Mar 7, 2011

OVERNIGHT LOWS (JACKSON, MS) and DALE BEAVERS at Port Huron's Roche Bar Sunday March 3rd

The manic punk-n-rock roll sounds of Goner Records recording artists the Overnight Lows and Dale Beavers deep blues stomp will be making a Sunday night in sleepy city of Port Huron go all nuts.

Mar 5, 2011

Smashin' Transistors Fave 20 Albums of 2010

Yep. This is waaay late but, hey, life gets in the way sometimes. Because of the distractions, diversions and duties 2010 laid down on me I was not able to give a chunk of the albums listed here a "proper review" posted up even though I listened to them quite a bit. For those I jotted down some scattershot thoughts. For those I did actually manage to get something posted about in the year that just passed-follow the link the revisit the review. Now without further ado and ranked in alphabetical order here's THE 20 albums (and five honorable mentions) from 2010 that stuck to Smashin' Transistors ear holes the most.

BESNARD LAKES - ....Are The Roaring Night (Jagjaguwar) Lushly orchestrated but not bombastic. Brooding but not alienating. The sound of angels singing above crashing waves or a unforgiving thunderstorm on a otherwise pleasant summer day.

BEST COAST - Crazy For You (Mexican Summer) Loud and (even the quieter songs) swimming in echo girl voiced mid-fi pop that brings some sunshine into the otherwise long dark shadow that's been cast since the post Vivian Girls sweepstakes.

the BLACK ANGELS - Phosphene Dream (Blue Horizon Ventures) Though their previous album's of Roky E and Spaceman 3 worship were find and dandy for what they are-this Austin, Tx band has really hit their stride this go round. A rollercaster ride of reverberation, days in the park and spooky dark corners.

BLACK MOUNTAIN - Wilderness Heart (Jagjauwar) Smashin' Transistors review of it here.

ISOBEL CAMPBELL and MARK LANEGAN - Hawk (V2) Lee and Nancy...Serge and Jane...Johnny and June. They've all been bandied around when talking about Campbell's heavy sweet cream coo meets Lanegan's parched whiskey and mud croon. With tracks ranging from dirtroad folk blues and country tinged jangle rockers to 70's style slinky and string laden RnB love jams all the descriptors fit but that's not to say these two don't have their own thing on.

JOHN WESLEY COLEMAN - Bad Lady Goes To Jail (Goner) This is the 2nd solo album from Golden Boy Wes and for those who like their reckless and weird Americana will find this just the right thing when they want it but a bit louder, looser, stripped down and loud. The album reeks of booze, weed and sweat dripping all over the tape machine it was recorded on.

the GOODNIGHT LOVING - The Goodnight Loving Super Club (Dirtnap) To call this Wisconsin combo's sound Alt-Country seems a little short sighted. It's not like their trying to ape some "Imagine Merle Haggard fronting AC/DC" thing or sing with a nasally down south I grew up on a farm twang when they actually lived at at the end of a cul de sac in a prefabbed subdivision. Country Rock is not on the mark either because some might think they sound like the Eagles. To call them a true blue American rock band in the tradition of CCR, the Byrds, the Replacements and Big Star might work though. GnL has had a great track record so far and this is one of their best yet.
My label, Bancroft put out a record by the Goodnight Loving a couple years ago. I still have a scant few copies of it. If you'd like to purchase one let me know.

GRINDERMAN - 2 (ANTI) Most dudes hitting their mid life crisis stage usually go out and buy a hot rod or some shit to compensate. Nick Cave doesn't need all that though. With Grinderman as his time away from being Mr. Bad Seed he gets all the fulfillment he needs. Crotch stuffed raunch rock gets tweaked and mutilated into a bloodied stomp, crawl and creep with Nick the Strippers tells stories from seedy hotel rooms and brothels located between churches and graveyards.

