Monday, December 13, 2010

McLaughlin/Lowry Fund Concert and Fund Raiser UPDATE

The McLaughlin/Lowry Fund Concert and Fund Raiser raised about $2,500 for the couple. Thanks to everyone who came out.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cleveland Ohio - November 26th Fundraiser Planned for Couple Injured in Accident in South America

November 26th Fundraiser Planned for Couple Injured in Accident in South America
Cleveland, Ohio – A local man and his wife were seriously injured, with burns over much of their bodies, as a result of an accident in Rio De Janeiro this summer and friends have organized an event to benefit the couple on Nov. 26 at 8 p.m. at Anatomy NightClub and Ultralounge in downtown Cleveland. Taking advantage of the holiday spirit and the traditions of giving and coming together, everyone is invited to the McLaughlin/Lowry Fund Concert and Fund Raiser on Nov. 26 at Anatomy.
David McLaughlin, who is a graduate of North Olmsted High School and has family in North Olmsted and Lakewood, and his wife Sarah Lowry were living in Rio De Janeiro Brazil as part of McLaughlin’s Doctorate program at The Ohio State University and were burned after a manhole cover exploded underneath them in June of this year. One of the couple’s friends Nick Collins has organized the McLaughlin/Lowry Fund Concert and Fund Raiser to help the two with medical and living expenses. The Nov. 26th event will feature the reunion of McLaughlin’s high school band, Booty Scooty, as well as 50/50 drawings and Chinese raffle prizes. Tickets for the event can be purchased at the door or in advance at The ticket proceeds and all the proceeds from the raffles and contests will go directly to McLaughlin and Lowry. Anatomy Nighclub is also donating a portion of alcohol sales at the event to the couple.
Anatomy Nightclub is located at 1299 W. 9th Street in Cleveland Ohio. The McLaughlin/Lowry Benefit will feature performances by Booty Scooty and DJ Rimon, of Trackstar DJs. The event is scheduled from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. and raffles prizes include gift cards to Melt Bar & Grill, studio time at Artist for a day, yoga lessons, memberships to Curves and passes to Swings N’ Things.
For more information on the McLaughlin/Lowry Fund Concert and Fundraiser visit For more information on Anatomy visit
Those who cannot attend the event can donate to McLaughlin and Lowry through Paypal or by purchasing a Heart of Love ornament by visiting
For additional information contact Nick and Jenni Collins via email at or Mike Hammer at or 440.465.7676.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

CWC 2010 Challenge 2 - It's All Junk

It’s All Junk
A collector finds more than he bargains for while digging around a local junkyard.

