyboards working a call and response in the beginning. Female vocals, generally deep in tone follow the melody unremarkably. The harmonized chorus places the listener into open-tundra soundscapes, like much of the era’s musical tone.
“House of Pain” is a mid tempo religious song with male vocals. The guitars wail in the background, empathizing with the vocals, blaming his point of focus on creating his house of pain. The lyrics are pretty stupid, and could be viewed to be typical country music topics. There is a whole section of him complaining about bringing home bacon for his lady to cook, but he goes on to explain how he likes his breakfast. Seems very misogynistic, and places all of the emotional blame of his painful relationship on the woman…but he’d do it all over again.
“Mess o' Me” is a paceless new wave song, that never quite captures a tempo, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The female vocals are like a witchy-Blondie. But about 1:45 in, the song finds a catchy cohesive chorus. There are a bunch of new wave elements that must have come with all of the 80’s synthesizers: twinkles, crystalline charms, zooming waves. Separated out, the chorus is very good, rising and falling and still pushing forward.
“Before I Go Away” slowly fades up with female vocals, with a theatrical presentation, echoing, repetitive waves of soothing. Once it gets to about 2 minutes, it transitions into an orchestral, Annie Lennox or Enya style song for a short burst. It kinda feels like all of the songs in Ween’s catalogue I never hope they play live. The chorus hits again 2 minutes later, with some classical chanting and feel.

“Heartbreak Highway” starts the album off with a couple haunting & western elements that then combined into a driving song. The female vocals sound more confident than the first album, and a little B-52’s-ish. The chorus has a nice melody rollercoaster. And toward the end there is even be a sax, and definitely some slide guitar action. It is a solid song.
“If You're Ever Alone” an over-processed drum roll begins this country ballad with some pep, sounding a little like a sit com theme song. The vocals feel a little like the Pretenders, but in an AOR, AM light rock way.
“Everybody's Talkin'” slowly fades up, with the famous melody from Midnight Cowboy. It is a cover of the Fred Neil (covered by Nilsson for the film) song, and features some synthesized effects on the slide guitar, but is otherwise pretty mellow, with a slight anxious metronome-like beat.
“Souvenir” continues the male vocals, with a slide guitar, toe-tapping bass line, and toy-piano sounding accents. The female vocals come in for s second verse, and they harmonize in the chorus. The song is not bad, but it feels a little empty, and is lacking one more hook or something to make it stand out & be catchy.
“The Civil War” starts off with harmonica and typical campfire cowboy on the prairie ballad. Banjo and strings are added to the slowly growing song. It carries with it a sad reflectiveness that turns patriotic around the midway point. The established melody is transcribed with a bunch of different instruments and instrument effects, from electric guitar to keys to sax, getting bolder and more empowered with each incident

“Deadtown” is also a shared vocal song, with many 80’s new wave synth elements, and a kinda of jittery, guitar based melody. The song also feels theatrical, particularly in the dense, icy chorus.
“When Worlds Collide” has a pulsing, anxious beat, and echoy instruments over the shared vocals. The verse feels like it is going to build into an explosive chorus, but instead, it scales down, and the chorus is a subdued, harmonized hookless melody.
“Look Who's Back” echoing tubular bells start the song, with female/Pretenders like vocals. The melody is kind of dreamy, incorporating soaring slide guitar in the forefront and bouncy synth underneath. Stripped down, this could probably be the catchiest song on the album, but unfortunately, for my taste, the slide guitar battles the speed and design of the rest of the song, and it comes out winning, detracting from the song as a whole.
“Maybe Next Year” slows the album down for a country ballad, with straight up country male vocals. Slide guitar is the main enforcer of this song too. It is a little sad, but hopeful at the same time. The female vocals do accompany the song, but really only fall to the background.

