Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Back to The Future - The Eighties Reborn Featuring the Plimsouls and Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Live! Beg, Borrow & Steal: October 31, 1981 Whisky A Go GoThe Plimsouls - Live! Beg, Borrow & Steal

Living in LA in the '80's, you couldn't be faulted for thinking that everybody in the world knew about the Plimsouls.  Blasting "1,000,000 Miles Away" or "Hush Hush" through the speakers of KSPC radio, it just seemed natural that the rest of the world was tuned into what we all took for granted.. . . that the Plimsouls were just about the best damn rock band out there.  Imagine my surprise then when I found out the Plimsouls were actually more of a hometown legend than a world destroyer.  Well, that just couldn't be right.

But unfortunately it was.  While we had the chance to catch the boys live just about any night we chose down at any club in LA, the rest of the world wasn't so lucky.  And after disbanding, and Peter Case launching off on a cool, wandering troubadour singing career, it seemed that the rest of the world was just going to miss out on that high-octane mixture of garage, psychedelia and power pop that defined the Plimsouls.

Well, the rest of the world doesn't have to miss out anymore.  Recorded live on the Sunset Strip near the peak of their prowess, Live! Beg, Borrow and Steal demonstrates just about everything that made the Plimsouls our favorite little secret.   Check out that crowd reaction as the announcer brings on "LA's Finest."  They knew who these guys were.  They loved these guys.  And it's no wonder, launching immediately into the shimmering guitar riff of "Hush Hush," dropping right down into that near tribal beat, The Plimsouls brought it all that night.  This is a hefty dose of power pop songwriting skills still buried in the fuzz and grit of the garage.  Pure pop heaven, but not all cleaned up and pretty.  The Plimsouls, despite all their refinement could mess around with the best of them.

Right of the bat it's easy to see what made the Plimsouls so powerful.  In Peter Case they not only had a songwriter of world-class talent, but they also got a front man of tremendous charisma and a voice that just oozed soul in its throaty delivery.  If they'd had some pretty boy, soft and smooth tenor singing, it just wouldn't have worked.  Listen to Peter's voice barely hanging on during "Shaky City."  You just don't find soul like that mixed in with your power pop everyday.

Over the 18 songs, many Plimsouls classics appear, from the above mentioned songs to "Now," "A Million Miles Away," and "Zero Hour."  Each of those tracks are perfect, punchy and gritty, just the way I remember them from any number of club dates.  But thrown into the mix are a couple of surprises that just make this Live Album irresistible.   The 5th track is a frenetic moment of crunchy garage pop perfection as the Plimsouls take on the Easybeat's "Sorry," a song I'd always associated with The Three O'clock.  And damn, if they don't mine that one to perfection.  Another special treat comes near the end as the Fleshtones come on out and join The Plimsouls on stage for a definitively ragged rendition of the garage rager "New Orleans" and "Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!"   The fun those two bands were having that night was infectious, the audience wailing in approval, as I am right now.

If you're a fan of the Plimsouls, you don't want to miss one.

buy here: Live! Beg, Borrow & Steal: October 31, 1981 Whisky A Go Go

Welcome to the PleasuredomeFrankie Goes to Hollywood - Welcome to the Pleasuredome Deluxe 25th Anniversary Edition

You had to be there.

Way back in 1984, I was living in England, attending Cambridge University and basically sucking up as much British music as I could.  One night, I finally gathered up the nerve to ask Terese, a waitress at the dining hall, out to dinner and dancing.  After a fine (?) meal of local British cuisine (?) we made our way to the main underground club.  Electro New Wave was all the rage then, with bands like Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode and New Order dominating the dancefloor.  Then from out of nowhere, the DJ plopped on a brand new single he'd just received.  After a tentative moment of unfamiliarity, as the song crept up to speed through it's synthesizer intro, the beat started.  Holly Johnson's voice filled the speakers with his plaintive wail, and then . . . all hell broke loose.  Guess you had to be there, but as "Relax" gained in speed and power and tempo, the entire club went crazy.  Lights flashing, lasers streaming, smoke billowing,  it seemed like there had never been a dance song created before Frankie's "Relax," and it certainly seemed that there could never be another one after it.

Within weeks, Frankie t-shirts started appearing in the local market, then on the television, then all over the world.  Once the BBC finally realized how absolutely filthy the lyrics to "Relax" were, they banned the song, which only sent it into the stratosphere.  No one could get enough Frankie in those heady days of big hair and bad clothing.  I still have my very-banned copy of the "Relax" 12" that dared to feature the words Come and Suck on the cover.

When I got back to America, the Frankie Goes to Hollywood frenzy hadn't arrived on the Yankee shores yet, so it was up to me to spread the gospel.  I played that "Relax" 12" for anyone who'd listen, creating a swath of Frankie converts in my wake.  And it was easy.  With the intense density of the bass riff and those massive guitar chords, "Relax" became one of the few dance songs that even some metalheads could nod to.  "War" and "Two Tribes" followed, each 12" greedily added to my collection.  But my eyes were on the distant prize, the upcoming Welcome to the Pleasuredome album.

Now in America, it seems that Frankie never reached the heights they did back in the UK.  Probably, because in the US people didn't know what to make of the band.  They either took them too seriously or dismissed them as a joke, and neither response was appropriate.  Frankie were both, they were everything, and they were nothing.  They were totally over-the-top flamboyance in an age of flamboyance.  They were trend followers, not starters, who nonetheless created trends in their wake.  They were fantastic and awful all in the same breath.  They were a brilliant, sexy, blasphemous, decadent, and threatening pop cartoon.  That's what made them so damn outrageous.

With this 25th anniversary release of Pleasuredome, the world once again can lose itself in the Frankie spell.  "Relax," "War," and "Two Tribes," sound just as dancefloor pounding brilliant today as they did back then.  Songs that just refuse to age.  "Welcome to the Pleasuredome," has an added aura of completeness, the best of the new tracks that appeared on that album, with it's nonstop, undulating shear-hypnotic dance beat.  It was Frankie's call to action.  To lose your inhibitions and your hang-ups at the door, loosen up that thing you call an ass and find your place on the dancefloor.  Somehow, that tune sounds more epic today than it did in 1984.

The other songs, much like they did back then, offer a mixed bag of the brilliant and the terrifying.  For some reason Frankie's cover of Springsteen's "Born to Run" makes sense to me this time, some twisted, mutated dance anthem of rebellion.  "Wish The Lads Were Here," bakes in the sweat of its pulsating dance floor orgy mode, while "Krisco Kisses," is just positively filthy, a sexcapade wrapped up in a swinging bass line and a methamphetamine frenzy.  Even "Ferry" a song I despised at the time, sounds right this time around.  Other songs like the still bewildering inclusion of Bacharach's "San Jose (The Way)" still leave me mystified.  But then, that's Frankie.

But of course, any double-disc anniversary edition is only as good as the bonus disc, and on this one tons of treats await, from the 16 minute extended version of "Relax" to the Greek disco remix of "Relax" to the 11 minute never before released version of "The Ballad of 32." As good as these are, the real treats are the previously unreleased demos of  "Two Tribes," and "War," proving them to be just as powerful in their rawer, under-produced stages.  "Watusi Love Juicy," is an entirely unreleased song from the end of the Pleasurdome-era that will only go on to further the Frankie legend.

My advice.  Forget reading this review.  You know the songs.  Give in.  Find your place on the dancefloor my friend.  Lights out.  Decadence awaits.


buy here: Welcome to the Pleasuredome

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ripple News - VENOMIN JAMES Drummer Critically Ill; Family Needs Support

News that breaks our heart.  Long-time Ripple favorites, Venomin James, a truly devastating doom/stoner metal band from Cleveland need your help.  Jared Koston, the 40-year-old drummer, has been diagnosed with two brain tumors stemming from stage IV melanoma cancer. He was released from University Hospital in Cleveland to be at home with his family.

