Title: "Overcome By Happiness"
Label: Sub Pop
Format: 12 song CD
Don't let the title fool you; Joe Pernice, lead singer of the Pernice Brothers, has one of those oh-so-happy-to-be-melancholy voices that would make Morrissey proud. His soft-spoken manner drifts across a wide expanse of guitars and atmospheric melodies. The tunes are extremely catchy and hypnotic--before too long you'll get sucked into a depressing web of shimmering pop. And you'll love it.
The title track uses a wall of orchestral sound to paint a mournfully pop picture. "Sick of You" has the Beatles written all over it, and it sounds like it could've escaped from "Abbey Road". The driving piano of "Clear Spot" has a Ben Folds quality about it, while the deep guitars of "Dimmest Star" echo the country-flavored sounds of Chris Issak and Roy Orbison.
I dare say this is one of the best albums of the year. And I know it's only May.
MISH MASH Mandate: Beautifully depressing.
Title: "Ritual Dance"
Label: A&R Records/Maelstrom Music
Format: 11 song CD
The Gurus have a sound that is almost elusive. At times they throw down with a down and dirty folk groove, and sometimes they shine with a power pop effervescence. Above all is the striking voice of vocalist Joy Bonner, who has a bluesy growl like Alanis, but with a lot more soul.
"See You As I Do" is a smooth and radio-ready pop song, while "Anything I Could Get" is an attitude-filled rocker with a clever clock-ticking sound effect. "Big Picture" is catchy and clean with bold up-front vox from Bonner.
This band is on top of their game in a big way. The only thing keeping them from your favorite Top 40 station is exposure. Well worth checking out.
MISH MASH Mandate: Better than Ezra--and Alanis.
Format: 20 song CD
Resurrecting the hit & miss tunes of the recently reborn cult label Del-Fi, "Delphonic Sounds Today" pays tribute to the cutting edge of 60s pop. The disc is a self-described oddity--using up-and-coming fringe artists of today to dust off the work of then fringe artists on the classic Del-Fi roster. The result is astonishingly brilliant.
Instead of employing a "new" sound, this tribute has a distinct retro-styled production, which gives the uncanny impression that this could've been available in the record bins 30 years ago. The Brian Jonestown Massacre does a psychedelic fuzz makeover of the Bobby Fuller Four's "I Fought the Law", while the quirky MAN or ASTROMAN? dives into full surf regalia with a cover of YoYo Hashi's "YoYo's Pad". A true-to-form version of Richie Valens' "Come On, Let's Go" is provided by Russell Scott and His Red Hots, and the Dekes of Hazard serve up a country fried rendition of Baby Ray and the Ferns/Frank Zappa's "The World's Greatest Sinner". Other highlights include the Jigsaw Seen's lo-fi cover of The American Four's "Luci Baines" and the Liquor Giants' version of Chan Romero's garage classic, "Hippy Hippy Shake".
This one can get pretty weird, but it's fun from start to finish. I guess that's the whole Del-Fi philosophy, and I won't argue with that.
MISH MASH Mandate: Retro-Active Alternative.
Title: "The Speed of Pain"
Label: American Horse Records
Format: 12 song CD
In my previous review of subterra's demo, perhaps I dwelled too much on the similarity between the voice of Neil Young and that of subterra lead singer/guitarist/songwriter Howie Doyle. I say that because the full-length album, "The Speed of Pain", reveals a depth I never would have expected after hearing the four song demo. Yes, Mr. Young is a major influence, but I also hear traces of John Lennon, Willie Nelson, and even the spaced-out tinges of Pink Floyd.
First and foremost, Doyle is a guitarist, and he struts his stuff in the full tilt rocker, "More Than There Is" and in the wailing blues of "Just Want to Let You Know". The unusual "Stagecoach" has a fun cowboy-styled theme and the whacked-out cover of Willie Nelson's western ballad "I Never Cared For You" conjures up the ghost of Roy Orbison himself--It is here that Doyle's voice is at its best, showing a range that the rest of the album would seem to belie.
I must admit that this disc took me by surprise. Expecting an extended version of the demo, I instead got my rear kicked 'til it was saddle sore. This one is going into my stack of favorites.
MISH MASH Mandate: How the West Was Won
Title: "Wreckuiem For The Legatines"
Label: Blown Woofer/Parachute Entertainment
Format: 7 song CD
Like a creature from the Mesozoic, C.O. Jones plods along heavily and slowly without distraction. Their sound lies somewhere between mid-tempo Metallica (circa 1988) and Pearl Jam at their most introspective. There's more than enough angst to go around, and it creates a steady base that keeps this album solid throughout.
"Eye Level" shows off lead singer Jason Resinger's best Eddie Vedder emulation, and drummer Ryan Puckett simply tears up the set all the way through. The band is super tight on "Minor Lament", and this is probably the heaviest, meanest song in the whole bunch. The vocal melody is knocked out with cool phrasing, and the music has a start-n-stop progression that is classic metal at its best.
If you like it loud, and you're not planning to get anywhere fast--this one's for you.
MISH MASH Mandate: Carnivore Rock
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