O Mighty Isis
Angel Brite EP
reviewed in issue #81, 7/31/95
Sparsely-produced pop, strange and yet sometimes very lovely. Mighty Isis is not one for undue amplification (or just a rookie producer, perhaps), but I like hearing the space between the sounds.
Everything is not coherent, and often enough it seems Mighty Isis is more than willing to accept a judgement of "Pavement ideologue". While this is not a good thing, the band does a few things to try and break out of such a slot.
The songs usually come together by the end, and the three members are all quite decent players (and not ashamed to show it). Sometimes I do wish I could make a little more sense of everything, but in general I like this.
reviewed in issue #100, 2/26/96
Wall-O-Noise stuff from former Brainiac member Michelle Bodine, her brother Scott (once of Method), Rob Tarbell and Will Gale.
The press stuff makes a lot of noise about the sound of the band, and I don't understand. Of course, I dig that whole Midwestern Touch and Go kinda sound. Guitars amped way up, catchy vocals and a tight rhythm section. I mean, if that's not the formula for success, then what is?
Obvious devotees of Sonic Youth and Kiss (among other things), the members of O-Matic rip through 16 songs (with a bonus track) with aplomb and verve (I like those words; sue me). There is nothing complicated going on here; just cool music.
Which is a good slogan. At times O-Matic is not as tight as it should be, but those moments pass quickly, and the riffs keep a rollin'. Fun in a handy 5" disc.
Matthew "Wink" O'Bannon
Matthew "Wink" O'Bannon
reviewed in issue #45, 11/30/93
The first solo release from one of the least-recognized members of the Louisville music scene, O'Bannon has a pleasant, rootsy take on this thing we call rock and roll.
Actually, it reminds me a bit of the band where he now plays guitar, Eleventh Dream Day. More acoustic, but almost as drivingly psychotic. He doesn't see things the way a normal person might. But then, after listening to this disc, even you might start to question your own normalcy.
The things that really distinguishes O'Bannon from a lot of rootsy, alternative types (many in the Louisville area) are his lyrics. They just cut through everything we in the real world take for granted. Like Dylan once said, "If you have nothing, then you have nothing to lose." Or that's how I remember it, anyway. O'Bannon's soul streams through every work, and he gives us something to lose.
Tara Jane ONeil
reviewed in issue #193, 12/20/99
As contemplative and edgy as you might expect from an alumnus of Rodan and the Sonora Pine (well, she's still doing that second one...). Guitar work dominates (again, no surprise there), but perhaps more interesting is the way O'Neil has pieced her sound together.
Most of what you hear is O'Neil, with a couple guests on each track. So lots of overdubbing, which necessitated a good job of mixing, too.
Boy, does all that work well. The guitar lines are simply amazing. O'Neil's standard form of expression on the instrument is a little off-kilter, but what is so surprising is how well the vaguely odd ideas fuse together into an astonishingly coherent whole. Yes, this is extraordinarily experimental and creative, but the sound is inviting.
Those hoping for a challenge will find it, of course; there is so much beneath the surface here it would take a multitude of listens to get it all down. But I'm simply knocked out by how well O'Neil has put her ideas together. This one is a real charmer.
In the Sun Lines
reviewed in issue #222, 9/24/01
It's really sorta amazing to think that one of the major underground music movements of the last 10 years came from Louisville. But think about it; between the various and sundry recordings perpetrated by members of Squirrelbait, Slint and Rodan and the bands they've influenced, there's a serious body of work. Tara Jane ONeil is one of those pioneers. She's got this new album here.
It's one of those "I'm just gonna give you a piece of everything I've learned so far" kinda albums. Obsessively written and recorded, In the Sun Lines is one of the greatest examples of what I tend to call "Chicago noise pop," even though, as I noted above, it came from Louisville.
ONeil uses an almost bewildering array of instruments and sounds, blending them together in ways that both jar and jell. She manages to use cacophony to create some of the most beautiful songs I've heard in a long while. This deft dichotomy is, I believe, what most practitioners of the sound are trying to achieve. ONeil is already there.
To be perfectly honest, just about every project ONeil has been involved with has been brilliant. Not merely good, but incandescently amazing. This album is no different, except that I think it really stands as her finest hour. She's not only defining herself, but confidently putting her compatriots on notice that the musical bar has risen another notch. It's unlikely there will be a better album this year.
See also Rodan and the Sonora Pine.
reviewed in issue #142, 9/1/97
If you ever want to feel like you know nothing about music, talk to Jim O'Rourke. I didn't even have to give him a call. I read the press for this disc (something I don't normally do) because it contained a lot of interviews and I was curious what goes on in the mind of one of the true geniuses in music today.
Apart from discussing tons of people I've never heard of, much less heard, even his most minute observation is so far beyond my grasp of musical understanding that I simply sit here in awe. And, understand, I'm supposed to know something about unusual music. At least, that's the theory.
The music itself is even more intimidating. Long songs (four of them, averaging more than 10 minutes per), and yet they fly past so quickly it's as if time stands still. Instead of the rather discordant guitar melody structure he's used for projects like the Red Krayola, the fingerpicking here follows in a more traditional folk bent, although with enough rhythmic and tonal variation to distinguish himself.
At times, O'Rourke leaves his acoustic guitar naked. And then, slowly, he flows in horns, a pedal steel, keyboards or even some percussion. The songs do build in similar ways, though with some strong differences in tone. Stuff that is quite literally mind-blowing.
All I expected, and maybe a smidge more. O'Rourke is not simply a master guitarist; he knows how to use the guitar to express himself musically. And he does that as well as anyone else I've ever heard.
reviewed in issue #177, 2/22/99
A singing album, which means something of a more "normal" outing for O'Rourke. There is, of course, a reason for those quotation marks. There is still plenty of the trademark O'Rourke picked guitar sound, and the songs don't quite follow expected keys and chord changes.
Still... I'm struck by how close this sounds to something more conventional artists would make. If you want to call Stereolab conventional, I guess. O'Rourke uses the vocals almost as a second instrument, as riffs to be placed strategically. Makes sense, of course, given the way the rest of each song is realized.
Contemplative, more than I figured. O'Rourke always takes his time with songs (they average more than five minutes per), but each piece is crafted with consummate care. Which, of course, only makes sense.
The usual suspects on the sides, another off-kilter outing from this truly inspiring songwriter-performer-producer-whatever. I only expect greatness from O'Rourke, and this fulfills my every desire.
Halfway to a Threeway EP
reviewed in issue #192, 12/6/99
Jim O'Rourke might be the coolest guy on the planet. He produces some of the most innovative bands around and his many playing projects are always pushing the envelope of what rock music really is. Of course, he'd probably scoff at pretentious comments like that. and I'm pretty sure he'd bitch at the "rock music" bit. But still.
There's no doubt that O'Rourke can play a mean guitar. And piano. And drums. Plus he can attract guest like Darin Gray, Frank Nevin, Archer Prewitt, Rob Mazurek, Tim Barnes and Glenn Kotche. Just getting quality folks like that together pretty much ensures a solid recording. O'Rourke's skills make it much more than that.
The three pieces are remarkably similar and yet distinct. All feature stunning acoustic guitar work, but each travels its own way, be it pop, jazz or rock (again, this genrefication is going to get me in trouble). Twenty minutes that I want to live over and over again.
See also Brise-Glace, Gastr del Sol, The Red Krayola and Yona-Kit.
reviewed in issue #70, 2/14/95
Merging spoken word samples, world beats and other stuff is not exactly new in the world of the ambient.
But doing it in this way is something I haven't heard before. Ob1, more than most ambient acts, attempts to create true sonic sculptures.
And it's mostly successful. The sound is rarely dull, and things move along nicely. Interestingly, while there are nine tracks listed on the back, there is only one on the disc, and it's not always easy to discern where one composition ends and the next begins.
But in the ambient world, that makes sense. All are one, and one is all.
See also Virtualizer.
(Sky Council Recordings)
Here we go again. Andre Obin trafficks in that increasingly-familiar Tangerine Dream-meets-Cure-meets-Animal Collective sound that is practically exploding just under the radar. Or maybe not so underground, given the title of Taylor Swift's most recent album.
Obin takes an ambient tack to the finish of his songs, which leaves them chillier and more ethereal than most of the folks plying these fields. More interesting to me, he does that without sacrificing melody. Indeed, his embrace of the ambient actually amplifies the hookiness of some of these songs.
While I find this stuff enthralling, it's still a challenge for the average listener. The rhythms and musical lines are often beautifully tangled, Obin doesn't feel the need to provide a primer for the uninitiated. Absolutely the right choices, by the way.
The steely edge to these songs is what really grabs me. There's definite gothic industrial dance vibe chilling with Obin's new wave and ambient tendencies, and that keeps the album moving along nicely. Even when he's chilling out, Obin keeps the beats moving. Always the right move.
An album that draws in the listener more as the songs roll by, Endorphin is the perfect set for finding a cool place on a summer's eve. Turn over your frontal lobes to Obin, and you'll be just fine.
The End Complete
reviewed in issue #11, 4/15/92
I'll start this one like a recent review of another R/C band. I've never been a real Obituary fan. But (note the difference) I really like The End Complete. Taking a cue from their European counterparts, Obituary slows it up a little. Yes, there is enunciating going on here! Not just your traditional driving -off-a-cliff Floridian sound. Scott Burns returns to help the band behind the board, and the sound is very clean, yet aggressive.
Three years ago, Obituary broke new ground with a rookie named Scott Burns handling production. Their second album was just a pale rehash. But this represents a step forward for their sound, although not a redefinition of death metal itself. Creating a new musical direction is tough to accomplish once, much less twice or more in a career, so let's not lambast the band for a less than trend-setting performance.
But this is the best I've heard out of Florida , so griping would be done. This is the most eagerly awaited death metal album of the year. It fulfills expectations, and even exceeds them a little. Now, if you could say that about every release...
Don't Care CD5
reviewed in issue #58, 7/15/94
So the full-length World Demise was pushed back a couple of months. At least you get a taste now.
I read about the new "alternative" sound Obituary had come up with to avoid stagnation. I applaud the effort, though I'm not sure how anyone could consider grunge alternative anymore.
Actually, ignore the title cut. It's pretty awful. But "Solid State" is a nice merging of traditional metal and death metal sensibilities. It's so clean you could do root canal work on it, and it's still damned heavy. No, it sure isn't the old Obituary, but I think you'll like this.
reviewed in issue #61, 8/31/94
The world's first environmentally-conscious death metal album? Probably not, but I can't recall such an album so single-minded that way.
To preface the rest of the review: I appreciate that Obituary was trying to evolve and do something new. That wins points in my book. I applaud the members for the effort.
But the result; it does bring to mind the old saw of "every song sounds the same". Most of the tunes feature fairly slow riffs and vocal layering that get repetitive very quickly. Now, when things speed up a little (like to Slayer speed), then a little more of the old Obituary comes through, and things sound different. For this record.
I prefer tunes like "Redefine" and "Solid State" to "Don't Care" and "Boiling Point". It's odd that two such divergent ideas would trade blows on the same album. I like the concept of change; the second trick is to do it well. Obituary has a little work to do there.
Back from the Dead
reviewed in issue #132, 4/14/97
Plumbing the same technical death metal realms as on World Demise, Obituary has improved a bit over that outing, dropping the "alternative" riff concept in favor of a more "old-fashioned" death metal style.
I like the result. There's just no need for a death metal band to jump on the grunge bandwagon (which is how I viewed the last album), and so Obituary returns to the fold here. The songwriting is solid as usual, and the production is really sharp, the only problem in that area being the obvious drop-ins of the guitar solos.
Much more adrenaline-pumping than World Demise, Obituary has taken a few hints from Fear Factory and the last Suffocation release, bringing an almost industrial feel to some songs. And true old-school fans may want to skip the final track, which one of the few death metal/rap songs I'e ever heard. Amusing, if not terribly good.
A nice return to form. I don't know how many fans are still out there, but Obituary has crafted an album for them.
reviewed in issue #158, 5/4/98
A live album, of course. Sixteen tracks which come from all parts of the band's long run. The sound is very good, better than a couple of the studio albums, to be honest. And the performances are tight and sharp. Makes me wonder about the possibility of overdubs...
Aw, screw it. I'm not a big fan of live albums, and to be honest, Obituary doesn't really do anything revolutionary with any of its songs here. Just a nice way to collect a few favorite songs and clean them up a bit.
Well done, if studio replication is the goal of a live album. Personally, I prefer to hear some innovation, some rethinking of the old songs, but that's not here. Can't worry about it too much. For what it is, Dead turns the trick rather well.
See also Meathook Seed and Six Feet Under.
reviewed in issue #298, July 2008
Object's instrumentation consists of glass objects, laptop and something called a bass-balloon kit. The pieces are performed as solos, duets and full trios. The sound is otherworldly.
The bass-balloon kit provides most of the truly unusual sounds. There's a photo behind the liners that kinda shows what this is...and I can't really piece it together. The sound, though, is probably close to what one might imagine a weather balloon being bowed would sound like.
Add in the glass tinkles and everything thrown in by the laptop and there's the distinct feeling that civilization is turning in on itself. I'm not sure if that's where these people were headed, but these are the sounds of collapse.
Compelling stuff. Way out on the edge of rational sound, of course, but most intriguing nonetheless. Let this one rest on the edge of your brain for a few minutes and then see how you're feeling. If you're not the least bit queasy, you're not listening hard enough.
reviewed in issue #204, 8/28/00
Yeah, I know it's a re-issue. From way back in 1984. But I think it's interesting to see how little the field of Sabbath-y bands has progressed since then.
I know, the proper term is stoner rock, but that sounds silly. The Obsessed cranks out sludgy pieces with basic riffage and a singer who's a nice rough copy of Ozzy.
That is the formula. And while other bands have punched up the sound (and occasionally kicked it into overdrive with sparkling riffola), the song generally remains the same.
Does it suck? No. These guys are competent. Even better than that at times. It's just that the sound by itself can't define a band. An interesting historical document, even if it shows how turgid some musical movements can be.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
reviewed in issue #134, 5/12/97
NYC metalcore to the hilt, but O.C.D. is prescient enough to kick in a few evolutionary changes to the formula. The mix is quite tinny (and that works, surprisingly), and there is a glam sheen floating on the surface that is also quite pleasing to the ear.
