Tuesday, November 30, 2010

RECORD REVIEWS - November 2010

Trophy Wife "Patience Fury"
If I were to begin with "style over substance", most immediate thoughts would be that I was being critical of a band for engaging in a pose rather than playing heartfelt music. However, I was rethinking this term as I listened to this fine album. There are certainly a lot of punk bands, metal bands, and over time a whole lot of bands with elements of both. I think in a very general sense, most metal bands are looking for the substance of the music, while the punk bands are looking at the style of expression. Hardcore fans will rightly say there are elements of both in their favorite genre, but as I detach myself from being part of a genre, I sense that I prefer my metal acts to have some punk attitude and style. And I prefer any punk band beyond 1980 to try to have some musical substance with their clear and present style. This is a long way of getting to this fine album made by two women from Philadelphia and North Carolina with loads of guitars, drums and vocals. There is metal crunch, but it is the punk attitude and style which creates the excitement for me. They employ some fine tempo shifts and vocal variations to really create some nice dynamics amidst the drums and crunching guitar work. I am reminded of some of the finer bands in the area from the Sockets Records label with some angular post punk riffing going on here. I already knew the live set from this duo was excellent, but I am pleased to find this recording to have nine songs that I want to hear in their entirety over many listens. I believe fans of heavy and thoughtful music should agree with me on this.

Songs to try:

Sister Outsider - Sharp vocals pierce through the layers of rock with good guitar moves and overdubs (listen on the link above)

Risk Big - A nice psyche-metal presentation shows their diversity.

Matt Stevens "Ghost"

I do get wary these days with the ease of which someone can create an album all by themselves in their bedroom. Many are nice electronic and/or ambient pieces that are hard to complain about, but offer little beyond some nice melodies or sounds. It is always helpful to have someone who can play a little along with having some creative songs and sounds. Did I find this here? Mostly. Stevens is a fine guitarist and shows some good progressive creativity on this instrumental album.There are some of the usually progressive ambient sentiments here, but I hear enough interesting melodies to keep me listening more than I usually do in this field. And I like the way the album builds from a modest start to a fairly vibrant conclusion. Stevens is from the UK and works in bands as well as composing solo works. This release has perked my interest and although he is a long plane ride away, I hope to see what his live work is like some day. Until then, this album offers many of musical layers to explore further.

Songs to try:

Draw - Heavy bass sounds with semi-dissonant sounds on the high end amidst a rhythms that is shy of funky, but moving nonetheless.

8:19 - Just a really nice effecting series of acoustic and electric guitars that are reminiscent of some of the British greats in a bit more modern setting.

Caedmon "A Chicken to Hug"

It has been over 3 decades, but like Vashti Bunyan a few years back, a classic seventies UK psyche-folk-rock band has come out with a second studio release. I had the pleasure earlier this year of visiting Edinburgh and seeing the band's two reunion shows (their first shows since 1978!). They did a marvelous job with the brilliant songs off of their one record and were also successful mixing in many new songs which they were recording at the time. And now, the results are here. A new Caedmon album with all five original members. The sound is different, but not radically so. In fact, the band have been a bit amused with the various attempts to categorize their music into folk, rock, psychedelic, acid folk, progressive and Christian labels (and the exponential combinations thereof). So now, there is a more mature sound that still contains exquisite and  delicate folk starting with the vocals and acoustic instruments mixed with the rock elements of electric guitar and bass. There are some real drums this time as well. But you can also add a few more genres: African folk and light jazz-rock. But no matter how you want to categorize it, the major point is that the songs are eclectic, varied and effectively creative. This album has less jarring moments than the debut and is not quite as mystical, but each song has its own personality and strength. And when I compare it to the post reunion newer songs from some of my other favorites like Vashti Bunyan, the Incredible String Band, Roky Erickson and the Stooges, I find this one is the most successful (along with the Bunyan release perhaps, but much better than the rest). There is enough quality here, that even if you are not already a fan (like someone I met at the shows earlier this year who had not heard of them, but thought they sounded like fun), you would find a lot of great music to enjoy.

Songs to try:

Peace in the Fire - They begin with a song they wrote for their final show and performed it that one time in 1978 prior to reunion shows. This classic fits right in with their older material and begins this album in a magical way.

Still Here - A nice theme to continue the album with and bring a bit of updated rock sound into the mix.

Bonnie Boy - A newer folk song with great dual vocals that does remind one of the older days.

Four Winds - An interesting song that reminds me of older rock/singer-songwriter style.

Childless - Of their modern material, this simultaneously sounds like classic Caedmon and something totally new. A great psychedelic vibe on a touching little song.

Elephant in the Chatroom - Nice rocker with a decidedly UK folk feeling present.

1 comment:

Matt Stevens said...

Thanks loads for reviewing Ghost