Friday, April 30, 2010

Scars On Broadway - S/T

When Scars On Broadway was originally released in 2008, I was surprisingly apathetic towards it. My feelings towards the project surprised me a bit, especially considering that I had thoroughly enjoyed the last three System of a Down releases so much. I mean, I played the hell out of Toxicity and Mesmerize/Hypnotize gave me a greater appreciation for the band. The social commentary was borderline crass, and the political statements were laced with the kind of venom that would make the most radical activist blush. Then of course, there was the Serj Tankian solo effort, Elect the Dead, from the year before that had seen plenty of attention from my CD player. It only seemed natural that I would have immediately gravitated towards Scars On Broadway, but maybe I had enough of being pissed off at the world and needed my angst battery recharged. So, Scars just had to wait.

When I did eventually breakdown and buy the album, Scars On Broadway suddenly became the sound de jour, with that de jour being a constant two week stint on the turntable. I realized, Daron Malakian is a bit of a madman genius, and Scars On Broadway is his latest vehicle for the conveyance of his ideas. Where he seemed to be countered by a more focused and grounding energy brought in by Serj Tankian while with System of a Down, Daron’s crazed psycho ramblings fly unfettered on Scars. His unique perspective on life is foremost in these recordings, but he also injects lyrics of introspection throughout and we get a better sense that his views are his alone, and we can interpret them anyway we see fit. Just don’t hurt anyone in the process. The music, much like that of System, is all over the place . . . punk-y, metallic, poppy, avant garde . . . the dude’s musical vision is as frightening and exciting as any psycho-thriller movie in existence. Heavy rock, fast punk, melodic classic rock portions, tasteful guitar licks . . . at times, shocking, other times simply breath taking. Seeing as he had full artistic control of this project, all successes and failures are firmly planted on his shoulders. He played all of the instruments, with the exception of the drums, a responsibility that he left in the more than able hands of longtime SOAD drummer, John Dolmayan.

Blasting out in a punk rock frenzy, “Serious” is simply explosive. Daron’s vocals have that manic quality to them, shifting between hopped up tirade to metallic, melodic crooner as he tells the world that it’s being way too serious. The song is fun, but there’s an underlying sense of despair and darkness creeping around in there . . . heavy and moving, cleaner and quieter at the chorus. The guitar work is great, particularly in the outro as he begins this wild alternative double picking technique. The tune is a great, upbeat way to kick off the album, setting the tone for what would appear to be a classic punk infused collection of songs. But the album takes a turn on the follow up track, “Funny.” The song comes across as a poppy surf number filled with synthesized textures and ambient melodies. The tempo is slowed down a bit and the aggressiveness is all but nil . . . though that darkened undertone is still there and has a feel of a personal narrative as if we’re riding shotgun with Daron as he makes his way through the city of Santa Monica.

“Stoner Hate” may be my personal favorite on the album and that feeling is powered by the chorus melody as much as the double time beat and heavy guitar riffing. My God, that’s a powerful groove! Plus, any song that can work “super-cala-fra-jalistic-expi-ela-docious” into the lyrics is alright by me. I’m a sucker for Mary Poppins. In all seriousness, the song is as ballsy and heavy as they come . . . it’s short, to the point (whatever the point may be,) has some great dynamic shifts in tone and tempo, and the vocal melody is infectious. Served up with a cup of coffee, “Stoner Hate” is the kind of song that incinerates the cobwebs rather than brushes them away. And order up a side dish of “Kill Each Other/Live Forever,” and you have a morning cocktail to face the day with reckless abandon. Again, as is the case with all of the songs on the album, the melodies are strong and memorable . . . and the sarcastic lyrics performed in an even more sarcastic voice create one of the more poignant moments on the album. This last song has some striking similarities to latter day System of the Down material . . . jarring and somewhat bizarre musical breaks, and huge melodic choruses, in particular.

“Chemicals” irreverently dances in the no man’s land of rebellious and crass, “Enemy” shakes it’s ass in modern disco fashion while constantly reminding us that the human race is a parasitic organism whacked on drugs, and “Universe” comes out of the gates sounding like Bob Dylan in a uber-paranoid mood before exploding into open chords of distorted sound. “3005” is Daron Malakian spreading his wings and soaring over the concrete mountain tops of downtown Los Angeles . . . the song borders on epic, filled with great musical passages, emotional tones, and an overall cool fucking performance. It has a kind of Beatles-esque experimentation going on with the melodies and the textural nuances, and that guitar solo! Damn! It’s subtle, understated, somewhat reserved and held back, but damn . . . that tone and the phrasing is cool as hell!

Manic and overcharged, Scars On Broadway is a chaotic frenzy of music . . . but that statement alone doesn’t tell the whole tale of what’s going on there. In fact, this review pretty much just skims the surface of what you may find tucked within the grooves of this record. There’s so much going on and the infectiousness of the melodies makes further exploration fell more worthwhile. If the melodies weren’t there, it would be like trading brains with a schizophrenic. The melodies are like a safety barrier from the raw insanity, a protective bubble of rich sounds. There’s nothing I would change about this album, or my experience with it. In hindsight, I’m glad it took me so long to finally include it to my collection, otherwise, it would have been too much in conjunction with all of the aforementioned bands and side projects. Daron Malakian is a nut, but it’s the crazy one’s who seem to create the most interesting music and Scars On Broadway is fantastic journey to the doorstep of institutionalization.  -  Pope JTE

Buy here:  Scars On Broadway [Vinyl]

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Stone Axe - Stone Axe II

When it comes to mid-tempo heavy rock, Stone Axe are the most dedicated muthas on the planet right now. Too old and unfashionable to be considered “retro,” Stone Axe eat, shit and breathe the full gamut of classic rock from the late 1960’s through the early 1970’s.  Stone Axe II picks up where 2009’s full length debut left off but also offers quite a few surprises. The first album was heavy on British style blues rock of bands like Free, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Fleetwood Mac (Peter Green era, only), etc. This new one touches on just about every style of classic rock. Listening to Stone Axe II from start to finish is like listening to a good rock radio station with a good DJ and no format restrictions.

Once again, Tony Reed Smith plays most of the instruments and vocals are handled by the incredible Dru Brinkerhoff. How the hell do these guys make records that sound so natural and live when Tony’s overdubbing one instrument on top of the other? Production is top notch and the guitar sound is great. Tony’s guitar playing is always inspired, he makes it sound kind of like Paul Kossoff sitting in with some of the best rock bands of all time. Dru’s voice is powerful and brings to mind Paul Rodgers, David Coverdale and Ian Gillian at their peak. Touring bassist Mike DuPont and drummer Mykey Haslip make a few appearances and it’s hard to tell the difference from the songs where Tony plays all the instruments.

Fans of the first album will love songs like “Old Soul” and “Live For The Day” because of the strong Free influence. “We Know It’s Still Rock N Roll” takes inspiration from AC/DC’s “Big Balls” with Dru doing the best Bon Scott impression I’ve ever heard. “Chasing Dragons” could be from an old Faces album while “Just A Little Bit” recalls early 70’s Rolling Stones. They hinted at this style a little bit on the first album but these are full blown tributes. “One More Time Before I Die” is an instrumental that boils down The Who’s Tommy into about 3 and a half minutes.