"Jared's started radiation therapy, but his doctors have basically said that we should prepare for the worst," says Venomin James guitarist Joe Fortunato.

"It has all happened so rapidly that it took us all by surprise. He had been getting chemotherapy, but a bad reaction hospitalized him, which is how they found more going on. Originally, it was only in his shoulder but has now spread to his spleen and brain. It may happen that he doesn't survive too much longer.

"We were planning to have a benefit concert for him and for melanoma charities, but it looks like he may not even be around long enough to see it, let alone play at it."

"Jared and his family need financial help immediately," says Auburn Records president Bill Peters."Jared has four beautiful children and a wonderful wife by his side.Anything you can contribute to the Koston family during their time of need is greatly appreciated.This family is doing everything they can to keep things going but can't do it alone.Jared and his wife Michele are both hard working people but had to leave their jobs while they continue to battle this illness."

"All of the money raised will go directly to Jared and his family to help cover medical and travel expenses. Please take a few minutes to contribute if you are able. No donation is too small. You can make a difference."

Cash, checks and money orders (payable to Jared Koston) can be sent to:

The Koston Family
3060 Princeton Drive
Madison, Ohio 44057

PayPal donations can be sent to: (be sure to mark "personal," then select "gift").

There also is a Koston Cancer Funds "cause" page set up on Facebook.

Michele Koston has organized two spaghetti dinner fundraisers at the Stadium Grill in Mentor, Ohio on May 3 from 6 to 8 p.m. and at the Wagon Wheel Restaurant in Madison, Ohio on May 24 from 5 to 8 p.m.

Michele, along with members of Venomin James, will appear live on WJCU's "Metal On Metal" radio show, hosted by Peters, on Friday, March 26 at 8:30 p.m. EST to talk about her husband's condition. Listen live at or 88.7 FM in the Cleveland, Ohio area.

Venomin James is about to release its second album, "Crowe Valley Blues", on Auburn Records in May. An advance track from the CD, "Cosmonaut", will appear on Poland's Hard Rocker magazine "Monuments Of Steel II" compilation CD.

Venomin James' full-length debut, Left Hand Man, came out in 2007 to a rave Ripple review.

In addition, Venomin James' lead vocalist Jim Meador also serves as a sergeant in the U.S. Army. He was called back to active duty in 2009 and sent overseas to be stationed on the frontlines in Afghanistan. He is scheduled to return home in May. During his absence, the band has been writing and demoing new material for its third studio album. They have also performed a couple of all-instrumental sets in the Cleveland area, including a benefit concert for WJCU in February, to remain active and visible while Meador is overseas.

Venomin James are one of Cleveland's hottest upcoming bands," states Peters, "and Jared is a standout drummer. The band is on the verge of breaking out of this market and going on to the next level. Anyone who has seen them live can attest to that fact. They are facing a lot of adversity but are staying strong and positive to overcome these obstacles.

"All of our thoughts and prayers right now though are focused on Jared's recovery and Jim's safe return home."

Ours too, our friends.  Ours too.

pick up Left Hand Man here.  Help support the band.  Left Hand Man

Monday, March 29, 2010

Rain - 널 붙잡을 노래

You know, it's always when I'm not a fan anymore that all these artists put out new material. Oh well. The new Rain single is out in preparation for his comeback (it's really a comeback now), and I have a few words to say about it. whoa. lol.

He's back after the highly-hyped but kind of flop that is Ninja Assassin, and may I say, he hasn't lost his touch - the guy still knows how to make music. Which is good for all of us, since we need Rain back amidst all the not-so-talented idol groups and I badly need new, good music to amuse me.

I'll flat-out say it now - the single is very Rain. And I mean, down to the production and the unmistakeable vocals (or maybe it's just 'coz I spent this time last year listening to Rainism) there's no doubt that the guy responsible for this is Rain. It's not just because I used to be a fan and I've listened to every single song he's ever put out, it's just that the production is so him.

The start is really simple - him and a piano part. Which is rather different for him, since all his other lead singles have been 'I'm so gonna dance my feet off by the second verse' types. I actually didn't like it at first because it was just that - so un Rain. But I like the irony, and I like the simplicity - Rain isn't getting any younger, he has to show us that he's not just some pretty-faced dancing machine, that he's actually a musician. Of course, a boring ballad won't necessarily show his creativity, but it'll show his ability. If he can make something sound complete and gorgeous with minimal effort, he's gotta be the least bit good, right?

I like the string section. I like string sections, I like beautiful, sweeping string sections that give me goosebumps - probably a homage to my orchestra upbringing? The chorus is very catchy, despite the song being a ballad. I find myself humming the melody even if I'm not listening to it!

The second verse is more Rain - the backbeat, the whole thing sounds like something off Rainism with a little flare. Which is really good.

The middle 8 is gorgeous. The intensity and the emphasis he put on it with the background vocals and the syncopation (I'm not sure if that's the right term, but I think it is) was really something - I like how it's impatient and aggressive and just naturally leads you to the last chorus where everything explodes.

I don't like his adlibs - far too Changmin when he was really young-y - but you gotta hand it to the guy, he was pretty decent. The last chorus ends very quickly, which I find really good. I like how it just ends the way it is and he doesn't really put all these bells and whistles at the end. Although I do think there will be fireworks when he does this live.

Over-all, 널 붙잡을 노래 really shows how Rain has matured since we last heard him, and it shows us that the guy is good without all the theatrics and dancing.

5/5, he's back! hahah.

Lair of the Minotaur - Evil Power

The Pope has a new entry into his top ten list. Yeah, I know it’s only March as of the writing of this piece, but when an album punches you repeatedly in the face, kidney region, and groin area a hundred and sixty-two times before it’s made one complete revolution, then by default, said album has effectively muscled it’s way in. Lair of the Minotaur. Evil Power. Metal, metal, and more metal! Not since Skeletonwitch’s Breathing the Fire have I listened to an album that has felt so damned immediate, and folks, a lot of metal has etched it’s grooves into my desk in the past year. These guys bring the guts and the muscle and the violence and the imagery and all of those great classic metal elements that make testosterone amped lads act like escaped zoo animals. Their sound is raw and somewhat sludge-y, yet the sound grooves and is jam packed with riffs that will have you banging your head, crunching your abs, whipping yourself into a spastic frenzy, flipping over your desk with rage . . . a sound that is as unapologetic as it is honest. Metal not for the sake of being metal, but because this is simply who Lair of the Minotaur are.

For a quick comparison of sounds, let’s just say Lair of the Minotaur sounds closest to a mixture of Skeletonwitch, early Celtic Frost, and Mastodon . . . all injected with a gritty dose of hardcore punk and old school metal tension. Irreverent and blistering, Evil Power is the type of street metal or underground sound that accompanies destruction and ultra-violence. Brutally dense, but filled with great dynamic twists that are fueled by emotion rather than technical heroics, this album is a breath taking hell ride that strips the flesh from the muscle, the muscle from the bone, the bone from the marrow . . . leaving nothing but dust in its wake. I can only imagine that a live jam from these cats would leave more than a few bodies traumatically damaged beyond repair, and then, the psychological damage would be incalculable . . . glassy eyed zombies shambling their way through the city streets, mindlessly bumping into light posts, collapsing in spasm in gutters or on the hoods of parked cars after being assailed by the torment that only Lair of the Minotaur can bring.

