Tuesday, August 26, 2008

OJ OJEDA interview...The BYZANTINE man brings it!

Sometimes life just isn’t fair. One of those times, many years back, I was working in a record store and met a woman who was as close to a perfect “10” as I’ve ever seen, she was into metal, was single and thought my jokes were funny. She was also, as it turned out, a lesbian. Another time, I found out about a band from West Virginia called BYZANTINE. On the advice of another very astute writer (from The Ripple Effect), I picked up their 2008 release “Oblivion Beckons” and discovered that they combined the savage aggression of prime-time Pantera, the lead guitar prowess of a Danish guy named Hank and the creativity and melodic sense of the very highest order. I also found out they’d ceased operations as a band only a few days after the release of “Oblivion…” which was their 3rd album. And yet, so impressed was I with this shiny circular disc that I contacted guitarist/vocalist OJ Ojeda to discuss his band’s relatively short tenure. I discovered that he’s quite a thoughtful, cool guy who was willing to share a wealth about BYZANTINE, as well as the knowledge that the future may contain hope. (BYZANTINE was/is rounded out by: Tony Rohbrough – guitars, Michael Cromer – bass, Matt Wolfe – drums. )

RAY - I’ve always liked to think of myself as a pretty in-the-know kinda guy when it comes to heavy music, but once again I’ve been proven to be a complete ignoramus. You see, until I got a great tip on BYZANTINE from The Ripple Effect guys, I didn’t know anything about your band at all. So…with that in mind, I’m figuring there may be some readers in the same boat as well. Could you give us a little bit of history as far as how you came along becoming interested in music, your influences, how it led to the formation of BYZANTINE & what happened to have the band reach it’s current non-working status, just days after the release of your 3rd album?

OJ - A brief history of Byzantine is this… I decided to start another band in the summer of 2000 after my college band, New Family, disbanded. I brought along the drummer and bassist of New Family (Jeremy and Cid) and contacted a mutual friend of mine, Tony Rohrbough, after his band had broken up. He was playing for the Century Media band Chum for a while. We wrote some songs and gigged out once. Our drummer then quit after the first gig and we decided to go at it as a 3 piece with a drum machine. We did this for around 2 years. During that time we recorded two demos which got in the hands of Chris Adler from Lamb of God. He contacted us about opening for them on some shows supporting their upcoming album “As The Palaces Burn”. By this time we had found our 2nd drummer, Matt Wolfe. We gigged with LoG for about a week and they got us in contact with EJ Johangten at Prosthetic Records who then signed us for a 3 album deal. So basically fast forward 4 year later and we finished our contract with Prosthetic with the release of “Oblivion Beckons” and decided not to resign with a label. Now we are on a “hiatus” raising babies and whatnot.

RAY - As I’ve proven already, I never make things easy on myself. This includes such things as bowling tenpins off my wrong foot, purchasing a daycare center with my wife at age 47 and beginning my BYZANTINE listening with your 3rd album and working back. I have gone back and listened repeatedly to all 3 of your records and find the progression interesting. “The Fundamental Component” (2004) is striking in it’s combination of brutal riffing and aggression while mixing in quite unique lead guitar soloing and advanced song structures. 2005’s “…And They Shall Take Up Serpents” is an interesting development in that, while the fundamental components (I know, I should be shot) of the first disc are there, there’s a distinct nod toward a kind of southern, NOLA-sort of feel in something like “Red Neck War.” Then, to me, the development with “Oblivion Beckons” is just staggering. I mean, I just listened to it again and damn it, I’m staggering all It is one of the most unusual, different aggressive metalJover the place. records I’ve ever heard. Care to comment or have I dismayed you by getting everything completely wrong?

OJ - No, you are right. Each album is a little different from the others for a reason. The first album “ The Fundamental Component” was mostly written before we were signed. A lot of the songs were penned by myself and I was listening to a lot of Meshuggah at that time. On “…Serpents”, the writing was split up more between Tony, Wolfe and myself. The melding of our 3 styles brought about a more diverse and more southern feel to it. I thought it made for a good evolution. When we recorded “Oblivion Beckons”, we landed a new bassist (Skip Cromer) who became a part of the writing team as well so the 3rd album had four writers which expanded our palette even further. I believe each album stands alone and most of our fans have different albums they like the best which keeps it interesting for them and ourselves as well.