Thin Lizzy fans will love “Those Were The Golden Years” because it sounds like “Little Darlin” with Tony doing a spot on Phil Lynott impression. Tony also sings on album closer “Turn To Stone,” the biggest departure for Stone Axe. This is pure Procol Harum worship bordering on Moody Blues with a Jethro Tull middle section. There’s enough mellotron and Hammond organ to make Keith Emerson jealous.

Stone Axe make the kind of classic rock that real classic rock fans want to hear. Buy their album so they can go on tour and spread the gospel. As good as the records are (and there are a bunch of cool singles and EP’s to check out, too) they are best witnessed in yo face. They’re not afraid to set up full stacks in the crappiest punk rock dive and blow the toilet seats off.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dropkick Murphys - Live on Lansdowne

I’m not Irish, but I can tell you, without going to the North Atlantic, there can be no place more fun to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day than in Boston with the Dropkick Murphys.  From the opening, massive audience chant of “Let’s go, Murphys” you can tell this was a crowd amped and pumped and just hungering for the Murphys brand of fiery Irish infused street punk.  And boy, did they deliver big time!

Recorded during the Murphys stint of seven shows in six nights encompassing St. Patrick’s Day in 2009, this is a roaring, bar room frenzy of Oi! Punk and roll.  The love the audience has for these cats is palpable, showering the stage with screams and chants and stomps.  The Murphys, in turn feed off that energy, like a hurricane feeding off a low pressure zone, gaining power and momentum as each moment of this triumphant affair unfolds. 

My introduction to the particular Celtic brand of Murphys punk came through the back door.  After reviewing the last Street Dogs CD, I bent over backwards to find everything these guys were involved with, but still, I was unprepared for the shear passion these cats bring to the live stage.  Whether tearing through a manic pure punk frenzy like “Famous for Nothing,” dropping down into some more fired up traditional sounds like “The State of Massachusetts,” or even punking up a traditional blast like “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya,” there is simply no stopping these guys.  They are Celtic Punk.  They are pure energy in motion.

Mixed in amongst the pure volume and raging devotion the Murphys bring to their music is an assortment of traditional instruments like accordion, bouzouki, mandolin, banjo, bagpipes and tin whistle.  Instruments most punks can’t even pronounce much less play.  And that’s one of the things that makes the Murphys stand head and shoulder above just about every other American punk band ever.  Each member of this rowdy crew is a musician first, finding their outlet in truly tossed-to-abandon punk rock.

God, to have been in the audience during “The State of Massachusetts”!  I can only imagine the dancing, hopping, jumping orgy in the crowd.  Dance floor or mosh pit?  Yep, it’s both as the pictures in the insert contest.   Tattooed punks firing their fist in the air right next to dancing girls.  With it’s incessant beat, pounding drums and violin(?).  The vocals literally bleed with passion in a sweat-drenched performance.  I get sweaty just listening to it!  The song is a testament to their northeast homeland, where the Murphys must be considered the godfathers of all Bostonian punk. 

“Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya,” is a show stopper.  Sure, we’ve all heard this song before but not this way.    Sped up to amphetamine pace, the band is one fused, tight unit, while Al Barr’s vocals dig into every ounce of emotion the song could ever imply.    This song alone cements in my mind the power of the Murphys live and etches their name forever into my forebrain as the legends they are.

This album succeeds where so many live albums fail.  Fuck the overdubs, this is raw and raucous and triumphant.  Never before had I heard a live album that made me want to be in the audience as much as this one does.  Pogo-ing til by calves cramp.  Throwing elbows into the ribs of my new best friends.  Screaming, and chanting and singing til my throat bleeds raw Guinness.  Fuck, this album is so victorious, it makes me wish I was Irish.  And Bostonian at that.

“Caught in a Jar,” is a bagpipe-laced punk rave up.  “Captain Kelly’s Kitchen” is pure fury.  “Fields of Anthenry,” is a torrent of bagpipes, guitars and heartfelt vocals, all wrapped up in a gangland, sing-along chorus.  Fists pumping in triumph.  Ale pints swishing side to side.  “Tessie,” a natural for this album is a crowd-rousing ode to the Red Socks leading the audience to gang chant a toast to their favorite team. 

And the album goes on growing in verve and vim all the way to the encore, where another one of Boston’s favorite sons, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones join the Murphys on stage to a pounding rendition of “I’m Shipping to Boston.”  I’m not versed enough to know which instruments are played on this baby, sounds like accordion and bagpipes and whatever else they found on stage, but it is magnificent.  Don’t know if anyone ever called the Murphys magnificent before, but damn it, they are.  Their fierce blend of Celtic roots and punk, so decidedly Bostonian, is just so zealous it can kickstart the oldest, most failing heart.

Yeah, I’m not Irish, but damn if the Murphys don’t make me feel I am.

Pope, pack the Ripple mobile.  Next St Patrick’s Day, we're there, and we'll be pressed up against the front of the stage and we'll be black and blue and exhausted and spent and we'll bless every second of it.

Somebody, get me a Guinness.


Buy here: Live On Lansdowne, Boston MA (CD + DVD)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Diana Vickers - Once EP

I'd love to say "holy crap" again like how I started my Robyn review, but that would be too redundant on my part. So how about "OMG I THINK I'M IN LOVE" this time? OMG I THINK I'M IN LOVE.

OK so kill me now for writing a review after listening to the track on the music video, because damn I don't think I did it any justice. That and this EP has successfully sent me into hysterics - brilliance. Downright, unmistakeable brilliance.

I'm banging my head on the table right now for not listening to this sooner. Like, I should've listened to Ken when he said this EP is epic because it is! Damn.

I've said it numerous times but I love Diana's voice. It does have a tendency to be a bit rough or airy, but I think it's all a matter of taste - some people like it, some don't. I for one, adore it - the girl's got "kick", and it just so happens that voices like that are the in thing now, with Ellie Goulding all high and mighty (but she's a completely different story).

If I were to describe the production on this EP in one word, I'd say it's very warm. It's very Brit, yes, but the production sounds very homely and warm - kinda like a home-cooked meal. It's very clean, yes, and the strings on Sunlight are gorgeous, but as a whole it sounds very warm and comfortable - effortless almost.

I said my piece on Once, rather publicly on Virgin Music, but hearing the higher quality version, I realize that I didn't to it justice whatsoever. I still like how it explodes, but the explosion is way more stunning on my copy. The 70's-ish synths are still there and they're still a nice complement to the song, but the last chorus just sends me into hysterics. Like, HOMG THOSE ARE REAL DRUMS AND HOMG THE LAST CHORUS IS EPICCCC. Sorry, lost control for a while. I mean, how can I not? Then everything just goes back to the piano loop and the guitar. Damn.

Sunlight is one of those gorgeous ballads. It's not in-your-face, it's not excessive nor is it trying too hard to be intellectual and whatnot. It's a pop ballad. It's gorgeous. That's it. The string section made me faint and Diana's vocals match AND contrast the melody very well. Here you have a very sleek, clean instrumental and then you have a voice like Diana's - holy crap I think I might just name her my favorite artist of the year, emphasis on the might.