Distributed through Southern Lord Records, this band has been labeled as doom . . . eh, okay. Let’s just call them metal coz’ really, they have all the elements. Just succumb to the chaos that is the opening track, “Attack the Gods,” and hear how the waves of pure, unadulterated metal pummels your body like the ocean waves to a distant seashore. Huge rumblings tones of bass amidst a flurry of guitar feedback and drums bludgeoning away, all put together to emphasize the sonic intensity of the music. Like that proverbial runaway train, this song barrels along, obliterating everything that stands in its way. The groove is powered by the guitar riff, but combined with the other instruments, in particular, the vocal attack this song becomes the ultimate chaotic metal masterpiece. The vocals, though gruff and brimming with aggression, aren’t so layered with guttural growls to become incomprehensible. I get it . . . we’re doing battle with the gods, and we’re probably going to die in the process, but damn it! What a party we’re gonna’ have during this conflict!

 “Riders of Skullhammer, We Ride the Night” bursts from the speakers with that compelling old school guitar chug that I found so compelling with Skeletonwitch. Nasty and distorted, vital and immediate, I throw my fist in the air and wave it in defiance of your ways, oh society, oh evil being that has kept the man down! This song injects a massive dose of “bring it on, bitch!” as it fills this listener with a sense of omnipotence, an element of cockiness that would inevitably lead me to many a broken bone and internal injury. All of two minutes long, the song is the perfect anthem for those who prowl the night and lay waste to everything in sight, in that its short, concise, to the point and basically does everything a good song needs to do. Then check this out . . . as the title track follows this anthemic gem, listen to the outstanding break towards the end of the tune. Perfectly executed metal precision just played from a looser mind frame, a more emotions-worn-on-the-sleeve type of reactionary metal. Raw as hell and fucking awesome!

By the sixth song, Lair of the Minotaur bring absolute devastation with “Hunt and Devour.” What’s not to like about this beast? It’s heavy, and brutally raw, aggressive, all of the hatred is sparklingly brilliant as the musicians use the subtlety of nuclear explosion to convey their message . . . and they do it all in a minute and a half! I’ve never had that concise of a thought. Ever. The guitars are chugging heavy, the bass; a rumbling and ravenous beast, the drums shifting from hard driving to fairly intricate patterns as the sticks dance across the ride cymbal. And the vocals . . . the vocals are phrased perfectly in time with the music, the starts, the stops, the raw emotion of the music is reflected, and in many cases made more effective by the vocals.  

Evil Power is amazing! Every song kicks ass . . . “Blood From the Witch’s Vein,” “ We Are Hades,” but it’s “Death March of the Conquerors” that has me brandishing my armor, sharpening my steel, donning my war paint, and every other manly man thing I can think about as I prepare to enter battle against all those who oppose me. The build-up intro to this song is epic, irreverent as all get out, but I get it. It’s a call to arms as we’re meant to stand up against oppression, to do battle with those who marched on our lands, raped our ideals, and this is where Lair of the Minotaur shows their unapologetic nature the best. The best line in their tirade is “These fucking cunts fight like women.” Now, I know what a lot of you are gonna’ say, these guys apparently never fought the women I know, but that’s not the point. It’s more of a verbal assault against a foe than an attack against feminism, it’s a string of words used to inspire the gathered force, and it’s irreverently eloquent. Hell, after listening to this song, I’m ready to storm any blood soaked hill to avenge my fallen brothers!

Evil Power is the be all, end all, rawest, most virulent slab of metal that I’ve heard in the past year. Lair of the Minotaur have combined all of the elements that I love most about metal and created an absolute gem, nay . . . a must have album. Evil Power is the album that all of your metal friends are going to be talking about, and Lair of the Minotaur is the band that will lead a new breed of raw, emotive metal from the musty depths of the underground. Sure, some of the lyrics are based on fantasy, but it’s the underlying message that’s important here. Supplant witches and gods with corporations and politicians and the whole message becomes that much more immediate and relevant for today. The album is a call to arms, though not as black and white as the punk rock of yester year, it’s still pretty clear as to the meaning of the belly fire. Yep. It’s a certainty. Evil Power is at the top of my favorite list for 2010 and has the strength to top many of my previously favorite albums from any decade.  -  Pope JTE

Buy here:  Evil Power

The following video is from an earlier Lair of the Minotaur album called Carnage, but it should give you a pretty good idea of what Pure Evil is all about. Hopefully, we'll be able to host some newer video material for you in the near future.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Get ready for some major fangirling

This article is NOT professional in ANY WAY, except for the last 2-3 paragraphs. It's essentially just me gushing over a DBSK performance. So, if you like seeing me freak out, be my guest, but if you just get annoyed, don't bother.

OK, before I start talking like an airhead (which I do when I spazz), this performance of DBSK's O Jung.Ban.Hap. was in Japan (therefore it's Sei.Han.Go) as a part of their Tokyo Dome concert last year. I will now begin fangirling in 5... 4... 3... 2...

... 1


I liked O to start with, I really did, but my copy of the entire TSC Tokyo Dome is the TBS broadcast, which, BECAUSE OF SOME STUPID EDITOR, did not include this performance of the said song. I'd seen the TSC Tokyo Dome stuff from the DVD on YT, but I kinda overlooked O since it was the Japanese version and I liked the Korean one, but ZOMG I WAS SO WRONG.

First, the song was sang live. YESSSS. Second, the middle 8 Jaejoong and Junsu did was BRILLIANT BEYOND BELIEF and third, DAMN DID YOU HEAR THAT ARRANGEMENT?!?!?!?!?!??!?! I was screaming my head off when I heard it and my parents were looking at me like o.O - I don't usually do that.

When the song was starting and Yunho was doing his dance solo I was like "Ok, the same standard dance beat," but then the live band came in and I was like DAMN ARE MY EARS FAILING ME OR IS THIS RE-ARRANGEMENT JUST SO FREAKING BRILLIANT?!? So throughout the song my jaw was wide open but then this arrangement just HAD to almost give me a heart attack again with the dance break. OH MY GOD THAT DANCE BREAK IS THE BEST DANCE BREAK I'VE HEARD IN AGES. Did you hear that drum part?!?!? *faints*

And then the middle 8. My favorite middle 8 of all middle 8s ever created in this world to make me fall to my feet. OH MY GOD JAEJOONG. OH MY GOD JUNSU. YOU TWO ARE GOING TO KILL ME BEFORE I EVER SEE YOU LIVE IF YOU KEEP IT UP. SO KEEP IT UP.

That dance break. Oh dear God that dance break. ZOMGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG. None of that fake drum crap, this is the real thing. I LIVE FOR THE REAL THING.


You know, this is what I never, EVER get in Korea - you don't have this level of creativity when it comes to Korean concerts, everyone just uses the studio version. I mean yeah, sure the studio version is great and it gives the audience the single they bought/constantly hear on TV and the radio so they're familiar with the songs, but the point of a live performance is to give the audience something they CAN'T hear on the record. Live performances are when performers are supposed to show what the crap they're made of and how creative they are - they're when these acts are supposed to let loose and literally 'give all they've got'. If all you're giving them are the stuff on the record, exactly as is, they're better off buying the record for a heck of a lot less and staying at home to listen to it, after all, what's the difference?

Live music is live music no matter how you look at it - people spend that much time and effort to make it and it costs that much for a damn good reason. If Korea can't give that to me, then I'm afraid I'll have to side with Japan on this one.

A Sunday Conversation With Moth Circus

Big, brash, loud, and heavy.  That's Moth Circus.  But most important in Ripple world, they do all that without ever losing their groove.  Manic, groovy metal, that's just the way I like it and that's just the way these Norweigian madmen bring it.  Naturally, we cleared off some space on the red leather Ripple interview couch, popped open some cold ones and couldn't wait for the circus ringmaster, Alien Ken, to stop by and enlighten us in the way of the Moth.

