January 17, 2001, by Bill Ribas
Mojosmoke, Time Bomb, Baby
Young Dubliners, Red
Burn Guitars, Demo
Rory Merritt Stitt, The Narcissist
Twin Cam, Columbus Day
Richard Lloyd, The Cover Doesn't Matter
Filthy Thieving Bastards, Our Fathers Sent Us
48 in the Basement, with the Backup Plan, Hurry Up and Wait
Collectively Unconscious, Burn the Sky
Eddie Skuller, The Soul of Eddie Skuller (Greatest Hits)
Amen, We Have Come for Your Parents
Mojosmoke, Time Bomb, Baby (© 1999 Mojosmoke)
There's a variety to the songs on this disc, from funk rock to folk, and by the ninth cut, "Bad Season in Time," it hit me their sound is like a next generation Steely Dan, with more emphasis on rock than jazz. Jonathan Moorehead has a voice that covers all the styles flawlessly, while multi-instrumentalist Dave Skoglund takes care of the bulk of the music, shining on guitar solos. The band (duo, is perhaps more apt) has gotten their work onto film scores and television commercials, and there's no reason the tunes shouldn't see airplay as well. This is also a home studio production, and either Moorehead has a bitchin' setup in his parents' basement, or he knows how to squeeze the most out of a small system. Iconoclastic and enjoyable from start to finish.
Young Dubliners, Red (© 2000 OmTown Music)
It's Celtic rock via Los Angeles! Though the first cut, "Bodhran," is an instrumental that'll have you envisioning emerald fields, smoky pubs, or even leprechauns dancing in your cereal, the bulk of the material here is more melodic, rocking and storytelling. The lads are popular (hey, count Rosie as a fan), and have spent years building up a following, claiming to have sold out the West Coast House of Blues 30 times. But the Celtic part of the PR should be dropped sure, there's that damn tin whistle now and again, playing that Irish riff, but it's more of a distraction. Anyway, Bernie Taupin (yep, Elton's buddy) penned the lyrics to the title track (he's another fan), and there's a rousing version of the Waterboys' "Fisherman's Blues," with the other dozen or so tunes all Dubliners material. When they connect, as on "Stop Me" or "Red," it's a sure thing. Odds are, like most "Irish" bands, they're a better bet live. Stock up on Red in time for St. Patricks ....
Burn Guitars, Demo (© 2000 Burn Guitars)
Three bassists, count 'em, three! And not a gutiar in site! Not even a keyboard! Okay, so there's a drummer, but there's always concessions to be made. So on bass you have Papa Bois, Dr. Bitz, and Scott Redeeming, with G-Spot on drums. The members of the group have toured, recorded, and performed with bands such as Memphiskapheles, the Buzzcocks, the Misfits, and Gwar. But the big question is, with all this talent, do three basses work? On paper it sounds like an interesting idea I imagined a lot of interplay, contrapuntal lines, a lot of movement, avant-garde fun. Unfortunately, it sounds like bass (singular), drums, and vocals, and in that respect, almost Spinal Tappish in nature. Man, and I had my hopes up too.
Rory Merritt Stitt, The Narcissist (© 2000 Rory Merritt Stitt)
In his teens, Alaskan native Rory Stitt won the Juneau Symphony Competition twice, and that classical training makes itself known throughout the disc. It's interesting, in that the music and vocals are an almost male version of Tori Amos. And like classical/new age versus pop, there are a lot of abrupt shifts in the music, similar to songs heard in Broadway musicals. The music then, is scattered and theatrical, and if that's what you clamor for, you're in luck. The tunes had me wondering what the music scene is like in Alaska, but before I could pony up cash to find out, a quick read of the press notes says that Stitt has bolted for greener pastures in Oregon. Long story short, if you prefer the dramatic and theatrical, it's a pick. If not, next!
3LW, 3LW (© 2000 Sony Music Entertainment)
This disc is a variously produced and written vehicle for "three little women." And if someone said, hey, a 14, 16, and 17-year old put out a hip hop, r&b disc, you might be disinclined to listen. Then, of course, you'd be missing a good thing. Kiely Williams, Naturi Naughton, and Adrienne Bailon can belt it out or keep it smooth, their voices sounding considerably older than they are. Though you may find a different favorite, "More Than Friends" comes across, to me, as the best cut, and is produced by Full Force (Samantha Fox, Backstreet Boys). Overall, there's a laid back approach to the material, nothing too hard or heavy, providing a, dare I say, romantic feel. If they can keep it together, and nail down a singular producer, they just might go big.
Twin Cam, Columbus Day (© 2000 Twin Cam)
This Ohio-based trio has put together a respectable collection of 11 tunes, a good start for a band that needs a little polishing to really click. Songs are in the vein of Blink 182, the Foo Fighters, and Green Day punk-influenced power pop, and they bounce along well, with enough glimpses of hooks to keep you interested. Where the band loses points is in production. The sound is flat, and awfully muddy for a trio. Mark Borror's guitar has that nasty, lifeless transistor sound that comes from abusing a distortion pedal or using a Peavey amp. And drummer Mike Sammons, who is also the lead singer (how often does that work?) has a voice that's close, but sounds at times stretching, or when doubled, not that good. But what they lack in polish, they make up for with enthusiasm, and I'd like to hear their sophomore effort.
