Just as there's no guarantee that the vanity projects of the children of great musicians will have any redeeming value whatsoever, there's also no guarantee that the son of one of the most loutish dunderheads in rock and roll will evidence his father's lack of subtlety and taste. And so it goes with Tal Bachman, scion of Guess Who/BTO string pounder Randy Bachman. Where Dad was boorish and obvious, Tal is smart and subtle, the wine and pasta to Pop's beer and brats.
Answering the question, "Hey, what would it sound like if Ed Roland had Jeff Buckley's falsetto and wrote songs akin to David Bowie fronting mid-period Wings?" (yeah, that question), Bachman's self-titled debut is a nifty little pop album whose only major liability is the overproduction that Bachman shares with Bob Rock (Aerosmith, Metallica, Motley Crue, etc.). It's a poor fit and it hurts, but it doesn't kill. Even through the too-loud guitars and overly thunderous drums, some pretty good songs manage to poke their heads through.
Oddly, though, the songs that seem least affected by the sonic wash are the piano ballads, which are usually the first to wither and die under these conditions. But there they are, the lovely "You're My Everything" and the stunning "I Wonder," which examines the connection and separation between generations. Oh, and then there's "She's So High," an absolutely perfect pop song about loving out of your league that swoons effortlessly from delicate wispiness to something just this side of electric mayhem, while that stellar falsetto connotes nothing less than the blissful feeling of another person pulling you outside of yourself and elevating you, if only for a moment.
Sure, a few vestiges of '70s dumb-rock linger. The harmony lead guitars in the middleY„ (and the "Layla" slide guitars at the end) of the closing "I Am Free" don't help Bachman deal with a titular concept that he must take so for granted that writing a song about it is impossibly naive at best. The wah-wah guitar/harmonica raveup intro to "You Don't Know What It's Like" sounds pretty much out of place (especially smack in the middle of the romantic conviction of "Strong Enough" and the self-discovery of "I Wonder"). Overall, though, the duds are outnumbered by the rough gems by a factor of two to one, which is a pretty good percentage for the guy's first time at bat. Ugly album cover, though. (MH)
The Black Heart Procession
A 3 song recording
I don't generally bother much with buying EPs these days; they're generally overpriced and not long enough to merit the time it takes to load them to listen to. For some ineffable reason, though, I decided to pick this one up, and I'm glad I did, as it contains my favorite collection of Procession recordings yet. In three songs, the Procession manages to provide a great introduction to their style (which I don't really know how to describe -- it's lonely and haunted and slow and uses spooky organs but somehow creates a singularity) and contain songs that are just as good as anything on their last album, if not better. For those who have been resisting taking the plunge, this is a great and cheap introduction; for fans who find their albums too meandering, it provides a nice, compact listen. I guess EPs do have a point after all. (DD)
(Up Records -- P.O. Box 21328, Seattle, WA. 98111; http://www.uprecords.com/)
Blood For Blood
Livin' In Exile
As Blood For Blood puts it in their liner notes, they "do not write music for white picket fence gangsters from the 'burbs, or P.C. rich kids who have been afforded every luxury we'll never have." This is definitely not fratboy hardcore, that's for damn sure. Sure, sometimes the white trash ideology makes me want to tell these guys to stop bitching, to get a job, to not be a product of their upbringing -- but fuck it, they rock. The music on this seven song EP bridges the gap between anthemic old school NYC hardcore and old Metallica-/Mötörhead-/NWOBHM-style metal. In taking the best of the two styles, BFB keeps the music from becoming mundane halfway into the album, which is unfortunately the case with a lot of modern hardcore. I guess that my only real complaint about this album (aside from the constant bitching about being disenfranchised) would be the fact that it's too short, but even there the fact that the CD version has a cover of "Ace Of Spades" (the version from Built For Speed: A Mötörhead Tribute) makes up for the album's brevity. (MHo)
(Victory Records -- P.O. Box 146546, Chicago, IL. 60614; http://www.victoryrecords.com/)
It took me quite a while to deal with this CD. Not because it's bad, or because I didn't like it, but because, damn, there's just a lot of ground to cover -- the folks behind Bone Simple (primarily songwriters/musicians Ruel Russell and Bob Wall) ably demonstrate from one track to the next that they can do just about anything they want to, and do it very well. Ska to psychedelic pop to over-the-top funk to electronic sampling noise; you want it, you got it.
Listening to this album makes me very depressed for the state of the musical world today, however, because much as it pains me to say it, I don't think these guys are ever going to get the kind of recognition they deserve. Skinny Atlas treads across so many different genre lines that it almost damns itself to obscurity. At heart, it's pretty much a ska album, but it's nothing like the stereotypical version of ska that's fed to us by "alternative" radio OR the traditional 2-Tone/Jamaican ska, although there are elements of both. Instead, Bone Simple hark back to the early days of American ska, before all the rules and guidelines were laid down.
Back then -- "in the beginning" for a lot of people -- U.S. bands weren't all simply content to stick to the traditional stuff they heard from across the water, but took in all kinds of influences and tried to make their own unique form of the music. Take a look at Boston's Bim Skala Bim, for example, who came out of that era: they played mix-and-match with different musical styles, fusing funk to pop to ska to come up with something that didn't sound much like The Specials at all (c'mon, could The Specials have ever recorded "Gopher Rodeo"?). A lot of the bands from that time (Fishbone, for one) probably wouldn't even have described themselves as a "ska band," just because they had so much else in the stew.
