Sep 30, 2007

GOODNIGHT LOVING "Crooked Lake" LP

There I was in the back screenporch, looking out onto the lake, watching fireflies and hearing the crickets and bullfrogs. Three hours north of the street I live and it seems like a million miles away...and it's no other place that I's rather be. Ya gotta love those trips outta town. Change of scenery, fresh air and though the strip mall-i-fication and Walmartisms are starting to slowly creep in around the bigger vacation spots-it's still for the most part a ya can't please everyone so ya gotta please yourself/whether you have mud on your boots or gold in your teeth we call get judge fairly and equally in the end attitude up there.
After recording their first album with Greg Cartwright and gaining accolades from the editor of CMJ ("Record of the Year" and all that) Goodnight Loving could've sought out another "name" producer, jumped ship to a more well known label and pander to the types that think bands like the Old 97's embody some spirit of "real music" (when in reality there not much more than a Replacements tribute band really but "Ooohhh. Did you hear that southern rock opera they did?" Yeah. I did. The Supersuckers were really into Skynyrd but they were even smart enough not to make a whole fucking album about the plane crash) and run the risk of losing some of the mojo that made their first album stand out and shine like the chrome in the summer sun. Instead they holed themselves up in a cabin in Crooked Lake, Wisconsin (hence the albums name-though there has been some question on WHICH Crooked Lake this was recorded at-there's a few inland lakes in the state that bear the name) with a coffee maker, a satchel of green and recording extraordinaire Justin Perkins.
Rustic, hazy, hyper, a bit frayed and nicotine stained around the cuffs of their jackets and a breath of fresh air like those trips out of the stupid city into the green grass, tall trees and lake blue expanse, the band not only made an album that matches their first but, to these ears, expands on the template and surpasses it. The twangier stuff, such as the First National Band meets a noisy basement show feeling of "Another Foggy Yesterday", the obviously boozy barndance and the latenight cornfield bonfire heartbreak vibe replete with banjo (Hey guys, I know you've heard it a bunch of times but ya should consider bringing in the pedal steel here and there again. I mean the song works just fine without it and everything but it would be cool to hear it make an appearance every once in awhile again) of the weeper "Purple Death (Theft)" are a bit more twangy than it's ilk from the first album but still never sounds like they're thinking "We're a Y'allternative band". They've been subjected to my Ralph Emory rant (the one where I blame him facilitating everything from Owen Bradley's countrypolitanisation of real music to Garth Brooks being no more sincere than KISS) and we're not only interested in hearing it but had some of their own points to add as well. They don't spend weeks making the harmonies blend perfectly-they'd rather have them find their own spaces which makes them fit just right. They don't spend time worry about a "mistake" here and there in the playing because the songs heart's aren't artificial. Goodnight Loving are an AMERICAN ROCK-n-ROLL band and I don't mean some kind of that New Traditionalist tag either cuz it's highly unlikely GnL is ever gonna resort to the "I'm proud to be born in the USA" waving and smiling as "our leaders" wipe their ass with the constitution. The post 9-11 ambiguous dark humor of "Join the Order" who's point is complemented with a home made strawberry jam marching beat rhythm and it's counterpart "21st Century Post Apocalytic Blues" which ALSO has it's own counterpart with "Latter 20th Century" don't beat ya over the head with any long winded political lectures but make their subtle hints and jabs.

The "rockin'" songs (as in the upbeat songs cuz all the songs on the album "rock" as well as "roll" in their own particular way) like "Land Of A 1000 Bars", a bleary eyed Westerbergian lament pumped with carnival organ, ringin' and ragged guitars and a chorus ya can't help singing along to plopped in the middle of a rodeo fish fry that drops a sideways 'House Of The Rising Sun' nod, "Train Hopping Man" a rowdy barroom shouter which had seen many plays around these digs in it's original incarnation off a Juke Boyds CD-R some years back sports one of the best Keith and Woody minded middle parts I've heard in quite awhile, the 50's teen tragedy meets anytime teenage boredom "You Better Know" and "Money To Plaster" which has has everyone I played it to making a a bunch of different musical reference points but no two people's takes being the same but all declaring that it has instant hooks all feel good and make one think everything can be right in the world like a favorite pair on jeans. So it ain't just me. Hell, even Rachel of the Detroit Cobras mentioned in passing that she liked this album and she never likes anything. I know that statement probably could probably be used against the band by some of the more uptight factions of the garage-rock Reich but more people are listening to records she's on than such grumps probably ever will.
With everyone in the band writing songs bringing different colors and brushes to the sound there's seems to be no stopping these Wisconsin guys. It's probably too soon to go around declaring this a classic LP but their first album was one of the best things to come out last year and, as I mentioned earlier in this spiel ,this tops it.
http://www.myspace.com/thegoodnightloving