Jerry was definitely staring at a 1931 King Kong 1 player flattop wooden pinball machine. It was beat to hell on the outside, but the artwork was still intact. The marble top and the sturdy glass on top of the table looked good too, but the Walnut wooden legs were knicked and scratched and chipped and chunked, but it still would be worth a few thousand. Jerry stood in the wood shed in the back corner of the lot for Ernie’s Junkyard and smiled. Sometimes an adventure does pay off, he thought to himself. His padlock picking skills also made him smile.
The smell in the shed was vicious though, and he hoped it wouldn’t stick with the machine when he got it home, or stick in his car on the 45 min drive back. Jerry stood with his hands on his hips and a victorious smile on his face staring at the machine when he heard someone approaching behind him.
Jerry saw Ernie coming toward him, he flashed a big smile, but Ernie look scared.
“This section is all useless Mr, it’s blocked off, I thought this shed was locked, it’s dangerous, health department said too many rats or something and they are gonna tear it down, come on out of there, Ernie said, grabbing Jerry firmly by the shoulder and guiding him out of the shed.
Ernie pulled the doors of the shed closed and ut the padlock back on. He smiled nervously and turned to Jerry saying “I’m sorry about that, let’s get you back up front – I think I found some flippers for ya.”
Jerry smiled big and starting walking up to the junkyard office. It seemed Ernie kept most of his stuff up front in the corner furthest away from the wood shed. Jerry looked at the shitty flippers Ernie handed him and even though they clearly weren’t for a Star Wars pinball game from any year Jerry smiled and paid him 22 dollars and thanked him.
Ernie walked Jerry out to his truck, he was the last customer of the day, and Jerry shook his hand and drove away. Later that night around midnight Jerry came back to Ernie’s Junkyard. He carried a black gym bag and wore a ski mask. Instead of approaching the front gate Jerry came around the back of the junkyard near the shed. He pulled a large pair of wire clippers out of his bag and began to cut a large round entrance in the gate.
Once Jerry found himself back in the shed he set up some lights and analyzed the best way to get the machine un stacked from the rest of the wood and do it as fast as he could, cause the smell was making him naesous and he didn’t wanna run across to many huge rats. Jerry got on the floor next to the pinball machine and shined his flashlight on the legs of the machine to see if it was got anything. When Jerry touched the leg he felt something cold and wet though. He was worried he might have to cut the legs off now. He looked at his hands and saw blood.
Jerry knew he hadn’t cut himself so he looked around for the source of the blood, probably a dead rat. He shined the flashlight along the ground and saw a pool of blood below a big box. He pulled a crowbar out of his bag and pryed the top off the wooden crate. It wasn’t easy cause the crate was sealed up tight, and when he got it open he jumped back from the awful stench. Inside the crate was blood and body parts were everywhere. Jerry threw up and stumbled outside,
His head was spinning. He was a shady collector, not the worst guy in the world, but not a guy who wanted to call the cops either. He opened the door of the shed wide and saw more crates in the moonlight. There could be hacked up bodies in every one of those crates he thought.
Jerry took his cell phone out of his pocket and flipped it open, then he closed it. He scrambled back to his truck and pulled out pen and paper and scotch tape. He went back in the shed and wrote “Belongs to Jerry Calendine. Telephone 509.534.8788 and taped the paper to the top of the pinball machine. He cleaned up all his stuff then went back to his truck and drove home.
After getting home Jerry smoked 5 cigarettes then walked out his front door and own the street to the pay phone. He dialed 911 and reported dead bodies in the wood shed at Ernie’s Junkyard, then hung up.
The next day Jerry opened they paper and found a story about 25 bodies, all cut up in pieces and put inside useless junk, found at Ernie’s Junkyard. The evening news showed Ernie being led away in handcuffs as Ernie shouted “The people were JUNK. They were JUNK. Nobody missed them. The world is better without them.”
One year later Ernie was sentenced to life in prison for multiple homicides.
One year and 3 months later Jerry received the delivery of a 1931 flat top wooden King Kong pinball machine.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

