Dec 30, 2008

Bell's Kalamazoo Stout

It's been asked that if us here at Smashin' Transistors have some kind of attitude towards Bell's Brewery. After all we're based here in Michigan and they are too but we never seem to give much space to their beers here. Let us declare that we like 'em very much and it's nothing personal. It's just that since they are found everywhere and have established themselves with even the rare occasional dabbler in craft brews (and right so we must add cuz they are very, very good at what they do) we pass over taking about them for things that are, in this part of the state at least, more obscure and not as high profile. For Christmas a couple of people gave the gift of beer to us and there were some Bells included so it's good as a time to sit and discuss one. The Kalamazoo stout is a good as place as any.
Very dark in color. Almost black but not quite. You can't see through it-that's for sure. Half inch caramel colored head that melts away quickly leaving a cloudy cap a spotty lacing. Chocolaty malts and licorice are the prominent scents.
The flavor is slightly sweet and kinda milky when it first hits the tongue. It's followed a roasted malt warmness and a slight bit off coffee bitters. It then finishes with a complete turn around with the same characteristics that were found in the front. It's light carbonation and little less than medium body make it an easy drinker.
Bell's produce 5 different kinds of stouts throughout the four seasons. This is the only one they make year round. Fine, solid and a standard others should be measured to.

Dec 27, 2008

MISS CHAIN & the BROKEN HEELS "Lies" 7inch

It's fr-fr-fr-freezing cold right outside as I sit and type but as this record plays the skies turn from their winter gray to a bright summer blue and the cold white blanket of snow that covers the ground changes into it's vibrant summer greens. Who knows how Asstrid, the Barcella brother hip shakin' rhythm section and Mr. Silva He of the Rock Action manage to do such things in the sparkle pop magic way they do but like all magic it's much more fun if you allow yourself to believe it than to be a grumpy party pooper always trying to dispel things.
"Lies" is has "Break Up Song in the classic Girl Group style" stamped all over it. All the unnecessary ruffles are done away with for something a little more simple but just as stylish. A cool hook that stands alone in the introducing then bright and banging with out being too brash midtempo dance bop joining in. Tender but tough words about boy loses girl/girl gets new boy/boy can't understand why girl left/girl tells him why. Where are the Casey Kasem's of the modern world sending this out as some sort of backhanded long distance dedication across the airwaves of the world? It's a warm up track for side two's "He's Your Boy (But Could Be Mine)", a cautionary tale to American girls (Watch out! Your boy may be next), all bouncy and featuring a Real Kids thinking about Chuck Berry type of guitar solo taken to bent string twang outer limits.
There may be another 5 feet of snow dropped on this town over the next few weeks but it's like the middle of August when ever the Broken Heels are coming over the speakers.

Dec 21, 2008

Arcadia's Coco Loco Triple Chocolate Stout & Big Dick's Old Ale

A friend of mine hooked me up with a couple of brews from Battle Creek, Michigan based brewer Arcadia's "Big Beer" series. Though sometimes Arcadia's "everyday brews" are all that to get much to get excited about I mentioned to my friend that this series has pretty impressive when he was looking for some beer recommendations for himself. Pretty thoughtful gift wouldn't you say?

Coco Loco Triple Chocolate Stout
Very dark chocolate brown in color with reddish tinted maltshop head that doesn't stay too long but leaves a healthy cap and some thick & runny lacing. Huge on the cocoa in the scent. Other aromas are of Tootsie rolls, a really warm roasty malt, more than a dash of molasses and a pinch of alcohol. The flavor and feel of this fuller end of the medium scale body wise beer is a chocolate malted. The use of lactose in the brewing process brings out a creamy quality that compliment the super huge & rich cocoa flavors melding them together nicely than just leaving each other stand apart. As it warms it does take on some bitter & dark chocolate characteristics but still has soothing texture all the way down. The aftertaste has a some warming effect from the alcohol and slight bit of a powered chocolate used in baking but has a silky feeling keeps it from lingering around too long.

Big Dick's Old Ale
Medium pour bigs out a thin head that doesn't last long and a spotty lace that sinks right back into this murky copper colored brew. The aroma is faint but what I detect is cherries, a splash of rum and raisins. There's a bit more action in the taste compared to the smell but not quite what one would expect from something that claims on the label to be a "liquid ode to Richard the Lion Heart". Y'know what I mean. Such grand statements prepare ya for something brimming with attitude in it's flavors but it almost seems that this is more talk than it is action. It's not bad though it just doesn't push it to some hearty full on floor ya type of flavorful level. Medium bodied-not too thick and not too light. Lots of malt sweetness and some dark fruit flavors on the tongue. Brown sugar notes in the back of the mouth and a bit of a brandy burn down the throat.

