Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Skyline Drive - Get It Together - 2004


Skyline Drive, heavy pop at it's finest! Formed in late 2002 by Dave, formerly of Warner Brothers recording artists "Tidewater Grain", and Hans, from Triple Crown recording artists "Out To Win" (formally "Mushmouth"), just as something to do on the side. However, they gelled immediately and knew that they were on to something. Realizing the potential that Skyline Drive had, Dave and Hans left the bands they were in and focused 100% on their new project. They recruited drummer Jared, from the now defunct emo band "Thirteen Over Eight", and bassist Justin, formerly of the hardcore outfit Dysphoria, to add to the Skyline Drive sound. The CD "Get It Together" contains some of the most infectious power pop rock since early Cheap Trick and Foo Fighters. The band has recorded and full length album that is available on drp records. Look for the band to waste no time getting on the road and getting this great project to the next level. -CD Baby

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Monday, March 30, 2009

The Spinanes - Arches And Aisles - 1998


On their third album, singer/songwriter Rebecca Gates' Spinanes lay out a more melodic and lyrically enticing platter, nearly achieving the scarred beauty that their past two efforts merely hinted at within the grooves. Gates receives more than a little help from various studio pals this time around, assisting her in her obstinate quest for indie pop splendor. Arches and Aisles appends its folky lo-fi tunes with a solid backbeat, eliminating much of the oblique posturing from past albums and focusing instead on the crispness of the songs. Gates can still be elusive at times, even cryptic in her meandering wordplay, and some of the songs still crawl around barren indie territory with nowhere to go. But the sweet and sour samples mixed into Arches and Aisles make it the Spinanes least confining, and most listenable, album. -AMG

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Milkshakes - Nothing Can Stop These Men - 1984


When his punk band, the Pop Rivets, broke up in 1980, Billy Childish formed a new group with Mickey Hampshire, a Pop Rivets roadie who had been performing in a group called Mickey and the Milkshakes. The two began writing songs together and released their first LP, Talkin' About, in 1981. With Childish on guitar and vocals, Hampshire on guitar and vocals, Bruce Brand on drums, and Russ Wilkins (later replaced by John Agnew) on bass, the Milkshakes sound was a primitive blend of British beat groups, like the early Kinks at their toughest, and hard-rocking American guitar instrumentalists, like Link Wray. This sound came to be known as the "Medway sound" and Childish has been playing a variation on it throughout his whole career. The Milkshakes were a very prolific group, recording nine records in their six years together. Childish and Hampshire split the lead vocal duties and the band was very much a blend of Childish's primitive songwriting and Hampshire's more melodic leanings. The group also masterminded and backed a Medway girl group, the Delmonas. The Milkshakes broke up in 1984 and Childish, Brand, and Agnew went on to form Thee Mighty Caesars where Childish's raw punk-blues could roam untainted by any semblance of professionalism.-AMG

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Four Hours Sleep - Love Specifics - 2006


With a large supporting cast around them, Four Hours Sleep make some very lovely, mid-tempo and smart adult contemporary pop. This is evident on the refined and glistening "I Know I Shouldn't (But I Can't Help Myself)" that glides along like a great lush track by the Beautiful South or a tamer version of Pulp. From there the band gets the party started with a catchy, hook-riddled "I Love That Woman" that brings to mind Fountains of Wayne, Teenage Fanclub or a sullen Guided by Voices. Here the song finds its groove and the band rides it for all it's worth. However, the album's biggest asset might be how often the group changes gears, with "Who Ya Gonna Love?" being a tender ballad that resembles a duet between Bono and Ryan Adams. Just as fine is the ambling "Goodbye Song" that features Angie Hart and could be mistaken for a fantastic cover of something performed by Be Good Tanyas or the Waifs. This feeling continues on the soft, roots pop that makes "Original Lover" another well-crafted effort. Here Ollie Olsen's raspy, deep delivery makes one envision what Nick Cave might do to this warm ditty. The first true miscue is "Very Strange, Very Cool," a somewhat seedy, bluesy and raunchy track that veers off into a dreamy chorus with mixed results at best. A better effort on this vibe is has Paul Kelly leading the way on the deliberate, funk-tinged "If I Had My Way."-AMG

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Poppy Nosh - We Turn On - 2006


Their third effort, very light Psych Poppy throughout, was co-produced by Mitch Easter and also features his guitar work on some of the tracks "These guys prove that the Spongetones aren't the only band from North Carolina that does Beatle stylings the right way. Unlike their compatriots the Spongetones, Poppy Nosh delves into '70s-era Lennon and Harrisonisms, but keeps things interesting by adding other elements to the Beatle foreground!" - David Bash/IPO once stated. And right you are, David! The boys continue that "Beatle-ism" vibe, both instrumentally and vocally, on this one as well! The vocals on "Paperboy" sound like Pye Hastings of Caravan! And that's a good thing! EXCELLENT!!! -Kool Kat Musik



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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Walter Clevenger - The Man With The X-ray Eyes - 1997


