Arts

Betty Rozakis Brings “Fire and Ice” To The Beck

Betty Rozakis, Lakewood writer, artist, and Graphology scholar is best known to Lakewood Observer readers as our Handwriting Expert. Betty studied Graphology at the British Academy of Graphology where she graduated in 2004.

Many know her as wife, mother and grandmother to a great family located in the far north west corner of Lakewood. One the past 4 or five years we have seen her emerge, or a better term would be re-emerge as an artist, now mastering many different mediums. 

While there is not much good on social media these days, watching artists as they perfect their craft is one of the bright spots. Watching kids emerge as writers, musicians, artists and photographers always makes me smile. Nothing better than fresh new talent with a pedigree. The other fabulous aspect of social media is watching others rediscover their passions. Betty falls into this camp. Online you can see her blossom in the not so easy world of glass art. In this new field Betty has handled all different complexities of working with glass, much of it learned at the Cleveland Institute of Art, where she graduated in May.

This piece was developed especially for the Beck Center. In it she used drawings from art Life Drawing classes at the Beck Center. “Because of my classes in art and creativity at the Beck I was able to build my portfolio and finally get into Cleveland Institute of Art, a lifelong dream.” Without the Beck, none of this would have been possible. 

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Volume 17, Issue 6, Posted 7:31 PM, 03.03.2021

A Figment Of Your Imagination: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 113

Bill Fox - Transit Byzantium - Scat Records - 18 songs - LP, CD

I've heard that this has been coming out for many years now– it's been on my list of "upcoming releases to possibly review" since around the time I started this column. "Transit Byzantium" is Bill Fox's second solo LP (following up "Shelter From The Smoke"), originally released on CD only in 1998. I've had that CD for a while, so I was familiar with the music here, but this is a new remaster and a nice new package and of course I wanted it on LP because I'm an annoying snob, so here we go. Bill Fox is basically a folk singer– these songs are mostly acoustic and most of them feature just him on vocals and guitar (and sometimes some kind of bass or percussion– on one song he plays piano too); however, that doesn't do his songs justice. I've described the music of Bill Fox with this complex analogy: it's like "Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds Sing The Everly Brothers" except it's "The Beatles Sing Bob Dylan." It's sort of like an inverse folk rock: instead of Bob Dylan style songs but with Beatles style arrangement, it's Beatles style songs with Bob Dylan style arrangements. There are the obvious folk elements (particularly prominent on "From A Dark Night," "Quartermaster's Wintertime," and "Dixie Darling," for a few examples), but with very melodic tunes that are far more pop ("I'll Give It Away" (featuring Tom Fallon and Tommy Fox) and "My Baby Crying" being the most overtly Beatles-influenced, I'd say). Of course, there's also nice harmonies, interesting guitar interplay, and simply beautiful songs that are a hallmark of all of Bill's best work. One weird digression is the brief and especially lo-fi "Sycamore," which must've either been recorded when Bill was a teenager or sped up, because his voice is very high on this one. Anyway, the man knows how to write very, very good songs and there are a lot of them on this record. Honestly, there are too many highlights to point them all out, but some particular favorites are the aforementioned "I'll Give It Away," "Thinking Of You," "Bonded To You," and all three tracks that make up the final side ("Portland Town," "For Anyone That You Love," and "When I Blow"). Very nearly as good or maybe even just as good as "Shelter" (which, by the way, is also back in print and you also definitely need) and definitely worth checking out. I'm very happy this is back in print. 4.5/5

(realscatrecords.com)

Leaking - Inborn / Suture - self-released - 2 songs - cassette, digital

This is the second release from Leaking, the trio of Depew, MacCluskie, and Taylor. I know the first two more from punk and punk-adjacent bands and don't know the last one at all, but together they make long form instrumental experimental music. When I picked up this tape from Depew himself, he used the magic words to get me to dislike something before I've even heard it: "Grateful Dead." That one's gonna get me a lot of hate mail, I'm sure. That said, I tried to go in with a pretty open mind because I have a lot of respect

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Volume 17, Issue 6, Posted 7:31 PM, 03.03.2021

Increasingly Curmudgeonly: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 112

Cloud Nothings - Turning On - Carpark Records - 9 songs - LP, CD, digital

Note: the CD and digital versions have more than 9 tracks, but I just have the LP so that's what I'm reviewing here. This was the first record by the pride of Westlake, originally released 11 years ago. It is really interesting to hear these tracks (and the second, self-titled LP) in comparison to the music Cloud Nothings has made since– it's kinda like two different bands, though it must be said that both of those bands are very good. This record is all Dylan Baldi doing everything I'm pretty sure, which is also probably the reason for the big change in sound later. This record is basically a lo-fi power pop/indie rock record from what I would guess were the glory days of bedroom indie rock. Don't ask me, I wasn't there. I've never been too into that sound, but Cloud Nothings on this record are a cut above almost all of those bands. Dylan could (and still can) write really catchy, hooky tunes. Most of the ones here are somewhere in the range between Matador-era Jay Reatard and Car Seat Headrest, though I don't know if either comparison is quite right. The title track and "Strummin" are both very reminiscent of the Strokes at their catchiest and best– on the latter, the "my baby's been gone…" part almost sounds like he's doing a Julian Casablancas impression. My favorite tracks here are "Can't Stay Awake" (where Dylan's screaming guitar solo and falling apart drumming are almost a precursor of things to come), the funky-riffed "You Are Opening," and "Hey Cool Kid," which besides being a very melancholy but very hooky tune with dark lyrics (from what I can make out) and vaguely ominous harmonies holds a special place in my heart because it was the second Cloud Nothings song I ever heard (after "Stay Useless"), sometime in probably 2013. That said, every song on here is pretty good and it's easy to hear why this record caught people's attention. 4/5

