...And Other Hits: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 108
Jeff Curtis - Summertime Stridulations - Coffee-Hut Records - 7 songs - CD, download
You may know Jeff Curtis from bands as varied as My Dad Is Dead, Gem, and Satan's Satellites- the press release I have here tells me so– which, of course, are all absolutely great bands, though this one-sheet inexcusably leaves off J'accuse, one of the best area post-punk bands of the early '80s if you ask me. This does not sound anything like any of those bands. "Summertime Stridulations" finds Jeff with a new instrument: the banjo. However, this ain't no hillbilly pickin'. (Not that I would mind that, and in fact now that I've said it I kinda would like to hear Mr. Curtis do some Grand Ole Opry-style tunes). Some of this is based in traditional folk, like "Bat Sky" or, indeed, the traditional song "Dinah," but more often these songs are hypnotic instrumentals, with the banjo carrying the "tune" as it were with backing from a droning chord organ (or, in a couple cases, earth music: the sounds of rain and wind or the occasional car passing by). It's actually pretty cool stuff. I personally don't love the sound of the banjo, generally speaking ("Stop Stop Stop" by the Hollies is an obvious exception), but what Jeff does here is so unlike typical banjo playing that it almost feels like some other instrument. And yeah, maybe sometimes his playing isn't note-perfect or it's a little amateurish (he says as much in the liner notes), but what he does with the sound of it is far more important here. My favorite might be "Sweet Corn," which has a feel not unlike George Harrison's excursions into Indian music. "Birthday Raga" is indeed a raga, but its title brings to mind Bert Jansch ("Birthday Blues," ya see) and I certainly think Bert (or, at least, other artists who were inspired by him) was an influence here. A cool little experimental collection here. 3.5/5
The Roobydocks - I Am Going To Kill Yourself - Cultural / Tiny God Inc. - 5 songs - cassette, download
I think this tape may have come out over a year ago, but I didn't manage to get a copy until now, so here's my (I'm sure hotly awaited) review of the final release by the now (very sadly) defunct Roobydocks. The mastering is terrible and maybe the songs aren't really the band's best, but you know what? I really like this tape. The Roobydocks were a great band and if you like their stuff, you'll like this. "The Roobydock Death Cult" epitomizes their sound: John spewing anger over mostly clean guitar and a band that cannot decide if its totally tight or totally sloppy. The dumb guitar "lead" (kinda using that term loosely) on the chorus of "Polygon Field" is perfect. "Mental Dumbass" isn't "Leopard," but it isn't bad. The style of "Coconut Water" is a little out of the ordinary for these guys and yet still sounds just like them. There's a great count-off in the middle– I won't spoil it, but it sure isn't your ordinary "1-2-3-4." Who's that doing the ridiculous spoken word thing at the end? Kinda sounds like drummer Joe, but I'm not entirely sure. It's not the place to start with The Roobydocks, but it's a good tape. Bring back The Roobydocks! 3/5
Are you a local-ish band? Do you have a record out? Email email@example.com or send it directly to the Observer: PO Box 770203, Lakewood, OH 44107.