Tuesday, July 17, 2018
In addition to Spaghetty Town, No Front Teeth and Gods Candy Records are also involved with the release of "Drowning In Blood". It's great to finally hear new stuff from Ravagers, and I was stoked to discover that a full album is coming soon. If you like your punk music tough and hard, turn it up and enjoy!
Sunday, July 15, 2018
|Photo by Dean Unsworth|
F & L: Hi Rich! I've got to say I'm really excited about your new solo record. Tell me how you ended up deciding to do a solo release after all of this time. Can we expect something a little different with this record?
RR: Hello Lord Rutledge! Great to be talkin' to ya! Well, after doing the three Role Models albums in three years, the subsequent shows and tours, I just started writing and was noticing a shift in how I was approaching lyrics. Even though I write all the Role Models material, this stuff was getting far more personal. Musically, I felt it would be great to have a different interpretation. Build them on a different foundation. That coupled with the fact my brothers in Role Models were having kids and getting busy with other things, I thought, well, I don't feel like stopping!
F & L: You've worked with the PledgeMusic platform several times now. How has that experience been for you?
RR: The PledgeMusic platform allows me to record and release music straight to people who want to listen without having someone tell me when or how. It has been really successful with the Role Models stuff and progressing great on this new venture!
F & L: Can you talk about some of the talented people you have playing on this new record?
RR: Yes! This band is something I am very excited about. Let's start with Gaff on guitar. He has been in bands like The Glitterati and Dedwardians. I saw him in the latter years ago and loved his playing. He came across as someone who really loves to play and believes in rock 'n' roll. A friendship ensued, and he was an obvious choice to me. He ended up a real righthand man on this and is a real important ingredient to the sound. I look forward to writing more with my new partner! You all have another Bon Jovi/Sambora on your hands, so look out! We'll be "out on the streets"! Hahahaha!
Talking about partners, there is my man Andy Brook. There is not a note that I've recorded in the UK that hasn't had his production paws all over it. He is family. Plain and simple. And now he's also on the other side of the glass and playing with me on this. It's about time.
Simon Maxwell is playin' the drums. The drummer in Role Models. To say we have a bond is putting it lightly. Had to have him along. Had to.
Kris Rodgers from the mighty Scott Sorry Band on keyboards. When RM toured with those beautiful creatures, it was like immediate animalistic love. Smelly and real. A bond was forged and I love those guys! To say I didn't notice the blinding talent in our pal Kris would be a lie worthy of jail time. What he has done on these songs has spun me dizzy. I like it that way!
Kit Swing is someone who played in Mallory Knox in London and is just a great singer. She joined Role Models on the song "Obituary Writer", off of Dance Moves, and on stage, most notably when we toured with Michael Monroe. She has also been a very close friend for years, and it's about time we got to do this together.
Then there's Ricky! Ricky McGuire. He plays bass in The Men They Couldn't Hang and has some great history as a teenage member of UK Subs back in the day. I met him at a Men's show, and we ended up hangin' out all night playing records. His playing is phenomenal. Taking the songs into real beautiful, melodically tough territory. Just don't give him whisky. Anything else is okay though, hahaha!
F & L: I'm blown away by how prolific you've been at creating music. You did three albums in three years with Role Models, and now you've got Like We'll Never Make It in the works. How have you managed to turn out so much quality material so quickly? Are you writing new songs literally all the time?
RR: I am writing all the time. But in way that's different to how I did it years ago. Where before I may have wandered gypsy like day-to-day writing whenever I felt like it, I now have some structure. And I found it suited me down to the ground. When my boy was diagnosed with autism, it became apparent we needed someone at home, to be there for him. My wife and I are a real team, we do what we need to and support each other. Me being at home with both our children means I look at my day, see a window of opportunity and act upon it. For example, I soon realised doing the dishes wasn't a mundane chore. It cleaned up the kitchen and crockery for my loved ones, ensuring no one gets some bacterial sickness AND gave me the chance to organise my thoughts into lyrics. I can play guitar when I get a flash of inspiration around my daughter because she loves it. I use my time as wisely as I can. Then collapse and watch Star Trek re-runs, hahaha.
F & L: Are you looking to get out and do some solo shows in support of this album? If so, what should people expect if they turn up?
