Moreso:   Math Rock’s Gateway Drug

Moreso: Math Rock’s Gateway Drug

When one thinks of math rock, one thinks of prog gone nuts. Skill typically outshines structure. Changes outweigh choruses. If you have heard Animals As Leaders, you know of what I write. Even bands like Fall of Troy, who tend to lean towards structure, because there are vocals, can get pretty tough on the old noodle. That is where Moreso’s first EP really stands out from the pack. Yes, they have complex riffs. Yes, they have the intricacy associated with math rock. However, their songs have definable and easily digestible patterns. Their songs have structure that allows even they lay person to follow the song’s musical journey without needing some Excedrin afterwards. It is why I would consider Moreso to be the perfect gateway drug into math rock.

The band is a three piece instrumental group. There is no doubt they can play. Could you imagine math rock otherwise? The strength lies, though, in their ability to make the sum greater than the parts. The guitar playing is fluid and flashy without being ostentatious. The drums are powerful without being confounding. The bass will lead support and counterpoint against the guitar for well-defined passages.

The 6-song EP starts strong right out the gate. Oil Spill is blistering with some of the cool single-string passages associated with Fall of Troy. The second song, Sewage Life, is another strong, fire-breather, with wonderful dissonant passages, reminiscent of Voivod. The next song, Shark Breath, has a tip-of-the-hat riff to Animals As Leaders. However, where I think Animals will go out too far, Moreso keeps the song solidly definable and comprehendible. The 4th track, From Gravel to Grass, probably my personal favorite, reminds me a little of some of the later Don Caballero material. After the first four intense tracks, the last two tracks settle in a little bit with Lavenclear and Little Ship. They are very lush and beautiful. It is easy to get lost in them. They’re almost meditative.

As this is Moreso’s freshman release, it is very exciting to hear what will be forthcoming. Be sure to check them out on their Bandcamp page or on Spotify.

Check them out live to see them do their thing. They are playing October 14th at Decicco’s Tavern in Raritan, NJ, with The Growling Hounds, Atom Driver, and Damage Done.

Also, here’s a video they posted from their recent outing at the Court Tavern.

 

The Milwaukees Tell Us To Get The Vasectomies!

The Milwaukees Tell Us To Get The Vasectomies!

The Milwaukees has bestowed us a gift. The band has recently offered a 7-song EP, titled The Vasectomies, for FREE to anyone willing to sign up to their mailing list. Hardly what I would call a bad deal!

The Vasectomies EP

The seven songs are ones they have deemed a collection of b-sides and near misses from their prior releases. I think most bands would be very pleased to have so many strong songs in their circular file.

If you are not familiar with the Milwaukees, they have been around the block. This is a seasoned group of veterans with five full length releases under their belt spanning the last 17 years. As they have aged, their sound has become more honed and listener-friendly. This is not to say that their songs are weak. They are lean, tight, and well-crafted. While all members shine in their respective roles, Dylan (lead singer) has a voice that will get into your ears. It’s hard to miss his mixture of angst and emotion in his delivery.

The EP starts with the demolishing Rock and Roll Part 3 (Gary Glitter laid claim to parts 1 and 2). Part anthem, part sinister riff rock, this is such a great lead off track. Jeff Nordstedt’s tasty guitar playing really shines.

Tracks 2 and 4, One Night Stand and Record Deal, are solid rockers. One Night Stand has a twinge of Tom Petty in there. The chorus is really catchy and the bridge has a little bit of that great Rocket From the Crypt feel. Record Deal is a cautionary tale on the industry, with another super strong chorus.

Tracks 3 and 5, Won’t Let You Down and Story of Our Love are solid ballads. They are sweet without being saccharin. Dylan’s voice makes these songs work well.

The last tracks, Jersey Style and Wasted Uptown, leave you ready for more. Jersey Style has a killer verse riff that reminds me, believe it or not, of a really good old Kiss song. Then they bring in the chorus. Damn! Another great chorus! Wasted Uptown has some great lyrics, reminiscent of something I would expect to hear from Bruce Springsteen. Love the line “Irish boys….should be polishing the marble under their feet”.

So, if you haven’t heard anything from the Milwaukees, their music is easy enough to find. Google them! All their releases are on Spotify. They’re on Facebook. On their site, Milwaukees.com, you can find the link to sign up on their mailing list and get the Vasectomies EP. Go check them out September, 9th at the Ringside in Caldwell. They put on one hell of a show.