Dec 18, 2008

the SHIRKS "Dangerous" 7inch EP

Ya know what band it would be cool to have around still? The band from Indiana called The Problematics. Had their Rip Off single (Yes, One of the one's with the b-side) on the record player the other day actually. Turned it up and rocked it out. Played it like 4 times in a row I think. It's just one of those loud-n-speedy big hooks trash punk slabs that hits it on all cylinders.
Like all the best punk rock bands, the fuse fired quick, they blasted off fast and blaring then exploded leaving pieces scattered all over the place. Former Problematics Al Budd landed in Washington D.C. and was doing who knows what til him and some dudes got together and decided to bring some of that REV! REV! REV UP A SATURDAY NIGHT! action to a town that needs it. Well, actually every town NEEDS that stuff but some don't. With the Shirks being around the land of where epitome of "THE MAN" decides our fate everyday stalk the buildings. Three songs that don't let up in that now coined "Punk's Third Rail" world where Teengenerate adjusted our stereo settings and the Devil Dogs had a syndicated TV show that has made their faces more recognizable that Sha Na Na's. Taking all the things that make a rock-n-roll song catchy then poking it with 50,000 volts is something that these kids today (well that is the rare kids that even play something that is even anything remotely related to real Rock-n-Roll) forget to do. The Shirks sound as if they're on a mission to remind us all.

Dec 16, 2008

the WITTDRAWLS "Paranoid Delusions of Grandeur" 7inch EP

When I first saw what label this was on I thought maybe I was in a time warp. "Black Lung? The label that put out Candy Snatchers, Nashville Pussy, Hookers and Halfways singles about a decade ago?"
Yep, the same one. Seems they've been a little active of late. Given that this band (who apparently broke up right after this was recorded) includes Mark Death of the Halfways on vox & guitars and the record is dedicated to the memory of Candy Snatchers Matt Odietus who passed away earlier this year the label is reintroducing itself in a way it should.
Jabbers era GG slime singing with a bit of a '77 Brit snarl over a sick boogie of Crime/Stones affection. The Humpers Scott "Deluxe" Drake does best Johnny Thunders better than Johnny on the lead off track "Strung Out (And Left To Die") setting off this four songer into an evening of broken beer bottles, pills that get passed from pockets to pockets, ladies that are up to no good then a morning after trying to piece together that parts that've been blacked out.

Dec 15, 2008

K.K. RAMPAGE "Without Feelings" CD

I really figure this CD sucks. I can’t verify that, because it won’t play in ANY CD player in existence, a conclusion I reached after trying it in six different players and one computer. So, without anything to convince me otherwise, I assume it sucks. And I assume that not because it didn’t play, and not because it sucks to have a CD not play. No, I assume that because of the back cover art. I swear to God I’ve seen it before, and the mental picture I have of seeing it before is not a pretty one. Not a pretty one at all.
Among the relatively insignificant titles I’ve held in my life are two of the current ones, DJ and Program Director on a small college station in Port Huron, Michigan. Before I stumbled in there from the educational cold a few years ago, the station had spent a good chunk of time as the exact opposite of what a college station should be. It played easy listening and smooth jazz soul-draining crap exclusively. Because of that foray into the dark ages taken by the station, we to this day receive a plethora of CDs featuring shitty easy-listening/smooth jazz/crap so generic it could be played in a funeral home specifically to make certain none of the corpses consider waking up. Now and then, something that doesn’t fit in those categories appears, but apparently we’re not on the promo list based on music genre; it seems we’re on the list of people to send exclusively suck-filled CDs. No matter the genre, at the moment, pretty much anything that appears really does just genuinely blow.
I swear to god, this CD appeared at the station a few months ago, in the mail. It wasn’t directed or addressed to anyone there today, in the post-suck revitalized days. It was just there, spurt towards us by some diligently annoying distributor, like every pleasure-draining disc that appears.
I'm convinced of this because the back cover art looks familiar. The cover I recall was just as ugly, and the mental image scarring my mind looks just like this one. Profoundly generic as any other featuring some sort of psuedo-"edgy" abstraction by some artist that for all I know won the "who's gonna design this crappy band's cover" sweepstakes by default by being the self-tortured twat one of the guitarists in the band is currently banging. Or not. Either way, I‘ve seen it before, and I‘ve seen it in the context of being one more shitty promo that appeared in the mail…the same mail that OUGHT to bring us good music, but fails to do so regularly. Or else it just looks very similar to one of those discs of vile. Which isn’t a good thing either. Looking at it sure as hell doesn’t make me want to listen to it.
The front cover doesn't do much for me either. Generic creepy/scarry. Ah, the pain the ability to cut-and-paste sometimes inflicts on our eyes.
But none of that fucking matters, because I couldn’t listen to it, it wouldn’t play in any cd player I could find, which is doubly annoying considering I’m willing to bet it wasn’t worth that much damned effort anyhow. If I’d have heard it, well, I might say differently. But for now, I’ll assume this sucks and state such if only to save someone the pain of buying it or seeing the band play and being disappointed because no one warned them of the risk. Err on the side of caution. I guess that sums it up. If I can ever get the damned thing to actually play I’ll update.
More words on different topics, some even interesting, on my site