Jumping In To Rivers has a "Frou Frou Central Mix", whatever that is. The start reminds me a lot of something straight out of a Guy Sebastian album. Hmm. I find it really cool though - it's very summer-y and light but still manages to keep a sense of dynamics and intensity. I love the percussion section, it's literally really snappy and sounds like drum sticks hitting a hardwood surface or possibly the side of a snare drum. (I'm a drummer's daughter - I know these things!) I like the sound of the guitar as well, although I'm not really the biggest guitar expert out there, it matches the snappy percussion really well.

I remember the first time I heard the "acoustic version" of Four Leaf Clover - Ken was all over the song. I listened to a lower-quality version and I was like "this is gorgeous" but again, now with the better-quality version it's like the song got a sense of dimension. I like the dynamics on this song, like the rest of the album - she seems to be very good at it, which is fantastic. The chorus for me is a little less brilliant than the verses, but they're kind of untouchable so the entire song is like WHOA. It reminds me a lot of Britt Nicole's Have Your Way, but I think I like this better.

5/5 - too many perfect scores lately!

Tinsley Ellis - Speak No Evil

Speak No EvilQuick. Name the 2010 Rock Blues Album of the Year.  Can't do it?  Try this.  Take a dose of Warren Haynes jam blues.  Stir in some Allman Brothers and Freddie King.  Toss in blues licks as smooth as Eric Clapton and as biting as B.B King.  Squeeze a dash of Stevie Ray Vaughan on top.  Add a scorching blues voice, then, simmer until it burns.  Sound pretty good?  It should because it describes the Blues Foundation's 2010 Rock Blues Album of the Year award winner Speak No Evil by Tinsley Ellis.

I heard you say to yourself  "who the H-E-double-toothpicks is Tinsley Ellis?" You would think that his continuous touring since 1988 would give him greater notoriety.  It just goes to prove that some of the greatest blues rock guitar players are obscure even when they are in plain view.

Tinsley Ellis is a power blues rocker who Atlanta Magazine once declared "the most significant blues artist to emerge from Atlanta since Blind Willie McTell."  Ellis picked up the guitar for the first time in 1965 at the age of 8.  A chance interaction with B.B. King at one of B.B.'s concerts in 1971 so impressed Ellis that power blues rock guitar became his passion and life's work. At the performance Ellis sat in the front row hypnotized by the King's guitar work. When B.B. broke a string on Lucille, he changed it without missing a beat, and handed the broken string to Ellis. Ellis still has the string.   

"Speak No Evil" is Ellis' twelfth album. All twelve are scorchers. Some would say that his album 2007 Live album Highwayman - Live is his best.  That may be because live Ellis is an inspired Ellis.  His shows pull something from deep in the soul.  His music is laced with amazing Wah Wah pedal work and blazing sustained leads.  In concert his songs carry into spirited blues jams.  However, it is on Speak No Evil that Ellis finally captures the concert feeling in his songs without the jams. From the first track "Sunlight Of Love," a driving electric blues piece that had me thinking back to the music of the Buddy Miles Express, to the twelfth and final track, "Rockslide," Ellis has you moving and grooving and rocking and rolling.  As soon as I completed listening to the album I started it again, and again, and again.  When I was done I still could not get enough and started searching for all of Tinsley Ellis' past albums.

To truly experience Ellis it is said that he must be seen in concert. He has played in every state of the union, Canada, Europe, Australia and South America. He has also shared stages with the Allman Brothers, Robert Cray, Koko Taylor and Widespread Panic. In fact, according to his website biography, he averages over 150 fiery performances a year. He is scheduled to play Biscuits and Blues in San Francisco, CA on June 2, 2010, a concert that you won't want to miss unless you catch him June 1, 2010 at the Crystal Bay Club Casino in Crystal Bay, Nevada, or on June 3, 2010 at Boulder Station Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, or June 4, 2010 at the Doubletree Hotel in Bakersfield, CA, or June 5, 2010 at the Palms Playhouse in Winters, CA or . . . you get the idea.  Tinsley Ellis - smokin' rock blues coming to a venue near you.

- Old School

Buy here: Speak No Evil

Monday, April 26, 2010

2PM - Without U

To be completely honest, I'm not the biggest 2PM fan in the world. I acknowledge that they have their own niche in kpop and that Wild Bunny was so damn funny but apart from liking maybe 2 or 3 songs from 1:59PM, 2PM is just another Korean boyband for me - nothing special, nothing bad.

It took me time to write up my review for this, mainly because I'm honestly really uninterested in 2PM at the moment. Not because of all the Jaebeom drama or whatever but because I don't think they're giving us songs worth listening to.

From Again and Again to Heartbeat I praised 2PM for the growth in their music - I liked both singles, not with a passion, but enough to listen to them a fair amount of times. But with this new single it's like their growth reached a complete standstill.

2PM have never been the most vocally-able band, at least to me, and it's for that reason that I never really got into them. Yes, they had some good songs and yeah, they have their plus points but the very basis of a vocal group are the vocals - they don't play their own instruments for the very reason that their voices are supposed to be their instruments. I mean yeah sure there are maybe 1 or 2 good voices in the band but even they don't deliver at times. It's also for that reason that I scrapped the idea of writing a commentary on them!

Without U, I think, is trying to be epic with the 'haunting' piano loop and all these melodic parts left and right but you have to remember that 2PM aren't the most competent vocalists around, even in recording. You need processing, pitch-fixing, all these studio tricks, just to get this - it's not even that good. This is more my personal taste but I've never liked how JYP makes his boybands sing - he's trying to make them sing like him and how his voice 'hits' higher notes but they're not him.

The chorus explodes, a bit, but once again, they don't have the vocals to support an exploding, melodic chorus. 2PM just doesn't do solid melodies. And the explosion totally goes against this 'epic' vibe they're chasing.

I'm not even gonna try commenting on the rap 'coz I know nothing about it and you people might start attacking me if I say something. LOL.

JYP's overusing this piano loop thing, and he's overusing the 'epic' idea without even trying to give each release a little flare. I don't want a complete change, nor do I want them to stya the same - they have to grow. They were doing it pretty well until this though.


Gummy - 사랑은 없다

During my kpop special (almost a year ago, actually. time flies.) I didn't really delve into Gummy. I knew her and all, came across some of her songs a couple of times, but I never really freaked out over her. The songs were OK, some were good, and her vocals are impressive, but she just wasn't my taste. Until this.

Gummy has a gorgeous voice, if I may say so. It's smooth but it's got punch/kick/whatever. I wouldn't say it has a nice deep timbre, but it is a bit deep. She has technique, and she sounds like a seasoned pro on the song.

So the song. The song, the song, the song. I'm ALL OVER it. Like, ALL OVER.

It's epic, it's grand, it's gorgeous. The verses sound very Evanescence and then the chorus just explodes into this gargantuan, THING. The drums just make the entire song epic. Like, without that part this sound would probably be boring. The second verse also has this loop running around, it sounds as if it belongs more in an Usher or Chris Brown staple but you hear it and it's like it just fits perfectly.