Out Like Lambs: Fingers Crossed

Out Like Lambs: Fingers Crossed

Out Like Lambs: Dream Pop, Indie Rock? One thing that can be said about their new release, Fingers Crossed, it is beautiful. It’s the music to drink up while you take in your morning coffee. It’s the soundtrack to a rainy day. There’s music is lush without being overdone. Simultaneously, the parts can seem sparse, but never empty.

Out Like Lambs dabble in the familiar. The bands that come to mind fall into the dreamy: Luna, The Sea and The Cake, Galaxie 500. The vocals are plaintive and somber. The guitars are warm. The drums push the songs without driving too hard. Behind the foundation can be heard strings and other various instrumentation to accentuate and augment, raising the songs from simple to sublime.

Every song’s a winner, but my faves are:
· Terms & Conditions – The song has a wonderful, dark feel and then, midway through, changes feel to an anthemic and uplifting end.
· Game On – The song reminds me of Echo and the Bunnymen, whom I love! Great guitar work.

If you are in Asbury Park on August 31st, join Out Like Lambs at the Porta for their CD release party. If you’re not, maybe you should be.

Find Out Like Lambs on Facebook for more information about the upcoming show.

The Mad Doctors: All Bark… All Bite!

The Mad Doctors: All Bark… All Bite!

The Mad Doctors

The Brooklyn-based trio, The Mad Doctors, are going to beat the hell out of your ear holes with their latest release, No Waves, Just Sharks. The 10-song release is soaked in fuzz, with the springs from their reverb getting stretched straight.

I asked Greg, the drummer, how he would describe his sound. He described it as “Dudes who hang out in caves and arcades on the boardwalk with Motorhead t-shirts”. I completely agree. The Doctors have the trashy surf riffs of Link Wray on a very bad day. However, to say that they are a surf-punk band wouldn’t do them justice. These tracks truly bring the meat! Their sound conjures up images of Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath) and Lemmy (Motorhead) unleashing their own impressions of Dick Dale through alcohol-imbued glasses.

The Mad Doctors stick with the surf theme, much the way that Man or Astro-Man sticks with outer space. Some of the tunes start with kitschy vignettes. The songs may start with surfy riffs or snazzy chords. However, once the tunes get going, there’s blood on the beach. The tunes are blistering riff storms, with solid changes, great twists and turns. Top that off with a perfectly distorted, gritty vocal delivery. Everything fits very nicely.

While all the songs are great, my faves are:

The Ballad of Jort Dad: I love the intro. They give you fair warning right from the start of what you are getting into. The riffs and time changes are deliciously fierce.
Shit Hawks At Blood Beach: Very cool groovy tune with the great Matt Witte on vox. A nice, surprising departure from Coach n Commando.
Dial M (for Sultry): It’s as if the MC5 went sideways. I know that doesn’t make much sense. When you hear it, then you’ll know. Sooooo good!

The Mad Doctors

While the release is great, I can only imagine what they are like on stage. I envision a pummeling like no other. If you haven’t seen the Mad Doctors, you will get a chance very soon. They are playing Rough Trade in Brooklyn on September 12th with A Giant Dog and Simon Doom.

Go to The Mad Doctors Bandcamp page and check it out!

ATOM DRIVER – SLACKJAW EP and cover of “JOHNNY” by X.

ATOM DRIVER – SLACKJAW EP and cover of “JOHNNY” by X.

This past weekend Atom Driver celebrated the release of their throttle punk EP Slackjaw on Powerbunny 4×4 Records at Pino’s in Highland Park, NJ. On the bill with them was Amy & Alex from Prosolar Mechanics as Bear Claw making their noise duo debut and as well as Couch and Commando cooking up some of their down home music before Atom Driver blasted everybody at Pino’s with songs from their release and a bunch of new tunes.

ATOM DRIVER AND FRIENDS COVERING “Johnny Hit and Run Paulene” By X

Towards, the end of their set Amy and Anthony from Bionic Rhoda made their way to the stage to help hammer home an ode to Chuck Berry with a cover by X from their 1980 album Los Angeles. This is a feel good rock song and proof positive that even though the performances was taking place on the other side of Raritan River, rock is very much alive in the Hub City.

