Label: Side One Dummy
Format: 14 song CD
I am stunned. After a 5+ year hiatus, a line-up change, and a step down from major to indie-label status, I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the latest ST disc. Simply put--this is one of the leanest, meanest punk records I have heard in a long time.
The band is super-tight, speeding along relentlessly on the title track, and flailing away on the breakneck anthem, "Scream Out", which sounds like a mix between Kiss' "I Love It Loud" and Metallica's "Whiplash". "Ain't Gonna Take It" is old-school punk at it's purest, with an unforgettable, fist-pumping yell-along chorus.
This is powerful stuff; tough enough to send a newbie late-90s punk band (ahem, the Offspring?) crying to their mommies. Skateboard punks around the country will be happily breaking their limbs to this one.
MISH MASH Mandate: "Cyco"-pathic
Label: SoftBrain/Not Lame
Format: 11 song CD
At first, the whiny, crackled voice of Mark Yurkovic kind of annoyed me. But, soon I found it infectious and endearing. Yurkovic is the main force behind Shecky--he's purposely odd and in-your-face, playing with you throughout the whole album.
The overall sound reminds me of that early 90s over-produced, over-the-top band Jellyfish. This is especially true on the song "Cowboys In Dementia", an extremely catchy song that employs ridiculous lyrics that go beyond mere weird humor: "Suicides and bowling/Mickey Mouse Band-Aids/Throwing old friends down a hole...". It's like he assumes you're in on the joke (even though you're not), but he's really taking you for a bizarre ride. In any case, you find yourself liking it in spite of yourself.
"Now That You're Dead" uses an obviously ripped-off Zeppelin riff ("Ten Years Gone") to produce a huge 70s sound--Yurkovic uses this to his advantage by throwing in the misplaced, oddball lyrics: "No longer fighting for the blankets/I can't help but feel we're finally in touch/Now that you're dead". This also goes for the uncanny 70s bubblegumness of "Coming In Strange", that mixes a driving piano line with non-sequitur lyrics: "There's a lonely man/Who lives inside my bones/he's got a web site/internet zone/A fax machine with a 1-900 tone". The strange part is, you'll be singing along in no time.
MISH MASH Mandate: Sometimes bubblegum, mostly bizarre
Title: "Far From Winter"
Label: Good For Granny
Format: 6 song CD
Juliet's Wishing Well is surrounded by a thick haze of 90s angst. It's a very serious sound with serious tones, leaving behind a sense of unresolved anger and melancholy. But, they do it well! The style falls somewhere between the Seattle grunge of early STP and the classic rock sounds of Collective Soul, setting up space for the unique, emotive vocals of vocalist/guitarist Dan Weisman.
The album begins with the title track, an aggressive, plodding rock song that reminds me of Alice In Chains. "Brave" ventures into a late-90s alternative radio sound, while "Raido" shimmers like a lost song from the Smithereens. JWW really shines on "Saving June", where Weisman's vocals take on a deep & lonely soulful sound (Anybody out there remember The Go Figures?).
These guys have a style that's just perfect for pre-millennium commercial alt rock fans. A familiar sound that's unpredictable enough to keep it exciting.
MISH MASH Mandate: Angsty haze
Title: "Wild River"
Format: 13 song CD
Plain and simple rock is the best way to describe Big Meteor's "Wild River". Rockabilly, country, and bar blues are all equally represented here, with Neil-Young inspired vocals from singer/songwriter/rhythm guitarist David Wimble.
Much like the Flat Duo Jets, the sound is stripped and scaled down to the basics: bass, drums, and lots of guitar. "Poor Boy" has a rambling story-telling feel, while "To Whom I Must Confess" has a traditional country twang that would be right at home on any truck stop jukebox. Images of a country-flavored Grateful Dead surface on "Just The Two of Us", and "Big Meteor" goes for an ancient blues recording feel, a la Robert Johnson.
The songs are heart-felt and performed with conviction, giving a sense of honesty and reality that is so very absent from most commercial recordings.
MISH MASH Mandate: Keepin' it real, old school style
Title: "Ten Doors Down"
Label: Chess With Death
Format: 11 song CD
Take a heaping helping of Chrissie Hynde and a small dash of Natalie Merchant, and you'll end up with someone close to Kathy Fleischmann. Weaving her folk and blues tapestry with a tough female attitude, Fleischmann carries her songs on her sleeve with passion.
"Season of Long Rain" begins the CD with a swaying rock sound that incorporates a unique, slightly offbeat melody line. Fleischmann slides into a sweeter, flowing mood on "Wild Strawberries", and then ventures into a dirty backwoods blues vein with "Russian Roulette". The enigmatic "Like Christ" adds mystery to the mix with its haunting lyrics: "Sometimes upon the puddles when it's rained for 40 nights/I swear he walks upon them, him and the dim moonlight".
Fleischmann keeps you guessing, giving you enough to pique your curiosity, but not giving too much away at the same time.
MISH MASH Mandate: Dream weaver