Now, kids, don't try this at home. These folks are professionals. The changes are subtle, but enough to differentiate O.C.D. from the pack. As for the songs, they're tightly-written bits whose lyrics would feel right at home coming from your average gothic act. They're delivered by David Ames, who has a nice post-hardcore take on the Dan McCafferty growl.
Another one of those discs I didn't figure I'd be liking. Hell, the music will win me over every time. And throwing in a cover of an Alice Cooper Band tune is always a winner in my book. "I Love the Dead" fits in perfectly well with the rest of the fare.
Well thought-out and executed. Too bad mainstream music has been trending away from this area for a while, or I'd say O.C.D. had a good shot at a decent payday. Still, good music never goes out of style.
Bring It All In
Music critics are a generally loathsome bunch. We slag the music everybody likes, and then we try to convince the masses that they really should be listening to something that is actually unlistenable. Trout Mask Replica has been around for more than 40 years, and it still gets mentioned whenever I hear or read someone go on an anti-critic rant.
It is true that most music critics aren't big fans of really popular music. I'm not. I've heard tens of thousands of albums in my time, and I've reviewed more than 8,000 of them. Unlike Wilt Chamberlain, I've got the documentation to prove such an assertion. I don't have patience for things I've heard before--unless they're done really well. And then I tend to fall in love. The folks who manage to make accessible music sound effortless and utterly approachable are the real geniuses. There just aren't many of them around.
Elijah Ocean is a prototypical americana singer-songwriter. There's not one thing here that hasn't been done before. He's got the laconic delivery of Gram Parsons, the sweet fiddle of Whiskeytown (without Caitlin Cary's vocals, alas), and just enough pedal steel and piano to make these songs sound almost symphonic. In other words, he's just like a thousand other folks.
Except that his songs work.
I firmly believe that almost anyone can pick out good music with ease. And any idiot can write an invective-laden slag. Destroying someone else's art just for fun isn't criticism. It's just mean. It's the "why" that makes a critic. At least, that's what I think.
And Ocean's songs are great because of their arrangements. He never hurries, but he never tarries, either. He seems to have an ear for the interior groove of a song, and he makes sure that each song serves that kernel of musical truth.
In the final analysis, Ocean sounds like Ryan Adams when Adams hasn't succumbed to a fatal case of the mopes. Ocean has a few touches of his own (his voice isn't nearly as clear, which lends plenty of endearment), and he really sets himself apart with a solid grasp on the final presentation of his songs.
Any critic will tell you that most great music sounds effortless. Or, as my wife put it the other day, "I could make this. Easy." She knows, better than most, that it in incredibly difficult to make music that sounds easy. Ocean sounds like he's singing on his back porch with a few friends. That's not the case, of course, but the illusion helps make this album great.
Car Alarms and Crickets
reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00
Remember back in the early 80s? When "industrial" meant bands like the Art of Noise and Einsturzende Neubauten? When electronic music could whipsaw from playful to serious in a moment's time and no one seemed to notice? Octant does, and it constructs its pop symphonies accordingly.
Imagine Stereolab with a lot more sonic construction in the background. Octant kicks off most songs with some kind of "industrial" sculpture and then grafts a kooky pop song over that skeleton.
And damn if it doesn't work. There are lots of different ideas rolling around here, and sometimes they don't get tied up. But that's okay. The songs are so unique and so much fun that I find it hard to bitch.
I've begun to expect big things when I get an Up Records CD, and Octant does the tradition proud. The creativity shown in the writing and the skill in the execution are both first rate. For all that ferment to craft a disc this addictively fun is just a bonus. Simply wonderful.
...Bye Bye Beautiful
reviewed in issue #283, March 2007
I haven't heard as nice a balance of the goth and the rock in quite a while. When you get this far into both, it's impossible not to hear the Doors as well, but I suppose that goes without saying.
The guitar in these songs has a ringing quality that is infectious. Kinda like that early (but not too early) U2 sound. And that sound combined with the slightest lilt in the vocals and the rock-solid rhythm section is what really brings this all together for me. These songs aren't particularly innovative, but they move nicely and have some stellar anthemic hooks.
And, yeah, the production is almost perfect for the songs. I'd have added just a bit more muscle in spots (I see no need for sparseness anywhere here), but that's a quibble. And anyway, a little dynamic tension never hurt.
Beauty with strength. Hey, playing Cure-ish songs as if you were the Cult is a pretty good idea. Wish I'd thought of it myself.
Plan 9 ... Meet Your Hypnotis.
reviewed in issue #224, 11/5/01
Dirty beats. When I say that, I mean that these beats and shrouded in the mists of samples, loops and loads of electronic disturbances (distortion, reverb, you name it). And these beats don't have lengthy lifespans. Odd Nosdam has crammed 55 different explorations within the confines of this disc.
Which is also to say that coherence is not a virtue here. Thoughts flow in and out of phase by whim. The focus here is on the whole, and that's where all of these disparate parts begin to make sense.
Cause trying to figure out and explain every little bit here would bring even the most astute listener to the edge of insanity. Gotta step back. Take a look at the big picture. Give the brain (and music) a little room to roam.
That technique works. Once placed in a fuller perspective, Odd Nosdam's vision begins to take form. Just enough to give me the illusion of getting my head around all the ideas here. I know I'm fooling myself, but what the hell.
reviewed in issue #191, 11/15/99
It's been a while since I've heard a Dan Swano project. I am, of course, quite happy to have the opportunity. Only three songs here, almost not enough even for a taste. But here it is.
Epochal Eurometal, probably a bit of the doom style thrown in for good measure. I do wish the tunes would have picked up a bit and been somewhat less anthemic. There is a sense of overkill at times. This is grand, certainly, but not necessarily that amazing.
I'm a bit disappointed. This sounds like more of a rehash than refreshing. Swano has created some of the great metal albums of all time. Odyssey isn't in that league. It's amusing, but not much past that.
See also Edge of Sanity, Nightingale and Pan-Thy-Monium.
The Sunlandic Twins
reviewed in issue #262, March 2005
Laptop pop grooves driven by some seriously obsessive vocal work. Some bloke named Kevin Barnes is the mind behind this, and he plays his hand like Brian Wilson (without the attendant mental illness, I'm assuming).
Though maybe that's a bad assumption. After all, Barnes makes a sly reference to Prince in the liners--though that's just one more reason to like him, I think. The songs themselves have that midwest jam feel--you know, like King Kong. Except that they're mostly electronic. It just a lot easier that way when you're a one-man outfit.
The more I think about it, though, this does sound a lot like those early Prince albums (For You, Controversy). Not so much in the Hendrix meets doo-wop style but the way the sounds come together. There's a certain mindset to singular productions that produces a feel that's almost impossible to describe. I have the feeling I'm in Barnes's mind, and that's the same feeling those old Prince albums give me as well.
But, of course, this isn't Prince. It's a guy who grew up on indie rock and got to experience the electronic revolution as a child (lucky guy). Yeah, he's obsessive, and yeah, this stuff isn't ordinary. That's the point, isn't it? To be extraordinary? That's what I thought, anyway.
Of Unknown Origin
Seven Ovens of the Soul
(Suffering Clown-World Serpent)
reviewed in #164, 8/3/98
If you've read any of the other reviews of Suffering Clown releases, you might have an idea of what's coming here. Of Unknown Origin trucks in soundscapes, but these explorations are much more ritual-oriented than found on the other discs.
More formal sounding, I suppose. Almost militaristic at times, and certainly oppressive. I think the idea here is to erase all logical hope. A couple hours of this and I just might, too.
Doomy without getting very loud. Depressing fare which demands attention by its persistence, not from any excess of noise. Like a piledriver, the songs just keep pressing my spine into the ground. Again and again, with no end in sight.
Oof. Quite the experience. I'm not sure I'd like to meet the folks who created this land of shattered hopes, but the sounds here are very effective at wringing out their task. All hope dies in the end, and here it dies even quicker than that.
reviewed in issue #21, 9/30/92
The label that is almost single-handedly keeping the pop punk spirit alive in America has done it once again. In this era of "alternative" posers and whiny Europeans, a voice has been rising out of Long Beach for over ten years. A year ago they "traded" L7 to SubPop for C/Z's Coffin Break and scored with Crawl. Not to mention Pennywise, NOFX or the almighty Bad Religion.
The Offspring come from that proud tradition, a little rougher and more "rockin'" than most. The sparseness of the production combined with the songs themselves is breathtaking. Of course, the lyrics are topical and incisive. Wait a minute. Is this a rave review?
Of course. You know, for a split second I was reminded of the Go-Go's first album, which was a pop masterpiece. This really doesn't have a damn thing to do with that, but Dexter Holland's vocals sometimes have just a hint of that Val alto Belinda Carlisle used to sing with. It's more of a feel kind of thing. Shit, I don't know why I brought it up. Now you won't play this. It's all my fault. I'm sorry, guys. Your album rules.
reviewed in issue #54, 5/15/94
Their first album caught on at radio, but it did seem a bit of a struggle. Now that you've had a while to digest it, this should be easy to accept.
Same high-aggression melodic punk, with a few more artistic flourishes. Smash definitely establishes the Offspring as a band in the ascent.
Sure, they had a little exposure on the trailer and soundtrack of the Charlie Sheen exploitation flick The Chase (I'm sitting in a theater, and suddenly I go, "Wait, I know that song..."). You should still blast this puppy lotsa times. It may be the slightest touch mellower than the debut, but it satisfies just the same.
(There's a Ring Around Uranus Records)
reviewed in issue #128, 2/17/97
Pile-driving action that Mountain would be proud to have cranked out years ago. Boston sludge with just enough motion to keep things from getting turgid.
At first, I thought this was kinda cheesy. I mean, thick riffs and anthemic construction can get out of hand really quickly. But as bands from yesteryear like Agony Column showed, it's possible to make the whole set work from time to time.
As the disc played on, the more I got into Ohm. There is no let down, period. The pain felt from the first riff is just as sharp as the album winds down. And the whole sound gets rather addictive after a while.
A cool mix of classic metal and hard rock with today's sludge sentimentality. Goodness, it just might work.
In the End, All Things Begin
reviewed in issue #264, May 2005
Some might call this acid jazz, but I think what we have here is a fine representation of electronic funk. Mellow funk, to be sure. I know, a lot of folks would call mellow funk "happy jazz," but I don't. There is a difference. And it lies in the way these songs come together.
I can't be sure, but I think the band recorded its tracks, and then they were somewhat reassembled in the studio. And when I say band, I mean a full workup, complete with DJ and horns. Ohn uses its horns more as jazz ornamentation than actual funk drivers, but I think that's just a nice way of moving the flavor.
Then there are songs like "Bubblegum," which bring out both the funk and the acid jazz. I suppose I could go mad trying to shoehorn these folks into a box, but that's a dumb idea. Ohn is Ohn, and that's enough.
Nice little jams for your next party or intimate get-together. A word of warning: There are ideas on this disc. It's not quite mindless. I think that's a good thing, myself, but it might lend itself to some issues, depending on your agenda when you're playing the disc. Just thought you'd like to know.
A Memories Chase
reviewed in issue #346, 3/3/13
The band describes its sound as "melodramatic popular song" on its myspace page. For all I know, that's actually an accepted genre these days (it probably should be), but it's perfect for these boys. A bit too much drama and a bit too little song at times (losing momentum is no way to sustain drama, but many of these songs stop cold in the middle), but when Ohvaur clicks, the results are impressive.
The Musical Dimensions of Sleastak
reviewed in issue #46, 1/15/94
When attempting to describe this disc, I fall back on the words that I was given by someone attempting the same: "Well, it's Old."
When you hear something this aggressive and discordant, it really can only be coming from the minds and tape loops of Old. Lots of screaming, keyboard and guitar riffs flying hither nither and relentless bass and drum machine work mark this "sound".
A word to use advisedly. Many would claim that this is nothing more than noise and not a distinctive voice. But the same uptight assholes said the same things about Einsturzende Neubatuen and Kraftwerk, and now those folks are recognized as the industrial geniuses they are. Maybe in ten years folks will look back on Old in a kinder light.
I prefer to do so today. This is the epitome of "difficult" listening. There is no concept of song construction, and most of the elements have only a passing interest in each other. Such cacophony is a glorious thing indeed.
reviewed in issue #97, 1/29/96
The masters of tape loop noise return, this time without a bass player for hire. Alan Dubin handled the vocals (as usual) and James Plotkin took care of the music (which is also pretty normal). And, as anyone familiar with Old, the results are anything but normal.
Formula is lighter and poppier than previous outings. The songs are still long exercises in looped instruments, but the level of distortion has dropped, leaving Plotkin's musical constructions relatively laid bare.
I'm happy to report that Old stands this test as well as any other. Think of this as just another installment in the cool saga that is Old. Each album has seen Plotkin and Dubin wander somewhere new, and each time the journey is a revelation.
The liners send out "greetings to those who know and understand". While I don't think anyone can fully understand what's going on here, everyone should know that any Old album is worth treasuring. A love of experimental music has its joys, and Old is one of the finest.
The Old Ceremony
Our One Mistake
reviewed in issue #283, March 2007
Piano-driven rock with plenty of asides. You might imagine Firewater as fronted by, well, Django Haskins. Less verbal one-upsmanship and more musical side journeys.
I know the name Django Haskins, but then, I spent more than seven years in North Carolina. You can get spoiled, walking into a club in Durham or Chapel Hill or Raleigh on a given night and hearing a true visionary. Haskins could use a little tightening in the lyrics, but he and his friends trip their way through a freewheeling set of tunes here.
Are they aping the Beatles? The Stones? The Dead? Lambchop? G Love? Not exactly. There are plenty of elements from all over the musical universe, but the Old Ceremony mixes things up in its own inimitable way. I know it might be hard to imagine, but these folks really do manage to create their own sound out of the bouillabaisse of the cosmos.
Okay, so maybe that's overstating the case. Nonetheless, this is a solid album, one that ought to keep growing on me for some time to come. Hearing discs like this make me want to go home.
reviewed in issue #253, May 2004
Paul Hutzler has one hell of a dramatic streak. His style of heavily-produced Americana (replete with strings and horns and keyboards and more) is as dramatic as anything I've ever heard. This puppy grabs from the very beginning.
