Category Archives: Album Reviews

Fuck Releases The Band, Their First New Album in 10 Years

A personal life rule of mine: Never date a girl that’s heard fuck before. Fuck is what I bring to a relationship. They are my gift. My contribution to love. Introducing potential mates to Those are Not My Bongos, or now The Band, is my gift to each and every girl I’ve let down. Look, I know I’m bound to screw up the relationship eventually. However, I can always rest assured, that 5 years later when she thinks back to what an asshole I was, she’ll probably be listening to fuck. It’s my only positive contribution to most of my relationships.

To say I’m an aficionado of fuck is falling short of the target. I’ve made personal life rules based on their discography for christ’s sake. Which is weird, because I was late to the party. I didn’t listen to my first fuck album, Those Are Not My Bongos, until 2005, a year or two after it was released. That was also their last album. I’ve had a full decade (and change) to digest a half dozen albums, rearrange my best bands of the ’90s list, and wish I could have seen them live.

I’ve been told several versions of what happened at the last show in Cleveland at the Beachland. Before they played in the Tavern, they had everyone walk over to the Ballroom. There, depending on the version of the story you hear, they either performed a puppet show, or one of the members caterpillar crawled, in a sleeping bag, across the Ballroom stage. I like to imagine both happened—simultaneously. I missed it all. So really, this is my first brand new fuck album, and it’s a perfect place for anyone to start.

Timothy Prudhomme, Geoff Soule, Kyle Statham, Theodore Ellison

The Band, coming 6/22 on Vampire Blues, starts off with a noisy instrumental rocker. The song is punctuated with a knock knock joke. Spoiler alert: the song title is the punchline. Grammar humor is the best. I’m already hooked. Facehole is classic fuck. Laid back, quirked out lyrics. They excel at clever arrangements and layering off kilter melodies. Their back catalog is filled with fragile songs, all feeling dangerously close to falling apart, but with a force of will that propels them confidently forward. This dichotomy (fancy word time) is what I find so seductive about their music. The Band is no different. It Girl dissolves and re-coalesces around the bass. Cream Pie Patch is the dreamy fuck of the ’90s, resurrected and better than ever. The video for the lead single, Leave My Body, was released last month, and on the album it’s nestled in the middle. It’s the bellweather track of this album. If you’re down with it you might as well just buy the album. Thirsty Gnome is definitely from a band that puts on puppet shows while inch worming across a stage. The album mellows and fades out. If the opener, To Whom, is when the person with the bourbon shows up to the party, the closer, Tell Me No, is 4:30am and you lost your pants hours ago.

The Band is most definitely fuck. Not in a rehashing well-tread territory way, though. It’s comfortingly fuck. It also showcases a band that has clearly grown in 10 years. They thread the needle of releasing an interesting, pretty, and relevant album after a 10 year hiatus. If it’s not their most consistent album, it’s at least one of them. Maybe we’ll get a tour. Maybe even another album. I’m not really worried about that, because The Band can sustain us for another decade.

Timothy Prudhomme, Geoff Soule, Kyle Statham, Theodore Ellison
photo by Jamie Harmon

It just occurred to me that someone from fuck might be reading this. I potentially have the opportunity to speak directly to some of my musical heroes. I guess I’d have to say sorry. Sorry for that one time a band I was in opened for fuck member Geoff Soule’s band Sad Horse. I drunkenly decided to do a fuck cover. One that our fill-in drummer had never heard. It did not go well. Even with, or perhaps because of, the booze and drugs. Yeah, man. I’m sorry.

Timothy Prudhomme, Geoff Soule, Kyle Statham, Theodore Ellison
Fuck: The Band — Timothy Prudhomme, Geoff Soule, Kyle Statham, Theodore Ellison
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Dark Rides and Grim Visions

I’m the worst person to be attempting a review for New Planet Trampoline’s new release Dark Rides and Grim Visions. 1) It’s taken me weeks to write this. Poor Mara at Blown Speakers has asked me for it at least half a dozen times. Each time I get ready to send it, I read what I wrote, and immediately start over. Now Blown Speakers won’t get the scoop on this album. Hell, even Scene beat us to it. 2) I’ve been drinking the kool-aid on these guys for a long time. My fandom began indirectly sometime in 2003 or 2004. Any preconceptions of impartiality should be immediately forgotten. I’m sure this review will eventually contain a few witty phrases and unique adjective combinations, but first it’s story time kids…

Cleveland’s music scene full on tongued my ears in my mid-20s. An old friend of mine started playing with a band called the Dreadful Yawns. I fell in love with them, to say the least. Booking tours and signing record contracts eventually led to playing and touring with them. All along the way New Planet was right there. 4 of the 5 members of New Planet were the original Yawns line up. My appreciation of the Yawns always came with the headaches of logistics, van breakdowns, and touring. NPT, however, was like a favorite nephew. I could enjoy spending time with them as much as I wanted, without having to fight about artwork or budgets.

