Jul 26, 2014

SUGAR STEMS "Only Come Out At Night" LP

     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.
     What better way to do so then set it to music, right?
     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.
www.sugarstems.com

Jul 13, 2014

OBNOX "Louder Space" LP

     How do you top one of the best albums of last year?
     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.

http://12xu.net    

Jul 8, 2014

SPACE RAFT s/t LP

     Space Raft does not need a laser light show. Sure, it would be cool if they had some. People could feel like they were floating in a galaxy while the band played on. The thing is though these guy don't need special effects to get the songs across.
     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.
www.dustymedical.com

Jul 4, 2014

Jackie Lee "Anything You Want"



     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.

Jun 18, 2014

Edd Henry "You're Replacement Is Here"


   
     "No more heartaches/No more sorrows"
     Here’s a very hard to find Detroit groover from 1966 on the Big Mack label by Edd Henry. It’s a song of being done wrong and having enough of it. Recorded at the legendary United Sound with a hot band this records swings. It received no local airplay of note. Would’ve been a hit in a better world.
     The a-side of this, a soul burner in it’s own right called “Crooked Woman" (it seems Edd had his share of women treating him wrong), showed up in an episode of Mad Man some seasons back.
     The Big Mack label released records sporadically through the mid 60’s to the early 70’s. It’s offices operated at several different addresses though the years but operated out this location during the time this record was released. You can find both sides of the single and other Big Mack Records tracks on the Numero Group’s Eccentric Soul compilation devoted to the label.
     Edd Henry recorded several funk sides for the Heavy Hank label, including this sticky bop, in the late 60’s/early 70’s and released a gospel album in the mid 80’s.

May 26, 2014

Brain Flannel "Empty Set" LP

     When it comes to sounding like clutching on a piece of rope, holding on for dear life in the middle of a violent storm and enjoying the cacophony of it all-Brain Flannel (or Brain F≠ if you please) have their calling card posted all over the concrete landscape. 
     Though the record picks up where they left off with their previous singles and debut album Sleep Rough, this North Carolina combo has somehow managed to up the ante in mind wringing tumultuousness yet inching closer to something slightly more palatable along the way.
      The noise starts up simple enough with a single guitar sounding like your head is a trash can at a picnic and a few flies have started to buzz around inside it. Seconds later everything kicks in and comes crashing down like a stampede of elephants through a ceiling of glass.
     The girl/boy trade off vocals of singer Elise and guitar player Nick spit out rapid fire rants slathered in contemptuousness while the rhythm section clobber the aural senses with full force noise that smears lines of garage rock trash and artsy post hardcore bash.
     The biggest leap that the band is the way they have adjusted their angle of attack. The sound is still a giant, agitated ball of petulance but on earlier records they sounded like jittery wrecks flailing  and clawing at whatever they could draw blood from while just trying to hold on to dear life. Here it sounds like they have learned to throw a punch, slash with a knife and swing a chain knowing where it's gonna land and the damage it will make.
www.facebook.com/brainflannel

May 22, 2014

Short's Superfluid Double American India Pale Ale


     As the debate continues about what is the difference between West Coast vs. East Coast vs. Great Lakes vs. Rocky Mountains vs. (fill in any particular region that is brewing notable brews in the style)  India Pale Ale, Bellaire, Michigan based brewery fans the flames with a bazillion variations on the style. 
     This one, Superfluid, makes a call for preservation of the state's waterways "Clean water makes better beer" statement right on it's label. It has often been wondered what makes the beer coming out of Michigan so good.
     Well, there's one thing that always makes for sure, it's the water we got here.
     Dusty gold is the color here. When held to the light is shine and even sparkles. A medium pour brought out just a minimum head but it has a cap that stays strong through it's entire session with a lacing that leaves a full ring behind.
     On the nose there are scents of apricot, honeysuckle and pine. There's a particular sweetness in the aroma but all the smells blend well together making the anticipation of tasting the beer even more.      
     Giving it a first few sips there is something very interesting in the texture. It has a creamy softness to it that is surrounded by just enough hop resin oiliness to remind you that this is more than just a standard IPA. Once getting a taste too it is learned where the "SUPER" in it's name comes from the hop profile and flavors alone. At the very opening there are grassy and pine oil notes. That quickly steps to the side to let tart and sweet fruit nuances somewhere between cherries and peaches step in and take the taste buds for a little ride. Amidst those juicy flavors a bit of oak woodsiness flits in the background. The different levels of flavor finish with a mix of white pepper, lemon peel and a splash of hibiscus tea.  The 8% adv is hidden quite well amongst all the flavors but it is still quite a fun roller coaster ride with it's curves, cuts and dips.
www.shortsbrewing.com

Apr 22, 2014

Tom Green's Milkstout

    
When my friend Peter brought this over from Canada I looked at the label and did a few guffaws about it. I mean, c'mon, it's Tom Green approved, y'know. Not really the first person you would think of when it comes to having his name pinned to a craft beer.
     "Tom Green? The guy who was married to Drew Barrymore for a couple months?" I asked.
     "Yes, the same."
     "The same Tom Green who had that asshole from Jackyl come on his TV show and take a chainsaw to his desk"
     "Of course."
     The questions went on like this for a few minutes. 
      Thinking of the only other "celebrity approved beer" I've had, Kid Rock's BAD ASS, as well as Tom's brand of humor, all I could muster in my mind before opening it "Man, I dunno. Milk Stout or not this could be one really goofy ass stuff."
      Made by Beau's All Natural Brewing Company out of Vankleek Hill, Ontario the brew pours mahogany color with ruby illumination when held to light. It's bubbly one finger head comes on strong at first then fades quickly into a slight cap that leaves a blowing snow drift lacing behind.
     On the nose there are the scents of cocoa, hazelnut and malted milk balls. Though the aromas don't come off overtly strong and/or complex it does smell roasty and rich.
     Thoughts of a chocolate milkshake is what comes to mind first initial sip. It's quite milk chocolatey up front, followed by good bit of lactose sugars sweetness and then flits of dark roasted coffee and toast hanging around the edges. The brew has creamy texture in the mouth but the mild carbonation breaks up a bit which gives it a effervescent vibe. Hops poke their way though in the backbone adding a touch of bitters that gives it some bite and dryness in the finish. 
     Though I can only sit through about 10 minutes tops of Tom Green in most situation I could totally sit through and sip on another glass or two of this beer. One of the best milk stout's I've ever had? Nah. It is pretty decent though none the less. 

Apr 12, 2014

BURNT SKULL "Sewer Birth" LP

     High tension wires start to snap. They hit the ground a caustic slime to ooze up through the dirt.
     Electronics surge causing a blinding blue light that makes eyeballs pop out and then explode.
     Contraptions go haywire tearing the limbs from their operators.
     With a cranium crushing pummel of martial and murderous drums, a molten roar of guitars hopped up on electrical shocks and thirty for blood while a shredded vocal chords garble incantations of disgust and vileness Austin, Tx. band Burnt Skull provide the soundtrack if such is the fate for the planet's final days.  Featuring members of Total Abuse, Cruddy and Best Fwiends the band deal harsh waves of sound akin to Godflesh hopped up on bathtub crank pushing lawnmowers over the hills of hells acres and Big Black taking band saws to 100 guitars wallowing in feedback.
     The relentless noise may vary from track to track but it all will cause toxic sludge to bubble up through the soil that eats away brain matter at first whiff and encourages rats dwelled in the darkness of the most poisonous of gutters and trash strewn alleys to come out into the light and spread vermin to those who that they were safe.
     In it's wake all that is left for evidence is scorched earth splattered in blood and caked in guts.
http://12xu.net
     

Apr 7, 2014

NATURAL CHILD "Dancin' With Wolves" LP

     Let's talk a little bit about Country Rock.
     When I say country rock I don't mean the assembly line Wal-Mart shopping "Rockin' Country" bullshit that name checks Merle Haggard or Johnny Cash in the lyrics but has more in common with the Little River Band or Foreigner than any sense of country traditions much less rock AND roll that is all over commercial country radio these days either.
     I am talking something much more loose. Much more scraggly. Much more smelling like dirt, pollen, sweat and a fish fry. Something that maybe isn't dressed like a farmer but also isn't dudded up in embroidered jeans and a backwards designer baseball cap. Something can be rough and tumble when I wants to be or yearning when it feels like but I both cases sounds like it's for real and not gone through some market analysis flow chart to spell such feelings out to the lower common denominator. 
     Bands with folks that look more like the stoners that hang a beat up old Bondo buggy at the flea market or beach and not male models on their way Planet Fitness at the mall.
     Hailing from Nashville Natural Child are Country Rock. As we all know Nashville is the place where people go to get discovered to become country music stars but it also the place where the bullshit "Rockin' Country" assembly line works day and night to kill the sound that made people want to go there in the first place.
     While their previous releases entertained ideas such as "What if Neil Young's cocaine booger from The Last Waltz traveled back from '78 and wrote and recorded every album from Harvest to Zuma instead of Neil (and, of course Crazy Horse) himself" or "Waylon Jennings listening to Alex Chilton" there has been something that has had the listener thinking that the band was sincere about what they were doing. But, there was also an underlying smart ass nod and wink thing happening that may have had some thinking just how sincere. On Dancin' With Wolves, with the adding of a pedal steel and piano player into the official band line up, and the songs sounding, dare I say it, slightly more cultivated and composed-Natural Child show they've been dead level about it all along.
   The down home dose of laid back southern funky stuff of the album's opener, the "Out In The Country", the small late night jazz combo tinged "Bailando Con Lobos" and  the soulful Hammond organ that blurs the line between Saturday night and Sunday morning laden "I'm Gonna Try" sound as if they could've been plucked from a Capricorn Records jam session circa '73.
     Others like "Don't The Time Pass Quickly" where a hell raising hayseed takes a day off from kicking up some dust to roll around in the hay with his gal, the 3rd album era Velvet Underground sitting on the porch of the general store vibe of "Firewater Liquor" and "Saturday Night Blues" good time seeking a bits of rambunctious hick rockin'. The weed smoke gets thick down the backroads on "Country Hippie Blues" and shot glasses in honky tonk clink while people wonder once again if Hank would of done it this way for "Rounder."
http://naturalchildband.blogspot.com