Stop The Clock
Blind Jackson probably could have cleaned up in 1990. The London band has the feel of Britpop in the days before it was stadium-sized by Oasis, and the three songs on Stop The Clock have a neatly kicky punch. "Keep On Running" and the garage-y "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" (not a cover of the Leadbelly song), earlier singles reissued here, are both underscored by a bluesy feel, but "Stop The Clock" is the EP's most interesting song: it draws from the same well as the La's when they were in a minor-key mood, with a harder rhythm that seems to collapse the complexities of ska into a 4/4 singularity. Despite the clean melodicism, sharp playing and Marc Bolan-meets-Mick Jagger snarl of lead singer Sy Badham, though, the song, at a mere(ish) 3:37, goes on about a minute too long (recommended cut: everything from the start of the first bridge to the start of the second). That shows that Blind Jackson doesn't know what to do with its good ideas. There are worse places to start out. (MH)
(self-released; Blind Jackson -- http://www.blindjackson.com/)
We almost made it home...
Blood Meridian's We almost made it home... reminds me of the Young Guns 2 soundtrack -- meaning, it's country music made by Yankees, and plus, it's cinematic much of the time. It starts with slow, haunting, rising action, builds to a lagging second act, then hits a promising crescendo, and then there's the resolution that's reminiscent of the spooky opening sequence.
It's not country, because "country" is the genre that Nashville took, made its own, and squashed 20 years ago. In the '70s this would have been called "country," it's true, but this was recorded last year. The only reason it's not "Texas music" is 'cause these guys are from Canada. I think this is best described as "Western music." It sounds like Jay Mascis is singing while the Weary Boys play half time, the way George Jones, Waylon, or Hank Jr. used to play half time in the '70s and '80s.
As dark as the subject matter gets, this CD is still refreshing because this guy is admitting to some stuff I haven't heard anybody confess to since Tupac died -- things like paranoia and mental problems that play well at this speed. And, much as it may seem a cliché, there's not a lot of country artists who sing about their own deaths anymore.
We almost made it home... carries all the great conventions of country music and none of the bad ones. The spooky refrains, the haunting harmonies, all the country instruments... harmonica, steel guitar, and fiddles (or "violins," take your pick) all come in at different times. None of the plays on words, no cheeky puns, and hey, no jingoism.
If these guys were from Texas, they'd regularly play the Continental Club to big, big crowds. This is something I'd listen to 50 or 100 times. I'd burn this for my friends, and they'd burn it for their friends. These guys live in Canada. They'll never find out. (CL)
(Teenage USA Recordings -- P.O. Box 91, 689 Queen St. West, Toronto, Ontario, CANADA, M6J 1E6; http://www.teenageusarecordings.com/; Blood Meridian -- http://www.bloodmeridianmusic.com/)
What Was Her Name?
Bone Simple has about two really interesting slow songs on their new disc, What Was Her Name? And then, unfortunately, there are literally seventeen other really bad songs. Various levels of folk-rock, and mainly below-average bar band stuff. There is no focus to this. Every couple of songs begins a new song cycle that bears no resemblance to the previous one, and none are memorable. Maybe...The Scabs by way of The Spin Doctors? And that's an insult to those two bands. This stuff is lightweight, uninspired, and unambitious, like the band could be replaced by karaoke at whatever patio they are playing. While I really like those two songs I mentioned, you get the feeling that this album was recorded as an outlet, because at their live gigs, they're forced to mainly do covers. I'll put this one to bed with a sentence for their press kit: "Without a Ride" and "Daddy's Grave," while not at all similar to the rest of What Was Her Name?, stand out as utterly listenable, the first with a Sgt. Pepper's feel and the latter with a decidedly Opry-like effect. The parity being symptomatic of the entire record. (CL)
(Pee Pup Records -- Box 1008, League City, TX. 77574-1008)
If there were any way I could think of to most easily give you a sense of Matt Boroff's music, it'd be this: Quentin Tarantino. When I listen to Boroff's self-titled CD, it strikes me just how perfectly it'd fit into one of Quentin's movies -- just a little dark and moody, just a little off kilter, a hell of a lot of cool. Maybe it comes from being an American singer and songwriter living and working in Austria. Maybe it comes from his past experiences playing in and around NYC. Maybe it's the byproduct of the eclectic mix of personalities and environment that make up this CD. I don't know.
