Spil Phector (Proverus) The Sprags
3-song demo (self produced) Falsify
Kazillionaires (Bad Dog Records) The Heelees
OnceOver (self-release) OnceOver
Shy Violet (Proverus Records) Scott Hunt
It's in the Can (self-release) Doreen Robideaux and her Soul Kitchen
Steal Your Soul and Dare Your Spirit to Move (Estrus) Soledad Brothers
This Other Life (self-release) Van Gogh Stereo
The Sprags want you,the listener, to know they dig the sixties. They wear their influences proudly on the collective sleeve. Why shouldn't they? That particular burst of pop creativity hasn't been equaled since.
Farfisa organs, twelve-string guitars, backwards stuff, teen beats, a string quartet, wordless hooks vocalized (i.e. sha la la): it's all here. Of course, this approach is nothing new but occasionally they find an unusual mix. The disc's first track "Cookin'" features Small Faces verses and Beach Boy choruses. Each tune is carefully, nay, lovingly crafted by producer Ken Dudley and the Sprags, who actually sing their melodies in a straightforward fashion as opposed to the gutteral, over-emotive "attitude" so common in post-Pearl Jam/post-Dave Matthews rock. God bless'em.
I also think it takes an odd type of courage to sing "birdies, birdies, birdies in the sky." Don't you?!
So, next time you're sickened by contemporary pop culture and you've listened to every 60s record you own, check out the Sprags "Spil Phector," and play the damn thing loud! -- Chris Arduser
Pop/rock ala the Deftones is what we have here. I would venture to call it "Nu-metal." Maybe a little more rock to it than metal though. These guys actually have a decent understanding for the radio-friendly song structure. Plus, they're young. All they have is time to get better. Production is not too bad for a home jobby. Singing could use a little work. The bass clicks out a lot (probably due to overenthusiasm). The drumming is solid. The guitar player stands out as the backbone. I won't knock it too hard. It's not awful, just mighty predictable. I think as these guys expand their CD collections and go beyond MTV and commercial radio for their music and influences, one or two of these guys might be offering us something special in the future. I think I'll have to see these guys live before I pass final judgment. But as of now, I feel no bloodflow to that certain organ that has been known to stand on end when it's excited. Fans of the new rock might wanna check this out. I'll leave you with a quote from the band: "We're a heavy metal band from the tiny town of Temperance, Mich. We love our music, will play at anytime -- day or night -- for anyone with an open ear and an open mind." ROCK. -- St. Benjamin
Sure, the '70s were fun, what with the Trans Am Firebird, Tom Petty and 38 Special, and those great Toledo Speedway Jams. Times were so good that they spilled over to the '80s. Then came the invention of electricity in the '90s and most people moved on.
Fast-forward to 2002: out comes The Heelees with "Kazillionaire$," a sojourn into early '80s Southern rock, with a bit of Allman Brothers tossed in. After hearing the band's final track, "Huron Jam," I wished they had stuck with pure Allman Brothers Southern rock. The music in "Huron Jam" goes somewhere because words don't get in the way. The Heelees tear into "Huron Jam" as if it was marbled beef, melding bass, guitars and crashing cymbals into a well-syncopated instrumental. In a time when instruments seem to be forgotten, instrumentals like these are sorely missed. The polar opposite is the heavily vocal "Cool, Clear Rain" which includes many stretches of rich, a capella harmonies. The tune itself seems to hearken back to Etta James' "Out of the Rain," though the similarities are likely coincidental. "Cool, Clear Rain" is probably the strongest, most marketable track on the CD.
Between "Huron" and "Rain" lies the in-between: an unappreciated (by myself, at least) return to '80s Southern rock, with all its images of sweaty felt cowboy hats, muttonchops, the Stars and Bars, and hefty silver belt buckles heaving under the weight of fried chicken and grits.
Though I'm sure it's fun to watch women on a dance floor spilling Bud Light on each other during "Jump in the Shower," that doesn't translate through my CD player (though I'm sure that will change when I get high-definition television). This tune has Big Bopper-style piano solos and has lyrics like: "I don't have all day to take a bath in the tub; I don't have all day to go scrub, scrub, scrubbity dub..."