There are times when I do wish for a bit of a change of pace. All of these songs have that "important" sound and feel to them, which does get a bit tiring by the end. There's a part of me that would like to hear this album just a few songs at a time.
And then there's the part of me that says "keep going." The enveloping sound is most impressive, and I am always impressed by the way all of the elements come together to drive the plot of the given song.
More of a short story collection than a novel, if you understand my comparison. Which is cool. These pieces are almost too intense to take in one sitting, but the quality kept my ears glued all the way to the end.
Old Pike EP
reviewed in issue #148, 11/24/97
A bashing, organ-laden take on the whole roots-rock ideal. Rock anthems with a bit of the ol' heart and soul. A bit too much, perhaps, but pleasant nonetheless.
Old Pike certainly does have an affinity for songs of great portent. These guys play tunes which have great arena potential. And the stuff is still quite listenable.
Think of a somewhat less-wry version of the Heartbreakers in the 80s. Old Pike hasn't quite found its vein of irony, but there are flashes of wit. The production sound is astonishingly full, almost a wall-of-sound at times. This rather obliterates whatever subtlety that exists in the songs. It also leaves the stuff sounding rather more important than it really is.
I'm not sure I like what these guys are trying to do, but they do it well enough. And hell, if someone wants to be a superstar, why piss on the dream?
Old School 101
reviewed in issue #203, 8/7/00
Um, well, just what the band name promises. Old School hardcore, just tuneful enough to bring a smile to the face. Boy, these guys sure know the formula.
And they execute. The sound is lo-fi and slightly thick, which suits the songs just fine. The lyrics are acerbic and insightful, providing some thought along with the muddy riffage.
Okay, so these guys are throwbacks. I'm not gonna argue with that. In fact, I'm really don't have a whole lot more that I can say, period. This is solid hardcore, classic style. Sometimes that's enough all by itself.
reviewed in issue #160, 6/1/98
Alright, if you were one of the people who bought one of the first thousand copies of Arise Therefore, you've got this disc, which then went by the title of Songs Put Together for the Broken Giant. Also coming out soon (without any nice promo copies for hacks like me to review) is Little Joya, which accompanied the first thousand copies of Joya.
Will Oldham, of course, is the man behind Palace (Palace Music, Palace Brothers, Palace Palace, whatever). He's given up on the whole Palace concept and now is releasing his music under his own name. Hey, I went along with the whole Prince thing, so this is fine with me. A person should be called whatever they want to be called.
The eight songs on this disc are reminiscent of Arise Therefore. Starkly spare arrangements, just Oldham and his guitar, or Oldham and an organ. The songs are presented in something of a leitmotif format (I've been reading the liners on my Star Wars CDs again...). Basically this means that certain themes keep coming up again at specific points, and that those themes mean something.
But hell, you already knew that. The release of this album and Little Joya means that this music is not nearly so rare as it used to be, even if the original discs still are. A nifty trick. Just like the music within.
reviewed in issue #194, 1/24/00
About as basic as Oldham gets (and that's fairly unadorned). The music is for a short film called Ode (thus the title of the album), and it's all guitar-driven instrumental fare.
Variations on a theme, as a lot of "movie" music is, though just as honestly expressed as the typical Oldham lyric. There isn't any subterfuge in either the writing or playing, just fairly raw emotions.
But not overwrought by any means. Indeed, subtlety rules the day. The film involved is apparently a coming-of-age piece (at least, that's what I'm told), and the music has a quiet sense of discovery about it.
Oldham's not going to win any converts with this one. But for folks who are already entranced by his wry introspection, these pieces will come as happy presents.
(Rian Murphy & Will Oldham)
Almost Heaven EP
reviewed in issue #205, 9/18/00
Will Oldham, of course, is the man behind the Palace pantheon, and Rian Murphy's name graces countless albums as a contributor, a producer or (most often) both. Their names are at the top of the marquee of this short disc because of their direction and not just participation.
There are more guests on this EP than the number of minutes it lasts. The usual suspects, including Bill Callahan (Smog), Thymme Jones, David Grubbs, Edith Frost, Darin Gray, Archer Prewitt and (but of course) Jim O'Rourke.
Considering the huge number of artists involved, it's kind of amazing that these four songs sound so intimate. Goofy, even, at times. Murphy and Oldham have done their directing jobs well: This is a terrifically affecting disc. It plays much longer than its short duration.
I don't know who else could have captured so many thoughts and emotions in a 15-minute span. Sure, most folks in the know would have guessed this effort would be good. But the greatness present surpasses even my high expectations.
See also Palace, etc. . .
Olin and the Moon
Everyone You Know
I kept trying to place these guys. There's a definite raucous-mode Ryan Adams feel to the writing, but the arrangements are a bit more upper-midwest. With some ace California lead dropped in at the proper moments.
So, yeah, this is an L.A. band by way of Idaho and Montana. I can hear it. The songs are delivered with great confidence, contributing to the West Coast finish. These songs rise and soar in waves, and that buoyant tendency is what ultimately makes this album successful.
'Cause, y'know, there are a thousand or more singer-songwriter/americana/whatever acts out there, and most of them have assembled a competent amalgam of Gram/Toop/etc. But there's a difference between hoping you've got something and knowing it's there. The sound is the final truth, and these boys have it.
Olin and the Moon even heads a bit further into the hills by channeling some Heartbreakers. There aren't any keyboards to speak of, but the Byrdsian rhythm guitars and tight harmonies are informative.
I'm working so hard to explain why this album simply cannot leave my head. It's so easy to love--but that love is hard for me to quantify. Life goes on. And it goes on better with Olin and the Moon. Folks, back porch season is upon us, and these are the songs we need.
reviewed in issue #6, 1/31/92
Hate. The first song on this wonderful disc. And the emotion running through it. Oh, and a great sense of humor. How else could songs titled "Major Label Blues" and " " show up on an album. And, did you know Olivelawn plays (Fender) "guitars exclusively because they like them"?
Damn, this is a breath of fresh air. The bizarro critical comment in the liners is rather hilarious. Oh, and let's talk about the music for a momento, okay?
It's good. Raucous, grungy hard core that makes me smile. And while stupid poser metal bands cover ZZ Top tunes like "Tush" and "Legs" (really!), these guys do a more obscure oldie right: (I) "Heard it on the X." And, hey boys, what's that thirteenth track called? Just curious.
See also fluf.
(Lily White Records)
reviewed in issue #248, December 2003
A couple of the guys here were once in a band called A Love Supreme. I don't know anything about that band, but the press notes say the boys wanted to be a bit less glam with Oliver Future. The strange thing is that these songs remind me of nothing less than Billy Idol's mellower moments. You know, "Eyes Without a Face."
Well, if that song weren't so damned annoying, I guess. But you get where I'm going here. Oliver Future plays dense, punchy rock music with lots of keyboards and plenty of attitude. And, believe it or not, the stuff isn't smarmy. Which kinda blows to hell my whole Billy Idol reference. Oh well.
The sound is rich and deeply textured. Lots of drum machines, samples, strings (real ones) and more. Oliver Future sometimes sounds like it's straining at the bit, like these guys want to break free and kick a little ass, but that tension actually adds to the enjoyment. There's nothing like a restrained beast to crank up an audience.
I'm not entirely won over here. Oliver Future doesn't quite back up its pompous sound with the goods. Some of these songs are merely, you know, good. Life goes on. I like bands who have the balls to go for it all. Oliver Future just might have one.
The Steve Christy EP
reviewed in issue #227, March 2002
I suppose this is an EP just because there are only four songs here. The disc clocks in at well past a half-hour, though, so I'd be happy to call this an album. But I won't. I always respect the wishes of the artists.
Especially when the sounds coming forth are such as they are here. The songs are driven by either keyboard or guitar (often both) and unwind much like June of 44's more existential pieces. Certainly it would be easy to bring to mind such acts as Tortoise and the Sea and Cake, though the linear tracking of the melodies are much more in line with noise pop fusion than anything else, even if the sound is most certainly that of the restrained techie.
Gorgeous, if in completely unconventional ways. Each piece unfolds at its own pace, taking the listener on some breathtaking journeys before finally wandering home and making a final point. The weird frat-party scene of the cover is almost perfect: It's precisely what this disc isn't. And thus it serves as a great description of what lies within.
Sven-Erik Olsen has been in and out of Minneapolis bands for the last 20 years or so. He's written for the theater, and in general he seems to be living out the artistic b-side dream. That is, servicing his need to create while holding down a real job and dealing with real life. Just like most of the folks I write about, actually.
This is his first "solo" album, though he does bring in a few friends from old bands to help out. The sound is a deft take on the dreamy mid-to-late 60s pop sound. Olsen drops in plenty of anachronisms, which keeps this from being simply an academic exercise in Brian Wilson worship. He is quite adept at molding a familiar sound to his sensibilities.
The production is old-fashioned, dropping in plenty of reverb and depth. In fact, I think the sound of this album is truer to Olsen's influences than the content of his actual songs. He ranges afield when writing, but the sound stays aligned with his aspiration.
I'm quite happy Olsen went into his basement and started the process of creating this album. He's got a real feel for this sound, and he's not afraid to drop in something that is a bit incongruent. Those "odd" ideas are what makes this album so charming.
reviewed in issue #314, February 2010
A set of six movements, Incidental contains some of the most impressive composing I've heard in quite a while.
This is avant garde, of course. You won't be hearing it on the local classical music radio station, even though it arises from the finest traditions. The work was recorded piece by piece. Some of the parts (the strings, in particular) were notated. Many of them were not. In any case, Olson recorded and put this together with intent. I'm gonna stick with composition as my noun of choice.
In his notes, Olson says this music is about movement. Indeed, that's the most obvious thing about it. But I think some of the more introspective moments lend another perspective on objects in motion. That is, at some point everything must rest.
The orchestra (as such) contains both the traditional brass, reeds and strings as well as electric guitars and rock drums. The most impressive thing is that he was able to conceive this music and then put it together so convincingly. I think Frank Zappa might be fairly impressed by what Olson has wrought.
reviewed in issue #268, September 2005
Arrogantly silly, both in music and lyrics, P.J. Olsson is extremely difficult to take seriously. He whips though so many styles and ideas--skewering just about everything he touches--that it can be hard to imagine the mind behind the madness.
But man, this stuff is so much fun. The worldview is utterly cockeyed, not so much upside-down or underground as simply sideways with a vengeance. Quite refreshing that way.
And there is no club that would accept Olsson as a member. He says enough here (with a smile) to offend anyone who takes themselves seriously. And yet, for filling this disc with absolutely loony concepts, there's obviously something driving Olsson.
I can't say what, but I sure enjoyed the ride. The sound of this album is almost innocuous--until you actual pay attention to what he's saying and playing, of course. Perhaps the most subversive album I've heard in years.
Omar and the Howlers
The Screamin' Cat
reviewed in issue #204, 8/28/00
He's still around, trying to take the blues into the new century. Omar has always approached the blues with a revivalistic verve, but he hasn't let tradition dictate the way he sings.
And this disc just continues his tradition. Rock beats and bass lines, plenty of studio effects and that howl. Despite all of the extras, this still sounds like the blues.
That's really his trademark. The blues isn't certain licks played in a certain style. do it by the numbers and you're sure to sound stilted. No, the blues is a state of mind. It's an attitude. It's the way the songs are slung.
Omar and the Howlers know how to whip out a blues tune or two. Purists have (and will) protest, but these boys sure can wail.
On the Might of Princes
reviewed in issue #245, September 2003
Somewhere between the "classic" emo sound of five years ago and post-rock, On the Might of Princes (what a freakin' mouthful!) wails, grinds and throbs. In a most appealing way, of course.
The songs are noodly at times, and the strident guitar sound and off-key singing can also grate, if that's not your style. These guys really do sound like that first wave of emo punkers, just a few miles down the road from Jawbox and Treepeople. And any regular reader will know that's the sort of thing that really makes me smile.
There are modern touches, of course. The whole post-rock linear construction thing, as well as a more muscular production sound that really makes these songs pop right out of the speakers. Frist-rate work all the way down the line.
The sort of album that sound better the twentieth time. On the Might of Princes is likely to evolve into something greater. I can't wait to hear what that might be.
Proximity Effect EP
There is praise music, which is often as uninspiring as it sounds. And then there are artists who probe the totality of the spiritual world, warts and all. Colin Onderdonk falls into the latter category.
His milieu is prog folk (think Fairport Convention back in the Richard Thompson days), and he incorporates an orchestral feel into his songs. These are pieces full of sweeping thoughts and ideas--both in music and lyrics. Indeed, I think the music speaks more often to Onderdonk's spirituality than the lyrics do. But then, I'm a music guy.
And the music here is spectacular. Onderdonk's ambition appears to know no bounds, and he is willing to go to places most folks can't even dream about. It's a shame that this is just an EP. I have a feeling there's a deep well of greatness just waiting to flow.
Sometimes something just jumps up and grabs you by the brain and the heart all at once. I'm not the most spiritual person by any means, and this set struck me deeply. Something is going on, to be sure.
One Hit Wonder
Long Beach vs. the World 7"
reviewed in issue #59, 7/31/94
Mid-tempo pop with the occasional wonderfully crashing guitar. Hooks to the hilt, and a satisfying punch. Nice linear guitar work that can't help but knock in your skull.
Just a wonderful two-song gem. One Hit Wonder has at least two good tunes here, so maybe the name will be nicely oxymoronic.
reviewed in issue #280, November 2006
Norwegian Krautrock, or something like that. Sounds dreary and dreadful, I know, but somehow all the dirge and gloom (and there's plenty) gets picked up by those old school electronic beats.
Actually, it's not that surprising. Why the hell do you think kids went nuts for New Wave? A little melody, some addictive beats and you can sing just about whatever lyrics you want. These folks add atmospheric guitars to the mix--which is a really nice touch, by the way--but there's a lot here to remind a few geezers of those chilly 70s albums that have become somewhat iconic over time.