(carparkrecords.com)

Various - Killed By Meth #5 - It's Trash! Records - 14 songs - LP, digital

I always check out these Killed By Meth comps because they usually have at least a couple Cleveland bands on them. That said, they don't usually feel like good documents of the best of the current punk scene but instead a bunch of also-rans, bands that weren't good enough to get a Total Punk single (even though there are a couple 'bigger names' on here, like Erik Nervous and Archaeas, both of whom actually do have Total Punk singles of their own and who have two of the better songs on here-- our pal Erik seems to be covering a song from Whose Line Is It Anyway? and that's the kind of thing that I also find funny, so props to him there) (Also, this is not to say that I consider Mr. Rich Totally Punk an arbiter of good taste-- he's put out a lot of really great punk singles but also quite a few pretty crappy ones). Apart from that, most of the rest of the tracks on this thing are either painfully generic or have something that makes the song a non-starter ("Spinners" from The Smart Shoppers is a particular groaner– the aforementioned Whose Line song might be for some people too, I wouldn't hold it against them if they thought it was horribly corny). Maybe it's the comp nature that leads to these bands sending in tracks that are sorta throwaways– I've seen Alpha Hopper before and I know they're a decent band, but "Yardbird" is really not their best. Ohio is represented here by Columbus's Phlox (not good), Cincinnati's Black Planet (actually a highlight, a pretty catchy garage-y post-punk kind of song– I would be willing to check out more from them, and that's more than I can

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Volume 17, Issue 5, Posted 4:13 PM, 02.17.2021

Knows Nose Nos: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 111

Brain Cave - Stuck In The Mud - Tiny God Inc. - 10 songs - cassette, digital

I believe this is my second review of Brain Cave– I know I reviewed their first tape a couple years ago. They've released a few things since then, but we'll catch back up with them here. The familiar face here is singer/guitarist Mike Bellis, who was also the bassist and then the guitarist of The Roobydocks and was the guitarist in Bulsch at some point too. Brain Cave does not sound like either of those bands. Generally speaking, I'd call it alternative rock– some of it is post-hardcore, some of it has some definite emo characteristics, there are some grunge moments, and at times they even work in some gothy moves. This kind of thing isn't generally my kind of thing, but after a few listens, this started to grow on me. My favorites were probably "Bar Seat No. 1," "Salt Lick," and "Moved Obstacle." People for whom this is more their cup of tea will probably find a lot to like here, but even I (an idiot) enjoyed it. 3/5

(braincave.bandcamp.com)

Rubella - Barn Burners - Landfill Records - 12 songs - cassette, digital

Here's the latest from prolific local group Rubella. The email I got regarding this tape described it as 'dystopian synth pop' or something to that effect and yeah, that works for me. I think the only instruments on here are drums and synths– or perhaps I've been fooled and the drums are actually synths too. It's pretty dark stuff, I wouldn't say moody or melancholic necessarily but more edgy, sometimes menacing ("Blood Bucket" is a good example), and…I don't know. Volatile, maybe. Parts of this really remind me of Lost Sounds, other parts I don't find dissimilar to Brainiac. Someone more into the Dark Entries kind of stuff could probably make closer comparisons, but yeah, it's a lot of synths and it's pretty heavy stuff. The lyrics are generally unhappy (a reminder that Rubella's motto is 'life in general is suffering,' which tells you all you need to know about the tone here) and the vocals, even when there's some energy behind them, sound resigned. "Razor's Edge" namedrops the Hilliard Bridge which sounded so familiar that I went and checked the lyric sheet from the last Rubella release I reviewed to see if they were repeating a song and nope, they just have multiple songs where they talk about the Hilliard Bridge. Actually, come to think of it, I think I caught the phrase 'razor's edge' somewhere on that lyric sheet as well. I guess it's good to have some themes you go back to. On the first half, my favorite was probably "Bad Energy" and on the second half, I really liked the closing three tracks: "Flash Flood," an eerie industrial instrumental with, indeed, a flash flood warning playing over it, which genuinely did work as a scary track; "Kill Grid" continues the spooky musical theme and I have to assume Gregory (Rubella's lead member) saw those 5G kill grid posters all over Lakewood a year or two ago; and closing along the same pretty chilling lines with "Devil's Tower." Rubella have their zone that they basically keep making consistent music in, and I've gotta respect them for that. 3/5

(rubella.bandcamp.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 17, Issue 2, Posted 12:59 PM, 01.06.2021

A Scope Into The Sacred: On Display At The Root

As a human in Western society, I have observed my tendency to fall into the superiority-inferiority trap. The notion that some beings are inferior or superior to other beings ignores the universal intelligence that animates all life. It is a notion that has caused humans and all sentient beings harm and continues to do so. 

