Saturday, May 16, 2009

Jersey Mob Hit

THE PARLOR MOB – “And You Were A Crow” CD ’08 (Roadrunner, US) – New Jersey has produced it’s fair share of mainstream artists, The Boss & Jon Bon Jovi most notably. It’s also laid claim to some more heavy-handed native sons, Zakk Wylde for one and a bevy of ‘80’s metal disciples like Overkill. Current times see THE PARLOR MOB stepping out from that fine state and their debut “And You Were A Crow” is a worthy listen. From tracks that build their foundation on names like Free, The Faces & Zep this …MOB should put an instant smile on the face of any classic rock fan. The downside is that more than once, riffs stray uncomfortably close to clone rather than influence. Still, if you don’t analyze it too much & just roll down the windows, it’s a nice spin and I’m hoping they find their more original feet on #2. 6.5

THE TREWS – “No Time For Later” CD ’09 (EMI, Can) – I was pretty impressed by THE TREWS’ last disc, “Den Of Thieves,” receiving the tip-off on that bad boy from Geno Desi of Generations Underground. It was an instant & catchy bunch of tracks that skirted the fine line between hard barroom rock and yes, Nickelback-esque FM melodies. While “No Time For Later” treads these same boards, I’m not feeling quite the love for 2 reasons. First off, the band seems to have tipped the scales slightly in favour of the high-gloss production here, despite the more edgy “nude-ass” cover artwork. Secondly, while all the songs are decent enough, nothing stands out quite the way “Makin’ Sunshine” & “The Traveling Kind” did on “Den….” THE TREWS seem to be on the way to broader appeal, as their position on my local store’s “Up & Coming” rack indicates. I just hope they give the songwriting a jolt in the ass next time. 6.0

THE UNDER – “Mercurial” CD ’09 (Private, US) – I love it when a CD from a band I’ve never even heard of comes sliding out of my mailbox and is…voila…damn good! The possibility of that is one of the carrots that always keep me going with this foolhardy venture and it happened with THE UNDER. Looking at the cover of the disc, I slid it in with all the trepidation of it being a paint-by-numbers stoner yawn. Imagine my surprise when the damn thing sounded like early Rush combined with The Sab Four! Hmm…I thought, as I let tracks like “The Shield,” “Anaximander” & “No Great Divide” wash over me. The musicianship on offer by this Massachusetts trio is outstanding, particularly guitarist Daniel Costa, who’s riffs & runs often call to mind an early Lifeson with a touch of Against Nature’s John Brenner as well. Similarly, Costa’s vocals are melodic enough to compliment the subtlety of the music and yet he’s not afraid to issue a semi-growl when necessary. Moreover, for a band with a prog-ish bent, THE UNDER don’t let the song lengths get away from ‘em, keeping the “epics” here within the 6-7 minute mark. My only caution would be that with the complexities involved, there could be a few more memorable “landmarks” in a couple songs near album’s end. All in all, however, “Mercurial” is a great surprise and I’m anxious to hear what these guys do next. 8.0

WOLFBRIGADE – “Comalive” CD ’09 (Deranged, Swe) – D-beat crust punk. I guess I’m just getting old, but rather than a style of music it sounds more to me like somebody’s password for something. Or maybe something someone would argue about in a Scrabble game. Anyway, you can call Sweden’s WOLFBRIGADE whatever you want when it comes to genre, but the fact remains that when you throw on one of their records you’re going to get a serious ass-whupping and “Comalive” is no exception. Here’s the skinny: If you love the days of ripping and destroying albums that used to belch power like some out-of-control chemical fire from the hands of Bones / Discharge, Varukers, etc. you’re probably gonna like WOLFBRIGADE. These guys have been around for quite awhile and I think they’ve developed to a point that they’ve got it all over better-known acts like Tragedy. Just check out the massive riffing in “Unknown Road.” Is there any way you’re going to keep control over your beat-up Mazda when you’re tooling along 695 and that comes on the CD player? And how ‘bout the ending of “Reality Lashes,” the album’s “epic” at 4:49? The upward, spiraling guitar figures stop me short every time and make me realize these guys are far from simply noise-makers. Excellent shit, and check out their back catalog as well. You won’t be sorry. 8.0
NOTE: In Baltimore , you can get this sucker from Celebrated Summer Records on CD and vinyl. Check ‘em out:

