One of my anti-brothers will be giving
this disc a full review treatment but as this installment of To The Point
was getting ready to go to press the advance of "Frances The Mute" came
in and I wanted to say a few informal words about it. First off,
the wait was worth it. The Mars Volta managed to not only pick up where
"Deloused In The Comatorium" left off but they go far beyond it.
This album is a trip from start to finish and I mean that in the literal
sense, it will take you on a musical journey (similar to a CD reviewed
later on here). I used to be of the mind that Sparta were a little
better than their other post At The Drive-In counterparts but after hearing
this CD I have to give The Mars Volta the leg up. And the one thing that
really stands out for me is that on this go round the band manages to stay
true to their formula but also created a surefire radio hit with "The Window",
a song that would give Coldplay wetdreams. This is the one album
this year that you absolutely must own. Ok, one of my fellow anti
scribes will have a full write up for you soon but I had to get the early
buzz out on this amazing album. Now on with this month's installment
of To the Point!
The Frames have kept fans waiting four
years for a new studio album. So was the wait worth it? If you are a big
fan, then the pay off for your patience is a more mature Frames. U2 are
thought of the top of the Irish rock chain but The Frames give them a run
for their money with this CD, a dark brooding affair with ambient soundscapes
and a melancholy temperament. That's the big reason why this band will
never become the "super stars" on level with U2, they don't sacrifice their
musical vision for pop radio attractiveness. In the end, that is one of
the biggest things in favor of The Frames. Their music is honest and credible.
From the ironically dark lead off tune "Happy" to the thought provoking
"Locusts", the Frames are musical storytellers in the finest tradition
and while Burn the Maps may not make them household names, to fans looking
for solid music with credibility, you can't go wrong with this CD.
Last Great Hope give us a little taste
of old school and new school punk with a little thrash thrown in to keep
things interesting. Featuring former members of No Fraud, these guys
aren't pretenders. They understand the underpinning of old school punk
and manage to capture a pure melodic nature without crossing over to the
"pop" side and sacrificing punk credentials. But the group's influences
(The Ramones, Motley Crue, The Dead Boys and ZZ Top) also play a part in
broadening the band's sound. Scott Burns (Sepultura, Savatage, Obituary)
did a remarkable job of keeping the raw live vibe when it came to mixing.
"Creatures of Beauty" helps the band live up to their name, a last great
hope for real punk in this world of poppy wannabes.
Kottonmouth Kings frontman Daddy X pulls
out all of the stops on this solo album. This album is a virtual grab-bag
of styles from rock to pop to hip-hop to reggae. He starts out strong with
the highly addictive "Great Escape," a slightly reggae tinged pop gem.
Organic Soul is a exploration from start to finish, perhaps making Daddy-X
a modern day version of Brian Wilson in his willingness to stretch the
bounds of every genre of music he touches. He even takes on old school
style rap (back when it was cool) with "Old School" a song eerily reminiscent
of Eazy-E. Of course, we have the classic standard "Everybody Must
Get Stoned," with a Daddy-X twist. 19 songs in all, Organic Soul
is a definite value for your hard earned cash and just a kick ass collection
of songs. Smoke a fattie and pop this puppy in and get ready for take-off!
Alice's Garden is an old school metal band
featuring Dave Devine, the former vocalist of Drain Bramage and Amnesia.
To get a feel for Devine's style I'll step out on a limb and say that Judas
Priest missed the boat by hiring Ripper over this guy. Guitarist Jesse
James certainly worships at the classic metal alter and delivers some rippin'
solos and beefy riffs (or is it "monster" riffs?). Musically, Alice'
Garden keeps the old school metal alive but incorporates some modern vibe
in the rhythm department. We don't hear much metal like this these days
and that's a bad thing. The closest comparison is to early Judas Priest
and you can't wrong with that. Although the production isn't the greatest,
this is a turbo charged rocker from start to finish sure to get classic
metalheads with both fists in the air and heads banging. The real drawback
on this CD is the drums, they sound rather hollow like a cheap drum machine
but the other parts make up for this deficiency. If you're a fan
of old Priest or classic metal, definitely pick this disc up it will help
you forget that Limp Bizkit ever happened.
"Songs From The Third Rail" offers up a
surprisingly cohesive collection of artists on the cutting edge of indie
rock and pop, along with some forgettable hip-hop and jazz. Ari Hest
starts it off with his brand of singer/songwriter pop with "They're On
To Me", then Sue Generis comes in with a great indie alternative number
called "C#". Another up and coming singer/songwriter Adam Mugavero delivers
"Part of it All," which shows that Adam might just be this generations
answer to Eric Carmen (his album got a five star rating from Gary for a
very good reason; this guy is the real deal and a superstar in the making).