SLACKJAW EP REVIEW – Powerbunny 4×4
Now, we highly recommend Atom Driver’s debut EP Slackjaw, and not just because we’ve known Mike from Buzzkill who plays drums, or Mark Segal from Boss Jim Gettys’s on Guitar and Vocals for more years than we care to admit but because this band has molded perfect parts big noise and melodic metalcore. All tracks will blow the windows out of those soon to come self-driving cars that millenials will be driving around aimlessly and getting lost when the GPS goes out. These rock songs are powerful maps to what fresh rock stank and what ear bleeding hooks should be like. Justin Ingstrup on bass is also my new favorite bass player now as he really holds-up the wall of sound in this band. Recorded and mastered by Jesse Cannon Found Soundation, Union City, NJ, and mixed by the bands long time friend and engineer Steve Evetts.

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People who may like Cheap Trick a little too much – Part II

People who may like Cheap Trick a little too much – Part II

THE CONTINUED AND ACTUAL SONG FOR SONG ALBUM REVIEW: Cheap Trick’s new album is called “Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello” and it is important to mention that this album, since it doesn’t have Bun E., it cannot be considered a 100% authentic Cheap Trick album. On the other hand, the Peterssonless “One On One” and “Next Position Please” are fine albums and this new one reminds me a little of those at times.

This album sounds powerful and clean and every instrument is PUNCHING YOU IN THE FACE and Robin Zander is loud on top of it and you can hear every word. This sounds like the work of a band who have something to prove. As a unit of players and singers they have never sounded better. Too bad about Bun E. but at least Daxx does not suck. His first name sucks, but aside from that he’s a heavy hitter and allows the band to retain their near-Zeppelin level of heaviosity which is a key factor setting them apart from all other so-called “power pop” bands. What a great gimmick: be the heaviest and still be the most catchy and melodic. This is loud guitars but tap your foot and sing along music. So the good news is the band is rocking harder here than on any studio recording since their first album. It’s like they’re doing it on purpose. Rick Nielsen’s guitar takes up more sonic real estate than maybe ever and the “everything louder than everything else” production style is very flattering to the band and plays to their strengths.

Here’s a song by song play by play:

GIVING THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT SONG
“Heart On The Line” has all the classic Cheap Trick ingredients. It is a chugging, driving rocker with and Robin Zander sounding as great as ever singing vocal singing an almost stereotypically Cheap Trick-like melody. The low E rumble is reminiscent of their great “Everything Works If You Let It” from the Roadie soundtrack. It also reminds me a little of “Auf Weiderschen”. This song has some great surprise sections and reminds the listener of about four different great Trick songs over the course of its four plus minutes. But then I can’t help but notice Daxx is putting cymbal crashes in places I don’t think Bun E. would. He has a similar effect on the sound of the band as Matt Sorum had on Guns ‘N” Roses but Cheap Trick is enough of a better band that the Sorum-likeness doesn’t hurt them too much. The guitar stands out as especially assertive in the mix. The guitar is so loud all over this album that I’m convinced that either 1) Rick Nielsen is intentionally making such a ballsy hard rocking album that the fans will have no choice other than to forgive the unfortunate change of drummers. 2) Bun E., for some reason, wouldn’t allow Nielsen to mix his guitars as loud as he wanted. This seems fairly unlikely. Whatever the reason, it works for me. This is the most they’ve sounded like an authentic straight ahead hard rock band since their debut opened with “Hot Love”. I love the sound Nielsen gets on this album, no reverb or delay, no excessive gain, just a plain electric guitar mixed at a healthy volume for perfect clarity. Nielsen is a long time admirer of AC/DC and the righteous purity of his gigantic guitar sound on this album lives up to that standard. There are two vintage Rick Nielson solos in this song. There is more lead guitar in this song than appears on some entire Trick albums. This is a very very good thing. Robin Zander just sounds very much like himself, which is a great thing.

UNCOOL COMMERCIAL POP SONG
“No Direction” turns things decidedly and abruptly “power pop”. It comes in with chimey guitars and superfluous vocal harmonies right off the bat, spelling out the whole vibe right from go. It also has a very uncool chorus that reeks of the dreaded “this could be played on the radio” genre of yesteryear.

The song sort of reminds me of a rocked up version of Missing Person’s – “Destination Unknown”.