"Always Got Friday Night" is a shit-kicking boogie that likely fills the dance floor for The Heelees, but since I tested negative for boogie fever, I didn't succumb to that temptation. As in many of the cases with Southern rock, from "Jack and Diane" to "Sharp-Dressed Man," "Friday Night" tells a tale. In this case, it's about a couple named Jenny and Jim: Jim gets a job, and his wife gets fat; Jim loses his job, and then they get drunk. And it's alright as long as there's Friday night, right?
I suppose, if you didn't have to wake up the next day... -- Dave Moore
This is my first listen to OnceOver and it wasn't that bad of an experience, to be honest. From what the credits sleeve says, this was a self-produced effort not bad; I'll give it a solid "B. The guitars definitely have a shed load of beef behind them, the drums are a bit thin but sound damn good for a home recording, and the vocals aren't bad, though they sound a bit over-processed at times, mostly in the two-part realm during back-ups. Nice work though, for real man... and on to the music...
OnceOver could go either direction with this shit: down the path of the righteous, or down the road of those in search of praise. Though I cannot pinpoint any specific band to parallel these guys with, it's quite obvious they digest a healthy diet of new rock with Tool being the shining light in their record collections. There is a certain feeling of mysticism in OnceOver's sound, and they pull it off The intro to the record offers the listener some sort of chant backed by some solid electro-bass drops; the minimalist's approach, but pretty damn cool nonetheless. The meat of the record is based in straightforward 4/4, but doesn't get too boring due to some tight polyrhythmic playing between drummer (Steve Dwyer) and the guitars and bass (Nate Periat, Paul Dwyer and Nick Archer). The vocalist (Dave Ayling) floats his voice over tight music and creates the whole picture, and it ain't that bad to look at. There's a viola interlude in one of the tracks that works pretty well too. Kooky.
Overall, one can plainly see that this record is a rather ambitious effort on OnceOver's behalf... and why not? The music could go over on a 13 year- old Korn-baby or a schooled college-rock critic. As time goes on, these guys will hopefully define their sound a bit more and play with odd meters as well. One thing though, knock off the white boy rap bullshit fellas. Tis' more gay than a football player training through ballet.
For those who are fans of radio-friendly rock stepping into the world of Machine Head, Fear Factory, and Tool, check OnceOver out. If you have a Converge, [John] Zorn or King Crimson record at the forefront of your collection, you'll probably leave this one alone. All in all, not a bad bit of work at all. I wouldn't buy it, but I certainly won't throw this copy away. I wish only good things to happen to these guys in the future. Keep rockin', and don't let the spank rear its ugly little head. -- St. Benjamin
Sometimes we see a movie that we categorize, not as a blockbuster, not as a tearjerker, not as the greatest achievement of all mankind... but as "just right" -- nicely executed. That's how these reviewers feel about local musician Scott Hunt's new CD, Shy Violet, out on the Proverus Records label (Grand Rapids, Ohio).
So, here's the question. What would happen if the Beach Boys, XTC, Radiohead and Todd Rundgren all hung out in the same recording studio and took happy pills before recording together? You'd get Scott Hunt.
Scott, bass player for the local band The Sprags, has released a solo project that really showcases his imagination and quirky recording talents. His songwriting and production sensibilities are wonderfully unusual. And, if I'm allowed to say it, charming for something coming out of this area. If you're into happy jangly '60s retro, you'll love this CD. If you're not, you'll still like it after giving it a chance. If not then, you need to quit your job, because you're too uptight.
Scott seems to have an array of odds and ends, keyboards and just stuff, and he uses it effectively in the studio to create fun textures and some pretty nice production quality.
From "Help Me Get Off the Stage" to "Shy Violet," you get the feeling that Scott is trying to let you into a world where melody matters, harmony is his toy, and each twist seems to have a wink attached. He definitely gets to express himself differently than on the Sprags productions.
At some point there is a little sameness to the vocals, but then, from another view, Scott has definitely established his style.
Scott has scaled back the number of songs on this new CD compared to Reverie, the 1999 CD he produced with his sister, Shelby. It has 17 songs that would make you swear you're in the '60s, more than the music produced then! Pick it up if you like to swim in retro reverie. Shelby has a great voice.
As we mentioned before, Scott is a member of the Sprags. Their sound is a lot more guitar-oriented, but with some of the same humor and solid songwriting as Scott's CD. Scott's material shows his keyboard leanings and cool retro tendencies. By the way, the newly released Sprags CD certainly wins a spot on the Top 10 Best Album Titles of the Year -- SPIL PHECTOR. Nice.