Black Bottom Collective is by the numbers hip-hop but Everyday Visuals
deliver a radio friend alt-pop track called "Broken Car Ride" vaguely reminiscent
of early Coldplay or Dishwalla. November Factory come on a few tracks
later with another new school alt-tinged singer/songwriter pop number.
Which is a good effort but not as strong as the other similar artists on
this disc. Drex Davis is mellowdrone without the hooks or clever lyrics.
Nandi Walker is second last with a forgettable dance-hop track but Sue
Generis returns to give this disc a strong finish with "Back to Nowhere,"
a mid-tempoed track that would have been a surefire radio hit in the late
90s. The last quarter of the song where things kick up a few notches is
what really sets this one apart.
All in all there are some strong tracks
here that lift up the filler or mediocre. Although, you'd probably be better
off just picking up the individual cds from the standout artists.
Mix in one part humor, three parts grungy
guitars and a very small dose of power-pop and you get the stylings of
Faster Disaster and band straight from the underground with riff happy
songs and layered vocals. The best part of the album is the old school
riffing and guitar solos. It's a pretty consistent album with bits of humor
and guitars galore throughout. The only real draw back are the female backing
vocals which sound a bit out of place at times but overall this a great
underground rock CD. If you like classic guitar rock or early grunge then
definitely check this band out.
Looking to get your fill of Brit pop?
Look no further than Austin, Texas based Sparkwood, a band that has done
their homework and deliver pure power pop glory with their latest album
"Jalopy Pop". With lush production like The Rembrandts, solid understated
guitar pop chops that ring in the tradition of classic Brit pop, moments
of Queen, and a bit of modern pop infused bands like Jimmy Eat World. If
you are like me and have a special place in your CD collection for lavishly
produced power-pop, then this Jalopy won't breakdown on you. But
it might be a bit too pop for everyone.
Speaking for having an affinity for specific
types of music, Somascetic is about as far removed from Sparkwood as you
can get, but this double album really took me by surprise. I've always
loved concept albums and exploratory music like Pink Floyd or early Moody
Blues, Somascetic take a similar musical trek except in a modern alternative
rock context. To fully understand and appreciate this album is to take
the musical journey yourself. No amount of words will suffice to explain
the depths this musical venture explores. This album is exceptional on
so many levels it is hard to nail them down. The instrumentation, arrangements,
production and songwriting are on par with the above-mentioned bands. It's
an exceptionally ambitious album that could have easily failed to live
up to the vision but in the end, Somascetic deliver. Not everyone will
get this music but if you are prepared to let you mind wonder and truly
experience it, this will album will take you on a real musical journey.
Now that I've give you my quick hits on
some new music, some of my anti-friends want to check in with some quick
reviews as well.
(review by Ed Rivadavia) Never the most
aggressive of re-issue labels to begin with, Capitol Records proved even
more sluggish when it came to updating best-selling titles like The Steve
Miller Band's Greatest Hits (1974-1978) - and why not? After all, despite
its seemingly limited time-frame of five years and a paltry three studio
albums, that collection represented what is unquestionably Miller's most
inspired period, and quietly sold in excess of 13 million copies during
its 20-year run to prove this. So, when taking stock of its official and
belated replacement Young Hearts: Complete Greatest Hits' so-called "improvements":
adding nine cuts (culled from Miller's hit-and-miss career both before
and after his golden years) and subtracting one (Book of Dreams' rather
lovely and therefore missed "Winter Time") for a CD-busting total of 22;
it's at once surprising and perfectly understandable to find oneself wondering
if this was such a good idea. Sure, many may rightfully argue that no Steve
Miller Band greatest hits collection could ever be deemed complete without
perhaps their biggest pop hit, "Abracadabra." While others may just as
easily say "Good riddance" and then take issue when the diminishing returns
of those earlier (no protesting the hilarious "Space Cowboy" or even the
startlingly familiar "My Dark Hour," but who really needs "Shubada Du Ma
Ma"?), and especially later career years (see 1980's-cursed production
disasters like "Who do You Love?" and "I Want to make the World Turn Around")
start diluting the utter brilliance of the original track-listing. Of course,
such nit-picking purists may argue back and forth over these silly details
while actual fans simply roll their eyes and get on with buying the newest
Young Hearts, already. But hey, just trying to make sure you know all the
(review by Gary Schwind) 669, a Seattle
quintet, shows some diversified interests on "Touch the Sky". Their
sound ranges from alt-pop that could easily be used in any WB drama (“Hollywood
Love”) to punchier, naughtier songs (“Candy”, “Caution Betrayed”) to political
anthems (“Requiem for Lady Liberty”, “God is not Green”). They also
tell a good story in a few of their songs. Another positive thing
that I’ll put in this category is Cheri Johnson’s voice. Cheri has
the best voice of the three vocalists in this band.