RR: Yes. There are some great shows already booking up. Sharing the stage with some great people. We got August 8th at The Slaughtered Lamb in London with the amazing Steve Conte of the New York Dolls and Michael Monroe. My pal! Love that dude! 12 September at Aces and Eights London with Rob Carlyle of The Compulsions, Darrell Bath of Crybabys, Dogs D'Amour, and Vibrators. And Honest John Plain! The main songwriter in powerpop legends The Boys! And 20 October at The Lounge with The Dirty Strangers and The Brutalists featuring Nigel Mogg of the original Quireboys! And a couple of really special gigs that I can't share yet! You can expect rock n roll with big heart and a big sound.
F & L: I think it's awesome that funds from this project will be used to help out Scott Sorry. I know you guys have been friends for a long time. Can you talk a little about your history with Scott?
RR: Scott and I met years ago when he was in The Wildhearts. Introduced by our mutual friend and brother Rich Jones. He played at the Astoria, and we all went 'round to Jones's' afterwards. We bonded pretty hard that night. The start of an enduring friendship. He and I are there for each other, giving support and advice pertaining to our lil' autistic dudes. He has been there for me when I needed someone. So I try to be there for him. Also we shared the same constitution when it came to recreation years ago, so we have some great stories. A past with a thousand smiles and some very real hilarious and touching moments. He is a tough dude with a heart so big ya begin to wonder if he keeps it remotely somewhere. So yeah, I'm gonna try and help.
F & L: Like We'll Never Make It will be your first solo release. I'm guessing it won't be your last! Have you thought about what's coming down the pike in the upcoming years? Can we expect to hear more from Role Models as well?
RR: I am on a high with this band. Already writing the follow up. Gaff and I got a little space in front of his washing machine that is gonna be a very busy and creative place. Then I realise "Look out! I have some gigs to play with Role Models." I go and re-acquaint myself with the material and... can I just say I feel very lucky to be able to create and perform music with all these people? I know we spend a little time on this ol' rock twistin' the night away through space. I get the feeling I need to do more, say more, and listen more. Look at this right here. I get a chance to talk to a real believer in rock n roll. You. That fills my chest with the right kind of oxygen, man. And I want to keep these relationships alive. So you can say there will be more. As much as I can. Thanks so much for your time! All hail Lord Rutledge!
Head on over to PledgeMusic for details on how to pre-order Like We'll Never Make It. And be sure to check out the Role Models’ Bandcamp page if you haven't already!
Friday, July 13, 2018
"Kiss The Ass Of My Heart" and "Black Leather Angel" come from the same recording sessions that produced The Cheap Cassettes' 2017 debut single "Hieroglyphics In Lipstick". In a genius move, that single was released only on cassette. Now Rum Bar Records has issued all four songs on one stellar EP. This is actually the first vinyl release from The Cheap Cassettes, and it's a perfect representation of what this band is all about. These tracks were recorded at Egg Studios last summer with the legendary Kurt Bloch producing, and as expected they sound freaking amazing! This EP is proof that high quality production does not necessarily have to neuter a rock n' roll band's attack. This, to me, is what all power pop should aspire to be. These songs have melodies and choruses for days, but they don't skimp on big guitars and hard-hitting drums. Of course I had "Kiss The Ass of My Heart" pegged as a hit since I first heard a rough demo a couple years back. "Black Leather Angel" ain't too shabby either. This snappy rocker pretty much perfects the sound Charles and Kevin have been working towards for the last 15 years. It's timeless guitar pop born out of a love for '70s punk and great American rock n' roll. Once you let that chorus worm its way into your brain, good luck getting it out of there!
Having admired Charles Matthews's tremendous talent and consistently superb hair since 1996, I can genuinely say his songwriting has only gotten better with time. The same can be said of his singing voice. His creative partnership with Kevin Parkhurst has brought forth a band that is like the best parts of Material Issue, Cheap Trick, The Figgs, and Replacements all rolled into one. If The Cheap Cassettes are not my clear cut favorite band on Earth, it's only because I can't decide between them and The Connection (I swear Malibu Lou did not pay me to say that, although I will not refuse any shipments of New England IPA). And while I really like the band's full-length, I absolutely love this new EP! In edition to the vinyl release, "Kiss The Ass Of My Heart" is available on tape for all of you who prefer to listen to The Cheap Cassettes on cassette. You can order now from Bandcamp, and locals can pick up the new EP tomorrow night when the band plays a release show at Darrell's Tavern. The Tripwires and Yes Masters will be on the bill as well. Doors open at 8:00. It's gonna be yuge!
Saturday, July 7, 2018
With Back To Basics having emerged as one of the top punk/powerpop bands in Japan, it's wonderful that the band's music is finally available in the States. I wholeheartedly recommended the Shaded Eyes EP to fans of Japanese garage punk and just great catchy punk in general. Vinyl is still available from the Secret Mission Bandcamp!