Her vocals just compliment the song and the arrangement leaves you stunned - it's got intensity but it's also got dynamics. Like, she isn't screaming throughout the entire song, nor is she mumbling random sounds. Synths, creepy effects, strings and a voice like Gummy's - all the makings of a good "long-haired girl in black running through an old deserted house" song.

You strip away all these lavish instruments though, leave just a simple piano part following the vocals for time and/or pitch and you have a gorgeous song. Like, gorgeous - the melody of this just makes me melt, it's epic on its own.

Each part of this song can stand alone - the instrumental, the melody - but put them together and everything just explodes.


Mason Proffit – Wanted . . . Mason Proffit

Listening to Mason Proffit’s first album is akin to a gentle ride on horseback across the open plains of the Western United States. You don’t need to close your eyes too tight to imagine the soft breeze whispering lullabies through the low lying brush of sage, chaparral and mesquite; the rich aroma from the natural vegetation dancing through the air . . . the euphoric sensation of the vast open land, the call of nature, the freedom of space . . . the distant mountains, in all of their purple majesty, marking the horizon and a land of promise . . . various breeds of hawk and eagle performing an aerial ballet to the tune of the wind and the beat of your heart, their cries a serenade for the lonely traveler. Wanted . . . Mason Proffit is American folk music with a healthy dose of country and a pinch of rock n’ roll, and it’s a marvelous soundtrack for a life out West or for a mental getaway from the hustle and bustle of big city life.

Never a big fan of country music, I approached this disc with a little apprehension. What was an old metal like me going to find of great relevance in a country rock album? Well, as it turns out, I found a lot of things compelling about Wanted . . . Mason Proffit. First off, the mellowed out rock and the rebellious country tones transposed my being from riding a desk chair in suburban Southern California to that of one riding that aforementioned horse across the countryside. The escapism of the music is fantastic and the warm tones took me back to when I was a kid watching Bonanza with my grandfather, a time when I thought it would be so cool to be a cowboy. However, it’s the social commentary infused in the lyrics that grabbed my attention the most, drew me deeper into the music, and made me lean back with a smile and a glimmer of greater understanding. Ultimately, it’s the combination of the loner cowboy turning his back on society due the strength of his personal beliefs and ideals that became way too attractive to dismiss, and the music of Mason Proffit took on a whole new meaning.

In a direct attack aimed at the corporate world, Mason Proffit penned the album opener, “Voice of Change.”  Here it is, 1969 and the hippy movement has been in full swing for a few years, and Mason Proffit come out with a largely overlooked anthem that encapsulates many of the ideals of the entire generation. Looking for a world devoid of pollution created by big business, the suit and tie guy, the establishment, these country rockers took more of a punk rock stance that many of our modern, so-called hardcore maestros. On the initial spinning of this track, I found myself sitting, mouth agape as I heard this heavy strumming acoustic guitar accompanied by a mouth harp, but on subsequent listens, the sound became more natural and an integral part of the song. The whole band works in great unison on this tune, and apart from the striking chorus melody, the drum work provided by Art Nash is outstanding!

“A Rectangle Picture,” a song from the perspective of a kid drafted by the Army and sent to Vietnam, features some subtly chilling lyrics. Sung in a voice reminiscent of Roy Orbison, the vocal tone is dark while the music has an almost uplifting quality to it and would seemingly fit better in a jamboree setting. But getting past the cheerier vibe of the music and focusing solely on the lyrics, I can feel a weight of despair running this music. I love the way these guys use the symbolism of “a rectangle picture in an oval picture frame” to emphasize their feelings that the U.S. shouldn’t have been in Vietnam in the first place, as well as a more personal perspective of the drafted soldier sitting in a rice field feeling more out of place than ever before.

Not all of the songs on Wanted . . . Mason Proffit are socio/political in nature. “Sweet Lady Love” is simply about a guy working the river waterways and finding his love, and then settling down. Pretty straight forward, pretty simple . . . well, that’s until the protagonist of the tale kills a man and the two lovers have to live and love on the run. This tune, in particular, sounds an awful lot like Creedence Clearwater Revival, and it has one of the catchiest choruses on the album. The richness of the vocals are intoxicating while the heavily strummed guitars, textural slide work, and swampy bass lines create a warm and comfortable bed for the two lovers to lay their weary heads.

The standout track on the album, and the one that immediately made me stop to analyze the lyrics, is “Two Hangmen.” Man . . . this song is a stunner, bordering on epic! The song is a tale of, as the title indicates, two hangmen who actually turn out to be the heroes in this whole sordid affair. Rebels who started questioning the laws put in place by the government and who needed to be silenced by Uncle Sam. The symbolism throughout this tune is great and I love the parallel lines that they create, the hippies of the sixties in relation to the two hangmen, and how their free thinking was thought of as infectious and rebellious and unlawful, and how the two men eventually die as martyrs . . . like so many demonstrators at rallies who spoke out against the war in Vietnam. By the end of the song, the music is powered by the heavily strummed acoustic guitars as the two hangmen swing side by side from the hangman’s tree. Brilliant tune!

I wouldn’t say I’ve been fully converted to the ways of country music. I still don’t think that I can handle the depressing twang of straight country, but I also didn’t think that I’d ever drink straight bourbon and like it. So, for the time being, I’ll dip my big toe in the pond of country rock, stir it around a little before I dive head first into the deep end, y’know . . . wade through the kiddy pool until I learn how to swim with the big kids. Wanted . . . Mason Proffit has been a foot wetting process, and as I stand ankle deep in this vast pool of music, I stand with a big smile. The Kentucky-fried portions of the music didn’t annoy me and the poignant lyrics gave my mind something solid to chew on, and I’ve even gone as far as tracking down the bands follow up album, Movin’ Towards Happiness. In a time when the music world was getting three Creedence albums, the first two Led Zeppelin albums, Abbey Road, the first CSN album, The StonesLet It Bleed, and the first Santana album, (just to mention a few) it’s easy to see Mason Proffit getting overlooked. The great thing, though, is that the music is timeless and has the ability to touch the listener on several emotional levels. Best listened to while sitting alone next to an open campfire after a long days ride.  -  Pope JTE

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Sunday Conversation with The Vinyl Stitches

Raw, rough, slightly psychedelic and infinitely catchy.  That pretty much sums up our reaction to the latest Vinyl Stitches tracks that Postman Sal slumped into the Ripple Office.   Grabbing a beer and joining us today on the red leather interview couch, is Vinny From the Vinyl Stitches!

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 "DetroitRock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just sovicious, 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?

I was a teenage runaway.

I was living behind this old Church on Red River Street in Austin Tx. ( A disused nuns quarters...not sure what the proper name was called...) In this long house with creepy group showers and no kitchen. It was a very strange period in my life. Luckily, the Land Lady wasnt a complete trollope and explained to me her  good friend owned and ran a local bbq place that hosted live music Lord.... I thought.....she must have felt
sorry for me or something but basically told me when ever I wanted to catch a show there she would make it so I got in..

The New York Dolls
The Cramps
Chesterfield Kings
Sonic Youth
Roky Ericson

Lots of Rockibilly, Loud Pycho Garage! And many more great bands were presented to me at that young age and I flipped... never the same.... NEVER!

After that I was glad I wasnt held down working a bullshit career. I felt ready to hit what ever came my way head on!