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.

What have been your musical epiphany moments?

The first "rock" band I listened to was Roxette (Swedish pop band from the 80`s). I thought that was the most heavy music I have ever heard.  And then i got into this great Norwegian band called Ingenting. (Not to be confused with the Swedish band [ingenting]). They inspired me to pick up my guitar so I owe them a lot. Great band. I`ve been listening to them for 15 years straight, and I`m still not tired of it!  And then of course i discovered Nirvana.... Then there was no turning back! hehe . The latest artist that made my jaw drop was the first time I heard Buckethead. That guy is a genius and i love him. The guitar work he did in Guns n Roses Chinese Democracy is awesome... I love that record.

Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?

The music always comes first. Usually it starts with a riff and then I just build on it from there. I tend to bring a complete song to practice and then me and Johnny work together on the lyrics and vocal melody. We both carry around a lot of notebooks with various ideas and then exchange ideas and deep deep poetry.. hehe.

Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?

I really love David Lynch`s movies and i get a lot of inspiration from them. But my main motivation is the burning desire to make a change, to educate and inspire. I do not hold all the answers but I have something that needs to be said! Other inspiration sources for me are Mary Kate & Ashley Olsen, EBE, Tanya Hansen and the menstruation in my morning coffee.

Genre's are so misleading and such a way to pigeonhole bands. Without resorting to labels, how would you describe your music?

We play Alien/Coffin rock like no other bands do. hehe.. We try not to get stuck in genres. If we think its sounds good then its okey. Way to many bands find a recipe and (ab)use it way to much... All their songs sound the same... I HATE that....

What is you musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?

My musical intention is to inspire to make a change. I hope the audience gets a good feeling when they come to our shows or listen to our record. Open your mind........But don't let your brain fall out.

In songwriting, how do you bring the song together? What do you look for in terms of complexity? Simplicity? Time changes?

How do I bring the song together? Work, work, work and lots of dr pepper to keep me focused.  I never think about complexity or simplicity or anything like that when I make a song.  Its all about the feeling and what I think fit the song. I love the simplicity of Nirvana, but I also love the complex things Buckethead does...

The business of music is a brutal place. Changes in technology have made it easier than ever for bands to get their music out, but harder than ever to make a living? What are your plans to move the band forward? How do you stay motivated in this brutal business?

Spend a lot of time on the internet trying to make new connections. Myspace and Facebook are great places to spread your music and gain new fans. I find it really important that Moth Circus is a band that finds new paths, not necessarily follow in other people`s footsteps. I just try to do my best all the time and I`m really thankful for every new fan we get.

Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?

Hehe... Call our drummer Glenn for lots of cool stories.

What makes a great song?

It has to have a hook. Something to hold on to.

Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?

The first song I wrote for Moth Circus was "Death Living". I remember playing the lead riff for the others and Glenn burst out "We cant play that shit, it sounds like Iron Maiden!!!!". Hehe... He changed his mind. The lyrics are about abuse, and the track will be remastered for our upcoming record.

What piece of your music are particularly proud of?

I wrote an instrumental song for my grandfather for his birthday last year. I could see that it made an impact on him and that means a lot to me. He is one of the few persons whom have never judged me and always stood by my side no matter what. Moth Circus-wise I`m proud of all the songs but right my favorite is "Little Lo" from the upcoming record.

Who today, writes great songs? Why?

Dave Grohl writes good songs. He has the focus on the good melody and I like that. I also have to mention Axl Rose and the Chinese Democracy record. I think its one of the best rock albums to come out in the last decade.

Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?

 I still enjoy the CD

We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. When we come to your town, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?

You know, there aren't many record stores left around here. Almost everybody is downloading illegally and I think that's a shame. But there is an old school record store that's still going strong. It`s called Record World and has lots of weird and obscure things that you don't find anywhere else. If you have seen the movie "High fidelity" you`ll get the idea

Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?

Thanks a lot for your support. Don't forget to visit Stay clear of drugs and keep watching the skies... The truth is out there.....

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ripple News - Parental Advisory Tour with Nashville Pussy, Green Jelly, and Psychostick Takes Off!

The Parental Advisory Tour featuring heavy hitters Nashville Pussy, Green Jelly, and  Psychostick is underway.  Headliners Nashville Pussy, who has toured with the likes of AC/DC, Motorhead, and many others bring an onslaught of Southern Rock / sleeze metal with a ton of groove, melody, and a flat out rocking attitude.  Supporting Nashville Pussy, are punk rockers Green Jelly, who Danny Carey (TOOL drummer) played with for 5 years, and Psychostick, an underground / comedy metal band - you know you know the “Beer Is Good” song.  While yes,  Psychostick are funny, they unleash some seriously pounding riffs to let you know they mean serious business

March 25 - Orlando, FL @ Club Firestone
March 26 - Charleston, SC @ Halligans
March 27 - Charlotte, NC @ Tremont Music Hall

March 28 – Greenville, SC @ Gottrocks

March 30 – Nashville, TN @ The Limelight
March 31 - Indianapolis, IN @ 8 Seconds Saloon
April 01 - Fort Wayne, IN @ Pierre’s
April 02 - Geneva on the Lake, OH @ The Cove
April 03 - Covington, KY @ The Mad Hatter
April 07 - Springfield, VA @ Jaxx
April 08 - New York, NY @ Rocks Off Concert Cruise

April 09 – Southbridge, MA @ Millstreet Brews
April 10 - Rochester, NY @ Montage Music Hall
April 12 – Baltimore, MD @ Bourbon Street Ballroom
April 13 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Rex Theater – no GREEN JELLY
April 14 – Erie, PA @ Sherlock’s
April 15 - Flint, MI @ The Machine Shop
April 16 - Toledo, OH @ Headliners
April 17 - Columbus, OH @ Alrosa Villa
April 18 - Middletown, OH @ Sorg Opera House Theater
April 20 - Waterloo, IA @ Spicolis Grill And The Reverb Rock Garden
April 21 - Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s Rock Club
April 22 - Louisville, KY @ Expo 5
April 23 - St. Louis, MO @ The Library
April 24 - Merriam, KS @ Aftershock
April 25 - Wichita, KS @ Lizards Lounge
April 25 - Des Moines, IA @ House Of Bricks

April 27 – Tulsa, OK @ The Other Side Event Center

April 29 – San Antonio, TX @ Backstage Livesa

April 30 – Houston, TX @ Wired Live

May 01 – Austin, TX @ Red Eyed Fly

May 02 – Dallas, TX @ Skillman Street Bar

May 05 – Amarillo, TX @ The War Legion Underground
May 06 - Denver, CO @ Cervante's Masterpiece
May 07 - Grand Junction, CO @ Mesa Theater - no GREEN JELLY
May 08 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Club Vegas
May 12 – Sparks, NV @ The New Oasis

May 13 – Bend, OR @ Domino Room
May 14 - Tacoma, WA @ Hell’s Kitchen
May 15 - Portland, OR @ Peter's Room at Roseland
May 21 - Fresno, CA @ The Crest Theater

May 22 – Santa Cruz, CA @ The Catalyst
May 23 - Modesto, CA @ Fat Cats Music Lounge
May 27 - Santa Ana, CA @ Galaxy Theatre
May 29 - San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick
May 30 - Phoenix AZ @ Rhythm Room

Friday, March 26, 2010

Interview: Shontelle

After waiting and waiting and waiting, IT'S FINALLY HEREEEEEEEE! I've been talking about it for months and expecting it for weeks - my interview with SHONTELLE.

Shontelle needs no introduction, with singles like T-Shirt, Licky and now Impossible, she's constantly impressed me and millions of other people. I'll admit that next to the Sugababes, VV Brown, and Agnes Carlsson, this Shontelle interview is probably the biggest thing I've ever had for PRN. Damn.