Friday, July 6, 2018
Jeff Schroeck wrote these songs, which absolutely bear his style. When you hear his voice and guitar playing, you immediately know who it is. And I can't think of a lyricist who is more clever or literate. His words always blow me away while still leaving lots of room for interpretation. How many other bands have introduced themselves to the world with a line like "We're all warm chairs/To those seeking heat"? Literature and popular culture have always been frequent inspirations for Schroeck's songwriting. That continues to be the case on songs like "What I Learned From Righteous Cowboys"("The tall man, gun with a pearloid handle/He can shoot the flame off a Mexican prayer candle") and "Rubicon Beach" (which does reference the Steve Erickson novel). The tempos are for the most part snappy, although that gets dialed back some on the thoughtful, laid-back "72 Paperbacks". There is pretty much zero chance that fans of Black Wine and Ergs! won't love Character Actor. And it's fun to be reminded that the lead singer of the world's greatest punk band is also a sick drummer! If you long for the 1980s heyday of indie rock and college radio, this is a band that really captures that spirit. Is this what dad rock has become in 2018? If so, I endorse it fully!
Wednesday, July 4, 2018
Sunday, July 1, 2018
buy it! For this recording of "Got The Skinny", Palmer worked with Rodger Shosa and the legendary B-Face. This is exactly my idea of what a cover song should be. It's very much in the spirit of the original, yet Palmer found a way to put his signature on it. So whether you're into trashy garage-punk or straight-up poppy rock n' roll, you're gonna love the hell out of this track. While you never really know what to expect from these Geoff Palmer singles, you always know to expect something great! Keep 'em coming, man!
Friday, June 29, 2018
wrote about Glenn Robinson way back in 2015. Since then he released a terrific album called Unimpressed that I regretfully never got around to reviewing. Now at work on his third LP, Robinson just released a sneak peak in the form of the digital single "Get You Down". It's a name-your-price download over at his Bandcamp, and it's well worth checking out if you enjoy punky power pop. A quick recap on Glenn Robinson: he hails from Rhode Island and plays guitar, drums, and bass. He has released two albums on Jolly Ronnie Records as well as several singles. He sure knows how to write a catchy pop tune with some punch to it. "Get You Down" is no exception, and it has really strong lyrics to boot. The track was recorded in March with Chris Piquette at No Boundaries Studios in Providence. The new album has no title or release date at this point, but I'm definitely looking forward to it based on "Get You Down". I know you all might be going broke with all of the new releases I've been urging you to buy lately. So here's a freebie that's very much in keeping with the rest of the great stuff that's been coming out this summer!
Thursday, June 28, 2018
Through lo these many years I've been fortunate enough to listen to a metric buttload of music, there have been two factors that have presented themselves as actual factual predictors.
First, live albums are highly anticipated, quickly forgotten efforts that rarely live up to what was expected.
Second, band members spinning off and releasing their own solo albums or an entirely different band effort. Sometimes that "entirely different band effort" sloughs off to an entirely different genre as well.
Of course there are exceptions to just about any rule you can cite. For live albums, well, check these to shoot my idea that live albums never live up to expectations: Rare Earth – In Concert; The Who – Live at Leeds; Pat Traverse Band – Go for What You Know; Cheap Trick – Live at Budokan; Frampton Comes Alive; Bob Seger – Live Bullet; Humble Pie (yes, the band from whence Frampton emerged multiplatinum-victorious) – Rockin’ the Fillmore; Lou Reed – Rock and Roll Animal; The Kinks – One For the Road; KISS – Alive!, and several more.
Now to solos. I've been an on again/off again Stones fan for years – more off than on, I have to admit. Then individual members started putting out solos. Didn't like Jagger's or Wyman's solo stuff. I liked Ronnie Wood's stuff quite a bit, and I love Keith Richards's efforts.
In 1978 when the four members of KISS each released their own solo album, I enjoyed bits and pieces. But the four pieces apart fell decidedly short of the group combined as a whole.
And there are a bunch of other examples to point to, but I've already wasted too much time before getting to the root of the issue – and that is Ryan Roxie's new solo release Imagine Your Reality, which is a 10-track rock-and-roll dustup* from start to finish.
* - hockey term.
Released on June 1, 2018, Imagine Your Reality is already sold out at Amazon.com and the price has jumped three bucks from when I preordered it.
