I've completely fallen in love with Bruising You, a low-fi pop punk song by Scotland's Spare Snare (led by Jans Burnett). It's full of ugly guitar, thin pops from the snare drum, and it sounds like it was recorded in someone's garage far across the Atlantic. The b-side, What You've Done, has Burnett singing along with a solo acoustic guitar in his best Herman's Hermits/British Invasion impression. Simple and simply beautiful.
MISH MASH Mandate: Hi praise for low-fi
Dave Tilton comes across in a low-key, stripped-bare kind of way, both musically and lyrically. His songs are surrounded with bluesy folk in the vein of Neil Young and Bob Dylan and delivered with a deadpan dry humor that keeps you on your toes.
The album begins with the clever, twisted lyrics of The Long Goodbye, a song that flows along with rich folk harmonies in the chorus. The most unforgettable moment in the song begins this way: "I met Janet Reno/We sort of hit it off at the trial." He then somehow plays with this into a spoof of Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues:"I said to her 'Janet'/Now I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die/And whenever I hear the train whistle blow/(in a deep Cash impression)I hang my head and I cry." Another flash of brilliance comes with The Flood, a long, cool almost bluesy folk groove that delivers some startling imagery: "Let's not name it/I could not possibly betray/Something as incomplete as language/That night we stayed in Monterrey."
This one will grow on you, and each listen is one surprise after another.
MISH MASH Mandate: Flipped-out folkster
While they're not really breaking any new ground, GONEMAD is a lean, mean, metal machine that can grind you up and spit you out.
There are inevitable comparisons here to the newest wave of pop/rap-meets-metal bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit, but to me, GONEMAD more closely resembles 311, especially in their start-n-stop/quiet-to-loud delivery and their dual vocal attacks. This is what you'll find in songs like Direct Approach and Sympathy Crutch. But there's more than one trick up their sleeve, as they hit Bored Games in a full-throttle punk tone with quick and aggressive beats, while Knuckledragger is pure metal to the core.
This disc is watertight and skillfully done. With a little more originality, these guys would be unstoppable.
MISH MASH Mandate: Lean and quite mean
Drew Barrett delivers an ambitious set of songs full of catchy pop hooks and blazing guitars in this solo effort. If I had one complaint, it would be that he almost tries too hard, setting a way too serious tone to most of the songs--even though a bit of humor does shine through every now and then.
City of Sin begins the CD with a sound that reminds me of the cool phased-out guitar of Van Halen's And the Cradle Will Rock. Sin has a cool pop structure that grows on you quickly. Barrett's voice carries better when he's singing in a higher pitch--for example, he sings the verses lower in Worked Myself to Death, and it doesn't fly quite as well as the higher pitched chorus. The song Lovers is a duet with his sister Corinne that is a little on the cheesy side, but somehow works beautifully; kind of like one of those G-N-R ballads that you love to hate. The most interesting track is Is There Somewhere Else We Go, which employs a cool groove and doesn't hold to the rigid structures of some of the other songs.
A noble efffort from beginning to end.
MISH MASH Mandate: Serious Strolling
This one comes right out of left field. Imagine if you will, a bizarre mix of the music of Rush and the voice of Janis Joplin, and you'll have something close to Angstrom. This is European retro-prog rock in the flesh, and that's an understatement.
One Indeed begins the album with a rambling instrumental intro that evolves into a heavy-footed rock rant held together by vocalist Gwenda Wood. An easier side emerges in August Dawn, a ballad-like tune that flows in-and-out with surging keyboard sounds and classical guitar lines. Deep Space is a trippy, riff-oriented piece that is just plain weird, especially in the intro: "This is where we're all going tonight, this is deep space". I could almost believe it.
A quirky throwback to conceptual rock of the 70s? Perhaps, but it's kinda fun--whether or not they meant it to be is another question.
MISH MASH Mandate: Cygnus X-1, baby