So, we should probably be more critical, but compared to so much self-important, non-creative junk we've heard lately, Scott Hunt's Shy Violet gave us little smiles as we went through the tunes, kind of like "Isn't it nice that someone's doing that?"
It's nice someone's doing that. Don't be shy. Pick it up (presumably through www.proverus.com). -- Jon and Phyllis Dwyer
Maybe I shouldn't have picked up that Koko Taylor CD before I listened to the "It's in the Can" CD by Doreen Robideaux and her Soul Kitchen.
I mean, when I heard "Wang Dang Doodle," I thought Koko was going to bust out of my CD player and kick my ass (a scientific improbability, since Taylor is 66 years old and my boom box measures 10 inches deep by 16 inches wide).
Blues -- when it's done right -- supercedes all other forms of human communication that I've come across, other than what I've found with my girlfriend, and that doesn't belong in a music review. Blues has the same effect on me as when I hear wolves howl. It shakes my core.
When I hear Lightnin' Hopkins guitar and his wizened voice filling a mic, I get nervous. This guy's seen more depravity in his life than all the collective white-like-me Martin Mulls on North America, and suddenly, I'm pulled from my comfort zone and I'm thrilled and frightened all at the same time. I twitch and wonder what this guy is about to pull from his holster.
But "It's in the Can" doesn't come close to jolting listeners out of comfort zones, or even a Pizza Hut P'Zone. The recordings on "It's in the Can" are clean. Almost too studio clean for their own good. James Armstrong -- who has performed at Mickey Finn's when I've seen him -- suffers from the same problem in his "Dark Night" release, and this guy was nearly stabbed to death by some deranged attacker. It can be difficult to bring the same level of excitement and spontaneity to the studio as to a stage (though you never want someone acting out what it's like to really be stabbed to death on stage -- especially in dinner theater).
The good news: You can make out nearly every word sung on "It's in the Can." The bad news: It ain't no wang dang doodle, Koko.
Sure, there's such a thing as fun blues. Like Bing and Satch's "Muskrat Ramble." (You should check out their cut of "Me and Brother Bill" if you can find it.)
And Robideaux and her cru head that way in "Where Did You Go," a song that seems inspired by several episodes of "Cops" and "Judge Judy."
One line goes, "I didn't mean to make you so mad when I sold all your guitars -- well hell yes I did, after you totaled out my car..." You can hear the smile in her voice, and that's not a real smile, because why the hell would someone be smiling about someone wrecking their El Camino, for Chrissake?
The closest Robideaux gets to sounding truly angry is in "Come the Night Owl," a song short on lyrics. Maybe that's why she pushes the intensity level. Which is fine -- it suits her and the music. She's got the pipes. Robideaux should cut loose. Robideaux approaches the emotion later in "I Just Wanna Be With You," but again she falls short. Another song on the album worth mentioning is "I Want the Boogie Man," mainly because of its catchy rhythm/bassline. Unfortunately, it is very much like the rhythm/bassline in L.T.D.'s "(Every Time I Turn Around) Back In Love Again." (I know that all music is derivative, and that some day, it may all revert back to a single song ... and maybe our music -- and Nike commercials -- are now bouncing backward through the '70s. ("My Sweet Lord" was better than "He's So Fine" anyway.)
If indeed all our music will evolve into a single song, I would like to think that song would be the theme from "Beretta." -- Dave Moore
Looks like some Toledo natives are heading for the big time. The Soledad Brother's second full-length release on Estrus, "Steal Your Soul and Dare Your Spirit To Move," expands on the band's signature blues sound. Johnny Walker, Ben Swank and Oliver Henry (plus several guest musicians) are able to take the basics of the blues, put their own twist on it, and create something quite original. Songs on the album such as "Prince Among Thieves" and a cover of the classic "Ain't No Sunshine" by Bill Withers (which the band renames a more grammatically correct "There's No Sunshine") delve deeper into the dark, haunting sound that could be heard on previous Soledad releases. In fact, these two songs alone make the album worth buying. The band also knows how to turn up the volume and rock it, as shown on tracks such as "Michigan Line" and "Break 'em on Down." Take a chance on this album whether you are a blues fan or not, and odds are you wonšt be disappointed. -- Zachary Hill
Your entree mocks you.
No way you can finish it.
Not after what he/she said.
You give him/her their ring back.
