Monday, September 29, 2008

Monsters Are Waiting: Ones And Zeros (EP)

Written by Fantasma el Rey

Monsters Are Waiting’s new E.P. Ones And Zeros is surely not a zero in any way or on any scale. Their second major release is one that showcases a more mature sound with lead vocalist Annalee Fery at the front and driven by Andrew Clark on the bass, guitar, and organ. With six tracks and just under thirty minutes to work with Ones And Zeros is as powerful and playable as any full-length effort could have been. If anything, it leaves you wanting more.

The opening track, “Crazy Love,” picks up right where their last L.P. left off, finding the overall sound remaining unchanged. The bass is thick; guitars still jangle out catchy chords as the drums remain heavy and solid while the organ floats in and out, making itself known at key moments. The lyrics carry forward with their look at love, loneliness, sadness, and the state of mind these feelings bring with a splash of the bitters. The backing vocals are strong on “Crazy Love” giving a nod to girl groups of the ‘60s and add to the appeal of the track.

“Don’t Lie,” “It’s Endless,” and the title track keep the groove alive. “Don’t Lie” is bursting with solid drumbeats and ‘80s alternative/ Britpop guitar work again pulled from such inspiration as New Order, The Cure, and The Smiths. “Ones And Zeros” has this catchy ‘80s Britpop dance mix down perfectly; New Order bass, Smiths guitar, plunking Cure keys and a Siouxsie and Banshees atmosphere (think “Spellbound”). Not that I’m saying that Annalee sounds like Siouxsie but the attitude and vibe are there. It all comes together to make the song as enjoyable as anything those big boys and girls could have cast out.

Drawing from another ‘80s Manchester source Monsters Are Waiting do a fine cover of The Stone Roses’ “I Wanna Be Adored.” I heard them do this tune live and thought they did a fine job then and am glad they put it down for this release. It fits the whole sound and feel of the band perfectly as Annalee repeats, “I wanna, wanna be adored, adored” a few times, it’s trancelike with her sweet lulling voice. If you didn’t know the song, one could easily mistake it for an original. Annalee and company have done a fine job with the CD version of a live staple.

Closing the E.P. is “Steal The Sun,” which grooves on for six minutes as everything is on display again as the organ pumps in a ‘60s Tex Mex/girl group fashion. Annalee sounds like a sweet girl singing of na├»ve happy things but she really plans on taking, waking, and hating you. That’s why she’s stealing your sunshine, jackass. You somehow broke this girl’s heart and she is quietly going to get back at you. Annalee chants “love” and sings “I like you, I do/ I miss you tenderly” but she turns “in the whirlwind” and meets you after darkness to face you. An interesting song that makes you think as one can interpret the lyrics in a number of ways: jilted lover, outsider with “Just My Imagination” syndrome, or who knows what else. A great tune that moves and doesn’t seem like six minutes as you listen to the lyrics and try to figure out where they come from.

The change in the band lays in the mood and the less erratic vocal delivery of Annalee. While sticking to their alt-‘80s dance/Britpop grooves, the songs move well and the instrumentation seems tighter and more defined. Annalee keeps her vocals quiet, sweet, plaintive and moving. Missing are her high-pitched squeals and tailing off rants. On “Crazy Love” you can hear some of these vocal runs buried at the very end of the track. Annalee still soars off at times with her bitter sweetness and “Ahh-ahhs” but in its reserved form it adds to the emotion of the song and pushes them to a level higher than the first album.

Ones And Zeros is a good CD and makes me ask the question “Will a full-length outing follow soon after?” Time will tell but in the meantime I’ll have to gather a crew and head out to see Monsters are Waiting when they hit the local live spots.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Donavon Frankenreiter: Pass It Around

Written by Fumo Verde

All right, so I just got Pass It Around from Donavon Frankenreiter. The first song I hit up was the title track, an easy groove that relaxes the mind and definitely makes you want to pass one around, but since I’m here alone, I use a bong. A little slack guitar adds the flavor of the Islands as the words lace the vibe which most surfers have, “Do what’s right for you and I’ll do what’s right for me, and just pass it around.” This song is more of a statement than a story, and one that I completely endorse, and though it is the title of this CD, it was the ninth track on the disc. This man isn’t trying to offend anyone he’s just trying to live Aloha.