Which brings me to my next topic.
669 could use some work on their vocals. While Cheri has the best
voice, she is relegated strictly to backing vocals. I would be interested
to hear Cheri take the lead vocals on one or more songs. I think
it would lend a certain something that I think this band is missing.
Tony and Shane show good songwriting abilities and but I have to classify
their vocals as just OK. With the stories they tell in their songs,
I think that if they shore up their vocals, they might be on to something.
(review by Joey Grace) This singer-songwriter
puts himself in the ranks of a John Mayer or a David Gray, but may appeal
to a Coldplay or Oasis fan base. Songs like “You’re always gonna
let me down” and “This one” has a Pete Yorn lost love type appeal to them.
Stephen’s sad sap vocals carry well over the acoustic and high-toned electric
guitars. He tries not to sink in the singer-songwriter stereotype,
and tries to mix it up a bit with full band arrangements of low subdued
guitar distortion and vocal reverb. Stephen Minor could be the prototypical-opening
act for the already mentioned bands, but this EP has enough substance to
take a chance on.
(review by Joey Grace) "Here We Are" is
Chris Robertson’s debut album. It’s a layered mutation of the mid 90’s
modern rock standard. Robertson adds subtle elements to each song
to somehow make them not sound like each other. His poetic lyrics
are overshadowed by the stale adult alternative flow. No one track
stands out from another. Each song feature a different level of guitar
effects with dash of flashy keyboards here and there. This is drunken
feel good music, when you're piss drunk at a bar and everything the band
plays seems like the soundtrack to your life.
(review by Joey Grace) Give it up for white
boy college hip-hop. John Fewell throws down the crazy beats while
Chris Ward belts out his high pitched raps. Mc Chris’ robotic flow
shines above the experimental beats rapping about robot dogs, meeting chicks
on Friendster, and Kenny Rogers. This a great album to play when
your hanging in the back yard drinking a few bears with the guys.
Highlights include “Tractorbeam” “Robotdog” and “Boys don’t cry”.
This is funnier than any Bloodhound Gang and not as lame as Nelly.
If you don’t like typical bling-bling gansta rap, and your in the mood
for upbeat retarded music, then give "Eating’s Not Cheating" a try.
(review by Dustin Hupe) And now for something
completely different. Electric Tiger is something to listen to if you're
open minded, but right off the bat if you're expecting melody, vocals,
or anything like that then run away now. The CD is listed as "slambient"
and really is interesting to listen to if you got a little over an hour
to kill. It's full of multiple electric guitars, basses, electric mandolin,
and a drum machine ( I shudder at the thought). With only four songs, each
coming in at close to seventeen minutes a piece, you can find yourself
lost trying to pick out all the different sounds crammed into each track.
(review by Keavin Wiggins - The following
is a preview blurb for Ringside based on a sampler of the forthcoming album
that was sent over) Geffen's latest offering Ringside bridge the best elements
of the classic alternative (Cure, Love & Rockets) with the pop sensibilities
of altrock luminaries like U2 and Coldplay. If you were waiting for the
first buzz-band of 2005, you have found them. The difference this time,
you can believe the hype! This is a band that altrock fans can get
excited about. Ringside just may be the 21st century answer to U2, or at
least a group that has the potential to ably follows in their footsteps.
Posted by nonplussed:
Clearly you're angry because you're not the pretentious intellectual you like to fancy yourself, but actually "a idiot". Nice try back pedalling in your second posting, sucker.
Posted by a smarter person:
And that was a typo there when I fogot to change an to a (I had "intelligent" there but decided it was too intrusive).
Posted by an smarter person:
Okay buddy, on the Frances the Mute review... the radio single is "The Widow" not WINDOW. And don't worry, you aren't the first moron to make that mistake. And it's not a typo since the "n" is not anywhere near the "d" or "i" or any of the other letters in widow!
Posted by Indra:
Electic Tiger is awesome!!
Posted by jellyfishgirl:
I've been hearing a couple songs by SPARKWOOD on Whitsbrain.com and Popbang.com, and they have such a unique, yet retro pop sound. If you like catchy pop tunes with piano, check them out!
Posted by the voice of reason:
fair enough. I've heard good things about the new Mars Volta record. Gotta love bootlegging.
Posted by aG:
Not for this installment. You'll notice that there aren't many "big label" releases mentioned this time. It's nice to pick and choose what to cover.
Posted by the voice of reason:
damn, dude. Was there a CD you didn't like?