yes i am talking to you
I'd completely forgotten about the book The Bridge to Terabithia 'til this CD came in the mail; the story, as I dimly recall, was about two kids who invented their own magical land in the woods behind where they lived, a little island you could only get to by swinging on a rope across the stream. At the end of the book (sorry if this spoils it for anybody) the girl dies, and her friend goes back to Terabithia to try and deal with his grief. I remember really liking the book a lot, to the point where I made a little shadowbox of the "kingdom" for class one year... So, with all that behind it, as soon as I remembered the story, a whole lot of expectation got tacked onto this EP. And surprising though it might seem, the name actually feels fairly appropriate, somehow -- the songs on here are all Seam-ish melancholy indie-rock (particularly "Fix 55," with its delicately-picked melody), with plenty of personal-sounding lyrics sung-spoken in a slightly off, broken, very un-frilly voice. Highlights include the aforementioned "Fix 55," and the quietly angry instrumental "Every Face," with the only real low point towards the end of "Yes I Am," a quiet pop track that slowly turns experimental and incorporates some strange found sounds and recordings of a crazy salesman and a football game(?); sorry, but it wears on my nerves after a while. Thankfully, it doesn't detract from the rest, which at best is really cool and at worst shows promise for the future. The names of the songs don't stick with me very well, but the songs themselves cautiously creep into my subconscious, and days later I'll find myself humming a quiet little tune and wondering "Where the hell did that come from? It sounds familiar..." (JH)
(76.2% Records -- 2055 Westheimer, #165, Houston, TX. 77098; >http://fly.to/76.2%)
Well, when this CD started turning, I thought to myself, "Hey Mel, this is some pretty cool stuff, here." The first track, "Break Me," starts off with an interesting juxtaposition of melodic vocals and stop-start heavy guitar riffage. Hearing this track made me eager to check out the rest of the album, but my interest waned as the tracks went by. After the fairly strong start, Thumb degenerates gradually with each track into a (and I hate comparisons, but it fits) less-energetic and -emotive version of Sevendust. The two bands have the same approach to lyrics, the same song dynamics, even the same damned guitar tone. Sevendust is just better at what they do. To Thumb's credit, they do have as a member of the band a DJ, so they incorporate some interesting little sample stuff to break the monotony up. It's unfortunate that there was monotony to break up in the first place. (MHo)
(Victory Records -- P.O. Box 146546, Chicago, IL. 60614; http://www.victoryrecords.com)
Too Much Joy
Green Eggs and Crack
For those who don't know, this is actually a reissue of the very first Too Much Joy album, long out-of-print since the band released a scant couple hundred copies themselves way back when, and now re-released by the kind souls at Sugar Fix. So now, those of us unlucky enough to not have known the band back then can finally hear the beginning of the whole mess...and boy, what a mess it is. Brutal honesty time: the reissued songs aren't that great. The production sucks at points, the singing is occasionally waaay off, and the lyrics to some of the songs are, well, juvenile. The whole thing at times gets a bit too new wave for me (their Clash fixation doesn't really come through yet), and the guitar mostly sounds tinny...
But really, hey, come on -- they were kids. They made this thing 10 years ago, back when they were still wet-behind-the-ears, still suffering through high school and trying to be musicians so they could pick up girls, and so what if that's what it sounds like? There's still a ton of promise on here, as well as some moments of true genius -- like the a cappella classic "The Otter Song," where singer Tim Quirk bares his soul and sing sings about how much he'd really like to be an otter, or the catchy pop of "No Rope" and "Navigator," or the Sex Pistols reference in the quietly silly "Drum Machine," for a few. The songs on here paint a picture of four kids who never really figured they'd ever be stars, but thought they might as well have fun anyway, and those old songs definitely hint at what they could do with actual money and some time to work on their songwriting.