Heather Hansen’s art is a beautiful reminder of how all beings possess a sacred intelligence. Her paintings entitled "Bugs Can Fall in Love," "Everyone Was a Baby Once," and "Bugs Can Believe in God" encourage viewers to  reflect on how life force, no matter its shape or form, is able to perceive and feel.

Heather uses found materials, such as recycled canvases, paint from garage sales, driftwood, and forest gifts, for her creations. Her inspiration comes from nature and her work invites us to recognize the sacredness of all things. Her art is being displayed and sold at the Root Cafe during the month of December. I welcome you to visit, explore, and experience how these creations speak to you. 

Nicole Nazario is a fellow human. 

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Volume 16, Issue 24, Posted 12:20 PM, 12.16.2020

Twenty Twenty Twenty: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 110

Red Devil Ryders - Pour Me Another One - Just Because Records - 11 songs - LP, digital

In a time when shows were a thing people could go to, I think I probably brought more of my friends to see Red Devil Ryders than maybe any other band. Sure, that's partially because for a while they seemed to be on every show, but also they're a reliably decent and fun live band. I think this album brings that sense of fun and decency to the recorded medium. I wasn't quite sold on first listen (other than to sigh with relief that there weren't any songs like "Spicy Boys" on this one, which, sure, is a good first song of the live set, but not something I ever wanna listen to outside of that context), but a few listens in and I kinda started picking up on some themes and you know what? I think this is a really good album. It kicks off with the glammy power pop stomp of "Canadian Nights" (which I believe finds Adam Spektor and Carter Luckfield trading off verses on lead vocals and also features the excellent descriptive phrase "lookin' murdered out") and keeps up from there. Perhaps I'm reading into this too much as reviewers sometimes do (I once read that "Blood Visions" is a concept album about a murderer, which I'll believe when Jay Reatard comes back from the dead to tell me so), but this, to my ears, is an album about touring and about life in the immediate aftermath on touring, which has a poignant place in a world where no one is touring. The first two tracks definitely have a vibe of "the excitement of the tour." I wanted to hate "Mullet Song" on principle, but it's funny enough that it works. Perhaps it's really about tour-induced paranoia. "Sad Day For BBQ" is a tribute to someone named Melvin, who the album is also dedicated to, and is appropriately somber without losing the plot. Side 1 ends with "Little Green Cross," a two-part suite (Spektor's country rock is the first half, Luckfield's power pop is the second) that's probably the best song about legal weed that I've ever heard. It also ends with some backwards guitar, a nice nod to the "Crowley 666" days. Side 2 is mostly devoted to the

 

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Volume 16, Issue 24, Posted 12:20 PM, 12.16.2020

Rosy, Won't You Please Stay Home: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 109

Marty Brass - On The Grass - self-released - 6 songs - digital

Marty Brass: you might know him from Ma Holos, The Nico Missile, JuJu Shrine, Pig Flayer, and many other bands. If you read this column regularly, you might know that he shreds. "On The Grass" is his solo debut and while it has elements of some of those bands, it definitely is its own thing. I suppose what you'd call it would be lo-fi power pop-- catchy, guitar-driven pop rock songs with pretty poor recording quality. I'm not sure whether the fidelity was a stylistic choice or just a result of equipment constraints-- I'm a fan of a rawer production, but even I would've liked certain parts of this to be a little more clear-- but I suppose it does fit with the quarantined nature of this project. Some songs are slightly more mellow, like "Do Whatever We Want" and "Trip Up North," some have more of a garage rock feel, like "Morning Girls" and "Spaulding Street." "Ready To Pop" reminded me of a Parquet Courts song. If you liked that Joey Nix tape from last year (and I definitely did), this has that kind of vibe-- also, I think Joey himself plays drums on one of these songs, so there's a further connection. The weakest track here is "Clean Freak." I have nothing against an instrumental interlude, but this goes on for six minutes and, while it is sorta meditative in its way and there is a time and place for that kind of thing, it did not work for me stuck in the middle of the record like it is here. That said, the remaining five songs are all pretty good to really good. I hope this one comes out physically at some point (at least as a tape, come on) and I hope to hear more from Marty real soon. He shreds! 3.5/5

(martybrass.bandcamp.com)

 

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Volume 16, Issue 23, Posted 11:39 AM, 11.18.2020

Ray Rodrîguez Show At Root Cafe Through November

Looking for a short break from the day? Some good art, conversation and coffee? Stop by the Root Cafe on Detroit Ave. and check out the art of part-time Root Barrissta Ray Rodriegrez. Ray is having a small show selling prints and stickers of his work. This small grouping is in the surreal vein.

Ray is one of those people you cross paths with in life, and as you see more bits and pieces about the person and their work your appreciation only builds. This has been my experience with Ray.

Passionate about life, science, art and his beloved Puerto Rico. At the tender age of 28, you can add him to your artist/people to watch list. I think you will be pleasantly entertained.

This show is up through the end of the month. 

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Volume 16, Issue 22, Posted 11:35 AM, 11.18.2020

Something Everyone Could Use, Especially Bike Riders

Cycling RIGHTS Bicycles, E-Bikes & Micro-Mobility Devices

As many of you know all of the Observers have been huge supporters of bikers, riders and cycling. At one time we started Bike Lakewood, and had a biking column that became the “Great Lakes Courier” cycling paper. So when I saw Kenneth Knabe’s new book “Cycling RIGHTS Bicycles, E-Bikes & Micro-Mobility Devices” I wanted to get a copy and find out what it was all about. All of us, riders and drivers, cannot know enough about the laws on the streets for all of us.

