Monday, November 30, 2009

The Come Ons - Stars - 2006

The Come Ons emerged in 1999 featuring ex-Gore Gore Girl Deanne Iovan on bass, vocals, and vintage organ, guitarist Jim Johnson, and Dirtbombs drummer Patrick Pantano doing double duty behind the Come Ons' kit. While their dance-y, soul-inspired grooves were an immediate sensation in Detroit, the band didn't debut on wax immediately. The group's popularity in Detroit wasn't surprising; after all, the Come Ons drew liberally from the classic D-Town style guide of punk, girl group, and rave-up revivalist R&B. -AMG


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Friday, November 27, 2009

The Sights - Are You Green? - 2000

The Sights' lead guitarist / vocalist Eddie Baranek and bassist Mark Leahey (who both share songwriting and vocal duties) have been playing music together since the age of 13, forming this band at the beginning of their senior year of high school. They played their first shows together in early 1998. Baranek and Leahey were still under the age of 18 at the time, and were not old enough to remember first-hand the bands that seem to have had the biggest influence on them, including edgy late-'70s punk/new wave acts like the Buzzcocks or early Jam, and certainly did not remember those bands' influences: British mods like the early Who or the Creation. In late 1999, drummer Eugene Strobe came aboard, replacing a series of drummers, adding a raucously wild Keith Moon-like quality to their live performances. The youthful trio recorded songs for a debut album, Are You Green?, at Jim Diamond's Ghetto Recorders that same year. The album was issued in 2000 by Spectator Records, but the small Detroit-based indie folded not too long afterwards. Fall of Rome Records in Los Angeles re-issued Are You Green? in 2001, and the Sights' 2002 follow-up Got What We Want. Three years later, the band released a self-titled album on New Line/Scratchie. -AMG

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Sealevel - Beach from Last Summer - 2005

When I think of Berlin images of beaches, surfing, and lounging in the sun have never come to mind. Yet somehow Berlin based the Sealevel have managed to create an album mostly full of jangly guitars, Beach Boys-esque harmonies, some Teenage Fanclub buzz, and thoughts of summer and the beach. This debut album by the Sealevel seems to have a bit of a split personality with the first half being the upbeat, sunny days, beach boy and the second half being the more reflective, beach at sunset, man. That said, each half is quite solid and the mood of the moment may determine which songs work best. At the risk of sounding silly, the Sealevel bring us a day at the beach, high tide and low tide. Okay, that does sound silly."-PennyBlackMusic.

The Sealevel - Beach from Last Summer - 2005/rs
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cheap Time - In the Red - 2008

A combustive mix of glam rock riffs, power pop melodies, and lots of punk energy, Cheap Time are the brainchild of Jeffrey Novak, a Tennessee native who began playing in punk bands in his teens. His groups include Jeffrey Novak's One Man Band and the ultra-raw Rat Traps; when the Rat Traps retired in 2006, Novak formed Cheap Time with Be Your Own Pet's Jemina Pearl on bass and Nathan Vasquez on drums. This version of the band was heavily influenced by the Runaways and early Redd Kross, and released its debut 7" on Sweet Rot in 2007. Pearl and Vasquez left the band to concentrate on Be Your Own Pet, and were replaced by bassist Stephen and drummer Jon. The band's sound also shifted: Novak took some songs inspired by glam and power pop acts like the Quick, Sparks, and Milk 'N' Cookies -- which were intended for another project, the Peoploids -- and turned them into Cheap Time songs. Early in 2008, the revamped Cheap Time issued another 7" on Douche Master in advance of their self-titled full-length on In the Red, which arrived that spring. -AMG

Cheap Time - In the Red - 2008/rs
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Friday, November 20, 2009

The Spongetones - Odd Fellows - 2000

Power pop isn't dead, it's just middle-aged; the Spongetones have been leading purveyors of the genre for almost 20 years. And the fact is, power pop has never sounded better than it does on their first album in five years; the hooks on their Gadfly debut beat anything they ever released on the Black Vinyl label. "Beatlesque" is the term that pops inevitably to mind, what with those juicy-fruit chord progressions and that hint of a fake British accent ("boy meets gull," etc.). But the Spongetones deliver their pop confections with the weight and momentum of a Detroit muscle car -- song titles like "On the Wings of a Nightingale" and "Nightsong" notwithstanding, the general tone here is crunchy and loud. -AMG

The Spongetones - Odd Fellows - 2000/rs

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Parties - Can't Come Down - 2008

There's a graceful psychedelic drift in the Parties' brand of jangle pop that sets them apart from the dozens of other bands that worship at the altar of Roger McGuinn, and on their first full-length album Can't Come Down, the band recalls the adventurous melodic sense of latter-day pop acts (most notably the Windbreakers) while still conjuring a pleasing retro vibe. There's an engaging push-and-pull between Jeremy Powers' ringing 12-string leads and the fuzzier bedrock of Sarah Mehlfeld's guitar figures, and the songs mine the rich melodic frameworks of classic folk-rock along with the minor-key twists of later acid-era stuff. (The rhythm section of Rex Padayhag on bass and John Morgan on drums doesn't call as much attention to itself, but they coax the music along with a gentle but insistent force.) While most of the songs glide along in a graceful midtempo, there are a few tougher sounding numbers such as "Radio," "Breaking Hearts," and "Damned by the Sunshine" that show the Parties can step on the gas when they feel like it, and the pedal steel on "Much Better" suggests these folks have been listening to their Gram Parsons records. But Can't Come Down is at its best when the Parties follow their psychedelic muse, like the Left Banke without the Baroque trappings or the Rain Parade stripped of their studied cool, and it makes for a quietly impressive debut from a band that can look to the past without sounding as if they're selling paisley nostalgia. -AMG