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 Attitude, The Lyrics with musical overtone.. then usually it writes itself... otherwise I have twist the knife in Jean Claws back a little tighter haha.

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

The Streets innit!? haha... seems really easy here in London to get theattitude of a collective society just walking around and participating.inspiration comes with experiences, new motivation comes from not wanting
to grow to be an old misrible shit like your more than likely to run into here on a daily basis.

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

I say this to my mom. ''It kinda like the stones'' she goes ah.. ok? like she knows who the stones are.... I dunno..I suppose is ok to say The Vinyl Stitches make music to sleep to haha.

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

I want people to feel good, to have a sweet time. To get laid!

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

I look to not over complicate things... when I hear that happening it usally means the meaning is slippin away.

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

Call their shit, Do it yourself. That is if you wanna do it right...

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

Playing on Carnaby st. For the Andy Warhol foundation. A big show.Jean claw's amp smokes and starts to melt.  soon after my bass strings fall apart with no back ups... it was horrible.. to be put on top of a building with waiting people on the street (who were there for hours) and we're standing there shrugging going shitt... what now? HAD TO WALK AWAY WITH OUR TAILS BETWEEN OUR LEGS AND POCKETS FULL OF ANDY WARHOL MERCH..HAHA

What makes a great song?

to me it  a song that extracts real emotions out of my black heart.

Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?

um, well the first song I ever wrote was crap. I was all disconnected inside. I need my good friends with me to get something legible on paper.

What piece of your music are particularly proud of?

I like em all. I'm not able to say which one is better than the other.. it all means alot to me and us.

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

We have 7' Singles , mp3's available and t shirts (designed by sambam) on our myspace.. all the proceeds go to our Lp.

Thanks for noticing.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ripple News - Venomin James Drummer Needs Your Help!

We're reposting this report as their are two important fund-raisers coming for all you waveriders to participate in.

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

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Return of Heavy Psych - Featuring JPT Scare Band, The Dolly Rocker Movement, and Seaspin

Rumdum DaddyJPT Scare Band - Rumdum Daddy

As I write this, an Icelandic volcano has grounded jet liners over a good portion of the world.  In my opinion, if it wasn’t the volcano putting a stop to air traffic, it would’ve been this eruptive new disc by the legendary JPT Scare Band.  And I don’t toss out that metaphor frivolously.  From the first time I  heard these Acid Rock pioneers plying their distinctly original blend of fuming hot jams and molten acid excursions, a picture of a spewing volcano was what came to mind.  Searing hot, flowing like boiling magma, eruptive in force, and seismically heavy.  That’s JPT.  And everything any JPT fan has every loved about the band can be found right here in Rumdum Daddy.

Starting off with the subtle, yet simmering “You Don’t Want to Know,” somethings become immediately apparent.  First, Terry Swope is without a doubt the world’s most unheralded guitarist.  His fingers boil across the strings, leaving shimmering fiery paths in his wake.  Whether slower and nuanced, as on this song, or tearing the strings apart with earth-quaking might and power, Terry’s tone is always perfect.  His notes flow and flood together like that boiling magma, at times faster than the human ear can detect the spaces in between.  Most importantly, he doesn’t noodle for noodling sake. As much as the band loves to jam, each note is fiercely selected, determined in tone and quality.  Each note tells a story, each note is a vital part of the overall lava flow.

Adding to that intensity, Paul Grigsby and Jeff Littrell are a rhythm section of world class power.  They do so much more than simply keep time.  Together, they lock the groove in place with Teutonic intensity, creating some semblance of terra firma for Terry to stand on while his fingers flare.  Paul’s bass is the secret weapon, thick and dirty, always clearing the path with it’s long looping bass line, nailing down the backbone of the song, building when Jeff joins in with his intuitive style.  Together they clear a wide swath for the terror and destruction that follows in Terry’s wake. A power trio in the purest sense of the word.

Never is this synergy felt more strongly than on the devastation that is “Rat Poison for the Soul.”  It only took one moment into the song, when I first heard that monstrous, seismically heavy riff, for me to fall in love.  This is earth-shattering rock and roll at it’s finest. Thirty years into the game and the boys can still unleash it just as mean and nasty as ever.  As monolithic as “Rat Poison” is, “Rumdum Daddy,” may be my favorite song on the disc.  Starting off with some simply gorgeous guitar tones, undermined by Paul’s rolling bass, “Rumdum Daddy” is an exploration of moods and tones.   Terry’s voice, always an under-rated instrument, searches for new emotion here, digging down into the lower registers of his tenor, then sailing into the upper reaches of his range.  And then there’s that guitar solo!  Strings bend and dip, sparks fly, earth moves, volcanoes explode.

No JPT album would be complete without a couple of free-form, spontaneous jam sessions and Rumdum Daddy doesn’t disappoint with three of them, my favorite being the finale, “Bookends Jam.”  Starting off with Terry’s guitar in a heart-searching solo, Jeff drops in with a few pounds of the tom, before Terry loses himself in swirling plumes of ash and smoke.  Turn off the lights.  Close the curtains.  This song should be reverberating off the glassware of every bong ever made, slowly finding it’s way, exploring, until . . . 2:38 into the song, the explosion happens.  Terry’s fingers sear across the strings in fiery flares of intensity.  Paul and Jeff lock in behind him, Terry’s fingers ignite and the whole damn volcano explodes again.

Having heard this, it should come as no surprise that JPT Scare Band were the first band we signed to our new indie label, Ripple Music.  That’s right.  Coming at you this June, expect to see the first Ripple release, Acid Blues is the White Man’s Burden on CD and double-LP, gatefold, multi-colored vinyl.  More JPT Scare Band to come your way.

Earth-shattering rock ‘n’ roll at it’s peak!

Buy here: Rumdum Daddy

The Dolly Rocker Movement - Our Days Mind the Tyme

I know I shouldn’t have been surprised by this.  Bad Afro Records has already proven themselves to be one of my absolute favorite labels, digging deep into the bowels of the earth to uncover one glorious gem of fuzzed out, psychedelic pop after another.  They did it to me with Setting Son.  They did it again with Baby Woodrose.  So why did I doubt that they’d be able to launch another perfectly aimed tie-dyed arrow into my steely heart?

Oh, me of little faith.  For surely, Bad Afro has done it again, and this time the object of my drooling affection is this absolutely glorious disc by Aussies, The Dolly Rocker Movement.  With all the garage and retro-neo-psych I listen to here at the Ripple office, I keep expecting to get burned out, but so far, that hasn’t happened.  If anything, charming new releases like this third effort by Sydney’s Dolly Rocker Movement have got me more excited than ever about this scene.  TDRM mix some bare-bones framework of T. Rex with a pastiche of swirling organs, chiming guitars, soft looping bass runs, and more hooks than can be found at a hanger factory.  Each song on this disc comes across like some tasty treat, some delicious morsel, just waiting for my consumption.

