Category Archives: Album Reviews

The Hempsteadys – Séance! Séance!

THE HEMPSTEADYS
Séance! Séance!
Self-released 2018

At first, I wasn’t sold on Séance! Séance!. I don’t know why, but the record didn’t click with me when I listened to it. I had never heard of The Hempsteadys and probably wouldn’t have if one of the band members, saxophonist Cody Freedom, hadn’t reached out to me after reading my Boss Riot review. That’s not a slight against the band; that’s just the reality of living in the middle of Kansas. It’s challenging to stay current with new music when the radio only picks up country music, and the nearest decent concert venue is an hour and a half away.

I ended up coming back to the record a few days later because I felt like I needed to give it another chance. It was after the second listen that I realized that Séance! Séance! was a good record. It took a third spin to realize that it was an excellent record.

“Still Life With Woodpecker” is the first single from Séance! Séance!, kicking things off with a frenetic opening drum beat that sets the tone for the rest of the record. “When Dead Are Undead,” one of two instrumentals on the record, features Vinny Noble (The Pilfers, Suicide Machines, Bim Skala Bim) absolutely killing it on trombone. The other instrumental, “Temple of Boom,” has a two-tone sound that will make you swear that you heard that song on an older Specials record. A later track, “The Well,” sounds like what would happen if you tossed Rancid and Bruce Springsteen’s The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle into a blender and hit puree.

The comparison to Rancid doesn’t stop there. The gravelly dragging vocal style expressed on the record will immediately call apt comparisons to Tim Armstrong. That might have been my barrier to liking this record at first, as I am not the biggest fan of Armstrong’s vocals. Musically I loved what I heard, as the band makes use of multiple genres across the record and giving each song its own identity. The sounds are wonderfully mixed, and none of the instrumentation is buried, which is a problem I have with some ska records. The horns are front and center on Séance! Séance!, but not at the expense of the rest of the band.

Séance! Séance! should be an automatic addition to your ska collection. Not only do I look forward to hearing what The Hempsteadys put out next, I look forward to discovering their back catalog as well because right now I can’t get enough of this band. The Hempsteadys will be touring Connecticut throughout the fall. You can get Séance! Séance! and their other works at thehempsteadys.com

Featured image by Mattias Lundblad. 

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Boss Riot – Lace Up Straight

BOSS RIOT
Lace Up Straight
2018 Jump Up Records

I first discovered Boss Riot when I purchased Jump Up Records’ compilation collaboration with Ska Brewing Co., Drink the Ska. The song was “Hearts and Hands,” and I was hooked. Sadly, I had to wait a few months until I could listen to the band’s first full-length record, but it was well worth the wait. The soul/ska sound promised in “Hearts and Hands” was fully delivered on Lace Up Straight.

This six-piece outfit formed in Dallas, Texas in 2015, and is comprised of Vicki Tovar on vocals and melodica, Jake Olsen on lead guitar and vocals, Ryan Reeves on rhythm guitar, Chris Casey on organ, Mike Burke on bass, and Rob Tovar on drums and percussion.

The lead track on Lace Up Straight, “Bad Man,” starts the album off with a thumping beat that’s reminiscent of Sam and Dave mixed with The Selecter. “Chisholm Trail,” a wonderfully inviting instrumental that blends ska with a little bit of the ’60s surf sound, reminded me in particular of the interstitial music played during episodes of Kids In The Hall.

(Because when I think ska, I think Canadian sketch comedy)

Kids in the Hall Blown Speakers Boss Riot
Courtesy of The Broadway Video Group, Inc.

Little Things” projects a nice Bossa Nova vibe, while the previously mentioned “Hearts and Hands” has a great old-school 2 Tone sound.

It’s difficult to talk about Boss Riot without singling out the delightfully soulful, swaggering vocals of Vicki Tovar. When mentioning female ska singers, it’s easy to make comparisons to Monique Powell of Save Ferris, Elyse Rogers and Karina Deniké, or even Gwen Stefani, though I would say that Tovar’s fantastic vocals are more in the vein of Amy Winehouse or Lisa White of the Radiation Kings.

You can stream the album and buy a digital copy at the band’s website. You can also pick up a physical copy from Jump Up Records.

Boss Riot is currently touring the west coast, with shows in CA,  NV, TX and AZ.

Featured image by Rafael Badillo. 

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Ogikubo Station – We Can Pretend Like

OGIKUBO STATION
We Can Pretend Like
2018 Asian Man Records

While I can’t say I’ve heard every release from Asian Man Records, I like to think I’ve heard everything from Asian Man Records’ Mike Park. Park is not only the founder and driving force behind AMR, he also plays on some of the label’s acts: The Chinkees, Skankin’ Pickle, and The Bruce Lee Band. So imagine my surprise when I found out I missed the EP last year of his collaboration with Maura Weaver of Mixtapes, Ogikubo Station. 

The self-titled EP, featuring 6 songs from Park and Weaver, came to be because they thought “our voices sound really good together.” This August will see the release of their first full-length as Ogikubo Station with We Can Pretend Like.The album surprised me, in part because I was expecting something ska-like along the same lines of Park’s previous bands (which this album sounds nothing like), but also because I wasn’t anticipating loving this album. 

We Can Pretend Like offers a solid 11 tracks that split time between folky/acoustic and indie rock. Park and Weaver make for a wonderful duo, and their voices really complement each other. “Take a Piece of All That’s Good,” the first single, showcases how well the two harmonize with each other. 

Weaver’s vocals in particular manage to simultaneously invoke feelings of melancholy and hopefulness in both “Take a Piece” and “The Radio Plays.” I found myself repeatedly relistening to “Weak Souls Walk Around Here,” which invokes sounds of old Hoodoo Gurus and R.E.M. 

We Can Pretend Like drops August 24th on asianmanrecords.com. You can also listen to the Ogikubo Station’s 6 song EP, the self-titled Ogikubo Station, here in preparation. 

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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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