So Radiohead and Jet get together and head out to a bar. A dark, dirty, nasty townie bar where one glance at the wrong guy could get a bottle smashed on your face. The kind of place where the 50 year old waitress that’s been working there since she dropped out of high school is just far too thick to pull off that mini skirt – but it’s not stopping her. The boys have a few rounds (warm, domestic and cheap from glasses that have never seen soap) and then make their way to the door and head off to a U2 show in at some massive arena in the city. Sound far-fetched? It is. It’s also a fine metaphor for “Black Rebel Motorcycle Club” (BRMC.)
Taking notes from bands like the Sonics and MC5, BRMC are striving to bring a raw energy and an unapologetic dirty attitude to their sound. In fact it’s so dirty that when they move the vibe to half-time it’s just downright raunchy. Combine that with a sometimes more emotionally hyper-produced Radiohead vibe (sometimes resulting in sound layers only dog could hear) and the ability to push – but not break the bounds of marketability and it seems clear that if you haven’t heard of BRMC, you will.
Aside from the production work, Peter Hay’s vocals are the biggest standout on this album. Continuing the band’s theme of intriguing combinations, Peter’s vocals are simultaneously polished enough for top 40, emotionally deep enough to make the young girls swoon, and have just enough rasp to lend credibility to the blues/punk core of the BRMC theme.
How do you combine punk inspired self-destruction with a truck load of moody ambiance and enough hooks to not frighten the kids? After 5 albums and 10 years on the road Black Rebel Motorcycle Club seems to have figured it out.
Ok – so let’s start with the name… “Super Furry Animals” How great is that! For me that’s right up there with other great band names like “Gay Wookie” (a friend of mine came up with that years ago and it has since remained in my top 5 all time favorite band names.)
Now on to the album – “Songbook Vol. 1” to be specific, created by “Super Furry” a.k.a “The Furries” a.k.a “SFA” was released on 1/25/2005. The band has been around since 1993 and has a record catalog of some 12’ish albums and has a serious cult following. I chose Songbook Vol. 1 as my jumping off point into SFA land for no good reason – but I’m damn glad I did.
There is absolutely no shortage of musical influences on this album. I mean you can find everything on here. Psychedelic, Hippie-rock, Techno, House, Folk, Classic-rock, Jazz, Pop, Power-Pop, Brit-Pop, New-wave, Punk, Funk, and everything in between. And that’s not just across the whole of the album – that might just be in one song! Now that may sound frightening – and to be honest at first listen it can be. However, once you surrender yourself to what SFA is trying to do, what they’re trying to say, and the massive challenge of blending all these styles and influences, you find yourself almost rooting for them to succeed.
Let’s face it – it is not easy to bring all these styles together into something that someone would want to listen to – let alone enjoy. But somehow they do it. They really do. And listening to them actually pull it off just makes you happy. There is a lot of ground being covered by this band, and a lot of it is covered with Seussian trees, multi-colored waterfalls, and rivers of mathmos. Still scared? Maybe you should be, but you should also give it a listen. It may not be for you, but you’ve just gotta respect the effort.
If I had to sum up the whole experience, I’d have to say it’s kinda like ‘Three Dog Night’ threw a house party, invited ‘Steriolab’ and ‘The Chemical Brothers’, and they all dropped some acid and spent the evening listening to the Jesus Christ Superstar Soundtrack while writing a new album. Now how intrigued are you…
I start this post with a very special thanks to Ryan Spalding (primary contributor to “Ryan’s Smashing Life”, a larger and much more professional and prolific music blog than my own.) Ryan is an acquaintance who thankfully passed some free tickets to my wife and I for the recent ‘Mission of Burma’ show at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston. We got there in plenty of time to catch the opening band, and honestly had no idea what to expect. What we got was no less than amazing (!) – allow me to poorly set the musical scene…
Without warning we were wrapped in a sultry, snaking bass line that floated through the crowd like winding chains of smoke. Positioned on top of this wonderfully thick blanket of rhythm were the unmistakable tones of a baritone sax – in fact, they were the absolutely unmistakable tones of Mr. Dana Colley of ‘Morphine’ fame.
