Lots Of Water: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 132

Craig Bell - The Room In My Head - Gustav Records - 11 songs - CD, digital

Believe it or not, this is Craig Bell’s first ever solo album (there are two experimental digital-only albums, but those are by craigbell, not Craig Bell so they don’t count and they also weren’t released physically as far as I can tell and that actually is important— and “aka Darwin Layne” is a compilation so it also doesn’t count). Anyway. There’s a nice mix of stuff on here— some punk (like “Real To Me,” which sounds a lot like the Bizarros and has a hurdy-gurdy part— you don’t hear that every day!; and “2101” which I’m not sure what the significance is as a number but Craig makes it sound really cool), a psychedelic meditation (“Be Here Now”), two very different types of experimental music (the ominous “Who’s Watching The Watchers,” where Craig delivers a great vocal performance and “Careful With That Axe, Body Spray,” where he’s joined by fellow X__X members John Morton and Andrew Klimeyk for a true no wave freakout— is the title a little dumb? Maybe— I can’t really tell what he’s talking about), some genuinely great ‘60s throwback garage (“Out Of My Mind” and “Move Along,” both with some great keyboard; I especially like the former’s “everybody wants to be 007” bridge— if not for the modern production, you could tell me it was a song from “Nuggets” and I’d believe you), and some more straightforwardly pop material like “A Little Bird” and “Goodbye.” A lot of really good material to be found here. I think Craig sometimes gets overlooked amidst flashier or more out-there contemporaries/bandmates like David Thomas or John Morton, but hopefully people will hear this record. 4/5


Jenny Mae - What’s Wrong With Me? - Don Giovanni Records / Anyway Records - 14 songs - LP, digital

This is a compilation of singles and unreleased tracks by the late Jenny Mae. If you read Bela Koe-Krompecher’s "Love, Death & Photosynthesis," you know how interesting and tragic the Jenny Mae story is and if you haven’t, you should really read the book because it’s very good. Anyway (no pun intended)— I think this might be the best place to get into Jenny Mae. It’s a solid representation of her whole career and the various types of sounds she did. The first four tracks here are her earliest recordings and they immediately set the tone. “He Don’t Care About You” is a pretty solo keyboard ballad and the other three add drum machine. The keyboard hook on “Big Scary Face” will be stuck in your head, as will bits and pieces of most of these songs— Jenny Mae knew how to write a catchy melody. After that, there are a few tracks that were meant for her never-finished third album; “Green Jello Eyes,” an ode to a former love left behind in Ohio, is a really moving track, as is the downright painful tribute “Jim Shepard (I’m Going To Stay Alive).” It’s a great song, don’t get me wrong, but it certainly pulls no emotional punches. “Not Another Bad Year” from 2015, somewhat ironically Jenny’s final recording, finishes up the first side. She was in rough shape at this point by all accounts, and it’s true that her voice sounds a bit worn out, but the songwriting talent and the charm was definitely still there. Side B has three tracks from her early ’90s band Vibralux and they’re all excellent— “Junk” and “A Face Like You” are both very catchy and semi-upbeat indie rock, but my favorite is the slow ballad “Hercules.” “Ho Bitch” is not technically a single or an unreleased track, but it deserves to be on here— it’s a meditation on her own mental illness, opening with the line “what’s wrong with me?” that gives this record its title and, like “Jim Shepard” earlier, does not let up from there. The final two tracks are also from the planned third album in two different stages— “Spit On Your Hand” is nearly finished, while “Disco Song” is more of a rough demo. Both very good songs— a dancey vibe is present in both of them, with the latter in most of the musical elements (I would assume intentionally, given that it’s called “Disco Song”) and with the former mostly in the thumping drum machine, which provides an interesting contrast with almost everything else about the song. This is a very good collection of songs here and certainly worth checking out if you’re into the ‘90s indie thing. 4/5

(anyway-records.com or dongiovannirecords.com)

Are you a local-ish band? Do you have a record out? Email vaguelythreatening@gmail.com or send it directly to the Observer: PO Box 770203, Lakewood, OH 44107.

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Volume 19, Issue 5, Posted 8:21 PM, 03.01.2023