 “The Only One,” starts off with it’s amazing wash of retro organ and acoustic guitars.  Daniel Poulter has an affecting voice for his songs, laced with glam and drama, bringing forth each moment of emotion and melody.   “Sold For Sinners,” drops the glammy vibe back down into the garage with the cum-‘60’s organ washings and the drop dead melody.   “A Sound for Two,” is as gentle and pastoral as any of the early Cambridge-prog of the ’60’s with its strains of harpsichord and strings.  While “My Heavenly Way,” simply rocks and grooves on it’s oil-stained, do-the-swim beat.  Damn, this song is so good, I defy you to play it for any  one and not get some butt-swinging in return.  Bring out the lava lamps, the hip huggers and the funny little cigarettes.  This one’s a keeper.

Don’t think that the genre melding of those previous songs in any way creates a dischordant listen.  Far from it.  The ability of the band to mine its fertile field of neo-psych pop, while dabbling in the soil of other sounds is one of the things that makes TDRM stand out.  Whether it’s the paisley of “Memory Layne” or the T-Rextascy of “The Ecstacy Once Told” TDRM do it all flawlessly, effortlessly.  Beautifully.

Thank you Bad Afro.  You’ve done it to me again.

Buy here

ReverserSeaspin – Reverser EP

Other than having a name that made me feel slighty light-headed and in search of a Dramamine, Seaspin were a total unknown to me when the disc was tossed on my desk by our fearless mailman, Sal.  Watching Sal licking his fingers after dropping it off should have been a hint that what waited for me was a tasty treat.  And tasty it is indeed.

Seaspin conjure up a positively dreamy, smoke-drenched strain of psychedelic dream pop.  Imagine Ripple favorites, Apteka, fronted by a woman who’s voice has the ability to send your conscious into flights of erotic hallucinations, and you’ll begin to get the picture.  Over these 5 tracks, Seaspin flow over an expanse of dreaminess that varies from the vaguely Janes Addiction-esque churning turmoil of “Love is a Fable” with it’s buzzing guitars, swirling keyboards, and undulating dance beat, to the neo-Cocteau Twins vague lovliness of “Dream Life.”   Vocalist Jennifer Goodridge carries both tones with ease, her voice always floating some where just above the music, just above my head, somewhere near my dreams.  Meanwhile, guitarist Ronnie Washburn alternates from laying down some surprisingly heavy tones with moments of pure romantic restraint. The sound is lush and layered, incredibly dense, but not claustrophobic.  Rather it breathes within it's own textures and rhythms.  It is heavy and light all within the same breath.

The biggest problem I had with this disc was the effort it took me to allow the CD changer to move off of “Love is a Fable” to the next track.  That song is just so simply perfect, I never wanted it to end.  Give me the 15 minute expanded version.  Hell, the 30 minute ultra-expanded cut.  Loop it for me, let it be a sound track to my day.  I’m good.

But move on the CD does and of course the rest of the disc is just as powerful.  I’ve already alluded to the gentleness of “Dream Life,” with it’s gorgeous harmony vocals and vague Mamas and Papas-'60's-ish melodies.  Then, as beautiful as “Dream Life” was,  “Give Yourself” is the anger that follows.  The crush of the ending relationship, played out with crunching guitars, swirling harmonies, and manic drumming.  “Reverser,” raves with an indy pop sensibility while “The Way You Move,” ebbs and flows with dissonance, groove and noise pop.

Then, if you’re like me, you’ll hit the repeat button and start all over with “Love is a Fable” again.


buy here: Reverser

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Robyn - Dancing On My Own

Holy crap. OK that wasn't exactly the best way to start a review but it's been a while since I've properly reviewed something that isn't Korean or Asian so yeah. Cut me some slack.

As you all probably know, I'm really out of the European pop loop at the moment and I haven't really made the best effort to try and catch up for lost time. I'm just really lazy, OK? But anyway, by some stroke of luck (and a little persuasion from Mel) I managed to not only get a hold of Robyn's new EP but also listen to it and actually adore the heck out of it.

I read Mel's review last night - she nailed it. So now I'm like, what the crap do I say now?

Robyn has been a rather vital part of my taste in music since probably the very beginning of this whole blogging thing (around 2007?) - Don't Stop the Music has got to be one of the most brilliant early 2000's pop masterpieces everrrrr and of course, it was covered by Play and I think you all know I was a Play fan for like a year or something. And of course when With Every Heartbeat came around I was all over it - as was probably everyone else.

Robyn has a distinct sound to her name, she doesn't sound like another RedOne clone or eurocrap wannabe - her last album practically banged that in our heads. So Robyn's back. And for crap's sake she's still brilliant.

Dancing On My Own is epic in the Robyn way, it really is like 2010's With Every Heartbeat. All the techno stuff in the background usually has the tendency to be annoying and whatnot, but Robyn has a knack for making these seemingly annoying eurocrap loops rather tasteful. I love the synths (are those synths? it sounds more like an electric piano) - it adds another dimension to the song.

The effects and the loops and practically the entire song remind me of a certain Simon Curtis, actually. And that was a compliment for both of them. hahah.

Put aside all the eurocrap and the bells and whistles and you have a flexible melody, like With Every Heartbeat. The hook sticks and the verses have the potential to be remixed and rearranged like there's no tomorrow (there're probably mixes floating around already) - that's a pop song. Artists decades later can take the basic melody and the chords and slap it on a new instrumental but it'll still sound like Robyn and it'll still sound like the same song.


Jimi Hendrix - Valleys of Neptune

Valleys of Neptune is the latest feast of table scraps that the Hendrix estate is offering up to famished Jimi freaks across the globe. The majority of these 12 recordings are from 1969 and have been floating around on bootlegs for years but they’ve been given a sonic upgrade from Jimi’s favorite engineer Eddie Kramer. Since a lot of these were works in progress that were never finished by Jimi, Valleys of Neptune is very much a “mixed bag” as the kids used to say in the 60’s.

A remake of “Stone Free” with Jimi’s old army buddy and future Band of Gypsys bassist Billy Cox and long time drummer Mitch Mitchell gets the ball rolling. This version has a strong R&B feel that contrasts nicely with the original. Not better or worse, but very different and very cool. If only all alternate versions were this good. Billy also appears on a great version of Elmore James’ “Bleeding Heart” that brings to mind Jimi’s high energy remake of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor” and on the spacy title track.

The rest of the songs feature the original Experience of Jimi, Noel and Mitch. Remakes of “Fire” and “Red House” from February 1969 aren’t too different from the originals but are strong versions. These recordings were done in preparation for a pair of shows at the Royal Albert Hall that was professionally filmed. The Hendrix estate is planning to finally release the footage later this year. The bootleg DVD I have is smokin, but it will be great to see it in better quality with superior audio. Also from the February 69 sessions are a good version of “Lover Man” that’s a little slower and shorter than some of the other versions that have been released and an instrumental version of Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love” that could been left unreleased. It’s not bad, but it’s not terribly exciting, either.

"Mr. Bad Luck" from 1967 and "Crying Blue Rain" from 1969 feature bass and drum overdubs by Noel and Mitch done in 1987. The uptempo "Mr. Bad Luck" later evolved into “Look Over Yonder” on the Rainbow Bridge soundtrack and South Saturn Delta album. "Crying Blue Rain" is a slow blues in the vein of “Hear My Train A Comin” with a doubletime section in the middle. Speaking of “Hear My Train A Comin” there’s a good version of that song from April 1969 with plenty of guitar freak outs.

“Ships Passing Through The Night” is a previously unreleased song that brings to mind “Night Bird Flying.” Jimi’s playing his guitar through a rotating Leslie speaker to give it some extra Jimidelic trippiness. This mid-tempo blues is clearly a work in progress. Who knows how he would have finished it off. “Lullaby For The Summer,” and instrumental, is also previously unreleased and later evolved into the power boogie “Ezy Rider.”

Chances are you know what kind of Hendrix fan you are. If you weren’t thrilled with posthumous releases like South Saturn Delta and First Rays of the New Rising Sun then you can probably skip this one. If you’re a Hendrix freak like me, than his leftovers are enough of a meal to keep you satisfied until the next round of bootlegs make the rounds.


Buy here: Valleys Of Neptune

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

DBSK - Darkness Eyes

I don't know if you guys have noticed, but I don't usually write single/song/album reviews of my favorite boyband of the year/moment for the simple reason that most of the time my fandom takes over my train of thought and I end up gushing throughout the entire song - it was like that with Westlife, it still is with DBSK. Have you noticed? Even if I know practically everything about DBSK and more the stuff I write about DBSK are either not reviews or basically me gushing over performances or songs, which I don't wanna do too often.

But I guess I'll have to make an exception for this song.

Darkness Eyes was released in 2008 on DBSK's third Japanese album T - the same album that had Purple Line, their very first Oricon/Japanese #1 single. It was never a single, but they performed it live for the accompanying arena tour in the same year and when I saw the performance I was speechless.

The song is so. damn. EPIC. in every way possible. DBSK's vocals don't explode, but the instrumental does - the contrast between this intense, epic instrumental and DBSK's almost float-y vocals just makes me go ballistic. In a damn good way. The instrumental screams girl in a black dress running in an old, deserted mansion - the piano loop, the HOMG I THINK I'M GONNA FAINT 'COZ IT'S SO DAMN GORGEOUS string section and all the little bells and whistles throughout the song. I already established that Japanese production pays attention to the little details, so that isn't a big surprise.

It's as if Avex asked for an 'epic' song and DBSK said "You want epic? Here - knock yourselves out." I personally don't think it's single material for the simple reason that the hook doesn't stick as much as those of singles do, but damn is this a good song or what? No matter how much I think it's a brilliant song, it should stay the way it is - an album track performed on tour.

But again, all these observations were done while listening to the recorded version and knowing that DBSK went on tour with a live band for the first time that year, I should've been ready for the live version above. I wasn't. Aish.

I said this before when I gushed over the O performance but I'll say it again - I. LOVE. LIVE. BANDS. Recorded versions are great and all, they're clean and controlled, but you don't feel the music anymore after all that processing. You know why you don't feel it? 'Coz the drums aren't real.

On most pop recordings, with the exception of a few I've heard, the drums are always computerized or rendered. I know this because my dad's a drummer - I grew up hearing him play a REAL set of drums AND hearing him rant about fake drums. Drums/percussion parts are the very foundations of songs - all the instruments take cues, tempo and feel from the drummer. You have a good drummer, everything will fall into place.

Music is half heard and half felt. I'm not talking about lyrical meaning or any of that crap, I'm talking about how your body reacts when you hear a song, even if you don't understand a thing. Your heart starts beating faster and you get excited in the different way - everything just feels different live. For the simple reason that your foundations and even the other instruments are real, FELT and not computer-processed, live performances sound and feel different. I sure as hell wouldn't mind paying a fortune to watch an artist live if they have a live band.

That said, the song reminds me a lot of the Jaejoong-composed 9095 - how you want the chorus to just explode and the song to turn into this anthemic thing but it doesn't, it stays the same. The contrasting instrumental and vocal parts, the haunting piano loop, how it feels so different live, but all in different ways compared to 9095 - I haven't heard it all before.

Does this need a rating? Fine, for formality.


The Single Life – 7” of Fun: Featuring Hirax, Heavy Water Experiments, and The Fitt

Hirax – Blasted in Bangkok

Having just written about Hirax’s 2004 release, The New Age of Terror, I was inspired to find the piece of music from my youth that actually turned me onto the band in the first place. A few search functions later, I found myself on eBay and within mere minutes, I was paying a king’s ransom for Hirax’s 1987 7” demo, Blasted in Bangkok. But, it was worth every penny. You see, I picked this disc up around ’88 or so, played it forward, backward, sideways, upside down . . . basically, the songs became a piece of my being and I remember being sprawled out on my bed vegging out to the cover photo. I ended up trading the disc to some dude for a pile of loot, but truth be told, I don’t remember what any of the stuff was and couldn’t even be certain if I retain any of said loot in my collection. So, back to present day and Blasted in Bangkok is being handed to me by poor, underappreciated postman Sal, and it was like being in high school all over again . . . sans the alienation, massive waves of depression, and bad acne.

Amidst some healthy doses of nostalgia, I slapped the piece of wax on the turntable and applied needle to groove, and man! It was like I had never stopped listening to this thing! Rumbling bass and drums tore out of my speakers as “Fear the War Within” cuts through the shit and starts the pit. Despite the poor production or mix or what have you, the song is arguably one of the best tunes Hirax has ever committed to tape. Odds are, the song wouldn’t have had the same impact on me if it were produced to a sterling quality, the rawness of the recording truly captures the emotion of the music. Filled with mid tempo breaks coming out of speed metal passages, Katon W. De Pena’s soaring vocals and cry for equality, “Fear the War Within” shows the band stepping away from the traditional speed/thrash metal of the time and crossing over to more of the hardcore vibe. For me, this whole song comes together perfectly . . . primarily, it’s the lyrics and the way they seem to effortlessly flow out of Katon’s brain. For the past twenty years, I’ve sung the first verse like I was spinning the disc on a daily basis.

Flip this bad boy over to the B Side and prepare to have your face blown off by “The Beginning of the End.” Opening up as a true speed metal classic, Hirax then drop down to a killer guitar driven mid tempo mosh part. Man! What a killer groove! The huge bass volume gives the song a dense hardcore feel, but at the same time, has a warm tone that works as a nice counterpart to the more sterile and rigid guitar tone. Again, hearing this song for the first time in twenty years, it’s as if I had never stopped giving this disc love. I found myself immediately singing in tandem with Katon as he attacks the choruses and then I was a whirlwind of flailing limbs, completely oblivious of any obstacle that was in my path. I love Hirax . . . and it all started with Blasted in Bangkok. It appears that in 2000, the band re-released this demo on 10” white vinyl and included another track, so . . . it looks like I need to make another trip to eBay.

