The CAVE – four teenagers who surprise with an old skool rock n’ roll agenda. Currently material for a debut release, check out “Personal” and you will agree that this is one young band that you need to keep eyes and ears on.
Here we go – your weekly dose of capsule reviews.
COLORWAY – S/t
Rock n’ roll will never die! This just might be power trio Colorway‘s manifesto on this eponymous debut. Rollicking numbers like “I’m Still Running” and “Live With Me” get the point across very succinctly. But singer-songwriter F Alex Johnson is also able to shake things up somewhat with the the sweet lullaby “Go Back to Sleep”, the acoustic instrumental “For the Birds” and the luscious ballad “A Temporary Occupation”. Highly recommended.
By now you should be aware of Power of Pop‘s quest to find the courageous bands out there who buck the current post-punk revival trend and mine the coolness of 60s/70s classic rock n’ roll. Talk about risk-taking! So add Dead Boots to the list. With influences identified as Cheap Trick, White Stripes, The Rolling Stones, Beatles, The Who and the Velvet Underground, it’s not too difficult to appreciate the blood, sweat and tears that the band - Tony Perry (Guitar), Adrian Perry (Vocals, Bass), Ben Tileston (Drums, Vocals) and Lou Jannetty (Guitar, Vocals) – have poured into its debut LP, Veronica.
Songs like the psychedelic “Violent Vows”, the rollicking “Wrecking Ball” and raucous “On the Rocks” truly hit the spot for true-blue rock n’ roll lovers. There are numerous delights here to be savored by fans of 60s pop- rock – “I See You Coming” has a lovely Californian vibe whilst “One of Me” has a dirty bluesy approach that Black Keys fans will dig.
Check out the power-poppin’ “Saturdays” below.
‘Old school indie rock band’ – has a certain ring, don’t it? The phrase has an air of authenticity that distinguishes its proponents from the hipster poseurs that dominate the modern rock world at the moment.
Tri-State hail from Essex County, NJ and consist of Mason Rather (bass/vocals), Jeff Zelevansky (guitar/vocals), Brady McNamara (drums), Julian Brash (guitar/vocals). In its email request to us, the band claimed an affinity for “Built to Spill, Guided by Voices, Pavement, and so on”. All fine references!
In actual fact, it’s probably more accurate to describe Tri-State as classic rock n’ roll band in the grand tradition of The Rolling Stones, The Band and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers where the stylings of country, folk, rock and pop meld together to produce a heady, melodic groovy brew.
This six-track debut EP may be low on production values but that doesn’t detract from the integrity of sound and vision, an open-minded rock lover will definitely discover. An attitude that prioritizes substance over form pervades the EP with songs that are lovingly crafted to be the best they can be. It’s always refreshing to listen to a band that ignores artifice and pretense in favor of honest music-making.
Whether it be the working class invocations of ”Hawk in the Fog”, the gleeful jangly abandon of “All Different”, the balladic whimsy of “Search Party”, the Westerberg-channeling “Muddling Thru”, the dynamic earthiness of “Back Before” or the quirky folk of “Country Squire”, Tri-State hit the right notes, by and large.
In the final analysis, good songwriting and a dogged determination win the day for rock n’ roll excellence! Recommended.
More info at Facebook.
Lest we forget, in the mid-70s New York brought forth nascent punk and the ‘new wave’. Even as there appears to be a new punk uprising in London, might we also witness an exciting fresh rock n’ roll perspective from New York?
Well, when I first heard the opening lines to “Don’t Look Back” – the first track of Brooklyn band Born Cages‘ new EP The Sidelines EP, there was a palpable sense of overwhelming promise that bears closer examination. (Listen below)
Born Cages (Vlad Holiday on lead vocals and guitar, Amanda Carl on keyboards, Steve Kellner on bass, and Dave Tantao on drums) seems to have engineered a sound that manages to squeeze arena rock and post-punk sensibilities into the same headspace.
Imagine if you will, Bruce Springsteen fronting Television instead of the E Street Band and perhaps you might begin to get a better idea of the rush I experiences when confronted by Born Cages’ sonic agenda.