Sep 28, 2007

RED LIMO "Soulful Attack" 7inch EP

When this got handed to me for review I asked if anything knew about the band called Red Limo. They thought I was saying Von Lmo and then would snicker. Did Johnny Ramone ever trip on LSD? And if he did was he into enough to do time and time again? Being such a Republican he'd wouldn't even tell us and can't anyways because he's dead. People like MOTO probably took care of the acid in take for him. Red Limo don't sound anything like Von Lmo but do sound like they have wondered what the Ramones if Johnny reached in his pocket, pulled out a couple of tabs and made the band eat them. Dee Dee would've called him a hippie fag and went off to to score some junk. The only trip the Ramones Acid Eaters album put me on was back to the store trying to get a refund. Red Limo got sidetracked and bought some LSD off MOTO maybe.
http://www.myspace.com/redlimo

Sep 24, 2007

Dark Horse Crooked Tree IPA

In my continuing quest for a Michigan made IPA to rave about I present to you the based out of Marshall, Mi brewery Dark Horse and their Crooked Tree IPA. As I've said plenty of times in the past it seems everyone has their own idea on what an IPA should taste like and these folks are no different. My contention with a some of them is that I wonder if the brewmasters even like what makes an IPA an IPA and if so-do they care or are they just tinkering with them enough to make people think "Is this even actually an IPA?" Check out our review of Arcadia's IPA for what I'm getting at as far as that's concerned.
With that all said I really like this. Great dark orange color, the smell over a sweeter citrus & pine. And the taste? Ah yes this one has a character all of it's own but there is no denying or questioning that it is an IPA all the way and not some kinda reinterpretation that has gone askew in the translation. The first thing that stands outs is the hops as it should but they're a bit fruiter than most yet still keeping the bitterness one expects. It's got a bit of that sting that the hops should have but not over the top. I kinda felt like Goldielocks when I had my first sip and thought "Ahh. This is just right." An interesting balance complimented by a nice malt bottom end. Great body, very crisp and a mellow yet still noticeable hop aftertaste that doesn't linger too long and wear out it's welcome. Even as a huge fan of IPA's that I am I still hem and haw about a lot of them sometimes as being a "session" beer due to their nature and ABV (Y'know, the burn that can spread from the tongue to the throat then down to the gut after a couple) but this is one of those that I could (and probably will) find myself enjoying a six pack of in one sitting not too far the road.
Bravo Dark Horse Brewing company. Bravo!
http://www.darkhorsebrewery.com/

Sep 18, 2007

TERRIBLE TWOS "A+A" 7inch EP

Is 2 plus 2 is on their mind? Nope. A+A is though? What? Seger lived and Ann Arbor and I believe this band does too. Blob was asking a simple math question. The Terrible Twos are going for algebra. The System were simple. The Terrible Two aren't. Grandparents can tell you about the times the saw Bob Seger at the local bar/ grocery store/used car lot/ beach/drunk tank. They'd ask you you shut off a Terrible Two record. Grandparents will also tell you about how something like "Old Time Rock & Roll" makes them get all crazy and cut loose. The Terrible Twos sound like they put on a Birthday Party record when they want to mellow out. Seger gets played on country radio these days. The Terrible Two make people feel uncomfortable. I always see some Kenny Rogers look alike sitting at a stoplight with a Bob Seger song turned up loud. Do they think people are looking and saying "Wow! He listens to Bob Seger. I bet he has a story about seeing him on a local/ grocery store/used car lot/ beach/ drunk tank"? The next time I see one of them I'm gonna turn this up even louder, When the look over over I'm gonna yell "The HOME OF ROCK AND ROLL!" I hope hearing this gives them a heart attack.
http://www.myspace.com/terribletwos