Heavy Water Experiments – Single

Heavy Water Experiments is one of those bands that have never been easy to pigeon-hole. Going back to when they were known as Imogene, I remember listening to them and thinking, ‘They’re heavy, but melodic; loose and spacey, but progressively complex.’ Heavy Water Experiments will always challenge the most discerning music listener, at the same time as they create a rich textural sound to have humming away in the background of one’s daily activities. So, when we received the new single from the band, we were excited beyond all belief, immediately racing to the turntable to give the sky blue vinyl a spin. As per usual with HWE, the bass is heavy . . . man, its heavy! But this time around, as the A Side single of “Hermes Told Me So” hums along in its mesmerizing fashion, we begin to recognize the elegant textures of the keyboards as they create a semi-transparent wall in the background of the song, Robert Salguero’s drum work channels a bit of the late, great John Bonham’s thundering attack, but maybe even more impressively, multi-instrumentalist David Melbye’s softer, more melodic vocal approach. God! The more I listen to this song, the better and better it gets. Heady and intelligent lyrics sung with an airy voice, mixed with the shimmering sound of the keyboards and propelled by a dense wall of rhythmic sound . . . does it really get any better than this?

The heavy drone tone of the Heavy Water sound continues with the B Side track, “The Plunge.” This time along though, the band seems to stretch itself more than what I’ve heard in the past. “The Plunge,” while still harboring many of those late 60’s psychedelic sounds has a heavy pop feel to it. For some reason, I keep thinking of the Mary Tyler Moore show when I hear this, when in actuality, the song would fit better with the imagery of a darkened basement during the Summer of Love . . . lava lamps bubbling away, couples curled up in bean bags, soft clouds of smoke from burning incense or a fired up joint . . . I love the subtle guitar interlude in the middle of the song and the big gong crashes. This song, like many in the bands repertoire, is deceptively complex; filled with great ambient portions of sound while retaining a heady musicianship that would befuddle the average musician. All we need now is a 12” version of Heavy Water Experiments so we can really get our freak on! 

The Fitt – S/T

Sludgy, virulent, mean, and nasty, The Fitt is a new find for me. Submitted by Big Neck Records, this 7” is comprised of six tracks and all of them massively distorted nuggets of sound. I’m not really sure if one would consider these guys doom metal or sludge metal or stoner metal or what, but the common theme throughout all of the sound is the heavy density of the tones. On initial listen, I thought the pressing was at 45 rpm, but upon switching to 45 and listening, well . . . it was Alvin and his furry little friends were smoking a lot of herb and living in squalor, firing off some of the most insane music in their illustrious careers. But alas, the disc is pressed at 33 1/3 and after giving it the self titled disc a few more spins, it all began to make a lot more sense.

When you first hear “Hawk Eyes,” there’s no doubt that you’ll think something is wrong with your sound system. My God! That bass is everywhere! Then, as the rest of the instruments are identified, it’s readily apparent that The Fitt are hell bent intent on leveling cities by sheer sound intensity. The instrumental “M80” opens the B Side and is as powerful as the titled would insinuate. Like every song on the disc, the music is dense. Not just the bass tones, but the guitar tones, the vocals, hell . . . even the drums just sound unnaturally heavy. “Killer” is an unrelenting beat down with a quasi-psychedelic wrinkle. Listening to this song is akin to peering through a cloud of pot smoke and seeing the hazy images of this musical trio hammering away at their instruments. The distorted vocals lend the greatest hand in making this song sound like a trip to a face to face meeting with one’s darkest fears. The effect is one of claustrophobia and paranoia. The effect is fucking freaky!

 -  Pope JTE


Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Yes, you've got it right, I'll be doing a BIG giveaway in celebration of 2 years worth of music and writing. I've gone all-out for this and I've been teasing you guys via Twitter, so for crap's sake let's get right to it! wahahah. OK, OK, I know it's late, but would you rather I don't do this?

I've spent the past few months contacting PR companies I've worked with and who've shown interest in PRN during my 2 years and I must say, the amount of support I got surprised me. SO, thank you to the PR companies who're helping me out with this giveaway - it's greatly appreciated!

Let's get to business, shall we? I'm giving away a few LPs, EPs and exclusive merchandise from several artists you may or may not know of - so they deserve introductions, right? Hmm. Part 1 of the PRN giveaway was via Twitter, so if you were one of the three winners, you can't win the prizes below anymore.

Tristan Clopet

I'm giving away 3 t-shirts and 3 copies of his EP Purple. So you guys get familiar with him, I got to pick his brains in a short interview! Seriously, it's really short.

1. How would you describe your music and what sets it apart from other indie or even major label acts?
Musically, it's like your younger brother- sometimes he wants to play and have fun but other times, since he's just a kid, he's liable to get really sensitive from time to time. Lyrically, it's like your older brother- the experienced realist who always makes sure your not too full of yourself and have a firm grasp of reality.

2. What do you hope to achieve with this EP?
I hope listeners can enjoy it for whatever combination of family members they want it to be.

3. What do you want to be remembered for in the next 10 or 20 years?
Ideally, the guy who cured cancer. Realistically, I'd still like to be completely relevant in the entertainment scene in the next 20 years. Either making music or working in film.

Blue Angel

Another new introduction, I got the duo to answer a few questions via video. Yayyyy!

Whoot! So I'm giving away TEN (10) SIGNED, collectors' edition promo CDs of 43 Days with a unique b-side. You so don't wanna miss this.


Ju-Taun was one of the first artists I got to talk to on Twitter and all, after an interview and gushing-session. To be completely honest with you, they're probably one of the best a capella bands I've heard, ever. I love my DBSK and Westlife when it comes to a capella and all, but Ju-Taun are in a league of their own. SO, I'm giving away FIVE (5) copies of their album Love Changes Things. Weehee!

VV Brown

The simple fact that I snagged something from VV Brown should be the surprise, but it's not - it's what I actually got. *grins* I'm giving away a 7" and a poster, but only to US residents. Less competition then for you guys! hahah.

AND, last but not the least, a special package from Sony Music. *dances around room*

Becca+Kate Miller-Heidke
Kate Miller-Heidke: Official / Myspace / Twitter

I got to interview Kate Miller-Heidke late last year, and I'm pretty sure a lot of you know who Becca is. So, I'm giving away ONE (1) set of CD+Posters of Kate Miller-Heidke AND a copy of Becca's Alive!. Yup, just one set.


1. Find my tweet (this is a direct link already, just click it and RT the tweet that comes out) / Facebook wall thingy that says:

It's the BIG Pop Reviews Now Anniversary Giveaway! Details here:

Re-tweet or re-post it - then take a screenshot. Make sure your username and proof that the account used to re-post/tweet is yours is clearly visible on the screenshot or else it won't count.

I assume you all have either one of these, am I right? I am right. hahah.

2. Chose TWO (2) artists/packages from above - you'll only win 1 but there are a limited amount of stuff, if I run out of your first choice you'll get your second choice. Simple as that.

3. Compose an e-mail to POPREVIEWSNOWGIVEAWAY [AT] GMAIL [DOT] COM with the subject 'PRN Anniversary Giveaway'. Include your full name, complete mailing address, 2 giveaway choices and a screenshot of your post/RT on Facebook or Twitter. All details you send in will be kept confidential - I hate spam and all that crap as much as you do!

Contest closes on May 4, 11 PM Philippine Standard Time (GMT +8) (that's 2 weeks from now). Winners will be notified by the weekend at the latest.

If you have any further questions or want clarifications on the giveaway (mechanics, etc.), please do NOT address them in the comments section or on Twitter - ask all your questions on my Formspring account as it's much easier for me to answer everyone there. I will not be entertaining any questions asked here or on Twitter.