Aug 8, 2011

CONSPIRACY OF OWLS s/t LP

     At a first and somewhat casual listen I was thinking about counting how many records over the past couple years have been declared Pet Sounds for the modern age. After running out of fingers but before taking off my shoes to keep the tabulation straight I put the album on again. It made me realize that if I was going to start the review off on some kind of "You're not Brian Wilson" rant I would be off base and would look the fool (not that it would be the first time that's happened...but still). All Beach Boys references that can be made about this album would be from some of the things they made after that always touted holy grail of pop music. Y'know, like 20/20 and Sunflower. Even some people that consider themselves "big Beach Boys fans" those are albums that don't really ever come up much in conversation. It was a period when Brian Wilson's influence and musical vision on the band had become diminished due to his brain teetering on the edge of a cliff which left the others scrambling to keep something somewhat cohesive in the sound they had established with their fans. The problem with that though was pop music at the time was growing by leaps and bounds. The band did their best to stay loyal to their original sound while also attempting to keep up to minute. That's not to say those records didn't have their good moments but there were also a lot of things that just fell flat or were trying to hard.
     Taking a wild stab in the dark it sounds as if members of Detroit's Conspiracy Of Owls (which includes cats who've done time in the Go, Rocket 455 and Human Eye just to rattle off a small bit of their lineage) must all own copies of both albums (and at least a couple of them having copies of Wild Honey and Friends in their record collection) and have had them on their turntables on a regular basis.
     Making these comparisons aren't just because the Conspiracy Of Owls, dressed in cut off shorts, tank tops or unbuttoned shirts, hair that looks it needs to be washed with beards to match look like that era of the Beach Boys either. Two songs out of more than a few on the record that particularly show more than a nod to that wilderness period of the Wilson family and friends here are"Tower Of Diamonds" and "The New Me". The former, a song about the days of yore, except in this case not being about malt shops it's about things like when K-Mart was the main discount retail chain and they had a Frozen Coke machine always close to the front door, Sir Graves Ghastly was still on Saturday afternoon TV and video arcade we're located inside bowling alleys and roller rinks, has a cheerful about being melancholy Carl Wilson vibe. The latter about reawakening but without all that creepy Mike Love transcendental meditation hooey and his later rubbing shoulders with the Reagan's and money grab tricks.
     To say that the brain into only clicks into just Beach Boys deep cut referencing while to Conspiracy Of Owls, though it does loom large over the entire album, would be short selling it. For example, the record's lead off track, "Puzzle People" would not sound out of place on  Hawkwind's Quark, Strangeness and Charm while other tracks such as "Raving Mad" nods to Syd Barrett, mid-70's AM radio and "The Lesson" is a fine Flaming Lips from Soft Bulletin that the Flaming Lips didn't write.
     Going in to this record expecting some crazy, wild and loud "Detroit Rock" record based on the members lineage could bum out to downright pissing off some listeners but for those looking for well crafted, harmony laden and clever psych-pop-this record is one that will make them smile.
https://www.facebook.com/conspiracyofowls

Aug 7, 2011

APACHE DROPOUT s/t LP

     Album of the year?
     Is it too early to declare such things?
     So far, it's been a pretty decent year for releases. A lot of things have found themselves on my turntable and in my portable Mp3 playing device when I'm in the car, riding the bike, mowing the lawn, going for a walk, hanging out the beach and so on. Then there are those that find themselves staying there for a much longer time.
     This Indiana trio, who took their name from the classic Edgar Broughton band song, and feature a former member of soul punks John Wilkes Booze (who's song "Whiskey and Pills" is still a standard I whip out on dj nights), have released a debut album that definitely falls into the later category.
     It's a sound of after being cooped up in a humid, claustrophobic cinder block box finally getting out and ready to do a swamp shimmy and hoot & holler. Why are their clothes all bloodstained in the morning though? The don't know and everyone that watch what went down would rather pretend they didn't see what happened.
     Part murder blues finds a back woods baptism, part post Oblivians/Gories slobbering over the bible that the Velvet Underground wrote bonk and all pressure cooker ready to burst tension.
     Sounding like the Good Earth era Feelies battling the Cheater Slicks in a loser the leave town match that ends in static-the album's opener, "I'm So Glad", throws the ears into a world of nervy, dripping in cold sweat sound that works for both shaking the hip or drowning sorrows in poison. Carnival organ accentuates a train chug on the, in a more perfect world, angst anthem "Teenager" and the super-agitated Cramps throwing the distortion into the deep red line of "Nothing In My Hand."
     Legendary records label proprietors and obscure record collector/even more obscure music historians get named checked too. The former with the acid boogie of "Sam Phillips Rising", the latter with a the caffeinated rooster rhythm of "God Bless You Johan Kugelberg".     
     I could go on about each and every track extolling it's execution and at moments sounding CCR covered in used motor oil while practicing fuzz-fest voodoo or some other attempt at rock-crit lit wit but I'd rather just listen to the record again and again as much as I have been these past few months.
Album of the year? So far I am thinking so.
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Apache-Dropout/124872621463     