I don’t think Cheap Trick is stealing from Missing Persons, it’s very likely an example of the inevitable occurrence of parallel mediocrity as a result of intentional commercialism. “No Direction” has that kind of chorus that you have a hard time believing the band themselves would actually enjoy listening to. This is the opposite of what makes Cheap Trick great. They are rock and roll scholars with impeccable taste and have a gift for translating the sophistication of someone like Roy Wood into something an American mainstream rock audience can enjoy. And that’s why the chorus to this song makes me sad. But at least there’s another great guitar solo here. He plays some licks from “Oh, Caroline” to boot! This is the old stuff we love. But then it leads into a gratuitous bit of “Life In The Fast Lane” style phase-shifting which highlights the makeshift, random-stuff-pushed-together, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink vibe of the writing and playing on this song and they take that crappy chorus all the way out. Still, Nielsen will not stop with the ceaseless commentary of awesome rock licks. For me, Rick’s guitar is the saving grace of this album. He’s just giving more great guitar than ever before. Zander and Petersen don’t exactly sound like they’re watching the clock either. This sounds like an album that was made with a great care for detail and quality control. Even on a bad song this band is sounding pretty great. But skip this song anyway, it sucks.

NEIL YOUNGISH SINGER SONGWRITER TUNE
I have read that Zander did a great Neil Young when he was a solo acoustic folkie busker-type before he joined forces with Neilsen and co. This song (“When I Wake Up Tomorrow”) sounds like something Neil Young would write and record if he hadn’t suffered from epilepsy. It’s a nice song with a nice melody and another really cool guitar solo. And maybe more importantly, there’s an undercurrent of dark droning A string pedal from Rick Nielsen, which is an early Trick staple on songs like “Taxman, Mr. Thief”, “High Roller”, “Hello There” and others. It’s not totally convincing here but it’s the thought that counts. A good non-Cheap Trick sounding Cheap Trick song.

“AUTHENTICALLY POWERFUL DINOSAUR ROCK JAM”
“Do You Believe Me” sounds cool in a Mutt Lange production of Shania Twain/Def Leppard kind of way followed by Mutt Lange AC/DC style in the jam at the end. I think this song is an homage to Mutt Lange, generally. Maybe they’re hoping he might do a Todd Rundgren-Meat Loaf thing with them and produce their next album and have it become a gigantic monster that no one could have ever foreseen. Who knows? We do know that Cheap Trick admire Lange’s classic productions of AC/DC like any other sensible practitioner of two guitars, bass and drums. They are jamming like Zeppelin. The pre-chorus heads into dark stomping Lennonesque territory, which is the most Cheap Trick thing about this song. And then finally we get to a chorus that just has NOTHING going for it. No meaningful lyrics, no melody, it just gets into more AC/DC type crashing chords, leading into yet ANOTHER awesome guitar solo. This one is extended and Rick is on fire here. Daxx is a good drummer but he’s doing the sort of bullshit tasteless rock dude fills only a drummer could love. I’ll call this one a mixed blessing.

UNEXPECTED GLAM ROCK GEM
“Blood Red Lips” is great. A best case scenario for a new Cheap Trick song, it doesn’t sound like a retread of anything they’ve done before, which is particularly tough for a group like this, but the glam rock style sounds perfectly in line with their aesthetic criteria. It’s got that swing. It’s got that swinging drum roll feeling that is used to such great effect in songs like Sweet’s Teenage’ Rampage.

This song pulls off a stunt that rarely is ever seen from a band with Cheap Trick’s history. They’ve written a quintessential Cheap Trick song that doesn’t remind the listener of any of their own classic era songs. The vocabulary stays squarely in rock and roll, so the Trick plays this music with great confidence and swagger. This is the first song on the album to deliver a truly satisfying chorus. It reminds me a lot of Sweet, it’s a Chapman-Chinn style composition and production in the best way. You can hear Slade and the Move and T. Rex in here too. It’s really that good, easily the best song on the album.

OBLIGATORY SEMI-POWER BALLADISH SONG
This song reminds me of an above-average Wings album track. There are some post 90s Jeff Lynne sort of harmonies on this song, which is a regrettable color to add to their palette. This is another one that sounds like they’re aiming for what used to be known as “could be played on the radio”. I don’t even know to what extent radio even actually exists anymore so I wish they’d stop doing this. On the other hand Robin Zander has never sounded better. And yeah, cool guitar solo…

URGENT ROCKER, DOUBLE TIME
This song has the heavy double time groove of songs like Kiss’s “Deuce” and the Pretenders “Mystery Achievement”. Rick is getting into his “Cold Turkey” mindset for the riffs here, which is a signature of his that is always welcome. “Roll Me” is the song that has the most overt rock cliches of anything on the album. The performance is impressive as usual but ultimately this is just another collection of well-executed gestures that doesn’t add up to a convincing song.