Providing not only the bass but the vocal melodies for this dark and smoldering concoction were the unmistakable vocal talents of MS. Monique Ortiz – her voice blending seamlessly in moody melancholy with the long, low moaning of Dana’s saxophone.
Seated solidly at the core of these strangely primal sounds – now permeating every pore of all those in attendance – is Mr. Larry Dersch. Larry’s percussion is expertly delivered, acting almost as an ever throbbing EKG for the entire performance.
Was this gripping combination of talent some strange coincidence? Some unexplained happenstance? Absolutely not. This is the group known as A.K.A.C.O.D.
Starting slowly with moody, provocative tones they progressed evenly through the set ramping up to some very aggressive – simply angry – pound against the walls – rip the chains from your wrists tunes that had everyone in attendance helplessly bobbing their heads and riding on an rhythmic waves of distorted bliss.
There were only 2 questions I had after the performance… (1) How the hell does Dana get those sounds to come out of that sax? And (2) How quickly could I get to the merch table to get a CD.
If you dig Morphine – if you dig PJ Harvey – and if you ever wondered what those two great tastes would taste like together. You MUST see these guys live.
First, get yourself a big iron skillet. Turn the heat up to medium and grab a heaping spoonful of Radiohead. After the pan gets hot, cut off a generous slab of Pearl Jam throw it in the pan sautéing it until golden brown and crispy. Season with a pinch 80’s pop style vocals – making sure to include just a hint of David Byrne when you do. When finished cooking, plate the entrée on a bed of Arcade Fire with a small garnish of Rush style bass lines and viola! Colour Revolt!
The band’s first full-length release is called “Plunder, Beg, and Curse”, and if you’re looking for something brand new that oddly feels like you’ve heard it before you should pick it up. Not saying it’s “bad”, in fact some bits are quite interesting (yes, I used the word “interesting” – read into that what you will.)
The album has been in my regular rotation for the past couple weeks, but I’m not certain how long it will stay there. In fact, I think it’s just about worn out it’s welcome. On first listen the work is edgy, moody, and emphatic. Driving guitars combined with brooding synths and lyrics create a strong initial draw, but after time feel somewhat tiresome. I mean how long can you really stay so pissed or so sullen?
Bottom line… Colour Revolt, good band? Not bad – quite tight, focused, technically sharp – give ‘em a shot. Just make sure to have your happy pills handy afterwards, or if you’re already in a down state when you hit play, don’t do anything stupid.
While I really like to focus on true indie or less well known acts, I recently came across the latest release from a fairly well known duo called The Weepies and just felt compelled to write about it…
This album sees harmonies that reminisce of Simon and Garfunkel, The Mamas and the Papas, and the more laid-back sounds of the 60’s and 70’s combined with arrangements seemingly inspired by more modern influences like Aimee Mann or Shawn Colvin. This marriage of old and new crafts the tremendously strong but wonderfully quiet foundation of The Weepies’ sound.
Looking at a picture of the duo of Deb Talan and Steve Tannen will remind anyone who’s seen the movie “once “ of Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová (and by the way, if you haven’t seen “once” you should.) But don’t be confused, while Glen and Markéta have a their own beautiful sound, The Weepies’ vocals stand alone as an amazing example of symmetry and completeness. In fact, I have to bring up groups like Simon and Garfunkel when searching for a good example of the pure complementary nature of The Weepies vocals.
Anchoring the outstanding medlodies and harmonies is some solid writing. They don’t call themselves The Weepies for nothing… Some of the subject matter is hardly what someone would call upbeat, but regardless of happiness quotient, each track on “Hideaway” is highly crafted. You can feel the writer’s attention to each syllable, and every song seems to hit some chord of truth in the listener.
While the entire album is well done, high points include:
“All Good Things”
“Not Dead Yet”
“Can’t Go Back Now”
If you’re looking for something low-key to poppy and good for a contemplative summer night you should go grab this one. Grab some wine, sit on the porch and check out The Weepies.
Breaking Laces holds the place of number 1 or 2 among my list of top 5 indie acts. In fact, I’m such a fan I found it difficult to write this review. Writing a review (in my opinion) demands an honest and fair view of both the highpoints and low points of the subject, and as lame as this sounds, I have a hard time coming up with low points for Breaking Laces.