What I do know is that you definitely get a sense of grit right from the outset with "Soft Sky," and I have to admit I was hooked right away. It's rare that a CD catches me so quickly, but this one definitely has. "Tightrope" and "Everything is Breaking Down" have a heavier rock base, but with a bit of the upscale NYC "up all night" party scene thrown in. In fact, this whole CD is somewhat of a roller coaster ride between bluesy folk rock and hard-hitting glam edge. The turns are evenly sprinkled out along the way, and you get a good dose of each of the styles as you go. I highly recommend this CD. It's on heavy rotation as I type this. (JR)
(Lo End Records; Matt Boroff -- http://www.mattboroff.com/)
David Brake & That Damn Band
Lean, Mean Texas Machine
There's a lot to be proud of on David Brake & That Damn Band's Lean, Mean Texas Machine (most notably, "101 Tattoos"). But listen to songs like the title track ("Pick your jaw up off the floor / You'd think you never seen a woman before / Now put your tongue back in your mouth / Sometime we grow 'em that way here in the South"), and the sense that Brake's shooting for new country instead of the more classic stuff is almost too much to bear.
Except for the above-referenced lyrics, Brake is a talented songwriter -- his stories are catchy and play out well in song. "Even Five To Closing Time (What Do I Do Now)" is a great opener, a typical barroom hit ("It's closing time and I ain't done / What do I do now?"), and the youthful but well-intentioned "Cowpunks, Angels, And Architects" is as original as they come ("I'm a cowpunk / Looking for an angel in this town"). Hopefully, on his next effort Brake and company will shy away from the popular country that raids the airwaves today and stick more to their roots. Until that time, country fans could do far worse than Lean, Mean Texas Machine. (DAC)
(Westerland Records -- 9521 Westheimer 306, Houston, TX. 77063; http://www.leanmeantexasmachine.com/)
...Maybe This Time
Any band that opens its album with an obvious Rush rip ("YYZ") deserves credit, so here goes: Brookfield are talented musicians. Unfortunately, their choice of music (think 311 covering Sublime -- no, really) leaves a lot to be desired, and lyrically, it doesn't get much better. On "Dreams," singer Mikey Jerdan sings, "You once said that it all ends / And these dreams will never last / I thought you would understand / That these dreams are all we have." "She Does" is the album's standout, solely due to the fact it sounds nothing like the rest of the songs on ...Maybe This Time.
This music played itself out at least five years ago, and there's absolutely no need for any band today to carry the 311/Sublime torch. Let it die (no pun intended). Maybe next time. (DAC)
(Brookfield Records -- http://www.brookfieldrecords.com/)
This town just gave you a dreamer.
You want unctuous? Budapest One can give you unctuous in spades. The four-piece band kicks off This town just gave you a dreamer. with "Signal For The Assassins," which sounds like the sleaziest accountant in town singing "Besame Mucho" at the bar from Ally McBeal, and it all goes downhill from there. With a voice like a cross between Elvis Costello and the Crash Test Dummies' Brad Roberts, leader Keith Killoren smarms his way into your eardrums as the rest of the guys try to be some sort of gypsy E Street Band. It's so over the top that it's easy to peg Budapest One as parody, but the jokes not only aren't funny, they aren't jokes; the rant in the middle of "Apple In Her Mouth," for instance, practically dares you to recoil from its own self-satisfied emptiness (the possibility that it's intended seriously, on the other hand, would make the band sexist beyond all comprehension). That same hollowness can be found in "The 'Bully' Song," which makes the assumption that if you write about an encounter with the devil and mention a character named Moses Jones as often as possible, you'll end up tapping into some age-old mythopoeic archetype instead of simply being smug. Like George Constanza, Budapest One expends a lot of energy in trying to disguise how lazy it is, and in any other context, the reasonably tuneful "Some Sweet Day" could make a case for sticking in your head, but the company it keeps damages its chances for respectability. The whole thing comes on like Camper Van Beethoven playing Armed Forces while delivering the greasiest ineffective pick-up line you've ever had to shower yourself off after hearing. (MH)
(Beatville Records -- P.O. Box 42462, Washington, DC. 20015; http://www.beatville.com/)