Kraftwerk, Neu!, Tangerine Dream...critics reference them all the time. Mostly, though, we're talking about the specific sounds of the beat and synth work. These guys really tap into the soul of the sound. And they do it without becoming strictly a retro outfit.
There are nostalgic moments, of course, but 120 Days throws in enough modern elements (more than a few U2 nods, among others) to make this a proper update. Not an easy listen, I suppose, but a satisfying one.
The Nature of the Beast
reviewed in issue #141, 8/18/97
An unusual band, to be sure. The press comments are mostly from foreign radio show hosts, and the bio sheet is almost intolerably pretentious. And yet, when the music came on, I forgot about all that.
Moody pop, though generally upbeat (a well-done contradiction), with lyrics that are as incisive as any I've heard in quite some time. It's hard to be philosophical without getting trite once in a while, but One Left manages that trick deftly.
And while the D.C. scene is one of the most diverse and fertile around, I sure wouldn't have expected a band like this. Not that I'm complaining or anything. Just an observation.
The sound is a bit dark without getting overbearing, which suits the songs just fine. And the songs are the stars here. Stellar writing, which generally leads to a great album. No diversion from that here.
reviewed in issue #204, 8/28/00
Laid-back rolling rock, with snippets of world music blended in. Rick Rowland sounds a lot like Mark Knopfler, and the music as well shares that grand, yet restrained, feel.
Make no mistake. The arrangements here are impressive, showing off an wide range of sounds and ideas. The sweeping sound is the perfect backdrop for the languidly poetic lyrics. Pinpoint execution.
And boy is it. There's an awful lot in the mix here, and it simply fits. There's no need to add a sheen or in any other way crank up the sound. Just leave enough space to let the songs impress.
Which they do. Heartfelt pieces, filled with emotion and power. And yet, they just seem to trickle off the disc. This one will sneak up on you. Let it.
Songs from the Wound
reviewed in issue #273, April 2006
Every so often I get a disc from One Left. In the six years since I last heard the boys, there's been something of a shift in sound. what had simply been nods to roots rock have blossomed into full-blown americana.
Tinged with a bit of the ol' VU/Big Star brooding, of course. No matter how much you evolve, there's no use to ditching your old personality entirely. One Left may feature fiddle and some lap steel, but the heart of these songs is still a bittersweet swipe at life and the things it does for you.
Which is why the gulf between the Zombies and Buck Owens isn't quite so wide as you might think. Take away the window dressing and you've got folks simply trying to make sense of life. One Left songs are wittier than most, and the garage country sound of this album is most attractive.
One of those discs that ought to become more impressive with each successive listen. There's an awful lot of heart in these songs, and you just can't fake that. Solid all the way around.
reviewed in issue #285, May 2007
One Left has changed up its style a bit over the years, but the guys have settled into a fine groove. These laid-back travelogues (of a sort) go down smooth and satisfy immensely.
The songs range the world ("Girl from Montreal," "The Road to Santiago," "Scandinavian Girl," etc.), though they're mostly love songs with locales sorta tossed in. That's not a criticism, really. These are rock songs (or, perhaps, country-blues-rock songs), not travel scholarship.
This album reminds me a lot of Dire Straits or, perhaps even more so, the Notting Hillbillies. I think these guys devotion to the roots of rock and roll is better integrated into to the sound, but that rock-steady beat and smooth sound is certainly reminiscent of Knopflerian panache.
The feel is key here. I found it impossible to resist the easy chair, and after a couple songs I stopped worrying about it. I mean, if One Left wants me to kick back, relax and enjoy some good music, who am I to protest?
One Life Crew
Crime Ridden Society
reviewed in issue #95, 1/15/96
Like most straightedge bands, One Life Crew knows exactly what it wants to say, and the lyrics are as clear as can be. And while I don't agree with all the sentiments here ("illegal immigrants get out", in particular), the band makes strong cases for its beliefs.
That's the good side of straightedge: Intelligently presented ideas. The down side is a general lack of attention to musical creativity. Much like most Christian death metal bands, the message comes first, and the music is just something to play in the background. I wish more attention had been paid to that side of things.
The performances are adequate, and the production is quite sharp. And at times the music really does kick. If the band were to focus on the musical side a little more next time, then the album could be really great.
reviewed in issue #265, June 2005
From San Francisco, home of the weirdest music in the world, comes One Umbrella. This duo makes electronic music of the most unusual kind: Abstract, yet utterly coherent.
The coherence comes from a judicious use of rhythm. Each piece is grounded in certain rhythms, which allows the extraneous noise ("melody" and otherwise) to retain shape, even if the ideas themselves aren't exactly rectilinear.
When I say electronic, I mean in that in a production sort of way. An awful lot of the sounds on this disc are made by regular instruments, instruments that are either played or recorded in unusual ways. The assembly is what makes these pieces so exciting. They rise and fall as they tell their stories--and despite the surface cacophony, very little translation is necessary.
Electric and exciting. I will admit, as I always do, that I'm a stone cold sucker for this kind of excursion, but One Umbrella impresses me as few do. This is the sort of experimental abstract album that could well attract a number of converts. Most invigorating.
(Rival Schools and Onelinedrawing)
Rival Schools United by Onelinedrawing EP
reviewed in issue #220, 8/13/01
So this is actually Rival School's first recording (as opposed to the disc I reviewed recently), and while this is supposedly a "split" EP, both bands played on most of the songs. In fact, the disc doesn't even say which song belongs to which band.
Soaring emo, minimalist even for the genre. A very tight recording of some really well-written songs. The slight production sound really suits the songs, bringing out the best thoughts in them.
The sort of collaborative effort that gives these endeavors a good name. Rival Schools and Onelinedrawing do have a history, and this disc show why. Would that all bands could work together so well.
One Man Army
Last Word Spoken
reviewed in issue #197, 3/27/00
The first song is titled "The Old Songs," and that's the way One Man Army plays. Loose and sloppy in the British pub punk style. Though I'm pretty sure these guys aren't from the U.K.
It really doesn't matter where they're from, you know? There are two important elements to this style: A consistent fast tempo and choruses than can be sung even when utterly blitzed. One Many Army comes through with flying colors.
Is it particularly distinguished? Nope. Is it even distinguishable from other bands of its ilk? Kinda, but not as much as I might like. Doesn't matter a lot, though, 'cause all I did was bound along. Not much to do, really.
Just a pleasant, fun set. No grand agendas, absolutely nothing new. But One Man Army plays its game as well as anyone. Being faceless is just part of the sound. All you have to do is turn it up and start drinking. It'll work every time.
Rumors and Headlines
reviewed in issue #234, October 2002
There's always room for a tuneful, blistering punk album in my discer. One Man Army isn't the most aggressive band around, and there are more pleasantries than sneers on this disc. But see, OMA takes after the British punk tunesmiths of the late 70s and early 80s. Or, say, Naked Raygun. But I'm repeating myself (after a fashion).
Some of these songs measure up better than others. There are a couple sour notes here, I must admit. Still, I've got to confess to feeling this wave of nostalgia or something while listening. These guys aren't throwbacks without remorse, but rather simply folks who wear their influences on their sleeves.
The Kevin Army-engineered sound is modern--very little mush in there at all. This is a very sparse-sounding album. OMA is a trio, and there's not much in the way of distortion or overdubs to really fill in the spaces. Fine by me.
It's becoming a recurring theme of this issue, but basic needs are needs nonetheless. And while this album doesn't do anything spectacularly, it satisfies a few primal desires. No way I'm gonna complain about that.
One Minute Silence
Available in All Colours
reviewed in issue #156, 4/6/98
Another band in the metal-rap-hardcore bin. With a lot of technological help in the booth. And, not surprisingly, the music is generally insipid and dull, with similarly hackneyed lyrics.
Have I ever mentioned that I find this music trend to be appallingly lacking in musical growth? I know, it was damned popular a couple years ago, but even thirteen-year-olds have figured out that big guitars and pseudo-anti-establishment lyrics aren't all that interesting when done in the most generic way possible.
And to think this is what Faith No More wrought. And while that band (smartly) went another way years ago, the rest of us are left to pick up the wreckage. I'm still astonished at Rage's popularity, and even second- and third-tier bands such as this one can raise cash from labels.
You know, I try not to characterize a particular style of music as inherently regressive. But if I get many more of these discs, I may make an exception. I simply cannot express how incessantly dull I find One Minute Silence. Put me to sleep.
One Star Hotel
Good Morning, West Gordon
(Stereo Field Recordings)
reviewed in issue #261, February 2005
There's a review on One Star Hotel's website that calls the band "Wilco without the weirdness." I'm assuming this is a reference to latter-day Wilco, as that band's early days were much more Counting Crows-like. Anyway, I kinda like that review, though One Star Hotel is much more roots-inflected than art pop-directed.
This is simply solid, introspective rock and roll with a back porch feel. One Star Hotel's eccentricity manifests itself in the often unusual use of keyboards and some rather unexpected bridges. But instead of sounding like some sort of lurching monster, these surprising encounters delight.
The sound is full without getting overbearing. Every once in while, when the boys really want to dust some sugar on the hooks, there's a full-on sonic boom, but mostly the sound follows the lead of the songs, moving along in comfortable, if somewhat unusual ways.
Solid stuff. This ought to prick up the ears of fans of progressive pop, whether you're talking Radiohead or the Flaming Lips or Wilco or whathaveyou. There's no one thing about this album that really stands out for me, but the overall excellence is quite apparent.
One Step Beyond
Life Imitates Art
reviewed in issue #247, November 2003
Death metal with a drum machine. I know, I know, everyone calls this stuff extreme nowadays, but Justin Wood hocks up his vocals in a wondrously classic style. The speeds riffs combined with some anthemic riffs bring to mind Iron Maiden on steroids.
I do think the boys could use better transitions between phases. I am a bit more tolerant of this sort of thing than I used to be, and One Step Beyond at least tries to put in some coherent bridges, but every once in a while the collisions are a bit jarring.
Still, when you're able to bring to mind such different bands as Mordred, Venom and Cannibal Corpse--and sound better at times--well, you must be doing something right. One Step Beyond may be old school, but it's working its ass off to bring this sound up to date.
I think I'm reviewing more loud stuff this issue than I have all year. Maybe I have a craving that needs to be satisfied. Or, maybe, bands like One Step Beyond are better than what I've been hearing. Personally, I think it's the latter. These guys are a lot of fun.
One Ton Shotgun
Songs for Sucks 7"
reviewed in issue #141, 8/18/97
The third Sike release I've reviewed in this issue, and damned if it doesn't sound anything like either of the other two. A good trend for the label.
But One Ton Shotgun isn't much more than a middling hardcore band that needs better production. The songs are fair, but the production sucks out all of the potential power and energy, and I really can't tell if they would be much more effective live.
Kinda like Sloppy Seconds without the sense of humor. It was always easy to laugh off those guys' sound problems because the songs were so amusing. Not the case here. This stuff simply needs more oomph.
Best Friends 7"
reviewed in issue #172, 11/23/98
A little slab from the mighty Oneida. Highly eclectic pop musings, understated and sparsely produced. Certainly acclaimable.
I like the way the band undercuts its music with a variety of strange breaks and sound infusions. The music never comes from one direction; it sounds omnipresent. Overwhelming, despite the relatively weak sound.
But that sound is part of the deception. There is so much power in the musical ideas and the lyrics that to blast them out to the world would be a disservice. No, Oneida is much better when presented this way.
Seven inches of vinyl greatness. Oneida refuses to cut corners or be led into one. The expansive view of the potential of music that I hear here is enthralling. The sound of musical fertility.
The Steel Rod EP
reviewed in issue #203, 8/7/00
Not unlike a more manic Brainiac (with lots of sharp organ). The energy bursting off this disc (even in its less excitable moments) is almost off the charts. This puppy crackles.
It's kinda hard to explain how Oneida puts its songs together. There's the organ, of course, which generally is used as a rhythm instrument. The guitars brood or howl depending on the need, and everything else just follows suit.
And does so in astonishing fashion. You know, now that I think of it, I can make a little more sense of this. Know how the Stooges kinda ripped apart 60s pop and then pumped it up? Well, imagine if someone were to come along, take the Stooges and then Stooge-ize that. With organ. That about does it, I think. Pretty fucking breathtaking.
Come On Everybody, Let's Rock
reviewed in issue #207, 10/30/00
Oneida decides to quit mucking about with half-assed hooks and simply lays down some loud ass rock. Or, at least, dance around the idea of what "rock" really is. That makes more sense. I mean, these folks have never taken one thing straight on.
And boy, does this puppy shake. Lots of thick, fuzzy guitars and very little in the way of honey on top. The songs kinda churn and rattle a lot, sometimes coming to rest in slightly new territory, and sometimes not. Sorta like if Killdozer got a little arty.
Just in the lead guitar lines, which occasionally dance around unfettered. Mostly, though, this album is a pile of noise, punctuated by shouts here and there. God damn, it's so fucking exciting I can barely keep my shorts clean. That's not sarcasm, folks. I'm dead serious.
Oneida rocks. Hard. Harder than your dad ever was, knowhutimean? Big ass hunks of the rock hurled at a wall. The splats were captured on tape. Oneida rules. Dude. That ain't no lie.
Mike Onesko's Blindside Blues Band
To the Station
reviewed in issue #116, 8/12/96
The blues is one of those things that is simple to learn but next to impossible to master. The career of the Blindside Blues Band is a case in point.
Now with only Mike Onesko left from the original line-up, the band still cranks out songs that are technically correct, but somehow come up empty in the feel department.
Shrapnel head honcho Mike Varney helps out on guitar and also wrote about half the songs. Aynsley Dunbar stopped by to pound the skins, with James Lomenzo on bass and Parris Bertolucci on keys. The problem here isn't the playing, per se, but the visceral impact of that playing. These folks sound like they're merely whipping out an arrangement, not expressing some deep-felt emotion.
Passable blues songs, played just like Don "No-Soul" Simpson would have done it. That's the real shame.
See also Blinside Blues Band.
Leave Me Alone EP
reviewed in issue #143, 9/15/97
Four studio tracks, a couple live shots and an interview. The music is basic Brit punk, the sort of thing that led to NWOBHM.