Now, the above's all true, and I probably would've bought this album anyway, but I do have to admit that the real reason I wanted this is for the extra "new" songs the TMJ guys stuck on here. Tacked on at the end of the original album are 3 new songs, all from sessions recorded back in 1993 with now-departed bassist/vocalist/founding member Sandy Smallens (don't worry, he's not dead or anything -- he just works as a record co. suit these days), after the band got dropped by Giant and before their most recent full-length, ...Finally.
"Drunk and in Love" is probably the best, most thought-out tune of the three, a beautiful, pained song about how, really, nothing matters when you're in love except the fact that you're in love (and drunk, but I think it applies sober, too). "Frustrated" and "Secret Handshake," the other two songs, are both raging punkish pop songs a la The Buzzcocks or TMJ idols The Clash, complete with howled group vocals and out-of-control guitars -- "Frustrated" was originally released as an Internet-only single, reportedly not making it on ...Finally because Tim hates the song. These songs definitely aren't throwaways, by any means -- in fact, all three of these rock so damn hard that they're, for my money, tons better than most of their last "real" album. But hey, y'know, it ain't up to me... (JH)
(Sugar Fix Records -- P.O. Box 46361, Los Angeles, CA. 90046-0361)
The Curse of Miss Kitty
Damn, but this album's frustrating. I like it, I really do, but there's so much weird shit going on that it's making my head hurt. Trunk Federation kind of fall into a weird realm of indie-rock, somewhere between the Archers of Loaf and Possum Dixon -- unlike a lot of indie-rock out there, I'm betting these guys probably wouldn't get played much on the radio; they're just too weird for today's AlternaTeen(TM). (Hell, they're almost too weird for me.) The CD starts off with "Devil In A Catskin", a bizarro march that transmutes into a full-on rock song, and continues to skip from idea to idea and sound to sound 'til its very end -- "Providence" is dark & weird, a little like an updated Pink Floyd; "The Reluctant Thief" begins quiet and melodic, but becomes a pounding rock anthem; and "Magnifico the Magician"...well, that one's a polka instrumental. I imagine these guys are a lot of fun live, but I think I'll have to wait 'til my head stops hurting to listen to the album again. (JH)
Gun Shy Trigger Happy
So blithely unfazed by her triumphant debut (1995's killer Cockamamie) is Jen (name shortened, like her hair) that she kicks things off with what could be a leftover from her last one (the bitter and pretty "Go Ahead") and then proceeds to demolish her past and build a cathedral from the rubble. There's lovely melodic rock ("If I"), lovely melodic balladry ("Everything") and lovely melodic sonic experimentation ("Rang You and Ran"), all sung with Jen's creamy voice that gets more and more appealing with each song. Improvement: only one clunker (the nip-and-tuck nightmare of "Under the Knife"), as opposed to the three on Cockamamie. That's called progress. (MH)
(Warner Bros. Records)
My Way or The Highway
Okay, okay -- it's a cheap comparison, but dammit, I have to make it: Tuscadero, on their latest album, remind me of Veruca Salt. Why? No, it's not just because two girls with guitars sing and play all the songs just as loud as the boys can, but more because, well, compared to previous stuff I've heard by them ("Holidays'R Hell," by the way, is still an amazing song), this is full-on arena-rock, much like VS's Eight Arms To Hold You. Tracks like "Queen For A Day," the sort-of-Sugar-ish "Hot Head," and the heartfelt closer "Mutiny" would sound truly out of place played at a teeny-tiny corner bar -- some songs are just meant to be played at extremely high volume before screaming crowds of thousands, y'know? Unfortunately, some of this truly makes me cringe, nonetheless -- the gender-switch of "Tiny Shiny Boyfriend" (about a mudflap figure?), the Fiona Apple-funky "Paper Dolls," and the abrasive "Not My Johnny" really get on my nerves. Once you get past those, though, you hit some really cool pop-punk moments ("Cathy Ray"), and even a brilliant orchestral/James Bond-theme bit, with "Dr. Doom". To be honest, I dunno if these folks'll be playing arenas anytime soon, but if they cut out some of the unnecessary goofiness, they may well be on their way... (JH)