CWC 2010 - Challenge 1 - The Fairytale That Saved The Country

“That is the stupidest piece of intelligence I’ve ever heard,” said Col. Donovan.
“That doesn’t mean it’s not true,” Grombach replied.
Donovan handed a pile of manila folders back to Grombach and said “Get rid of that shit. I don’t have room in my budget for fairytales.”
Jean Grombach left Col. Donovan’s office at the CIA knowing the Pond was going to be shut down soon. He grumbled to himself in French and wondered what he had to do to convince the suits in charge that the clandestine intelligence gathering his group performed was going invaluable for the future of the United States of America.
Since 1942 the Pond had been secretly gathering intelligence, working as civilians, infiltrating anti-American organizations, following leads and theories and rumors. The President and some top level Department of Defense and FBI people were the only ones who knew the Pond even existed. Now Grombach wondered if he made the structure of the organization too small, wondered if the group had a bigger profile would their vital contributions be more noticeable.
The 1960s were fast approaching, Gromabach held a file in his hand that contained a report about a communist family living in the suburbs of St. Louis and trying to spread communism and Donovan thought it was a fairytale. He had sent reports straight to the FBI and the DoD detailing secret meetings, funded by unknown sources, between the United States State Department and Eastern European operatives and officials, but they didn’t wanna hear about that. They didn’t wanna hear about possible space cars being assembled underground in North Dakota, or the North Koreans working on a wind machine that could make a lake disappear, or Russia exporting bottles of Vodka laced with drugs to turn men infertile. They didn’t wanna hear anything that couldn’t be substantiated by a fact checker.
Grombach had clearly written it in his report last year “Intelligence is the gathering of data on selected subjects without regard to correctness. Nor can intelligence be limited to the subjects indicated for investigation but odds and ends of sometimes unrelated data provide the cement that binds the mosaic. It is therefore impossible to eliminate any material, no matter how far-fetched it may appear to be at a given moment. How one can eliminate anything within a few days after its receipt is difficult to understand.”
Grombach went to the Pond’s little office at the bottom of the International Relations building on Pennsylvania Avenue and packed up everything. He threw all the boxes in the back of the CIA car they had loaned him this week and started driving to New York, leaving behind nothing in the Washington Pond office. drove all night and got into NYC late on Friday night, but he went to the NYC Pond office, the Universal Services Corporation building on 52nd Street. He got all the files out of the car and brought them into his office then fell asleep in his desk chair. He woke to the sound of someone slamming a car door the next afternoon, ate a bowl of dry cereal and started going through all the NYC office files. He took out and packed the ones he considered most important, attacks thru fluoride in the drinking water, teams of undercover Russian school principals destroying all the economics and political books in the nation’s elementary schools, etc. and took all the Washington DC files and the NYC files that he packed down to the CIA car again. Grombach drove to his small place in rural New Jersey and packed all the reports he had at home and put them in the car. He sat at home, at his dinner, listened to the radio, then fell asleep with the lights still on. He woke up Sunday morning in his living room recliner, wearing the same clothes he put on Friday morning.
Monday morning Grombach was supposed to be in Col. Donovan’s office again, he got into his shower Sunday morning and decided the best place to hide the files was the house he grew up in. He got out of the shower, packed a small suitcase with a few changes of clothes and hygiene related items then got back in the CIA car and headed for New Orleans. He slept in the car when he was tired, but drove nonstop otherwise. He got to his old home early Wednesday. His father was the French Consul to the United States down here once upon a time. Now he was going to save the United States, and maybe France, and maybe the world, by hiding all the Pond documents from the last 10 years in his family’s house in New Orleans. His sister still lived at the house, and he told her he had large amounts of massively important documents to move into the horse stable, and that’s what he did. He cleaned an area, stored the files, covered them with a tarp, told his sister not to go near them, then showered dressed and drove back to Washington DC.
Grombach walked into Col Donovan’s office exactly 1 week after he walked out of it and as he closed the door Donovan said “Grombach I don’t know where you’ve been or what you’ve been doing, but it gives me great pleasure to tell you that the United States of America will no longer need your services. You can pay the staff for the rest of the year but you are to cease and desist all covert information gathering by the Pond.”
“I’ve already saved all our work, you can’t destroy in Colonel,” said Grombach. “When McCarthy and then the President starts asking how the communists got into the United States, and where all the clean drinking water in Wisconsin disappeared to and how we lost 3 submarines I’ll have all the paperwork to show him. I won’t let you get rid of it this time.
Donovan said “Don’t come back to the CIA, or I’ll have you shot.”

Monday, May 31, 2010

Music Review: Off With Their Heads - From the Bottom

From the Bottom is bad attitude - drunken, spitting, gorgeous punk rock. There are 12 tracks on the release and only one is more than three minutes long; that should tell you what kind of chainsaw guitars, crashing drums, dirty bass playing, and angry shouting you’re about to hear.

The first track, “I Am You,” gets the CD off to a roaring start with some catchy guitar chords and vocalist/guitarist Ryan Young spouting “I’ll tell you why I fucking hate my life and I’ll tell you why I can’t seem to get it right.” The entire CD continues on high gear with pissed off musings and destructive thoughts delivered with standard 4/4 high impact drums, aggressive basslines, and feedback a plenty.

Off With Their Heads sounds like Anti Flag, and a little like Sex Pistols crossed with Hot Water Music. They have one goal: to tell the story of cynical, pissed off, hyperactive, and frustrated youth while rocking you. Young shouts “Until the day I die I swear I’m gonna make your life as miserable as mine” and the rhythmic noise the band manufactures makes you feel good about it.

