Mike Park – North Hangook Falling© 2005 Sub City / Asianman RecordsMike Park’s second solo release carries on in the same vein as the previous “For the Love of Music”, insofar as it being largely vocals over acoustic guitar. “North Hangook Falling” expands on the instrumentation of the first by adding more electricity and occasional string sections.Though a far cry from the ska of Skankin’ Pickle or The Bruce Lee Band, Mike Park’s solo work is very compelling and often very solemn. The content and seeming introspection make me draw a comparison between this CD and Steve Earle’s “Transcendental Blues” it isn’t direct, but something I just can’t pinpoint is there. Overall the disc has a somber tone, especially with the addition of the strings; it makes for a good listen to depress out to, with a redemption and catharsis at the end.Mike has a very consistent and likeable style with sad melodies and memorable yet haunting lyrics. In addition to “North Hangook Falling” being a great CD, a portion of the proceeds go to the Plea for Peace Foundation.The disc contains 12 tracks and clocks in at 38:43 Highlights include Track 2. Keeping the Seat Warm and Track 12 a live version of Blue Marble (this on is great) there is also a remake of “Korea is So Far Away” I prefer the original, but there’s no harm in trying.www.mikeparkmusic.comwww.pleaforpeace.com Jerry Actually
fivespeed – Morning Over Midnight © 2006 Virgin Records “I’ll give it up to get it all” declares the lyrics on the “Fair Trade” the opening track of “Morning Over Midnight” the new release from Virgin Records recording artists, fivespeed, in stores now. This statement seems overly apt for a band that is screaming to be mainstream. The tracks are all groomed to the ultra Clear Channel and MTV friendly approximate 3.5 minute mark. The overall sound has an aggressive but non-threatening flavor which is occasionally punctuated by some heavy emotional power ballads. The musicianship is solid and the production value great. I just find that it lacks guts. If you wanna be the next big thing on the band wagon, that is fine by me, and apparently you. Verdict: If you are down with radio rock and MTV2, this is for you. www.fivespeed.com www.virginrecords.com Jerry Actually
Declaration of Independence – (c) 2005 The Specs New Jersey's The Specs (formerly The Superspecs) are a 6 piece band out of the North side of the state. "Declaration of Independece" is a plus sized EP featuring 6 full length tracks and 2 musical preamble/interlude parts. The songs are an eclectic mix of pop, punk and bits of emo. Track 3 (Good Luck (This Time)) has a striking reminiscence to the song writing style of Less Than Jake, albeit minus the horns. Not that The Specs are completely lacking in horns, but on Declaration of Independence, it appears they like to more strongly feature them in intro pieces. An amusing cover of "Straight Up" is also included. Kudos to the specs for a unique EP that shows that you can have a likeable sound without being a cookie cutter.http://www.specsrock.comJerry Actually
© 2005 Mad Butcher Records
Umbrella Bed brings me back to the glory days of the third wave harkening the likes of Undercover SKA and Mock Turtle Soup. The unusually named Minnesota ska outfit plays a handsome blend of ska with soul with a klezmer touch. Oddly for an American band, they have a strangely European sound…go figure.
Bottom line: extremely likeable and very danceable.
Various Artists – Skannibal Party 5 © 2005 Mad Butcher RecordsSkannibal Party 5 is an awsome collection of ska from around the globe. Featuring 22 tracks from exotic locales from Russia (Skapel) to Venezuela (Desorden Publico) to Utah (Two and A Half White Guys). Compilations like this help to open eyes to the similarities of people around the world instead of fearing and attacking them because of thier differences. It gives me great comfort to know that kids in Argentina are skanking to Dulces Diablitos and Papas Ni Pidamos Meanwhile halfway around the world other kids are dancin' it up in Serbia with Los Propelleros. Thank the world for ska. Go get this comp and celebrate diversity in knowing that the world over, there are people just like you.http://www.madbutcher.de-Jerry Actually
Instant Camera – Alive On Departure (c) 2004 Wall To Wall RecordsInstant camera is another surprise from the south. Hailing from the cultural center of Louisville, KY, "Alive On Departure" is a swirling cosmic blend of New Wave Pop and LoFi Noise Rock. I will liken it to a blend of Voivod, eraly Floyd and Art of Noise. Instant Camera has an interesting sound that defies categorization. Just when the songs start to lock into a defineable sound, they shift gears and head off in a new direction. 10 short tracks at just over 30 minutes total. "Alive On Departure" try it on for size. I think it'll fit.www.theinstantcamera.comJerry Actually
© 2006 Hellcat Records
It seems like quite a long time ago when I was shipped my first Slackers CD to review. It in fact was almost 8 years ago. I’m happy to report that I’ve got the new Slackers CD in my hot little hands. (It is actually in my CD player, as I felt it a more appropriate place.) I’ll be updating this review as I have the time, but for the moment, let’s just say the CD has some power.
