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Home > Reviews > What We're Watchin, Listening To, & Reaing > June 2011

 
             
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The Cars — Move Like This
The Cars - Move Like This
Genre:
Pop, Rock, New Wave
Bottom
Line:

American New Wave pioneers reunite decades later and sound like they never left!

Musicianship: 3.0
Songwriting: 3.0
Production & Engineering: 3.5
Vibe: 3.5
Overall Rating: 3 Stars 3.25

With so many new bands delivering ‘80s inspired pop and rock, it’s only fitting that America’s original New Wave pioneers, The Cars, should put out a fantastic, new, full-length CD and show the young kids how it’s done. This is their first studio release since 1987.

Move Like This features the original lineup of Rick Ocasek on lead vocals, guitar, and keys; Greg Hawkes on keyboards and bass; Elliot Easton on lead guitar and vocals, and David Robinson on drums. Bassist Bejamin Orr passed away from cancer in 2000, and it’s a nice tribute that the band didn’t enlist a newcomer to fill his shoes on this reunion CD. Hawkes even used a bass that used to belong to Orr, another nice gesture.

Right from the opening track, “Blue Tip,” the band sounds invigorated, and for long-time fans, it’s amazing just how young Ocasek’s vocals sound! The music is classic cars vibe with modern production values, and it’s an infectiously catchy song that gets my four year old daughter’s entire body dancing while she’s strapped into a booster seat. I can’t think of higher praise as that kind of excitement is usually reserved for Lady Gaga or Dream Theater.

The collection of ten tracks wears the influence of so many classic songs from the band. Hand claps and familiar guitar riffs bring you back to Candy-O and Shake It Up on songs like the not-at-all sad, “Sad Song,” textural pads on ballads like “Soon” make you think of the hit, “Drive,” and Easton’s classic clean twang is on display all over the recording. His heavier tones have a decidedly retro solid-state tone to them — nothing to write home about tone-wise there, but his clean arpeggios are pristine, and his performance is consistently strong throughout the CD. We especially loved his dissonant guitar riff on “Hits Me.”

Keyboardist Hawkes really shines on this album. In the ‘70s he was a pioneer on the MiniMoog, applying this lead soloing synth to delivering some of the most memorable melodies in early New Wave music. Throughout Move Like This, his lead playing on various synths (not just Moog) is supplemented by great modern synth textures throughout.

How ironic that in this era of retro music this CD should come along and sound so fresh and polished. If you were ever a fan, you’ll be right at home with Move Like This. And newcomers are definitely welcome at this table — great stuff!

— SK
 
Keith Horn — Rock Scissors
Estados Alterados, Romances Cientificos
Genre:
Progressive Rock, Funk
Bottom
Line:

In rare instances like this Zappa-esque journey, Horn confirms you can be a jack-of-all-trades and a master of all.

Musicianship: 4.0
Songwriting: 4.0
Production & Engineering: 3.5
Vibe: 3.5
Overall Rating: 4 Stars 3.75

Keith Horn joins a very short list of multi-talented musicians who do a great job all around the band, whether programming drums, playing guitar, bass, piano, vibes, or singing. What makes this more impressive than a starving artist in a Brooklyn apartment cranking out programmed indie rock is that Rock Scissors is that Horn delivers music that blurs the lines between Frank Zappa, Steely Dan, and Prince. He’s not just merely acceptable in each area — he’s a seriously accomplished player no matter where you stick him in the band.

This collection of eight songs falls mostly into the Zappa camp, with very funky grooves, killer ‘70s guitar licks — from the Frampton-esque talkbox leads on “Sexy Meteorite” to the funky rhythms on “Macho’s Nacho Thang.” Lyrics run from serious to whimsical, interspersing singing with brief moments of comedic interplay… and vibraphone!

Good luck keeping up with all the time signature changes, sometimes happening within the span of a single measure here or there. To put the quality of his monster drum programming in perspective, the one track containing live drumming features jazz drumming monster Chad Wackerman.

The songs are very catchy, lyrics are sharp, harmonies are great, and he manages to ride a fine line between jazz fusion, progressive rock, and ‘70s funk. If you love rock and pop music engineered for a thinking mind, this is killer stuff to check out. Serious musicians, prepare to be really impressed. Or humbled.

