Dash Rip Rock
After 20 years and 12 releases, this band is still the Greatest "Country Punk" band around. Recyclone goes through their collection and shows you how great they are -- just when you think it's going to slow down, they belt out an ever more powerful song than the last. The album also collects some of their Baddest, Bawdiest, and Rowdiest tunes to date, including "Shootin' Up Signs," "BFE" (you will have to buy the record to find out what that means), and a new version of the hit "Let's Go Smoke Some Pot." Dash Rip Rock is a fun band that doesn't take life too seriously, and that's good for us. (TM)
(Alternative Tentacles Records -- P.O. Box 419092, San Francisco, CA. 94141-9092; http://www.alternativetentacles.com/; Dash Rip Rock -- http://www.dashriprock.net/)
Yes, friends, the rumors are true. Indie-rock figurehead John Davis, formerly of Superdrag, has found God (rediscovered God, really, according to him) and now dedicates himself to praise music. I guess you could call that the bad news. What's the good news, then? Well, the good news is that John's new solo album doesn't really sound all that far removed from the final Superdrag CD, 2002's aptly titled Last Call for Vitriol. In fact, a couple of the tracks could have easily been on that album, most notably the fuzzed-out power-chord rave-up "Nothing Gets Me Down", and the swinging, head-bop inducing "Salvation". Even "Me and My Girl" would have fit in alongside "Baby Goes to Eleven". In all actuality, the only major difference between most of John Davis's and Superdrag's recorded output (besides the fact that John plays almost every note on every instrument now) is the addition of a message of faith to the excellently written pop songs. I say "most" because at times the songs do get a little preachy (if that's not what you've come to listen to in the first place), especially towards the end of the album. But hey, if an atheist, sacrilegious heathen like me can look past that and get into the music, then you can, too. The bottom line is that the songwriting is still great, and the message, while you may not necessarily agree with it, is at least a positive one, so if you can keep an open mind while listening, I would bet that you'd like John Davis. Honest to God. (MHo)
(Rambler Records -- http://www.ramblerrecords.com/; John Davis -- http://www.johndavismusic.com/)
Love + Rescue
On Love + Rescue, her first album since 2000's acclaimed Mary's Daughter, singer/songwriter Cameron Dezen raises the stakes. Instead of opting for a traditional band and strings, like most singers in this genre would do, Dezen uses samples and electronics as the backdrop for most of the songs on the album, which not only gives the album a modern sound (think Frou Frou), but helps keeps the songs fresh. It's rare that subdued rhythms and low-key drumbeats work this well -- producer Matt Hammon also handles a lot of the Love + Rescue's programming and instrumentation, along with David Rice and bassists Ben White and Rigo Flores, and when coupled with Dezen's beautiful piano work, the result is often stunning.
It's Dezen's voice and lyrics, though, that are the main attraction here, and her sultry vocals quickly draw the listener into her songs. The emotions run deep on Love + Rescue, and whether she sings about loving or fighting, Dezen's ability to capture the complete attention of her audience is her greatest strength. The album's strongest song, "Just Like Me," is an upbeat, danceable song that should easily make modern rock radio. It's instantly catchy, a track that will have listeners immediately reaching for "Repeat." Her slower tunes are haunting, as well, especially the irresistible-yet-disturbing "Hands Up" ("Put your hands up / All in love is fair / But you don't have to care about me / Put your hands up / All in war is right / You may not want to fight tonight / But I might").
On "Didn't I," her emotional outpouring is almost overwhelming. Dezen sings, "I know that people change / I know that people try / Didn't I? / Daddy, wasn't it 'daddy' / Never got the chance / To see you dance with me." Her honesty, low-key delivery, and songwriting skills are a dynamic combination, and one that puts the Houston singer/songwriter on par with more established artists like Sarah MacLachlan, Tori Amos, and Aimee Mann.
Ultimately, it all comes down to the vocals. Dezen's voice seems familiar no matter what range the song requires, and her music easily out-Toris Tori and out-Sarahs Sarah (with much more style, as well). Hopefully Love + Rescue will give her music the mainstream attention it deserves. (DAC)
(self-released; Cameron Dezen -- http://www.camerondezen.com/)
Listed among Dine Alone's influences on the press materials are Chevelle, Tool and Staind -- that should give you a pretty solid idea of what the music should be like, except for that Staind reference there. Before even popping in the CD, I'm wondering which incarnation of Staind they have taken their influence from -- if it was the pre-"whiney baby" days and more like Mudshovel, for example, their sound should be really great. Personally, though, I think that Dine Alone sounds more like a combination of Tool and APC than anything the band members themselves throw out there.