So, without further interruption, I bring you a Pop Reviews Now exclusive interview with Shontelle.

1. First off I'm a huge fan. Hahah. As an artist, where do you draw your influences from, which artists really had an effect on how your music sounds?

My parents listened to alot of Motown (Stevie Wonder, Jackson 5, Diana Ross, Marvin Gay etc) as well as Whitney Houston, Prince, Madonna, Earth Wind & Fire and a lot of Classic Rock, so I kinda grew up on that stuff and I feel like that's my foundation. I really got into TLC, Aaliyah, Lauryn Hill, Brandy, Alicia Keys & Beyonce a bit later in life.These days I listen to and I'm influenced by pretty much ALL music and Artists.

2. To people who may not know of your music (yet) or aren't really that familiar with it, how would you describe your over-all sound and who you are as a musician?

That's always a weird question for me because artistically speaking, I hate being put into a box. But I guess "my sound" fits a Top 40 Pop/R&B format mostly with some Caribbean inflections as I'm from Barbados. I like to make music that crosses all formats.

3. Did you ever imagine being in the position you are right now - being signed to a major record label and having a top 40 single under your belt?

It's always been my dream and I always knew I could actually do it. I always looked for a way to make it happen no matter how unimaginable or how "Impossible" it seemed. I just needed the opportunity to present itself. The second it did, I jumped and spread my wings...

4. I personally think the transition from first to second album is one of the most difficult parts of anyone's career - how do you think you handled the shift?

I agree with you totally. It's easy to get in. Far from to maintain. Album 2 is like finally being inducted into the "club" It's a very interesting transition all the way down to the way you're treated by the public but also your peers. I think so far, so good. I believe based on Shontelligence, we've been able to narrow it down to what people like the most and No Gravity will showcase much more of that. The most important thing to me is that on your second album, you improve from the first. I've worked hard to do that. I believe I have...

5. Musically, what can we expect from 'No Gravity' as a whole, will it be majorly different from 'Shontelligence' or is it a continuation?

The album will be different in many ways. The overall sound is more polished. Shontelligence was intentionally a bit more gritty and introductory. "No Gravity" has a lot more dance records and radio friendly tracks. I did a lot of the writing again. I'm excited. I want this album to win Grammys!

6. I listened to 'Impossible' and I really think it's gorgeous, with the sweeping melody and the epic arrangement. What do you want to achieve with this single both chart-wise and musically?

I'd like to see Impossible cross all formats and become a worldwide #1 smash! I think it deserves to be. I's love to see the writers, producer and engineer that are responsible for Impossible win some major awards and earn some cred. It's very pure and pretty much any one in the world can relate to it. It's not Impossible for all of this to happen is it?

7. 'Licky' (the song) is very different from 'Impossible' and a lot of your older material in my opinion - what fueled you to record the song?

I've always wanted to make records like "Licky" I just think we played it safe on Shontelligence. But I've learned that playing it safe gets you nowhere and I've really changed gears this time around. I'd rather fail taking risks than be average playing it safe...

8. If you were to collaborate with any artist currently active in the music industry, who would it be, what kind of song would you record and why?

I would love to colab with Alicia Keys. I'm curious to see what see would bring out of me. She's so versatile and dynamic. I guess we'll have to wait until it happens to see what kind of song it will be ;)

9. Is branching out as an international act (as in touring the world, charting in countries aside from the US and the UK) on your agenda? Why or why not?

It's most definitely my plan to be Worldwide in every sense of the word and I've been blessed to have had a taste of it thus far. How I'm HUNGRY!

10. What do you want to be remembered for in the next 10 or 20 years?

Simply making great music to inspire, motivate and entertain the people of the world. Music is the Universal language. I want the world to understand my language and I want to speak and understand theirs. Whatever other good things my music brings my way, I welcome with open arms!

You know where to find her. If all else fails, Google her! hahah.

Grant Hart - Hot Wax

Hot WaxGrant Hart has been busy in his garage.

And likely been eating a lot of omelets. How else do you explain the hard core, old school sound of Hot Wax? He has been actively stapling egg crates and foam to 50 year old 2x4s and perhaps even intentionally blowing a few fuses in a valiant attempt to capture that sound. The one that every garage band hits on cassette and then wants to clean up to sound “professional”. Well, Grant has re-engineered the organ, the strat going into the practice Fender, the beach towel in the bass drum and the ping pong table folded up on the far side to get that sound.

"You’re the reflection of the moon" nails it. Just fucking nails it. Its 1968 and you’ve just been listening to the Doors and Satanic Majesty’s and you’re itching to play. However, is there more irony that my sitting here saying how perfectly this recording nails that vintage sound? "You’re the reflection of the moon on the water/but you’re not the moon/you are the scent of the sea on the night wind/but you’re not the sea." Yes, this is the sound of the song from 1968, but you’re not the song from 1968. Who care? ? and the Mysterions are somewhere smiling. Turn it up.

"Barbara" gives us a dose of Beach Boys via England and Carnaby Street. The simple piano riff and gentle snare/timpani playing might even have more classic Who to it that Grant wants to admit. "Barbara is naughty/and I’m punished for her actions" sing the lyrics, and the fluegel horn sells home the homage/parody. Which is it? Does it matter? I’m still not sure that this wasn’t recorded on a vintage cassette deck and then just dumped to CD.

For all the lack of huge commercial success, Husker Du always had a serious commitment to the music and the stylistic whoring here isn’t pandering in the slightest. Its compliments paid of the highest order. While I’ve not an single idea what "Charles Hollis Jones" is about (perhaps he’s one of  those eccentric English odd balls that Ray Davies and Pete Townsend were writing about) , the rising and cascading organ that soon has the fuzz-drenched, out of phase guitar and pounding drums riding along with it is a great blast from the past. The vocals are buried down and to the left and serve, mostly, to get the band to start jamming along. Later on, "Sailer Jack" is patently a sequel to the Who’s "Happy Jack" and masturbating pornographer of  "Pictures of Lily". It doesn’t take too long to figure out the Grant has played Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy enough times to take it to heart. "Hollis Jones" is 4:23 of pure rock n’ roll, "Sailor Jack" is 3:59 of post-Who fun.

They count this one in but after the furious rock of the first couple tracks, "Schoolbuses Are For Children" plays it quiet and dips its toes into XTC weirdness. Played with all the earnestness in the world, the song swings from airplanes falling from the sky to who is a better Jew than another Jew. "Reach your hand across the aisle" goes the lyric, but it’s the keyboards that have echo we’ve not heard since mid-period Pink Floyd, and it’s completely at odds with the fact that the drums are still stuck in the garage sonically. It’s a nice track if you’re not listening to a damn word being said.

"California Zephyr" name checks the San Francisco’s Bay Area with an insider’s love. California is the story of a love story, perhaps the whole generation’s love affair with California, of one man’s coming to San Francisco and finding both life and death. How is it that such complex subjects can be played within pop songs? Here there is no doubt about the vocals: the lyrics are up front and center, the guitar driving the song and the rest of the band playing back but with fury.

How about closing the album with a torch song? "Knew All About You Since Then" isn’t the final track but it probably should be. Coded in black and white, with the film grain showing is a short but sweet noir love story that can only end coldly: with a cigarette flicked into the gutter and the storyteller sauntering off into the dark streets, collar pulled up against the night.