From the rocking opener - "Big Rock Show" (which reminded me a bit of Faster Pussycat at first. No, that's not a bad thing) to the much slower closing track "God Put a Smile Upon Your Face" and all points in between, Roxie's first honest to goodness solo release shows why he belongs.
Only four songs into the disc, there are already three really memorable ones. It's not that "Over and Done" is bad (in fact, it has some of the album's better lyrics) – just that the opener, "Big Rock Show", the cover of "California Man" (featuring Robin Zander), and "To Live and Die in L.A." overshadow it somewhat.
For the last several years, Roxie has been Alice Cooper's guitarist and collaborator. For an interesting example, check out Alice Cooper (with Ryan Roxie) – "Suffragette City"
In "Over and Done", he wants to make sure the relationship is over. "I'm half the man I thought I was. Single now but twice as lost. I don't think I'll be coming home tonight."
Ryan Roxie – "Over and Done"
The song title "California Man" might look familiar to you. Well, Roy Wood wrote it, and The Move did do the tune years and years and years ago.
Cheap Trick covered the tune years and years ago. Ryan Roxie invited Cheap Trick lead vocalist Robin Zander to guest on Roxie's take of the Roy Wood track.
With Cheap Trick as one of his major influences, it's not surprising that Roxie's version is really good and fairly true to that of Cheap Trick. Roxie and Zander trade vocals at points, and it's a really good remake of a really good song.
Ryan Roxie – "California Man"
"To Live and Die in LA" is another excellent cut, chronicling how you live and die while trying to make it. A perceived quick way is to cut the throats of the people you've worked with and stab those who helped you in the back. This official lyric video will explain it better.
Ryan Roxie – "To Live and Die in L.A."
"The Uh-oh Song" is fun. He just wants to hear his companion "…say these words; Uh-oh!" And if you bought the vinyl rather than the CD, side one just ended for you. Not to worry. Side two kicks off with my Alternate Favorite**.
** - my adaptation of a hockey term, since there's no more hockey till late September. Gotta get a fix somehow.
Listen closely to track six, and you'll find out he doesn't "…give a damn about the Me Generation." "A bunch of little punks who need to take their medication."
Track seven – "Look Me in the Eye" - is what you always want someone you suspect is lying to you to do, right?
Number eight offers a bit of advice to the lovelorn in the audience; "When your brain is on vacation your heart's in trouble."
Only two tracks from the finish line now (in deference to the Triple Crown winning horse Justify).
"Somethin' you said, baby. It's stuck in my head, baby. We can be friends someday. Never. Never. Nevermind Me." Another one of the rockers.
The finale starts out much more slowly than the rest of the CD, with just an acoustic guitar and Roxie's vocals. Then it kicks into a bit more of a rocker than you probably expected from the start of the tune.
Listen to the album all the way through one time, and when the last cut "God Put a Smile Upon Your Face" kicks into gear, so does the bass. As soon as that happens, I realized that the bass had been really cool throughout the release. I guess it's just not "in your face" enough to drive that point home until the last song when it DOES jump a bit into your face.
It's definitely worth the time and effort to pick this one up. You'll see why Cooper hangs onto Roxie as a band member/guitarist.
Saturday, June 23, 2018
I've been teasing it for a while, and now it's finally here! Out on Beluga Records, Four Track Attack is the debut solo release from Connection singer/guitarist Brad Marino. Naturally I was enthused to receive new music from one of my favorite singers. And the bonus is that two of these songs were contributed by New Trocaderos songwriter Michael Chaney!
Four Track Attack is a solo effort in the truest sense: all instruments and vocals are by Brad Marino. With Marino breaking out on his own for this EP, there was always the possibility of him doing something way different from The Connection. I would have been perfectly okay with that, but at least on this release Marino is keeping it in his wheelhouse. If you've loved all of the Connection and New Trocaderos records, you'll love Four Track Attack as well. "Should've Known" hits that sweet spot where power pop intersects with good old rock n' roll. It's got it all: a great hook in the chorus, stellar backing vocals (imagine: an army of Brad Marinos!), and a fade-out ending tailor made for radio. Chaney wrote "Hey Girl" especially for this project, so it's no surprise that this Stonesy number suits Marino's talents so well. Marino absolutely rips it on guitar - recalling Keith Richards AND Mick Taylor all at once! Lyrics about a fellow finally giving the heave-ho to his shamelessly unfaithful lady are timeless in a way that we've come to expect from Michael Chaney. This song could easily have been written by a blues man 60 years ago, yet it's no less relevant today. "On The Brink" hints at a Ramones influence, but really it's vintage Brad Marino hard-driving rock n' roll. That "things are changin', and I'm on the brink" refrain is gonna be stuck in my head for weeks! To finish, the Chaney-penned "Special Friend" has that Dave Edmunds type feel that should appeal to any fan of Marino's bands. Again, that guitar work is smokin'!
