So yeah, I'm biased. I'm a huge fan of anything that Jonah Matranga does, be it Onelinedrawing, New End Original, Far, or whatever. I'm also lucky enough to call the man a friend, so it would be hard for him to create something that I didn't like. The cool thing is, though, that I like all the music he creates in different ways. I guess the closest thing I could compare it to would be having a bunch of kids -- you don't (or you're not supposed to, at least) love any one more than any other, but you have a special affection for the peccadilloes of each.
Now, the neat thing about The Volunteers is that it manages to capture just about each Jonah incarnation (yes, I realize that I'm making him sound like Dr. Who), all on the same album. You've got the loud rockers ("Over It," "We Had A Deal"), the quieter introspective stuff ("As Much To Myself As To You"), and the quirky humorous stuff ("Oh, Boys"). Basically, this is your one-stop Jonah shop, and it provides a great jumping on point for anyone that's unfamiliar with his output thus far. Like Geoff Rickly (yes, kids, that Geoff Rickly) says in his liner notes, the beauty of Onelinedrawing is that it is shapeless and basically whatever Jonah feels like doing at any given time. You don't see that kind of honesty much in music these days. (MHo)
(Jade Tree Records -- 2310 Kennwynn Rd., Wilmington, DE. 19810; http://www.jadetree.com/; Onelinedrawing -- http://www.thevolunteers.net/)
Grab That Gun
The Organ is another band from the Canadian region of North America. These days bands from Canada are a dime a dozen; the fact that so many Canadian bands are getting playing/press time in America bodes well for the musically addicted, but still, it's starting to get a bit old. I don't pretend to know every band that has come to these shores via Canada but from what I've heard from The Organ, these guys (er, girls) are different.
The Organ sound quite close to The Smiths, except, of course, for the organ from which they take their name. If you're like me and actually like The Smiths but just can't get over Morrissey and his stinking jaw line, then this may be the band for you. I hope this comparison doesn't annoy the band members, though, because like The Smiths it's obvious that everyone involved with this album is very talented and deserve to be recognized on their own. The guitar lines are clean and very well-crafted, and vocalist/lyricist Katie Sketch's writing is definitely distinctive.
I think, however, that I'm doing this band an injustice by comparing them to The Smiths. The differences are more poignant when you look at the subtleties. First of all, there is the ever-present organ laying a framework, which everyone seems to be playing off of -- it's this very same organ that bugs me, though, as it does play a major role yet still seems to be hiding from the listener. In my opinion, this is quite crafty, but how can you name your band "The Organ" and then not focus on it? Delving back into the music, you can almost hear a sort of grown-up Sleater Kinney, Go-Go's type of thing happening, although you do have to listen quite closely to catch that influence.
Also, what about those drums? They sound good and they're competently played, but where's the spice? Where's the spirit? You don't have to sound like Trans Am, but could you at least give me something that snaps to break up the formula from time to time? Maybe I'm suffering from testosterone hearing buildup, but I felt something was missing, and I now think that it was the rhythm section. It's good to lay back and have other people take the limelight, but I think this band sacrificed too much and took the spirit out of arguably good music by placing the rhythm section in such a detached position.
I like this band, but the more I think about it, the more I wish the vocals and guitars would take a humble pill and let the others join the fray. Granted, the vocals and guitars are definitely strengths to this band, but that can oftentimes take away the emotive response that a rhythm section provides. I think the best way to describe this band is that they are like your favorite band that your girlfriend listens to, one that you're not ashamed to steal from her collection. (SR)
(Mint Records -- P.O. Box 3613, Vancouver, BC. CANADA V6B 3Y6; http://www.mintrecs.com/; The Organ -- http://www.theorgan.ca/)
Owl & the Pussycat
Owl & the Pussycat are the type of act that I'm usually happy enough to sit through in a live situation and won't ever put an ounce of effort into. Their self-titled CD showcases a perfectly serviceable form of spare pop based on not much more than the acoustic guitars and voices of Lois Maffeo and Greg Moore (despite the occasional bass, piano or fuzztone guitar riff thrown in for effect), but there comes a point, somewhere around the instrumental "Raccoon," when I become stultifyingly bored. I don't know much about Moore, but I know that Lois has done this sort of thing before, and better. It's like a breath of fresh air when the Galiano Island Hutterite Men's Choir shows up with a finger-snappin' "Take it or leave it" refrain at the end of "Company," simply because it's so odd in the context of the rest of the record, even if it doesn't work. Owl & the Pussycat is an object lesson in the perils of hewing too firmly to the conviction that less is more. (MH)
(Kill Rock Stars -- 120 NE State Ave, PMB 418, Olympia, WA. 98501; http://www.killrockstars.com/)