"My Regrets" closes the album proper and is pure classic Bowie and the Spiders. Not hard to imagine Mick Ronson on this track, but the drums are far more furious than David had back in the day. The vocals are a spectacular evocation of the 1970’s glam period, one that would surface and survive in the camp form with Rock Horror Picture Show’s music. No need to throw toast when this album is over however, we’re spared the sight of Tim Curry ruining his make up since we can flip the vinyl back over to "Reflection of the Moon on the Water" whenever we want to. Roll another one and start it up again.

Reviewed with his platforms on – the fearless rock iguana

Buy here: Hot Wax

Thursday, March 25, 2010

After School - Bang!

Like I said, Because of You made me actually like After School - if it wasn't for their sub-par/shrill vocals, they'd probably be one of my favorite girl groups. This new single is rather.. different. But it's grown on me since I first heard it.

I like the fact that they have a rather different concept, as opposed to the dark image that's spreading around girl groups and boybands alike, and I like that they clearly made an effort to make this work.

When I first heard the song in full, I was a bit iff-y - the structure and concept are pretty clear, yes, but sonically the song was a mess. You have these very intense verses and marching band/cheerleader chants and then suddenly out of nowhere this middle 8 sprouts out. It's not even a break down, it's like it's part of a completely different song. When I was listening to it for the first time and I heard the first few measures, I was thinking to myself, "I wonder where the other song on the teaser is." Then it came out as the middle 8 and I was like "WHAT?!?!?"

HOWEVER, the verses are very strong - they really bring across the intensity of the rest of the song. And I LOVE the percussion part throughout, I love how it's actually marching band and apparently, the girls can perform it. I'm not sure if it's just a small bit or the entire thing, but here's a practice video of 2 of the members:

To a certain extent, I'm pleased that the song is mainly chanting, rapping and the like, mainly because After School aren't the best vocalists in my book. They can pull of melodies, yeah, but live they falter and I'd like to see a strong live performance for this song, since it calls for it. I would've liked it if they had better vocals and a more melodic song, but that would be asking too much from After School. I do hope the new girl (Lizzy I believe) actually has a voice though. *fingers crossed*


'Ppop' stands for 'Pathetic Pop'

I've tried to hold this in for long enough for the sake of keeping 'peace', but seriously, things have gone WAY too far.

Philippine music has always been something I DO NOT like and because I don't like it to start with, I don't bother blogging about it on a regular basis. The only problem is one, I'm a music blogger from the Philippines and two, my dad is one of the most influential record producers in the country - I know 70% of the popular band bands and I've seen most of them work in the studio.

Like a lot of other countries, the Philippines has a term for all original compositions and material that's put out - OPM or Original Philippine Music. Original Philippine Music is anything and everything originally written, produced and performed by Filipino acts, in the Philippines.

I personally grew up hearing this all over the place, and I grew up seeing a lot of the acts under this 'genre' record and perform - even if I don't personally like them, I know what kind of work it takes to put out stuff like this.

Over the past few years, OPM has been a lost cause - stupid record company executives tried numerous ways to amuse and entice consumers but record sales dropped, and dropped, and dropped. There are good musicians in OPM, don't get me wrong, but a lot of what's put out right now is trash and/or a direct knock-off of another country's music, which is NOT called OPM.

There were bands who stood their ground and still managed to gain success - Sandwich, Sugarfree, Urbandub, Hale, Calalilly to name a few. Even if there were bands who weren't really that good, they were constantly putting out OPM and they actually had listeners who bought the records and went to the gigs.

In comes this new marketing strategy, 'P-Pop'/'Ppop', directly ripped-off from Kpop and even Jpop. The promotional format is almost identical to that of kpop acts - teaser videos, dance cuts, greeting/ment videos and official debut dates/appearances.

Prime examples:

I appreciate the fact that there's actually Filipino in the songs, and that they're trying to get more people to listen to Philippine music by giving people what they want, but this is just going waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too far.

I'm partially angry because these people are ripping off Kpop, but even most Kpop singles are American rip-offs. I hate the fact that these people are openly and shamelessly copying someone else's music and I hate how desperate they are to do so. However, there is a bigger reason why I'm angry, and why I gave a briefing about OPM.

Yes, I like Kpop, and yes, I was a fan long before it even hit here, but you have to realize that I have my reasons for liking it

I'm annoyed, furious and ready to cry right now.

I don't see why the effin' crap these stupid people have to change and attempt to replace a perfectly functional genre with some bad knock-off of someone else's knock-off. If all they do is rip off kpop with the material and the music videos, then I don't give a damn - they can copy every single existing kpop band for all I care. The minute they mess with the categorization and try to CHANGE it though, that's when I have to step in and speak my mind.

OPM has been alive since before I was born, it's given me and generations before and after me influential bands/acts and people who I may not like, but who shaped my country's music. These people were creative, they were ground-breaking and they were outstanding musicians.


I don't want to see my dad's efforts go to waste, I don't want to see all these acts' creativity and musicality just get overshadowed by some over-processed, over-orchestrated garbage. I'm sorry for the term, but I just can't keep my mouth shut anymore.

If there's one thing about OPM that I can live with, it's that the music is there - it's real, it's original, even if sometimes there are similarities, these songs still came from MUSICIANS, and there is good OPM no matter how hard it is to find. But this 'Ppop' is pitiful.

Before I thought Philippine music was in pretty bad shape already, but now I think it's just pathetic. I swear, if this 'Ppop' crap keeps it up, I'm destroying all my dreams of writing for The Rolling Stone or Billboard or The BBC or a talent company and I'm going to spend my entire life whipping these stupid people and the Philippine music industry into shape. This is my country, my country's MUSIC, and this is what my dad tried to fix - if no one's gonna do it, I am.

Bash me all you want for this article, I frankly don't care anymore. If you agree with me, great, but if you don't nothing's stopping you from speaking your mind. Just remember that I have a right to say what I did.

California Crossover - featuring Virulence, Fu Manchu, and Nebula

Virulence – If This Isn’t A Dream…1985-1989 (Southern Lord)

Fu Manchu - Signs Of Infinite Power (Century Media)

Nebula – Heavy Psych (Tee Pee)

If This Isn't a Dream... 1985-1989Fu Manchu and Nebula play mid-temp heavy rock that owes a huge debt to the 1970’s but their roots come from the aggressive hardcore punk scene that exploded in California at the end of that decade and bled deep into the 1980’s. Virulence is a hardcore band that existed from 1985 to 1989 that included future Fu Manchu and Nebula members Scott Hill and Ruben Romano. The hardcore scene went through big changes during this period in time. Most of the pioneers like Minor Threat, Black Flag, The Misfits and Dead Kennedys were either gone or about to expire and hardcore began mixing freely with metal to create crossover styles that became huge.

Virulence played in a style that owed a huge debt to the intensity and aggression of Black Flag, Circle Jerks and Suicidal Tendencies but combined it with the heavy, slower punk style of the Melvins and Flipper. BL’AST! is another obvious influence and probably the closest musically to their style. This is the kind of punk that could only come from California. It’s pissed off suburban rage played as loud as possible. The lyrics are full of confusion and alienation and vocalist Ken Pucci delivers them with a lot of force. Scott Hill’s guitar playing is full of Greg Ginn style twists and turns. He even played the same clear acrylic Dan Armstrong guitar that Ginn used during most of Black Flag’s existence, and Hill still uses one today in Fu Manchu (look for the SSD sticker next to the pickup). This CD collects the complete studio recordings that were issued on their 1987 album, EP’s plus live recordings, including a killer version of Void’s “My Rules.” The earlier material is mainly short blasts of punk fury and the later recordings are slower dirges that make Black Flag’s “Nothing Left Inside” sound like Huey Lewis.