Lakewood resident and Lawyer Kenneth Knabe has earned the title “Greater Cleveland’s Bike Attorney” not just in the courts, but in decades of riding and service to the Greater Cleveland community. He is a Bike Cleveland Corporate Sponsor, He serves on the boards of Ohio Bicycle Federation and the Ohio to Erie Trail. He also co-chairs a sub committee of the City of Cleveland’s Vision Zero Taskforce, whose goal is to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries to all road users.

Back to the book. It contains common sense rules of the road that can benefit and educate everyone from the beginners to experienced riders, and yes even those who have never ridden a bike, will never ride a bike but drive. Simple questions answered and explained. Like the simple question that everyone on the roads ask, “Can a cyclist go through a stale red light with no cross traffic?” Well only if it is a “dead light.” Which is explained in one section with subnotes noted and put elsewhere. The book is that thorough.

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Volume 16, Issue 22, Posted 11:35 AM, 11.18.2020

...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

(coffeehut.bandcamp.com)

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

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Volume 16, Issue 22, Posted 8:02 PM, 11.04.2020

Lakewood Kid Filmmakers Walk The Red Carpet

That's a wrap! Lakewood Young Filmmakers Academy hosted the premiere of the latest film produced by their students on August 22 at Harding Middle School. The gala event featured all the glitz and glamour of a Hollywood premiere, complete with a red carpet, paparazzi, SWAG bags and, due to COVID-19, and outdoor screening of their new film "The Other Side of the Line," an allegory about racism and prejuduce.

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Volume 16, Issue 20, Posted 10:23 AM, 10.22.2020

When Will They Learn: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 107

Gills - Dried Clothes - self-released - 4 songs - 7"

I don't know anything about this band other than I've seen their name on shows for a couple years and they're from Youngstown, I'm pretty sure. This record is a really good hardcore record. Nice garagey production and pretty straightforward, no frills stuff. There's a bit of the Cruelster sound here, though less weird both musically and lyrically. The singer kinda reminds me of the guy from Fried Egg. There's a part on "Bird Rage" where I'm not certain whether the drummer skips a couple beats for dramatic effect…or he just missed the beats. Dropped a stick or something? Either way, it sounds cool. "TUFF/M.B.T" reminds me of a Cider song, though I cannot quite remember which one. The no frills thing carries over to the packaging here: hand-stamped labels, not even a full folded cover, hardly any information about the band or anything. Maybe it's all best left a mystery. One other thing definitely done right by Gills here: Nathan Ward cover artwork (another thing in common with Fried Egg, now that I think about it). Worth seeking out. 4/5

(try a local record store)

Rat Fucker - Rat Fucker - self-released - 7 songs - cassette, digital

Here's the first studio release from Rat Fucker, following up on their live tape from last year. I guess this one is a cassette "for now" with plans of pressing it as a 7" at some point in the future. It's pretty ripping hardcore. I can't quite remember what other bands these guys are in– Spike Pit and Weed Whacker are at least two of them, I'm pretty sure. It's good stuff. Topic-wise, this i

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Volume 16, Issue 20, Posted 10:13 AM, 10.22.2020

Filling Up The Streets Is The Only Thing That Works: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 106

Knowso - Psychological Garden - self-released - 5 songs - digital

The first of two digital-only (for now?) Knowso EPs released in the past few months. They're down to a two-piece here, with Jayson Gerycz on drums and Nathan Ward on everything else. In that way, it's kinda similar to the first Knowso tape, which I think was just Nathan and Jo Coone. They actually redo a track off of that original tape, "Into A Bug," which already has pretty funny lyrics but is improved even further by Nathan's deadpan delivery. "Isn't it funny how things work out…My life is done now," or the brilliant couplet "My brain's on overdrive / I'm on news channel 5." (A quick digression here, but you know what song from that tape they should bring back out? "Chemical Drink." What a ripper.) This is a slightly more herky-jerky version than the original, as I recall, but still good. Herky-jerky is something of an essential element of the current Knowso sound, after all. The songs on this EP in particular are comprised of a clean guitar and a distorted bass playing the same thing (which actually makes for a pretty cool sound), with the same thing usually being a staccato, pretty rhythmic punk tune in a weird time signature-- not in a math rock kind of way because I don't think they're doing this for those reasons, but more in the way that that's just how Nathan writes, kinda like Spike In Vain. I mean, "Staring At The Spiral" sounds like Neo Neos and that's about as far from math rock as you can be. Certainly less aggressive than past material as well, particularly in comparison to, for example, "Look At The Chart," but again, it's a closer sound to that original demo in a lot of ways. Also, there's more of a lean towards post-punk here, while still being, I'd say, punk. The lyrics on this EP are generally kinda out there, a little bit sci-fi but not quite in a Darvocets way. Sometimes they're about completely normal things, but seen through a filter where it's just a bit off. Like a photo where the color balance is wrong but you can't quite say how. There, that's a poetic description for you. My favorite here, particularly lyrically, is probably "Turning Planet." I really like the lines about "skipping cinderblocks in a cemetery" and "stepping on the names of the dead and dying." Cool stuff. 3.5/5

(knowso.bandcamp.com)

 

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Volume 16, Issue 18, Posted 4:58 PM, 09.02.2020

Annual LHS Alumni Ranger Marching Band Celebration - Canceled Due To C19

The Lakewood High School Alumni Ranger Marching band forfeits the privilege of marching with the current Lakewood Ranger Marching Band at Homecoming due to Covid-19. While this decision saddens us greatly, we are most concerned with the health and well-being of the students, their famillies, the staff, and the alumni who regularly attend. We do, however, look forward to any and all future opportunities to perform with the band.