What I'll say about this four track attack is that none of 'em are throwaways! All four of these songs are top-notch rockers. And serving as his own rhythm section, Marino more than holds his own. Even when you already play in the best band in the world, I think it has to be super fun to go into the studio and make a record that's entirely yours. I was definitely keen on the idea of a Brad Marino solo record, and Four Track Attack does not disappoint. I dare Mick Jagger to make a solo record this good!
Friday, June 22, 2018
Bandcamp. I'll just warn you that they're not for the faint of heart. Would you expect anything else from a band that writes a song called "Devil Sucks My Cock and Swallows" (sure to be the feelgood hit of the summer!)? You can probably surmise that "Rate Your Teacher" is not an ode to instructional excellence. "SS Girls" seems to be a live recording, but it's hard to tell since there's almost zero drop-off in fidelity. That pretty much sums up what makes Moron's Morons so great. If you like the idea of '90s garage punk, GG Allin, and Killed By Death comps all rolled into one, this is the band for you. Play loud and make the neighbors very uncomfortable!
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
The Hot LZ's. Imagine the havoc they'd wreak!
Thursday, June 14, 2018
Given that the marriage of garage punk and power pop is so common today, it can be easy to forget that it wasn't always that way. Along side the Marked Men (Mark Ryan and Jeff Burke have remastered these two albums for vinyl), Firestarter paved the way for a new era of hooky but still tough as hell punk music. Listening today, I'm struck by how well both Firestarter albums have held up. It's a wonderful thing that Secret Mission has brought this essential music back into circulation. Move fast if you want a vinyl copy of Livin' On The Heat!
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
If you buy a ton of music, you might already have a lot of these songs in your digital collection. Otherwise, Sick Sounds is a great way to sample some of the truly excellent punk, garage, and rock n' roll music that's out there right now. And the Gino and the Goons track "Lay With Me" is previously unreleased! This compilation also gives you a good idea of the type of stuff you'll hear if you tune into Wassup Rocker Radio. Check out the WRR web site or Facebook page for lots more info!
Sunday, June 10, 2018
If you're looking to hear what's great in punk music in 2018, Please Stop! is one of the first bands you need to check out. Power Suit and Dead Bodies was a formidable debut, and Built To Die is even better. I'm amazed at how this band can pack so much substance into songs that rarely run much longer than a minute. Each of these 11 tracks hits you quick but definitely leaves an impression. Punk rock with power, intelligence, and a relentless fighting spirit is something we will always need more of. Built To Die is available in two versions from No Front Teeth: a standard edition and a limited edition with a translucent sleeve. Get on it!
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
I have mixed feelings about this being the last Speedways release. On one hand, that's kind of a bummer. But on the other hand, I feel like this is such a perfect power pop album that it would be pointless to try and top it. Julian wasn't trying to reinvent the wheel here. This album is a tip of the cap to the timeless sounds of '70s guitar pop, recalling everyone from 20/20 to Tom Petty to Elvis Costello to the Paul Collins Beat. With his songwriting honed in on tuneful melodies, hook-laden choruses, and poignant lyrics, Julian comes off like someone who was born to create this kind of music. "In Common With You" sounds like a lost AM radio hit from the days of my youth, while "Don't Tell Me" could have come out of the American heartland 40 summers ago. And even though this is a digital release, it has the feel of a vinyl record. The title track and "Reunion In the Rain" conclude their respective "sides" in gut-wrenching, highly dramatic fashion.
Just Another Regular Summer is everything you could want from a classic power pop album. Julian sure knows how to write a catchy tune, but at a deeper level he just "gets" what this type of music is all about. Almost all of us have known heartbreak, and almost all of us have continued to put ourselves in its line of fire. That's part of the human condition, and that's why love songs will never go out of style. I have to chuckle when people dismiss songs about human relationships as "lightweight". Come on, what could be less lightweight? There will always be great worth in music like this, and kudos to The Speedways for carrying it off so splendidly.
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
The Everybody Knows recently completed a two-week tour of Finland and the Baltics with the mighty Fashionism. These guys are major up-and-comers in the power pop world, and I think we will be hearing a lot more from them going forward. In the meantime, be sure to acquire "Hello Hello" and play it on repeat! Hit up the band on Facebook if you want to order a physical copy.