AN OBSCURE COVER OF AN OBSCURE COVER
It is not for no reason that this sounds like a guitar heavy Roxy Music, which is a pretty fucking awesome, if not best possible, way for a rock band to sound. That’s because “The In Crowd” is a cover Bryan Ferry did on his first solo album. The Bryan Ferry version, from 1974, starts out as a primitive mid tempo Velvet Underground groove and keeps it going. The Ferry version sounds like Roxy except the guitars are more prominent. The dominance of the basic open E chord on this weird and rocking song is something I’d imagine Rick Nielsen hooked onto way back then. I imagine Cheap Trick hearing this in 1974 as both an inspiration and an affirmation of the way smart and interesting rock and roll music should sound going into the 70s. The original three members aside from Zander toured Europe in 1973. And we know the band covered The Velvets’ “Waiting For The Man” in their early club days. This is a case of covering the cover that may well have been a key source for Cheap Trick’s own unique style. I am speculating Cheap Trick covered it out of 1974 nostalgia.
Bryan Ferry – The ‘In’ Crowd (Lyrics)

Bryan Ferry covered it out of 1964 nostalgia:

WHEREIN RICK NIELSEN IS MORE JIMMY PAGE THAN JIMMY PAGE
On “Long Time No See You” the band sound like when Jimmy Page played Zeppelin music with the Black Crowes. Rick Nielsen’s arranging, layering, overdubbing, idiosyncratic riff making and soloing are nearly up to “Houses Of The Holy”/”Physical Graffiti” era Page standards. The band sounds great here and Daxx is impressive. There’s a funky rock groove that could be associated with Led Zeppelin or Aerosmith. And I hear a certain amount of Tylerism coming from Zander so I’m gonna think of it as their Aerosmith song. Nielsen evokes Page and Petersson gets up to Entwistle levels of bass tone and assertiveness. A VERY GOOD Aerosmith song.

THE BIG PRODUCTION
“The Sun Never Sets Up” wouldn’t sound out of place on “All Shook Up”. They’re showing some of the Move influence that characterizes much of their best work and there’s a touch of strings that remind me of “Dream Police” and “Stop This Game”. It is an epic pop production in the tradition of those two songs. This is not a particularly great specimen of that sort of song but a nice try nonetheless.

VINTAGE NEW WAVE ART ROCK
“All Strung Out” is a curiosity. It’s like an overly modern new wave power pop overproduction of a Velvet Underground song that wouldn’t sound out of place on the first Roxy Music album (again with the Velvets/Roxy thing) and as usual, the guitars are great. Robin Zander is doing a cross between Lou Reed and Bryan Ferry and the whole thing works. And it’s got the best bridge on the album to boot.

In conclusion: if you love Cheap Trick you probably should get this album. You know who you are. If you don’t love Cheap Trick I can’t imagine you made it through this whole long rambling review and are reading this right now…

RELATED: READ PART ONE THE ALBUM REVIEW INTRODUCTION


People who may like Cheap Trick a little too much will like this review on Facebook regardless.