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Volume 16, Issue 17, Posted 4:54 PM, 09.02.2020

Coloring During COVID-19

"Keep Calm and Carry On" seems to be the ubiquitous phrase these days. To deal with any challenge, some may resort to meditation or yoga. I have found my own path to tranquility from an unexpected source...adult coloring books!

They've been around for awhile, but I still find this to be a relaxing and satisfying way to pass time. It is also a creative outlet tailor made for those of us who can't draw to save our lives! The canvas may not be blank, but the final outcome is yours to decide. The possibilities are endless.

With days growing shorter and the restrictions of COVID-19 ongoing, adult coloring books can be a way to tune out the world and unleash unique artistic abilities. If you already have some tucked away in a drawer, give them another try. If not, you can dip your toe in the water without much of an investment. Closeout and "dollar" retailers offer coloring books at bargain prices. There you can also purchase inexpensive sets of colored pencils or markers (I found the need to also buy markers because the paper stock in one book did not work well with pencils). Books are usually themed and my collection (of 20!) includes topics such as nature/animals, fashion, and optical illusions. I've received some as gifts but otherwise could not resist those I've picked up spontaneously, often at art supply stores when searching for individual pencils in offbeat colors.

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Volume 16, Issue 16, Posted 3:41 PM, 08.19.2020

A Little Key West In Lakewood

Lakewood’s own Solstice Steps Sunset Celebration is rivaled only by the world-famous Mallory Square nightly ritual. Sword Swallowers, Fire Jugglers, Rings, Hoops and various other acrobatics highlight the Key West celebrations. The Cleveland Flow Collective is a growing group of entertainers who have descended upon Lakewood Park, every Monday night, for a few years. Each week the timid organization inches closer and closer to the Solstice Steps. 

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Volume 16, Issue 15, Posted 4:08 PM, 08.05.2020

Absolutely Feral: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 105

The Wild Giraffes - Live At The Cleveland Agora - Neck Records - 8 songs - LP

The Wild Giraffes - Live And Later - Neck Records - 16 songs - CD

I'm combining these because they're essentially two versions of the same release– the first seven tracks and final track are the same on both, the CD just has an additional 8 studio tracks. We'll start with the live material. Oh my god! It's fantastic! They kick off with an absolutely smoking version of "Right Now," the title track from their only LP and it blows the studio version out of the water, which is a story that's repeated with pretty much every track here. I know people think the "Right Now" album is badly produced and sorta not that great– I fully understand that, though I still enjoy it– but they oughta check this out. The songs on the LP (or the live half of the CD, if that's how you're listening) are basically the definitive versions– particularly the classic originals like "Love Me," "I Don't Know About You," and again "Right Now." There's also "Under My Skin," another great tune that's never been released before (though there is a studio version which someone should put out as a single). This is some of the greatest power pop ever recorded. No exaggeration. Immensely catchy songs, very high energy, perfectly jangly and pretty where it needs to be– but never ever wimpy or any of the other more negative traits associated with power pop, because first and foremost the Wild Giraffes are a rock band. And the group absolutely destroys on here. Dave Ivan and Alan McGinty are a powerhouse rhythm section (Dave "Animal" Ivan gets a couple good screams in, too– and I always knew Alan was a good drummer, but man, he's on fire here). The twin guitar attack of Edgar Reynolds and Bill Elliott is in full force– it's really incredible the way they work together on here. And I've always thought, but this record certainly strengthened this opinion, that Chris King is the standard that all singers in this style should be held to. He's just at the top of the game. The whole thing makes you excited just listening to it. It's powerful.

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Volume 16, Issue 14, Posted 4:19 PM, 07.15.2020

Review: Little Lions' Den Episodes 1 and 2

Little Lions’ Den is a new TV show from the kids who brought you Cruelster— created by (and starring) Nathan and Alex Ward, edited by Michael “Yes Yes” Gill and Perverts Again fill-in Nick Kroh, and helped along by others in the world of those bands. It’s essentially a spinoff of their radio show, ppm The Good Nite Show, and it is exactly as weird as you’d probably expect if you’re a fan of everything else these guys have done. It’s pretty excellent. 

The basic format is a talk show starring Little Diesel, a puppet who looks and sounds like Mike Trivisonno, and Landon Lammagin, who truly cannot be described better than he describes himself in the first episode: “I look like someone from Hell.” Episode #1, “Our Freakish Hideaway,” is a good introduction to what exactly this show entails. They do a bread test (which really needs to be seen to be understood, but probably isn’t what you’re thinking) and then introduce a recurring segment, Newsline Newsbits, in which they give you the news. Sorta. 