Clevenger serves up power-pop with a rootsy flavor on The Man With the X-ray Eyes; comparisons to Nick Lowe are not only obvious, but unavoidable -- "Yesterday's News Now" is a virtual rewrite of Lowe's "They Called It Rock," while tracks like "Angels," "Love You Like a King" and "Love (A Misunderstood Thing)" feel like nothing so much as Rockpile outtakes. Still, the album is largely successful; Clevenger is a fine songwriter with a knack for catchy hooks, and his affection for classic pop music is clearly genuine -- "Yesterday Come Back" is a jangly gem, while "My Little Girl" and "Lose My Mind" are excellent acoustic rockers complete with soaring Rubber Soul-era harmonies. -AMG

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Monday, March 23, 2009

The Pandoras - Stop Pretending - 1986


Formed as a garage punk band in Los Angeles during the early '80s, the Pandoras debuted with a 7" EP in 1984 on the Moxie label. That same year, the group recorded It's About Time with producer Greg Shaw, but splintered later in the year. Vocalist/guitarist Paula Pierce recruited three new players, while the old band toured for a short time, using the Pandoras' name as well. Pierce and her new lineup released Stop Pretending in 1986 on Rhino, and then moved up to the majors with an Elektra deal. An album (Come Inside) was recorded but never released, and the Pandoras were summarily dropped from the label, only to re-surface in 1988 on Restless. A far cry from their beginnings, the Rock Hard EP contained several libido-obsessed homages to crotch rock, as did the Live Nymphomania LP, recorded at a Dallas concert.-AMG



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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Plasticland - Make Yourself A Happening Machine - 2006


When considering the geographical origins of the paisley underground movement of the early '80s, the Midwest isn't the first place you would think of. During the West Coast uprising of bands like Dream Syndicate, Rain Parade, Thin White Rope, the Three O'Clock, and Green on Red, the Milwaukee-based Plasticland had already been knee-deep in psychedelia due, in part, to the rare record-collecting fetish of founding members Glenn Rehse (vocals, guitar, organ) and John Frankovic (bass). From the get-go, Plasticland bypassed the darker Velvet Underground influence that most bands of the era were paying lip service to. Their goal was to pursue a brighter, more melodic musical approach, thus avoiding pointless jamming behind walls of feedback when lacking inspiration. Instead, they embraced the sights and sounds of early British flower-power pop initiated 15 years earlier by such influences as Tomorrow, Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett, the Smoke, and the Creation. The 30 tracks on Make Yourself a Happening Machine: A Collection gather on CD for the first time the best from their albums, EPs, flexi-discs, and various compilations, some of it having been out of print for years. The sound quality here is uniformly excellent, as are the detailed liner notes by Nigel Cross. As is the case with the Cramps' timeless approach to rockabilly, Plasticland didn't simply ape retro pseudo-psychedelia; they are everlastingly there and you're along for the ride. Only complaint: leaving off "Elongations" and their admirable version of the Pretty Things' "Alexander."-AMG



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Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Adverts - Cast Of Thousands - 1980


Famously recorded with Mike Oldfield associate Tom Newman at the controls, the second Adverts album was never going to be just another punk album. Although the group's live performance remained as fiery as ever, T.V. Smith was opening their sound to all manner of influences, including augmenting the lineup with keyboards -- Richard Strange handled synth on what would become the new album's title track, before Newman introduced another Oldfield sideman, Tim Cross. His flourishes and textures would come to dominate the record (he appears on all but two songs), adding to the alien environment that was the new, ambitiously arranged world of the Adverts. It was not an album that was to win the Adverts many friends, but it probably wasn't meant to. A flagrant departure from even the most extreme expectations, Cast of Thousands not only cast the band adrift from the new wave mainstream, but it would also alienate all but the most adaptable of the band's following. Live, the new songs had blended effortlessly into their surroundings, adapting so many of the characteristics of the older numbers that one could almost believe they were seeking defensive camouflage. Once in the studio, however, the Adverts dispensed with every last vestige of familiarity, treating each song as if it were a completely new piece, and not, as in the case of "Male Assault," the oldest song in sight, something which they'd dragged along to every gig they'd done for the past 18 months. And, overall, it worked, although the Adverts themselves would not stick around to reap its rewards. Barely was the album in the stores than the band broke up, leaving Cast of Thousands alone to be battered by the brickbats of misunderstanding critics -- not until its CD reissue, a full 19 years later, was the album perceived as the heroic and, in places, precognitive effort that it was, a window opening into the extremes (and, occasionally, excesses) of the 1980s new wave, and doing so with such effectiveness that the bonus tracks, drawn from the band's period singles, sound absolutely old-fashioned by comparison. -AMG