It’s followed up with the final track, “Come Together.” For those of you who hate the old hippie, peace and love, tree-hugging stuff, this may not be a song for you. The dream, and I’m a realist, of everybody being cool with each other and no more wars, well, the feeling is still strong with Donavon and all I can say is, at least someone’s making the effort.

After debating about god again which did not make it to this page, I decided to start at the beginning of the disc, “Life, Love and Laughter.” My feet started tapping and I found myself bouncing about in my chair. Up beat and very happy, puts you one of those places that make you want to call up a few friends and have a shindig. Why not, with the following track it’s easy to do. A slow ‘70s disco love beat that flows like the smiles of summer on the faces of pretty girls at the beach. You’ll be busting out the bellbottoms as the funky groove hustles in. This song, “Too Much Water,” will be the next tune I’ll be singing to myself as I bebop around.

“Come With Me” is Donavon speaking truth. This is his love song and if you want to love a man like this, you have to go with him across the sea, searching for waves and good times. This is what makes him who he is and what he is going to do for in life, so follow if you want, but just remember he’s “like a stone just skipping across the sea.” Love songs like this are as simple and true as the people who sing them. The tune starts with some light strumming and plucking. His gentle, gruff voice calls out, “I cant go back/ wont do any good/ gotta live my life/ like I the way I said I would,/ gonna find myself/ in sun-filled trees/ gonna live my life/ on every breeze.”

If you want a little darker taste, then “Your Heart” proves that even Donavon has bad days. The beginning sounds like a Mariachi band is about to play, but as the song goes on I could swear I hear a hook from the song “Low Rider” by War, but slower. Wow, can low riders go any slower? As the Mariachi enters again, I picture surfing images from south of the border, with warm water, warm weather, and even warmer women. There’s even room for bongo drums on this disc and, kidz, I do love sound the bongo drums

If you have the wave-rider mindset, than this CD has your name all over it. Like Jack Johnson mixed with Jimmy Buffett? Than you have Donavon. Simple, as in down to earth and genuine, is the best way to describe Pass It Around. Good grooves with honest lyrics relating and reflecting the man who is Donavon Frankenreiter. Pick this up and pass it around.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Roy Harper & Jimmy Page: Jugula

Written by Fantasma el Rey

Roy Harper and Jimmy Page unite for the second time on Jugula, a futuristic science fiction project with Harper at the helm. Page turns in some fine guitar mastery but don’t expect anything as hard rocking as his Zeppelin work. Harper runs the gamut on this album from rock to folk while displaying his lyrical and vocal talents; he even gives his son Nick a shot at showing off his guitar skills, making it a family outing. It’s a ride that I took with little knowledge of what to expect, only knowing of Harper as the guy who’s in the title of Zeppelin’s “Hats Off To (Roy) Harper” but I’m glad I took the disc off of El Bicho’s desk.

The whole album has an Orwellian tinge of warning and despair, which I dig in general. I enjoy these kinds of outings packed with interesting lyrics and driven by guitars, acoustic or electric, and both are covered here with great detail and ease by two of rock’s best. Track one is an Orwell-inspired tune, “Nineteen Forty-Eightish.” Yeah, it’s a bit in reverse but you get the idea. Harper bends his voice around the words he sings and Page’s guitar madness, adding to the whole sound and feel of the tune. Harper at times hits an odd high-pitched tone and sometime warbles but on the other hand he can be very smooth and almost operatic, lending depth to his tale of a dark future as he pours out lines such as “Welcome to my nightmare/ I’m the Father, Son, and Whole Polluted System.” Not only a look to the “future” but a sideways glance at the current world and times, then (1985, when the album was originally released) and now.

“Bad Speech” is Harper doing a quick spoken-word piece putting forth a bit of his philosophy in his own poetic way. “Hope” is a drumbeat-laden track with more good guitar work and Harper’s vocal magic and deep haunting lyrics, such as “When you look at me/ from your own century/ I may seem to be strange archeology” and “When I caught you there in tomorrow’s mirror.” All the while the guitar hits strange licks, space-odyssey keyboard trip, and other percussive instruments soar and swirl in the background, heightening the hopeful sense of flight and falling.

“Hangman,” “Elizabeth,” and “Frozen Moment” continue on the set path Harper has chosen for his tip o’ the hat to science fiction writers the world o’er. “Hangman” is the nightmare tale of a man standing on the gallows pole about to swing and “be murdered in cold blood” and when you read deeper into the lyrics, you’ll see the tune reveals more than the simple story of an execution.

