Monday, March 31, 2014
Man, I think I've been a total dick about this band. I could of swore they formed in KC as the Golden Republic and dropped the scene for Austin, TX to become the Republic Tigers and get noticed (although, getting noticed in that town is probably harder than it is here). But, I'm checking things now that I've came across this ($2 sealed in Atlanta, GA...nice) and they claim Kansas City like no other. But, seriously, been a total dick if that's the case. When I heard NPR refer to the group as "majestic pop", and that this KC band was featured on soundtracks in TV, commercials, and movies, and when I heard the local alterno-rock station claim they were playing local when they spun a hit by the band, I cringed, wouldn't let myself believe they were local, they left, sold us out for the uber-hip city of Austin, TX.
But, like I said, I think I'm wrong on that. I mean crap, the song "Merrymake It With Me" was mixed by Shiner/Season to Risk player, Paul Malinowski; that's pretty KC. Pretty sure I just got suckered into some hipsters misinformed opinion of the band and let it became my own (looks like I'm the sell-out, here). Either way, I'm still not impressed by the group's sound. "Majestic Pop" isn't a bad term, it's very girl-friendly, indie-lite, pop music. The songs are pleasant, they get you to hum along and it makes sense the band would be featured on the soundtracks of teen drama TV, it's all very clever background music. Like Death Cab for Cutie or even Jimmy Eat World, catchy melodies and a lot going on in the background. In fact, the band is so unoffensive my mom asked me why I didn't review them on this blog (thanks for reading, mom). She likes them and that should tell you everything you need to know: Mom Rock.
Whale Fight @ the Bottleneck in Lawrence, KS
Monday, March 24, 2014
Another KC Crank! release, this one featuring emo sweethearts, Christie Front Drive, who are from Denver...and great, but makes little or no sense to discuss their tunes here.
The B-Side to this EP features early works by Kansas City's Boys Life. Both Christie Front Drive and Boys Life went to Omaha for the tracks to be recorded and were produced by AJ and Mike Moogis. Midwestern emo scene in it's early days as the Moogis brothers would go onto to do things with their hometown label, Saddle Creek, namely, Cursive and Bright Eyes. Boys Life would set influence, Christie Front Drive's work would go onto to help define the scene (see the song "Valentine" on this EP).
This early stuff by Boys Life is a bit more melodic than the stuff they'd later do on their full length. Still chaotic, just not as outright DC as the debut became. "Sight Unseen" is incredible. The song "Homecoming" shows the band noodling around with out of tune guitars and time shifts, it's not perfected here like it would be later and it loses the listener in the end. "Two Wheeled Train" is a bit slow and spends too much time figuring out what it should do. The band's ideas are here, they just needed Mark Trombino to focus them on their best attributes which he was able to do on the debut LP.
Another KC tidbit, the sleeve is screen printed and designed as a fold able jacket. It was done by Hammer Press in Kansas City, which was a former college roommate of the guys from Giants Chair.
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Pretty sure this was a contractual thing the Get Up Kids had to do to move onto Vagrant Records from Doghouse. It features the track "Red Letter Day" which was featured on the full length LP, Something to Write Home About. If you look closely enough at the back cover, the song "Forgive and Forget" was to be featured on the Write Home album, but was scraped by the band at a later date.
Initially it was 10" only release, but, later a CD came out that combined this and the Woodson EP. Overall, it's a satisfying 5 song set. At the time, it was a great way to hear all these tunes. Now, every tune has been repackaged in some way, shape or form. All tracks are easy to locate. This EP doesn't hold the "special" appeal it once had.
The thing I love about it most; the cover. It's simple and poignant, a wheat stalk. Because, the band is from the Wheat State, Kansas. For years, everyone always assumed the Get Up Kids were somehow embarrassed of their Kansas/Missouri background. And for years, the Get Up Kids paid homage to home by doing clever things like this. They never hated on Kansas in anyway, they were always proud of it (or accepting), just slightly confused by the occasional local backlash they sometimes received.
Sunday, March 16, 2014
There are worse albums than this, but, there are now albums worse than this by the band Kansas. This is the bottom of the barrel for the band. So long prog. rock and hello desperate attempt at over produced 80's hard rock.
The album was so lost with itself that it marks a break-up for the band. After this, they called it quits for a brief time. Just listen to the song, "Mainstream," you can tell the band was having trouble keeping it fresh as the lyrics describe the pressure of staying true to the band's sound, but trying to stay in touch with the pop rock trends of the day.
The band would later re-form and do a little more than just reunions. But, they turned back to their days of 70's progressive rock. The ideas on this album were left alone and died in 1983. I could be a douche-y tool and make a bunch of puns with the word "drastic" or I could make snarky remarks about how awful this album is...but, it's not really worth it. Everyone is well aware this isn't any good.
