Tag Archives: music

The wisdom of alleys

We saw a fun show last night at the Regent Theater in downtown L.A., including SOAR the band. In the alley behind the theater there are wall paintings. Here is a part which contains some very sage words:

“Cherokee Prayer – Oh Great Spirit who made all races, look kindly upon the whole human family and take away the arrogance and hatred which separate us from our brothers.”

 

Song titles, gothic novels, and a famous director who lives in your neighborhood.

Now I know where the title of Watercolor Paintings’ song “Shower of Stones” came from (see prior post, review of their album When You Move). I had gotten a Shirley Jackson novel at the library. Four pages into The Haunting of Hill House, there it was: a mysterious “shower of stones” that solves the mystery of the title of Watercolor Paintings’ dark and ominous rock classic. Interesting. Then I continued reading the book.

The book is part of a series of horror literature by Penguin Books. It has a very cool, scary cover and black-tipped pages, and a brilliant erudite introduction by the series editor Guillermo Del Toro who just won Best Director and Best Picture for The Shape of Water, and who signed the piece at Thousand Oaks, Ca.

ShirleyJack.jpg

The Haunting of Hill House is a story about exactly that, except the title might be more accurate if the “of” were a “by”. Anyway, Shirley Jackson wrote with the dreaminess and imagination of an adolescent girl and the wit and drollery of a sophisticate. She had a special soul. This story is perfectly gothic, in that the setting and many of the key characters have that strange broken quality. What make the book so fascinating to read are Jackson’s little nuances. I’m not even sure what nuances are but whatever they are, this book’s got ‘em. They will make you smile as you shudder.

Music review of new Night Shapes album

Originally published by 5432fun.org at http://5432fun.tumblr.com/tagged/reviews 

Wake Up  by NIGHT SHAPES

I’ve never had the chance to review an album in the actual midst of the band’s national tour that features the album. So this is exciting for me. It means when I listen to the dark, brooding sounds of the opening song, entitled simply “No”, I can imagine the crowd in Philadelphia on November 1 being caught unawares by the hardness of the thing and only gradually letting their bodies begin to act out the feelings stirred up inside by the live music. It means I can envision the folks in Chicago on November 5 closing their eyes and rocking to something that sounds like an alien world, in back-to-back songs called  “The Future” and “Post-Future (I’m Changing)”. In many venues across the country, something will indeed be changing.

In this new album Wake Up, the band Night Shapes has produced something very different than what I expected. That’s not a bad thing: It’s an album with a definite theme. It paints a picture. It tells a troubling tale. The music and the lyrics are bound together like fingers in a fist. Wake Up is almost a rock opera, and it’s not an easy composition to interpret. It’s awash with images of garbage and urban decay. There are things that sound like sirens in the night. Fear is a common thread. So are truth and lies. It makes me think about the way our society may be heading toward dystopia. In that sense, the album is a strident Wake Up call. It could be the soundtrack for 1984. Orwell should hear it.

Orwell should hear the vocals. They are deeply baritone, authoritative and not of this world. They penetrate to someplace remote in the brain that doesn’t usually like to be disturbed. In a song with the weird title of “Floor Thompson”, the lead voice is joined by a medieval choir that has to harmonize under a hammering beat and chilling sirens. Those instrumental effects are not unique to that particular track: throughout the album, the guitars and synthesizer do whatever it takes and go wherever they are told to go. And they go to some pretty interesting places.

The emotional high point of the album, for me, is the song “Take it Back”. The words, the voice that pulsates them into our brains, and the music that underscores them reach almost to a fever pitch, almost a frantic plea. I wish I understood exactly what that plea is all about. I know it’s something important, and I know that Night Shapes knows that each of us has to get at those truths, and lies, in our own way and in our own time. That’s a journey. They’ve given us a vehicle. It runs on sound waves, dark and variously shaped. I like the waves they fill it with. It runs just fine.

Listen or purchase here: http://nightshapes.bandcamp.com/

Chuck Redman

https://chuckredman.wordpress.com/

Music review of new SOAR album

**Originally published by 5432fun at http://5432fun.tumblr.com/tagged/reviews 

dark/gold by SOAR

CLAIMER [“Disclaimer” just doesn’t seem like the right word]: As you may infer, this reviewer is parentally related to SOAR the Band. The review that follows does not purport to be totally disinterested, but is true nonetheless.