People who may like Cheap Trick a little too much – Part I

People who may like Cheap Trick a little too much – Part I

ALBUM REVIEW: Bang Zoom Crazy… Hello’ – I love Cheap Trick as much as the next guy except when the next guy falls into a category I call “people who may like Cheap Trick a little too much.” The first time I ever noticed this guy, it was myself. I don’t quite FEEL like that guy these days but that guy lives in me still. I have had and continue to have many friends who are or have been this guy. One of these friends is Tom Beaujour. He is a rock journalist (and a recording studio owner/operator and musician, etc.) who has interviewed Rick Nielsen many times. The last time I saw Tom he was telling me about his most recent interview with Nielsen. I wanted to know only one thing: what’s this Van Halen bullshit where a beloved original member is ousted to be replaced by the control freak guitarist’s offspring? I don’t get these rock stars who gotta be like Donald Trump with this foisting of their offspring on the paying customer. No one wants this. I may not quite be one of those “people who may like Cheap Trick a little too much” at the moment but I am righteously teed off nonetheless. In the history of rock there is no other band in which each individual member is more individually beloved than Cheap Trick. Musically, each member is as individually important as the members of Led Zeppelin or the Who. Image-wise, each member is as individually important as the members of Kiss or the Beatles. By these (not necessarily 100% scientific) metrics, Bun E. Carlos would be one of the twenty most irreplaceable rock band members in history. So they have some explaining to do. Bun E. has, in fact, done some of this explaining in easily Googleable interviews which are informative and entertaining. So when I spoke to my friend Tom, I immediately asked if Nielsen did any explaining about this new arrangement. To paraphrase Tom: “It was kind of frustrating because I asked their publicist if Rick’s son was replacing Bun E. and Rick said ‘Daxx is the touring drummer for Cheap Trick’ and I said ‘Yeah but they just made a new album and Daxx plays on it instead of Bun E. so it seems like he’s Cheap Trick’s new drummer…’ ‘Daxx is Cheap Trick’s touring drummer…”. The exchange went nowhere, The publicist was evasive, inscrutable and why wouldn’t he be? Because it’s just wrong and whatever explanation he could possibly have would suck anyway.

Sidebar: Read this article by Alex Castle: I don’t know exactly how much Nielsen has in common with Van Halen but I’m sure it pertains in some way.

Before digging into the album let’s consider the true significance of a new Cheap Trick album in the year 2016. Their debut came out almost forty years ago and even then they were ten year veteran journeyman musicians. Cheap Trick was never new and they were never young, at least not in the way we typically think of new young bands.

Here’s a severely abridged Cliff Notes account of the long, strange career of Cheap Trick: Rick Nielsen and Tom Petersson had a band called Fuse from 1967 to 1973. They recorded an album for Epic in 1970, which failed artistically and commercially. By 1973 they were playing with two members of The Nazz and good ole’ Bun E. Carlos, sometimes as “Fuse” and sometimes under the name “The Nazz”. They formed Cheap Trick in 1973, finally adding the key ingredient for world domination, the not remotely secret weapon Robin Zander in 1974. And they were finally… off to the races?

Well, not quite yet. The band had a couple years of touring ahead of them before finally being signed (again to Epic) in 1976 and releasing their debut in 1977. And then they were finally… off to the races?

Well, not quite yet. Their records were well received by the press and a slowly building cult following while their incessant touring, now opening for big headliners like Kiss and Aerosmith, was earning them a reputation as a top notch big time live rock act. But they weren’t selling too many records yet.

Their first album was “too raw” to get radio airplay. It’s a great example of a band’s first album consisting of them blasting through a road tested set with great energy and aplomb. It’s the sort of debut wherein the band avoids the red light fright by never acknowledging to themselves that they’re actually recording an album in a recording studio. That’s what it sounds like to me at least. This is my favorite Cheap Trick album, it’s the one that I think sounds like “the real” Cheap Trick. No fillers, no sweeteners, no trying to make it listenable to non-rock fans. It consists 100% of great songs and it’s HEAVY.

On the next album (“In Color”) Tom Werman’s production serves as a bit of an over correction. It is a slick album. Compared to the first album it sounds restrained. It is not for no reason that they rerecorded this album with Steve Albini in 22 years later in 1998 but it also is not for no reason that Albini wanted to rerecord it. This is the second in a string of at least five albums to come from this proverbial “great band at the height of their powers”. Nielsen’s pop songwriting genius is specifically highlighted here, primarily by making this album (along with pretty much everything they’ve done since) a showcase for Zander’s godlike vocals. In fact, the last thing you hear here is Zander’s voice holding what I’m pretty sure is the longest most beautiful high note ever recorded. The thing literally ends on a high note. Convincing.

For their third time up, Werman and the band make a more satisfyingly slick album that reclaims the band’s signature heaviosity to an extent. Many people cite “Heaven Tonight” as Cheap Trick’s best album. It’s my second favorite but that’s just a matter of personal taste. What is a fact is that the best Cheap Trick album is either the first one or “Heaven Tonight”. So anyway, they slick up the production of their second and third albums and they’re finally… off to the races?