GUINEA WORMS - Sorcererers of Madness (Columbus Discount) People have been calling Dick Clark the world's oldest teenager for something like two hundred and forty eight years now. Is there anyone in the running for the world's oldest drunk poet college sophomore? And so-is it Guinea Worms main dude Will Foster? Lots of libido, lots of leering, lots of inappropriate pick up lines, lots of intellectual references fueled by lack of sleep and the last beer in the fridge backed by hippie blues one minute, difficult jazz punk the next and some stadium sized hip-hop damaged heavy pettin' garage punk sing-a-longs thrown in for good measure.

IDLE TIMES - Idle Times (Hozac) Smashin' Transistors review of it here.

JAILL - That's How We Burn (Sub Pop) A Wisconsin supergroup if you know their background or current associations but we're here to talk about THIS album. Like how some college rock bands of the 80's took a 60's feeling and sound but brought it into the now while still staying faithful to the feeling and spirit Jaill is talking their cue from those college rock bands. Not lo-fi but also not overadorned jangle and harmony from guys who can stay up til the beer and pop is all gone BUT also do smart things like read books and talk philosophies. Not to be confused with the band from Halifax, Nova Scotia that were on Sub Pop in the early 90's called Jale.

JOE KILE - Southern Beauty Queen (Eastern Watts) Smashin' Transistors review here.

the MENTHOLS - Michigan Works (UFO Dictator) Smashin' Transistors review of it here.

SCOUT NIBLETT - The Calcination Of Scout Niblett (Drag City) The much bandied descriptions of Scout's music is "the illegitimate daughter of Kurt Cobain and PJ Harvey". Though it's a lazy/easy description her songs are sparse, her guitar can be all quiet then perforate an eardrum with sick feedback and her voice goes from a cracked whisper to heartbreaking wail-it's somewhat accurate. The princess of the New Weird Blues.

OVERNIGHT LOWS - City Of Rotten Eyes (Goner) This is one of those punk rock-n-roll albums that flies fast out of the gate with hyperactive energy and it's 12 songs in 22 minutes don't let up til the record finishes to a dead stop. Think the Marked Men raised on a steady diet of catfish or a less nerdy and much more pissed off Wax Museums and you be coming close to getting an idea on what these Jackson, Ms. rabble rousers are putting down.

the PLEASURE KILLS - Bring Me A Match (Polypore) It's like the guitar player from the Rezillos never left to hang out with the Human League, Blondie decided to speed things up after Eat To The Beat instead of trying to appeal to suburban moms or the members of the Go-Gos never discovered high limit credit cards, young republican courters and heroin. Bubblegum smacking dancefloor filling new wave party rock. Seeing their full on energy live show seals the deal cuz the band plays hard and Lydia can really belt them out.

the SUGAR STEMS - The Sweet Sounds of...(Dusty Medical) Another Wisconsin band who's lineage and "Featuring members of..." thing I could go on about for days but know I already have done that somewhere else in public as well as the internet so no need for that now. Glossy and sparkling bright rooted in 60's girl groups and 70's power pop and guitar solos that nod to both James Burton and Rick Neilsen at the same time.
Betsy and Stef Sugar Stem are also in the Flips. My label, Bancroft, put out a record by them awhile back. If interested in picking up a copy drop me a line.

SUPER WILD HORSES - Fifteen (Hozac) Smashin' Transistors review of it here.

WHEELS ON FIRE - Liar, Liar (Alien Snatch) Smashin' Transistors of it here.

WHITE WIRES - II (Dirtnap) During the height of the whole pop-punk explosion I wonder if the Ramones ever weighed in on their take on it and if they did were they pissed about it. I imagine Johnny was but, then again, judging from the End Of The Century doc when wasn't Johnny pissed or miffed at something. I would hope though that they'd tell all those bands to realized what the Ramones reference points were and look for those as inspiration instead of, well, just aping the Ramones (and, for the most part, not doing it all that well). It's practically impossible to doubt that Ottawa, Ontario's White Wires haven't listened to the brudders from Forest Hills albums but for them it's a jumping off point instead of having their (Converse High Top) shoes cemented in the foundation. Ramshakled but right catchy buzzsaw rock-n-roll songs that nod to good times/great oldies and the 90's garage punk and have you humming the hooks right after the first time you hear them. Their first album was a charm and this follow up is even better. This ain't pop punk. Punk pop perhaps?