New Planet Trampoline released The Curse of The New Planet Trampoline back in 2004. At the time, I couldn’t believe that anyone I knew could have written and recorded such an adventure by themselves in a moldy basement in Lakewood. It was an incredible blend of Farfisa, harmonies, searing guitars, and tripped out bass lines. Totally different than the quiet twinkle of Yawns. New Planet’s The Blimps and Aeroplanes EP came out a year later and I was so certain that these guys were about to graduate to cocaine, hookers, and A&R guys. I had grand visions of New Planet getting signed, getting a booking agent, and dragging the Yawns on the road with them. You know, tour the world. Seriously. Completely engrossing, vivid daydreams…

It wasn’t to be…

Shortly before NPT broke up, they played live on a radio show I hosted. For nearly a decade those would be the only recordings I had of the “new” material they were working on at the time. NPT came back from a short tour and announced they were playing their final show. I was devastated.  It seemed certain that recordings of songs like The Nearly Finished Face, Haunted as Fuck, Birds and others would only exist on a drug addled, half-assed produced, college radio show.

Thankfully, that wasn’t to be…

That’s why Grim Visions is such a mind fuck for me. Almost half of the album consists of these incredible songs from a band I thought was in their prime 10 years ago on a college radio show. The other half of the album proves that I was wrong. They are only starting to hit their prime. Matt Cassidy’s guitar is just as ear shatteringly loud on record as it is live. Ben Gmetro’s Farfisa is punchy, melodic, whimsical, and haunting. Charlie Druesedow’s drumming is so spot on I don’t even remember what drummer joke I was gonna make, and that is some divine shit. Dave Molnar’s bass playing is as good a reason as any to put down your bass and become an accountant, because you’ll never be able to write bass lines like that.

I hesitate to say that NPT picks up right where they left off. Sure, a lot of these tunes made up their live set when the called it quits, but they sound better after marinading for a decade. The songs sound more confident, the performances more otherworldly, every aspect is amplified. The album is haunting, creepy even, if not for the sudden bursts of pop goodness that makes it feel like classic psychedelia, without the Freedom Rock tropes. Dark Rides and Grim Visions is a psychedelic swirling wave of crafted pop, thick harmonies, killer bass lines, and floating Farfisa. It’s disorienting and reassuring. It’s 420, brah.

Simply put, the album is a gleeful ride on a carnival train. The only thing more mind blowing is how NPT pulls it off live. There are few bands better live than NPT… maybe, just maybe, Brian Jonestown Massacre circa 1996… regardless, it’s a very short list.

Check them out at the Happy Dog West on 3/12. They are playing with nice person/face melting super group Hiram-Maxim and Detroit’s Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapour.

It’s $5 at the door, but bring a few extra bucks. You’ll need it for NPT’s Dark Rides and Grim Visions.

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It’s Your Fault Everything’s Alright by Joshua Jesty

It’s hard to argue against the fact that Joshua Jesty has built a reputation as one of the best songwriters to grace the Cleveland music scene in the past decade. Between the proto-supergroup This Is Exploding, the snarky These Violet Young Lovers, and his extensive solo material, he’s a proven artist that produces songs faster than his trademark cartoon rabbits. It’s Your Fault Everything’s Alright is the fourth and final release in his Like Rabbits EP series and marks a defining resolution to his two-year long musical autobiography.

It's Your Fault Everything's Alright by Joshua Jesty

Collectively, this quadrilogy is Jesty’s strongest musical effort since his 2009 release Girl, with each album providing a snapshot into the twists and turns of Jesty’s progress in life and love. His pop song craftsmanship is graced with humor and wit, and allows him to create sentimental stories that can combine the tragedy and elation of everyday relationship moments into fantastic power-pop gems. His heartbroken lyrics swell with nice-guy frustration and can feel distraught at some points, but Jesty’s gentle style always seems to emphasize the underlying optimism of a true romantic. His combination of pop songcraft and incredible musical talent remind me of Matthew Sweet, especially since he played nearly every instrument on each song and recorded the entire effort from his personal studio.