Well, almost. They were starting to sell a little more and the label was continuing with the Werman strategy and they were back in the studio working on what was intended to be their fourth release, “Dream Police”.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the fourth album. Would you believe it turned out those first three Cheap Trick albums, neglected in their native USA, were BIG IN JAPAN? So Cheap Trick had three gold albums in Japan and they went there and played a couple concerts at the legendary Japanese venue Budokan and they happened to record these performances for an album exclusively for their Japanese audience. And of course this throwaway live recording turned out to be the very thing that the world needed to hear in order to finally “get” this most extremely palatable rock band with all these great songs, the amazing Cheap Trick. What makes Cheap Trick a truly great rock band can only be truly heard in live performance. This combination of beautiful singing and songwriting coupled with caveman caterwaul and stomp is a unique and powerful thing that is to be treasured. And all the greatest bands rock in a way that is loose but tight and Cheap Trick has always been one of these bands.

In hindsight, Cheap Trick was a wildly successful record selling band for a grand total of two consecutive albums which were both released in America in 1979. So let’s say Rick Nielsen has been plugging away for 52 years and he’s had a total of one year of carefree runaway success? Later there was also 1988’s “Lap Of Luxury” but that was more of a “Deal With The Devil” situation which could never be sustained. What HAS sustained Cheap Trick for over forty years is their work ethic. They are a band who are very familiar with struggle and never far from it. We love to fantasize about what it would be like to be a big household name rock star but for Cheap Trick I imagine it’s “no bed of roses, no pleasure cruise” and that they “consider it a challenge before the whole human race” and they “ain’t gonna lose”.

Their next album, “All Shook Up”, has George Martin producing and they suffer diminished sales, a critical backlash and the departure of the beloved Tom Petersson, Nielsen’s partner in crime from ’67 on. Almost immediately after things start going well for these guys, they’re taking a turn for the worse. Then they make a different sounding album with Roy Thomas Baker (“One One One”) and it sells less. Then they make a different different sounding album with Todd Rundgren and it sells even less. Then they make two more albums that don’t do much.

But then in 1988 the band finally has a mixed blessing of a sort of resurgence after being forced by their label to record a hideous Hail Mary power ballad written by people not in Cheap Trick, but this doesn’t substantially alter the arc of their career, though having a ginormous hit single certainly didn’t hurt them. What really helps Cheap Trick in a long term way is the return of Tom Petersson. As I mentioned earlier, this is a band in which each individual member is very important to their fans. Knowing you were going to see “the real Cheap Trick” was a major selling point for their live show until Bun E’s departure in 2010.

Cheap Trick’s biggest album was an accident and no one ever figured out how to concoct a Cheap Trick album that would appeal to the gigantic demographic that constitutes all potential Cheap Trick fans. To restate: Rick Nielsen has been recording and releasing albums for 46 years and hit the bullseye, accidentally, exactly once with a live album. “Dream Police” sold a lot too, but that was largely attributable to the momentum created by “Budokkan”. It’s a good album, but not as great as the first three, not even close. Maybe it’s not even as good as “All Shook Up” but that’s a different discussion.

They never stopped touring. And once 70s nostalgia got going in the 90s Cheap Trick became the kind of band you see every year. Maybe in a festival, at an amusement park, a rock club, a theatre, they are on the road. From 1973 on, they are on the road. For 43 years they are on the road.

All this is a long way of saying that Cheap Trick is still grappling with the challenge of making a studio recorded album that lives up to their legend as a great live rock band. The pop thing is dangerous, it makes you think you need to think up some clever ideas in the studio. And too much thinking is kryptonite tor rock and roll.

The reason all this is important is Cheap Trick has recently released their 17th album. They had one big album that was an accident (“Budokkan”), one big album because it was their time (“Dream Police”) and one big album because the record business is evil (“Lap Of Luxury”). On the other 13 they were just trying to catch a break like anyone else. All things considered, this new album makes a fairly decent number 17. It’s a shame they called it “Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello” but the good news is that may be the worst thing about it.

WATCH: Cheap Trick – When I Wake Up Tomorrow

RELATED: PART TWO SONG FOR SONG CHEAP TRICK ALBUM REVIEW

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Happy Accidents from an apartment in Green Point by Delicate Flowers

Happy Accidents from an apartment in Green Point by Delicate Flowers

ALBUM REVIEW: Happy Accidents by Delicate Flowers can best be described as gridy pop-folk that goes beyond the beard. There I said it, otherwise I would have categorized it as bedroom rock written by Eric Goldberg but instead he did the right thing Not releasing the demo’s from his creepy sad Daddy Mansion in Green Point; he made a proper solo album and recorded in Wayne, New Jersey’s Skyler Ross Recording (Happy Irony?)- We don’t know.