Saturday, June 2, 2018
Friday, June 1, 2018
One of MANIAC's greatest strengths is that it has four songwriters and four essential contributors. Singer/bassist Zache Davis is probably considered the "front man", but on quite a few of these songs he trades off vocals with his band mates. F & L favorite Justin Maurer authored some of the album's strongest tracks. Andrew Zappin is one of my favorite lead guitarists working today. James Carman, in addition to being an incredible drummer, is a tremendous pop songwriter and vocalist. That's a whole lot of talent, but it's the way it all comes together that defines MANIAC. You can hear that in the interweaving of the two guitars, the sophisticated layering of the vocals, and Carman's soaring harmonies. Davis, quickly emerging as a modern master of odes to failed relationships, contributes the deliciously bittersweet "Neutral Libido" and crackling "Living In Stereo". The latter brings to mind a Cali-soaked Buzzcocks. Maurer's songs cover a range of topics from youth and the loss of innocence ("Children of the Dirt") to how our contemporary society no longer believes in anything ("Post Post World"). The reappearance of three 7" tracks was music to my ears because they were just too good to leave out ("Calamine", to me, is a top five MANIAC song). And then there's "Dead Dance Club", which I absolutely love! It's completely unlike anything the band has done before, yet it fits so perfectly on this album. This song has me envisioning MANIAC as a band in a John Hughes movie!
MANIAC is a band like no other - distinctively part of the modern wave of powerpop/punk yet so undeniably influenced by the art and multiculturalism of Southern California. Those last two singles suggested that MANIAC was on the verge of a significant step forward, and Dead Dance Club fully confirms that. "Maturity" in punk groups is often considered risky or downright counterproductive. In this case, however, the advancements in songwriting and production really hit the spot. Demimonde was a very good album. Dead Dance Club is a genuinely great one.
Wednesday, May 30, 2018
Ok, now I'm getting a little worried. With these new recordings from Geoff Palmer and Brad Marino being so off the hook good, might they both ditch The Connection for solo mega-stardom?! All kidding aside, this is turning into the best summer ever for fans of The Connection guys. Marino's Four Track Attack releases in June, and Palmer is in the midst of a series of digital singles releasing every month. "Velcro Shoes" is the second in the series, and boy is it ever a ripper! This one was recorded with Adam Cargin, who many of you already know as one of the best drummers out there. On "Velcro Shoes", Cargin shows he can rock out on guitar and bass as well! Dude is bringing it! Like last month's "This One's Gonna Be Hot", "Velcro Shoes" is a high energy, sing-along banger. This time Palmer is all about the rockin' power pop, and of course he nails it. This tune is just so upbeat and catchy - which is absolutely perfect for a summertime release! How amazing do those backing vocals and guitars sound?! And those lyrics are an absolute hoot! That's two singles in two months from Mr. Palmer, and they're both legit hits. I'm so stoked to hear what's coming next. Luckily, we won't have to wait very long!
Tuesday, May 29, 2018
I'm always looking for new music. While that doesn't necessarily mean new – as in age-in-years – music, it does mean music I haven't heard before. Writing for Faster and Louder has given me a whole new appreciation for Bandcamp. I was familiar with it before (anyone familiar with The Dollyrots knows a lot of their freebies and preview stuff comes out there), but not near as much as now.
I found a site several years ago that has introduced me to some really good music that sadly not many will ever hear.
It's both fortunate and unfortunate for me because I spend a LOT of money there at PledgeMusic.com. They have brand new bands, barely established bands, and bands that have been around for years who are trying to fund their projects by selling digital versions of the new releases, some dynamite swag (autographed CDs, t-shirts, in the case of Uriah Heep you could get a chance to perform the Uriah Heep song of your choice on stage with the band, and with Kitten you got a phone call with Chloe Chaidez – which was, incidentally, extremely pleasant!).
That's how I learned about Emm Gryner. She was raising funds to put out Only of Earth, and there were a few samples available. I liked what I heard and, as I am often wont to do, opted to take a chance on an artist of whom I'd never heard. (Again, my propensity toward female artists rears its ugly head. Ugly on MY part – certainly NOT on her part at all!)
Oddly enough, my first thoughts after a few listens through Emm Gryner's latest release – Only Of Earth – were that she reminded me of a sort of cross between a mellower Uriah Heep and David Bowie. Then, I wound up getting to head out to a Uriah Heep concert mere weeks later – good grief do I love that band – and it reinforced that opinion! In fact, there are time Gryner sounds as heavy as Heep – especially when the guest musician with a Hammond B-3 in tow shows up.