Signs of Infinite PowerWhen Virulence called it quits in 1989, singer Pucci went to college and the rest of the band formed Fu Manchu and changed their musical direction. Signs Of Infinite Power is their 10th studio album. Very little has changed since their debut album No One Rides For Free in 1994. Fu Manchu continue to crank out loud, distorted kick ass rock that combines the heavy 70’s groove of The James Gang, Black Sabbath and Grand Funk Railroad with the California punk of Bad Religion, The Germs and The Adolescents. If you liked the other Fu Manchu albums then you will like this one, too. The overall sound recalls some of their earlier albums. The guitars are very fuzzy and the drums pack a powerful thud. Fu Manchu’s music is perfect for highway star driving and fast ones like “Bionic Astronauts” and “One Step Too Far” will get you a speeding ticket for sure. Slow pounders like “Gargantuan March,” “Webfoot Witch Hat” and the title track are great for banging on your steering wheel when the jerk in front of you won’t get out of the way.

Heavy PsychNebula came into existence when guitarist Eddie Glass and drummer Ruben Romano left Fu Manchu in 1997. Heavy Psych originally came out as an EP in Europe but has been issued in the US by Tee Pee with some extra tracks. Nebula’s current line up consists of Glass on guitar and vocals, bassist Tom Davies and drummer Jimmy Sweet. While having a lot in common musically with Fu Manchu, Nebula has always had a more pronounced Hawkwind influence and this album continues in that direction while also adding in elements of Roky Erickson, Jimi Hedrix, The Groundhogs, Electric Sun and UFO (Mick Bolton era).  

Here in NYC, it’s absolutely freezing and the ground is covered in ice but listening to these 3 records really puts me in a California state of mind. I’m just not sure if I should go spray paint the walls, joyride the highway or take some shrooms in the desert.


Buy here:If This Isn't a Dream... 1985-1989
Buy here: Signs of Infinite Power
Buy here: Heavy Psych

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

F.Cuz VS. ZE:A Round 3 - The Second Singles

These two bands faced-off on PRN earlier this year with their debut singles, and now they're back with follow-up singles. Are they any better? Hell yeah.

See Round 1 and Round 2, for background.

ZE:A - All Day

I previously said that one of my problems with ZE:A was the fact that they had horrible material - looks like they've fixed that with the new single.

It's very generic, sounds like something for Big Bang and 2PM (at different times), but I'd prefer generic over pathetic any day. It's got a lingering hook, some very, very sweet vocals, and I should've known - it's a Bravesound song. So that's why it's a heck of a lot better than the mistake that was Mazeltov. I like the strings and the piano throughout the song, very pretty and the dimension it gives is brilliant.

It's far from perfect or outstanding, but if the guys keep on improving, at this rate they'll be good enough for me to like by the time they release their first album.


F.Cuz - No One

My problem with F.Cuz last time was that Jiggy was too cheesy. I mean, 90% of pop is cheesy but Jiggy was just TOO MUCH. F.Cuz have fixed that as well, a bit.

No One is a little more serious, but it has the upbeat-ness that Jiggy had, and it's got an annoying hook that'll get stuck in your head. Ugh. But, it sounds like something for B2ST, as do the vocals, autotuned and all.

I don't personally like it that much because there's too much processing on the vocals and it's primarily dependent on the hook, which can be a bad thing if that's all your song has. BUUUUT, I'd take it over Jiggy any day.


Therefore, ZE:A win. Yay.

Syn - Matter of Time

What were you listening to in 1993? I know I was listening to whatever was floating around the airwaves of California’s Inland Empire. Tangent: The Inland Empire is no empire unless you’re a meth addict or have an unhealthy appetite for porn. Anyway, odds are I was listening to something from Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Live, Faith No More . . . basically any of the alt rock, grunge, or bizarre metal of the day. I certainly wasn’t listening to Syn’s album, Matter of Time . . . and that’s really a damn shame. This album is shockingly good by all accounts. It has strong songwriting, excellent musicianship, songs that have a perfect balance between ballsy rocker to sweet and sentimental ballad, but the album never gets sappy; catchy tunes that become instantly recognizable, and I have my brother-in-arms, Racer, to thank for turning me on to this gem.

It was one of those fabled Rasputin’s bargain bin dives some years back where we were driven slowly insane by the repetitious clickity-clack of plastic CD cases, cold concrete floors driving joint ache deeper into our bones, and the open hostility of shop keep’s and fellow shoppers due to our senseless banter and idiotic behavior. Hey Racer . . . remember, you double dog dared me to break dance in the aisle! Anyway, at some point in the six hour marathon, he handed me this disc from Syn and told me it was good, give it a listen, try it . . . you’ll like it. So, I did. And, I did and still do. Obviously. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be tippity-tapping on my keyboard to tell you about it. The music on this gem is rock, but it hits the listener from a number of different directions. One minute a little Kentucky fried, a little swampy, but not really full on southern rock, then Syn dips their big toe in the murky waters of grunge/post-grunge, before throwing in huge elements of good ole modern rock vibes.

The first two tracks on this disc are impeccable rock songs, full of hooks, catchy melodies, nuance, rich vocals, and high quality musicianship. “Love On My Side” is simply beautiful and a great way to catch the listeners attention, powered primarily by some slick, though somewhat raw production work, and vocals that have aged for anywhere from seven to ten years in an oak keg somewhere in the back hills of Kentucky. The constant hum of the Hammond organ provides the song with that southern feel, but the song doesn’t come across the same as a Skynyrd or Allman Bros. tune . . . maybe it’s the modern recording of the track that makes it sound more vibrant, I don’t know the reasons, but it’s a solid track. “Love On My Side” initially reminds me of The Wallflowers first album, but that quickly vanishes once the vocals push their way to the front of the mix. The song just has an earthy, organic vibe to the whole thing; it lacks all pretention and just evokes emotion on so many levels.

“Bleed” follows up the lead track in perfect fashion, a heavier dose of straight up rock led by some serious wah’ed out guitars. This track has a bit of that early 90’s Pearl Jam driving rock feel, but the vocals sound like a mixture of the late Michael Hutchins (INXS), especially as he croons his way through the verses, and the quasi-banshee wail of Chris Cornell. The guitar solo is something straight out off of Ten, which isn’t a bad thing, full of dynamic wah pounding action; tapping a bit of that Hendrix vein as the notes bend to unnatural notes. In 1993, this song could easily have been in rotation with any of the “grunge” bands, especially Pearl Jam, as it has that classic rock meets modern aggression thing going on . . . crisp production mixed with the classic rock n’ roll swagger.

“Hey John” is a nice sentimental ode to John Lennon. The song is packed with Beatles references and these guys do a good job of making it an interesting song when it very easily could have come across as sappy and full of gimmick. The vocals on this track come out sounding like a bizarre mixture of Dave Matthews and Adam Duritz of Counting Crows, but they’re effective in conveying the emotion of war and peace and the apathy of society towards the violent world we all live in. Gotta’ say, I love the bass tones and sound the production team got out of the drums! Both instruments sound huge without overwhelming the song, without burying the message of the song or crushing the guitars as they strum out their melodies. Pretty frickin’ cool song!

Matter of Time closes as strongly as the disc opens. “Take It Back” is another ballsy rocker littered with some damned fine guitar work, heavy textural stuff, volume swells, huge waves of chorus and delay . . . simply put, great elements that add flavor to the music. Note the low end work as the bassist strays out of the pocket just enough to keep the listener guessing, adding flourishes of interest as the guitars create ambient sheets of sound. The vocals, as they’ve been throughout the album, are a solid, powerful entity. It kinda’ has that Live sound, especially in the guitars, but also in the way Syn composed the song, grandiose and epic while remaining confined in a five minute piece of music. Album closer, “Matter of Time,” is a piece taken straight from the mind of Page/Plant. The arpeggios plucked from the acoustic six string combined with the vocals give the listener the sense that something big is happening, something epic, and sure enough . . . when the band goes electric and the chorus hits it’s crescendo, it’s like all of those great Zeppelin moments revisited. This song also has me hearing a bit of Doyle Bramhall II, in particular, the Welcome album.