RAY - I have to say that the cover art of “Oblivion Beckons” is completely striking. What is it supposed to represent…or is it the kind of thing that can represent different things to different people, in your opinion?

OJ - It was the concept of our friend, Donnie Searls who took the photograph. Donnie directed our music video for “Jeremiad” and also directed our DVD, “Salvation”. He never really explained what the cover meant but we all agreed the simplicity of it was striking and juxtaposed well with the music. The cover is actually his girlfriend. She is double jointed and was able to pull her arms back, looking as if she was an amputee. He made a wrap dipped in week old coffee and wrapped her head with it and then placed a jawbone of a deer in the skull portion. It turned out pretty cool! She is also the dead girl in our video as well.

RAY - I noticed that, with “Oblivion…” all 4 guys in the band are listed as playing lead guitar. This is quite unusual. Did you watch YouTube videos of Blue Oyster Cult doing “ME 262” one too many times or did you decide you just wanted to upstage Colossus in the lead axe # department. Seriously, the soloing on the record, including the acoustic interludes, is breathtaking. How did you work out who was going to do which leads?

OJ - Actually, we planned this out right after Skip joined the band. You see, Byzantine was a band comprised of 4 guitar players. Our drummer and our bassist are both excellent guitarists who decided to play other instruments for the band. We thought it would be a cool idea to have all of us take a solo in one song for extra wankery! Over the course of the album, most of the soloing is done by Tony, who is head and shoulders above the rest of the band on gutiar. I pull a couple of solos out of my ass every album just for fun but I am mainly a rhythm guy. Our drummer mostly writes the acoustic stuff. He wrote and played the acoustic intro to “Redneck War” and the instrumental “Renovatio”.

RAY - RED LIGHT CHALLENGE! What is the weirdest thing that a woman attending a BYZANTINE show ever said to you…allowing for the fact that any women ever attended a BYZANTINE show and weren’t afraid to talk to you anyway?

OJ - No women ever attended a Byzantine show!!! It was always full of sweaty fat guys who were into comic books and could play better guitar than us! HAHA. I do have one memory. We played a festival in Boston 2 years ago and after we played we had to be rushed to the signing tent. We were scheduled in the tent right after Disturbed. They walked out, we walked in. We saw a big line for us and we were like “FUCK YES!!!” But over half of the people in the line thought we were Disturbed and that I was David Dramian. I had some dude yell in my face “I’m down with the Sickness!” And then did that monkey thing Dramain does!” We started signing every thing “We suck cock” and “Disturbed blow horses”. That was a fun signing.

RAY - You guys are/were from West Virginia, a place never really known as a hotbed for metal (sheesh, like Baltimore ever was!). What kind of effect, positive or negative do you think that had on the development of the band, gigging, etc.?

OJ - I think it had a plus minus effect. The minus is that it took forever for us to get a fan base since there are not a lot of venues to play in WV and people are so spread out. The plus is that we were not inundated with other forms of metal. We were free to choose what style we wanted since WV was not a hotbed for a certain style. I think that helped us form a uniqueness that a lot of bands from urban areas might not have. We were able to pull from all genres and not sound so “cookie cutter”.

RAY - I’m interested in the lyrical concepts in your music. Being of advanced age, it’s kind hard for this ol’ scribe to read the words in the CD inserts and let’s face it…while I love the kind of aggressive vocals on a lot of your stuff, it doesn’t always make following things easy while listening. Could you take a few, say maybe 3, songs off “Oblivion Beckons” and give us a sort of synopsis, a snapshot of what they’re all about? I always considered 3 to be “a few.” Moreover, I also have always thought of a shitload as “about 20.” You think?

OJ - 20 is a shitload! If someone says to me, “Can you get those 20 bricks and bring them over here?” I would be like, “Man, that’s a shitload of bricks!” Anyways…
Centurion - This song is drawing comparisons between the guys I grew up with who had to go underground and mine coal to make a living and the guys I grew up with who had to go to war in Iraq to make a living. It is all about sacrifice. I know too well about this since my 1st cousin was killed in Iraq two years ago by a roadside bomb. Soldiers and coal miners are very similar… they never know if today’s shift will be their last.
The Receiving End of Murder - This song is basically a big FU to our record label. We had a bad relationship over most of our contract with them. It was very hard to get one guy from Los Angeles, CA to see eye to eye with four guys from Tree Stump, WV. We got chewed up and spit out and the only real help we got was from bigger bands who dug our music and us as people. So this song was about the stifling we felt and how good it was going to be to breathe again.
A Residual Haunting - This song basically was spelling out in no uncertain terms the end of the band as we knew it. A residual haunting is a term for a ghost or apparition that gets caught in the fabric of time and plays itself out over and over again. We want our music to be like that. A snapshot in time that people can go to and get the same feeling again and again via our music. The last paragraph in the song basically lets everyone know that we were done… for now. Kinda like the end of a good trilogy.

