O.K. -- first of all, this entire CD is performed on toy instruments. That fact is strangely exciting to a number of people I told in my office, but as for myself, the toys create a sound that is a little too brassy and thin. That said, after I heard this CD I thought, "yeah, it's O.K...it's dancy, campy and catchy," but just like a really good movie, about two hours later, I couldn't stop thinking about it. The very Beck-ish "Trunk Fulla Amps" played in my head all day, and the second and third tracks, "5 Alive" and especially, "Chameleon," remind me of old Renegade Soundwave -- old school melodic, not quite-but kinda-tech-y.
Self's cover of The Doobie Brothers' "What a Fool Believes" is awesome, and even caused one of my co-workers to run out of her office and ask me who was the crappy cover band that I was playing. As you can probably deduce from my observations so far, there's not a consistent sound, which doesn't bother me; just don't expect to hear the first couple of songs and think you can figure out the rest of the CD. Some of the songs, like "Ordinaire," for example, are a bit too bubbly and '80s happy-crappy, yet the track just before sounds like a supa dupa Steely Dan. If I were to hear "9 Lives" on the radio, I would've thought I was listening to the Foo Fighters. Hmm...yes, inconsistent.
All in all a remarkable job, especially considering that the music is contributed by Little Tykes and Mattel. The stoner/surfer dude that sits in the corner of my office (and who shall remain nameless) said it best: "Man, it just makes me wanna dance." (KL)
(Spongebath Records -- 101 N. Maple Street, Murfreesboro, TN. 37130; http://www.spongebathrec.com/)
When 20 Summers Pass
It seems to me that Shelter's had even worse luck than Megadeth in the "keeping a solid lineup" department, but in spite of that, they still manage to more or less maintain a uniform sound through all their releases. That said, if you like Shelter, you'll like this album, especially the clarity that Don Fury's production lends to Porcell's guitars. Being a fan of the Norm Arenas-Revelation era of Shelter, I thought that their move to Victory could possibly mean that they were getting heavier and less melodic (not a dig to the Victory bands at all; I like that stuff too), but that's not the case at all. In fact, I would venture to say that this is Shelter's most melodic and accessible album to date. The only misstep, in my opinion, would be "In The Van Again," a track with somewhat sophomoric lyrical content about all the touring that Shelter has done. While not cringe-inducing, the track just pales in comparison to the intellectual assault that normally typifies Ray Cappo's lyricism. (MHo)
(Victory Records -- 346 N. Justine, Suite 504, Chicago, IL. 60607; http://www.victoryrecords.com/; Shelter -- http://www.ineedyourshelter.com/)
all ports in frequent seas
I've had this for over a year to review, I think, so I feel a little bad. However, I think the fact that Smallmouth has failed to come to any level of popularity (or even casual acquaintance) with most indie rock listeners is caused by the same reasons that have kept this sitting on the shelf taunting me. Warmed-over Slint-y, Engine Kid-esque, some quiet minor key strummy or plinky songs and some loud yelly, and an opening track that has annoying birdsounds atop it. I'm sure they have a great record collection full of the essential recordings of indie rock and hardcore and some avant garde stuff, and there's nothing in particular (apart from the birdsounds) that strikes me as objectively bad taken on a part by part basis -- I'm just unable to care about any of it. (DD)
(Slipped Disc/Skull Geek -- P.O. Box 91, 689 Queen St. West, Toronto, ON. M6J 1E6, CANADA; http://www.teenageusarecordings.com/)
Only One Division
I really had to commit myself to giving this recording a listen. The first track is the definition of "mellow," beginning with a slow, heavy pulse like the beat of a massive animal; then the chorus of an ethereal choir joins in to create a dose of smooth, airy trip-hop, and finally, the chords of an electric guitar leap over the top. I found the guitar to be grating, and with the droning beat almost intolerable, but once I got over this hump, things really picked up. They took me to funky town, and it was so groovy I was seeing disco balls and sparkly platforms. The tracks range from hip-hop to trip hop to pure funk, at times fluidly combing these genres, while letting each style take the lead at others.
This is mood music, for sure. Soul Clique uses deep bass lines, samples, and scratches to create an ambiance of laid-back contentment. It's the perfect background to summer hanging out -- on the porch, on the beach, you name it. And in many ways, this is a very complex recording, both technically and spiritually (if you will), with the imagery the music creates. My main complaint, however, is that I did get a little bored with it from time to time. I got the sense that the melodies weren't going anywhere, and some of the tracks didn't vary enough or have enough layers to hold my attention. The last track is a reprise of the first, and I didn't like it any better the second time.
Taking into consideration that this is Soul Clique's first LP, though, I think this is a great start. The unique way they manage to blend many different styles and influences of music is amazing and shows a lot of promise. Giving the melodies more of a direction and a fuller layering of sound are all this needs to be truly genius. Now I can't wait to get my hands on their second LP! (NL)
(Small Stone Records -- P.O. Box 02007, Detroit, MI. 48202; http://www.smallstone.com/)
Many Will Play
Another pop-punk band from Southern California; generic tunes and poor production quality. About the only thing I liked about the CD was the cover and booklet...I'm sure Topp's appreciates the copyright infringement involved in the band using old baseball cards inside. Instead of buying this CD, you should spend your money on something from a better band like the Lonely Kings or something. (RZ)
(Lobster Records -- P.O. Box 1473, Santa Barbara, CA. 93102; http://www.lobsterrecords.com/; Staring Back -- http://www.staringback.com/)
Sunny Day Real Estate
The Rising Tide
On Sunny Day Real Estate's latest release, The Rising Tide, lead singer Jeremy Enigk's vocal style is reminiscent of that of Cinjun Tate of Remy Zero, but with less control, which is especially evident in the song "The Ocean." With the first track, "Killed by an Angel," possibly the album's most radio friendly song, the listener is first bombarded with Enigk's high-pitched notes, a range that takes some adjusting to and that becomes repetitive and monotonous towards the end of the album. On top of that, every song's message is drowned out by the lack of variety of guitar style -- "One" begins with a riff that makes the listener wonder when the voice of Robin Wilson of the Gin Blossoms will start in. Every song is inundated with either the oddly soprano voice of Enigk, like "One," or the sound of electric guitars drowning each other out.
Some of the songs are catchy, however; beyond the seemingly whining voice, "One," for example, is a fairly catchy tune. "Rain Song" is the most commendable song on the album, deviating from the sound of loud guitars and replacing them with the light plucking of the guitar. Enigk's voice is even tolerable; it's gentler, as opposed to beating the listener's ears by hitting high notes. If the production was able to overcome the barrier of unnaturally high-pitched notes sung by an alto, then The Rising Tide would definitely be easier on the ears. (JF)
(Time Bomb Recordings -- http://www.timebombrecordings.com/; Sunny Day Real Estate -- http://www.sunnydayrealestate.com/)