— SK
 
Bonedome —Thinktankubator
Estados Alterados, Romances Cientificos
Genre:
Alternative Rock
Bottom
Line:

Well written and performed, modern, alternative rock with classic influences.

Musicianship: 3.0
Songwriting: 3.5
Production & Engineering: 3.0
Vibe: 3.5
Overall Rating: 3 Stars 3.25

Allan Hayslip’s Bonedome delivers fantastic alternative rock on their debut, Thinktankubator. The band has a sound that draws on modern rock acts like Interpol and The Editors but is dripping with the influences of more classic artists such as Bauhaus, Psychedelic Furs, and Love & Rockets.

Thinktankubator is special because it’s an alternative rock album that has consistently strong songwriting throughout. So many of the alt rock bands today have a handful of inspired moments sandwiched in between real filler stuff, but Hayslip is a talented musician — classically trained before turning to the dark side, and his real musical talent comes through in both the quality songwriting and the performances delivered by his band.
The songs are engaging, melodic, melancholy, dark and brooding… all the right stuff for the disillusioned youth of today as well as their parents who grew up on this stuff. Oh no — parents and kids sharing another musical bonding experience! Maybe they’ll go out and get tattoos and body piercings together while cranking this stuff.

Great alternative guitar work is found throughout the recording, and no self-respecting alternative rock band is complete without the occasion appearance of some baritone guitar riffs and some distortion on the bass lines, too. The band does a nice job of delivering classic alternative rock vibe without getting bogged down in keyboards — this is guitar-driven alt rock, and the band does a great job of it.

Vocally, Hayslip embodies a combination of Paul Banks, Peter Murphy, David Bowie. He’s low and brooding, but has a great penchant for harmonies. Lyrics come from a suitably dark place, which is always fun when paired with catchy and sometimes happy-sounding music as you’ll find on Thinktankubator. That dichotomy is just part of what makes this CD fun. Good stuff.

— SK
 

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Will Romano Mountains Come Out of the Sky
Rockin' Your Stage Sound, by Rob Gainey
Subject:
Music History
Bottom
Line:

Perfect for the over-50 prog fan, but Romano is clearly not a fan of modern day prog or most of the prog output from the '80s.

Overall Rating: 2.5 Stars

If your idea of prog rock is primarily focused on music from the late ‘60s through the ‘70s, Will Romano’s Mountains Come Out of the Sky is sure to be a huge hit. Music journalist Romano is clearly in his element writing about the origins of progressive rock music, and he goes far beyond familiar names like Pink Floyd, Rush, ELP, and Genesis to feature artists including Caravan, Camel, Gentle Giant, and more from all over the world.

When the ten pages of Yes material ended with only a single paragraph describing their entire career in the ‘80s, I knew I was in for a disappointment with the book. It was clear that Romano could care less about melodic prog, and sure enough, the chapter on Rush was light on their ‘80s and ‘90s output, Fish got far more coverage than Steve Hogarth in the Marillion section (they’ve been without him for two thirds of their ongoing career), and there wasn’t even a chapter dedicated to the band, Asia.

In fact, modern prog bands ranging from Spock’s Beard to Porcupine Tree to Transatlantic to Muse to Coheed & Cambria get only limited coverage in a shared chapter about where prog has gone today. Fortunately, Dream Theater received appropriate coverage, but after my other disappointments here, I couldn’t help get the feeling that this was because Romano knew he couldn’t skimp on the reining masters of prog metal for fear of alienating too many readers.

Had I not given up on the book (it’s great reading, nonetheless, and packed with fantastic photos and album covers), I would have missed the additional information about the Trevor Rabin-era Yes years — my favorite period for the band, as well as the much needed additional commentary about ‘80s-era Genesis. I thing that the content found in the “Throwing It All Away” chapter would be better experienced if incorporated into the stories about the individual bands covered.

Romano paints a very lop-sided view of many incredible prog bands that gained far more success as a result of their later musical output than in their formative years, and his personal bias towards the old stuff just makes him come across as an older listener who came of age at Woodstock (the original one), and who thinks the ‘70s prog output was the most important and best work from many of these artists. But for those musicians who came of age in the ‘80s, the book is a little bit out of touch with the prog rock that we grew up on. That such a beautiful and well-written book from a veteran writer would be so biased was disappointing, but if you care more about “old school” prog, then there’s no reason not to race to the bookstore for a copy of this otherwise story-rich treasure tomb of ancient progressive rock lore.