Sep 17, 2007

the METAL TEETH "...Is Rock 'n' Roll" 7inch EP

"These damn kids today! They don't care about Rock-n-roll. Video games and rap music fucked all that up..."
I hear such rants by friends and acquaintances almost everytime I go out to a rock show in this stupid town.
"...And if they do think they're playing rock-n-roll it's usually bad emo, bad metal, a bad Ramones rip off or jack offs that think putting on a cowboy hat will make them down & dirty....Not rock-n-roll at all. Too much goddamn irony" the tirade usually continues.
I nod and laugh and even admit to feeling the same way a lot of time (especially considering what is passed off as a 'Rock-n-roll' show 'round here sometimes) but their cynicism and bitterness at times makes me look like an enthusiastic and anxious street teamer.
Something to the effect of "Aww c'mon, man. There's kids out there that are into rock-n-roll. We just don't see them in there's parts of the state much" is what I find myself saying on some of these occasions. A lot of the time it's me being optimistic. In others, such as in Metal Teeth's case, is me just being plain truthful.
Live these fresh outta High School Kalamazoosters are fuzzed out and frayed. They stumble, fumble, fall over all the while getting down. It's not about about flash or fashion it's about a getting stupid and getting into a groove that gets even the lamest of asses start to shake or heading for the exits. Ringleader Jules, with guitar in hand, wails and flairs somewhere between a an 8 year old kid jumping in front of a mirror miming out an interpretation of AC/DC's "Let There Be Rock" and Jon Spencer being handed a handful of crank on stage during the Extra Width tour while the band holds on to dear life with trying to hold their own. Cutting a path through a Bo Diddley jungle beat with a knife made by the Stooges which was also used by the Oblivians to crave their mark into a couple of trees Metal Teeth hit their destination punch drunk and hungry for something as trashy as the equipment they use just as long as it's greasy and fried. This record doesn't quite hit those live beer spilling moments. It's a bit restrained. There's no one to lay blame on other than a little inexperience when it comes to using crank knobs on a tape machine and setting mics up in the room for maxium blast but as a debut single for both the band and totally cool motherfucker Curtis Useless Eater's label UFO Dictator it's a right on introduction to some doctrinaire's that have more than a clue.
http://www.myspace.com/themetalteeth

Sep 15, 2007

the CHERRY BLOSSOMS s/t LP

To describe this mountain music would be simplifying too much. So would calling it something like neo-hippie freak folk too. If I call it Americana somebody will bitch that it doesn't sound like the Jayhawks or some shit.
Living off the land somewhere in Tennesee and, most likely a hilly region than that of the flatter land, it is hard to distill down to a few sentences what the Cherry Blossoms are "about". Depending on the song between 4 to 8 people join in for a gauzy jamboree's. Acoustic instruments of questionable quality and age where sometime's a couple of them are in tune with each other but more often not making for dissonance yet still earthy melodies. Off key guys and girls voices join in joyous cacophony, someone stomps a beat on the floorboards and everyone else grabs and old jug or kazoo to blow into. I've seen a few people make a Fugs reference when talking about this band and yeah, if I was working behind the counter at a record store and someone was buying a Fugs thing and asked if I could suggest something else to compliment such a purchase I might direct them in the Cherry Blossoms direction but the Fugs had an obvious big city intellectualism in their folk music deconstruction. The Cherry Blossoms have more of a real rustic tar paper roof thing in their sound. It's like they're from a place where only the big house on the hill is the only one to have a telephone (and even they have to climb an old telegraph pole to use it) but they all have radios and the big news to come over it in months is that the Carter Family will be playing the tavern on Saturday night and the church Sunday morning. Ahh yes, that thin line between those two. It seems the Cherry Blossoms know them well with songs about the promise land, a rocket ship that spreads the power of Rock-n-Roll all over the universe, standing in the light of Jesus and turning B.O.C.'s "Godzilla" into a spooky story told around the campfire.
Maybe the band are the offspring of a touring 'Up With People' troupe who's bus skidded off an icy mountain range down into a field of those wildwood flowers and the river flows with something that puts people in a state of mind they wouldn't have else wise experienced.
http://thecherryblossoms.com/

Sep 13, 2007

Arcadia IPA

There's always a curve when it comes to giving a take on American IPA's. The reason is because there's so many variants on what an American IPA is and should be. Being that Pale's and IPA's are usually my first choice in trying any company's wares for the first time it was I grabbed for by this Battle Creek, Michigan brewery.
Murky orange in color and the smell of sour green apples, a bit of caramel and a hint of hops. Sorta odd for an IPA it seemed. Isn't that more of an Amber Ale thing?
Tastewise it's pretty medium body with that apple coming through and sweet malt. Medium bodied and crisp...but HARDLY A TASTE OF HOPS! What?! Are they sure this is an IPA? What variation of the theme is this? I don't necessarily want a some kinda over the top pucker-up hop smack in every IPA out there but I when I have one I expect them to be there. That's why they're one of my favorites...and it ain't happening here.
This kinda leaves me in a conundrum because this is a decent tasting beer...if it were sold as an Amber I'd probably be getting a little more excited about this but since it says IPA on the label and has both a Union Jack and a tallship on it-that's enough indicators to me be expecting one in the English style and that's not what I got.
http://www.arcadiabrewingcompany.com/