This CD is high energy and catchy. Young slips in some good lyrics – like “Don’t fucking believe everything that you read. Don’t trust everything that you see on TV. Subscriptions and ratings are all that they need.” – and the musicianship is tight.

Off With Their Heads is a traditional punk rock band, but they don’t just rely on loud, sloppy chords. The band crafts powerful two-minute synchronized attacks on your ears, with an occasional breakdown. From the Bottom is the third release for Off With Their Heads on No Idea Records - and they have done the road warrior thing with bands like NoFX, The Queers, Dillenger Four, Groovie Ghoulies and No Use For a Name, so they would have a good resume if punk rockers cared about shit like that.

Right now, Off With Their Heads is out on the road tearing up shit at beer filled venues across the U.S. and growing their resume.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Music Review: Sonya Kitchell - This Storm

Put in the CD This Storm and out comes a big fresh breath of air, the strong, unique voice of teenager Sonya Kitchell. She is a singer/songwriter in the vein of Ani Difranco, Tracy Chapman, and PJ Harvey who plays guitar and croons like we all tried to do in our basement in high school, but the difference is she’s actually tremendously talented.

This is Kitchell’s second album. She got a lot of press after her debut Words Come Back to Me because she was only 15 when she recorded it and she showed a ton of promise to be a powerful artist who sticks around for a while.

On This Storm, released on Velour Recordings, she continues to grow and shows even more signs of one day becoming an immortal songwriter, but she’s not quite there yet. This Storm is a gentle record, with some dark moments, it flows nicely and is touching and catchy. Kitchell’s voice is the stuff on the wind after a summer rainstorm. It is uncommonly gorgeous, a mix of R&B, jazz, and coffeehouse girl punk. Her voice is calm and deliberate, but earnest and sometimes surprisingly powerful. Kitchell ranges from a soft grumble to a strained chirp, sounding a bit indecisive and uneven at some points, but always coming back to a soft, warm, middle area. The songs are each worth multiple listens, are each full of flavor and occasionally are brilliant, but Kitchell does take a few bad steps.

The 12-tracks on This Storm all have several degrees of loveliness. Kitchell’s voice; the soft, jazzy drumming or blues bass behind her; and the chipper guitars work to massage the eardrums, with some pretty good results.

The CD opens up with one of the more up-tempo songs on the disc, “For Every Drop.” Her voice dances high and low as she sings “Oh my God, just confess, you want it, you want it, you’re just like the rest. Oh dear child, don’t deny, you need it, need it for your alibi.” “Soldier’s Lament,” and “Who Knows After All,” are the other tracks on the CD with similar tempo, and they are some of the best songs on This Storm.
After the strong opening track, Kitchell falters a bit with probably the worst track on the disc, “Borderline.” It feels too much like a hodgepodge, with smokey blues verses crossed with a cheerleader sing-a-long chorus. Track 3, “Running,” again misses the mark, with Kitchell trying to deal out a soulful life story, but not fully committing to it and missing the true bluesy power her voice and the clean, slightly bluegrassy guitar, hint at.

The track the does successfully combine soul and rock and bluesy swagger beautifully is “Fire.” Definitely the strongest song on the CD, "Fire" is full-bellied and intense, Kitchell belts out the story of a rocky relationship and the guitars wail and wiggle and invite the listener close to warm their hands. I would definitely pump my fist, close my eyes and sing “Fire” at the top of my lungs at a Kitchell concert.

The other songs on This Storm are mostly slower ballads and Kitchell seems less comfortable on them. They are delivered uniquely and have some memorable moments, but overall they miss the mark.

Kitchell has an engaging voice and her lyrics are unembarrassed and direct. Her words and voice are a great tandem, working together to take listeners to the exact spot of the brain or heart that she wants. The breeze blowing out of the CD will pick a listener up for a ride in the high mountains and the low, sometimes foggy, valleys.

