From Baltimore, we have four all-stars making their own unique brand of music. Two of these musicians starred in the Polkats a couple decades back. They are back with a new rhythm section, new name and new musical direction.
This album contains six originals and four covers from such diverse writers as Harold Arlen and Buck Owens. The style is a bit old school dance hall-barroom music, but with modern pace and sensibility. There is even a touch of reggae but mostly there are excellent jazzy bursts of spirited playing. Dancing piano work, jazz-rock guitar and a nice quietly sharp rhythm section achieve an interesting balance of sounds and styles.
This is thoughtful music that generally requires the work of all-stars or at least veteran musicians. There is a lot of jazz, but I still sense it can find its audience in coffee houses and versatile rock clubs. I think any time where I can say that a band's originals are far superior than their covers, then we have a band that is worth listening to and watching down the road. I hope to see these guys in DC some time.
Songs to try:
Darling, It's Official is very catchy and has a feel-good sound that really can put a bounce in your step.
Miles Below the Surface has steady guitar and bass rhythms with more challenging piano and drum bursts. Nice vocal line, too.
Two Empty Slates - Good weaving guitar lines and keyboard punctuation.
White House Band "The Method" EP/"The Stimulus Package" EP
Heavy drums and hard and spacey guitars are a great backdrop for the powerful "The Bond Song" which leads off "The Method". The vocals seem between a rap and singing and adds to the power. More of the same in the remaining three songs and the sound and songs remind me a bit of Death, that great rediscovered Detroit band. It's not quite up to those heights and is more crossed with hip hop, but it could share the bill. There is a little spaciness not unlike that of Funkadelic's "Maggot Brain".
The Stimulus Package EP has plenty of rocking guitar and varies the sound a bit more. There are more psychedelic moments and rhythmic changes. He has an excellent grasp of the strengths of rock music and hip hop and has put together a great EP here. "That's my Ish!" is a powerhouse. My only complaint is that 98% of rapping uses the same language and cliches we have been hearing for decades. That is also true in hardcore punk and heavy metal. I always hope artists can find a few new angles and twists if they don't have a new poetic insight. I would bet that the White House Band is capable of taking that next step. They are off to a roaring start in that direction.
Songs to try: Try them all since there are only nine songs on the two eps, but give "The Stimulus Package" first listen. There should be something for everybody here.
Kuschty Rye Ergot "Senescence"
This EP came out on a limited edition three inch CD and features over 18 minutes of live music. Like most all good live releases, it makes the case of going out and seeing the band on stage. And this band is a must if you have not already seen them. The recording quality is good, but not crystalline as it is a straight live recording. You do hear the bass, guitar and drums clearly enough which comprise the core of the band. It sounds like there is an additional loop or electronics sound in the mix. I have seen this band have anywhere from two to five or maybe six members, which is part of the fun. The music is improvisational psychedelic music. It is generally driven more by a guitar melody (often eastern flavored as it is here) than that of Kohoutek, a larger band featuring the core three members here. By the ending, I kind of wish there was another 10 to 15 minutes as there usually is live. This may fit comfortably in the experimental music category, but it is easy to grasp on to and float away with.
Interesting hardcore variations are on display from this Bronx based band. No sweet Americana sounds here, that's in Brooklyn. But it is not just the raw sounds from the street, although half-listeners will pick up on that quickly enough. But a full listen yields much more complex work by this band. They remind of Boston's The Freeze, were they trying to emulate Chrome or MX-80 Sound. There's a bit of Helmet in here too, I suppose. A couple of the songs are a bit thick and less interesting, but most of them have loads more than you get from 90% of bands calling themselves or being called hardcore. So I will not complain and simply give this a few more spins. They are fairly new on the scene from what I gather, so hopefully they can afford to make a few trips out of town and head this way. I am quite careful in selecting hardcore (and metal) shows to attend, but this band would be one I would line up for.
Songs to try:
Trap Door - Right out of the gate, this trap door leads you to a hardcore industrial blast.
800 Jerks - This one reminds me of the immortal and largely forgotten MX-80 Sound.
Decide to Sleep - "I've been thinking of becoming a maniac" Catchy bit of madness this.
The Blackberry Belles - "The Blackberry Belles"
This band is one of my local favorites in recent times as they have offered a nice retro garage styled sound to deliver their fresh original songs. They line up with guitar/vocals, organ, and drums. There does not sound like they did a whole lot more than that in the studio, although they thickened up the mix enough. The organ shimmers ever more brightly here, which really gives the band its stand-out sound. Everything is strong and holds its spot in the overall sound nicely. The drums vary from holding a simple beat to pounding out some intense breaks. The guitar work is rocking and varied enough to give each song its own identity. Vocal work is gutsy and akin to the blues-soul-rock hybrid done in the very late 1960s. It reminds me of a pretentious band leader in some Robert Altman movie that I cannot place. But its not any pretension here, but the combination of styles that worked there and works here. There are not as many bands that capably capture that advanced garage sound as you may think. Kudos for this band for achieving quite a bit in a short time.
Songs to try:
Listen Baby - Great organ, manic drums, hot guitar, intense vocals... what else is needed?
Go On Home - This one sounds like one of those Led Zeppelin songs from left field, vocally at least. The music is much snappier.
Don't Believe - The hit single in an alternative universe where creative radio is still vibrant. Catchy song, moving along at a fast walking pace.