Stand Out Tracks:* Anywhere With You


Friday, June 16, 2017

Gleaming Spires - Welcoming a New Ice Age

Name: Gleaming Spires
Album: Welcoming a New Ice Age
Year: 1985
Style: New Wave
Similar Bands: Devo, Squeeze, Violent Femmes, Sparks, Talking Heads, INXS, A's, Alarm, Big Country.
One Word Review: Eccentric Sound-Scapes
Based Out Of: LA, CA
Label: Tabb Records
 Welcoming a New Ice Age: Cover, Liner Notes, Record
 Welcoming a New Ice Age: Cover, Liner Notes, Record

Welcoming a New Ice Age: Credits Close-up
Welcoming a New Ice Age (1985)

  1. Bigger than Life 3:10
  2. The Things I Have Done to Out Love 3:58
  3. Blowing Up My Life 3:46
  4. What's Coming Next 3:15
  5. Unprotected 3:12
  6. Harm 5:38/
  7. Mercy 3:51
  8. Welcoming A New Ice Age 4:24
  9. Tearaway 4:39
  10. No One Coming Over 2:33
  11. Your Secret Room 3:45

Album Rating (1-10): 8.0

Members & Other Bands:
Les Bohem - Vox, Bass, Guitar, Synth (Bates Motel, Sparks, Steve Gillette)
David Kendrick - Drums, Percussion (Bates Motel, Sparks, Devo, Visiting Kids)
Bob Haag - Guitars, Backing Vox (Bates Motel, Sparks)
Jimbo Goodwin - Keys (Sparks, The Call, Tommy Mandell, Sam Phillips, Mark Heard)
Greg Penny - Synth, Guitars, Backing Vox, Production (4-3-1, KD Lang, Martini Ranch, Poperetta, Lisa Nemzo, Eddi Reader)
Bobby Moore (Horns of Desire) - Sax (& The Rhythm Aces, Detroit Spinners, Stylistics, Count Basie & His Orchestra)
Donna Wylie (Horns of Desire) - Trumpets
Katia Empkowicz Penny (Passionettes) - Backing Vox
Patty Foley (Passionettes) - Backing Vox
Beau Wesley (Passionettes) - Backing Vox
The Happy Boy (Passionettes) - Backing Vox
The Party God (Passionettes) - Backing Vox
Fanny Penny (Passionettes) - Backing Vox
Jonathan Gold - Cello (Human Hands, Savage Republic Johanna Went)
Campbell Naismith - Bagpipes
Coolwhip - Mixing
Rick Butz - Recording
John Golden - Mastering
Bill Allen - Photography
Endre Bohem - Photo Bar Patron
Peter Turner - Photo Bar Patron
Karen Smythe - Photo Bar Patron
Mr Penguin - Photo Bar Patron
Frank the Bartender - Photo Bar Patron

Unknown-ness: I've never heard of this band. But i like the name...sounds like it may be an interesting, edgy new wave band. Coupled with the new wave fashions in the cover art, and the map-like drawling & descriptions on the sleeve, there is a lot of focus on a band personality that seems exciting and timely. Hoping for some energetic fun new wave music here.

Album Review: The Gleaming Spires, or the heart of the band, at the very least, were the backing band for Sparks in the early 80’s. They have songs in films like The last American Virgin and Revenge of the Nerds, and David Kendrick went on to be in Devo.

“Bigger than Life” is light, starting off feeling like an INXS song. It features horns in the background of the chorus, creating an in-your-face pop sound, further emphasizing the INXS comparison, and a little Joe Jackson. It has a little blue-collar A’s feel, too. The end is a good-feeling, happy fade out, with all the instruments coming together bombastically.
“The Things I Have Done to Out Love” is a little more cold and barren as the song starts, reminding me of the Alarm. The build to the chorus gains a little pop, side-to-side swagger. The drums really stand out as the main driving force, produced with a slight echo.
“Blowing Up My Life” takes it down to a keyboard synth slow dance. It is sentimental, and feels like middle school. It is kind of a sleepy song, stripped down of dense production, sounding a little unfinished and reflective. Toward the end, backing vocals join to repeat the title in chorus.
“What's Coming Next” fades in with an anxious new wave bouncy rhythm, reminding me a little of Devo…it is a little sinister in tone, with quick angular Buzzcocks-style chord changes paired with the catchy hook. The instrumental section is peppered with horns, giving it a vibrant urgent importance. The song is a continuous, never-let-down controlled sprint.
“Unprotected” starts with theatrical vocals only, reminding me of Sparks. A pulsing keyboard is added, and the song fully enters into theatrical-musical realm, as a minimal accompanied vocal display, again, much like Sparks. The chorus is an emotional uttering of the song title, rising up in disappearing hope and the feeling of forlorn.
“Harm” gets more funky with buzzy synth and a deep tribal bellowing and bass. Oingo Boingo + Devo + Residents -like in song style and vocal style. The notes are not always on key, creating an itchy feeling, like something is out of sorts, just needing to be set right- which musically is a great way to push a song along. To add to the uncomfortableness of the song, they add a neurotically played violin. The vocal chorus adds in with a clear, catchy melody. The song grows, combined elements, venturing into late-XTC epic song-scaping territory, with elements of both the Talking Heads and Violent Femmes.