RAY - “Oblivion…” has, like I said, a real “breath of fresh air” feel to it, like you’re taking a form of music that’s somewhat familiar and then stretching it, expounding upon it and basically raising it to some previously unreached plateau…sort of like chewing up a whole bunch of Altoids and then washing ‘em down with an ice cold drink all at once. In that sense, it reminds me of a disc from a few years ago by Orphaned Land called “Mabool.” I relish the fact that, even on repeated listens, I’m never completely prepared for it? Am I just babbling at this point?

OJ - Yes, sir… this sounds like babble. But if babble is in our favor than babble on! We appreciate all forms of positive reinforcement babble!

RAY - I notice from your myspace site that you just had a new baby, OJ. First off, congratulations to you and your wife. Secondly, does having children affect or influence the way you write, or how you consider your music in any sense? We (my wife and I) have 5 ourselves and I’ve had a completely different view on a lot of things since they came along.

OJ - It affects it immensely. First off, I don’t have nearly as much time to play guitar or write music but that is quite alright. Everything has its place and for 8 years Byzantine was top priority and now my family is top priority. I just hope when the time comes to write some evil shit, I still have it in me.

RAY - I see that you’re working on a solo release, doing some covers of classic metal/thrash stuff. What was the motivation for that and how’s it been coming along?

OJ - Right now I am working on a cover album of my favorite thrash tunes from the 80’s and 90’s. It will be recorded under the name Black Cap Miner. I have always liked rerecording other bands stuff on my home pc studio so I thought now I have the time to do it for real. I have also wanted to collaborate with friends that I have met through the music byz and this is the chance to do that. I am getting some badass shredders from other signed bands to play on this so watch for it. It should be ready to unveil sometime late Fall 2008!. www.myspace.com/blackcapminer

RAY - Would that possibly see a release on Prosthetic, like the BYZANTINE stuff?

OJ - Hell no! I might actually make enough to break even if I do it myself. Prosthetic was like a bank, a lending institution with a high APR. They give you a little cash to do a project and then no matter how hard you work, you seem to owe more than you took! I will keep this one indy, thank you…

RAY - Back to the ol’ West Virginia thing, isn’t there a place up near Harper’s Ferry where West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia all come together? I’m thinking there is, because when I was younger, I once fell off a horse near there. Have you ever fallen off of anything?

OJ - Yes, Harper’s Ferry is the meeting place of those 3 great states. I have fallen off a trampoline once. I hyper extended my knee and had to lie there while a dog humped me! I fell off the wagon a couple times too, but I am back on… sorta.

RAY - You knew this was coming, I’m sure, but I feel like I’ve got to ask it. Do you ever see a day when BYZANTINE could reconvene, whether it be to play live and/or to record in the studio? If so, are there any new directions you would like to explore, any new sounds you can think of that would be interesting to incorporate in this music? If not, how would you sum up the band’s legacy, as displayed by those 3 albums?

OJ - I hope to God Byzantine can reform. We were all very different people personality wise but we got along famously when we were together. The industry kind of pulled us apart. When you are in your 30’s and can’t pay your utilities because you are trying to be a “touring band”, it sucks eggs. There was no way we could have continued on and not ended up bankrupt or hating each other. Maybe after we wash off all the muck from our contract, we can get back together clean and have fun again. We still need to play “Oblivion Beckons” live for our fans. It might take a year or three, but we all still dig each other. Right now we are spread out over a couple states doing our separate thing but, I see us kicking it again in some form or fashion. Let’s hope…

RAY - One of my favourite ?’s is always….in the history of BYZANTINE, please entertain, shock or horrify us with a story connected to the band that is amusing, terror-stricken, mind-boggling or just plain silly.

OJ - One time on tour, we played really late and stayed up ALL night! This other time, after a badass set, we decided to eat dinner really late and then immediately go swimming! WITHOUT WAITING!! We were fucking crazy!!! Sorry, we were kinda lame. If anybody wants to see our antics, try to find our DVD “Salvation”. My mind is mush.

