Jul 30, 2014

Music Review: Cretin Stompers-Looking Forward To Being Attacked

     Here's another album from a supergroup trio. These guys have played in no-less-than 5 other bands combined. They're also each from a different city. We have Los Angeles, Memphis, and Brooklyn represented. Memphis is doubly rep-d 'cause the cover image is by the renowned rock collaborator, William Eggelston.
     The combination of the band's name and this album title strongly suggests a war of some kind or at least a predilection for conflict. The lyrics align smoothly with stomping and attacks. Words that're sung on this album include: testicles, razor blades, blood, flesh, evil, skull, daggers, black, storm, death, drowning, swallow, cum, demons, bleeding, splintered glass, and murder. Pretty harrowing imagery and then "she lost her coupons at the grocery check out" is thrown-in for good measure towards the end on 'Industro'.
     Though the words are dark, the music half-way leans towards that of slack-rock or indie-pop. Seven of the fifteen tracks are played mid-tempo, almost two-step. This is a departure from the normally aggressive nature of most bands on the Hozac roster. The only other labelmates I can think of that share Cretin Stompers' willingness to slow things down are Radar Eyes and Ruined Fortune
     A modulator is used on the vast majority of these tracks to send the vocals into heavenly Sigur Ros range. This is the strongest stylistic element the band employs, giving the tunes a mystical, nymph-like quality. I honestly can't tell if a drum machine is also used on most tracks or if that's also just a synthetically-produced sound. 
     'Cowboy From Mars' is a track that really stands-out here. I'm not sure if it really belongs on this album. It's played very cocky, massively, quasi-southern, like that of bad classic rock (.38 Special or Bad Company), even beginning with the lyric, "Georgia was a sweetheart...".
     Overall, I really dig 'Looking Forward To Being Attacked'. It's strange and varied and wondrous. There most likely won't be another album quit like it this year and that's commendable.

                                                                                                                           The Verdict: 4 Bedpans

Jul 16, 2014

Music Review: Rebel Kind-Today

     The ever-prolific Fred Thomas tends to surround himself with high-level-talent musicians. All his projects are experimental but quirky enough to be endearing. They would be simply pretentious if not for Fred knowing when to ease-off and fill-in some finely-tuned pop elements. Such a balancing act wouldn't succeed if not for confident bandmates.
     All three women of Rebel Kind are Thomas collaborators. They've worked with and apart from each other in various Fred Thomas bands. As much as they add sparkle to what Fred does, they're even better as a trio. Rebel Kind may as well be a super group. No one should argue against such sentiment after hearing Today. I rank Rebel Kind automatically above most all-female bands of past or present. I'd certainly choose Today over all of The Vivian Girls or Dum Dum Girls discographies.
     Nothing is complicated here. Overdubs are bare-minimal. It's very loose but confidently so. Today sounds like it was written in the space of maybe two weeks and it may have taken a dozen hours to record (by Fred Thomas). The melodies are highly addictive.  It's all rhythm here. No solos. The guitar sounds like an afterthought. Drum, bass and vocals are Today's stars.
     One minor criticism I'd like to point out is that track four, 'I See' is pretty much a 'Jane Says' ripoff. One outta thirteen sure ain't bad; highly forgivable. Here's hoping Rebel Kind's recent signing to Urinal Cake Records garners them the attention they badly deserve.

                                                                                                                             The Verdict: 3 Bedpans

Music Review: Energy Gown-Evening Molasses

     The riches of Chicago's psych/garage scene are seemingly endless. I'll say that no other North American city tops it, certainly in terms of quantity, but probably also in quality. Energy Gown are no exception. For me, they have now wormed their way into my Top 5 Chicago bands. It's quite a feat considering the love I have for so much else of the city's output. 
     This straightforward psych record is so ridiculously on-point, it really sounds like it came from nowhere else but 1967. I think a theremin is used in the first track! Most of what's mixed loudest on Evening Molasses is guitar and organ. Drums are mostly toms and snare; hardly any hi-hat and rarely any cymbals (tambourine substituting). Bass action ranges from thumping to melodic, shouldering the groove well. There isn't one clean guitar tone to be heard here; all fuzzy and distorted. Vocals are marinated in reverb.
     Evening Molasses impresses lyrically. A.A. Lam's ethereal poetry (no joke) is the highlight of this album. It's an interesting read, strongly suggesting such words were written in an altered state-of-mind. It rivals that of the great Syd Barrett. Track six is titled, 'Pitch Drops on the Atmos Clock'. That's pretty much as close to 'Piper at the Gates of Dawn' as a title can get.
     Overall, Evening Molasses receives a standing ovation from me. In 2014, so far, there's no better record to play and be hooked by its shadowy lure.

                                                                                                                      The Verdict: 4 Bedpans

Jul 9, 2014

Music Review: Radiator Hospital-Torch Song


     Here's a summer album for all the Pensive, Lovesick, and Forlorn among us. Sam Cook-Parrott's words paint vignettes of confused, unfortunate, lonely souls plaintively reaching out to whomever they hope might help. There's a lot to love for those who crave direct, introverted, hypothetical analysis.

"I see the way you look at me and the pain it brings" (Leather and Lace)
"I just stood there, bathed in the quiet." (Cut Your Bangs)
"You looked at me like I was your answer. I looked at you like you meant something." (Fireworks)
"The sad songs make me sadder as they're floating through the air." (Bedtime Story)

     Most of the 15 punchy, up-tempo ditties last no longer than 2:10 and Radiator Hospital loads each tune with as much as four instruments can play. Parrot's vocal delivery is very reminiscent of Tokyo Police Club's Dave Monks but never more so than on Just May Be The One. Not a bad thing. Friends of the band and twin sisters, Katie Crutchfield and Allison Crutchfield guest vocal on three tracks.
     Torch Song is a satisfying listen for anyone who enjoys exploring restlessness, inner turmoil and ever constant mind/heart struggles. It's all very honest and relatable, asking questions quite for sake of asking.

                                                                                                The Verdict: 3 Bedpans