PULLING TEETH – “Paranoid Delusions / Paradise Illusions” CD ’09 (Deathwish, US) – You know what’s really cool? Waking up one morning to find that an uncle you never knew you had has just left you a fortune, Jill Hennessy is in the bed of your Riviera-side villa and there’s a Ferrari in the garage. Would you believe a $ 100 lottery ticket, a copy of Penthouse in the mailbox and a car out front that actually would work? I digress…. What’s really cool is having a young band evolve into something special & I think that’s what we’re seeing with Baltimore’s PULLING TEETH.

Having opened their story with the riveting hardcore assault of “Vicious Skin” (’06) then “Martyr Immortal,” (’07) they have now followed with a striking evolution called “Paranoid Delusions / Paradise Illusions.” Just the opener, “Ritual,” is a clarion call of this band’s progression. Beginning with an eerie intro, the band then plunge into a crushing, Vitus-like doom riff. No sooner has that made your hair stand on end than they floor it for a high-speed death metal segue, only to find the song ending in what could only be described as a gothic Melvins-fest. “Unsatisfied” continues to satisfy at a slow-paced mangle before we get to “Bloodwolves,” simply an amazing track. Starting at warp-speed-destroy-mode, complete with concussive riffs & harrowing growls, PT really up the ante part way through. They shift into epic doom, highlighted by brilliant melodic double guitar leads. Picture Trouble playing a funeral march and you may have an idea.

“Paranoid Delusions” continues the stately pace and features a surprisingly melodic Middle-Eastern-type guitar solo that could be at home on a track by Turkey’s Pentagram (Mezarkabul). It’s then all brought to a close by the 9 ½ minute “Paradise Illusions.” Inching into progress with a bass run complimented by delicate guitar figures and cavernous spoken-word, the track then takes a decidedly electronic feel for a few minutes. It then plunders to a conclusion on more sludge-like Melvins riffing and clean, spoken-word vox. Truly, PULLING TEETH have pulled no punches here with a release that is not only surprising in nature but startling in scope. The only thing separating it from a perfect rating is it’s rather short length (24 minutes) but that means 2 things to me: It’s a some damn 24 minutes (!!!) and a full-length by these guys could be a no-holds-barred all-time classic. 9.5
NOTE: The CD package is remarkable as well, with the disc housed in a sweet LP-style digipak complete with a mini-poster of the striking cover artwork tucked away inside.

THE HOLD STEADY – “A Positive Rage” CD ’09 (Vagrant, US) – It’s been an interesting climb to watch THE HOLD STEADY go from being Minnesota unknowns to young upstarts to indie media darlings to, now, a pretty darn big deal. And, in large part, I’ve liked what they’ve done, especially their last studio disc “Stay Positive” (’08). On that one, Craig Finn’s lyrics & voice gelled completely with the rest of the band to develop a heady amalgam not unlike Larry Kirwan (Black 47) fronting a punkified classic rock band. While others have found Finn’s vocals hard to stomach, they’ve always sat well with me…until now, for some reason. I think the problem is the production of this live record. To it’s credit, the album is a chronicle of one show (at Chicago’s Metro), which gives it a nice flow rather than the annoying fade-ins/outs marring some live discs. On the other hand, however, the band here, rather than sounding on point and vital as they did on “Stay Positive” wash together in the background to form a sort of Spector-ish wall of sound. Only here it’s more like a curtain as Finn’s voice tends to barge on through, often too dominant in the mix and becoming, quite frankly, annoying. The performances by THE HOLD STEADY are tight and spirited and the material is a nice cross-section. I just wish it had been recorded differently. 5.5

No comments: