Title: "Tinted Shades of You"
Label: Solid Core Flush, 1998
Format: 6 song CD
Volume is a wonderful thing. FeltSideOut is loud--everything about them is loud: the drums, the guitars, the vocals. This is pure garage punk/thrash; perfect for all your moshing festivities.
At times, they sound like the Jesus Lizard, and at others, mid-life Metallica. Most of the tunes fit into these categories nicely, especially "Freakaphile". It starts off with a hammerhead drum intro, followed by a huge metal riff. It's aggressive, super-heavy, and just a little bit sloppy--which simply improves the whole garage band feel.
One exception is the tune "Shine". This track is more jangly, with a cleaner guitar sound. Not quite pop, but it is so much more softer than the other 5 songs. While it does seem out of place, it shows that these guys have more than one trick up their sleeves. Rock on.
MISH MASH Mandate: Your parents will hate it. A lot.
Format: 11 song CD, self-released, 1998
Some things defy description, and such is the case with musician Frank Grau's pet project, Species Being, and their album "Yonilicious". What we have here is a prog-rock epic experiment, built around a series of drum improvisations recorded by Mr. Grau.
The series is broken down into 11 different "vignettes", which serve as tracks for the CD, numbered "I" thru "XI". The style for each vignette is set by the continuous yet varied drum/percussion line, and the other instruments play off of it. The result is an eclectic mix that tackles a wide range of sounds. The first two tracks are chaotic and free-form. There's a great deal of frantic movement that creates a rhythmic confusion--yet somehow it fits. From there we go to another extreme: "III" is laid back, almost comtemplative--acid jazz meets medieval Zeppelin. It's a refuge from the previous chaos.
"V" is an interesting juxtaposition of different rhythms--contrasting fast and slow meters at the same time, while "VI" uses an Eastern European traditional sound (kinda Klezmer) along with Latin influenced rhythms. The "piano-boogie-meets-fusion" of "IX" increases tempo continually throughout the piece until it becomes a runaway train at breakneck velocity. And, then the epic "X" takes it's time (about 10 minutes) to take us to track "XI". Whew!
"Yonilicious" is a monster, and it's amazing how it all comes together. If you like your music on the edge, this one will take you there.
MISH MASH Mandate: Musical Mayhem and Madness
Title: "Hard to Be Real"
Label: Wildplum, 1998
Format: 11 song CD
Ah, those Baby Boomers--just when you thought that Gen X had cornered the market on cynicism, Celtic Elvis comes along and shows us whippersnappers how it's supposed to be done.
This five piece from Oakland does a folk rock doubletake: they blend the hippy-dippy acoustic sounds of the 60s with the biting sarcasm of the 90s. Imagine, if you will, that Peter, Paul and Mary are real pissed off and they want you to know about it. Subtle they are not.
Celtic Elvis' take on the world is humorous yet pessimistic. They recognize that their generation is the "Me" generation, and they take a shot at anything that moves. "I'm in Heaven" is an ode to self-centeredness and apathy: "But now I know I love only me...I'm in heaven and I know the right one is me", while the title track deals with the vanity of exercise and plastic surgery: "But when she's posing she's looking so hot/But it's hard to be real when you're not". "Little Head" is a hilarious take on seemingly uncontrollable sexual urges (a la Bill Clinton).
Overall, these guys and gals are creative and talented, but at times the whole bitterness thing gets a little tiring. There's only so much sarcasm you can take, you know? But, when you're ticked at everything and everybody in our modern world, this is a cynic's dream.
MISH MASH Mandate: Complainin' 'bout your generation...
Title: "Tools for Men Who Want to Succeed"
Label: subREAL songs, 1998
SubREAL is somewhat of a paradox: their musical style is a fuzzy-rock with a touch of pop that manages to be laid back cool, yet full of uncontrollable anxiety all at the same time. It is captivating how they shuffle along with an unhurried beat, only to join it with angst-ridden, disonant guitar work. And, it's all done shortly and sweetly, with eleven songs timing in at just under 30 minutes.
An instrumental, "Success 101", leads off the disc in this fashion, and provides an appropriate intro to their contrarian style. The catchy pop of "Lipstick Nostalgia" has a quirky Ric Ocasek/Cars sound to it, as if you were listening to "My Best Friend's Girl" thru a fuzzbox. Everything these guys do sounds like it has a weird haze around it. And I like it.
"Thunder Boy" is my favorite by far. It has a cool groove that uses all of the band's strong points: the disonance, the lazy slacker rhythms, and of course that unexplainable haze. Wow. It shouldn't be this good...but it is.
MISH MASH Mandate: Quite contrary.
Format: 10 song CD, 1998
"Pretty in pink/eager to please" is the first line from the song "Alice", and it could well describe the band of the same name. They are eager to hit it big, and they just might do it with this strong set of polished tunes, which have a lot of crossover potential. Alice finds its sound in a hybrid mix of blues, country and bar band rock, topped off with an unmistakeable pop structure. Lead singer Melanie Kovatch is a made-to-order singer; she has a sultry, country-influenced voice, but without the twang.
The lead off track, "What's in it for Love?" is a radio-friendly song that skillfully blends a dance groove underneath roots rock guitar phrasing. It's catchy and it hooks you right away--the simplicity of it keeps it in your head so you find yourself singing it three hours later.
Next Alice turns on to the blues with "Get a Move On". This one has a nice feel to it; it's more earthy than many of the others. Kovatch really shines here, since this song lets her be more emotive and dynamic. "I Can Be" shows a darker side of the band, while "Getting Over You" crosses the fence into full-blown country.
A solid effort by a band that's primed for the big time.
MISH MASH Mandate: Sultry & starry-eyed country pop.
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