Sep 9, 2007

HOLLYWOOD "Girl" 7inch EP

When ya say Hollywood to most people they think movie stars unless they're old people then they probably think Florida. Both of them might think sleaze though too...and that's the important part.
This DC band of dirtbags want you to think about nothing but grime and debauchery. Yep, I said DC as in Washington D.C. Yes, It's a town you may think of when when someone says sleaze but that's probably because of the going on's in the governement not it's rock-n-roll scene. Hollywood is out to change that and they might even succeed. "Girl" and "Momma" are two scrungy bits of bluesy garage filth that rivals the Mistreaters at their most fall down drunkeness while "Girl" is like what type of is the type of abandon the Black Lips were even more notorious for when they weren't lucky enough to make gas money some nights, no one would let them sleep on their floor and the cameras weren't rolling.
http://www.myspace.com/theehollywoods

Sep 8, 2007

SOUNDS of SINGLES "Sings Seger" 7inch

Though Gerald, the muleskinnin' heartbeat of Sounds Of Singles, has a North Carolina address-he was sown in the Midwest. Michigan to be exact. Growing up in the Great Lake State ANY time over the past 40 years or so Bob Seger is musical parallel of the 5 basic food groups groups or something equally along those lines. As a matter of fact I believe I read somewhere recently that you can stand anywhere in the state and there will more more copies of "Live Bullet" per household than the Holy Bible. Ten times as many people have a "I partied with Seger" story than those that have a tale along the same lines involving Kid Rock or a "I hunted with the Nuge and that he don't do drugs thing he says is a bunch of bullshit cuz I smoked a joint with him" yarns combined. Seger is something that is ingrained in the brain and pumps through the blood on each and everyone born in the pleasant peninsulas. It may not have been added to our bottles of formula as infants but dad's and grandad's turned those songs up when the came on though since we were babies. Hell, it says right on the back of this hardstock letter pressed sleeve that it's "Dedicated To Dad" even. Some upstart Michiganders try to deny or escape that the two time winner of the Port Huron to Mackinac yacht race (though the second victory can be and has been disputed though my egging of his boat had nothing to do with the outcome either way) but at the end of the day more of them can recite the "Detroit audiences are the best audience in the world" rap than tell ya the name of the Governor.
Sounds Of Singles grab two of the best known circa Silver Bullet Band chestnuts, "Turn the Page" and "Beautiful Loser" takes them on a cross country road trip then plunks the down in a lonely part of the nation where at a crossroads where there's just church and a combination liquor store/ammo shop. "Turn The Page" is sped up at little bit but barebones. The sax line is replaced with a manipulated spaghetti western woodwind, a jerryrigged ukulele provides a dusty prairie cowboy accompaniment and the loneliness of the road legends turned into an incantation. "Beautiful Loser" is much more diaphanous than any version I've heard of the song but it makes a whole lotta sense that way too. The lonely uke is reduced to a few notes and a slight harmonica is all that's underneath the lament of not being everything ya dreamed to be. If I was to compare this with any Seger record it would be "Brand New Morning", an album he made in the early 70's when he felt he was at wits end so he holed him up in a cabin with an acoustic guitar and a tape machine. The album wasn't a success with the record buying public but it sometimes makes it way to my turntable which isn't something I can say for something he did years later like "Roll Me Away" cuz, well, it stands up much better and is much more interesting.
http://www.myspace.com/soundofsingles

Sep 5, 2007

TV GHOST "Atomic Rain" 7inch

When I was very young I remember my dad messing with the rabbit ears on top of our TV and cursing about "them damn ghosts on the screen."
It kinda freaked my 5 year old self out. What? Ghosts were in our television set? I was afraid to stand to close to it thinking some ghosts would reach out and grab me. It wasn't til a couple or so years later that I realized that TV ghosts were things that would appear and disappear on the screen that weren't suppose to be there. By that time though cable had finally been run down our road so I didn't have to worry about any video spirits for more than a quite a few years. Then I moved out on my own and cable was waved off as a frivolous expense (or at least that was the excuse I used at the time. The actual truth was that I couldn't afford it then). I got used to TV ghosts then. Hell, I got use to them to a point where when I did get cable again I missed the visual mash up of seeing the action from the late movie (back when broadcast channels still had the "late movie" on their schedules) superimposed over a snowy reception of David Lettermen when he came on after Carson. The challenge of managing sensory confusion could be fun if the mind was in the right place (even if it irritated my girlfriend at the time who would always say "Y'know, we can hang out at my place. The TV there works").
The band TV Ghost remind of a polyvinyl chloride version of those days. One half rock band and the other other half rock band too BUT two (if not more) completely different ones sparring each other for some kinda synapse gap attention. A noisy Dirtbombs vibe but instead of those funky and dangerous Detroit streets it's a cave somewhere out in sticks. Headlights aren't reflecting off rain washed and potholed streets but blacklights and strobes are illuminating some twisted path out past the pumpkin patch, bean field and septic pond. The bass line guides the way, a twisted guitar line has ya stumblin' over roots yr keeping the feet close to the ground get tangled up in but blame the keyboard lines for causing the double vision as a drunk carnival baker (Dirtbombs comparisons stop now by the way. This ain't the voice of probably the last real soulman the world has got but a fed up small town town raised guy with the wrongs things on his mind from an environment that allowed it to fester) shouts over a bull horn making ya keep walking towards the light.
http://www.myspace.com/televisionghost

Sep 3, 2007

New Holland Mad Hatter IPA and Zoomer Wheat Ale

With all the Michigan breweries out there these days some people have asked me why I haven't covered many of them in my beer posts here. It basically boiled down to that the few places that stock GOOD beer in this hamlet have had a hard time finding a distributor in the area that carried them. Sure, you can find Bell's (who, as we all know RULE), Michigan Brewing Company (who do have make some good stuff but also got a couple of real dogs that come from their tanks) and Atwater (which is good when you get it on tap but not so much in a bottle and are responsible for one of the grossest concoctions ever with their Vanilla Porter) at even the major grocery stores but New Holland, Founders and Arcadia spottings are rare. Luckily though, the guy's at Ryan's (No. 1 in my book of the few places around here that do stock the good stuff) went that extra mile to keep the customer happy and now I'll have some homestate stuff to talk about for at least the next few months.First things first. You can't judge a book by it's cover or, in this case, a beer by it's label. The Mad Hatter looks like some creepy morph of Phil Spector and Bill Wyman rendered by a high school artist. Don't let it scare you though because it's what's in the bottle that counts.Scentwise it's a bit more grassy than what is usually expected from an IPA but the smell of sweet hops are easily detected as well. A slight grapefruit tartness and a malt base is found in the taste but not to overbearing from either and I found it to be a nice balance. It's not over the top in the hops as a lot of IPA's are going for these days and times like this it's a good thing. After all, not everything can be as crazy as a Dogfish Head-which I enjoy an awful lot but can be a bit too much sometimes-nor do I expect them too. A very crisp and clean in the mouth with light carbonation. The aftertaste has a bittersweet thing to it that lingers just for the right amount of time. Kinda bums me out that summer will be coming to an end soon cuz if I could've gotten my hands on this earlier in the season it would've been one of my main choices for the summer when I was in an IPA mood. Oh well, IPA's are always standard for me so when the mood strikes for some in the colder months coming this will one of the one's I'll have on the top of my list. I'd put in the same neighborhood I put Victory's Hop Devil and that's a good place to be.
Yeah, yeah...I know. Here I am lamenting summer though I'm pretty sure we have more than a few awesome warm days ahead before that blanket of grey takes it's place in the sky for at least a 4 month stretch so I have should savour them instead of already naming curses. It's now past the last official long weekend of the season though...which means I'll eventually have to fire up the snowblower and there'll be no choice in the matter. Zoomer's label TOTALLY reminds me of relaxing summer days. The beach chair, the colors. It totally speaks to me. What's inside the bottle though doesn't so much. A citrus and slight doughy wheat aroma had me expecting a bit more in it's taste (especially after digging the Mad Hatter) but it is too light. I have a problem with Wit's when they seem really watered down and try to make up with it with too much "summer" flavoring. The taste here is that of reconstituted Lemon juice being dumped into a bottle of Peligrino something. Don't get me wrong I find a glass of mineral water with a slice of lemon effervescent and refreshing, but dammit, I'm drinking a beer not sitting in a kitchen and discussing next year's family reunion plans with my Aunt Eleanor. I poured a glass for the better half telling her nothing more than "it's a beer you may want to check out" cuz she summer seasonals are some of the ones she likes the best and knowing that it would get me an unbiased take from her. After a couple of sips she asked if I was trying to be funny by pulling the lemon peel of the spice rack and shaking it into to a can of Busch Light. That's a little too harsh and it's not going to stop me from trying what else New Holland makes in purchases down the road (Cuz I really liked the Mad Hatter so that puts them at an even score right now) but I'll be passing on Zoomer.
http://www.newhollandbrew.com/