Indeed, the stuff is much more reminiscent of early Iron Maiden or Def Leppard than the sort of thing that us folks in the States think of punk these days. A bit of oi, but a lot of attitude and serious guitars.
Too bad it isn't more interesting. Oneway System can deliver nice riffs, but the songs are simply two-dimensional. Kinda amusing, but nothing to get excited about. The live tracks are better than the studio ones, but the sound is not good. As for the interview, well, it has a few Spinal Tap moments, but that seems kinda sad.
All said, middle of the pack.
Waiting for Zero
reviewed in issue #188, 9/20/99
A couple years ago I reviewed a live/studio set from the boys, and it didn't impress much. Oh, it wasn't bad, but it lacked fire. This album, well, this one's a lot better in that book.
Still not the most adventurous music in the Britpunk book, mind you, but at least worth cranking the volume up and thrashing about a bit. There is no pretension here, just straightahead riffage and gang vocals.
Memorable? Not really. But the sound and energy of this disc are infectious. And that's really what I was missing on that earlier set.
No grand prize winner, certainly, but a pleasant chunk of the punk nonetheless. One Way System blasts all out, and it falls short of the mark, well, it's not for lack of effort.
Onid + Isil
Onid + Isil
reviewed in issue #274, May 2006
Imagine Devo as a lo-fi electronic improvisational duo. And then stab yourself up the nose with an icepick a few times. You might get the idea then.
This is twisted stuff, no doubt. The straight up-and-down beats lend a disco flair, but in reality the 10 "jams" here are mutant messages from alien life forms. Nothing else explains what can be heard here.
Mind you, it's horribly addictive. Kinda like candy for the warped musical mind. Maybe more crack than candy. I kept turning up the volume, and it was never enough--even as the feedback and distortion threatened the structural integrity of my CD shelves.
Um, yeah. Something like that. Inordinately seductive. If you're like me, of course. If not, you'll probably be sterilized. Darwin's way, I guess.
reviewed in issue #46, 1/15/94
More than enjoyable punk music, injected with just the right amount of pop sensibility. And you have to love guys who write: "Please note: This record contains no lyric sheet. If you want words of wisdom read a book." Apart from the correct use of capitalization after a colon (which my copy editor girlfriend is always on my case about), musicians encouraging people to read is always a nice sign. Plus, they don't consider themselves philosophical gods, which is a mania far too many are afflicted with.
This disc just keeps rolling and rolling with great songs. Almost hypnotic, really. And the words are much wiser than most. All told, this is great stuff that folks should get off on. Be sure not to pass it over when it arrives in your box.
Only Living Witness
Prone Mortal Form
reviewed in issue #36, 6/30/93
Back to the basics metal. And I like it. Much like the other new CM release, Stillborn, OLW play what has to be known as "heavy metal." With the new Anthrax doing so well, the air is ripe for stuff that kicks their ass (not an easy task at all).
But Only Living Witness beat the shit out of any band of their ilk that has released an album in the last year. This includes excellent stuff from Piece Dogs, the aforementioned Anthrax, Sodom and M.O.D. (not to mention all that major-label crap from Seattle).
A finely-tuned sensitivity to great riffage really helps, and the songs are crafted to perfection. Nothing drags. If it needs a little punch, it's there.
If you aren't playing this, you are missing out on one of the best albums of the year. And you are a shithead. Just so you know.
reviewed in issue #100, 2/26/96
The folks who remembered the original hardcore sound of Only Living Witness did not like Prone Mortal Form. The rest of us really grooved on the the thing. And now that a few years have passed, whatever buzz that album ceated has departed, and the band has to start over.
Innocents is a good way to begin again. Yes, it is still much more metal than hardcore, but not in that cheesy NYC way. Jonah Jenkins has a great voice, and he's not afraid to let it fly. The band helps out with fresh riffage and a nice tight feel.
Musical cliches do creep in from time to time ("Deed's Pride" is a particularly bad example), and apart from the acoustic touches, I don't hear a lot of growth from the band. For all the time between albums, there isn't a huge difference.
The good tunes are really good. Great, even. Rippers like "Some Will Never Know" show how to take the Sab idea and make it even cooler. If I were a radio guy, I'd be ecstatic. There's plenty here to rotate in and out for a long time. But the inconsistencies are maddening. Stringing more than a couple good songs together seems to be impossible. I can hear the band trying, and that's about the worst thing that could happen.
Some of the best songs I've heard this year are on this disc. Some of the worst reside here, too. Only Living Witness never does anything halfway.
reviewed in issue #232, August 2002
Two improvisations from guitarist Kinno Yoshiaki. Man, can this guy coax some amazing sounds out of an axe. And turn those sounds into something truly astonishing.
Fifty-plus minutes of guitar noodling never sounded so cool. Yoshiaki really does have a gift for crafting improvisations into coherent works. This isn't some guy screwing around. It's serious business.
Truly fine work. I'm afraid I really can't do justice to the work here. It must be heard to be believed, much less understood. If you care at all about serious guitar playing, this disc is a must.
reviewed in issue #72, 3/15/95
Heavy as sludge, but this moves along with an industrial dance beat (albeit often at dirge speed) to produce a real anthemic effect that even KMFDM won't inflict on us.
For having such a tight and controlled hand at the knobs, Oomph! manages to slam vicious industrio-metal anthems time and time again. The guitars change sound all the time, the drums go from real to machine (and back) and the bass can be nonexistent or overpowering. But the final result is the same: true sonic turbulence of the sort that can toss airplanes.
An easy, glib characterization would be German industrial output, but through experimentation and sheer talent Oomph! jumps ahead of the crowd.
reviewed in issue #131, 3/31/97
Competent metalcore that manages to intelligently attack a few critical issues. Yeah, there's some dreck, and sometimes the music doesn't quite jump out at me, but overall I'd say I'm impressed.
The thing I like best is Open Defiance's refusal to stick to the program. This is a band that's willing to take a few chances and mess around a bit with an established sound. I know, that's the only way to get anywhere, but you'd be surprised how many bands don't know that.
Or maybe not. Anyway, OD needs to go even further in its exploration of this style of music, and some better consistency in the songwriting couldn't hurt. There are some definite filler moments.
A good sound, though, and a good tape. With enough work and the right direction, Open Defiance just might keep moving up.
reviewed in issue #51, 3/31/94
Some of that old-style metal going down. I liked it then, I like it now, but like the other demo reviewed here, this is not original.
Again, great playing, great production, great singing and good songs. But I get the feeling I've heard it somewhere before. I still like Open Mind quite a bit. They just need to grow a little bit.
reviewed in issue #72, 3/15/95
Meandering pop music punctuated by Annette Kramer's willowy, swooping vocals.
When the music connects with Kramer, as on "She", the effect can be chilling and otherworldly. On other tracks, it sounds like the band and vocalist aren't even performing the same song.
Such unevenness can be expected from a young band, and Opium Den has plenty here to build from. Even when things do not click, the performances are technically quite good. It's just a matter of merging diverging ideas, always the most difficult part of making music.
Plenty of good reason to dig into this disc, though. Don't let the growing pains scare you.
Take the Whole Midrange and Boost It
reviewed in issue #297, June 2008
The title is a great description of what most power pop bands need to do to their mix. I suppose it's some sort of inside joke, as these Northern Irish folks play wonky power pop that does, indeed, boost the middle range.
Not so much as to make a mud puddle, of course. These songs have all sorts of ornaments dangling from them, and it would serve no purpose to hide them. This sort of eclecticism comes close to sounding forced, but in the end it simply comes across as a decidedly less-freaky version of Ween.
Take that as you like. The folks in Oppenheimer seem to know that they're not misunderstood geniuses. They're just solid pop musicians with a fair number of fun ideas. That's okay by me.
More than okay, really. The largely electronic flights of wackiness didn't distract from the business of pumping out solid hooks and sturdy harmonies. More like enhanced them, really. Highly enjoyable.
Solstice of Oppression
reviewed in issue #51, 3/31/94
Odd production that keeps everything muted. Not muffled, because it's all so clear. Just, well, making this a sort of elevator music production-style death metal album.
I know that sounds harsh, but I also like it. These guys can play, but they don't beat you over the head. And when you really crank the stereo, you start to appreciate the clean production. It sounds absolutely great!
The music is more old school, but combined with the new sound it takes a new life. The songs don't repeat themselves (a far too common trap). I found myself wanting to hear what the next song would do. Excellent.
European Opression Live/As Blood Flows
reviewed in issue #97, 1/29/96
I really liked Oppressor's album on Red Light. The band's technical-yet-noisy take on death metal was damned refereshing. I'd heard of this project, and I'm quite pleased to have it sitting in the discer now.
The live tracks (the first five) are oddly muted. These may be live recordings, but either no one was at the show (a shame) or the crowd noise was mixed out. The result is almost easy-listening death metal. I don't understand.
I'm not even going into the cover of "Looks that Kill". It's better than Unleashed's take on Judas Priest, but come on. It's the crap on the first half of this disc that has brought the rating down to "average".
The real treat here is the new studio stuff, titled As Blood Flows. And it's fucking stunning, as I expected. The production is lean and clean, showing off the band's musical prowess. The tight sound is like a knife slicing though all the crap earlier on the disc.
I really dig the technical take on old school death metal that Oppressor promulgates. The EP (last seven tracks) is the only reason to get this, but that's one hell of a reason. I can't wait for the next full-length.
reviewed in issue #135, 5/26/97
The main point here is that Rob Crow (Heavy Vegetable, Thingy, etc.) wanted to explore the musical potential of the Optigan, an instrument made by Mattel in the early 70s. This apparently is yet another toy that I missed out on during my impoverished youth.
Crow and Pea Hix are the "approximate" members of the band (that's the word the press sheet uses), but I'd say most of the songwriting fell to Crow. Optiganally Yours continues in his tradition of whipping out wildy catchy pop with just a bit of musical subversion. So while pure popheads will certainly be happy with most of the tunes, there's always that little bit lying beneath the surface ready to bite.
But unlike his dreadfully self-indulgent solo album, Crow has restrained most of his worst impulses here and presented us with a wacky pop album. The Optigan is something of a sample-driven organ, though you have to use the samples that come with the thing. No recording.
The sound is lo-fi (as the disc notes), but the music is still a big load of fun. Crow strikes again, and this one's a solid hit.
See also Heavy Vegetable and Thingy.
Optimum Wound Profile
Lowest Common Denominator
reviewed in issue #24, 11/15/92
Godflesh sped up and subsequently wimped out. OWP takes the finest aggression of grindcore and adds in the sterile purity of industrial beats. Well, some of the drumming may be "real", but it really makes no difference, and who cares? Like the heaviest songs on Ministry's two previous albums, this stuff is almost impossible to call music. It sets the table for the future.
Oh, and another thing: it is great fun to listen to. This compares favorably to another Roadrunner act, Fear Factory. OWP is heavier and more intent on tearing you limb from limb. A sentiment I wholly approve.
Silver or Lead
reviewed in issue #41, 10/15/93
Their debut was some of the nastiest shit I have ever heard. Not pornographic nasty, but mean nasty. The music came out and plain bit your ass off.
Less emphasis on pain and more on song structure. It should lead to more commercial acceptance. I don't think it is as good as Lowest Common Denomenator, but then most of you ignored that disc. You can't miss this one. It's a high-quality version of the hip sound these days. The only reason this one flops is if it isn't promoted. No other.
Into the Unknown
With a sound that is positively Dan Swano-esque, Oracle's second album blasts the band well beyond its Alabama roots.
Back in the day (say, 25 years ago), hearing this sort of epic, melodic death metal from an American band would have been unusual, to say the least. The electronic cape that swirls around the mayhem is suitably melodic, and the execution is tight and expressive.
And the songs. Like a lot of today's extreme metal acts, there are elements of black metal (particularly in the drums), but the shifts in tone feel organic and not forced. This is a lot more than simply "Let's stitch together these four ideas and call it a song."
I think that's what impresses me most here. Oracle takes the time to write good songs. The technical virtuosity is impressive, but arpeggios don't stir the soul. These boys understand how to craft a song so that the music says more than the words. The way these pieces are built is first-rate. This one soars immediately, and it never comes back to Earth.
reviewed in issue #66, 11/15/94
Orange is fond of the anthem, and the sound that Warrior Soul and Mother Love Bone made popular all those years ago.
Well, Warrior Soul went downhill quickly after the stunning debut, and we all know what happened to MLB. So it's about time someone out there rediscovered their cool formulas.
It's all right to be pretentious, as long as you're low-key about it. Every song on Pill has a point, but there isn't much preaching. Precisely the way to approach communication.
I got a comfortable cheez feel as soon as the first chords washed out through my speakers, and it continued throughout the album. No new sounds or terribly creative musical ideas. But Orange is a solid band, and the album is worth more than a few spins.
Relax with... EP
reviewed in issue #208, 11/20/00
Jaunty post-garage pop with lots of echo and reverb in the guitars. All that generally goes together, of course, but I just wanted to paint a complete picture. The songs are finely-cut gems played with abandon.
Not unlike Three Finger Cowboy, the vocals often wander around the intended notes. They work just as well. Precision isn't the goal here, and the wavering lends more of an emotional pop to the sound.
This stuff sounds like it was tossed off in less than an hour. But the craft beneath that rough veneer belies the work involved. Always make it sound effortless. Orange Beauties do that with aplomb.
Orange County Supertones
Supertones Strike Back
reviewed in issue #139, 7/21/97
Guess what? Another hardcore ska band trying to charge into the universe with heavy chords, tuneful horns and a bag full of hooks. Alright, so the Supertones are rather derivative (hell, the name alone conjures images of a certain Boston product), but at least they produce.
Oh, nothing terribly original or spectacular, but the hooks are decent enough, and skankers who don't pay too much attention to their music will be amused. I'd give this higher marks if it weren't for the obvious "driving the trend into the ground" factor.
And there, the Supertones just don't bring anything new to the table. Yeah, they pull off the expected tricks, but there's nothing to recommend them over any other number of bands in the same arena.
Slick production and catchy hooks are nice, but it's even better when your sound isn't being heard all over the place, played by another (much more successful) band.