Richard Lloyd, The Cover Doesn't Matter (© 2001 Richard Lloyd)
Remember when you listened to rock records for the guitar work? You heard bits and pieces through a couple of verses, and then, wham, the big solo. Well '90s rock may have strangled that approach, but fortunately there are guys like Richard Lloyd around to keep that guitar whiz thing alive. He pops and squeaks, scrapes the strings with his pick, uses effects without overdoing it, and sounds like he's having a riot the whole time. As a founder of one of the greats, Television, Lloyd has also worked with Matthew Sweet over the years, and now here's his disc for the new millennium. Production is good, considering the disc was recorded in a home studio (is everyone doing this these days?). The songs may not sound catchy out of the box, but they do grow on you, and then there's that guitar work. Rock on man.
Filthy Thieving Bastards, Our Fathers Sent Us (© 2000 TKO Records)
There's been a lot of Irish-influenced rock lately, some of it palatable, some just a horrid mix of traditional tunes and rock. And when the first cut started spinning, I thought, jaysus, 'ere's another. Then the lyrics came through, and I was hooked. Imagine Billy Bragg as a crusty old punk on a bender, ranting and raving like there was no tomorrow. In "Take Me to the Medics," Johnny Bonnel sings, "I'm filthy from the city air, and fucked up cross-eyed drunk, must look like a stray and rabid dog, worn out from puking
up, my friends are all insulting, and a shameless bunch of thugs, with their own counterfeit dignity, fake accents and spilt blood." The other half of FTB, Darius Koski, picks up on guitar, bass, piano, and accordion, as well as singing (the two are also members of the SF outfit Swingin Utters). There are a few electric cuts, but overall the springing acoustic sound, coupled with the bitter and funny lyrics, carry the disc. If you've been jaded by some of the crap out there, here's your chance for a bit o' life.
48 in the Basement, with the Backup Plan, Hurry Up and Wait (© 2000 48 in the Basement)
If you're looking for blistering speed punk backed by a drummer who makes espresso seem like an apéritif, jump right in. The Long Island lads can rip it up, with lightning chord changes on chainsaw guitars, while a song like "Late Night Girl" proves they can be, or attempt (in a punk sense), something more melodic. "Phelia Is Too Perfect" is a complex number, shifting from the melodic to punk and back, and "The Story She Told Me" has some interesting lyrics about the influence of television. The second half of the CD is split with the Backup Plan, another punk outfit (surprise), heavier and less melodic, with scratchy throated screaming vocals, razor guitars, and a drummer who's had a bit less caffeine. Overall, I'd lean toward 48 as the better band, but if you like fast punk, both should suit you fine.
Collectively Unconscious, Burn the Sky (© 2000 Collectively Unconscious)
This quartet from upstate New York have put together a 13-song disc of funky, bluesy rock that seems heavily influenced by '70s classic rock. Though the first song "Seed" sounds a bit too heavy and hard, perseverance leads to a variety of tunes further in. "Drifters" is more balanced, with a funky beat that builds into a jangly chorus, and "Where I Belong" is an upbeat, poppy number that's catchy enough. On the downside, overall, the vocals are weak and strained in spots, though vocalist Rob McIntyre is a music major and should get the kinks worked out by diploma time. Some of the musicianship is a bit sloppy too, like the boys didn't prepare enough before going into the studio. I could quibble about the mix, but enough is enough. More funk boys, since that seems like where you want to go.
Downer, Downer (© 2000 Roadrunner Records)
The name is certainly applicable to the lyrics depressing stuff indeed. Check the opening lines to "Bi-Furious": "Did you ever feel like your life is wasting away? With no purpose to speak of?" It's the kind of stuff that, if ingested too deep, will have you calling the suicide hotline, weeping like a willow. On a brighter note, these boys kick ass, and rock harder than your typical off-the-shelf power-pop band. Sounding a bit like the Offspring on steroids and protein supplements, the sonic assault is a joy to listen to, thanks to the stellar production of Bob Marlette. If only the boys would lighten up a bit in the lyric department, but maybe they've got reasons for being bitter (no one knows the trouble they've seen). Heavy duty stuff, and not for the faint of heart.
Eddie Skuller, The Soul of Eddie Skuller (Greatest Hits) (© 2001 Eddie Skuller)
When you decide you want to be a musician, you never know what's going to happen. Some people thrive; some give it up, and others just keep plugging away. Of the latter is where Skuller fits in, as this Greatest Hits proves. And though there are lots of people plugging away, some are bad and some are good. Skuller is good, and for whatever reason never got noticed and picked up by a large label. Maybe that's too bad; maybe it's not success could have watered down the material. Nevertheless, over the years (1983 to present) Skuller has written intelligent and introspective pop songs, with good arrangements, good production, topped with his emotive and wavering voice, sounding like Tom Verlaine at times, and you just have to wonder about it all, like why there's so much crap on the radio, with guys like Skuller hanging in the shadows.
Amen, We Have Come for Your Parents (© 2000 Virgin Records)
Merge punk, metal, and hardcore, toss in a load of anger and anxiety, multiply it by, oh, a couple thousand, and you'll be prepared to listen to the new offering from Amen. The music rages, and I mean really rages. Lead singer Casey Chaos spews words like red hot nails, screaming in agony at times. Chaos is the real deal in the studio he cut himself with a razor to get in the right frame of mind for the vocals, bled all over the booth, and damn near died (which usually happens when you sever an artery). Though other critics have likened the release to the Sex Pistols (sure, "Mayday" has bits that sound like "Submission"), the similarity is more in the feeling and rawness of the music. Heck, Pistols' guitarist Steve Jones says, "Amen's more pissed off than we ever were." And he should know. They're pissed all right, and, boy, do they ever show it.
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