Now, time for that long, long trip back (even if it's a 10-minute car ride).
A jillion thoughts pour through your head, from the very first time you saw them, to your first kiss, to the first time you saw that far-away look in their eye.
Yeah, Van Gogh Stereo's CD "This Other Life" is sort of like that. While the musical stylings contained therein strongly resemble that of the Gin Blossoms, the content -- perhaps not intentionally -- seems to center around relationships damned to spiral to fiery ends. (If Ronald McDonald were to mass-market take-out to lonely hearts, would he call the combos "Unhappy Meals"? Would the prize inside be a smashed plastic ventricle?)
The first course in this relationship dipped in bitter herbs is "Fake," a fairly high-energy impeachment of those pretty girls who inwardly resemble Jabba the Hutt. It's full of that anger you feel when you've been took by Trailer Park Barbie. "Fake" is probably the CD's most marketable song.
Next up is "Asleep at the Wheel," which contains my favorite lyric: "I should have seen that the light was red, but it was always green inside my head." The beauty of this song is that it appeals to anyone who lives with their eyes closed -- whether you're guilty of DWS (Driving While Snoring) or living in a grass shack beside Denial (it ain't just a river in Egypt, girlfriend). This song reminds men that women are a lot like heavy equipment: Try not to operate on them while under the influence of alcohol, but if you do, you'd better be wearing eye and head protection.
"Anybody Else" continues the theme of unhappy puddin', asking listeners to "Please be me, and I'll be anybody else tonight." While the lyrics are muddled, I suppose this signifies either some kind of girl trouble, or that this guy makes a living scooping up deer parts along Interstate 75.
Now, we reach the part of the Unhappy Meal that looks back at all the good things you've screwed up by being such a jerk. The song is called "Back in Time." I imagine there's a little Jack Klugman (or, if you're not that old, the chick from "Crossing Jordan") in everyone's head who holds a relationship inquest, and always poses the question: What went wrong? And suddenly, we mount upon our griffin, defying both space and time and ... oops, I was asleep at the wheel there. I'll get back to the review now.
"The Long Road" is probably my favorite song on the CD. The vocals are raw but in control, and the melody is probably the most interesting on the CD. It's got a good beat, and if I wasn't so damned white, I would dance to this. I believe the road they sing of is allegorical, but it could also be Eckles Junction in Perrysburg [Ohio].
Ever have a clinging girlfiend? Maybe you've been the clinger (or, if you're Jamie Farr, you will FOREVER be Klinger). "Drowning" -- and "The Breakup Song" by Greg Kihn -- is dedicated to you. The thing I don't quite understand about "Drowning" is that it doesn't sound like someone's drowning. The vocals are under control. They're mild -- almost resigned to accept what's happening. It almost brings to mind that quote from Henry David Thoreau's "Walden": "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation." (OK -- Frazier Crane has left the building.)
The following song, "Freedom" just reminds me of what Mel Gibson yelled in Braveheart before they chopped his head off, and I just can't get beyond that. (I still think the makers of "Braveheart" missed a golden opportunity in product placement when they didn't have Mel yell "Pepsi!" at the end.)
The final heaping helping of auditory heartbreak I'll mention is "She Said." The first lines go: "I've figured it out -- she's on her way out. She's jaded. She's fading fast." The song dryly describes how indecision killed a relationship. So, in truth, the song isn't so much what she said, but what he didn't do.
