I Never Should've Allowed Noah To Convince Me To Play Words With Friends: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 53
Obligatory Disclaimer: Record reviews are a tricky business. It's one thing to enjoy music, but to, like, pick out what you like about it? That being said, if I review your thing and I didn't like something, don't feel too bad. My opinion doesn't matter all that much.
Dana - Dana - Heel Turn Records - 10 songs - LP
This record had two negatives going for it right off the bat: 1, it was mega hyped up to me by various people, and 2, I'd seen comparisons of Dana to The Gun Club and The Scientists. Two bands that I like but frequently dislike bands that are influenced by them. Fortunately, it's not all that bad. There's some slow groover numbers ("Shadow Of A Self-Doubt," for example), one that goes back and forth between fast and slow, which is one of my favorite things to hear bands do ("Gas Station Exclusive"), one that's actually kinda punk ("Bastard Child")…they do everything! Actually, I guess I would call this post-punk? It's hard to put labels on these things. I'll say this: this band begs you to compare them to Pere Ubu. The theremin noise all over the place is very reminiscent of Allen Ravenstine's synth work on the early Ubu albums, one song has some horns that they might've just taken right from "Dub Housing," there's an edited Wendy's logo on the cover (Wendy's founder David Thomas…Pere Ubu's David Thomas)…most damningly, they cover "Street Waves," marking the second Ubu cover on a Heel Turn release, to my knowledge (see also: Bloody Show's take on "Nonalignment Pact"). It's a decent cover, too, but like a lot of Ubu covers, it just leaves me thinking "did we need to hear an Ubu cover?" What do I know. I think my favorite one here is probably "Bastard Child," but I have a soft spot for "Gas Station Exclusive" as well. I can't decide whether I like this or not. There are certain songs where I'm digging it and then it just goes on too long. Like, if I were to see this band live, I think I'd be standing their going "alright, get on with this so I can see whatever Quality Time band is on this bill." Maybe that sounds mean. I don't know. I actually think this is a solid record altogether. Not my favorite Heel Turn release, but a decent one. Oh yeah, and someone on Discogs pointed out something cool that I wouldn't have noticed: the center labels on the record are based off an old polka label, Dana Records. Don't know whose idea that was, but props to them. 3.7/5
Manswerk - Urban Macho - 100% Zero Records - 6 songs - CD
I thought Manswerk was a Lottery League band for a second, but they're not. Musically, I don't really know how to describe them. Doom metal? I don't know, it's heavy though. And I promise I'm not bringing this up just to pick on these guys, but when did the no guitar all bass sound become a trend, specifically with local bands? I can think of three off the top of my head. Not much of a fan of that, sorry. Exception: Meanderthal. Anyway. Once you listen to this, it will come as no surprise that there are several Sockeye connections. I do quite enjoy Scott McHenry's over the top vocals, and "Ravenna" is a pretty good song. I can't attest to the truthfulness of it, having never visited Ravenna, Ohio, but the lyrics sure don't make me want to either. I think the best lyrics are probably in "Presbyterian," in which God urges your immediate conversion to Presbyterianism, lest he send down Marvel Comics character Thor to smite you. I want to like this more than I do, but this kind of music usually just doesn't do it for me, and it just doesn't do it for me here. However, if you like goofy, Wheelchair-style stuff and heavy music, you'll probably like this. 3.5/5
Obnox - Niggative Approach - 12XU - 15 songs - LP, download
After 3 full-lengths in 2015 and no releases in 2016, Obnox has returned with his first (but definitely not only) release of 2017. After John Brannon (of Negative Approach, man) weighs in on the intro track by saying "man" more times than I can count, the record kicks into "Hardcore Matinee, " which is maybe one of the best of Obnox's more heavily R&B-influenced tracks yet. In fact, despite one song having the word "hardcore" in the title, the general Negative Approach theme, and the total rock star shot of Bim on the cover, this is probably his least "punk" album yet. But that's not actually a bad thing, despite my love for punk. Whenever someone compiles an Obnox best of (which, at this point, has gotta be at least a double LP set just based on sheer volume of material), I'd say "Hardcore Matinee," fellow soul ballad "Carmen, I Love You," and "You" would all make it in. And there's quite a few A- tracks as well, like "Sexy Librarian" and "Never Gonna Beat Myself Up Again." Yes, most of these tracks are more representative of Mr. Thomas's soul/hip hop/R&B side, but Bim doesn't let down his rock side fans either, with "Jack Herer" and "Skywalker OG" both bringing the hard rock groove to the record. On "Skywalker OG" there's some real shredding lead guitar and everything (courtesy of Chuck Cieslik, who also brings the guitar action to "Carmen…"). In the grand scheme of Obnox records (and there's quite a few to consider), I'd rate this as different but with no loss in quality. Why isn't Obnox more popular with the kids? 4/5