This thrill-making is further explored in tracks like “Caiti”, where references to Arctic Monkey’s driving guitar rhythm are evoked, and “Metaphor”, where jaded dance-pop is given a shot in the arm by sinewy alt-country rock!
But ultimately it is the edgy anthemic lustre of “Don’t Look Back” that holds the biggest hope that perhaps Born Cages will be able to transcend genre limitations and break out…
Considering the number of iconic films that The Rolling Stones have been associated with – Gimme Shelter, Sympathy for the Devil, Performance and Cocksucker Blues, it was simply not enough for director Brett Morgen to come up with a by-the-numbers 50th anniversary retrospective. Which, to his immense credit, he didn’t!
Fact is, Crossfire Hurricane manages to provide a kaleidoscopic perspective of events that made the Stones the living rock n’ roll legends that they are. One very crucial decision made was not to shoot the Stones as they currently are – so they only provide the relevant voiceover but visually, the viewer is never distracted from the story by how the Stones look like in 2013 (basically, old).
In this manner, Crossfire Hurricane is able to be interesting to new and old fans alike. It never comes across as a nostalgic exercise but a critical study of key events of the Stones’ career that intersected with the milestones of rock n’ roll. Thus, this documentary film is essential for longtime fans as well as rock scholars.
There can be no doubt about The Eagles‘ place in rock history. Biggest selling album of the 20th century, inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, a comeback album that sold in excess of 5 million in these troubled times for the music industry and a best-selling live show that continues to run and run.
Not to mention, a sideshow of controversy that has dogged the band despite the absolute highs. The high profile suit by former member Don Felder against The Eagles and the publication of Felder’s ‘tell-all’ book, Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974 – 2001) has tarnished somewhat the reputations of Don Henley and Glenn Frey (the co-leaders of the band) but that has not stopped the musical juggernaut from continuing to pull in the big bucks.
This documentary – as you might imagined – tells the story from Henley and Frey’s perspective. Both men are rather dismissive about Felder in the interviews and Frey evens gets in some descriptive expletives for good measure. The fact that the duo come across smug and self-righteous leaves a very bad taste in the mouth.
The first DVD recounts the band’s rise to fame and implosion in 1980 with rare footage and incisive comments from the key players. The second DVD recounts the band’s even more impressive comeback beginning the Hell Freezes Over tour in 1990.
Of the two DVDs, the first one is the most exciting as one gets to witness the making of iconic songs (“Take It Easy”, “One of These Nights”) and albums (Hotel California) and how Henley and Frey went from backing Linda Ronstadt to having the best-selling album of the 20th Century – Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975). The second DVD, well, is simply too sanctimonious at times with the unwelcome sight of Henley and Frey justifying their arrogance – rather unwatchable at times. Overall, the excellent first DVD is worth the price of admission though.
The 90s alt-rock revival continues apace with singer-songwriter Sam Page weighing in with a knowing album of edgy melodic rock n’ roll numbers that bring to mind the likes of Dinosaur Jr, Gumball, Sebadoh and Buffalo Tom. There’s little doubt that J Mascis weighs in heavily as a positive influence on Page’s work as evidenced on tracks like “Hold On” and “Now I Know”. Page is less slacker-rock-intensive with more casual swagger that suggests several nods to Neil Young & Crazy Horse.
There’s an easy going charm in songs like “Tumbleweed in the Grand Scheme” and “Crush (Lovin’ You)” whilst other tracks like “I Don’t Want To Think About Her Anymore” and “Pheromones” have a cockeyed tongue-in-cheek attitude that recalls Canadian smart rockers The Pursuit of Happiness and even Elvis Costello, on some level.
All told, Breach is a solid rock n’ roll album of the old school variety, where the songs serve each other and the greater good as a whole. The lyrics are clever and pointed, the music is rollicking good fun and the attitude is always spot-on sardonic. Much to admire on Breach and always encouraging to see artists unafraid to follow their own muse, wherever it may take them, without too much notice of current trends.
Truth be told, I am pretty sick and tired of the ubiquitous generic contemporary hipster synth-pop sound already. Man! So yeah, right now, I am aching for sweet rock n’ roll music that features real instruments, real vocals and fucking real songs. Y’know, songs I can sing along to (intelligently) and shake to (without looking stupid).