RAY - I read somewhere online that your albums were all recorded in a studio that is actually part of a working daycare center! This is extremely interesting to me, as my wife and I own & operate a credentialed daycare center here in Baltimore with 52 kids currently enrolled. What is the story behind this?

OJ - Our producer on all 3 albums, Aaron Fisher, operates his studio inside his mother’s day care center. It is an old grade school building and one end of the building is separated off into a fully functional music studio. The other end has a bunch of screaming babies in it. But everything is soundproofed well so as not to bother either parties. We would take lunch breaks and go steal fruit cups and single serving milks. Good times at Little Kidz Daycare!

RAY - Any final thoughts for the people out there in “reader” land?

OJ - I hope you enjoyed the small amount of music we have given you. Our main goal was to just write some decent songs, be cool to all our friends and fans and never sell out. Drop us a line at www.myspace.com/byzantine and say hey! Montani Semper Liberi!

The best thing I can say to add to all this (besides hoping it does come true that these guys eventually rise to slay again!) is that anyone reading this page who likes any form of aggressive and thought-provoking metal should waste no time in checking out not only BYZANTINE’s “Oblivion Beckons” but their other 2 discs as well.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

It's Christmas In August!

U.S. CHRISTMAS – “Eat The Low Dogs” CD ’08 (Neurot, US) – North Carolina’s U.S. CHRISTMAS is truly one of the only bands on this earth that frighten me. There are bands that kick my ass, ones that give me pause, some that float my boat and even those that cause me to lose sleep. There are precious few, however, that sincerely make me the hair stand up on my arms, my hackles raise and find me groping for a light switch at high noon, even if only to locate the dictionary and look up the word “hackles.” U.S CHRISTMAS does all of these. I’ve followed these guys since their humble beginnings and, while they are still a fiercely underground unit, it makes me proud to see them being finally recognized and promoted by a label that both can understand them and give them some exposure, Neurot. Of course, the question of the day, the one you’re just waiting to ask is “What does this band sound like?” C’mon, guys, that’s kinda like asking what the Mona Lisa looks like, ya know? But…How about if Neil Young, in his heaviest days with Crazy Horse, lost his mind and got locked in a deserted warehouse with 5 Marshall stacks, assorted Gibsons, a theremin and then decided he’d try to yell something called “Goddamn vocals.” Mingle all that with hoarse whispers, driving rhythms that are metalized and heavy but not nearly so one-dimensional as to be called “heavy metal.” That simply wouldn’t be fair to music as deep, visceral and suffocating as this. This is the eternal Nytemare across epochs that you can’t wake up from and yet, in some way, are thankful for. It’s music that makes you uncomfortable and yet satisfied in a way that is nearly sexual and yet hideously disturbing. Through songs like “The Scalphunters,” “The Light And Trails” and “Black Lung,” not to mention a wondrous re-working of “Gallows Humor” from the band’s “Bad Heart Bull” disc, U.S. CHRISTMAS make you want your mama. They also have made one of the very best albums of the year. 10.0

PHARAOH – “Be Gone” CD ‘08 (Cruz Del Sur, US) – I’ve gotta admit, I come into this one with the ride already in progress, never having heard either of the band’s previous records. Always a sucker for the Cruz Del Sur label, however, I eagerly popped in “Be Gone.” What we have here is a very good release from this Philadelphia-area metal unit. I’m going to say straight out that you’re not going to play this one and say to yourself, “My God, self, what a bunch of true metal originators we have here!” PHARAOH has a lot of the same characteristics that have taken bands like Bruce-era Maiden to their heights, namely stratospheric vocals, twin guitar riffing/leads and a penchant for titles like “Buried At Sea,” “Red Honor” & “Telepath.” The thing is, these guys do what they do well, and even though I could personally use with a little more balls in the production department, this is a disc most people into good, kick-ass power metal (NOT national anthem metal) will find worth spinning more than once. 7.0