The One Way Street - The One Way Street - B-W Records / My Mind's Eye - 4 songs - 2x7"
Here is the long-awaited official reissue of the classic "We All Love Peanut Butter"/"Jack The Ripper" two-sider from 1967. You may remember it from "Back From The Grave." Lucky for you, this comes with a bonus 7" of never-before-heard songs. "We All Love Peanut Butter" is basically "The Little Black Egg" but with lyrics about injecting peanut butter and the consequences. Something about the plaintive way Allen "Sonny" Dikun sings this one reminds me of Bob Dylan, at least until they get to the chorus and he shows some enthusiasm. I also love the falsetto backing vocals during the "ooh, bop, peanut butter" in the chorus and the amateurish little guitar sweeps after the first chorus. There's also a serious blast of fuzz guitar at the end– not a killer lead or anything, just the fuzz box getting stomped for some added effect. And back to the lyrics for a second just in case the topic itself didn't clue you in to how genius they are. In addition to warning you that peanut butter will perhaps cause you to "maybe do a swan dive from a roof," our narrator also gets to the why of the song: "peanuts are nice but the acid is rare." I don't even have to say another word and that should've convinced you of how great this record is. On the flip of the first record, we have "Jack The Ripper," where some ominous bass leads into a scream and then a "Peter Gunn"-esque riff. There's some equally great moments in this one– for example, the lyrics "every now and then my mother calls…Junior, get home!" or when he yells "the psychedelic sound!" before the madcap proto-noise guitar break. I also really dig how there are a few moments where the whole thing seems like its on the cusp of falling apart before it somehow finds its way back together. The second single is quite a change from the first one: most notably, Allen Dikun was replaced by John Smith, a singer/guitarist who, based on the songs of the second record in comparison to the first, was at least a little bit more, uh, professional. "Sally Sa-Li" is a cool garage thumper with a Bo Diddley sorta beat. There's a few clean guitar solos that make you worry whether lead guitarist Rick Yarnell lost his pedal before you get to the end and, ah, good, there's that fuzz again. Side B is "(She's) Dreaming Away," definitely a more pop number with some psychedelic leanings. It's got a riff you've heard a billion times but you still love it and a sorta psychedelic chorus with harmonizing clean and fuzz guitars. It really reminds me of the Monkees a lot (no wonder multiple members of New Salem Witch Hunters like this record…). I also quite enjoy the little guitar slides you hear in a couple places. The backing harmonies on the second single really drive home the point that the members of this band are basically teenagers (a few of them were 20)– at first listen, you might think it's a girl doing the backing vocals. Nope, just a guy with a high voice. Teenagers make the best music: for punk, you've got "Break My Face" by Tapeworm, and for garage rock, you have The One Way Street. The singer's mom drove them to the recording session for the "Peanut Butter" single. That's awesome. Some snobs may turn their nose up at the second single, given how it's just not as sloppy as the first one, but you really should give it a chance. Yeah, it's different, but it's still primo garage rock. A darn solid package. You can tell this thing was prepared with love from all involved. Great and informative liner notes by Tom Fallon (hey, there's the Witch Hunters again…) tell you the story of the group and both the records. And take a look at the cover: if that blue jeans/wrongly-tied tie combo on the guitarist (I wanna say it's Rick Yarnell, but there were several membership changes…ah, you'll just have to read it) aren't the epitome of garage rock, I don't know what is. Oh yeah, and both of the records sound great. Play it loud. 5/5
Are you a local-ish band? Do you have a record out? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or send it directly to Observer headquarters: The Lakewood Observer, c/o Buzz Kompier, 14900 Detroit Avenue, Suite 205, Lakewood, OH 44107.