Singer Carlos Spiers has a melodic/melancholy voice and is supported by the heavier guitar, bass and drums in the background. The intensity of the vocals is evenly matched by the music. Even on "The Yard," which is the most basic song I heard, it still has great flow and rhythm. The CD that I gave an ear to was a brief three-song self-titled CD, which reminds of the promo CDs you sometimes get at clubs and bars around town. Judging from their site, the CD available for purchase is a full-length, so I'd definitely like to hear the rest of their music; I'm not sure that three songs are enough to do more than whet the appetite. Even still, I'll be sure to catch them in town when I have the chance, so I guess that's enough. (JR)
(Cryolab Studios; Dine Alone -- http://www.dinealone.com/)
Essential Sounds From the Far East
DMBQ's Essential Sounds From the Far East is the best record I've gotten in six months. By far. Yeah, some of them were free, but I paid for some, too, and we're talking about sixty or more CDs, here. If you're hard to impress, and you like hard music, seek out DMBQ, quick. I'd pay Best Buy prices for this record, and am writing this review to try to convince you to do just that. (If you have to.)
Just as a quick note, by the way, I've been turned on to Japanese bands before. And DMBQ is my favorite band right now, period. I'm not giving 'em any credit for being Japanese. At all.
On Essential Sounds, the band at first it sounds like they are trying to out-led Led Zeppelin. It's free-form hard rock -- a lot of the time I wondered if it was improvised, and furthermore, if each band member was even aware of what their bandmates were playing, but then suddenly two guitars would play the same riff simultaneously, or the whole band, which has spent a minute or more playing wild free-form improv Sabbath metal, will enter perfectly into a bridge/break. Yeah, Led Zeppelin did that, and Essential Sounds is often the same genre of music. It's metal as it was defined 30 years ago. It doesn't sound like Led Zeppelin, though, despite the fact that their press release says it sounds like "Led Zeppelin on acid." But wait: I'd always understood that Led Zeppelin was on acid in the first place. Right?
Press releases aside, I'll tell you what I think, now. Whether they are copying or carrying on a category of rock music, I dont want to say, but there's something to be said for perfecting a style. I listened to this thing seven or eight times in a row in my car, and had to keep adjusting the bass, turning it down as I turned the volume up. And I kept on wanting to turn the radio up -- a lot -- and then had to turn the bass down -- a lot. Just to keep from blowing the speakers. And that's a good thing. I remember a quote from Kurt Cobain when he went in to record Bleach, where he said "We want to sound heavier and slower than Black Sabbath." Well, there are moments where DMBQ are slaying that goal.
I deliver pizzas at night. That's some of my best music listening time, and I get in and out of my car with work on my mind about thirty times a night. So, there were several times when I didn't remember what was in my CD player. I'd get in and think it was an old Sub Pop recording of Soundgarden. Seriously -- a screechy tenor vocalist who uses every inch of his formidable range, and everything seems to be tuned down lower than any band I've heard in the past decade, but two guitars are also really working the high notes with a metal intensity. To top it all off, this DMBQ record kind of sounds like it was recorded live, because of all the improv and such, so I kept thinking I'd stuck in this Soundgarden bootleg I bought at a CD Warehouse for fifty bucks a long, long time ago. A really long time ago. Ten years ago, this disc would've sold five million copies, and DMBQ would've played Lollapalooza. Today, though, you can have 'em all to yourself, and be the first one on your block to blah, blah, blah... (CL)
(Estrus Records -- P.O. Box 2125, Bellingham, WA. 98227; http://www.estrus.com/; DMBQ -- http://www.dmbq.com/
Understanding a Guarantee
On Understanding a Guarantee, Maryland's Downtown Singapore crosses the crunching guitars and pop sensibilities of the Foo Fighters with the emotional, thoughtful lyrics of Death Cab For Cutie. The result is an impressive six songs that sounds similar to many bands of the same genre but that rises above the rest with its positivity and outstanding music. "We're so obvious / We're so cool," lead singer Jerry Scott sings on "The Month Of May," which proves the young band has their tongue firmly in cheek. Their decision to include a cover of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" at first may seem like an odd choice, but a lot of emo bands today lack Downtown Singapore's sense of humor -- and they could've picked a lot worse.
"Love Gift" maintains the band's positive message ("We can take the long way home / We can do what we want / We've got the guarantee / We are on our way home"), but still breaks down into Metallica-like riffs and double-bass beats. Ultimately, Understanding a Guarantee won't leave your mind for weeks -- the songs stick with you long after you've stopped listening. You'll revisit it many times, which is a very good thing. (DAC)
(DCide Records -- 926 14th Street, NW, 2nd Floor, Washington, DC. 20009; http://www.dcide.com/; Downtown Singapore -- http://www.dtownrock.com/)