DANTESCO – “Pagano” CD ’08 (Cruz Del Sur, PR) – I suppose that, over the years, I’ve come to know a pretty fair amount about metal world-wide but I have to say I’m not familiar with a whole lot of bands from Puerto Rico. After hearing this disc from DANTESCO, however, I’m wondering if I should be paying a little more attention to that U.S. territory. On “Pagano,” the band’s 2nd release, they whip up a fantastic blend of epic power metal that really took me by surprise with it’s originality and verve. DANTESCO go for the jugular on this disc, pulling out all the stops and lacing every cut with a torrent of riffs that dazzle but never overwhelm. I was reading a review of this on The Ripple Effect (http://www.ripplemusic.blogspot.com/) that really hit the nail on the head when they spoke of some mid-later period Savatage references. That’s definitely a good jumping-off-point, and true to the band’s bio, there’s even a bit of Mercyful Fate thrown in courtesy of the blinding lead guitar work, not to mention some sweet acoustic action. What I like most though, are the plentiful moments where you just can’t pinpoint the influence and you get some of that rush that speaks true originality. The band’s use of their native language only emphasizes that point and the manner in which they’re delivered by singer Erico “La Bestia” drives it home even further. Rather than emit the “typical” air-raid-siren worship we often hear, this guy sings with a deep, fervent tone that speaks very emotionally. It’s nearly a jarring juxtaposition with the rest of the band but thankfully never becomes twee, only serving to give a real extra jolt of personality to the proceedings. All in all, while I’ve come to expect nothing but good things from Cruz Del Sur, I was not necessarily ready for this one to come close in quality to the label’s standard-bearers like Bible Of The Devil & Slough Feg. Surprises like this are good to buy, so please do so! 8.5

JOURNEY – “Revelation” 2CD/DVD ’08 (Frontiers, US) – I’m a closet JOURNEY fan. Ok, there, I’ve said it. Like any self-respecting heavy prog-head, I dug the shit out of their first 3 ‘70’s albums, laced as they were with violent 6-7 minute excursions into post-Santana Schon/Rolie firestorms. Then…along came Steve Perry…at that point, in my mind, an interloper who changed these wild-assed muthas into a slick AOR monster. I wanted to hate the guy so bad. But over time, it occurred to me: the dude had a voice & a half, often matching Sam Cooke greatness and songs like “Don’t Stop Believing” & the nearly Uli-chugga-rhythmed “Separate Ways” were hard to stop blasting out of the Impala’s open windows. Of course, time moves on, the inevitable “personal differences” creep in and the next thing we’re left with are rather OK albums with accused lip-syncher Steve Augeri. Yeah, “Arrival” & “Generations” were ok, ‘cept the songs were samey & Steve A. just didn’t have the pipes. JOURNEY also brought in Jeff Scott Soto to finish a tour and I’m thinking, Christ, what’s next, Yngwie joining on 2nd guitar?! Fortunately, Soto exited and Neal Schon got out his laptop & started watching YouTube. There he found a Filipino dude called Arnel Pineda and we now have “Revelations.”
A sprawling 2 disc/DVD set sold exclusively at Walmart/Sam’s Club (I had to make peace with my creator about purchasing music there), what direction does this JOURNEY take into the future? Thankfully, a good one. The new material here, all written by Schon & keys-man Jonathan Cain is quite good. The opener, “Never Walk Away” will take you back to the “Frontiers” days with it’s driving rhythm. Yes, Pineda does sound strikingly like the tuxedo-ed one, but not in a karaoke sense. His own voice emerges, fueled by both his slight accent and tone. Of similar ilk is “Where Did I Lose Your Love,” featuring a deep chorus hook that’ll have you going into your ‘80’s wardrobe cupboard instantly. Elsewhere, “Like A Sunshower” is a breathy look to the “Infinity”/ “Evolution” days and the instrumental “The Journey (Revelation” harkens even further back. Sure, a couple ballads may outstay their welcome by a minute or 2 and I do hope that Arnel lends some writing credits to the next effort. But while you may not be ready to throw that well-worn “Frontiers” vinyl in the fire, this one sure had the flame burning nicely again. Damn, it’s actually bright enough that I can see in this closet. 8.0
NOTE: Shit, I forgot to mention it in the regular review, but the 2nd CD here is a collection of re-works of songs like "Separate Ways," etc. with the current band including Arnel Pineda. Let me just say that the dude does an excellent job in making these cuts sound re-invigorated. Moreover, the DVD features live footage of the same current line-up and they come off as a pretty charged up bunch. Nice to see.

