When it comes to perfecting the “summer for soundtrack” album bands from the Great Lakes states seem to have a knack for it.
Personally living in the area for ages my guess is that it has something to do an appreciation of the season and making the most of it. All Great Lakes dwellers know that the cold, blustery and, especially when taking last winter into consideration, brutal weather will take hold and the sun will be hidden being a thick mass of greyness for what may end up being 2/3rd’s of the year. The warm breezes, riding to the beach with the windows down and the smell of barbeque and the events that surround them, be it sublime or bittersweet, are to be reminisced and/or looked forward to again even if they may stir memories both bad as well as good.
The album's opener, the wall of sound drenched "Baby Teeth", hits the girl group gone new wave thing that Blondie did so well to a point where one may be searching the record's liner notes to see if it's an outtake from Plastic Letters.
There is a lot more going on though that straight up Debbie Harry and the band she fronted worship going on here though.
For instance, opposed to a lot of the current crop of "Blondie influenced bands" where the singers sound like they're making their voice resemble sour apple candy and a cocaine drain while the band is shadowy illuminated by dingy street lamps, Sugar Stems Betsy singing veers towards raw honey treated husky wail on the pristine pop of "Tell The Truth" and the album's title track.
On others like sparkling fizz of "Some Might Say", the garage rock stomp on "Run Rabbit Run" and the almost baroque closing acoustic closer "Million Miles" she puts down real classic down home drawl and soar that the vocal equivalent a Hostess Twinkie (y'know, all fluff and no natural ingredients) current crop of dirt road pop startlets on country radio can't pull off no matter how much affected twang and autotune their producers pile on.
Add in the rhythm section of Stef on bass and Jon E on drums firing on all pistons, lead guitarist Drew's flashy (without ever being long-winded or gaudy) solos and newest member Andy ebullient keyboard lines to the confection and even your dentist will be understanding about the newest cavities you have.
Jul 26, 2014
Jul 13, 2014
Obnox's 2013 album, Corrupt Free Enterprise has been a constant listen in my world since I first dropped a needle on it last year. Well, that is until their latest, Louder Space landed on my stereo.
Masterminded by Lamont "Bim" Thomas, who's been making noise for over two decades in Ohio bands like The Bassholes and This Moment In Black History, the name of the game with 'Nox has always been a thick and harsh clash of smashed up, feedback slathered weirdo punk and old school rap straight out of a moldy walled basement and set ablaze, tinges get down/get high soul music, deep funk wiggliness and an ear bleeding bang that industrial music had before the disco beats and sampled heavy metal guitar riffs became de rigueur.
In the past though the records were usually recorded on equipment of varying (and, at times, very questionable) degrees of quality in rooms to match. This time around Obnox found a "louder space" indeed by using a studio which cats such as Guided By Voices, the New Bomb Turks, Times New Viking, Great Plains, the Cheater Slicks and even Bone Thugs-n-Harmony have used through the years; Musicol Studios in Columbus, Ohio. Stacked with vintage mixing tools and mics, the tubes got hot, the ribbons vibrated and the self described “sheets of rhythm” formed layers of dense thump with a sheen of grand style that may have been overlooked before.
"Prime Time Sister" kicks the album off with splatters of blood and mud roar that sets a tone for the ride ahead. It, along with cuts such as the wolf howl crooned "Raindrops", "Riding Dirty" sounding like a pop hit fighting it's way out of a maelstrom of lighning bolts, the punk rock blues/grindcore mutation that's "Time Of My Life", the backyard BBQ party getting set on fire then pushed over a cliff pace of "Bitch! Get Money!" and "Who Needs You" resembling what it's probably like living inside a stainless steel bong at Blue Cheer's crib are all comparable to waking up a radioactive monster by having 500 kids who just discovered guitar feedback practice Jimi Hendrix's version of the "Star Spangled Banner" at the same time.
On the more hip-hop tip of the record the promise to bring BRING THE NOISE is honored most surpassingly most likely since when Chuck D first asked how low can the bass go. Clipped drum loops form block rocking beats underneath a heavy bass wah wah pedals that shoot lasers on "Molecule", "How To Rob (The Punk Years)" is a loaded with braggadocio (or at least calling out those who are doing things half ass while claiming otherwise) over singular bass string pops and acid funk guitar, a mildewy and humid sounding organ gives the pulse for horns to blasts and six sting freakouts to slither and slice on "Red 1" and the album's closer, "Feeling Real Black Today", is like a midnight love jam by Isaac Hayes being introduced to trip hop before taken down to the 7th ring of Hell.
