I Have A Headache: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 55
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.
Cereal Banter - Junk Jazz - self-released - 7 songs - LP, download
I first heard Cereal Banter with the two-song, double-jam cassette they did earlier this year (or maybe it was from last year…can't remember) called "Oatmeal Outburst." Continuing the alliterative theme, this time they've got a full LP. Musically, junk jazz isn't a terrible description. There's some art rock, lots of psych and krautrock, and yes, some jazz. Within most of the songs, they do a lot of different things, have several different "movements" (I might have said something similar to that in the last review…can't remember). Some of them ("Gnarly Chaplin," "Spare Particles," the title track, and "One Big Button") even have some dreamy vocals in them. Sometimes they do some ridiculously fast psych freakout stuff, sometimes they play it heavy, sometimes they do some nice slow jams. Sometimes the drums sound like when you were in gym class in elementary school and the teacher would dump out a bag full of basketballs and they'd hit the ground and each other at different times and make a cool sound…where was I going with this? I am pretty impressed with the musicianship on here. There are a couple points where you'd swear that this song is about to fall apart into total chaos but then they keep it together. "Old-Timey Physics" closes out the album and takes up almost all of the second side. It starts with a slow, kinda pulsating part that gets more and more distorted and weird as it goes on. I know this is an odd reference to throw out, but it kinda reminds me of "Small Piece Of Germany" from the Ego Summit record a little bit. There's a fake out ending before it goes into a more uptempo section. I like how right when you start to get into a groove, they change it up. Keeps you on your toes, and keeps the songs from getting boring. Speaking of that, they eventually go back to the pulsating thing from the start, but this time with the drums having a fit over the top of it. Then, just when you think it's over, there's a short, quiet little fourth section that actually ends the record. This isn't really the kind of thing I listen to, but I think that's part of why I kinda like it. Most of the stuff I review here falls on the indie rock–garage rock–punk spectrum, so it's nice to change it up once in a while, and this is a solid record of what it is. And for some reason I kinda wanna see a show with these guys and New Planet Trampoline. Hm. 3.8/5
Make-Overs - Try Me - Heel Turn Records - 15 songs - LP
So, this time around I'm really stretching the definition of "local-ish," because this band is from South Africa. However, this record's on Heel Turn, which is a local-ish label (I have a whole explanation for why exactly this meets my criteria of local-ish, but I'm not here to waste anyone's time more than I have to) so I'm saying it's good enough. As I put this record on, with press release in front of me, I noticed that besides comparing Make-Overs to Jay Reatard and Wipers, Brainiac was also thrown in there. That caught my attention, and for the first two songs I thought that was completely nuts. Then "Don't Call Us, We'll Call You" came on and I thought, "oh, I guess I can kinda hear Brainiac." The thing is about that song, as well as several of the others where they try things that aren't Reatards or Wipers-based garage/punk is that it kinda just doesn't go anywhere. Same with "Take Out," where they go heavy metal and "Internal Logic," where they try the Brainiac thing again. I like that they switch it up and do different things, but it's not always completely successful, I guess. Or maybe the punk ones don't go anywhere either and I just didn't notice. I'll say that the guitar tone is the same throughout the entire album, which kinda wears on you. Oh well. The last song on the LP starts and I went "is this another Heel Turn release with a Pere Ubu cover on it?" But as it turns out, they weren't doing "Final Solution," they're doing their own song, "Not As Advertised," which has a spooky little carnival funhouse riff in it that I like and the song kinda burrows its way into your head. Reading this back, it kinda sounds like a negative review, which I didn't intend. They've definitely got some solid punk songs, especially "In Hate (With You)" and "Leech," and I actually quite liked the last song as well. It's not amazing all the way through, but it's a decent record. Oh, and they don't sound like a duo, which I appreciate. Thoroughly listenable. 3.7/5
Shagg - Shagg - Quality Time Records / Greenway Records - 8 songs - 12", download
This is the debut record from Shagg, another band featuring (you'll never guess)…Marty Brass and Ricky Hamilton. This time around, though, the leader of the group (or the singer, anyway) is Nat Cherry, who is also suddenly in several bands. Maybe that just happens if you hang around with Ricky. This is another band on what seems to be becoming a trend of not having a guitarist. A trend which quite frankly annoys me. I'm still not a fan of it here, but Marty on bass really holds it down. He manages to keep the sound full, which is appreciated. Musically, it's garage/punk. Certain songs really remind me of The Nico Missile, which if I had to guess is because two members of The Nico Missile are also in this band. There are some catchy songs here, particularly "Miss 45" and "Drop To Your Knees." They do a Wipers cover ("Return Of The Rat"), which actually fits in pretty well with their originals. Nat's vocals are perfectly decent, though I'm undecided as to whether I'm a fan of the prevailing lyrical themes here. I think my favorite songs on here were "Drop To Your Knees," which remains stuck in my head, and "Shut It Up," because it reminds me of The Waitresses in a way and because I like the weird slide things Marty is doing that make the bass sound like a radio. I've mentioned this in reviews before, but a friend once saw Ma Holos play for the first time and said of Marty afterwards, "that dude can shred." Apparently, that applies to bass as well. I don't wanna leave Ricky out, so I'll say that he does a bang-up job on the drums. I think, actually, the first time I saw Shagg live (it was at the Euclid Tavern) I was paying more attention to Ricky than the band and I was thinking "huh, I guess I never noticed that Ricky's actually pretty good at playing drums." Anyway. Like I said, this isn't my favorite thing ever or whatever, but it's a solid record and a decent debut. 3.9/5
Are you a local-ish band? Do you have a record out? Email email@example.com or send it directly to Observer headquarters: The Lakewood Observer, c/o Buzz Kompier, 14900 Detroit Avenue, Suite 205, Lakewood, OH 44107.