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The New Fidelity - Tiny Slivers - 2007

The New Fidelity creates their own brand of 60's influenced Mod Power Pop which helps them shine through the smog of Southern California's indie rock sprawl. The NewFi takes the stage in well-tailored suits and play well-tailored songs about real things.
Taking a heap of Britain ala Small Faces, Who and Beatles with a cupful of soul by way of Motown and Stax, adding a dash of punk from the Clash and the Jam, The New Fidelity uses tight vocal harmonies and upbeat rhythm to make their audiences want to get up and dance.
Using Long Beach as a base of operations gives the NewFi access to all of Southern California allowing them to secure residencies from Safari Sam's club in Hollywood down to the Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa while playing for faces in every town in between. The NewFi can also be found at dance clubs and scooter rallies mixing it up by playing the same Mod and Soul classics that the DJs spin along with their own originals peppered in. -CD Baby

The New Fidelity - Tiny Slivers - 2007/rs
The New Fidelity - Tiny Slivers - 2007/sb

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Monday, November 16, 2009

King Khan & The Shrines - Mr. Supernatural - 2004

Brewing up a heady mixture of high-spirited rhythm & blues, real-gone psychedelia and middle-finger-flipping garage rock, King Khan has earned an international reputation as one of the wildest showmen in underground rock. Born and raised in the suburbs of Montreal to a family of Indian émigrés, Erick Khan first made a splash on the Canadian music scene in 1996 when he joined the frantic garage punk outfit the Spaceshits, where he played bass under the name Blacksnake. The Spaceshits released three albums and a handful of 7"s, but after nearly four years with the group, Khan opted to strike out on his own, relocating to Germany following a tour of Europe. Adopting the new stage name King Khan, he began assembling a solo act while also recording and touring with former Spaceshits vocalist Mark Sultan (aka Bridge Mixture and BBQ), cutting a pair of albums as the King Khan & BBQ Show. King Khan & His Sensational Shrines (the "Sensational" part tends to come and go at will) made their recorded debut on a split single with Reverend Beat-Man & the Nonbelievers in 2001, followed by the EP Spread Your Love Like Peanut Butter and the album Three Hairs and You're Mine. King Khan's band grew all the while and took on a number of remarkable personalities, including Ron Streeter, a percussionist who spent years touring with Curtis Mayfield and Stevie Wonder; Ben Ra, a German sax player who worships at the altar of John Coltrane and Sun Ra; Freddy Rococo, a French organ player who previously led a one-man band in drag; and Bamboorella, the Shrines' full-time go-go dancer. After cutting a split LP with the Dirtbombs, Billiards at Nine Thirty, Khan and the Shrines released their second full-length album, 2004's Mr. Supernatural. -AMG

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Friday, November 13, 2009

You Am I - Convicts - 2006

The Australian juggernaut's first release in four years is a short (36-minute), sharp and succinct collection that continues the band's snappy punk-pop attack. Despite the group's illustrious history, at least in its homeland where the act has set a record for three consecutive number one albums since 1992, this is old-fashioned, scrappy garage rock with enough snotty punk influences to attract the hardcore faithful and plenty of melody to possibly coax some radio play from stations that added Green Day to their play lists. The disc explodes out of the gate with the roughed up, double time "Thank God I've Hit the Bottom," all one-minute-and-fifty-one seconds of it, but then catches its breath with a slightly more restrained but no less intense Cheap Trick-styled rocker "It Ain't Funny How We Don't Talk Anymore." Singer/songwriter/vocalist Tim Rogers' clever lyrics are firmly in place and he inserts them in songs that occasionally bring Give 'Em Enough Rope-era Clash influences to his established Replacements' style song structures. The Who and the Kinks are further references, the latter on slower selections such as the strummy "Secrets," the following track "Thuggery" and especially the Brit-pop-isms of "Explaining Cricket." Consistently energetic playing, sturdy hooks and Rogers' spunky talk-singing -- somewhat like an angrier Tom Petty -- propel these songs and push them past their obvious influences. Straightforward yet effective vocal harmonies on simple Stonesy rockers such as "The Sweet Life" (at four-minutes-and-twenty seconds, it's the album's longest tune) show the band's maturity even when the melodies are rudimentary. Individually, the songs probably won't bowl you over, at least on the initial listen, but the overall effect is of a seasoned yet still brash rock band doing its job with verve, self-confidence and gusto. Even 14 years into its existence, You Am I is capable of some surprises, but most impressive is how much they sound like edgy guys in their early twenties who love and live for rock & roll. At this relatively late stage of their career, that's a huge accomplishment. -AMG

You Am I - Convicts - 2006/rs
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Thursday, November 12, 2009

MiNsTeR HiLL - MiNsTeR HiLL - 1999

Calling all XTC fans! Is two LPs a decade too little? Here's a humble protégé snack to wile away those in between-meals. This New Jersey band is actually one Howard Herrick, whose sunny-pop confections, and especially the baroque hiccup of his straining high voice, are replicas of Andy Partridge's work in the early-to-mid '80s. It recalls singles such as "Senses Working Overtime," "Love on a Farmboy's Wages," and "All You Pretty Girls." Like that English Settlement/Mummer/Big Express blueprint, Herrick's not energized enough to be new wave, nor '60s enough to be retro, but lies somewhere in that middle place, where shy lads sing like chirping birds at all the elegance and sobriety life throws. Perhaps the production is lower-budget than that of his hero's work, but there's minor, fresh-faced appeal. -AMG

MiNsTeR HiLL - MiNsTeR HiLL - 1999/rs

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