Bone Simple follow the same route, and in that they're showing their age somewhat, I think. Messrs. Russell and Wall play the way they play, going from the art-funk of "Crush Me Like A Mountain" to the fast, paranoia-themed ska of "Conspiracy" (which reminds me a hell of a lot of The Rudiments' "Martians Don't Skank") with hardly a stylistic twitch, because that's what these guys grew up with, listening to the British mods, skinheads, and rudeboys and making the music their own. That's probably why "Angels Tell A Better Lie" features a magnificent Jam-inflected chorus, and "Words of Orion" straddles both psychedelia and ska, because these guys grew up back when it was okay to experiment, before you were given your pigeonhole by the ska scene and had to stick with it no matter what.
Granted, there's weird stuff on here that I don't imagine even the most liberal-minded music critic could consider ska, like the drifting, synth-y acid trip "Yellow Houses," which I'd swear belongs on one of those early Genesis albums, or the spacey, dangerous-sounding surf-rock of "Go On Home, John Eraser." There're also a few missteps on here; "December Moon" is pretty much '70s funk-pop with female vocals, and, well, sounds just out-of-place stuck right before "I Give Up," a bitter, nicely-done little ska breakup song. And then, of course, there's "Christmas Is Coming," which is just...um, somebody screwing with their recording gear. I have no idea how else to describe it.
But never mind all that -- this is a fine ska album, or pop album, or funk album, or whatever the hell else you want to call it. And even though it's too weird for the mainstream and not "trad" enough for the underground, I have a feeling those strange Bone Simple people won't give a fuck either way, and keep doing what they love. (JH)
(RaW Productions -- P.O. Box 27074, Houston, TX. 77227-7074; email@example.com; http://www.infohwy.com/~bonesimple)
Fallen Star Collection
Brandtson know how to write interesting songs, that's for sure. The first time I listened to this, I found myself repeating the first few songs over and over; not that any after that are bad -- just that the first ones were so good that I couldn't stop listening to them. Eventually, I got past "Summer in St. Claire" (5th song), and realized that the whole damn album was excellent. Thick, driving, emotional guitar rock wraps around dual vocals with hooks that will sink deep within the listener. The lyrics are incisive, and at times intensely spiritual. It's weird, but I think that Brandtson would be the sound that would result if Fugazi's music got heavier, but their vocal delivery became gentler and more refined. Fugazipop, or something. Whatever it is, it's good. (MHo)
(Deep Elm Records -- P.O. Box 36939, Charlotte, NC. 28236; http://www.deepelm.com/)
I first came in contact with Buckfast Superbee when their drummer delivered me room service while I was staying in California. He saw that I was reading San Diego's equivalent to The Houston Press, and asked me what music I was into, saying his band had just finished a CD. Ten minutes later, he was back at my room with the master of this CD...a year later, and I'm reviewing it.
This band fits pretty much into the punk/indie crowd, I think. Overall, the CD is okay, although there are a few songs that I tend to skip over. There are some gems on the CD, such as "Reason #2," and even if the songs weren't amazing, some of them sure have cool titles, such as "Mutant Pet from Mexico"...
Apparently, this band has been receiving some pretty good attention in California, winning awards and touring for a short time with Unwritten Law. I dont know the current state of the band, though, and from the looks of their Web page (http://www.buckfastsuperbee.com/), it seems that they might be on hiatus for the moment.
You can tell that this is the band's first CD, but generally the CD is pretty good, and worth a listen -- the songs have enough hooks to keep you listening. Oh yeah, and there's a "secret" song too that is worth the money alone. (TC)
(Walking Records -- P.O. Box 49916, Los Angeles, CA. 90049; http://www.walkingrecords.com/)
How to Make C60BR24 in Under an Hour
To most of the participants and fans of the genre, "trip-hop" is a taboo term, a hokey catchphrase devised by journalists to readily identify the strain of downtempo soul first brewed in Bristol a decade ago. Whether it's because of the obvious drug connotation or the simple bad pun, nobody likes to use it. Still, it's evocative, and for better or worse, it's one of the tags that sticks in the mind upon listening to Buckminster Fuzeboard mastermind Dave Fuller's slow groove concoction. The other tag, perversely enough, is "indie," another industry term looked upon by certain circles with disdain (and misused far more than "trip-hop" ever will be), yet relevant here thanks to the album's living-room fidelity. Soundbites of angelic choruses, music boxes, vintage aerobic workouts, and Glen Campbell collide with Fuller's loose, mellow beats, with mighty tasty results. Track #3, "Snap Clarity," wins the potential-single prize, its melange of analog blips and bleeps buoyed by a fuzzy synth-bass line and a child's constant declaration of being "a little airplane." To put it in the basest of terms, if DJ Shadow grew up in Austin and listened to as much Ralph releases as Grandmaster Flash, he probably would have grown up to be Dave Fuller. Trite though the labels may be, How to Make C60BR24 in Under an Hour is without doubt an independent trip. (JT)
(Slabco -- P.O. Box 292239, Los Angeles, CA. 90029; http://www.slabco.com/)
The Death of Your Perfect World
Buried Alive is one of the only bands that I can think of that sounds more pissed off than Will Haven (the Will Haven pissoffometer is my measuring stick for brutal, emotive hardcore). Their sound and lyrical approach reminds me a lot of Hatebreed, but they're more like Hatebreed's hyperactive little brother. On this disc are the requisite gut-punching downtuned riffs and angry, guttural vocal delivery that we've come to know and love in the hardcore climate today, but there are also some things thrown in to make things interesting, including some of the most jarring time signatures that hardcore has ever experienced (seriously, I thought my CD player was skipping at first). This is one band out of the pack that really is hardcore, instead of just posturing. (MHo)
(Victory Records -- P.O. Box 146546, Chicago, IL. 60614; http://www.victoryrecords.com/)