I can’t find a damn thing on Syn other than a few references that they did exist at one time or another, and that they released Matter of Time. Other than that, they seem to be another band that’s been lost to history, another carcass left to rot on the side of the rock n’ roll highway. It’s really too bad too coz’ if this album is any indication of potential future music, then we could have had a nice collection of honest, high quality rock that would have made the 90’s feel like less of a wasteland. Though they constantly remind me of other artists, they never sound so much like anyone else that it sounds like they’re lifting anybody’s schtick. There’s a good combination and balance of old and new sounds mixed within these songs and the album is worth every cent that you spend on it, especially since most of the copies that you find will be in the bargain bins. Matter of Time rocks, it soothes, it’s soulful and high energy and ultimately, a gem of music that was grossly overlooked when other, much less adequate, music engrained itself in our social conscious.  -  Pope JTE

Buy here: Matter Of Time

Simon Curtis - 8Bit Heart

MY FINALS ARE DONEEEEE! My Junior year is officially over and in 2 months I'll be a senior. whoa. In celebration, I bring you a review of Simon Curtis' brand-new album. It's been a while since I've done one, and album review and two, a Western review. Let's see if I still know how to do this. I hope I do.

Simon has one very, VERY important fan - Paul. It's Paul's constant nagging and raving that made me give Simon Curtis a chance and I'm sure it's the same for a lot of other bloggers. BUT, you gotta admit - this guy is a pop genius. Simon, I mean. Although if Paul ever became a pop star I would have absolutely no problem with that! wahahah.

If you read PRN on a regular basis, you know that since I got addicted to kpop early last year, 85% of the music I review now is Korean. The remaining 15% is UK and US pop, but this new album has just made me want to start writing about Western pop a heck of a lot again - if this is what it offers me.

Honestly, this album isn't perfect for me in terms of execution and production. However, the material is so. damn. brilliant. Honestly, I think these are some of the best pop songs I've heard all year. I know I say that a lot but I honestly REALLY mean it now.

Every single song has a lingering hook, a catchy melody and under all the fancy sound effects the songs just shine. What we have here are pop staples - the type of songs that should and will be re-arranged and remade over the years but remain pop to the core.

I personally don't like certain parts of the vocals. But it's these raw vocals that prevent the material from being so in-your-face that you don't realize how good the melodies and songs are. There are also certain parts of the production side that I'm not really feeling, like the processing on Diablo, but it's live-able. Although, the vocals on Brainwash match the song quite well.

Another thing I don't personally like but find really brilliant and pop-y are all the gimmicks, talk breaks and laser-ish sound effects. Pop is a gimmick - you need to find new and creative ways to get listeners to keep playing your songs and in Simon's case, I like what he's done to tie the entire album together with all these gimmicks.

I don't think I can go over every single track, but I'll try. (excluding all the interludes and stuff)

Don't Wanna Be Alone sounds like a more serious version of something that would fit very nicely in Spectacular - I like how you think it's gonna explode into a chorus during a verse but it doesn't. Brilliant. And the song is 2 minutes +, short enough to keep someone's focus throughout the entire song.

The gimmick I was walking about earlier start on Fell in Live w/an Android, with all the videogame-y laser sounds. I like, and it works. The chorus is brilliant, the verses sound fantastic and the arrangement on this song is super cool. Definitely one of my favorites on the album.

Super Psycho Love has a really interesting drum part and these Middle Eastern-y elements then it launches into a Darin-esque arrangement+melody. Briliannnnnnnnce. The vocals on this are a bit bleh for me though.

And of course, the title track does NOT fail to impress. 8Bit Heart has these cool 80's synths going on throughout the song - there they type that if used wrong right now can turn a perfectly good song into an EPIC FAIL. They were used well on this. I like the musical-y melody and the irony of the synths mixed with a cool backbeat and the repeating hook. It's a pop song in the truest sense.

Diablo has it's strong points, like all the cool laser sounds, but the processing on this is a bit bleh for me as well. It reminds me of a Britney song during the verses and certain parts of the chorus, with better vocals though.

We heard Delusional a few months ago, and honestly, it sounds just as good as it sounded when I first heard it. In short, it's brilliant. I love the bridge. I mean, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE AND ADORE THE BRIDGE THAT I'D LIKE TO WORSHIP IT NOW, THANK YOU VERY MUCH. It's a heavy song at first listen but no matter how many times I've listened to it, I haven't gotten sick of it yet. Yeshhhh.

I like how the lasers were used as elements of Joystick and I like the melody throughout - very pop. There's nothing more to say, really. The arrangement and instrumental of Beat Drop remind me of a Britney's Do Somethin', again, but I love the operatic thing going on in the background. Apart from that, the only part I actually really like is the chorus.

I find Brainwash really cool. I like the synths, I like them a lot, and I like the arrangement a heck of a lot. The processing on this matches the entire thing, so much that I honestly can't imagine it without the heavy auto-tune. One of the new songs I've heard that have actually used this crappy auto-tune/processing in the right way. One of my favorite songs.

The Dark is OK, I understand what he's trying to do with this and it's good, but I'm personally not liking it. It's a nice semi-end to the album though.

Honestly, there isn't one song I can single out and say "ok, I like this the most" because not only are all the songs really consistently pop, 8Bit Heart is as cohesive as it is brilliant. In short, it's really, REALLY cohesive - the gimmicks, the songs and the entire concept of the album come together well.

5/5, Pop at it's finest. It's been a while since I've heard pop this good.

Impressed? Wanna hear the album? Get it for free at

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Right The Stars - S/T

Be on the lookout for this alternative pop jazz rock monster of a release by music producer Rich Jacques under the name Right The Stars.  It is FM radio ear candy.  Mainstream alternative - a contradiction in terms but totally understandable.

Think of a combination of these influences -  banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck, Jason Mraz,  almost a decade of knowledge as a music teacher to the stars and almost an equal amount of time as a music producer - and you start to get an idea about what Jacques is trying to do.  Or, should I say, has succeeded in doing. Waves of sound, soothing and soaring vocals - a memorable chorus or line.  Tight instruments.  These songs do not display instruments as lead vehicles. The instruments are used as intricate parts in a tightly constructed framework of sound solely intended to support each song.  Voices are used as instruments but instruments are rarely used as voices.  The writing and orchestration are finely tuned.  There is agony and grief in the lyrics, but, there is also hope.

Where does it come from? Jacques spent a year working with the We Can Pediatric Brain Tumor Network, a support group for families of children with cancer.  He even helped write a song about survival to help children cope with their diagnosis.  The pain shows in the lyrics. Empathy and passion can be overwhelming and you can hear it in the writing - it is extraordinary. From the hesitant hopefulness of the song "Making Deals With Gods" to the outright bursts of joy in "We Got It All" (which is being used by Honda in its Australian CR-V advertising) Jacques, with the help of a panoply of other writers, makes these emotions palpable and you can empathize. The African influences in "Life In A Northern Town" made me wonder whether Jacques went with Bela Fleck to Africa on Bela's recent tour,

Yes, the music is "commercial." Right The Stars' music will appear in the Brooke Shields and Brendan Frasier movie Furry Vengeance which is scheduled for release on April 1, 2010. However, just because it is "commercial" that doesn't mean it is bad.  In fact, in this case, it is wonderful.  Let the music seduce you.  Releases like this don't come along that often 

These are huge hits waiting to happen. 

 - Old School

Buy here: Right the Stars