So Mooner! A self-described powerpop band from Chicago which new EP is like balm to my electronically sated ears. This EP only has four tracks but I’d rather listen four tracks that hit the spot over an LP’s worth of meaningless drivel trying to pass itself off as 2013′s version of hip and cool. Don’t what I mean?
Indeed! It’s comforting and re-assuring to hear a new band take the tired-and-tested influences of Television, Elvis Costello, The Replacements and early Wilco and fashion distinctive material. Certainly, powerpop fans are totally gonna fall in love with the midtempo groove of “Shapeshifter”, the twangy goodness of “White Lines”, the knowing country-soul balladry of “Never Alone” and the new wave raunch of “Overrated”.
Chicago quintet Great Divide (Teddy Grossman – vox, guitar/Josh Teitelbaum – drums/Jeff Leibovich – keyboards/Josh Kahle – bass/Jeff Burke – guitar, vox) takes the rock and roots maxim to its logical conclusion. If a cursory listen to the band’s eponymous sophomore album suggests to you The Band, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Tedeschi Trucks Band and the like, then you’d probably be better off exploring Great Divide, don’t you think? Yeah!
Funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign, Great Divide is a evocative, soulful rock n’ roll record in the old fashioned way. In other words, it is as smooth as you like, bringing together a veritable buffet of influences, spanning soul, folk, country, pop and rock with the dynamic horn section providing the proverbial icing on top.
First-rate musicianship, competent songwriting and the honey-dripping pipes of Teddy Grossman make Great Divide, essential listening for the true-blue pop-rock fans out there. How can one argue with genuine articles like the slick opener “Ain’t No Roads”, the lush “Easy Chair”, the gospel-tinged “Moorie” and the Stevie Wonder-channeling “Shine”? Simple, you don’t!
Check out the live clip of “Ain’t No Roads” below
It’s been 60 years since the phrase “rock n’ roll” became the widely-used phrase to describe the new hot teen music but you know what? Rock n’ roll ain’t dead – you just need to know where to find it in 2013. Here’s a couple of bands keeping the spirit of rock n’ roll alive in 2013.
Lions in the Street “So Far Away”
From On The Lam EP (Beverly Martel Records, 2013). Official Site
Mellor “Catch Me Girl”
The Bowery Riots “BTR”
Natural Child “Ain’t Gonna Stop”
Mannequins “I’ll Stick With You”
Remember, folks, keep the music alive! Rock on!!
No frills melodic rock n’ roll is the only item on the Hot Nun agenda and why the hell not? With a bio that declares that rock is not dead, Jeff Shelton (guitars, vocals, bass) and Braden McGraw (drums) keep things simple and straightforward on this eponymous debut. With eight songs that celebrate “The Spirit of ’76″, the album is aimed directly at classic rock n roll lovers and fans of Cheap Trick, KISS, T. Rex and Glam-era Bowie. Rollicking numbers like “Who Do You Love” and “Fight Fight Fight” will get adrenaline pumping easy enough. No denying the sheer power of this uncanny album, with the faithful rendition of Bowie’s “Queen Bitch” the perfect touchstone of what Hot Nun is all about.
The French rock n’ roll band known as Fuzzy Vox behaves as if no new music was made after 1969! This myopic vision provides incredible focus as this five-track EP amply demonstrates. The music here is simple yet powerful, straight-forward and visceral. If push came to shove, probably the most accurate reference point would be the first Stooges album. Sure, one could also point to the influences of the mod greats (The Who) and blues-rock legends (The Rolling Stones) but there’s a basic garage-punk energy that suggests Iggy and his band of freaks held greater sway. In the modern context, The Hives come to mind immediately and every other garage-punk revivalist you would care to mention. The scintillating cover of Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire” provides a clarity of purpose, translated well on the meaty title track, the beaty “Same Old Story”, the big “I’ll Be Gone” and the bouncy “Hurricane”. Pure & easy.
Listen to “I’d Be Gone” and the rest of the EP at Soundcloud.