None of the songs on this CD are bad, and This Storm can easily be comfortable background music, played again and again, but it does have some faults. She definitely is a talent though, and one to watch. In fact, she’s on tour right now. Visit her website and find the dates, and go watch her.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Music Review: Damien Jurado - Caught in the Trees

Singer/songwriter Damien Jurado has released about a dozen records in his career; all of them powerful, intimate, and intelligent efforts. He plays guitar and tells cryptic and touching stories. Most of his songs inhabit a sparse, quiet area - similar to the songs of Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, and occasionally Neil Young or more recently Peter Bjorn and John. A few of his CDs have shown that he can write more rocking songs, but he still is most comfortable as a guy with his acoustic guitar, quietly singing lyrics scribbled on the back of a napkin.

Caught in the Trees – released on the Secretly Canadian website - is an effort of mostly gentle lullabies, but it does rock at a few points. The 13-track effort is a solid effort that flows nicely, and Jurado’s lyrics are straightforward and touching. The album feels like a section from a melancholy autobiography that is translated to music. Jurado’s slightly screechy voice is confident as he sings about the ins and outs of humanity, his favorite, and best, topic. He is supported wonderfully by sharp, muted, drumming, strings, pianos and female backing vocals.

Jurado’s songs are always set to his own point of view, and often start or stop in unexpected places, or changes at random points. The musicianship is pleasant and the storytelling is vivid on Caught in the Trees. With lyrics like “You’ll be happy to know the situation is worse,” “You look like you could use a rest. You look like you’d be better off dead,” “I’m no lie detector. He’s no bullshit talker,” “Are you alright? You’re making me nervous with how much you’re leaving me here,” and “Another jealous husband to be killed,” overtop of downtempo, full guitar chords, restrained drumming and sprinkles of strings and pianos, Caught in the Trees is Damien Jurado’s murky heartbeat. It kicks up a couple times, but stays mostly somber, but is always intense and interesting.

Caught in the Trees is a CD that could be played over and over again in the background of your activities. It is a gentle effort, not demanding attention, not screaming at you, but is nicely rhythmic and overall a lovely, subdued effort - similar to most of Jurado’s other efforts. Since they are all beautifully simple and smart, that is a good thing.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Music Review: One Day As A Lion

One Day As A Lion is a duo, made up of former Rage Against the Machine frontman Zack de la Rocha and former Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore. Zack sings/raps and plays keyboards and Jon drums and they produce a fuzzy rock sound with Zack’s traditional bare-knuckled poetry. It is a perfect setup for the street poet, Zack, to spit his open mic poetry jam overtop a dirty little beat that won’t let you go.

The band says they take their name from a 1970 photograph taken of a graffiti message: “It’s better to live one day as a lion, than a thousand years as a lamb.” Although this is only the band's first release and not a full-length CD, it does have the feel of a duo that is bearing their big, strong, air-filled chest of a lion and pouncing on the music. These songs feel a bit like they were rushed, hasty, and sloppy, but they also feel intimate and intense and like they are begging to get to your brain.

What strikes the ear first are the thick sounds of the ep. It is a 5-song effort – released on Anti Records - that feels very meaty. These songs don’t feel as sparse as they really are, with just the 2 instruments. The homemade noise aspect of One Day As A Lion fills the room, throbbing and scratching the chalkboard, and Zack’s lyrics are apparently personal but also readily expand to open up some interesting thoughts.

The ep opens up with “Wild International” a short fuzzy keyboard hook ontop of some jazzy high-hat rhythms and Zack lays out a tale of homogeneous radio and a god who doesn’t care. “Ocean View” is the second track and Zack says “You can have the mic or the heater, but you can’t have both” in the world of rap and violence, and an ocean of tears. The third track, “Last Letter,” is the strongest on the EP. Zack again hits on themes of god and pain and negligence and disregard spouting the lines “Your god is a homeless assassin/ who roams the world to save/ he’s digging for buried treasure/ leaving nothing but fields of graves.” The track is the most dynamic on the EP, with Jon’s rolling, powerful drumming and Zack’s hard-hitting lyrics and vocal style are both displayed beautifully.

