Americana-Na

Americana-Na
© 2015

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

americana-naWelcome to the debut release by Wichita, KS based folk/rock/garage/americana/tejano/cowpunk act, Americana-Na. The self-titled debut brings about an intriguing blend of musical genres. The songs are uptempo and of short duration in the vein of punk rock, but with less vitriol and intensity that is often associated with the aforementioned genre. The prior has been replaced with tongue-in-cheek (I assume) storytelling about American flag t-shirts ala the opener, “American” and what seems to be the Spanglish, or maybe it’s Gringlish stylings of “Eclipse”. Musically, the songs are simple chord driven 4/4 numbers with a “kick/snare, kick/snare, kick/snare, fill” cowboy/country rhythm.

The overall vibe comes across as slightly less than serious. This isn’t a bad thing mind you, so much as something to note. Vocally, the tunes sound a bit tortured, as though someone was trying to wring a note out of a old worn boot. I think that, in significant part, helps with the less-than-serious overtone. The songs are raw and rough around the edges. I think the mutli-colored duct tape cover provides a nice visual compliment to the tracks being haphazardly held together, perhaps by the very mystical properties of duct tape itself.

I’d be hard pressed to list all of the influences that are melded into the sound, but there’s a little band that I’m reminded of continually as I listen to this: Awesome and the Ass-kickers. … If you haven’t heard them, look them up.

At the end of it, the debut release by Americana-Na is 8 short, fun tracks and one track that is about double the length of the others. … that’s like getting ten tracks I’d say. Good deal!

If you’re in the Midwest and/or upper-ish Midwest, word on the street is the the boys are doing a mini-tour coming up soon. Have some fun. Check them out.

Cheers,
Jerry Actually

Andrew Jackson Jihad – Knife Man

© 2011 Asianman Records
Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

If you do not love this band, you are a fool!

Knifeman is the brand new release from Phoenix band Andrew Jackson Jihad. For those unfamiliar, check ‘em out at their internets page http://www.andrewjacksonjihad.com/

Musically the band is a bit unusual and hard to quite define. I think freneticly obtuse and awkawardly scathing might come close. The tracks are laced with biting social commentary and presented in an in-your-face interface. Folks have said that AJJ is Americana and I suppose I can see that, however it is a new manner of American both jaded and tempered by an Internet age. You know, kind of like if Neil Young (yeah yeah yeah, I know he’s Canadian … so, um North Americana, right?) and Charlie the Unicorn went on a quest to meet Ween or something. … A stretch? Perhaps.

Musings aside, what you do get is 16 tracks of keepin’ it real music; Music that is leaps and bounds outside a generally narrow scope of music, and track titles like: Gift of the Magi 2: Return of the Magi … how awesome is that? If you’re not aware of the context of Gift of the Magi, you should probably watch Emmitt Otter’s Jug Band Christmas. (or you could read the original story, but that one has no muppets. You’ve been warned.)

So yeah, the breakdown; If you like your music loaded with quirks and off-the-wall genius; If you want to impress your grandparents friends by your appreciation of president named bands that don’t involve Reagan Youth or Dead Kennedys, this is the game to get in on.

–Jerry Actually

Tom Page Trio – Dust Bowl Demos part 1

(c)2010 Tom Page Trio
Rating: ★★½☆☆

This demo from Wichita KS country/blues/other act goes a bit outside the scope of what I generally review, so I apologize in advance if I step on too many toes.

Dust Bowl Demos part one features 5 tracks of guitar (ala namesake Tom Page) driven folksy/bluesy/rock tinged country. The first 3 penned by page with the trailing two being attributed as “traditional” It reminds me considerably of Townes Van Zandt / Guy Clark style Southwest Texas rambling cowboy music especially on the opening track, Alpine. The guitar work is impressive in quality and range and the rhythm section backs the solid lead ably.

The tracks are a mix of both instrumental and with vocals. The vocals have a unique quality for the musical stylings. I almost want to draw a comparison to either John Linnell or John Flansburgh, but I can’t quite decide which; maybe both.

At any rate, a decent demo and I’m glad to see that the Wichita music scene is alive and keeping and keeping it real to its roots.

www.facebook.com/tompagetrio

-Jerry Actually

For fans of: Townes Van Zandt, TMBG, Lowsome wailing cowboy songs.

Tracks:
1. Alpine
2. Walk All Over Me
3. Spicy Tomato Puree
4. Nobody’s Fault
5. G Boogie

Hellyeah – Stampede

Rating: ★★★★☆

The true meaning of a supergroup, Hellyeah comprises of members of Pantera, Mudvayne, Nothingface and Damageplan. Their self-titled debut took the rock world by storm, entering the US Billboard charts at number 9 and going on to sell over 365,000 copies in America alone. Their new offering, Stampede, has the potential to do the same.

From the off, it’s clear the roots these guys came from. The whole sound is very much reminiscent of Pantera in particular (possibly because Vinnie-Paul not only drummed on the album, but produced it too), as well as it’s other predecessors, but has a hint of a new edge to it. Likewise, it’s evident that this isn’t just going to be a well created metal masterpiece, but also a brilliantly catchy record. An instant favourite for any fan of real heavy metal.

As obvious as the members talent is from their previous work, it’s still showcased flawlessly on this record. The title track is a prime example of this, and is sure to be a huge hit at this years festivals with its distinguished chorus, perfect for crowd sing-a-longs. Another stand out track is the partly acoustic ‘Better Man’, this time for different reasons. This one is the absolute epitome of what a rock ballad should be, heartfelt (the lyrics tell the story of growing up with an alcoholic father), but still has attitude.

Of course, as with any old-school metal album, there’s going to be the element of sleaze. Some get it wrong, and end up sounding awfully cheesy, whereas some, including Hellyeah, get it spot on. The sexy touch stands out mostly in the suitably titled ‘Pole Rider’. The subject of this song is clear, so it’s only right that it should have a downright dirty sound.

Probably the best thing about this album, is the diversity. It shows the full capabilities of these musicians by differing from their previous work, as well as each track being different from all the others. Yes, it is mainly solid, guitar thrashing, drums crashing metal, but there’s also some slower songs, as well as a ballad. Take note, young bands, this much variety should be expected of any album, no matter what genre.
Hellyeah show talent in their lyric writing abilities as well, stepping it up a notch after their debut was criticised for having repetitive lyrics.

Hellyeah are just all round great musicians, they can pen some good words, and have mastered how to write amazing music with clever intricacy, but without the need for long, drawn out guitar solos. Hopefully, they’ll bring back proper heavy effin’ metal!

–Frankii

Scarlet Grey – Fancy Blood

© 2010

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Fancy Blood is the new EP by Los Angeles band Scarlet Grey. I find the disc to be an overly produced, consumer driven, radio oriented product designed for heavily marketed to, radio baited consumer rats.

So you’re like, “ok then, what’s in it for me, the guy (or gal) you, in so many words, called a total knob douche?” To that I say, “It ain’t a total wash there buddy. I mean you can still buy some cool shit at Hot Topic, right? You just don’t tell anyone. It’ll ruin your street cred.”

Ok, but really aside from my preferential jackassery, the songs are a bit on the catchy side and they’re well played and recorded if a bit over produced. I can see how people that like emo-esque non-threatening alterna-punk could very well like this sort of thing. The question is though, do you trade eternal fame for being tomorrow’s Alphaville?

Ok, enough of my bashing. Track five, Naomi is easily the winner on the EP. It has a rather retro 60’s synthpop sound and I actually kind of like it in spite of myself.

I’ll also waste precious little time telling you about the guest vox from none other than Davey Havoc. Yes, little baby Danzig lends a hand (or throat) to the fellas of Scarlet Grey. … Remember when AFI was punk?

The bottom line is this: If you are a radio friendly rocker, don’t listen to me. Go ahead and rock this for yourself, just don’t come crying to me when your mom won’t buy you tickets to the show.

-Jerry

New York Taxi – The Calm Before

(c) 2010 New York Taxi
Rating: ★★★☆☆

If New York Taxi goes on to be a hugely successful band, fans will probably look back at The Calm Before and say “Hey, their second album wasn’t bad. It’s kind of nice.” The punk/folk/acoustic duo isn’t there yet, but they’ve got a nice sound that suggests potential.

The Calm Before is only five tracks. The songwriting is solid, and the duo gets a lot of mileage out of only one guitar, two voices, and a little looping. There’s an occasional keyboard in there, too. The male-female alternating or layered vocals are nice, and there’s never an unpleasant measure. But there’s nothing memorable, nothing you have to play again, nothing that gets your heart beating.

It’s nice though. It’s a nice album.

Track 1, “And Now Our Feature Presentation” opens with a George W. Bush sound clip and rambles a bit before a not-very-insightful chorus of “We’ve been misled, we’ve been shut down… we’re going to stand up, we’re going to fight back…” Certainly not a unique or otherwise fresh perspective. Maybe that’s the problem with the album: a slight lack of maturity in the lyrics and overall sound.

(On a similar note, as a former US history teacher, I cringed when in Track 2 they referenced “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as being guaranteed in the Constitution – rather than the Declaration of Independence.)
Track 2, “Jennarita” opens nicely with a sharp guitar riff underneath a little piano ditty. Ryan’s raspy verse complements Shannon’s cute-punk-girl chorus well, and it’d be a much more memorable song if not for a weak, abortive attempt at a grand finale in the track’s closing seconds.

Track 3, “Apartment1111,” contains flashes of brilliance, especially in the chorus with Shannon joining Ryan in a soulful ode to their bankrupt state: “On my way back home…to California…screw California…”

The last two tracks are nice. Track 4, “Firefly” would be nice background music for the montage in a high school movie where the guy is alone at a bus stop and the girl is at a party, distracted and looking at the moon while she thinks about the guy at the bus stop. Then the guy doesn’t get on the bus, heads back to the party, and it starts to rain just as the girl comes running toward him on the street. Track 5, “Humble,” would start playing when they see each other. Then they start dancing in the rain and go back into the party hand in hand.

Which would be nice. It’s a nice album. And it’s short, which is nice. Three stars for being nice.

-Ozymandias

Flobots – Survival Story

(c) 2010 Universal Republic
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Here’s something that I don’t review everyday, but I am intrigued by Flobots. I have to confess that I won’t be terribly adept at reviewing “Survival Story” as it is reasonably outside of my comfort zone. But hey, what’s music without a little challenge every now and again?

For those outside the know (at lot like myself) Flobots are a hip hop, rock hybird from Denver Colorado. (Like a whirlwind of Rage, 311 and Q-tip or something) While I can’t speak to the genre specifically, I feel the vibe. The music is tight yet fluid and not the standard fare of running lyrics over dropped beats and samples. I guess the crux of my enjoyment for this is real musicians.

People can say what they want about hip hop. Hate it. Love it. That is really not my concern. I do believe this though, if your making music, or planning on making music, use an instrument or two. Flobots doens’t dissapoint in that regard. Guitar, bass, drums, viola are all in full effect.

The 12 tracks on “Survival Story” do tend to run a bit long and their repetitve nature do fell draining after a while. Then again I’m the first to admit that I think a three minute track might as well be an epic ballad.

So we’ve got musicians playing musical instuments. There is a genuine “feel” to the tunes and a lot of punk rock ethos rolling. I say what’s not to like? (aside from the epic song lenth and repetition) buy hey, maybe live a little and and expand some horizons even if they aren’t your own.

-Jerry Actually

Story of the Year – The Constant

(c) 2010 Epitaph Records

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Adding slightly distorted power chords and brutish drumming isn’t enough to make emo any less bland.  “The Ghost of You and I” has a clever intro, but that’s about the only bright spot on this album.  Fans of emo: surely you can find something better than this.

-Ozymandias

Alex Gomez – Love Sex & Drugs

(c) 2008 Alex Gomez

alex_gomez_lsdHank III combined with Jon Spencer, Maybe? Black Sabbath with a slide guitar, I don’t rightly know. Either way, I have this disc from Alex Gomez. It is chock full of some seriously raw electrified blues. It slides this way and the other. It shreds (speaker cones) a bit. It is raw. I’ll make you throat hoarse if you try to sing along. Honestly I’m not completely sure of what to make of it yet. I’ve had the CD in the car for a while and it seemed to work there when the Mexican radio wasn’t quite up to par. I’m listening to it right now after several blue ribbon awarded adult beverages and it keeps getting better. Let me tell you more though. There are 10 songs. They all sound a bit similar, but once you hook into the loose slide groove, they don’t degrade in quality for the duration. So I’m hangin’ on a sort of fence on this one. I can’t say I’m adding it to heavy rotation, but I’m not going to dismiss it either. You listen. You decide.

–Jerry Actually

Echo Screen – Goodbye Old Life


(c)2009 ES Music
Rating: ★★★☆☆

echo_screen_goodbyeFor those of you unfamiliar with Echo Screen, They are, as far as I know, a poppy-rock quartet from straight outta Jersey. Goodbye Old Life may or may not be a departure from the bands previous two efforts, but then again it might. It is way in the pop vein, but in a weird good way. It is, oddly, like a mix between James Taylor, Neil Young and Ben Folds. Normally not my cup o’ tea, but I’m kind of in a groove with this five track EP. I say what the hell, Echo Screen is alright, even if they sound almost nice enough to be grandmother safe. The tracks tend to alternate between quick slow quick (to an extent, ’cause track five wrecks that scheme) They all have a flowing dreamy feel to them, but consequently I prefer tracks 1. “I Amsterdam” and 3. “When I Escape (L.A.)”, the later very obviously about Snake Plissken. Never the less, some not-so-bad stuff, from the East. Then again, what did I expect? New Jersey has all the best bands.

–Jerry Actually