The album’s introduction, I’m On High, captures the classic spirit of Joshua’s musical approach, with an anthemic gritty rhythm and soft vocal melody that hooks like it was from Guided By Voices’ Bee Thousand. The twangy off-note bends and driving guitars of Bad For Me keep the energy of the “first side” alive and provide a nice contrast to the touching delivery of one of album’s strongest songs, You’re The Worst. The last half of the album continues on a high note, from the upbeat modern sound of Time Gives Me The Screw to the quirky, new wave riffs (and awesome bass lines) of When It’s Gone. The acoustic guitar and delicate brass and string orchestration of Here closes the curtain with an emotional and impactful finale. Overall, It’s Your Fault Everything’s Alright is the perfect playlist fodder for both the secretly admired and the prospective breakup.

You can catch Joshua perform the entire album (and get a free copy at the door) on Friday June 26th at Mahall’s 20 Lanes, with Jason Patrick Meyers and The Quickening. The album is also available for purchase (along with the rest of the Like Rabbits series) on his Bandcamp page.

Photo by Marc Santos Photography.

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Slow Wave by It Hugs Back

When you love a band, you’re blissfully happy when every new album is as good if not better than the last. In that regard, Slow Wave by London quartet It Hugs Back signals a band that keeps getting better while holding onto what makes them great.

It Hugs Back
It Hugs Back

Slow Wave boasts alluring half-spoken baritone lead vocals and hypnotic guitars courtesy of songwriter Matthew Simms, also known for his work in Wire since 2010. Graceful keyboards and lush vocal harmonies, echos and responses are provided by Jack Theedom. Paul Michael delivers gentle basslines and drummer Will Blackaby rounds out the relaxed rhythm section. All combine to create layered, dreamy songs you can fall in love with. Or to.

It Hugs Back
It Hugs Back

It Hugs Back albums are recorded in Simms’ studio The Record Room, and sound just as good as any studio recording. In their early days, having formed in 2006, It Hugs Back was on Too Pure and 4AD record labels, but their last few albums have been released on their Safe & Sound imprint.

Slow Wave was first recorded live by the full band, then Matthew and Jack added 12-string guitars, mellotron strings, analog synthesizers and vocal overdubs. The songs were then sent through an old copi-cat tape delay.

It Hugs Back
It Hugs Back

Whereas past IHB albums like 2013’s Recommended Record featured up-tempo songs you can get a speeding ticket to — with plenty of noise-pop and psychedelic moments and heavy effects — Slow Wave is the prettiest release, more along the lines of Remember off their Inside Your Guitar release. It still sounds like the same band, just more hushed and halcyon.

Slow Wave comes out June 15. Pre-order today on iTunes and get an immediate download of Everything’s OK:

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The Ignition from By Light We Loom

By Light We Loom’s debut EP “The Ignition” is more than a metaphor. It is renewal, discovery, faith testing, overcoming setbacks, and far more than just 4 songs. You can hear right from the start that even though they are a two piece husband and wife ensemble, they intend on continuing with the same full sound that they had with their former band, Bethesda.

IgnitionEP-Front-FINALEric has the ability to create multiple layers with his musical background and Shanna is sounding her best yet with clear, full and matured vocals. Put that together with their new recording partner, Jim Stewart, who engineered the sessions, and you will find yourself thinking they might have stumbled onto a great thing. This is especially true if you were saddened by their choice to move on from their band in 2014.

The EP starts off strong with the title track’s “Ignition” repeating the word “revelation” in the chorus, almost as if they had one of their own. Their spiritual background is very evident with so many of the lyrics lending themselves to biblical imagery, but they find a way to make it palatable as they douse it in wonderful melodies that you will find yourself singing well after the song is over.

“Stand” is more like the sound you will hear live as they like to fill their act out with a few samples. this may take you out of the song at first, as you may be used to a more organic sound, but Shanna’s haunting vocal accompaniment and lyrics do their best to draw you back in and the song gets right back on track.

BLWL 2Next comes “measure of us”. If “ignition” is their way of palleting their message, this is their gospel. You can feel their fiery spirit coming through and the vulnerability of living a devout life as they yearn to get that message out to others.

“Mason jars”, in my opinion, is the hidden gem of the EP. Tucked away at the end, this song could have been written recently or years ago, it feels as though they know this song very well. Their confidence abounds in the way they sing together and how the music drives this beautifully written song.

4 songs is not enough but it shows they are off to a good start. It is an enjoyable and fun EP. Look for their release party May 1st at the Euclid Tavern Happy Dog with Marcus Allen Ward and Nanopheonix.

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