— SK
 
What We're Reading
Guy McRoskey Guy's Grids
Rockin' Your Stage Sound, by Rob Gainey
Subject:
Guitar Instruction
Bottom
Line:

Extremely useful chord reference book for the accomplished guitarist.

Overall Rating: 3 Stars

As any seasoned guitarist knows, chords and chord knowledge are critical pieces to the mastery of the instrument.  They are the basis of any song and — let’s face it, without the proper chords and rhythms; a solo would lose its meaning.  Guy’s Grids presents a fantastic way of gaining knowledge about chords and their positions (like other chord books) but then takes it a big step further by explaining their relationships with other chords, and when to use them.  This is something that a lot of guitarists overlook, and when dealing with more complicated chord structures, Guy’s Grids proves to be an invaluable tool.

My first thought when I began to review Guy’s Grids was, “Whoa, this thing is huge!” as it can easily take up half of your coffee table.  More of a great tome or grimoire rather than a book, Guy’s Grid offers a HUGE selection of chord positions, theory, application, and relationships (and also includes a CD).  It is superbly printed on high quality coated paper and looks like a gallery art book for guitar fanatics.

When I first sat down to take a look at it, I figured it was going to be the most redundant and difficult thing to get through, but I was wrong.  The book is very organized, as it has to be for all of the information packed into it.  The book is divided into subsections, i.e. open chord grids, moveable chords, and all the types of inversions, and allows for one specific area of focus at a time.  I can promise that if you jump around this book too much, your head will explode.  

Let me make a note: this book is not for the “new” guitar player.  While it’s a great tool to learn from, this book is more for an experienced guitarist looking to diversify what he already knows.  Frankly, a beginner wouldn’t ever need something this intense as major and minor chords will get you by at the start, though certainly not forever.

One of the only things I didn’t like was the fact that you can’t really “dive” into the book as soon as you open it.  Before you start you really have to learn how to read the book, which can be a bit of a pain — so start reading from the beginning! But if you can get passed that initial hurdle, the book offers so much insight that improvement in chord knowledge is going to happen no matter what.  I highly recommend it for any serious guitarist looking to expand their vocabulary.

www.guysgrids.com

— VG
 
Lisa Brigantino — Wonder Wheel
Malea McGuinness, Close as Air
Genre:
Pop Rock, AAA
Bottom
Line:

This chick keeps people on the edge of their seats, but her vocal accuracy needs work.

Musicianship: 3.0
Songwriting: 3.0
Production & Engineering: 3.0
Vibe: 3.5
Overall Rating: 3 Stars 3.13

Lisa Brigantino, a singer-songwriter from New York, definitely raises the bar for any female singer-songwriters out there. Her second album, Wonder Wheel, features thirteen well written, well-arranged tracks spanning a wide variety of genres, from Calypso to classic rock.

The first thing I noticed upon hearing the album was the songwriting. Brigantino shows her musical ability by writing songs in many different styles, with instrumentation that shows her versatility and abilities on both guitar and piano. I heard a variety of influences in her songs, such as Rilo Kiley’s “Go Ahead” in “The Wandering” and the vocal stylings of Jefferson Airplane in the opening track “Go and Find It.” “Motel Room In The Dangerous Part Of Town” has funny lyrics and an upbeat Calypso feel, and “A Little Sympathy” sounds like it could have been a New Pornographers song, with its upbeat keyboard parts and clean electric guitar. “I’ll See You In My Dreams” sounds like an old show tune, with only Lisa and her piano in 3|4 time. Brigantino perfects the styles of various artists and puts them in a neatly wrapped package tied together by beautiful, clear vocals.

However, the one performance pitfall is that when Brigantino changes suddenly from a high note to a low note (or vice versa), she doesn’t always nail the note, sometimes landing sharp or flat by a hair. As this is the kind of thing easily corrected with “proper” use of auto-tune technology, it was a surprising production flaw. In particular, the vocals were noticeably off in “There Used to Be a House” and “The Light of Your Face,” in sharp contrast to the fantastic “Sarah,” which shows off Brigantino’s angelic voice with beautiful 3- and4-part vocal harmonies with spot-on pitch. This was the only flaw in an otherwise fantastic package.

— MT
 
   
             
             
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