Have you ever heard a record that just blew away all your preconceptions about music? Turned your head and shook you up a little? This is that record. Mean and raw, full of pure attitude-- Swedish band Refused ignores the mainstream musical trends of the 90s and gets down to the stripped down fundamental rudeness of rock. And it ain't pretty.
Lead singer/screamer Dennis Lyxzen blank sounds like the Jesus Lizard's David Yow getting a tonsilectomy. His voice is forced into a thin, kid-like screech, a primal adolescent whine, wailing over huge metal riffs and multi-genre rhythms. The music flails about without rhyme or reason, shifting patterns and scrambling around recklessly. It's like a blender mixing up a bunch of guitar runs, electronic noise, and techno drumbeats into a musical mishmash (ha ha). The result is a perfect colloid of pretentious hardcore punk.
The extreme volume dynamics of Liberation Frequency are brilliantly pulled off, weaving a British Invasion power pop intro into a full metal frontal assualt. The manic and agressive New Noise is definitely the new rock anthem of the early 2000s--it runs around aimlessly like a bumpercar, running into and boucing off musical style after style.
Is it original? Technically, no. But Refused has managed to take everything that is out there and turn it completely inside out. And that, my friends, is where the revolution begins...
MISH MASH Mandate: Rock of ages...
Low Watt Entertainment
The Hollow's Descend kicks in with big power pop guitars, maneuvering through six (one unlisted) tunes using hooks and pop progressions with deft skill. The end result is a great EP that leaves you wanting more.
Renaissance man Ted Comerford wears many hats on this release (vocals, guitars, keys, and co-producing credits, to name a few). His vocals are full of pained soul, presenting that classic "depressing" feeling that only an angst-filled popster can create. Imperfection leads off with a burning riff and a driving beat, giving us the ultimate anti-love song: "Let me be the one to ignore your imperfection/let me be the one to bring (?) you down."
Another Wasted Year and Impression explore much of the same territory, while Strength lives up to the EP's namesake by "descending" into a melancholy mood. The song meanders along sadly, and Comerford shows off his soul here with gut gripping vocals.
This one's got style and tight, memorable songs. Hopefully the best is yet to come.
MISH MASH Mandate: Power pop with a touch of depression...
You may not have heard of her, but Korean-born Jody Russell is already a diva. She's captured the Asian-American audience, and now she has her sights on the mainstream. This brilliant set of sugary R&B grooves should do the trick.
Russell sounds like a cross between Lisa Stansfield and Mariah, belting out soulful vocals over infectious dance rhythms. The production is super slick, and nothing misses the beat. The result makes her larger than life, building up that omnipotent diva image.
The best tracks include the slamming Tell Me, which uses heavy hip-hop-inspired grooves and an extremely catchy chorus, and the techno rave-up Give Me Love. On the downside there are the obligatory drippy ballads---Just In Time and Forever---that are cliche and predictable, but well-done nonetheless.
I admit it's a guilty pleasure, but one you'll enjoy thoroughly.
MISH MASH Mandate: Guilty grooves
Wild and wacky with more than a nod to the B-52s and Talking Heads, singer Lissette Nepoleoni and Neon Venus take their party out of bounds into the nether-reaches of outer space fun rock. She rambles on like a female Fred Schneider/David Byrne, belting out goofy lyrics about space aliens and Los Angeles.
Aliens sounds like a mix between Rock Lobster and Total Coelo's I Eat Cannibals, while Gasoline twists and turns like one of the weirder early tunes from the Sugarcubes. The Latin-inspired Strange gets a double workover with an English and Spanish version, both using the English chorus but differing in the verse.
Lost in the world of 80s oddness, this one is surprisingly a breath of fresh air. While it's 20 years too late to be ground-breaking or shocking, it at least has some fun by being different.
MISH MASH Mandate: Space Oddity
Singer/guitarist Randy Mason presents a stunningly beautiful set of songs, filled with catchy melodies and mysterious subjects. Her voice is a soft blend of the Wilson sisters of Heart, and her songs carry the weight of that comparison with ease.
The CD begins with the upbeat What Is Real, a full throttle acoustic rocker that establishes Mason's songwriting ability and musical prowess. The magical Black Dove is surrounded in a mist of mystery, with haunting and enigmatic lyrics: Sometimes in the moonlight/Everything appears to be so clear... The song Power to Be Free takes a more uplifting turn, with a lighter, more pop-oriented sound.
Short but sweet, Halfway, Through Night is a solid showcase of great tunes by Ms. Mason. A definite must-have for fans of acousitc rock.
MISH MASH Mandate: Misty must-have
Seattle Women isn't a single group, but a collective of talented women singers and musicians that get together and bash out some traditional R&B classics. These women leave their own stamp on the songs, which are older blues numbers that were mostly originally performed by men. The end result is an exciting update of songs put in a new perspective.
From the raw, early blues sounds of Kathi McDonald's Hound Dog and Holly Figeroa's take on Robert Johnson's Walkin' Blues to the mean Chicago blues of Diana Redland & Emily Remler's Rockinitus, Back Porch Gossip explores a variety of blues styles across the board. We Are Not Good Girls is a live-oriented album that has a more general blues atmosphere, but it's fun in its obvious playfulness.
If you live, eat and drink the blues, these are two great discs to munch on.
MISH MASH Mandate: Nobody loves me but my mother, and she could be jivin, too.
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