So here’s the quick summary…
Acoustic? Yup, but more-so in the older albums.
Electric? Definitely. Great hooks. Willem kicks the distortion up on that acoustic and things get loud. Rob’s bass-lines add just the right amount of punch and groove without forcing the issue. Seth’s beats are clean, solid, and provide just the right motivation, and the rhythm section in general is solid as granite.
Heartfelt? I like “honest” better (see below.)
Amusing? From time to time.
Buy it? Definitely. ‘Lemonade’ and ‘Sohcahtoa’ are my favorites. Must listen tracks include: “Call You Home”, “Shack Up SOS”, “Get Up Today”, “God In Training”, “Plain Jane”, “Meagan”, “Where’s Her Mind”, “Global Warming Day”, and “One Way Out.” Generally speaking, ‘Operation Income’ and ‘Astronomy is my life, but I love you’ lack some of the energy in the other two releases, but still quite good in their own rites. For the most part their music leans towards the lighter side, I just happen to like when they turn up the groove and the distortion.
Three words continually came to mind as I thought about how to possibly describe this act… The first was “natural”, the second was “honest”, and the third was “clean.”
Natural because these guys are, in every way, natural muscians. I’ve been able to catch ‘em live several times and own all of their releases. Every aspect of the band – from the music, the lyrics, the performance, and even their demeanor, is just natural. It’s easy and unforced. These guys are talented, creative, have something to say and simply go about saying it.
Honest because the band simply strikes you as 3 guys who love playing music – their music, and they’re not trying to be anything but who they are. The lyrics feel like pages lifted from every twist and turn of their own lives. If you listen across all of the albums you’ll know exactly what I mean.
And clean mostly referring to playing style. All of the music ignores extra ‘ornamentation.’ What’s there are only the bits that should be – the bits that matter – the pieces or the accents that are purposeful and that’s it. Clean also referrs to playing style. These guys are very talented, professional muscians. Their performances feel like clockwork and convey a feeling of dedication to what they’re doing.
Ok… No more rambling. Go listen, come up with your own opinion, and tell me if I’m wrong.
The short review… Go buy this album before they go big and you can’t get any credit for the discovery. This album is good – and as these guys really start refining their style – the next one is only going to be better.
1. “Bones” – Fantastic Tune!! Can’t say enough about it. Best track on the album and I never get tired of it.
2. “Oberlin” – Has top 40 written all over it.
3. “Transmission” – an excellent example of The Forms’ talent for overlaying and mixing harmonies and textural elements to create a wave that just carries you along. The best part is, you never stop to think about where you’re going, you just enjoy the ride.
The longer form… Are you bored with the typical 4/4 time signature? Do you like the simple elegance and general vibe of Coldplay but wish Chris Martin had more balls? Do you enjoy complex rhythmic harmonies that take you on an almost rapturous journey? Then you need to check out “The Forms.”
Woven vocal melodies, synthesized atmospherics, driving piano and the occasional dirty guitar all punched with an almost tantric rhythm section, The Forms craft a unique and surprisingly purposeful sound.
I’ve been killing myself trying to come up with a creative way to describe this very atmospheric yet decidedly indie-rock based sound and the best I can come up with is – it almost feels like a 30 minute ride on a huge velvet tapestry. (An admittedly hokie description perhaps – but also true.) The Forms sound is warm and inviting; truly comfortable and oddly transportive.
My only cautionary words about this album would be – slightly repetitive. While The Forms are definitely doing interesting things with rhythm, and even more with vocals and harmony, some of their same techniques appear again and again from track to track. This leads to a similarity that might even cause you to periodically ask yourself, “haven’t I heard this song before? …No.” You’ll quickly reply to yourself and continue enjoying the music.
It’s certainly not bad enough for me to recommend against the album – more a cautionary word for the band. These guys are quite talented and have a significant future in front of them – in fact, I’m surprised they haven’t already gained significant main-stream success.
Go get the album and get in on the ground floor before these guys hit the big time and you’re just another wanna-be trying to get on the band wagon!