And it's usually the stuff you don't do that's the problem ... -- Dave Moore
3-song demo (self produced) Falsify
Kazillionaires (Bad Dog Records) The Heelees
OnceOver (self-release) OnceOver
Shy Violet (Proverus Records) Scott Hunt
It's in the Can (self-release) Doreen Robideaux and her Soul Kitchen
Steal Your Soul and Dare Your Spirit to Move (Estrus) Soledad Brothers
This Other Life (self-release) Van Gogh Stereo
Cover Magazine (Thrill Jockey) Giant Sand
Giant Sand wears its influences on its sleeve for this album, which is aptly titled Cover Magazine in conjunction with their choice of material which is all music by other artists. "El Paso" by Marty Robbins segues into a spaced-out country version of "Out on the Weekend." Gelb and his guitar present a sly version of classic Los Angeles' punk band X's "Johnny Hit and Run Pauline" as well. The backing vocals on the chorus parts feature alt-rock diva P.J. Harvey. For the guitar solo, Gelb adds more depth to his acoustic guitar by adding distortion, a trick he's used on past Giant Sand albums, such as Center of the Universe. Gelb definitely adds his own unique twist to each of the songs that he's chosen to cover placing the tracks in different musical settings. Piano, congas the sound of flowing water and muted trumpet make up the musical bed of Gelb and company's version of the Black Sabbath classic "Iron Man." As the album treads on, Giant Sand mixes Johnny Cash's "Wayfaring Stranger" with the crooner ballad "Fly Me to the Moon." You can almost envision dark clouds rolling in above your head as you listen to this track. A pedal steel guitar fills in all of the nooks of the song, adding an even eerier feeling. One Gelb original does appear on the record in the form of "Blue Marble Girl." He picks up his guitar for this one, and his playing is very acidic. The tone is enough to peel the skin off of a frequent tanning salon patron. By the end of the record, you're left with a slight feeling of familiarity, but you're also left with your mouth agape as you ask yourself, "How did this band manage to pull off covering the Roger Miller classic 'King of the Road' and Nick Cave's 'Red Right Hand' on the same CD?" -- Steve Howell
Car Caught Fire (self-release) The Bears
My buddy Steve Howell (the Web master for this here site) and I saw these guys up at the Magic Bag in Detroit a couple months ago.
As The Bears' screaming guitars pounded through me, I marveled: "It's almost as if some of the best musicians of the '60s and '70s were plucked off the Earth before our culture was corrupted by Disco and Martin Sheen's children, and were allowed to perfect their craft, uninterrupted and untainted."
Convinced it was just a fluke, I continued on happily, listening to J-Lo and Ja-Rule and the Greatest Hits of the '70s, '80s and '90s.
Then, here comes my buddy Steve again, this time with The Bears' CD "Car Caught Fire."
I was interested. But fearful.
What if the music I heard up in Detroit is nowhere to be found between the 1s and 0s on this CD?
Worse yet -- what if that feeling isn't in it? Too often, studios are like vampires -- they suck the life out of guitars, drums, and vocals.
I won't lie -- the first track, "Life in a Nutshell" is tame, bordering on lame. I started getting antsy half-way through it.
Suddenly, The Bears' imagination erupts in "Under the Volcano." People are sleeping on waterbeds on lava flows, simulated well by the rippling guitars of Rob Fetters, Adrian Belew and anyone else who might have had a hand in that number (both Chris Arduser and Bob Nyswonger are credited with playing acoustic guitar on this CD, but I didn't hear any of that during "Volcano").
The vocals crystallize like geodes, with warmth and just enough edge to remind you that another eruption could come at any moment.
Now we're going somewhere.
The guitars grow larger (but aren't as clear as the live performance) in "When She Moves;" vocals approach a George Harrison-esque feel in "Mr. Bonaparte," and suddenly, The Bears reveal their innocence.
In "What's the Good of Knowing," they say, "I cursed myself with knowledge and lost my innocence." Deep stuff -- the stuff that made teens in the '60s better people. It's no "Slim Shady" -- but isn't Eminem just the Vanilla Ice of the '00s? "What's the Good" easily -- and appropriately -- evokes a '60s feeling, with its tambourine and carefully blended vocals.
The Bears grow deeper with each passing song. "Dave" -- featuring excellent guitar work by Robert Fripp -- reminds me of a time when lyrics mattered:
"Last Saturday morning we missed the warning; nothing lasts forever except maybe Jesus Christ; and nothing could be sadder than a child taking his own life; I heard the minister mumble, I heard the falling rain; and I felt my mother's hand slip into mine..." Suddenly, The Bears pull off their black suits, slap on loin clothes and yell "I'm a Caveman."
But they yell it the way The Who would in "Tommy." Out pops a wily guitarasaurus to let you know that it's still The Bears and everything's as normal as it gets.
"Waiting Room" has vocals slightly reminiscent of Neil Young, but doesn't quite break from the ward the way Cafe Man did, save the wildcard/trademark Bears guitar, which appears this time as a cruel Nurse Ratchet.
You can almost feel the aching longing in "117 Valley Drive," which evokes images of neighbors grabbing their chairs, dogs and kids to sit outside with their neighbors. The regret appears in the final line: "It was a different age. Nothing's wrong and nothing's changed ... in my mind."
My favorite track on the CD is "Success."