Zack lays out some more street wisdom in track 4, “If You Fear Dying.” The ‘mic and the heater’ are mentioned again as Zack embodies a plethora of possible dangers, but says “If you fear dying, then you’re already dead.” The closing song is a bit more high-pitched and thumping and Zack again touches the dangers of life, with some simple and powerful lines and says it may be time to live “One Day As A Lion.” Maybe it is today.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Music Review: Andre Williams & The New Orleans Hellhounds – Can You Deal With It?

Cult R&B hero Andre “Mr. Rhythm” Williams – the nickname apparently came from Redd Foxx so it’s cool by me - has been around the R&B, soul, blues, and a touch of the punk, scenes for a long time. Some call him the ‘father of rap’ for his ‘talk-singing’ approach to vocals. He worked for Motown Records and Chess Records; produced records for/with and wrote songs for Stevie Wonder and Ike Turner; and worked with Parliament Funkadelic, John Spencer Blues Explosion, and others and is still a spicy live wire at 80 some years old.

Can You Deal With It? - released on Bloodshot Records, is his 12th solo album (5th on Bloodshot) and it is a foot stomping, handclapping, booty slapping, titty grabbing mess of funk, fuzzy soul, and the blues. It sounds like a combination of Otis Redding and Wesley Willis. Can You Deal With It? is part love songs and fist pounding, drunken sing-alongs and part raunchy, sloppy noise-fuelled romp. Williams is a slightly insane R&B crooner with a slutty soul, and the 9-track album is an interesting and funky release.

The album opens up with the title track breaking down the fence and spitting on your face. “Pray for you daughter” is a song about a lost girl stuck in a downward spiral of sex and drugs, “If you leave me” is a sweet love song about a man who threatens to kill his “ho” if she tries to leave him, and “Rosalie” is a happy, 50s-style, hip-shaker about a girl sneaking out, and maybe giving it up under the porch.

The New Orleans Hellhounds back up Williams with saxophones, organ, fuzzy guitars and attitude. They fit wonderfully next to Williams and his swaggering, naughty, delivery. They set a wonderful beat and fill in the empty moments with a drunken grace. The best two tracks on the album are “Hear ya dance” a slow spoken-word like piece with a man calling up his girl to hear her dance on the phone, and “Your Woman,” an intense bluesy breakdown with mad funk hornage and Williams smoky barking about giving back a woman he doesn’t want any more, or maybe keeping the “old lady.” It definitely has some fun and some relief and awesome swanky jamming and organ grooving to it.

The album dies down with “Can’t take ’em off” – a saucy, throwback sounding end of the night drunken plea to move your panties to the side.

This is not my favorite album, and not the best thing since sliced bread, but it is powerful and interesting and has a naughty appeal. It is some throwback R&B that has a lot more heart than any polished BET featured radio artist of today and it’s worth at least one listen, if not more than that.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Music Review: Alejandro Escovedo - Real Animal

The latest offering from Alejandro Escovedo is a powerful musical diary entry. It is a quirky and catchy and completely pleasant album that is nicely polished – produced by old Escovedo friend Tony Visconti - and unique.

This is Escovedo’s 10th solo album and he continues to write charming, sharp, witty, touching songs each and every time. He is a master songwriter and touches souls in a way that never goes wrong, similar to Damien Jurado or Mark Kozelek of Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon.

His sound is a mix of Elvis Costello, Billy Bragg, and Jurado. His background was in punk bands and he still rocks out, but the beauty of his songs is the musical texture, and the ebbs and flows.

Real Animal is a 13-track effort put out on Back Porch/Manhattan Records and is Escovedo at his finest. He is brash and beautiful on the album, plaintive and playful, alt-country, punk rocker, and troubadour. He always writes and sings in a straightforward way and the lyrics are personal stories from a private notebook. On “Sister Lost Soul” Escovedo sings about the sadness of losing loved ones “Nobody left here unbroken/Nobody left her unscarred/Nobody here is talking/That’s just the way things are/ You had to go without me/You wandered off alone/And all the neon light reflecting off the sidewalk/Only reminds me you’re not coming home.”

The song “Chelsea Hotel ‘78” tells the story of a man living in a rock 'n' roll hotel “And it makes no sense/And it makes perfect sense.” A couple songs just have feel good lyrics about friendship and goodwill “People (We’re only gonna live so long)” and “Always a Friend,” and “Swallows of San Juan,” and “Slow Down” are downbeat ballads. Every song is infused with Escovedo’s unique viewpoints, heartache, and joy.
The album feels so real because it covers the gamut of emotions and lets the listener in. It is easy to identify with Escovedo. His voice is sturdy but gloomy, then excited and then hopeful and he weaves all of it together nicely on Real Animal.

Escovedo’s band – David Pulkingham on guitar and keyboards, Chuck Prophet on guitar, Josh Gravelin on bass and keyboards, Hector Munoz on drums, Susan Voelz on violin, Brian Standler on cello - is a perfect unit. The drums and bass always keep the songs steady, the violin adds a wonderful layer of sadness but also a spastic layer, and the guitars guide the mood, staying low key sometimes and ratcheting it up on other songs. There are also some organs, and saxophones added in on the album the help it function on additional levels and brings out even more emotions.

This album is a lovely effort. It is paced nicely, has a good mixture of rockers and dusty lullabies and the track order keeps things very upbeat and interesting. “Real as an Animal” is a rocker and so is “Chelsea Hotel ‘78” and they are probably the most powerful songs on the album, along with the bouncy “Smoke.” Escovedo’s punk rock background keeps things pounding and joyful, the slow ballads keep things thoughtful and touching and, in the end, Real Animal keeps Escovedo firmly in place as one of the most wonderful songwriters of this era.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Music Review: Envy - Abyssal

Envy is a beast. A five-piece dynamic, hardcore band from Japan that deals screaming guitars, pummeling drums, and guttural screams straight to your chest. The band has been around for a while and continues to grow into an epic, rib cage vibrating, jolt of momentum.

In 2006 Envy released their most accomplished, surprising, beautiful, and intense album, Insomniac Doze on Temporary Residence. Abyssal is a 30-minute, 4-song EP that has flashes of some of the terrible beauty that was Insomniac Doze. It is an album that approaches quietly, then pounces on you and rides you up a mountain, down the other side and through a valley into a lush green meadow, that quickly turns to an empty field of burnt and smoldering dreams. However, Abyssal is a less focused album, although it still features some wonderfully accomplished atmospheric metal songs.

The 4 songs – "Road of Winds that Water Builds," "All That’s Left has Gone to Sleep," "Thousand Scars," and "Fading Vision" all share a driving and intense drumbeat from drummer Dairoku Seki and textured guitars from Nobukata Kawai and Masahiro Tobita. The two guitar players mash sounds together quiet well and they never seem to leave any empty space, or maybe they leave the perfect amount of empty space.

Envy has songs that are structured more like symphonies, with cues for when the drums should rise, the bass should dance, and the screaming should obliterate everything. The lyrics are all in Japanese, there is translation in the note sheet, although understanding the lyrics isn’t that important. It is the emotion forced out of lead singer Tetsuya Fukagawa that is.

Unfortunately the emotions can get old. Out of 30 minutes there are only about 6 or 7 minutes that are unique, undeniable, must-listen moments. The rest of the ep kinda blends together.

The tunes on Abyssal run from 4 minutes to 10 minutes long and it’s length is one of it’s downfalls, with more time Envy might have compiled another outstanding tour de force CD, but this effort feels abbreviated. Like there were only 10 or 15 minutes of polished material, but they had to stretch it out to put together this EP.

It’s still a good effort, but not their most memorable and it doesn’t seem like they had to rush this release out. They should have taken their time and put together a proper full-length album, which they will hopefully do next time.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Music Review: Minus the Bear - They Make Beer Commercials Like This

hey Make Beer Commercials Like This is a remastered and enhanced version – with one song added - of a 2004 EP from this Seattle-based happy rock band, released here on Suicide Squeeze Records.

Featuring members of Botch and Sharks Keep Moving, among others, Minus The Bear is a fantastically catchy, indie-pop quintet that has always had the ability to get a listener’s attention with dance rhythms and powerful guitar work. The guitar is the basis of the band. It is neat and wildly expansive, it twists and turns, lays low and paints a beautiful unnoticed picture and then taps you on the shoulder to offer you a beer, before going back to work.

