Series Of Lines: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 131
Cleveland Steamers - 10 More Steaming Piles Of Hit - Drome - 10 songs - LP, CD
Is the real news here that Drome Records is back or that Chris King (of Wild Giraffes fame) is now in this band? The Steamers’ last album prior to this was “Best Record Ever” in 2018, but they’ve had a few singles since then and now this brand new record. First thing, and it’s first because it’s what people are going to notice before anything else: the cover art and title of this record are terrible. Not only are they really dumb, but they don’t match the content here at all— you’d look at this and think it was a total novelty record, which it is not. Parts of this may have worked as a promo poster for the album or something but as artwork itself, it just does not, and I fear it may put off people who would actually enjoy the music. Anyway. This record is divided into two thematic halves (and “Love and Hate,” while basic, would’ve been a better title idea), which is pretty highbrow as far as this group goes. At first I liked the “Hate” side more, but upon repeated listening I think “Love” has the better songs. “Girl Like You,” “Water Balloon,” and “Marie” were a few highlights— good punky pop (or maybe poppy punk, I can’t decide). The style of the band’s music is pretty much unchanged from how it's always been, but the addition of Chris King certainly takes the band a step up (Cheese Borger, who usually sings, isn’t bad but delivers almost everything in a low monotone– the vocals of Meredith Rutledge-Borger are less present than usual on here but when she does appear she makes it count; there are several nice harmonies and backing vocals she provides) because he is very good– it’s been more than 40 years since the last Wild Giraffes single, but you wouldn’t know it from his voice. Side "Hate" has a slightly wider variety of stuff: the incredibly corny “Murder” (I’m sure the corniness is intentional since it’s so over the top); the bluesy “Bad Feelin’” (some good harmonica on this one); and my favorite of this side (and honestly, maybe the album), “Into The Cornfield,” which is as uptempo and punk as they get and Chris’s vocals are especially nuts. It’s a solid record and probably the most cohesive Cleveland Steamers album yet. 3.5/5
(Try a local record store or buy it on eBay from Cheese himself!)
Nick Cross - The Multiverse Waltz - Just Because Records - 9 songs - LP, digital
The text on the cover characterizes this as “guitar songs,” and while I suppose that’s somewhat accurate, it isn’t especially descriptive. This is far more laid back than Coffinberry or even Nick’s work in the Cross Brothers. Some songs fall into the indie folk/alt country genre(s), like the title track and “Turn To Blue,” whereas some stick closer to an indie rock sound, like “Azalea City” and “Darker Minds” (the latter of which was one of my favorites here). Nearly half (4 of the 9— this is mathematically true) are instrumentals, which is probably where the “guitar music” thing comes from. “On The Cosmic Telephone” and “Watch Me Disconnect” are sort of dreamy (and indeed, cosmic and disconnected); “Love You Same” almost sounds like a lullaby and I was picturing “Land Of Enchantment” as a soundtrack of sorts— I could see it (or hear it, I guess) in the background of some movie. Nick did this whole thing himself (apart from brother Tony showing up on “Doctor,” which added some nice harmony— it was another of the best ones on here, I think) and it does feel like a very solitary, homemade deal. The cover art doesn’t seem quite fitting for the music and almost feels tossed together (I was kinda wondering if it was a tribute to a different album cover perhaps) but hey: I liked the back cover, maybe it adds to the whole lo-fi charm of the thing, and anyway, you don’t play the sleeves, brother! I’ll admit I prefer the more upbeat stuff Nick has done (especially the Cross Brothers LP), but this is an interesting record with some nice songs on it. 3.5/5
Are you a local-ish band? Do you have a record out? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or send it directly to the Observer: PO Box 770203, Lakewood, OH 44107.