Episode #2, “The Pounding In My Head,” however, is where it gets really good. We get our first guest on the show, a rhythm expert who might be called Jonny Donnal (played with great aplomb by real life rhythm expert Noah Depew in his finest orange suit), who’s here to give Diesel the blues, since he lacks them and can’t sing a convincing duet of “Waltzing Matilda” with Lammagin. Spliced in among the episode is also a wild bird cooking segment and another installment of Newsline Newsbits. The rhythm expert part was my favorite— it is tremendously funny— but the whole thing is very good. 

Th

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Volume 16, Issue 14, Posted 5:19 PM, 07.01.2020

Feverish: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 104

Glenn Schwartz Four - Glenn Schwartz Four - not on label - 8 songs - LP

Alright, so the story with this one is that it's the late Glenn Schwartz and several of his students and kind of functions as a showcase of the styles they played. There's a lot of undeniably good guitar playing on this thing– and Glenn taught these guys well, because a lot of the time you can't even tell when it's Glenn and when it's not. Generally, all the songs are in the blues rock realm, and with the exception of "I'm So Glad," are all instrumentals. Some ("Water Street," "Fear N Doom") are in a more psychedelic style, some are more traditional ("Hound Dog"). Personally, I prefer the former. I don't really spend a lot of time listening to this kind of thing, but those who do (and, obviously, Glenn Schwartz fans in particular) will like this. And again, unquestionably good guitar all over the place here. 3/5

(try a local record store?)

Xanny Stars - What Next? - self-released - 8 songs - cassette, digital

This is the debut release by Xanny Stars, who play a kind of hooky pop-punk/indie rock mix– almost in the same area as The Missed (with whom they share a member, Mickey), but slightly more towards the indie rock side than that band. It's decent stuff; they pull off both sides of their style pretty well– the power pop of "Make Up Your Mind" or the alternative stylings of "Spinning." There are good, catchy songs on here for sure. My issue is with the mix: I'm not quite sure what it is about it, but it just doesn't pop at all. Which is kinda weird, since Paul Maccarone recorded this and he definitely knows how to make things sound better than this, so maybe it was the choice of the band to have it sound this way? Maybe it was just laziness? Not sure, but since (as I understand it) this is essentially a demo anyway, there's room for improvement. The vocals at times are murmury to the point of being unintelligible, but that one I'm pretty sure is a stylistic choice– Xanny Stars would not be the first or the last to do this. Overall, a decent tape, good songs, worth checking out an up-and-coming local group and all that. 3.5/5

 

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Volume 16, Issue 10, Posted 8:02 PM, 05.19.2020

Three Three Three: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 103

The Cowboy - Wi-Fi On The Prairie - Feel It Records - 12 songs - LP, digital

Hot on the heels of their self-titled 7", The Cowboy are back with their second album and third release total. It's a solid record, 12 tracks of good garagey punk with a strong post-punk edge-- it isn't quite the halfway point between Homostupids and Pleasure Leftists since it's still much closer to Homostupids, but it's somewhere in there between them. This record sounds like The Cowboy, and I know that's a stupid thing to say but really that's what can be said about it. There are good, driving basslines, dissonant but catchy guitar leads, and some cool drum fills (I particularly like the drums on "Papa Bear"). There aren't exactly the standout tracks that there were on the first record (and I would still start there with this band), but this is good stuff. If you've liked The Cowboy so far, you'll certainly like this record as well. My favorite tracks were "Crazy World" and "SS," and the ridiculous closer "The Chief" was pretty cool too. 3.5/5

(feeltrecordshop.com)

Ted Kane - The Dream - self-released - 8 songs - digital

Ted Kane is an expatriate Columbusite and one-time Jim Shepard collaborator living in California these days. This is his latest work, eight tracks of mostly just guitar and vocals. It's definitely within the Columbus tradition: the ballad-like title track and the punker "(I'm So Ambivalent About) Living In The USA" both recall different facets of Mike Rep and/or Tommy Jay (and actually, I could've sworn I recognized the name Ted Kane from some Mike Rep record but I could find no evidence of this, so maybe I just made it up). There are a few instrumentals in here, like the aptly named "Shuffle" and the meditative "The Same Stream," as well as a noisy a capella/percussion track called "Grinnin'," which was pretty weird (though I'm now at a point where I can't tell when things are trying to be weird or just are naturally, so I can't tell you which this is) and, to close out the album, a cover of "Pale Blue Eyes," which at this point is pretty unnecessary to cover, but is always going to be a good song anyway, so I guess I understand. Some of the stuff here is decent enough, but without full rock band instrumentation (or even just something besides guitar), it doesn't really work for me. Even so, good enough that it's of interest to people who are into Columbus-related stuff. 3/5

(tedkane.bandcamp.com)

Are you a local-ish band? Do you have a record out? Email vaguelythreatening@gmail.com

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Volume 16, Issue 8, Posted 11:01 AM, 04.02.2020

In Sickness And In Health: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 102