Honorable mentions: Ty Segall Melted, Sleepy Sun Fever, Superchunk Shredding Majesty, Tyvek Nothing Fits and the Vaselines Sex With An X.

Mar 1, 2011

Goose Island Pere Jacques

The first couple of Goose Island brews I tried a couple years back left me unimpressed so I laid off trying any of their other things til about a year ago when Jordan of the Mystery Girls brought over some of their saison take, Sofie, for me to try last spring. I liked it quite well and have intended on trying some of their other takes on Belgium styles but with so many other things and brews taking precedent it wasn't until tonight that I've really had a chance until tonight.
Rich ruby with gold highlights in color with a slight head that fades fairly quickly. Lots of warm dark fruits such as black cherry and raisin up front in the scent which are then followed by LOTS of caramel malts and bready yeast notes. Quite a few different nuances come out in in the flavor. Up front it has a cherry tartness along with some dates, peaches and a bit of woodsiness, towards the middle it takes on some green apple and grape nuances then towards the end a bit of cinnamon along with a touch of maple syrup. There's a bit of warmth to the end but nothing to really make one think it's over the 8% abv it sports.
None of the flavors are overbearing which makes all of it's complexities understated and interesting while working well and in tandem with each other. I'm kinda bummed I only have one bottle of this at the moment because I wouldn't mind having another as I could sip on this all evening.

Feb 1, 2011

Bell's Hopslam Ale (Year 2011 issue)

It's been not even a month since Bell's Hop Slam 2011 edition hit the shelves and here we are in the midst of what is said to be the nastiest blizzard to hit the Midwest in 5 to 25 years depending on the source you get such information from. In an effort to stock up on supplies in case of a few days being snow bound I thought I would look around a couple local stores today to see if I could find a six pack still hanging around. Nope, Not even here in Michigan does it seem there are any orphaned sixers or mini-kegs someone hasn't noticed and snagged already. I guess it's a good thing when it first came out a few weeks back I made sure I stockpiled a few extras because, even though previous years it's been great, this year's batch seems to be the best one yet.
Lush, rich amber in color with just the right amount of bubbly head that takes it's time to melt away leaving waves upon waves of lace behind. Right at first opening and pour it's aroma is already fills the room. At a distance it's smell of bright citrus and pine. Once it's held a little closer to the nose though apricot, peaches and honey really come to the fore.
The taste of the hop profile brings out all the scents above along with a bit of pineapple and mango. Then it's all tied together with hints of honey. There's so many levels here and it all bursts with so much flavor. It's sweet and tarty calling card is then finished out with white pepper bitters and a warming all through the body courtesy of the 10% abv.
There has been quite a bit of hype surrounding Hopslam in previous years and this year it seemed more fevered than ever. The reason? Because it lives up completely to it reputation. Seriously one of most favorite beers in the world.