What will be the next rock trend the new kids on the block will cotton on to? Well, in the last five years the post-punk/new wave of the 80s has been fairly squeezed dry by new bands so perhaps now it’s time to move up a decade. If we look at the early 90s, power pop definitely was popular enough for major labels to sign the likes of Weezer, Jellyfish, Teenage Fanclub, Semisonic, Fastball, Superdrag, The Grays, Wanderlust and the like.
(BASE Entertainment Asia press release)
Sir Cliff Richard OBE, with global record sales beyond 250 million and a ceaseless performance schedule spanning 54 years, is set to return to Singapore for two nights only with a hit-packed national tour Still Reelin’ and A-Rockin’. Tickets are now on sale.
For the first half of this wonderful album, Portland-based outfit Sassparilla (Kevin Blackwell, Colin Macdonald, Ross Macdonald, Naima Muntal, Justin Burkhart and Ben Stewart) parlays the fundamental influences (country, folk, blues and rock n’ roll) into a potent mix. Armed with banjos, harmonicas, slide guitars and decent pop tunes – Magpie lives up to its promise of delivering authentic Beatlesque Americana and channeling the likes of The Flying Burrito Brothers, Neil Young, Steve Earle, Tom Petty, (early) Wilco, The Jayhawks and more.
You can pretty much line up the influences that fuel The Demon Beat’s rock n’ roll machine and put a string right through them all. Less is Less for me, sums up the trio’s (Adam L. Meisterhans, Tucker Riggleman & Jordan Hudkins) manic agenda for world domination – pillage the best bits of fifty decades of rock n’ roll, pour into a cauldron and stir fuckin’ hard! A strange brew, indeed!
Looking at The Jerzey Street Band and listening to its raucous, rootsy, country-folk anthems on debut album Breaking Radio Silence, one would never think that the band hails from Manchester, England instead of New Jersey, USA! But of course, it’s a known fact that the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty have always done great business in the UK and it’s obvious that the members of The Jerzey Street Band- Dave Wrobel (Lead Vocals & Guitars); Neil Wrobel (Guitars & Vocals); Roger Crombie (Guitars & Vocals); Russ Blakeley (Bass); Keith Ashworth (Pedal Steel Guitar & Dobro); Andy Lawson (Keys) & Mike Weaver (Drums & Vocals) are huge fans of the aforementioned American rock n’ roll icons.
It was an emotional moment for me when Pretenders played in Singapore (finally) during the F1 weekend. I can still vividly remember purchasing the first Pretenders LP way back when from a record store in Far East Plaza (one of the few buildings still remaining from my tweens) and the band has always been one of my favourites ever since.
Y’know, I highly recommend Enjoy the Company, the new album (#4) from Athens, GA-based trio The Whigs to every music lover who is sick about the relentless barrage of no-talent hacks dressed up only with a disco/hip hop beat and nothing much else. It’s so refreshing to listen to music that is so obviously inspired by decades of honest rock n’ roll and everything that that entails.
Once in a while, I take a review request because the email sounds so sincere like -
“We were wondering if you could do us a small favor: My band Wasted 24/7 is about to release its debut EP, and we would like to have it reviewed by someone with experience. We really wanna make it in this business and if you could help us out with just a little of your time we would really appreciate it!”
I do not put much stock in hyperbole. Whenever I read about hot new bands who are supposedly channeling the rock n roll spirit of Bruce Springsteen, The Clash and The Replacements, I get invariably disappointed when I finally get to listen to these bands for example, The Gaslight Anthem, Sharks, Bouncing Souls et al. I mean, the songs are weak, the melodies lack oomph and there is just no verve whatsoever. Boring.
Seriously folks, when was the last time power pop was considered ‘hip and cool’? The 90s maybe, when power pop bands still got major label deals e.g. Weezer, Jellyfish, The Grays, Wanderlust, Semisonic et al. NYC singer-songwriter Jeff Litman makes no bones who inspires his craft – Tom Petty, Elvis Costello & Paul Westerberg have all been favorably mentioned – and in this day and age, that just about might be career suicide! After all, if the kids of today don’t even know who the hell Sir Paul McCartney is then how in the world would they be able to connect with songs that trickle down from the seminal work of the Beatles, the Beach Boys and the Byrds?