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Friday, March 20, 2009

Anthemic Pop Wonder - Supersonic Lullabies - 2003


Anthemic Pop Wonder's final CD - recorded in 2003 and released early in 2004. Like the Replacements' final LP (ie. Westerberg's first solo record), Supersonic Lullabies is Dfactor's first solo LP (unless you count Rapid Pop Thrills, which was pretty close as well). All the APW trademarks are here - from the 70s AM radio pop of "Ridin' a Hitch" and the punk-inspired "Chip in the Head" to the sweet and tender "Yours Forever" and the REM-esque CD closer "Green & Gold". A good number of these songs formed the playlist of the final APW rock shows in early 2004. Playing all the instruments, writing all the songs and singing his heart out, Dfactor comes up with another cool collection of catchy pop rock and roll songs designed to flip your wig on repeated listens. -CD Baby



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Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Raveonettes - The Chain Gang of Love - 2003


The Raveonettes barely gave listeners a glimpse of their cinematic brilliance with their Whip It On EP. One listen to their first studio full-length, The Chain Gang of Love, and you'll know it immediately. The crash and charm of this 13-song set exceeds any kind of glorious expectations laid out at the beginning, and the Raveonettes probably want it that way. Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo go for a much bigger sound this time around. The Chain Gang of Love is far more glossy and layered in melodies compared to Whip It On's gray-colored coolness. Having legendary producer Richard Gottehrer (Blondie, Marshall Crenshaw, the Go-Go's) at the helm doesn't hurt either, for he captures the Raveonettes' true pop essence with style. Forget those rules of keeping it to three chords recorded in B-flat minor. The Raveonettes indulge themselves in the finer elements of mid-'80s post-punk/noise pop (think Jesus & Mary Chain) and combine it with sheer pop melodies of the '50 and '60s for a sexy rock & roll picture show. From the fantastic pop jaunt of "The Great Love Sound" to the pulsating rockabilly blend of "Let's Rave On" and "Heartbreak Stroll," The Chain Gang of Love finds the Danish duo embracing influences of the past, but the Raveonettes tweak things ever so slightly to make them their own. The Chain Gang of Love isn't suffocated in garage rock fashion alone, either. Foo and Wagner's low vocals may hint at such a display, but overall their smooth pop presentation won't be pigeonholed. The Raveonettes, more or less, honor great pop moments of yesteryear, in hopes of positioning themselves and the rock scene in general for something grand later on. -AMG



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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Satelliters - Sexplosive - 2001


Inspired by their love for 50's B-movies, The Satelliters started in 1993 with a nasty romp of drunken, three-chord garage punk for the intentions of "freaking people out." Accompanied by their masked stage presence and the garb of aging hipsters, the band's debut full-length Hi Karate was released in 1996 with the financial assistance of Dionysus Records. Dipping into their huge discography (which includes a number of singles and EPs on Demolition Derby, Pin-up and Screaming Apple Records) Dionysus released four more CDs in the States over the next eight years, including Wylde Knights of Action in 1997, Shake, Shake, Shake in 1998, Sexplosive in 2001, and Hashish in 2005. Continuing to add to their overflowing catalog of psychedelic 60's garage rock, the label put out The Satelliter's self-titled EP in 2006, which would be followed with Where Do We Go? in 2007. -AMG





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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Heavy Blinkers - Better Weather - 2002


On Better Weather, the Heavy Blinkers are masterminds of their own stylish pop. It's a magnificent gush of conventional sounds of the past -- jubilant pianos dancing with whispy horn arrangements. Jason MacIsaac (guitar/vocals) and Andrew Watt (vocals/piano) are vocally charming on the soft parade of "Long as I'm Able." Ruth Minnikin is also a welcomed chanteuse, bringing a sweet flair to the lovedrunk "Lazy in Love" and "I Used to Be a Design," a jazz-like number. The Heavy Blinkers aren't exactly out to make the perfect pop song, they just want to make it accessible in the sense that love can be dreamy and almost fairytale. Like Sarah Shannon and Ben Folds, The Heavy Blinkers ache over smashed hearts and glow in the mending process. Harmonies are breezy on Better Weather, shimmery AM pop with optimism that's easy like Sunday morning.-AMG



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Monday, March 16, 2009

The Ladybug Transistor - Beverley Atonale - 1997


Ladybug Transistor makes delicate music. It's not that the band doesn't go uptempo, just that the sound remains gentle. If hard-rockers are most commonly found thrashing around a stage with a phallic guitar, then Transistor is the guy in the back of the room wearing a black beret and casually bobbing his head to the beat. On Beverley Atonale, Ladybug Transistor delivers a gorgeous suite of gentle, quiet pop music, infused with melody and hooks but never overtaking the listener. The lyrics are esoteric and often incomprehensible, but you gather quickly that words aren't really the point -- the band aims to set a tone more with its sound than with witty wordplay. The album is heavily influenced by the past, by such artists as the Beach Boys and Burt Bacharach -- "Windy" swipes its opening drum riff from Phil Spector and slides effortlessly into a trumpet-driven light pop tune with some great guitar riffs. The production is airy and full of space; though the sounds fit together, they also linger on their own far beyond each song's duration. On the whole, Beverly Atonale is the perfect driving music for a rainy summer day.-AMG



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