The Cowboy - The Cowboy - Drunken Sailor Records - 3 songs - 7", digital

The Cowboy's debut LP was three years ago, as jarring as that is. This is the long-awaited follow-up EP. Side A has two pretty good post-punk leaning punk songs, the vaguely threatening sounding "The Swimmer" and "Mr. Lamppost," which was kind of reminding me of a more aggressive version of Institute or one of those kindsa bands. I probably said something to this effect three years ago, but The Cowboy, for obvious reasons, sounds like a cleaner, more straightforward Homostupids (if the reasons aren't obvious, it's because it's 2/3 the same band). The flip side here is a different kind of thing. "Way Out" is a far more mellow, almost jammy song. It's definitely more laid back than usual for the band, and kind of just meanders its way through itself, but in a weird way, it's enjoyable. The comedown after the first side, perhaps. A strong EP here. 4/5

(drunkensailorrecords.co.uk)

Stinky Monkey Finger - The Earring - DF Records - 15 songs - digital

This might be the best SMF release so far. Every time I review them, I say something like the nearest comparison is Guided By Voices or rather some more out-there Bob Pollard lo-fi project, but I say it with the caveat that it isn't quite accurate. This time it's very accurate: this sounds very much like something out of the Rockathon camp. And actually, it's the better for it, as there are a good few solid songs on here evenly distributed with the weirder material. That's not to say, however, that they just sound like GBV now; they most certainly still have their own identity. There really is a good mix here of the "song" songs ("Call Me Up," "I've Been Drinking" (another Pollard connection), "Slow Burn," to just name three) and the more, perhaps, difficult material (the drum machine free jazz of "Blasting The Boom," the rather aptly titled "Skate World," which sounds ominous enough that perhaps it should've been "Skate Dystopia," and "Bad Ink," which is a melee of instruments that sounds like it's almost gonna fall apart at any second, but never quite does). Probably the best place to start with this band/project/guy (I'm still not quite sure) if you're intrigued. 3.7/5

(dennisbaker.bandcamp.com)

Are you a local-ish band? Do you have a record out? Email vaguelythreatening@gmail.com

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Volume 16, Issue 7, Posted 3:06 PM, 03.19.2020

Talented Artists Shine At Barton Senior Center

The Barton Senior Center's Talent Exhibit on February 23 demonstrated that there is no age limit when it comes to being gifted. Held in two locations within the Center (on the ground floor of the Westerly Senior Apartments), the event featured residents' paintings, photography, quilts and other unique pieces, one being a vinyl record that was molded into a ruffled bowl.

The Barton member who organized the show summed it up with "this is the epitome of patience and perseverance," acknowledging the amount of time and effort that went into much of what was on display.

Susan Lucas added, "I had no idea so much talent is housed in this complex." Her remark was echoed by many. Other praise included "awesome experience," "fantastic artwork from everybody," and "one of a kind." A crowd favorite was Anna Baker's portrait of her grandparents. It was so well done many thought it was a photograph. Another artist did use a camera to capture images of wildlife, fall foliage and travel landscapes. Needle crafts were also greatly admired by attendees.

Following the visual arts presentations, the celebration moved into the facility's Rotunda. Janis Zemzars, a classically trained pianist, played compositions by Chopin and Debussy. Vocalists sang popular tunes ranging from "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" to "The Rose." The afternoon concluded with the audience singing along to "Joy to the World" by Three Dog Night followed by Barton member "Hippie Chatty Kathy's" interpretation of "Old Time Rock & Roll" from Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band.

The Barton Center's Talent Exhibit provided a venue where creativity could be viewed in a formal setting. Some participating artists were asked if their pieces were for sale. It was also a way for the senior community to come together for an inspiring and uplifting afternoon.

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Volume 16, Issue 6, Posted 3:12 PM, 03.19.2020

Psychology: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 101

Cheap Clone - New Paltz/Walk To Canada - Just Because Records / Peanut Butter Records - 2 songs - cassette, digital

These are, sadly, the final recordings from my beloved Cheap Clone (hopefully just temporarily, but for now, this is it). At least they've gone out on a high note! (and that's not a joke about Drew's vocal range). "New Paltz" is a totally great power pop track with jangly/chorus-y guitars throughout and some siren-like noises at the start. It's a really catchy track, and that alternating-two-notes guitar lead throughout works really well. The "flip" (although not really, since both songs are on the same side– and actually, both repeat on the other side as well) is another good track, "Walk To Canada," parts of which remind me of The Mice. There's also part of the guitar lead that I really like and can't quite place what it's reminding me of. In any case, this is really good, much like everything else Cheap Clone has released. I will deeply miss this band and I keep my fingers crossed for their eventual return. 4/5

(cheapclone.bandcamp.com to listen, you may have to bug the band or label directly for the tape)

The Mind - Edge Of The Planet - Drunken Sailor Records - 8 songs - 12", digital

Eight solid tracks of drum machine-driven post-punk from The Mind here, although to just say drum machine post-punk is overly simple. Steve Peffer is a member of this group, which should tell you immediately that it's both better and more strange than just "drum machine post-punk." In some ways, it kinda feels to me like if Factorymen was a more accessible and less immediately weird project. Sorry if those two sentences seem a bit contradictory– these are catchy tracks in a definable genre, but there's still strange and sometimes eerie synth swells, disjointed guitar parts from Jordan Darby, and melancholy, at times almost haunting vocal melodies from Vanessa Darby. The tracks here are all at least a little hypnotic in a way, and they all live up to the tone set by the cover art: a twilight highway with weird neon lights running across it (at least that's what I'm seeing, and, I guess, hearing). A good record– I don't know if I'd necessarily say each track works on its own, but as one piece, this thing is good. My favorite songs are "Running On My Head" and "Technical Intuition," but again, you kinda gotta hear the whole thing. Steve gets a great bass tone on here. A cool project that I hope to hear more from. 4/5