But I will emphasize – who cares, right? Call me a blind optimist but for me, holding on to the melodic ideals is really what it’s all about. So yes, I will champion a talent like Jeff Litman who (on his second album – Outside) puts such loving detail in every chord, arrangement and lyric without cynical pandering to attention-deficit young people. Elvis Costello once put his songwriting into perspective by describing it as “creative plagiarism” – the key word being “creative”. So whilst it is clear that the tools Litman utilizes comes from a kinder and gentler age (crafted tunes, organic instrumentation, thoughtful arrangements) but with these implements, Litman has fashioned an album that has enough flair and verve in it to maybe sway the shallow, casual music fan.
So the joy and pleasure comes in equal measure in the soaring chorus of “Over and Over”, the rollicking rhythm of “Runaway”, the hypnotic chord progression of “Chasing My Tail” and the way the melody falls comfortably together on “Don’t Want to Talk About It”. It is easy to discern that with the elements of country-folk, rock n’ roll and power pop prominently featured that the kind of music that Litman deals in is so out of synch with everything that passes for modern pop music in 2012 that there is an almost contrarian appeal working here.
And why would you be content to be lemmings hurtling down sharp cliffs at the bidding of the hipster pied pipers (mixed metaphors whoa!) when you can – if you so choose – broaden your minds to rock music that is timeless and will never ever date. Even as I allow the sweet balladic tones of “Time Heals Nothing” to sweep me away, I realize that I do not need to succumb to the principle that just because classic pop-rock is unfashionable, we can ignore the quality songwriting and arrangements that this kind of music invariably possesses in favor of image and ‘indie cred’.
So here I am again drawing a line in the sand – yes Outside isn’t perfect and it may not even be 100% original but it sure has enough heart n’ soul to encourage this foolish lover of ‘old school’ rock to continue to keep the faith. Indeed.
Mixing rock n’ roll with country boogie, with a crooner’s touch, Winfred E. Eye – who hail from Oakland, California – is a band that sticks to the good old school rock philosophy of music with heart. Moving On is the lead track from the band’s fifth album – Today Was Another Day – being released in January 2012. The song is wistful and winsome and difficult for true blue country rock fans not to fall head over heels in love with.
I love Girls. Well, the band that calls itself Girls, in any case.
Consisting of Christopher Owens (singer-songwriter-guitarist) and Chet White (bass, producer), the band has taken the indie scenes worldwide by storm with its largely ‘old-school’ sonic & textural approaches. With two well-received full lengths (Album – 2009 & Father Son Holy Ghost – 2011) and EP (Broken Dreams Club – 2010) under its belt, Girls has firmly established itself as an exciting new band to keep a close watch on.
Much capital has been made in the media about Owen’s colourful past which includes being raised in a Children of God commune and being mentored by an eccentric billionaire. In his interviews, Owen’s candor sometimes gets him into trouble but you just have to respect an artist as honest as he is. Personally, I love how Owen simply ignores current trends and writes and plays the music he feels in his soul. A true artist in my book!
Certainly, Girls will stand out from most of the other acts at Laneway Festival Singapore 2012, which is exactly why I am pretty much excited about Girls hitting our shores in February. At most, Girls perhaps shares affinity with Laura Marling and Cults for looking back in order to move forward (if you can my drift).
Listening to the new album – Father, Son, Holy Ghost – has been an absolute joy and pleasure so far. With songs like My Ma, Vomit and Forgiveness pulling my heart strings, Honey Bunny tickling my sweet tooth and Die pummeling my senses, there’s little doubt in my mind that Girls are the real McCoy and stand as a good a chance as any to create truly timeless music. Can we just call it great rock n roll music and leave it at that?
If a modern day analogue needs to be made (at all), consider Christopher Owens a hybrid of say, Kurt Cobain and Beck, with a whole dollop of his own unique personality thrown in. Yes, I believe that Girls is no flash in the pan and deserves the attention and hyperbole lavished on it thus far. And I hear that they’re even better live! Check out the awesome rendition of Forgiveness below (and I sure hope they bring along that big band to Singapore!)
Tickets available at SISTIC