During my Gryner research, I found several instances where she is seen performing with Bowie, shortly after which I learned that she has not only performed with Bowie on occasion, but she was also a keyboardist/vocalist in Bowie's band for a period of time.
I ordered Gryner's new release through PledgeMusic.com, and I was not disappointed. In fact, in all my dealings with PledgeMusic, I think there has been one time that I've regretted getting involved in the effort of an artist to release a new CD, and (unfortunately) that was an artist with whom I was already familiar. Everything else has been two thumbs up!
Well, on with the show!
First up is a nice instrumental I'd describe as "heavy ambient", which will hopefully make sense to someone. I like it, and it does give you a hint as to the twisting, winding melodic ride you're about to take.
"Shadow Girl" is where the lyrics start, and I mentioned much of this disc reminds me of a mellower Uriah Heep or a David Bowie. This tune reminds me of both at the same time.
Here's a lyric:
"I hold you deep inside floating on a wildwood sky.
All your antics chase away the pain.
Stay here in the garden. Don't leave my lonely earth.
I'll never love again. I am the shadow girl.
And you'll find me by the moonlight on the water."
"Imagination" is much the same, sonically, but leaning more toward Bowie.
"Warping space what for? So the universe can't give, then take it away.
Take the silence to mean true love Magical. Dimensional.
Sound waves on acres. Dodge the enemy and be done."
The track that confuses me the most follows here. "Blood Balloons" starts heavy on keyboards and drums, and that's how much of the song is driven by both. It's one of the better songs on the album, but here are parts of some verses. It's not that I don't understand the words (c'mon now – I dump enough of them into your eyes often enough – I must know a few, right?), but I can't figure what exactly they all mean when they're packed into the same story.
"They say 'Be careful with that road 'cause nobody know if it'll stay true.'
They say 'Be careful with that girl 'cause every month she's someone new.'
I am what I am. Let it fly. Put the blood balloons up in the sky."
Then three minutes into the song, some tasty guitar kicks in. 30 seconds later, the lead gives way to the repeated chorus, then it's over with a cliff-hanger ending and I STILL don't know what it means.
"Something Tells Me" has some nice sax at the intro with a bit of flute sprinkled in for good measure. It starts with David Rhodes's vocals throwing it more into the Bowie arena than any other. The saxophone and flute continue intermittently through the song. At first I didn't much care for this song, but the more I listened to it the more it kinda grew on me – especially listening in headphones.
"I know we could step into that room. Melt to one from two. But I'll never get close enough to you. Something tells me."
After that line, you think you see where this track is going. But then the end tells you that you were wrong.
"Battered birds, we're tagged and true. One day I'm gonna give my love to someone like you."
Maybe the moral is that nice guys DO finish last.
"A Mission" (featuring Greg Lowe – more on him later).
This might be a song of regret and hope. Yes, at the same time.
"Oh my heart is not the same as it was when my feet first touched the soil.
Comets call. The reeds grow evermore over all the things I dreamed as a girl.
Now I'm on a mission. Torch all the fields. I'll burn the sorrow that you brought here.
It sounds like…
New hearts cry. The moors send back an echo over all the things we vowed in younger days."
One of the two tracks here that really remind me of some good Uriah Heep (oh, sure – like there's such a thing as BAD Uriah Heep!), "The Passing of Ayro".
"And I believe it as you lay at the gates. Struggling for air you need double what it takes. I should have walked you home."
From about two minutes to about three and a half, a rocking interlude featuring heavy duty keys (Leonard Shaw on what HAS to be one of the most integral keyboards to heavy duty rock and roll – the Hammond B3), guitar, drums… Yeah, I guess pretty much everyone gets involved in opening the can of instrumental whoop-ass here. Then the instrumental break slows considerably for about 30 more seconds. Still very good. Moody, in fact.
"We're zombie-like. Lost your love in the moonlight. I should have walked you home."
And then, one of the best songs on the CD is over with another kind of cliffhanger ending that makes it that much more effective.
Greg Lowe on some gorgeous and very fitting acoustic guitar that sounds almost classical is a big part of "Whatever Wind" and the accompanying lyrics like "Though the dark fills the sky I will come out a champion. Come out on the mountain top. Whatever wind." Then, Lowe again with the electric guitar break. Another good song, although the pace is slowed somewhat throughout. And I DID only say "somewhat".
Good gawd Gertie! Rock my socks, please! "The Spark" is another rocker and another Heep-like tune. I love this song a whole lot. Guitars, great vocals, thudding heavy drums when needed transitioning to time-biding cymbal ticks, and Emm's bass is quite noticeable here. It makes you wish she'd crank it further toward the front more often.
"Cowards strike in the in the dead of night. That's when they roll. From X Acres I have come and quietly I won't go."
"Burn the land that we shared and leave behind debris. Blind eyes! Ticking time! You're not fooling me!"
"There's no love on the horizon. Nobody owns my heart. I wait for no man. I am the spark."
"Creatures live in the river blood. That's where they roam. Navigate or plan escape. How you gonna keep from cold?
There’s little time, before we know it we're hanging by a thread. Blind eyes! Ticking time! I remember what you said!"
"Comets Call" is just Gryner on vocals, piano and synthesizer. That said, it's obviously a slower song but it's another good one – both musically and lyrically.
"Blame. I put it on me. When I search the past it's clear to see
That you became a ghost. My signal-seeking heart needed you most.
The more I looked the more you set adrift. What is it worth to say you were always what I missed?"
So it's obvious it's about a relationship gone slowly and maybe excruciatingly south. The pain didn't stop at the end of the relationship, but continues with the analysis of the who's, what's, and whys. Then, the regret:
"Comets call once a lifetime. You were mine, I know it's frightening. Now you're gone, long gone. Oh, what comes next? Forcing out a breath I send an S.O.S."
Gryner's Bowie influence shows through again on "Silent Steps". Layers of choir-like vocals in the background, unusual bass (unusual isn't exactly the word I wanted, but it's all I could come up with at the time – it's good and fits, but it's different), and a synth solo by Emm.
"I got a map I can't keep track of. Oh, this bloody heart keeps waiting for a beat like rational youth. I thought I had a head start."
"But all my loves have dies. Can't tell illusion from music; love from lies."
"I got to move. Breathe. When it makes no sense. Put one foot in front of the other. Move. Breathe. Take silent steps."
Then the album wraps up with "Reprise" starting off with keyboards that make you feel like you've set sail, but then you have a remnant from "Prologue" jumping in. Around 30 seconds, you hear the drums (well, actually, just cymbals at this point) hinting at a bit of dance/techno (ish) remix of the opening track.
Then, if you're like me, about 20 or 30 listens into the song you realize that the reprise is a sort of summary. Any good speaker knows you do three things during your presentation:
You tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em.
You tell 'em.
Then you tell 'em what ya told 'em.
Do you recognize any of these lyrics?
"I'm on a mission. I'll torch the fear. I'll burn the sorrow that you brought here."
"The universe can't give, then take it away."
"All my loves have died."
"I won't lie."
Yes'm. They're from different songs through the release. If it's good enough to say once, it's good enough to say twice. Trust me, please. The stuff on Gryner's latest release IS "good enough" and then some.
The information Gryner provides about the concept behind Only of Earth is, as stated on her PledgeMusic page:
"Only of Earth is a soundtrack to a story, inspired by true events and fiction. Inspired by the mystery of childbirth, the work of motherhood and the intrigue of love, life and loss, Only of Earth is a multi-media experience that will incorporate music as much as sketches, videos, a book and eventually, a live show."
I mentioned earlier there would be more about Greg Lowe (guitars on several tracks) later in the story.
It's now "later in the story". Lowe was quite active and very well-respected in the Canadian music scene with bands like The Lincolns, The Chess Club, and others as well as projects such as arranging and performing four Mozart opera pieces for a rock combo. In fact, his excursions took him to rock, acoustic, classical, symphonic, jazz, Latin, film/television/radio productions, and even (oh the horror) heavy metal!
Regarded as a premiere guitarist, it's a testament to Gryner's work to have a musician of this caliber contribute to the project and seem directly at home with every part in which he was involved. Gryner never had to "up her ante" to keep up and Lowe never had to play down – they seemed to balance each other out nicely.
Lowe died in 2017 after a battle with cancer.
The acknowledgements from the booklet accompanying the Gryner CD ends with the single line:
"In loving memory of Greg Lowe (1957-2017)"
None of the information about Lowe is intended to take anything away from the subject of the story, which is Emm Gryner and her Only of Earth project. For an artist as involved in music as she has been and as recognized as she has been, it's hard to understand why I never got to any of her work earlier than this.
Ah well. No matter. I have now, and I assume I'm going to do a lot more investigating!