Jul 17, 2011

PEOPLE'S TEMPLE "Sons Of Stone" LP

     I'll never forget the first time I heard the Grateful Dead. It was my first year of my first go 'round of college. I was getting heavy into the Paisley Underground thing, it's forefathers (especially the Byrds and the Velvet Underground), some Euro Neo-psych stuff like Echo & the Bunnymen and the Teardrop Explodes (if neo-psych was even what they were considered, the Nuggets and Pebbles comps (Back From The Grave hadn't entered my orbit yet), the 13th Floor Elevators, the dark part of the mind drifting vibes of Spacemen 3 and the stoned sun baked lackadaisical sound of the Meat Puppets Up On The Sun.
     Having worked at my high school high school radio station and a bit of summer stringer work at a commercial one I fell right into a gig at the one at my college. For the most part the people at the college station were pretty straight laced. They wanted to play Eddie Money, Pat Benatar and Journey but had to begrudgingly let any weirdos do shows and especially those that had come from the high school program. Basically "the weirdos" were anyone who didn't want to play Eddie Money, Pate Benatar and Journey.
     It also so happened that the "weirdos" were usually the ones that were the partiers or, GASP!, the stoners.
     Well, hanging out at the beach or around a bonfire drinking and smoking always appealed to me more than associating with a bunch of Eddie Money, Journey and Pate Benatar fans who's idea of fun dressing up in theme costumes because it was time for a TV party because one of them had all the episodes of M.A.S.H. on videotape. One night while hanging out with the crowd I chose I was asked to put a tape in. It had a bunch of the things mentioned above on it. One guy, everyone called him Redman but I never found out why because he wasn't Native American, a ginger nor did he chew the tobacco of the same names, listens intently to the first few songs and asks me "You ever listen to the Grateful Dead."
     "I've seen the name so many times but I don't think I ever have"
     "Here, man" he says first handing me a joint and then a cassette copy of Terrapin Station "Smoke this and then put this in next. It's a lot along the lines of what you're in to. It's gonna blow your mind."
     I did. And you know what?
     It blew something but it wasn't my mind. IT SUCKED.
     It sounded like some overplaying jazzbo's trying to invent a genre they were going to call prog-country. In ways what the Meat Puppets were doing at the time could be considered the same kind of thing (save for the jazzbo part) but it was like a really overplayed, overblown, longwinded and, well, really crappy version of that sound even if it did come out 10 years earlier. It didn't blow my mind it just blew. It also sounded so far from being right up my alley that it was at the other side of the county.
       Listening to Lansing via Perry, Michigan based People's Temple debut album (after a handful of singles for various labels), Sons Of Stone, I would like to think they would react the same way in the same situation. There are elements of the bands that are mentioned in the first paragraph on this record mixed and matched that fit the band just right.
     Since we've covered that though there is no reason to reiterate it so let's describe the People's Temple sound in colors.
     They would be green, silver, black and burning red. The green of the rolling hill vistas of up-north Michigan summer vacations and high grade weed, the silver and black from laying on your back during the same summer trip while staring up at the night sky and red from an intensity that fires up when they crank the distortion or just simply all get into a zone where they're not a much thinking about the music they are playing as the music has taken them over and they are locked in to a zone. It's a zone that doesn't wander off into noodleland land though. It's a zone that is straight focused. It's likes to take a scenic route but doesn't find taking every side road and cow path just because it can. It knows when and where it's destination should wind up so they don't waste time looking for each thing no matter how boring it may be to everyone else that has hopped along for the ride. The People's temple may be jangly and folky at times but never longwinded, showing off jazz chops or thinking they're transcending space and time with some 15 minute drum solo or a million other unnecessary bits. They are first and foremost a rock-n-roll band and they know that's really all that matters.
Check out Smashin' Transistors interview with People's Temple here.