“Mercy” starts side two with a much more straight forward new wave song. Power chords and short building vocals segments fit together to create a perfect pop template. It feels a little Big Country-ish with the style of synth employed.
“Welcoming A New Ice Age” continues the windswept, tundra-esq songscape, with crystalline, echoing xylophone backing effects and soaring guitars. As this was a big style of the 80’s it never had quite a perfect fit as with the title and theme of this song. The drum beat keeps the whole song upbeat, and peppy.
“Tearaway” is a sedated synth track that feels like it could be from twin peaks at the first measure. The backing flute synth breaks out of the Badalamenti style, and takes us to another thematic Sparks-like slow song. There is a backing vocal that is robotic and synth-pitch processed, buried behind the lead vocals, that sings the title over and over on cue.
“No One Coming Over” starts as straight forward jangle pop, with some odd synth elements. Including more layered robotic vocals when the title is sung. The song is slightly devious, and lends itself to the Sparks Catalogue pretty easily, if only separated by the spot light on the overly jangly guitar. The bass line reminds me of an Oingo Boingo song, “Pictures of You” but all the sinister tone is sapped out by the rest of the song.
“Your Secret Room” is a very different style from the rest of the songs on the album…there is a county /acoustic sound to the track. From the first line, it sounds like the Violent Femmes, with near-exact tonal inflection of Gordon Gano’s style. Female harmonizing backing vocals are very apparent here, which enhances the country appeal, and they use bagpipes to end the song, which also end the album in solo form. 

Stand Out Track: What's Coming Next

Dangerous Minds
Trouser Press

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Human Sexual Response = Fig. 14

Name: Human Sexual Response
Album Fig. 14
Year: 1980
Style: New Wave, Jangle Pop
Similar Bands: Devo, Blotto, Television, Tom Verlaine, Squeeze
One Word Review: Urgent, Menacing Jangles
Based Out Of: Boston 
Label: Passport Records, EAT Records, Jem Records
 Fig. 14 - Cover, Liner Notes, Record
 Fig. 14 - Back, Liner Notes, Record
Fig 14. Credits Close-up
Fig. 14 (1980)
  1. Guardian Angel 3:48
  2. Dick & Jane 4:13
  3. Jackie Onassis 3:48
  4. Cool Jerk 2:35
  5. Dolls 4:57/
  6. What Does Sex Mean to Me? 4:47
  7. Marone Moan 3:42
  8. Unba Unba 2:53
  9. Anne Frank Story 6:24
Album Rating (1-10): 7.5

Members & Other Bands:
Larry Bangor - Vox (The Zulus, Wild Kingdom, Screaming Mimis, Gospel Birds, Sugar, Kazoondheit, Honey Bea & the Mellow Muffins)
Casey Cameron - Vox (Kazoondheit, Honey Bea & the Mellow Muffins) 
Windle Davis - Vox (Kazoondheit, Honey Bea & the Mellow Muffins)
Dini Lamon - Vox, Tambourine (Kazoondheit, Honey Bea & the Mellow Muffins, Musty Chiffon)
Rich Gilbert - Guitars (The Zulus, Wild Kingdom, Screaming Mimis, Gospel Birds, Concussion Ensemble, Tanya Donelly, Frank Black, Uncle Tupelo, Steve Wynn. Throwing Muses, Lemonheads, Steve Westfield, The Family Cat, Crown Electric Company, Condo Pygmies, Country Bumpkins, CLOWN, The United States, The Coronet Premiers, Blackstone Valley Sinners, Eileen Rose & The Holy Wreck, Thad Cockerell)
Chris Maclachlan - Bass (The Zulus, Wild Kingdom, Screaming Mimis, Gospel Birds)
Malcolm Travis - Drums (The Zulus, Wild Kingdom, Screaming Mimis, Gospel Birds, Sugar, Concussion Ensemble)
John Doelp - Producer
Don Roze - Executive Producer
Eddie Ciletti - Recording
J.D. - Recording
Ben Wisch - Mixing Engineer
Hipgnosis - Cover
Paul Maxon - Cover
Richard Manning - Photo Coloring
Colin Chambers - Line Drawing
BC Kagan - Back Cover Photo

Unknown-ness: I had never heard of this band…looks like it may be calculated, yet fun. Retro, random artwork of children juxtaposed against the band name and album title, seems to illustrate a contradictory, yet clever, say hipsterry theme. I imagine new wave since it is from 1980, but to what degree, and how much nervousness, is yet to be found.