Jan 22, 2011

Short's The Wizard

Here I am a few weeks into a new year and, DAMN!, it's already seeming to fly by. Full time student, full time parent and full time job seeker. Then factor the program director gig along with the mundane day to day things likes laundry, making dinner and trying to fix up an old rickety house that has two new problems for every one that gets fixed and it all makes leisure time a rare commodity. Tonight though I have found some and Bellaire, Michigan's Short's Brewery has released a barley wine called the Wizard so dammit I am going to sit, sip and contemplate what kind of magic it has going on.
The color is on the darker end of the barley wine scale with it's mahogany and ruby shade. The head is minimal and recedes into a constant collar and slightly cloudy cap that hangs on through the entire glass with slight, spotty lacing. Nothing unusual for a barley wine in respects.
What is unusual is almost everything else about it. Short's fancies themselves in making things that are out of the ordinary and this is no exception. For this they've decided to tweak the standard barley wine recipe by adding raisins in to the brewing process. Instead of the green apple and apricot aromas that usually show up as the dominant backbone of most barley wines I've tried in the past this Wizard bears more of a scent along the lines of black cherries and molasses that sends a warming sensation up through the sinuses. One of the most interesting things about the way it smells though is that it's not uncommon to detect the higher end of the alcohol content that barley wines sport but here, even with an approximate ABV of 11%, it's boozy bottom is hardly even noticeable.
The raisin show up first in the flavor. They seem to bring a dark oak like nuance to the brew while throwing in a curve ball of vanilla bean in as an accent. Through the middle and end it's shifts several times on the palette first with a walnut and dark chocolate qualities then ending slightly astringent with a hoppy floral bite. There is quite a warming effect in the finish where otherwise well hidden alcohol content comes out to say hello.
As an introduction to barley wines I would most likely not suggest this to a beginner as it's not the most traditional take on the style but for a veteran looking for something different that can be done with it I'd tell them to put this at the top of their list.

Jan 20, 2011

The Febuary Sonance

The first Sunday of every month Mr. Franck and yours truly drop the needle on some tracks at the Raven Cafe in downtown Port Huron. Our next one is on Feb 6th. If you're in the area stop on in for food, drinks and, of course, some great tunes.
More info at

Jan 12, 2011

GENTLEMAN JESSE and his MEN "You've Got The Wrong Man" 7inch

Sporting a broken nose splint across his face and Jim Croce rivaling 'stache above his lip on the cover of this single it almost as "Gentleman" Jesse Smith is sending a message to the current batch of power pop resurrectionalists that it takes more than a cheeky Paul McCartney smile and a skinny tie to play the game and be taken seriously about it (or at least make the girls dance NOT just because their boyfriend is the band). For one, having at least a cupboard full of hooks that can be added to stew. Not only does it seem like Jess and dudes got all the right fixins' but have a few special recipes to go along with them.
While listening to either song on this record-the antsy surf riff tempo'd and many layered vocal harmonies of "You Got The Wrong Man" and "Stubborn Ghost", which resembles the Boys getting their best Raspberries on-it's as if the River Mersey (you know, the one with the beat) ran through the sweltery, sticky summer weather of 2010 Georgia instead of the damp springs and autumns of 1960's Liverpool. Playing respect to the Rickenbacker jangling spectres and power-pop chewiness Gentleman Jesse and the Men know they aren't reinventing the wheel but have done their own customizing to the ride it sits upon. Hop in.

Dec 28, 2010

STEP DADS "Deja Vu" 7inch EP

Bad attitudes and totally obnoxious. They're both ingredients that should be included in all punk rock recipes. Some try to skimp on them though (which means they're not really punk rock at all) but not this band. It sounds like they even had a little extra so made a big mess in the kitchen. The band itself is based in the catchy buzzsaw punk rock-n-roll vein (Sex Pistols, The Zeros etc) which is all fine and dandy but it wasn't enough for them. Cue gravel throated ill-tempered belter railing off about power sluts and the Grim Reaper here. Crank the distortion to make his sandpaper grunt even more blown out and pile on an amount of ridiculous echo and it cooks something to break teeth on.
Deep South USA white trash cousins of German beer bottle breakers the Moorat Fingers or Bathory pounding some nails into power pop? Well, that's for you do decide.

Dec 26, 2010

Sunday Sonance For January 2011

Well, The speculations that the first Sunday of every Month gig Franck and myself have been doing for close to two years now at the Raven Cafe were going to come to an end ending up being just rumors. Join us the night after New Years Day for eats, drinks and, of course, tunes.
More info at