Jul 10, 2011

Frog Island Castle Bravo IPA

     Named after the bomb a thousand times more powerful than the one's the US dropped on Japan in World War II this double IPA from Ann Arbor's Frog Island brewing claims on the side that it's "the taste the frightened Eisenhower". Now, I consider myself somewhat of a 20th century US history buff. I know our country's 34th president used to smoke four packs of cigarettes a day but I don't recall ever reading anything about his take of craft brews, let alone double IPA's, so we'll just leave that claim to bravado for now and get down to the eyeing, sniffing and sipping.
     A cloudy maple syrup in color with a two finger fluffy head that melts fairly face leaving a consistent lace all the way down the glass. It's aromas are a bit earthy with some sweet malt, rolled oats and a dint of lemon peel.
     The first thing announced in the flavor is something woodsy. Almost an oak aged thing is what reminds be of with a touch of of malty almost brown sugar sweetness that flirts slightly with something akin to a Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA. Next this chewy but fluffy/soft but full textured brew takes on a little bit more caramel flavors that still don't really give a hint that it's hitting at an 11% abv. It finishes with a burst of citrus With the average amount of stickiness one would expect from a DIPA. Not more and not less. Just right down the middle.
     Castle Bravo is the first Frog Island beer I have tasted and though my mind (or tastebuds, as the case may be) weren't exactly blown away making me declare "This is one of the best DIPA I've had ever" it was still quite decent (much better than what the first takes on Beer Advocate have been on it at least) and has now piqued my interest on trying some of the other things they have to offer.
http://www.frogislandbeer.com/       

Jul 5, 2011

The Hussy, No Bails and Sros Lords-Saturday, August 6th at Roche Bar in Port Huron


The Hussy-A two piece rock-n-roll band from Wisconsin that you can both drink and dance to.


Featuring Dutch from the Menthols and Mr & Mrs UFO Dictator-No Bails like beer and punk rock.


The Sros Lords claim they're from Detroit but sound like they are from outer space.


I'll most likely be spinning records between bands too. Things start around 10pm or so. The Roche Bar is located at 405 Quay St in downtown Port Huron, Michigan.

Here's the Facebook event page thingy too.

Jul 2, 2011

SPIDER FEVER "Whatcha Gonna Do?!" 7inch

     In a recent installment here we went over what was meant to be played SUPER FREAKIN' LOUD and what was Punk "Fucking" Rock.As we learned in that lesson-the two are not necessarily components of each other.
     This San Diego four piece, featuring former Team Alva skater and drummer from bands such as Earthless, the Sultans and, most recently OFF!, Mario Rubalcaba on guitar/vox and John Ries's little brother, Dean, who Mario did a stint with in the Sultans, on bass do PUNK ROCK that is made to be played SUPER FREAKIN' LOUD.
     "But, other than it made to be played at some ridiculously high volume, what kind of punk rock is it?" you may be asking.
     Basically one of those good old kind of punk rock going on here. A-side's "Whatcha Gonna Do About It" scrambles Radio Birdman's eggs in cast iron pan that the Weirdoes found in the dumpster, scorches them til their all black and crusty then throws it in the face of anyone who says it's too loud. The guitars sound is more than just amplified by electricity. It sounds as if the guitar strings are made of power lines and when the songs goes over the cliff with a blood curdling scream to end-everything been zapped to a crisp.
     Flip it over for "Party Girl" and the beast rises from the ashes left from side one as a pop band. Pop in the way Sonic's Rendezvous Band, the Zeros and the Gears could be considered pop. Thick guitars that chug like a locomotive at top speed and a chorus that even the tone deaf can shout along with. 
http://www.facebook.com/pages/SPIDER-FEVER/129516360409286    

Jun 24, 2011

Sunday Sonance at the Raven in downtown Port Huron July 3rd

Join Franck and yours truly, Dale, for a night of tunes, drink, eats and conversation. Each July edition happens close to my birthday. This one is two days shy of it. You are welcomed to bring gifts.
http://www.ravencafeph.com/