Monday, March 10, 2014
So, I tried to touch on this while discussing the White Flight LP. Abuela is Justin Roelfs, formly of the Anniversary and the creative force behind White Flight along with Evan Mast of Ratatat (a.k.a E. Vax). Roelfs is now going by the "White Wizard." Their song, "Sapa," has already been featured in a Lexus commercial, and along with the two songs here are available for download.
The two songs featured here are "True Colors" and "Honeybeez." Right now, it's just kind of a teaser. Both songs are interesting melting pots of post-modern sounds. Neither is the stream of consciousness brilliant that the White Flight album was, but they're promising. It's a bit more focused and a bit more sound friendly. They have their tangents, but everything is kept in line.
If you search out the group on YouTube, you're going to see that a major focus will be placed on visuals and video. Similar to what the Flaming Lips do now, but to a larger extent. The two went to Peru I believe and shot an extensive amount of film. It's all very ambitious, I just hope the music follows suit.
The Wilders are a country group from Kansas City that focuses on amping up old time music. Filled with banjo, dobro and fiddle, the group plays country at break neck speeds. So much so, they call themselves "Hillbilly Riot Music," which is okay, except no one likes hillbilly music, that's for the morons playing second fiddle at the Ozarks.
The EP itself is interesting, the first side consists of an original, a Hank Williams cover, and a traditional song. The B-Side is the title track of the EP. One song in 5 parts entitled "Sittin' On a Jury." It's an ambitious attempt and while I wouldn't call it clever, it's entertaining no doubt. Like an expansion on the song "Long Black Veil," with movements.
Either way, the band is great. Especially when you take their reliance on country legends like Johnny Cash and Hank Williams and mirror it to the Ozarks. Kansas City looks about a million times cooler. It's also just a breath of fresh air when you hear any country band that refuses to dumb down their sound for an audience, no rock n' roll for dumb people here, just solid country tunes.
Bringing in the Georgia Mail
Sunday, March 9, 2014
Of the two Thumbs' LP, this is the better one. Overall, the band still sounds lean, off balanced, and awkward. However, the songs are bit more polished and Steve Wilson calmed down his manic vocal style. The artiness and Velvet worship really shine through on this one too; in a good way. It sounds more 1978 than it does 1982, probably because they were soaking up the college scene. Locals like the Embarrassment, likely Athens based groups like REM, had shown the Thumbs how to embrace their off kilter influence into shambolic power pop tunes.
Whereas the homespun recording of their first LP almost destroys anything good about the band, No Price on Earth, is actually bettered by the Lo-Fi recording. The song "Jennie Says" sounds like it should be your standard MOR skinny tie affair, but with the production gives it a twee sound and feel, like a teen band from the 60's. Most of the album falls into this wanna-be raver, teen stompers, with just enough teeth to get to the power part of power pop and enough references about girls to keep them out of any sort of punk realm.
The band tries to get ultra-arty on the tune, "I'm The Jesus," using a bunch of Jesus tag-lines to sound witty and smart, it's a low point of the LP. But, the high points like "The Coast is Clear," Out of His Mind," "It Won't Satisfy" and the surprisingly pretty, "The Payload," make the LP worth searching out for a couple of bucks.
Thumbs do the Velvets
Sunday, March 2, 2014
Oddly obscure Kansas City heavy psych band. Very blues based, riding in on the style of Cream, with tons of pedals and effects to make up for the fact that they didn't feature the same level of talent. Apparently, outside of some super obscure local 7"s, this is the entire output of the band.
Kind of head stractcher. The whole package is strange. It was put out by ABC's Command label which was mainly an output label for Enoch Light and released tons of easy listening and lounge albums throughout the 60's. The label was heavily focused on recording techniques which might explain a the absurd amount of studio effects used on this album. They weren't really known to release rock records. They were also thrown on ABC's Probe label, which was focused on International success and progressive groups. The gatefold LP also has a die-cut feature in which you can open up the vault to see the band. Overall, it just seems like a lot of money to dump into a debut LP.
The inner gatefold does have some liner notes written by John Arnoldy of the band. He says what everyone knows about the Kansas City area growing up, "Childhood was boring." But, there's a brief KC history of the band, some members joined the army and others attended the Kansas City Art Institute until the band was signed and tried out San Francisco. But, outside of that, there's not a lot of info out there on this band.
The album isn't bad. It isn't great either. Between 1969 and say, 1971, there was a ton of bands doing this sound. The LP hasn't gone unnoticed, there was a German reissue done and people champion some of the tunes that are into obscure heavy blues rock from this era. However, the production isn't as raw and threw in some horn arrangements as likely bid for radio play. It doesn't blow you away with heavy psych sounds. There is a few tunes though that are worth checking out, namely "Beautician Blues." Apparently the lead singer, Glenn Walters stuck around in San Fran, gigged in some other bands and made a career singing for commercials and movie soundtracks.
Blues So Bad & Beautician Blues