Chase the Sun
reviewed in issue #177, 2/22/99
Hyper clean, ultra-tight ska pop. These guys played for the pope (there are a few songs with overtly Christian lyrics, tastefully done, of course), and they've obviously come a long way in a short time.
The music is much improved since the last album I heard. Closer to two-tone than Bosstone sound, and I think it works better for them. Someone obviously encouraged the band to find its own sound (at least, as much as that is possible with the plethora of ska outfits currently laying waste to the nation), and here it is.
Rather professional all the way, and that's my one real gripe. This stuff is too clean (I'm talking about the sound, not the lyrics, which are also kinda vanilla). A bit too automatonic. Decent, but not exactly inspiring.
A whale load better than I expected. Yeah, the guys still play things a bit too safe, but come on, only so much can be expected. I always like to be pleasantly surprised.
The Big Black
(The Music Cartel)
reviewed in issue #198, 4/17/00
These boys are definitely into the more active side of Black Sabbath. Now, Ben Ward sounds nothing like Ozzy (or any subsequent Sab singer), but the music does have that Iommi/Butler groove going on.
It's such a joyful take on that old feel that I'm inclined to forgive some of the excessive use of "influences." Sure, the guys could have worked a little harder to define their own sound. I won't argue that. But still, all this stuff does is make me smile.
Perhaps it's the full, bounding feel of the music. Orange Goblin never lets the songs get turgid. Overblown? Sure. But never dull. I'm one for excess anyway.
With all the caveats already on that table, I've got to say that this just rips the hinges off my doors. There's nothing new here, but nonetheless Orange Goblin delivers boatloads of smashing riffage and fun. Get lost in the decadence.
Humpty Dumpty 7"
reviewed in issue #139, 7/21/97
Very deliberate jangle-pop delivered with vocals that sound like a southern version of Johnny Rotten. You kinda have to hear this to understand what I'm talking about.
Way too pent up. Both songs are very simply constructed, and the music is far too predictable. This sounds like a young band where the members are still feeling each other out. There is no coherence to the sound at all.
Some more time playing together should help Orange Hat sound a bit more "natural", but I think a bit of an easier hand on the songwriting helm would also be good. And another hint: don't make the key phrase in your big teen anthem "Humpty was pushed!". Cliches suck.
Pretend I'm Human
reviewed in issue #191, 11/15/99
Always a little closer to the hip-hop than the hardcore, Orange 9mm adheres to the grooves even more on this album. In fact, the fairly extensive use of drum machines and programming takes a little bit of the live edge off the sound.
Orange 9mm has always been one of the more innovative groovecore (rapcore? I'm just not up on my terminology, I'm afraid) bands around. This effort doesn't hurt that rep. The increasing reliance on technology in the studio probably isn't changing the live sound so much, but it is a bit disconcerting here.
That's my main complaint. I kinda prefer the live sound better, and the somewhat sterile production here has stripped a lot of the fire out. I'd like to hear a bit more raging. The lyrics are still intense, but the songs don't come off as incendiary as they should.
I had a good time, as I usually do with the guys, but I'm left a little cold. The overall effect of the album is a downer, despite some decent moments. Just a bit too far over the production line.
Songs from the Unknown
(Young American Recordings)
reviewed in issue #265, June 2005
The requisite sunny pop album for this set of reviews. These songs are almost too perky to believe, but they're stocked with a solid set of 80s-style riffage and group singing. .38 Special meets Green Day, or something like that.
No, no, once again, I get it wrong. The .38 Special part is right, but the modern reference must be multiple. Part power punk pop, part glossy alt country, part emo (duh). And it all explodes at the hooks.
Really, that's the way this kind of music has to be judged. The melodies are strong and strikingly catchy, and the hooks simply blast the songs into orbit. I know half of my attraction (more than half, really) comes from the fact that I graduated from high school in 1987. "Almost Paradise" was the theme song for our prom. Heart and Loverboy (the singers, anyway). I've still got a soft spot for all that kinda silliness.
And so does Orange Park. There's a certain feel to those 80s AOR anthems that hasn't really been replicated. Guns N' Roses tore them down, and then Nirvana obliterated them. Hey, wait, I've got it: The Cars meet Alkaline Trio. Yeah, I think I really like that. But not nearly as much as I like this album.
The Orange Peels
reviewed in issue #141, 8/18/97
Digging deep into the Big Star bag, and then giving everything the musical equivalent of a watercolor wash, the Orange Peels are simply alt.pop.lite. And a bit clunky, at that.
Decent writing, particularly in the lyrics, but too often the music fails to shift gears (not to mention chords) smoothly. Playing great is not a prerequisite for this sorta stuff, but a base level of competence is required. I'm not sure where the problem lies, but the sound is a bit herky-jerky.
The Orange Peels also don't really take any chances. There are a few nice bells and whistles (the production is good, with a fine mix that allows each instrument to be heard), but those seem to have been dropped in to hide some deficiencies.
Even with the problems, this stuff isn't terrible. Just mundane. And with the plethora of pop bands making the rounds these days, better is necessary.
The Oranges Band
reviewed in issue #256, August 2004
Two five-song EPs and four other tracks. So it's not exactly an album, and it isn't necessarily supposed to mesh together nicely. Of course, considering the sort of music these boys play, not much is going to match up anyway.
Among the rules in punk music (and while there are many rock elements here, these guys are punk) is that keyboards are verboten. I know, no one pays attention to this any more, but the Oranges Band plays that rough, hardscrabble, staggering style of punk that is old, old school.
And yes, I know almost all the 70s punk icons used electric piano or some such. But not like this. Not as a significant melodic element. Not as a sonic touchstone. Imagine the Jesus Lizard with keyboards. Well, okay, you got me there once again...but that's the sort of freewheeling, volume-dosing music we're talking about. Somewhere between Men at Work and the Jesus Lizard, I guess.
I mean that as a compliment, by the way. There's a thousand ways to take such a reference badly. But I am sincere in my admiration. The Oranges Band makes a righteous racket, and it does so in some truly unusual ways. Bite the adrenaline wire and hold on.
Orchestra of Spheres
reviewed in issue #333, December 2011
Throbbing, pulsating tunes played on non-traditional and homemade instruments (with the possible exception of a couple drums, which sound kinda normal). These New Zealand folks find the groove and then pound it into the ground.
The groove itself might be a little weird, though. And while there's nothing wrong with a disco throb, these folks are just as happy to wend away to more subtle pulsations.
What can't be denied is the hypnotic repetitiveness of the songs. While that feature might seem annoying, it's necessary to truly appreciate the wonder of the writing. The result is almost raga-like, and it's most ingratiating.
I'm sold. A few more repetitions and my mind ought to be fully reprogrammed. I've been needing that for years.
Orchestre National de Barbes
reviewed in issue #169, 10/12/98
Barbes is a neighborhood in Paris, a remnant of the French colonial past. The inhabitants come from a variety of locales in north Africa, and each of the musicians here is upholding somewhat different traditions. Ranging from the west African guitar pop to Arabic folk songs (with plenty of Western pop, rock and jazz elements as well), the Orchestre swirls every little bit together into a convincing "national" sound of Barbes.
This is a live disc, but that's not apparent in the sound. The recording is excellent, picking up even the smallest nuance. The live setting might well be the ideal way to enjoy the synergy of the players. These folks work together, fusing the multitudes of influences into something original, greater than the parts alone.
Strong from beginning to end. The playing is exciting and exuberant, the arrangements designed for maximum pleasure. This music compels me to get up from my desk and dance. so I do. For a minute.
A truly uplifting experience. A wonderful disc which celebrates the greatness of diversity and the sharing of different experiences. This one screams for attention.
Order From Chaos
reviewed in issue #36, 6/30/93
A Kansas City band I've never heard of. So I figured they must suck or something. But as usual, I'm wrong.
Outstanding grindage (not the Pauly Shore term), with vocals that lie somewhere between Cannibal Corpse and the Accused. Everything is moving all the time. No chance for relief.
The production is fairly limited (as it was recorded in a K.C. suburb, you might expect that). But that means the band's talent will make or break a record. Here, I think it helped to show off some really great songs.
A simply amazing adrenaline rush. It never gets out-of-control stupid, and there sure as hell is no slowing down. Their shows can't last more than 45 minutes, or they are in incredible shape. I will endeavor to find these guys and figure out why they are still in K.C.
Conquest, Love & Self Perseverance
(Cold Meat Industry-Relapse)
reviewed in issue #162, 6/29/98
Kinda dull industrial background music with poems about a wide variety of erotic pastimes (from soft kisses to the most extreme elements of BDS&M and beyond).
Vaguely interesting, though I think I might have been able to read the lyrics (there is no singing to speak of) as well as the band members. I dunno. I think this stuff is supposed to get me off, but I just feel cold.
There are some cool musical elements. Sparse, spooky soundscapes which softly throb behind the spoken words. But that's not enough to keep me going.
Talking about sex isn't enough to get me hot. There's got to be some passion; I don't require Teri Weigel-style excessive moaning, but something other than dry words. Then again, I don't really like to get fitted in a hood and pissed on. Maybe that's the problem.
(as Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio)
Make Love, and War--The Wedlock of Roses
(Cold Meat Industry)
reviewed in issue #208, 11/20/00
The main intent with this disc is to illustrate the close relationship of love and pain. Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio (a slight name change) does this musically, lyrically and visually in the liners.
Not many industrial goth acts wield an acoustic guitar nearly so well. Combining that with throbbing beats and atmospheric backing sound is pretty much genius. And that's just the second song.
Indeed, each piece has a different sound and feel, but the theme remains the same. The vocals are generally delivered in as spoken word thoughts, sometimes overshadowed by the music and sometimes not.
A thoughtful and impressive set. Yeah, this is the sort of thing that the uninitiated should avoid. But if you're in the mood to really contemplate love, death, pain and (occasional) joy, crank this one up. Your mind will enjoy the ride.
Grab that Gun
reviewed in issue #259, November 2004
While VH1 seems to have segued nicely into the 90s (20 years isn't nostalgia; it's ancient history), a lot of folks seem to be listening to the music of their toddlerhood. It's funny; I've never really gotten into that early 70s stuff, but I can't figure out why so many bands of twenty-somethings keep digging deep into Joy Division, the Cure, P.I.L., the Smiths, OMD and the like.
As if we're actually talking about "the like." Nonetheless, these modern bands seem to hear connections that I never considered. Take the Organ, which is a wonderful amalgam of those three bands and then some. The most obvious influence is the Cure, but this stuff is better-produced than those early punky efforts and the songwriting is sharper as well.
And still a considerable raw energy drives this album. The beats are midtempo, yet still insistent. The vocals are well-heeled, yet still impassioned. Not whiny. Just the faintest hint of angst. Really nice that way.
Now, see, this was the music of my junior high years (though I never heard it until I was in college, naturally). I've got something of an emotional attachment to these gothic chord progressions and synthesized backbeats. The Organ does a sterling job of bringing back the best of the old and creating something entirely now. Scintillating.
reviewed in issue #302, November 2008
I loved the Organ's first album. It's always refreshing to hear a band nail the dour pop sound the first time out. Then the band broke up. And then, a year later, the kind folks decided to record the remaining Organ songs. And so we have this. Even more melancholy than Grab that Gun, these six tunes serve as a reminder that you've gotta appreciate what you have when you have it. Sadness reigns.
(Unsafe Unsound-Metal Blade)
reviewed in issue #46, 1/15/94
Death Angel, less singer Mark Osegueda. Guitarist Rob Cavastany takes over those chores, and things roll on.
This is more restrained than the Death Angel recordings. And although the anthemic touches remain, the songs do not sound quite so crafted for a "metal" audience. It's odd to say that, considering the definite sheen on everything, but this is just better. And I think it opens the guys up to wider audience, too.
Prime plundering for the more commercial of you out there, and those on the underground side of things might find a heavier track or two to your liking. Sure, there's a little cheese, but this is solid music. Maturity wears well on the Organization.
reviewed in issue #156, 4/6/98
There's a line in the second track,"Ricochet", about an undulating worm. That's a pretty good description of the music. Kinda that tribal gothic groove (very lo-fi) and rather affected vocals (a la Switchblade Symphony, though not quite so extreme). The songs roll out slowly, sometimes with climactic centers, sometimes not.
The writing can be clunky at times, and the production is extremely shoddy. Most of the instruments are lost somewhere in the primordial swamp behind the vocals and drums, though I think this might have been intended, at least to a point.
Basically, the stuff either repels or draws a listener in. Me, I fell into the web, though not exactly willingly. Whenever I was ready to give up and haul off, a snippet of a song perked up my ear. Eventually, I fell into the hypnotic groove.
There's a lot of things Orifice could fix. The songs need to be somewhat more cohesive, and the production sound is dreadful (even if that is what the band wanted). Still, I'm all for understated dark music. Gothic fare is always best presented as sparsely as possible.
reviewed in issue #339, August 2012
Robert Gomez and Anna-Lynne Williams decided to make an album together. The various accounts I've read of this collaboration are so elliptical as to be nonsensical. That's okay. The truth is often nonsense. And objective truth often has very little to do with artistic truth.
All of that is a silly way to say that this is one sidereeling album. Gomez's music is sly and entrancing, and Williams's voice is as beautiful as ever. I can't say I quite understand what all of these songs are about, mind you, but they're gorgeous.
More than that, though, there's an underlying truth to both the sound and the lyrics. The songs reference Leonard Cohen, Alejandro Escovedo (Gomez is from Texas, after all) and plenty of folks in-between. Williams gently applies her vaguely twee Pacific Northwest sensibilities, and the results are as described. Nothing makes sense on its face, but the whole is where truth resides.
Okay, this one takes time. That's cool. Put in the hours (you'll enjoy them, I promise) and all will be revealed. Or it won't. That's up to your synapses. In any case, the journey is enthralling.
The Old Sisters' Home
reviewed in issue #336, April 2012
Orpheum Bell likes to call its music "country and eastern," but "folk" is a much more apt description. The band borrows from folk traditions across the continents to create its own unique sound.
So there's a bit of the gypsy guitar here, some bounding Caribbean bass there and plenty of mandolin and fiddle. The syncopated rhythm structures are mesmerizing, and the multi-leveled lines build sublimely from there.