Jun 22, 2011

OBN IIIs "Running On Fumes" 7inch EP

     There are some records that are made to be played loud. Then there are records that need to be played SUPER FREAKIN' LOUD!
     There are also records that are punk rock and then there are those that are Punk "Fucking'" Rock.
     The thing is though that a record that is made to be played SUPER FREAKIN' LOUD will always live up to such a declaration. Records considered Punk "Fucking" Rock have tend to have some problems though when it still comes to living up to that claim times later. There's many times where records dubbed that sound, well, kinda like a yoke some years down the road (if they weren't donned with the title as one to begin with).
     These Austin, Texas gruel mixers have no problem with the former and have no problem with the later either. If this is punk rock of any sort it's the best kind. You know the kind. The bottles flying/girls crying barroom rock-n-roll kind.
     Stones swagger. Stooges sickness. Dolls decadence. Dead Boys drunk and disorderly. It's all balled up and thrown into a pot of chicken grease and bad attitude juice here and boiled on high til the entire town smells of it. This isn't the not the macho, thrust the chest out so the can see this is a VINTAGE AC/DC t-shirt, Leather booted on the monitor for the 8th guitar solo in the last 5 minutes RAWK or Heavy Metal Fonzies stuff that you couldn't throw a Les Paul copy without hitting ten of them that overran the landscape a decade or so ago. Four juicy cuts of meat eating, stinking of beer sweat, slob celebrating ROCK-N-ROLL. Play this record SUPER FREAKIN' LOUD and be prepared to have it kick your ass all over the place.
http://www.facebook.com/OBNIIIs

Jun 21, 2011

TRENT FOX & the TENANTS "Mess Around" 7inch EP

     If this just showed up as a random unsolicited record in my mail box and I took one look at the cover I wouldn't give it much more thought other than to put it in the pile of the "maybe I'll get around to listening to it someday" pile and there it would sit for quite a long time. C'mon, Sepia toned color, old timey Wild West lettering and a dude sporting a sombrero? First impressions would be "Oh, man. Not another jackass cow-punk band."
That's right, not a good cow-punk band (which do happen from time to time) but one of those jack ass ones. And oh, there are so many. Throw in the edges of the sleeve burned for a little more character and it could be another band playing songs about how they want to be smoking weed with the Supersuckers while listening to Hank III and talking about the devil.
     "Sorry, man. I doubt ya do it good" and there in that pile the record would sit.
     That's not the case here though because this slab is courtesy of Kind Turkey records in Wisconsin. The label is headed up by Bobby of the always loud, always a blast beer drunk garage duo the Hussy. He's a rockin' dude and to my knowledge has never written a song about smoking pot with the Supersuckers while listen to Hank III. I trust his tastes. If he decided these guys were cool enough to put a record out by 'em I know it's gonna garner some listens here at the Chez Transistorsmash.
Once the needle hits the groove here any worries of Trent Fox & the Tenants doing songs about smoking pot with the Supersuckers while listening to Hank III and talking about the devil are quelled. Instead, spry rock-n-roll with one foot planted in a bucket of "Good Times! Great Oldies" goo, the other in a catbox of 90's garage punk mess is the call to (rock) action here.
     The Beach Blanket Blowout beat of "Mess Around", a not so cautionary tale of boy telling girl she better behave while he's gone or there will be trouble, kicks this 5 song EP with a hip moving beat, splattery guitar twang, maniacal laughs and more sing along "YEAH! YEAH! YEAH!"'s than I thought was even allowed anymore.
     With such a high revved up opener some records drop the energy a bit in the next couple songs but these Wisco-revelers keep it going with the hyped on caffeine and pizza Country-Soul turned up to 12 "Outta Mind" and side closer, the three chorded soon to be party favorite "Jokes".
The songs on side two, "Old Lady" and "Sounds Fine To Me" were recorded 10 months later. They show a little bit of "maturity" in the song writing but it's not like it's comparing the Seger System's Mongrel to ol' grandpa Bob's Fire Inside or something as the band is still spun up and at punch weight. Both tracks remind me of the night at a party when the Deadly Snakes convinced some Black Lips they you could snort No-Doz and challenged them do it. Now, if they only would've went in to a studio that night (sans horn players) and cut two on fire tributes to the Replacements and the Real Kids.
http://www.kindturkeyrecords.com/

Jun 10, 2011

Thursday, June 30th-M.O.T.O. and the 7th Day Creeps at the Roche Bar in Port Huron

Punk pop (not pop-punk.There IS a difference) legends M.O.T.O. and local monster rockers the 7th Day Creeps. Yours truly, Dale Merrill, will spinning rock-n-roll records before and between bands. Thursday, June 30th at the Roche Bar, 405 Quay St. in Downtown Port Huron, Michigan.