GRAND MAGUS – “Iron Will” CD ’08 (Candlelight, Swe) – This Swedish power trio has been around for awhile now, this being their 4th effort. It’s really hard to quarrel with this record as, front to back, it’s quality metal with a sound akin to Dio-era Sabs and a lyrical bent not unlike Manowar if they actually were Vikings. Still, I’m left a trifle cold by “Iron Will” and I’m not sure exactly why. Maybe it’s that after this many releases, JB and crew have sailed the same fjords a lot of times. Perhaps there just aren’t as many standout riffs as on the band’s previous works. Either way, while still a decent listen, this is not GRAND MAGUS’ best & I’m hoping they can blow me away next time around. 6.5

BRAVE – “Monuments” CD ’08 (Private, US) – Having associations going back in the DC-Va-Md doom scene, one might expect Virginia’s BRAVE to trod a musical path blazed by those like Pentagram, Asylum or The Obsessed. Such is deceptive, however, and on their new full-length “Monuments,” these guys (& woman) show exactly why. Imagine a sound driven by “Permanent Waves”-era Rush, amped up with some ‘80’s guitar aggression and then brought into sharp relief by a nearly Celtic violin touch & awesome female vocals. Yeah, BRAVE is all that and then some on this refreshing long player. The musicianship is spot-on, led by the crystalline lead guitar of Scott Loose (who also supplies deft acoustic work) and the aforementioned violin of Suvo Sur, who’s work recalls the emotion of another semi-local player, Celtic wiz, Cathy Palmer. And, speaking of emotion, the word was probably designed for vocalist Michelle Loose. To begin with, I can honestly say that her engaging upper range does not immediately remind me of anybody else, quite a credit. Secondly, her persona is a fiercely strong one, bringing a feeling of hope to darker songs like “Hurt” and one of uplifting transcendence to something like “Stronger.” In all, this is a sterling record, nailed home by BRAVE’s own self-production job. I’d very much like to see them lay this stuff down live. 9.0

BILL BONDSMEN – “Swallowed By The World” CD ’08 (Dead Beat, US) – Punk rock can be a wonderful thing. It’s a wonderful thing when it has something to rail against. Something to rail against is not being bummed by your parents refusing to drive you to the mall stylist because your roots are showing under the purple in your Mohawk. Something to rail against, however, means wondering which fucking drug corner you’re going to be living on when your slumlord won’t buy your reason for not having last month’s rent on Friday because you had to use it to pay child support to your hooker ex-wife. Something to rail against means wondering how long it’s going to take before someone knocks in your front door after your power’s turned off and the sun goes down. BILL BONDMEN sound like something to rail against all that and maybe a million other real things in the world that, for a lot of people, is an extreme series of black & white snapshots from a life growing colder by the day. Punk rock can be a wonderful thing. 8.0

MOTORAMA – “Psychotronic Is The Beat” CD ’08 (Dead Beat, US) – MOTORAMA is composed of 2 people, Daniela & Laura and this is their 2nd full-length effort. To be brutally honest, if it’s better than their 1st, I probably don’t ever want to hear that debut. This is noisy, trashy punkish rock with mega-annoying vocals that has been done so much better by people like The Oblivians, Reatards, etc. In fact, the paltry version of the Gang Of Four track “Damaged Goods” here reminds me only that I wish I was spinning the new Jay Reatard singles collection instead. 3.0

JUANITA Y LOS FEOS – “Juanita Y Los Feos” CD ’08 (Dead Beat, Spa) – Now, this is more like it, as far as noisy garage punk goes. Interestingly, JUANITA Y LOS FEOS are from Spain and they sing this record in their native language, which in my opinion only adds to their appeal. The production here surely of the “garage” variety, meaning that you’re not going to confuse it with anything lain down with Roy Thomas Baker at the desk. That’s way ok, though, as it’s also clear & listenable enough to rattle your brain in a most delightful way. Without any exaggeration, opening cut “El Agujero” is completely awesome in every sense of the word, combining an insistent melody that wouldn’t be out of place in a ‘50’s rock & roll classic, suspended on vocals that are perky but never cutesy. “No Tengo Ritmo” matches this one for coolness and, likewise does “Baila Como Un Robtot.” The rest of the album doesn’t stretch into the league of these high-level cuts, but the fact remains that it is good and a damn good example that there are people out there doing this kinda stuff that need to be discovered. Dead Beat Records seems to be, overall, doing a damn nice job of it and many of their releases have me thirsting for more. 8.0