With style grace and persistence, The Slackers are the heart soul and backbone of the New York ska scene. Peculiar is an exceptional release of the genre. To capture the intensity of their live shows, the band went to the legendary Ernesto's in Holland to cut the core of the tracks in front of a packed live audience. After recording all the new "live" tracks the band went back to the studio and stripped the rhythm tracks and performed vocals and horns and added guest assistance by contemporaries like Alex Desert of Hepcat and Jeff "King Django" Baker.
I commend the Slackers for their innovative approach to the new album. The combination of live energy and studio polish brings a whole new level to the life of the record. Adding to the intensity of "Peculiar" is the socially and politically aware vibe, much akin to the voice of dissent found in the reggae of the 70's.
Songs like Propaganda and International War Criminal decry current political scandal and portray the discomfort and discontent with the current management if you will. "Peculiar" is a brilliant blend of ska reggae and rocksteady raising a voice of concern to the current state of affairs.
Don't let me misguide you though; the album isn't entirely political so much that is an assessment of life, a bit of a State of Life Address. "Peculiar" brings hope for the true ska fans and fans of great music everywhere that not all hope is lost.
The Phlegms – S/T © 2005 The PhlegmsFuck Yeah! I love The Phlegms!Snotty Upbeat Euro-Ramones style good time punk rock. This self-produced CD is really quite a treat. I'm sorry that I haven't had the chance to review it sooner. Based out of Bangor, Gwynedd (That is on the other side of the pond for my American audience) The Phlegms started came to be in October of 2004 – most bands should be so great to put this kind of raw energy together in such a short amount of time.At any rate, The Phlegms are a 3 piece with influences such as The Clash, The Ramones, NOFX, Dropkick Murphy's and other. The songs (as you may know) are how I like 'em, really flippin' short. Basically The Phlegms offer good fun fast short old school 3 chord punk.With any luck The Phlegms will get some label attention and get a bonified release out to the world and follwing that a world tour. (though I'll settle for a San Diego tour) Go Get your self some beers and rock the hell out with The Phlegmswww.thephlegms.comFree Phlegms Downloads-Jerry Actually
Boundary – Out of Bounds EP 2005 BoundaryHailing from the far east bay land of Antioch, Boundary is self-proclaimed 4/5 straight-edge and 3/5 vegetarian, which by my count makes them 1 2/5 jesus lovin’ hippies. Ha! just kidding. Boundary knocks out 7 tracks in my prefered hardcore style: short, fast, aggressive and articulate.The sound is very classic hardcore punk with chugging power chord riffs and thundering bass. I didn’t get the lowdown on the production of the CD as I got a computer copy, but if this is a home studio DIY recording, Kudos to whomever was behind the console.Though I can’t contend that a whole lot of new ground is being broken here, the messages in the songs are solid; don’t fuck your life up and don’t try to fuck up mine. To each his own indeed. The angst of youth can easily spoil into a life of bitterness. Make something of it while you have the time.Bottom line: short, to the point, punk rockwww.myspace.com/boundaryhcJerry Actually
Priapism – Last Stand (EP) 2005 1332 RecordsWith intensity and urgency Priapism’s Last Stand blasts out at you from the speakers with metal-laden insurgency. Hailing from a seemingly odd location for this type of aggressive metal, Boise, Idaho’s Priapism puts it out there in such a way to convince you that Boise may not be the north western cow town that you’d probably expect.Last Stand is reminiscent of the hardcore metal onslaught of bands such as All Out War and Premonitions of War (war seems to be a binding thematic element here) Priapism offers a bit more diversity than that however with Clutch like breakdowns and a lot of Slayer influenced progressions. Musically the EP pounds and shreds, and for the most part I don’t have any complaints. I do however always make a point of contention with growling death metal vocals. That sort of thing ain’t my cup of tea. Fortunately much of the vox are done in a more intelligible hardcore friendly way.Aside from that, 3 of the 4 tracks clock in over 3 minutes with the average being approximately 3.8 minutes. My short attention span just can’t keep up. Barring any of my personally perceived down falls, Priapism seems to be a pretty promising new band.http://myspace.com/priapismusic-Jerry Actually