“Elizabeth” is the most hard rocking this CD gets while not straying from the rest of the odd little ditties and really only taking off in intervals. Page gets to bend some notes and make his axe weep as well on this one before it ends on an odd keyboard bass, wind-chimes note. “Frozen Moment” is a quite reflective piece with its “looking back through my dreams” theme.

“Twentieth Century Man” is almost a “Hope” reprise as it has much of the same instrumentation and overall vibe but it works well as a sort of bookend to the whole science-fiction affair. The closing track, “Advertisement (Another Intentional Suicide),” is filled with odd humor. Harper sings of his member “squirting the loo” with sounds of the pub playing in the background, and on the rocking chorus he informs the listener “I’m Really Stoned.” For a twist this number has a pop feel to it much like radio hits of the day, in a stretch (and I may catch hell for this one) Harper pulls off a “Beatles meets Huey Lewis” sound which truly is oddly interesting as is the whole damn recording.

Roy Harper and Jimmy Page’s work on Jugula may be a hard pill to swallow at first but if you can make it all the way through to the very end past the laughing girl and yakking man (complete with ground splash sounds) you may find the same amused interest that I did and you may enjoy the spinning of this CD. You may also dig the lyrics the way Fantasma has or you may not like it or even hate the thing but that is for you to decide. All I know is one of these days I have to head over to Fumo’s place and listen to this one again.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Glen Campbell: Meet Glen Campbell

Written by Fantasma el Rey

Meet Glen Campbell
, ladies and gents, a well-loved and respected country music artist whose career has spanned over fifty years and seventy albums. Along the way Campbell has racked up many country/pop hits that have stood the test of time and are still spun on jukeboxes today, like “Galveston,” “Wichita Lineman,” and “By The Time I Get To Phoenix.” These heartfelt songs of love and everyday working life are what have made him the beloved icon he is today. With his latest effort he has handpicked some of the best rock hits of past years and has left his warm, slightly melancholy impression on them.

The 72-year-old Campbell chose ten mid-tempo rock tunes and with his calm voice and accomplished guitar picking has interrupted them in a way that is definitely his own. Although that doesn’t mean that these ten tracks are completely re-worked just “Campbell-fied.” If you know his tunes, mentioned above, then you have the basic blueprint for this CD. There are some surprising choices but they all lend themselves well to Campbell’s style.

The disk opens with Travis’ “Sing,” which is a wonderful tune that sets the tone for the rest of the CD. Campbell’s version is almost a complete cover and not a remake. What I mean is that the song remains the same, no pun intended, as the original. The instrumentation is nearly exact; Campbell’s vocals are close as well. Tom Petty’s “Walls” and “Angel Dream” get the same sort of treatment: “Walls” has the same sweeping sound in its string section and a good, solid beat, as “Angel Dream” strikes a chord with its galloping drums and banjo-picking.

Campbell covers some major modern hits as well with U2’s “All I Want Is You” and Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life).” Both songs come across as more country sounding as “Good Riddance” adds more instruments, but too little has changed to make them truly stand out as Johnny Cash did with his American Recordings (specifically “Rusty Cage” and “Hurt”), shaking the originals into something different. The same can be said of The Replacements’ “Sadly Beautiful,” Jackson Browne’s “These Days” and John Lennon’s “Grow Old With Me.”

Foo Fighters’ “Times Like These” strays from the original as Campbell’s version is not as electric guitar noisy and his vocals shine through, adding warmth to the song. “Jesus” by The Velvet Underground is the most tweaked tune on the album. It has a more spiritual feel to it as the bells and strings make it stand far from the Velvets version, giving a true country feeling as opposed to a New York City street vibe. Not that I think Lou Reed has no faith but knowing Campbell as a country boy makes it less of a satire and more an honest plea for direction.

Meet Glen Campbell is a very enjoyable CD and one I will listen to many times over, “These Days” has had the biggest effect on me and I can’t get it out of my head. Glen Campbell puts all his effort and love into these songs and it shows, yet as far as being a groundbreaking album it falls short. It is nowhere near the horror/comedy of Pat Boone doing heavy metal covers, but don’t expect Cash on American Records either. It is all Glen Campbell though, all his feeling, all his love and experience put into songs that fit very well into his repertoire, and some even sound tailor-made for him. Keep your ears open for the single “Good Riddance” on the radio, Glen’s first in many, many years.