Dec 14, 2008

Founders Harvest Ale

If there's one way to put something in a bottle that can make someone pine for the sweetest of summer day's in Michigan looks like Founders has found away to do with this brewed in autumn brewed wet hopped ale.
Sunrise orange in color and a very, very unfiltered haze in it's look. Inch thick whipped cream looking head that fades just slightly and leaving all kinds of lace all through the glass. The scent is a BAM! of very bright grapefruit placed smack dab in the middle of a pine forest. It's bursts right out of the bottle and wafts all through the room while pouring. After it settles down a little bit it takes on a more some fresh baked bread nuances. Very floral and flavorful aroma.
The smell is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to flavorful. Quite lush in it's taste. A sweet citrus burst of crisp & clean lemony tartness wakens the first. As it coats the mouth in a full but not too thick way notes of pear, spices and warm malts make their presence known but none of them pushing their way to the front screaming "Here I am" but complimenting each other in the all kinds of magic complexities that Founders has mastered. The finish is balance of fruit juicy nectar's, class A hop bitters and a spicy malt warmth. Very drinkable all the way through.

Dec 12, 2008

the BEAVERS "Com'on let's Beav'" 10inch

Name anything that people consider garage punk and the Beavers probably has a song that sounds like. Surf but more garage punk, folk yet more garage punk, psychedelic...rhythm & blues...but more garage punk. These guys are Dutch and every Dutch band I've ever heard are missing something. Their hearts are in it but other than a certain level of garage punk production they lack any of their own identity.

Dec 11, 2008

V/A "the HARRISBURG PLAYERS: Volume One" 7inch EP

"Recorded somewhere between 1798 and yesterday by Harrisburg-area musicians and their cohorts" according the liner notes this Mike Rep & Tommy Jay involved project shines a light on some of the music coming out of a central Ohio hamlet with a population of 332 people.
Small towns always have a reputation of a breeding ground for a particular kind of weirdo and the place this music comes from ain't no different.
Tommy Jay starts off this four song EP with "No Place"- A Lou Reed acolyte in a Dylan sitting in the kitchen with a friend or two and recording it on an telephone answering machine.
The General, who plays bass on "No Place", then is backed by Tommy Jay in a vocal/guitar only duo on the Chrome goes (almost) Unplugged (almost cuz Tommy's UFO crash guitar sound has to be produced by electricity) "I Did It". Nudge Squidfish's "Jess" woozy country shambles along & lures ya in. A lullaby that take things to some very dark and creepy places. T.A. Lafferty closes the record out with "Take It To The Father". He bangs on the guitar, blows the harp and has a Lou Reed thing going on in his vocalizing too but also digs some the Move psych move's in the choruses. They're are piled up in a four track tape, decayed and degraded into into magnetic scratches. Mike Rep's on organ. Tommy Jay's on guitar & drums. I've been lost in many a rinky dink village. Hell, my great-great grandfather was one of the founders of one. No, not the town I live in. I'm talking really rinky dink ones. Never wanted to hang in them much other than people watch for a few minutes. Observing life in Harrisburg, OH might be interesting for a couple of hours though.

Dec 9, 2008

JAPANTHER/the PHARMACY split single

Poking a group with the pigeonhole "noise rock" doesn't make the impact it once did. Maybe it's because the description has been so blown wide open and left to interpretation that everything from Grandpa Lou's "Metal Machine Music" static & drone to modern prog rock bands like Battles to really loud & lo-fi pop bands like No Age & Times New Viking get pushed into standing under the same umbrella. I'm guessing it all roots on whatever the was the first Sonic Youth album first or something.
Japanther is one of those bands that get's the term pinned to them. Not being to familiar with most of their stuff though, judging for this record this reviewer would put them in the 3rd category from above. Well, maybe not at first with it's looped out snare-n-bass crackle/punk-funk fuzz bass lick pattern and sample from a film I'm pretty sure I know but can't quite pin it...then BUURRRRZZZZZ!
But not a "NOISE ROCK" BUURRRZZZ! A big, loud and overdriven ball of hiss sing-a-long clamor BUURRRZZZ! is more like it. Like bubblegum with glass slivers in it "Not A War" is all chewy but will things will probably get messy. No matter though cuz you'll be busy bopping your head to the Archies filtered through a bank of obsolete buzzy electronic gizmos chorus.
Pulling out moves like a joyous but cynical basement mod band with pocketful of pop tune tricks The Pharmacy's "WAYDWYL" is an twisted revisiting of an AM radio chestnut with a message. Further spins though mind get the mind thinking when did Warm Jet's era Brian Eno become a member of the Reigning Sound.