 

Ten songs. dark/gold. SOAR the Band. No wasting time here. Even the very first song on the album, the song called “Fort Funston”, gives me goosebumps and goosebumps, for me, are the ultimate measure of real music. This is an album of voices that are sweet, and of vocal harmonies that are even sweeter. Harmony-wise, I’m not sure I’ve heard anything quite like it since The Mamas and the Papas. Yes, I’m old. Very old.

But, the guitars and the drums are anything but sweet. They are hard-driving and unrelenting. But getting back to the voices, they are loud and clear (and sweet) and not drowned out by the instrumentals. It’s a perfect balance, to my fussy ears. I can understand many or most of the words—not such a common thing with DIY indie pop punk bands. And the lyrics are well-written, provocative, memorable.

“19th Ave”, what a beautiful song. Holy smokes, the harmonies!

“Speakwrite”.  More goosebumps.

“Old Dogs”, song number 7 on the album. A musical journey through highly melodic tunes and refrains.

“Keeping a Record” is the name of the final track. I’ve seem them play this one live. I suspect that name has a double meaning. There’s an edge to those sweet voices. Anyway, just like the opening number: you gotta dance to this last one. Mandatory. Unless you’re me and your feet just don’t listen. Fortunately, my ears listen and they’re pretty happy with this album. And, like I mentioned above, they’re rather fussy.

Listen or purchase here: http://soartheband.bandcamp.com/

Chuck Redman

https://chuckredman.wordpress.com/

Music review of new album by Cave Babies

Accomplish Nothing by Cave Babies

I find myself again setting out on the pleasant task of reviewing the newest album release of one of my kids: This time it’s my son, the band called Cave Babies, and his new album Accomplish Nothing.

Cave Babies is comprised, in total, of a Man (my son) and his Ukulele. They happen to share a high degree of pluck. In the true spirit of DIY, both Man and Ukulele are refreshingly all natural and unembellished. The former wears a full beard; the latter has opted for a smoother look.

When I listen to the twelve songs on the album, it seems to me that they have the rare quality of melodies that had to be written. They are that poignant and inevitable. You see, this is a Man who is even more sensitive than the overstretched strings of his Ukulele. In fact, he’s a true romantic at heart.

The opening track of Accomplish Nothing shows exactly what I mean. “Bad News” is a song with a sweet and memorable melody, both verse and chorus, that is new and different to our ears. Yet there’s something about the tune that is so right that it feels as if it’s been inside of us forever and it only needed to be awakened somehow. Which Cave Babies has done. And done in good voice and adept ukulele strumming. From his meaningful lyrics we learn a lot about the self-doubts and relationships of this Man who awakens melodies. We see his serious side, but there is irony and humor in the way he looks inside himself. (Later on, there is even tongue-in-cheek satire – “Party Till I Bleed”, track 9.) The two succeeding tracks, “Backwards World” and “Sidewalk”, echo this comic but self-effacing blend of music and personal statement.

Cave Babies goes on to take us high and low, sometimes fast (“Move Me”, “Likeable”, “Killing Me Slowly”) and sometimes sadly slow (“Wasted”), on a musical and emotional journey. Loneliness, waste and regret are the predominant features of this stark landscape that passes us by. But there’s still something about the insightful voice and its ukulele sidekick that leaves us with a sense of resilience. It may be that I hear that quality because I know the Man from whom it springs. He does, in fact, give us a fleeting glimpse of this inner strength in “How Can I Be Sad at a Face Like That”, another perfect melody from somewhere deep down.

The climax of the album, perhaps, and the song that chills me most is “Getting Tired”, track 7, and you may want to be sure you read the lyrics on the Bandcamp page to understand the slow and beautiful melody. That sad tune may stay with you for awhile.

The ultimate irony is in Cave Babies’ finale: he humbly predicts it “Unlikely” that he will ever be happy or “be anything at all”. Clearly, his very words and music prove the opposite. In Accomplish Nothing, Cave Babies has accomplished something very special. My prediction is that many more deep melodies will be awakened by this Man’s rare gift of creation.

Listen here: http://cavebabies.bandcamp.com/
Buy the tape from http://lostsoundtapes.com/

Chuck Redman

https://chuckredman.wordpress.com/