The canvas as whole is a wash of singer song writer insights. “Break Me Wide Open” is when Happy Accidents is this record paints a very vividly a single line indie rock anthem; from something you would find on a Deep Elm comp back in the 90’s with just a chorus to satisfy the hurt you might feel from a regular break-up song. The opener “Dissolution” does what a first track should do and brings you into his relationship struggle cubby-hole setting up your expectations. Song for song the struggle is real, glossy poetic with “Vaseline”, a slick middle three chord pop song discussing struggle of hiding those things called feelings(do a search on twitter and whole world will open up on this subject in it’s own joke format), where as he might just be editing the deeper hurtful parts when he sings na-na-na-nas to further cover up hurt and blurring of the lens. We don’t know but we certainly feel it and that makes this record gracious. Maybe evening sounding a little bit like Allanis’s bad break-up with that bad comedian from Full House. I joke only because there are feelings and good lyric writing through out is meant to relate to the listening through all the tools. “It’s Easy to Love a Martyr” is when we get to it’s most reverb laden Oasis center. All good in many ways and influences through-out I just really get this and it’s a totally a panty dropper. Probably the highest compliment and rating we might be able to give out here at RS and definitely a high-watermark for this year coming from the Sniffling Indie Kids label.

LABEL: SNIFFLING INDIE KIDS
RIYL: The Comas, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Dax Riggs, Elliot Smith, Jason Molina

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Going Down In History Waco Brothers at Monty Hall 4.16.16

Going Down In History Waco Brothers at Monty Hall 4.16.16

ALBUM REVIEW: Here’s a good way to celebrate DIY country punk the day after tax day with the Waco Brothers at Monte Hall in Jersey City and their newest studio album in years called Going Down In History (Bloodshot Records). Seasoned alternative guys mostly Chicag0-ians and one brit ex-pat with guitar lineage (Mekons, Jesus Jones, Dollar Store). In the New York area go see them in all the halls.

04/13/2016 Union Hall
04/16/2016 Monty Hall

Album-Cover-Waco-Brothers-Going-Down-inHistory-560x

The rock shuffle number “We Know It” is one of our favorite tracks on this album, respectfully the opener “DIYBOYB” gets political in way circling up the wagons talking of the posthumous world where artisal world will live on through ideas as they sing “you can’t kill us because we’re already dead”. We asked Jon Langford thoughts on playing WFMU’s venue Monty Hall and he said “I did a session there with the Mekons but haven’t played a full on show there yet so I am very interested to see what mayhem will ensue.” We also ask John like where they find the energy to make grizzly music like this still? and he said “they bottle their rage in the winter time and unleash it in spring!”

ALBUM REVIEW: El Yunque – Baskenland – Belgian noise rock

ALBUM REVIEW: The debut LP by Belgian noise-rock group El Yunque opens Baskenland with the explosive drums, insectile guitar, and manic vocals one might expect venturing into this genre. I wasn’t disappointed, to say the least, but rather pleasantly surprised when the rest of the album offered a more constructed version of that first track. What I proceeded to find was a mix of industrial elements and versatile guitar, accompanied by a combination of English and apparently Belgian lyrics, ranging in style from folky, Gira-esque drawls, to shrill screaming. There’s a nice mix between fast progressive songs, and longer more hypnotic tracks revolving around a central groove.

“Kabeldraad” is an almost nineteen minute pounding jam that gives off a doom vibe at certain times while bringing you through a range of highs and lows, all while somehow not being boring. Noztechtransch takes you through an evil, country influenced, instrumentation overlaid with catchy verses with gems like, “I’m a redneck baller”. The classical rock elements given the context of the rest of the album gives it an interesting edge, I felt like I was in a dive bar that allows smoking mixed with some warehouse art rock performance. The way the band draws on each of their influences is very nuanced which can make it difficult to discern their core sound. With this in mind it opens up every new track to be a blank slate they can do whatever they want with, which is potentially very refreshing. When they’re using conventional rock elements it still has an edge to it, and when they have a noise interlude that’s a lot more deconstructed it retains a very cohesive feel because of the scaffolding the rest of the track provides.

Baskenlandis this band’s first LP, after just an EP and a cassette, and it showcases everything in a really promising experimental group. If this is step one, then I’m very much looking forward to the progression of El Yunque.

VIDEO: NOZTECHTRANSCH BY EL YUNQUE

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