In an interview with Pitchfork last year, when asked about the state of music, Thomas comment “Rock and roll could stand some more brothers right now, some more swagger.”
Yes, it really could! Til that happens again though it's reassuring to know there's cats like him holding down the fort.
Obnox, along with Radio Burns and Dale Beavers, will be playing live at Port Huron's Roche Bar on Saturday, August 30th.
Jul 8, 2014
Fronted by Jordan B. Davis, who first arrived on the rock-n-roll scene in the early 00's as the guitar player of the Green Bay, Wisconsin band the Mystery Girls. Combining the roar of 60's proto-punk bands such as the MC5, the Stooges and Radio Birdman with the prime bloozy grooves of the Rolling Stones and giving it all a exuberant garage rock kick, the Mystery Girls released three albums and a handful of 7inch singles (including one on yours truly's label Bancroft Records) before packing in it. Jordan then spent some time in Montreal, learning French and mastering the art of poutine making before returning back to the land where the truly, actually, really happy cows live (Take THAT, California!) and forming this combo.
Like the Mystery Girls, Space Raft do look to the past to make a sound for today. Where the former though was mining a '65-68 teenage howlin' with a tinge of weed and a drop or two of LSD, the latter borrows a bit from the end of the 60's to the mid 70's sound-wise without sounding like some band that's entire knowledge of classic rock is just the bullshit 200 songs that classic rock radio seems to think are the only ones that ever existed.
Driven by choppy chords, the opener "Never Enough", along with swaying side to side descending grooves of "We Are Not Alone", the bittersweetness of "Evening Glow" and the driving down the highway with the windows down sparkle of "Rescue Mission" bask in a glow of Big Star fishing at night on a river on the moon (or something akin to hits an alternate universe where ABBA and the Carpenters didn't dominate the AM radio airwaves of the world but Todd Rundgren, up until "A Wizard, a True Star" at least, is a household name and Wally Bryson gets name checked much more often than Eric Carmen when discussing the Raspberries) while still being firmly placed in the now.
The above description is fitting for all the songs on the album in their overall approach. Scratching the surface though things like Traffic sans the dudes wearing kaftans lounging around on lumpy hemp rope macrame hammocks and the long ass jazzbo jam session sections runs a thread through electric piano accented "Waves Of Frustration" organ ooze and George Harrison's All Things Must Past parred down to one solid album and the Nag Champa aroma being replaced with the smells of a backyard barbeque on "Venus In Transit." The band even tosses in a bit of a Madchaster psychedelic dance party for good measure on "Anything Is Possible"
If I said this hasn't been the album I've been playing when heading to the beach this summer I'd be lying. Speaking of summer, Space Raft, along with Beset By Creatures Of The Deep, Silent Drape Runners and Lucas Merrill will be closing out the summer with a show on Friday, August 29th at the Roche Bar in Port Huron.
Jul 4, 2014
Jackie Lee (Born Earl Nelson in Lake Charles, LA) had quite a career though a bit a puzzle to piece it all together. Recording solo R&B tracks under the names Jay Dee, Earl Cosby and Chip Nelson as well as a member of many different R&B and Doo Wop groups before settling on his most well-known nom de plum , Lee’s first hit was singing lead on Bobby Byrd's Hollywood Flames “Buzz, Buzz, Buzz” (a song that Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers covered in 1978) which went to #18 on the pop charts in 1958.
In 1964, as part of the duo Bob and Earl, he had another top 40 hit in the charts with “Harlem Shuffle”. The song found even bigger success in the UK when it was issued there in 1969 reaching #7.
In 1965, recording under the name Jackie Lee (Jackie was Earl's wife's name and Lee his own middle name) he hit #14 on the charts with the novelty dance number “The Duck.” This track, “Anything You Want”, was recorded in 1968 and was slated to be released on the Mirwood label under the name Earl Nelson that year didn’t see the light of day til UK reissue label released it on the The Mirwood Soul Story CD compilation in 2005.