The band is more rockin version of Joan of Arc or a slightly laid back version of Radiohead.

“Hey, Is That A Ninja Up There,” the fifth of seven tracks on They Make Beer Commercials Like This is a perfect example of the grace and power of the band. The drumbeats are strong and never timid, riling things up at just the right time. The bass is a pleasant smokey scent in the background and the guitar is the great conductor – going from quiet to full force to gentle space monster and back again.

Most of the songs from Minus The Bear are this way. They are a spectacular band, and they have a great sense of humor – with song titles like “I’m Totally Not Down With Rob’s Alien” and “Houston, We Have Uh-Oh” – and tremendously fun vibe. Jake Snider’s lyrics are always half thoughtful and half fun and that is how life should be, I think.

A track from Minus the Bear never stops; it is constantly moving forward and dancing you around a gargantuan planetarium.

The only fault I can find with Minus The Bear, if it is a fault, is that all their songs are similar, similar pacing, similar lyrics, timing, and elements. They don’t spend a tremendous amount of time experimenting. They have 9 or 10 releases out now and they all follow the same formula. But, a lot of artists and bands – from The Grateful Dead to Ani Difranco – have made careers off releasing the same album over and over again, and Minus The Bear does it well. Since they formed in 2001 they have grown their fan base and they even hit late night TV – Jimmy Kimmel – in July of this year. They constantly put out quality releases and I guess that is the goal of any band.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Music Review: P.W. Long - God Bless The Drunkard’s Dog

“Come on come one and Shake what you got. Well easy does it, cause it looks like you got quite a lot.” - "Shake" by P.W. Long on God Bless The Drunkard’s Dog.

P.W. Long has been around the indie rock scene for years. In the early 90s he was lead man in the band Mule and after that he had a trio called P.W. Long’s Reelfoot that included the drummer from Jesus Lizard. However, for the past four or five years he has been doing the solo thing, and he definitely knows how to do that.

God Bless The Drunkard’s Dog is P.W. Long’s fourth solo album and is a catchy blues-fuelled rock CD. P.W. screeches out like a mixture of Joe Cocker and the Black Keys, playing catchy southern rock and blues, similar to Jon Spencer Blues Explosion with a bit of T Model Ford.

The album is full of jangly guitars, playing traditional blues licks filled with smoke. Drums lay down a solid base of despair as P.W. sings songs that he must have written on the roadside, near a garbage can fire, after a day of frustration. The spare instrumentation, the album is played almost exclusively with just guitar and drums, gives God Bless The Drunkard’s Dog an intimate feel. Because of the lack of layers it doesn’t take long to get to the core of the songs, to hit the point. And the point seems to be P.W. wants you to shake your butt a bit, bob your head, and sneer.

The lyrics are a bit Frank Zappa, a bit B.B. King and a bit Bruce Springsteen. According to the liner notes in the CD, P.W. wrote the lyrics and then had them translated to different languages by local college students, and then back to English by other students. The translations revealed differences in wording and emotion and P.W. kept some of the translated words in the songs and changed some of the titles around. The songs get better with repeated listens to the album. You get caught up in the dirty groove and backwoods preaching. The album takes you to that place where you embrace your sorrow and revel in it, play the foil perfectly and mess with everybody else, cause you got a little bit of heartbreak inside that you need to hide.

The best tracks on the disc are “Crazy Tonight” and “(Let ’em) Roll” because they are just pure hook. Stripped down rock and roll that beats on your chest, pumps you up and puts that stone cold stare in your eye so you will go one-on-one with any one in the room. The next best songs are “Sweetest Weirdo” a quirky love ballad from your local coffee shop troubadour and “Owed (To The Next Life),” which is probably the most traditional bleeding heart, blues, love song on the disc.

The delivery of the 13 songs on God Bless The Drunkard’s Dog doesn’t change much, but it’s really effective when it does. I could definitely see some hotties dancing and getting it on to this album, so it’s effective that way too. But, mostly, the album is a straightforward rock/blues swaggerfest that is tough but likeable.