It's one thing to have a chest full of influences. Orpheum Bell turns the trick of actually making sense of those disparate traditions and refining the sound into something coherent. These are songs, and they work. Boy, do they.
A rollicking, joyous affair. This album is pure enjoyment from the start. Turn it up and take your shoes off. It's time to dance.
reviewed in issue #171, 11/9/98
Some folks from Valpo who make pleasantly clunky music. Something Secretly Canadian might release, perhaps. Pop music of the lo-fi sort, with all the trimmings.
Orso generally relies on drones of one sort or another. Might be the bass. Might be the guitar. Might be, well, just about anything. Once the base is laid down, the rest of the song slowly appears on top. Kinda like a low tech ambient recording, except there is something resembling song construction here.
Oh, and a very nice place to be. A spot to sit and calmly contemplate purpose and drive. Orso never insists. It merely requests. And I'm happy to sit and listen. There's always something to keep me thinking.
Just loopy enough to fit into the "quirky" pile. Thought-provoking enough to truly impress. Too much here to fit into just a few sentences, surely.
Long Time By
reviewed in issue #203, 8/7/00
Songs that never quite get going. I get the feeling they will, but after two albums, I have to admit that's pretty unlikely. The stark, clunky music has a dreamlike quality to it, like it's trying to break out into the world of the real.
Certainly no one else can or necessarily wants to make music like this. I don't say that in a bad way. Just the opposite. Whatever is inspiring Orso, it must be something truly unique to serve as muse for these sounds.
The halting style sometimes takes on the feel of a toy winding down, or a bad movie as it lurches to the finish. There's something delicately beautiful about such moments, and Orso captures that perfectly.
Such unusual genius is hard to find. No other band sounds much like Orso, and few can match its power and vision. A most remarkable disc.
reviewed in issue #338, June 2012
Like most folks in the indie music world, Phil Spirito has a day job. Or had a day job. He lost it, and so he spent a fair amount of time getting another one before getting around to making another oRSo album.
When he did sit down to plot this one out, he decided to make the album instrumental. And while the vocals have hardly detracted from previous efforts, it's safe to say that their absence was a driving factor in making this perhaps the band's best.
The instrumentation is as varied and lovely as ever. Strings, reeds, piano and the usual indie rock combo come together to create some meandering musings. But where these lines would have taken to the background when the vocals came in, they continue their journeys front and center here.
A bit more contemplative than most oRSo, but also more aggressively intense as well. These songs travel to some pretty dark places, but they always arrive back in one piece--if not exactly safe and sound. The range and scope of the songs is at its usual height. In short, some of oRSo's finest work to date, which is saying a lot.
Assistant Manager EP
reviewed in issue #180, 4/12/99
Punchy pop songs with an edge. Lots of keen guitars and highly-stylized vocals. Vocals which do not always follow the melodic lead of the instruments. Which shows a certain sophistication, to be sure.
The chords always number more than three (sometimes within seconds), and there is a more cultured feel to these songs than with most pop. Osgoods has a lot on the ball.
For a self-recorded disc, this sounds very good. A completely professional job all the way around. The songs burst forth from the speakers, everything in line. Like I said, these folks know what they're doing.
Everything works. Osgoods has completely defined its own sound and style, and it made sure that come across on this disc. Solid songwriting and playing make this the complete package.
Respectfully Stuck It in the Doorway
reviewed in issue #35, 5/31/93
Somewhere between Rollins and the Melvins these folks lie. The anger and lyrical harassment put them more on the Rollins side, I suppose, but as soon as one groove seems to play itself out, they whip out another.
This is not really original, but it sure is well done. A little seasoning and things could be rather nice.
reviewed in issue #204, 8/28/00
Rather heavily-produced roots rock. Robert Otey can sound like Geoff Tate or Bob Dylan, depending on his mood, but he's really amped up the music behind his vocals.
This lends a grandeur to the songs, but it also makes them more distant. Heartfelt songs as grand statement. Sorta like a heavy metal ballad, except that these pieces are much more intricate.
Indeed, the craftsmanship is wonderful. I just wish Otey (who also produced) had given his songs a bit more room to breathe. There's just so much going on and the mix is cranked so high. A major-label sort of job, I guess, but it just leaves me a bit cold.
On the whole, though, the songs are solidly written and performed with style. Otey plays a style that lies somewhere between mainstream and underground sensibilities, and he might have some difficulty bridging that gap. Still, his talent cannot be challenged.
The Other 99
At the Eleventh Hour
reviewed in issue #214, 4/2/01
These guys are from New Jersey. Their singer is named Jeff Epstein. So why does he sound like a recent transplant from Dublin? The Gaelic brogue sounds a little weird draped over the band's lilting pop tunes.
Maybe not. Sounds more than a little like a cleaned-up version of Van Morrison. For better and worse. Some of the soul is missing, but then, so is some of the dreck. The Other 99 isn't a band to wallow in much of anything. The songs just keep popping out.
Perfectly agreeable. And perfectly forgettable. Jangle-pop can be that way sometimes. The guys aren't doing anything wrong here. Not in the slightest. But I'm just not up and inspired by the tunes, either.
No chances were taken (with the possible exception of that oddly affected singing style), and no clunkers fell through the cracks. There's nothing to argue with here, really, except the fact that I just can't get excited by the tunes.
Other Star People
Diamonds in the Belly of the Dog
reviewed in issue #186, 8/16/99
And sometimes the major-label thing works out. A couple of the Other Star People are Jennifer Finch (once of L7) and Todd Phillips (once of Bullet Lavolta and also skinman to Juliana Hatfield). This is, indeed, the same sort of chunky punk-pop stuff that Face to Face plays (reviewed earlier in this issue), but instead of cheesing out, the production strips the sounds bare.
In other words, the songwriting and playing takes center stage. There are no tricks. Nothing up the sleeve. Just songs which beg to be jammed. Yeah, it's a bit cheesy at times, but that's comfortable cheese, my friends.
No one would dare to call this "alternative" or anything silly like that. This puppy is calculated for mega sales, and I've gotta say I wouldn't be too pissed off if OSP made it a long ways. This is fun and silly, with enough cool sounds to keep the brain occupied.
Probably better as an early summer release, but better late than never. Alright, these folks are the ultimate insiders with indie creds, but why whine? Just have a good time, okay?
reviewed in issue #80, 7/15/95
An initial blast of that Beantown hardcore sound, and then Otis takes control. The guitars caterwaul, the rhythm gets positively infectious (like the way good grunge songs crank along) and then the pressure hits the cooker.
More than a little Chicago in that guitar work, but I hear elements of other noise hardcore bands like Glazed Baby and Season to Risk (okay, so both of those bands took some lessons at the feet of the Lizard as well) in here as well. Of course, that awesome bass-percussion interplay is something I'd have to call an Otis trademark.
I'm shocked that music this harsh and abrasive can also sound so accessible, but I suppose that's why I like the disc so. Each song comes on with a different sort of fury, lending many sides to Otis. A wonderful day to crank a disc.
reviewed in issue #99, 2/19/96
A second disc from this Boston-area outift. Just as scratchy and mean as the first.
Otis shares a lot with such area luminaries as Sam Black Church and 6L6 (luminaries in my book, anyway). Thick grungy guitar and some sort of attempt at creating hardcore anthems. And as Kev (omatic) actually tries to sing, Otis is a step ahead of those bands.
The whole formula comes together best on songs like "Stand Pipe". A fucking great song, despite the blatant Ministry rip-off. Yeah, it may be actionable, but it's one hell of a rip through musical time.
I'm pretty sure I compared the first album to Bullet Lavolta (one of my favorite bands, period). This one comes a little closer to that ideal; the band's tighter and sticks to grooves a little better.
You want to pigeonhole this band? Good luck. Yeah, Otis sounds like a Boston band (that guitar sound is a giveaway), but the guys have worked their collective ass off to create a unique niche. And it works for me.
Our Flesh Party
reviewed in issue #179, 3/29/99
Big monster fans of such bands as 6L6 and Kepone (personal favorites of mine, so I fully understand), Our Flesh Party burns out some intensely searing rock. Heavy in the rhythm section, with guitars that slice and drums which simply express the disorder in the universe.
Yeah, it's that cool. Not quite up to the level of their influences perhaps, but them's big shoes. Nonetheless, OFP has learned the most important lesson in making music such as this: Stir things up. Don't play the same song over and over. You might even think about chilling out for a tune or two.
The sound is a bit muddled. That both works for and against the band. It helps to simply add a bit of mystery to what the band is doing (sometimes the guitar and bass can't be differentiated very well), but it also doesn't show off the band's range very well. Just a bit cleaner would do the trick for me.
Ah, but there's the music. Sweet, aggro strains of pain. Yeah, I love shit like this, but even so, these guys turn the trick very nicely. I already can't wait for another dose.
Our Own Somewhere
Wherever You Go EP
(Has Anyone Ever Told You?)
reviewed in issue #262, March 2005
There's a ringing sound to these songs that reminds me of my college days. I think it's merely the result of somewhat primitive recording techniques combined with a certain midwestern style of playing rock and roll, but for whatever reason it always makes me feel warm inside.
The songs themselves are impressive as well. Dry, almost laconic-feeling (though there are plenty of vocals) and almost anti-climatic. Just when you think the songs ought to kick into overdrive, they step back and meditate. I guess that also harkens back to the bands I heard when I was in school some 17 years ago (yikes!). Maybe it's just an indie rock thing. That's cool, too.
The kind of band that doesn't impress immediately. Well, band might be wrong, as this is Chris Boehk (that might explain the recording sound). And even the four songs here might not be enough to turn some listeners. Certainly, the fuzzy, reverb-laden sound is far from modern. But damn, it feels nice, like wearing long underwear and sitting next to the fire.
Out in Worship
reviewed in issue #172, 11/23/98
A nice little bi-coastal project (SF and Brooklyn). An inventive array of sampled soundscapes and more traditional rock sounds. Once again, something that would be right at home on the Wordsound label. I dig it.
The music on top of (or, more accurately, within) the soundscapes bears some resemblance to noise pop, in a jazzy vein. Lots of guitar noodling, lots of interplay between the various instruments. An intoxicating feel.
Mostly languid, but with moments of fleeting aggressiveness. Oh, quite fine, indeed. Music which floats in and out of phase, teasing the subconscious with an array of sounds and ideas.
Tripping the body electric. Inviting and challenging all at once. Perfect for those field trips to the frontal lobes.
Figure 8 EP
reviewed in issue #328, June 2011
Sometimes a release is so commercial and so good that I simply cannot resist. Outasight is nominally an MC from NYC, but this EP trends straight into processed pop territory. And boy, does he do it well.
Ultracatchy and produced within an inch of its life, this EP packs more hooks into five songs than I've heard in quite a while. The man's rhymes (and rhymin') is mediocre, but the presentation here is impeccable.
Oh, we're heavy into the Velveeta, to be sure. Still, if I heard this pumping from the souped-up Focus idling next to my '92 Civic, I'd give the driver a knowing nod. Even if that driver might come back with, "Geezer, what?" Indeed.
reviewed in issue #17, 7/31/92
They're from Cleveland, home of the future rock and roll hall of fame shindig. My ex-roommate was from Cleveland, and he had never heard of these guys.
I thought this would be good from the moment I noticed it was an album to be played at 45, not unlike Husker Du's Metal Circus. Of course, when we played MC as a classic album, we played it at 33. And got calls remarking on how much better it sounded.
This is better at 45. Semi-funky riffola with (at times) wildly emotive vocals. You really have to listen to get what I'm talking about. So do it. You will develop a smile on your face.
Hittin' the Road Live!
reviewed in issue #45, 11/30/93
Where another Southern rock band like the Black Crowes took the old masters and then spun away, eventually to even disavow the influence, the Outlaws embrace every last trace of goodwill people feel for the Allman Brother, Skynyrd and all that.
And they fail to leave a real trace of what the Outlaws are about. While I happen to think of Skynyrd as mostly tripe, at least they had a knack for the hook. This is just running down a long hill, and not stopping to pick the four leaf clover that distinguishes you from the rest.
reviewed in issue #55, 5/31/94
I remember thinking their live album was full of excess and not exactly the best songs. It was just a little bombastic.
On the other hand, this new studio outing brings a lot more country and blues into the sound, produced with a light touch.
Sure, it's a little overly anthemic at times, but in general the attitude is more fun than overbearing. And there are some really great songs here.
A nice return to form. And I have to admit that while I don't like much southern-style rock, I like this a lot. That says something.
Stereo Action Rent Party
reviewed in issue #113, 7/1/96
Probably deserves better than the rating, but I have a problem with praising an album that is all covers, even if they are done this well. Something in me just doesn't like that sorta thing.
Most of the songs are not too well known, though that 10cc thing is still damned annoying. If you really want to know where all of the other songs came from, well, write the label yourself. The Beach Boys, Eno, Leonard Cohen, Smiths and Television songs should be obvious, and the others will come with just a little work. Only a couple are truly obscure.
Outrageous Cherry does that minimalist pop thing with verve and snap. Instead of getting stuck in a silly and moronic mellow rut, OC always pulls clear before the slogging gets too deep. And none of the originals escapes the OC treatment unscathed: this band knows what it's doing and is not afraid to do some real damage.
As for personnel, the singer is Matthew Smith, who also sings for the Volebeats, His Name Is Alive and some other bands. The other folks, well, are members of Outrageous Cherry and probably a few other outfits. The press info didn't help me nearly so much there.
Some real joyous pop music here. Sorry I couldn't give it another A or so, but thems the rules. Like I noted at the start, the ratings are mostly crap, anyway. This is good stuff.
reviewed in issue #281, December 2006
T. Rex without the savage genius of Bolan. Or perhaps Big Star without the drugs. I dunno. You make the call.
This is one of those albums that is astoundingly derivative, but of a sound rather than any particular artist. The songs themselves seem to materialize out of the mists of time. Not only would this have been big in England in 1973 (or maybe 1974), it would have been hailed as the newest representation of the current trend.
So yes, there are handclaps, shimmery guitars, loose and light harmonies and that certain backbeat that could only come from one moment in time. The production sound is a bit weak, actually. I'd have given this a bit more muscle in the mix--in some ways this is more Tyrannosaurus Rex, if you know what I mean.