Dec 6, 2008

the PRAMBATH "I Will Walk My Own Way" 7inch

The record itself has gotten be one of the coolest looking ones I've seen in quite a while. It looks like splotches of pink frosting were dripped and flung the sandwiched between to slabs of clear vinyl.
The tunes kinda have a splattered with globs of pink frosting quality to them too. Then it's pressed between the same kinda of things that have give the tart carbonated blare to Japanese female membered rock-n-roll bands that have come before them like, off the top of my head, Supersnazz for example had going on.
What's that theory that everything that goes on in the western world gets put through a turbo button once it hits Asia?
The pop POPS louder!
There's bright colors even brighter and colorful!
Bass playing singer Chihiro Isadora's voice takes the speedy & squeaky silly J-Pop ditty, then rocks it out and somehow makes it sound even more unusual. Makes ya almost wanna check the pitch button on the turntable if you weren't too busy leaping around like a goofball when it's playing like my 12 & 9 year son's, cuz they lose their minds too anything "cool Japanese thing that rocks (Hey, the 12 year old was rocking out to Teengenerate when he was newborn. I'll take the blame)", do when this gets spun.

Dec 5, 2008

Dogfish Head Immort Ale

This have been "on it's side" for a few months in the little section of the basement that has been declared "the beer cellar" at Smashin' Transistors central. Seems Dogfish Head's are always proper for such things and this, an 11% abv strong ale, that according to the label is "Vast in character" and "reveals interwoven notes of maple, vanilla and oak" was a worthy candidate.
A very rich auburn in color and a head that fades quickly but leaves a constant ring around the surface. One whiff and it's obvious that this a perfect choice to let age and take bond with itself for awhile longer than when it was picked up off the store shelf. So many warm and rich aromas. Mellow bourbon, sweet maple and vanilla beans. The scent alone is something to marvel over and if the taste is even half as good as smell it's surely gonna be a winner.
First sip (and this is superjammed with flavor so it is a definitely sipper and not a gulper) warms the body nicely. Sweet maple & malts greet the tastebuds first followed by vanilla and a tinge of raisin. Pretty hearty body and full feeling in the mouth but surprising not as thick as expected when basing the myriad of flavors and complexities it is packed with. There is a bit of alcohol hotness in the end but thanks to the oak aging it has the jagged edges smoothed out and the finish is actually kinda wet.

Dec 3, 2008

the YOUNG "Get Out Of My Face" 7inch EP

Hotwired and ready to explode punk rock from the post Reds/Marked Men damaged landscape that is Texas punk rock. Yeah, It's a big state and though the two bands weren't all that close geographically there is a similar hi-powered lo-fi punk rock-n-roll threads that run through both of 'em too. The distance thing makes sense too cuz, though both have antsy elements to 'em, where the former sound very meticulous at times the Young are a lot more about no brained abandon and a heart pumpin' gasoline.
Four pissed off blasters that spew contempt & disgust in all directions. A sandblasted guitar sound that manages to throw some catchy powerpop rocks at your noggin with a rhythm section that at moments borders on thrash band concussion tempos and a singer who sounds like his whole vocalizing technique from listening to nothing but the Rip Offs during his formative years.

Dec 1, 2008

CRAPPY DRACULA "What's Going To Happen To US" 7inch EP and CRAPPY DRACULA/SONOROUS GALE split 7inch

Ya'll remember those classes from elementary school where if you and/or your clothes catch on fire you're suppose to stop, drop and roll? Well...somewhere wires got crossed and Milwaukee's Crappy Dracula misheard it as Flail, Flop and Freak is a way to make a musical fire out of household cleaning products.
At their best moments they are like Half Japanese tromping up a steep hill made of the slivers of old smashed up singles from the Bag of Hammers in search of a promised very cheap pharmaceutical drug dealer on the it's peak or more than too far gone Charm City Suicides psyching themselves to play a set that appeal to the the rednecks down at the bar but end up banging their heads against the wall to some scratchy Fall singles instead. If these guys get chicks it's not because their tunes are pulling them in cuz this is total nerd punk.
Sonorous Gale are a bass/drum duo from Buffalo, NY. Can't quite pin a stoner rock tag on them cuz they sound too broke to even afford no name brand beer, the amps more rattly instead off burping-n-booming and there's also a little too much pop melody trying to sneak through in their songs from time to time.