Album Review: So the guitarist, Rich Gilbert, has gone on to play with some of the most popular and big artists from the Boston area, namely Tanya Donelly and Frank Black. He has also worked on many a Bob Mould-Sugar album. They are still playing one-off reunion shows, even up to this year, 2017. But they never received much nationwide success, despite being played on KROQ in LA.
 “Guardian Angel” kicks in with a drum beat, and enters jangley pop territory. The vocals are jittery, and nervous, much like Tom Verlaine, with backing harmonized vocals for key phrases in the verse. There is some good energy to the song, but it is pretty non-threatening, and like a sloppier early-mid era Talking Heads
“Dick & Jane” is a little darker, with a fuzzy feedback guitar punctuating the verse, which is delivered in a cold and broken in structure. Verse two takes the guitar up a couple of octaves, but still is screeching with feedback. The chorus is just a chant of the chorus. The song is a little tedious, as it does not expand over the segmented and stumbling tempo, perhaps chanting a little like Devo.
“Jackie Onassis” was their “big hit.” It starts off with a cymbal, and sleepily and jangley begins, as if part of a dream. It charges ahead with a confident stomp with some prog-guitar flourishes, mixing in dreamy oh-yeahs in time. The song ends with call and response oh yeahs between the singer and backing chorus.
“Cool Jerk” begins with a bouncy and Squeeze-like bass line…the song jitters along anxiously, and would be a fun song to dance to during a live set. It is repetitive, but in a fun, catchy and building way. There are breaks in the song, that still pound forward with a pulsing drum beat. The song is just a Isley Brother’s “Shout” or Checker’s “Twist,” requesting to do the popular dance along with the band as a soundtrack.
“Dolls” also feels like an early Chris Difford/Squeeze song, with some wonky sound effects, and methodical, Devo-ish singing. The song refers to dolls coming to life. It builds and grows, but stays along a very narrow path of musical diversity. The song feels like it wears out its welcome, looping alarm-like vocals that build in intensity, but doesn’t really evolve or capitalize.

“What Does Sex Mean to Me?” starts with a basic rhythm setting the tempo…this is filled with some classic lines like “Virgins Die Horny” and “I put my fingers to my tongue / I taste vagina” Really the song juxtaposes how other societies view sex versus how we/the singer view sex, with some quite political/moral topics amongst the reactionary lyrics. The song, with its anxious, jittery vocals, and repetitive chorus fits cleanly on the album, but it feels like, aside from the instrumental, complex music is traded in for a clear, intelligible platform.
“Marone Moan” starts out quietly, with a less neurotic vocal. It feels a little renaissance like, lofty world and roots music at first. Then it gets a little progressive as the vocals harmonize into a wind-swept cadence. The urgency grows with the pulsing guitar and ethereal “AAhhhhhh” and then it just…ends.
“Unba Unba” begins with a dark guitar line, and a steady drum beat, which creates a bit of a menacing back ally atmosphere. Unba is the stuttering start in the chorus for the work unbelievable. Before the final urgent verse, the vocals swirl into a whirlpool of syllables and notes. And the song, also repeating like an alarm, winds itself up to a sudden stop.
“Anne Frank Story” is their sad, slow ballad. It too, has a bit of a mysterious menacing tone, but the sullen mood is felt as the calm vocals sadly croon and shutter about the Anne Frank Museum. The drums are bombastic and striking. After 2 minutes, the song changes direction a bit, picking up a driving progressive pace to reset the scene, back to the sad reflective verse. It has a bit of a similar feel to the Hooter’s “All You Zombies” which came out 5 years later. The lyric that is repeated the most is perhaps “Time Warp At The Anne Frank Museum.” And the song seems to build and exit just as quietly as it began.

Stand Out Track: Cool Jerk

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