Ah, well, whatever. A very cheap pleasure, but one that hits too close to the bone for me to ignore it. I love this kinda stuff, and Outrageous Cherry does it quite well.
reviewed in issue #42, 10/31/93
Finding itself solidly in the pop vein, O/I bring in searing feedback, meandering beats and the occasional epochal rockabilly strum (if you don't know what that is, I can't explain it verbally).
Songs about life, name-brand hot dogs and wanting to fuck someone who doesn't love you any more. When you think about it, that almost covers everything that needs to be said.
Pleasant noise for a picnic on a windy day. I certainly want to hear more (well, there is that seven-inch...).
North Hollywood: The Capital of Pornography 7"
reviewed in issue #42, 10/31/93
The A-side is a punky rave on the x-rated movie scene in No Ho (no pun intended). Rather entertaining, though I'm not sure if its a celebration or an attack. Given the other output of the band, probably both.
The flips are much more like the 10" reviewed earlier. A band with rather diverse sounds. Gotta love it.
Six Point Six
reviewed in issue #52, 4/15/94
Meandering between feedback-heavy punk raves to near distortion-free pop gems and then finally descending into a hellish storm of electronic squeals, OI have what it takes to satisfy.
I've liked everything I've heard from the folk, and well, this is the most coherent bunch of songs they've committed to disc yet. I can hear a real band sound developing. While this does limit their scope a bit, it's probably for the best.
And don't worry about a lack of experimentation. Just flick on the title track and find yourself lost.
Perhaps the slightest bit mellower, but still light years from being mistaken for Green Day. Outsideinside is still foundering in the gutter, and I couldn't be more pleased.
Progress of Decadence
reviewed in issue #64, 10/15/94
Not just Brazilian, the press here claims these guys are as big as Sepultura in Brazil. But due to some unspecified reason, U.S. labels haven't taken note until now. Sounds suspicious, eh?
Well, if Overdose isn't as popular as Sepultura, it should be. Progress is a great synthesis of industrial beats and thick, tight guitar lines. In fact, I haven't heard anything quite like this before. Perhaps a little intramural rivalry will spur Sepultura on to a better album next time. This Overdose will be tough to beat.
There are lots of reasons Overdose should be as popular in the U.S. as Sepultura. If their previous albums are anywhere are good as this one, well, we norteamericanos have missed out on a lot. This disc alone is worth praise and adulation. Hell, the sampled percussion is a wondrous innovation all by itself.
Don't doubt, but play. Play, play, play. Beat your head against a wall. And play again.
reviewed in issue #118, 9/9/96
The last Overdose album (the first one released in the U.S.) was refreshing because it was so loose. This time out, the band seems awful self-conscious, as if it is trying too hard.
Certainly, the folk drum tracks that are just dropped into songs without any context add to this perception. Sepultura had the technology and know-how to make such samples work within its sound. Overdose simply doesn't, and the effort sounds like a bad attempt to copy a more popular band. Even if that isn't the case.
This isn't that bad an album, really, though the echoes of Roots are really a bit too much. I thought Overdose's last album was better than Chaos A.D., mainly because of the supreme flow of the music. Now Overdose has tightened up, and allowed the crafty veterans to usurp higher musical ground. Scars is plenty enjoyable, but not up to what I expected.
The Year Zero
reviewed in issue #150, 12/29/97
Strikingly sloppy punk that abuses hooks, chords and even lyrics, but manages to amuse in the end. Somehow, flat oozin-ahs still work.
The strangest thing is that the production makes the sound so sharp that every little flub becomes awfully apparent. The drums are as punchy as a machine, and the guitars sound like they're cutting off the fingers of the band.
That dichotomy works for me, though, as does the generally insightful songwriting. The band may not be the most proficient I've ever heard, but the music is top notch. Just enough of an emo coloring (the use of strident chords) to bring about a fine finish to the stuff.
Messy, but after listening, I'm almost convinced the band wants it that way. This is a fine pop album assembled with punk parts. Echoes of the Wrens, the Smiths and Bad Religion. Now, that can't be all bad, can it?
reviewed in issue #3, 11/30/91
Not far removed from fellow Germans KMFDM (which, for the last time, does NOT stand for Kill Mother Fucking Depeche Mode, although that is a nice romantic theory), the Overlords are a bit more bouncy, but a little more overt in their pissed off message as well.
I could swear they somehow got Jello to sing on their way-cool cover of "Holiday in Cambodia," but the vocal work here simply shares many of his histrionics. "Hell's Kitchen" sounds frighteningly like "Personal Jesus" until you listen to the lyrics. Other songs I really dig: "Organic!," "Search & Destroy," "Moontrap" and "P.T.L. (Pass the Loot)," even though Jim Bakker-bashing songs are rather passe these days.
Hey, if you folks will play Ice-T with your metal (and you'd better have been playing cuts like "Midnight" along with "Body Count"), then this is no great leap. "Diversity Rules" has always been the law at KCOU. I like it.
reviewed in issue #46, 1/15/94
Sorta sloppy pop music, a little on the heavy side. Not much attention is paid to what seem to be obvious hooks. I'm not sure if this is intentional or just inattention.
But it keeps flowing. Like a river flooding, while some nice things are washed out, it really looks (or sounds) cool from an airplane.
Tough metaphor. I don't think it worked, but you hopefully got the point. Nothing individual stands out about this thing, but I emerged from the listening experience with a smile on my face. That counts for something with me.
And barring revolutionary insights into the future of humanity, what should you be asking of your pop music, anyway?
reviewed in issue #19, 8/31/92
Boy, talk about something different. After listening to over two hours of death and grindcore stuff, this pops out.
Yes, as you know, I've always been a sucker for messy pop music; the Young Fresh Fellows and Uncle Tupelo are favorites of mine. This is a bit heavier than those, and the odd Manchester drum beat sneaks in, but only occasionally.
Come to think of it, this reminds me of the new Bob Mould project, Sugar, which I heard for the first time last weekend.
After all that is said and done, Overwhelming Colorfast are still more than appropriate for a hard rock show. The guitars are loud, and just because they can carry a tune (which beats Warrant, Skid Row and the lot of bands like that) doesn't mean you should discriminate against them.
Moonlight and Castanets
reviewed in issue #120, 10/7/96
The last time I paid a lot of attention to this band was when I reviewed their first album for Relativity. That gig, of course, evaporated soon after Two Words didn't do quite what the new Sony bosses wanted. After gigging about and cranking out and EP for Goldenrod and a few 7"s, the Colorfast has landed on Headhunter.
Some things don't change: crunchy pop music that as often as not has hooks a plenty. And a few truly dreadful tunes that make you wonder just why the hell you bought the record in the first place. You have to take the good with the bad, and luckily the former is more in evidence here.
I'd like to report an evolution in the band's sound after four years or so, but that's simply not the case. The Overwhelming Colorfast is still stuck in that "God, wouldn't it be cool to be a Husker Du cover band?" mode. Which runs us right into that good thing/bad thing dichotomy again.
But this is where OC should have been in the first place. While the guys will never sell a million records, they'll do alright at a label with lower sales expectations. As long as the hooks keep coming.
Papi Oviedo y Sus Soneros
Encuentro Entre Soneros
reviewed in issue #149, 12/8/97
Papi Oviedo plays the tres, also known as the criollo guitar. The three pairs of strings are tuned in unison, with two sets in one octave and one set tuned an octave lower. The musical style is son, and those who play it are called "soneros". Thus this is an album that features Oviedo and a multitude of other players.
Oviedo and his compadres play in the old style, with acoustic instruments. This emphasis on the music (as opposed to the orchestration) allows the songs to comes alive. Unlike plenty of Latin pop albums, this disc has an authentic feel.
And these are the songs of Cuba, most of them standards which have been played in cantinas for years. So when these musicians came together to record, they blended their various takes on the pieces, often passing thoughts from player to player as the song progresses. This give-and-take is one of the more exciting parts of the disc, particularly since it is so hard to find these days.
A wonderful taste of real Cuban music, undiluted and pure.
reviewed in issue #200, 6/5/00
Not to be confused with Oxes, Oxen is just yer basic power trio. Well, except that the vocals spin nicely in opposition to the drums, and the guitar and bass likewise also engage in intricate duels.
Which is not to say the guys eschew the groove in favor of "artistic exploration." Naw, the songs don't wig out. They kind of grind together, always in motion and always moving forward.
Oliver Sjahsam has something of a Michael Stipe timbre to his vocals, but he doesn't whine. He uses that quavering flaw to full effect, allowing it to flavor the music without becoming too much of a distraction. These guys sure do know how to compliment each other. This is one great team effort.
Some trios are able to find all of the good reasons to stick to a small group. Oxen is one of them. I think another element would disturb the delicate balance that is evidenced here. These guys know what they want, and they achieve it. This disc showcases a band in full bloom.
split EP with Big'n
reviewed in issue #187, 8/30/99
Each band gets three songs, and away they go. Big'n has first shot, and doesn't pull any punches. For those who are curious, these might well be the last Big'n recordings, so if you want to play completist...
Ah, hell, but why not just sit back and bask in the raucous glory of the band. Noisy guitars, pile-driving drums and lots of extraneous sound. Nothing surprising here, which means, of course, that the tunes are a big load of whup-ass.
Oxes hails from Baltimore and plays a somewhat cleaned-up version of the same sound. The songs are just as disjointed, it's just that there's a tad less distortion coming from the guitar section. Just as crunchy, though, and it satisfies well.
A good pairing for an EP. Wish that there might have been more Big'n, but I'll make do with Neutrino and other current projects. As for Oxes, well, I'm hoping to hear much more.
reviewed in issue #230, June 2002
The mock protest on the front and back cover contains a few funny signs. My personal favorite reads "Sarcasm does not equal irony." Damn straight. If Hollywood would figure that out, maybe we'd get some decent movies once in a while.
Enough soapboxing. Time to get into the Oxes. These boys first wowed me years ago with a split release they did with Big'n. This album does nothing to remove the notion in my mind that the guys are true masters of the no wave sound.
But this is no randomly chaotic bruising. Hardly. There's more than a little of the noise pop fusion sound in there as well. And that's fine. Some solid underpinnings to the songs does the stuff good. Just means that when the playing gets frenzied (be it loud or merely technically astonishing) there's always something in the center.
Some folks have this notion that rock instrumentals are dull, repetitive and uninteresting. Obviously, this isn't a problem of mine. But methinks Oxes might turn more than a few folks around on the issue. This album simply smokes. Nothing left to say.
reviewed in issue #268, September 2005
The usual twisted behind-the-scenes scenario (this one involving major labels, a woman and foreign intrigue)...the usual throbbing, pounding, utterly brain-leveling Oxes output.
Crunchy riffage that simply doesn't let up. These songs are all red meat. You want roughage, go to some fruity salad restaurant. There's a reason there's a dead animal on the cover of this disc.
Um, yeah, these boys do know how to tell a joke or few. And they have a knack for slyly slipping in a few audio yuks amidst the carnage. Nothing obvious, mind you, just a slight reference here and there. The equivalent of a wink, I suppose.
If Killdozer wasn't quite so deadpan and had an actual sense of melody, it might have sounded something like this. But hey, Oxes fans are used to the mess. Indeed, would it be Oxes without a big pile? I think not.
reviewed in issue #186, 8/16/99
Oxford has made a name playing organ for some well-known blues players, but here she steps out and howls some songs on her own. Mostly originals, too, even if they do borrow significantly.
That's just the ol' blues tradition. What Oxford's pieces may lack in originality is made up by the playing of the band, most notably Arthur Neilson on guitar. His licks really bring out the best in Oxford's playing, which isn't too bad.
But even with all that said, Oxford doesn't really craft anything spectacular here. Workmanlike with flashes of wonder, sure, but nothing sustained. The stuff just doesn't soar, damnit. Now it's not wallowing, there's no way I could say that, but this just isn't a classic.
She'll just have to settle for pretty good. I think that if Oxford gets out on her own more and gets some more work in, then she'll learn to put a bit more nuance into her compositions. Enjoyable, even if not overwhelming.
Feed the Breed
reviewed in issue #232, August 2002
Something new from these oi boys. Oxymoron plays this stuff straight up, with no additions. Just plenty of attitude and tuneful power.
I guess the theme of this issue has been simple pleasures, and Oxymoron is another. The fun thing about oi is its stripped down nature. There's no pretense and (if done right) plenty of singalong choruses. No disappointment here.
The production is solid, with no holes in the sound. Power, and plenty of it is the tale here. Just as basic as the music.
Sometimes being predictable is a good thing. Oxymoron is an oi band, and it plays great oi. That's the whole story here, and if that's no enough for you, well, too bad.
reviewed in issue #329, August 2011
Not many duos can legitimately claim to make "electro rock pop," but that's exactly what Oy Vey does. And yes, there's already one band that pretty much owns the trademark on anything approaching this sound, but Oy Vey does pretty well with its reinterpretation.
For starters, this is both funkier and often heavier than New Order (really, you were thinking of another band?). The melodies have just a bit of an edge to them, and the guitars aren't afraid to rock out now and again. Of course, the grooves are the key.
And damn if you can't dance yer ass off to these songs. Yeah, we're talking mid-tempo pieces for the white boy shuffle, but you can still shake the cellulite if so inclined.
Some bands have it, and some don't. Some know how to take a time-tested sound and create something new within it. And some band simply know how to write songs. Oy Vey is all three of those--and a fair bit more. A glorious whirl.
reviewed in issue #334, February 2012
Once more, with feeling. Oy Vey is back, launching thirteen more ambitious songs that lie somewhere between new wave, techno and indie rock. Most folks don't try so hard. Almost no one makes it sound so simple.
Taking the lean lines of new wave and indie rock and infusing them with electronic power, Oy Vey creates a pulsating sound that moves incessantly. Yes, Virginia, you can dance (quite happily) to this.
Old school, I suppose, the thought of dancing to rock and roll, but that's just how it is. Oy Vey is a band, no matter how much it gussies up its guts.
At least as good as Botanical Curiosity, and probably a hair better. Oy Vey isn't trying to change the world. It's just trying to get you to dance. So dance, dammit, and don't worry so much. End transmission.
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