Get a load of this line: "If a man is centered upon himself, the smallest risk is too great for him; success and failure can destroy him; but if he's centered on true love, no risk is too great -- success is guaranteed already."
Wish I'd written that.
In between the lyrics of "Success," the cruel Bears guitar shreds the bubblewrap and foam rubber off of the 1s and 0s. Lo, I am astounded.
And of course, The Bears couldn't leave without giving us more thing to think about. In "As You Were," vocals and music marry perfectly. The song describes billions of kids who are angry at a world that really doesn't care. After all ..."Mother Earth didn't burn when the dinosaurs left home."
Fetters tells us the story of bitter people begetting bitter people ... "climb out of your bunker, climb down from your cross."
OK -- and the solution is, Mr. Smarty Pants?
"The answer is love to the question we're all too busy to ask."
And suddenly, we're in full circle with The Bears.
All you need is love. Isn't that what John, Paul, George and Ringo told us? It worked then. Who knows. Maybe it can work now. -- Dave Moore
Plastic Fang (Matador Records) The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
Just as fans thought Jon Spencer's band was becoming the Snooze Explosion with 1998's horribly executed Acme, the dark frontman, lead guitarist Judah Bauer and drummer Russell Simins return to prove that they can't be written off just quite yet. The production on their most recent full-length offering is crisp and solid thanks to hired gun Steve Jordan, who has twiddled knobs on Keith Richards' boozy commitments to vinyl. Simins is one of the hardest hitting drummers in rock today, and Bauer seems to have sat down for long periods of time to study his guitar more closely. His lead playing is extremely fluid in comparison to Jon Spencer classics, such as Extra Width. For those who don't know, the Blues Explosion contains only two guitarists and one drummer. That's right! No bass player. Before you write them off though, Spencer somehow manages to make his no-name six-string sound lower than a bass. Not bad for a guitar that his wife bought for $17. This is Spencer's horror-rock record, unlike previous albums like 1994's Orange, which had some hip-hop flavor or 1996's Now I Got Worry, which had some sleeper experimental tracks that could have induced snoring from even the most wound insomniac. A song like "The Midnight Creep" is packed with enough attitude to outdo even the most callous fashion model, while a track like "Hold On" jumps to the opposite end of the spectrum with juvenile lyrics such as "I got a big wad of Bazooka, and I'm going to chew it," and "Keep humping like a crazy rock." Although Spencer may not be a lyrical genius, the music itself is where the saving grace lies. When you can say that an album struts like a drunken Mick Jagger and slurs like a bloated Elvis ("Money Rock 'N' Roll"), you know that it's worth every penny of your investment. -- Steve Howell
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch) Wilco
I was listening to the radio a few weeks ago, and I heard an interview with Wilco vocalist/guitarist Jeff Tweedy on NPR discussing the band's new album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Tweedy was explaining how when Wilco handed in the master tapes for their latest aural voyage, the record execs at Reprise bawked and acted as if it was the sonic equivalent to Lou Reed's epochal noise effort Metal Machine Music. This peaked my interest in the album, so I immediately raced out to purchase it. Upon getting home, I placed the disc in my player and prepared for something unworldly from this alt-country, Chicago-based outfit. As the opening track began to unfold, I heard quiet keyboard and chiming parts that reminded me of Pink Floyd's "Time." As the record advanced however, I noticed a definite experimentation infiltrating the spirit of the band, but it wasn't something obtuse enough to think that it would promote a record exec's pants to ride up his or her ass, but somehow it did. Interestingly enough, Reprise -- a subsidiary of Warner Brothers -- paid the band for the effort before dropping them. But, another Warner subsidiary, Nonesuch Records, heard the LP and thought it was brilliant and paid the group to release it. This meant that Warner wound up paying the band twice for the same record. It serves a music industry right that has sold its soul to promote emotionless music like Britney Spears and N'Sync. Reprise sighted that one of the reasons for dropping Wilco was that they didn't think any of the new material was suitable enough to be released as a single. In my opinion, this isn't true. Yankee Foxtrot Hotel seems to have a pattern, and that pattern is in the song placement. The record jumps from somber to happy to somber to happy. Three tracks stand out immediately that would be suited for any radio station -- the mid-tempo, jangliness of "Kamera," the upbeat fantasy-effect laden "War On War" and the danceable "Heavy Metal Drummer," which is completed by background singers going "Ooh, ooh, yeah." As for the experimental numbers, "Radio Cure" has a mysterious Velvet Underground feel to it. That is, if the Velvet Underground had listened to Gram Parsons' Flying Burrito Brothers. What sounds like a floor tom is repeatedly struck as strummed acoustic guitar chords interlock with Tweedy's raspy, two-pack a day voice. Other songs, such as "Ashes of American Flags," are slow and heavy with strange piano and swirling noises surrounding broken and reverberated lead guitar lines. Chip away at the veneer though, and you still have the same Wilco, even though the record execs may not think so. -- Steve Howell
You Think You Really Know Me (Motel Records) Gary Wilson
Born in the industrial town of Endicott, NY, which was the home of IBM, Gary Wilson became inspired to start a band after his family received free tickets to The Beatles infamous 1965 concert at Shea Stadium. As the first stadium rock show in history, the event made the 11-year-old child realize what he wanted to do with his life. Wilson spent the next five years in various bands, including a group called Lord Fuzz and another known as Dr. Zork and the Warts. However, between 1970 and roughly 1976, Wilson spent many hours in his parents' basement working on an album that would finally be released in very limited quantities in 1977. The end result was the LP You Think You Really Know Me, a bizarre amalgamation of Steely Dan sleekness filled with abrupt moments of utter horror and deeply disturbed psychosis. The first thing you notice about the record is the strange bleeding cover with a picture of a man in a suit standing in the corner of a decrepit basement. You later realize that this basement is where Wilson recorded his masterwork. You also realize that the dim confines of that area provided great atmosphere for moments like the opening track, "Another Time I Could Have Loved You," which begins with loud feedback guitar that sounds like a buzzsaw layered on top of some smooth lounge organ. The listener is left thinking, "I didn't even need acid for this trip." Wilson plays smooth keyboard lines most of the time, however, there are intermittent moments where he abruptly yells a phrase, such as "She's so real" in "6.4 = Make Out," where the listener really doesn't have much of an idea what Wilson is talking about. Most of the tracks have something to do with women, but it's hard to tell if they're autobiographical stories, or just snippets of the fiction running through Wilson's head. One might guess it's the latter after listening to how distanced Wilson seems from the female subjects in his songs. For example, in "Chromium Bitch," Wilson blurts out, "I'll be so cool, you won't even know my name," in reference to holding his girlfriend's hand. The songs are a bit cheesy, but catchy. But, beware, this album is not for everyone. However, for those who are willing to try something different, or for fans of bizarre experiments, this is for you. After all, what can you expect from a musician who once had his music critiqued by the famous avant-garde composer John Cage. --Steve Howell
In the last issue of Music Notes and Quotes, we spoke with Toledo native and Sub Pop Record's co-founder Jonathan Poneman. He told
us that the group that really caught his attention in the punk movement wasn't The Stooges or the New York Dolls; it was Television. Poneman
told us how he was a fan of noodly prog-rock bands prior to his discovery of punk, and one of the first punk bands to incorporate extended
guitar solos was Television on their monumental album Marquee Moon. The record was released in 1977, and this month we take a more
in-depth look at it.
The surprising part of Marquee Moon is that for a supposed punk band, these guys can actually pull off a precise solo. This was a rarity during those times, when punk bands often preferred brief, sloppy solos or no solos at all. The guitars are very glassy on a song like "Venus," meaning that they have a very smooth sound. As Poneman stated though, the guitars also represented the New York City/CBGB's scene very well during that time due to their somewhat seedy tone as well.
The rhythm section of Billy Ficca and Fred Smith is extremely tight. Smith lays down basslines that act as counterpoints to the guitar parts, rather than simply following the same note pattern as the rhythm guitar.
The title track has always been looked upon by critics as the opus of the album. It starts out as a sort of funky reggae riff with the bass and rhythm guitar acting against each other. The chorus part glistens and chimes with bright chords. This song was almost eleven minutes long, which was basically unheard of at that time, when speed was viewed as the key. The song contains two extended guitar solos. The first one by Lloyd and the second by Verlaine. Verlaine's solo builds until the song explodes into a 3/4 time signature. Most punk bands didn't even know how to write in different time signatures. Hell, most of them were lucky if they could just tune their instruments and not vomit on themselves. Television was way ahead of their game, possibly inventing math-rock before that genre even came into existence in the early 1990s with bands like Slint and Jawbox. -- Steve Howell