(drunkensailorrecords.co.uk)

 

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Volume 16, Issue 5, Posted 10:32 AM, 03.04.2020

100 Ways To Do Something Or Another, I Can't Remember Anymore: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 100

I’ve been doing this for five years now. This is the 100th review column I’ve written. I’m not sure how many total reviews that adds up to (seeing as these columns range between one and four reviews, usually), but it’s a good few. So, for this one, seeing as it’s moderately special (100 is a big number! Triple digits!), I’m doing a special column. These are quick re-reviews of some of my favorite releases of the past five years that I’ve reviewed here (note: there are things I liked but never reviewed that have been excluded, as well as things older than five years that I did review, but have cut since they’re not within the timeframe I’m trying to work with. I also have reviewed some non-Ohio releases that I loved and could’ve included here, but I tried to keep this Ohio just because otherwise it would be way too long!). There were a ton of records I cut from this list, and it pained me to do so, but I could really go on and on about how much great music has come from Ohio and fill this whole paper with the one column. Thanks for reading, and thank you very much to all the bands and artists who’ve been in some way a part of this column. Here’s to 100 more, I guess. 

Bernie & The Invisibles - All Possibilities Are Open LP (My Mind’s Eye)

This group was one of the lost acts of the late ‘70s Cleveland punk scene, with only three tracks ever being officially released across various compilations. This record solves that problem. Sure, it’s lo-fi, but the music contained is truly some of the best punk rock ever. Bernie is smart, funny, touching–- in certain ways, it’s like a cross between the Modern Lovers and the Urinals. It’s absolutely great. 

The Choir - I’d Rather You Leave Me 7” (Norton Records)

Two tracks from Cleveland’s first power pop group (?), both very good. Sure, I’ve got problems with this record (the lack of liner notes, the fact that it’s on lavender vinyl…), but the music is good enough for me to look past it. Every bit as great as “It’s Cold Outside.”

Bill Fox - Before I Went To Harvard LP (Eleventh Hour Recording Company)

Perhaps this material isn’t as essential as what’s on “Shelter From The Smoke,” but most of it is still prime Bill Fox. Plus, three Radio Flyers songs, so you need it for that alone. 

Great Plains - The Mark, Don, & Mel E.P. +4 LP and Born In A Barn LP (Rerun Records)

Sure, it’s cheating to include both of these, but how could I possibly choose between them? Ron House is one of the greatest lyricists of this generation or any other generation, and the eerie, Midwestern mood these records conjure is like nothing else I’ve ever heard. Two essential records. 

Kill The Hippies - Let’s Start A Band Nobody’s In CD (Phoenician MicroSystems)

It’s mildly funny to me that this is in the archival section here, but it is an archival release! It’s just that this band is still active, which is great. Two unreleased albums and an unreleased single in one package. And it’s a shame these records weren’t released, because they’re pretty great. Still one of the best punk bands around. 

The One Way Street - The One Way Street 2x7” (My Mind’s Eye/B-W Records)

A killer reissue of one of the greatest, dumbest, nuttiest (no pun intended) garage rock records ever (both sides are on the first “Back From The Grave” if that tells you anything) and a second, more straight-laced but still very good single with two unreleased songs. It has to be heard to be believed. The peanuts are nice but the acid is rare! 

Jim Shepard - Heavy Action 3xLP (Ever/Never Records)

A really great set of all the types of music Jim Shepard made. There are heavy, ripping noise-punk tracks from the band V-3, there are sparse, melancholy, acoustic pieces, there are strange audio collages and answering machine messages. A truly fascinating, touching, tragic, and just good portrait of one of Columbus’s best. 

The Society - You Girl 7” (My Mind’s Eye/B-W Records)

This thing’s been getting a lot of hype lately in garage rock circles, but it absolutely lives up to that hype, without question. A total blaster on Side A (with a ripping fuzz guitar solo less than a minute into the song!) and the moody, organ-driven “Lonely” on the flip, both nearly perfect examples of the genre.

The Styrenes - CLE 76-79 Unreleased 3x7” (My Mind’s Eye)

This is maybe not the most essential Styrenes material, nor the best place to start with them (I did like it more than “The Essential Styrenes,” though), but well worth hearing. Alternate/early versions of some their classics (a killer version of “I Saw You” and an instrumental version of “Where The Girls Are” that lets you appreciate just how fantastic the guitar playing is on it are two highlights), plus two totally unheard tracks, “Empty Vessels” and “Murder Me,” both of which are very good, especially the latter. For the fans, perhaps, but necessary for the fans. 

 

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Volume 16, Issue 4, Posted 4:30 PM, 02.05.2020

For The Modern Teen: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 99

Ricky Hell & The Voidboys - L'Appel Du Vide - Quality Time Records / Greenway Records - 10 songs - LP

This is either the second or third Ricky Hell & The Voidboys album (depending on whether you wanna count "Satan Of Cool," which had 8 songs and was cassette only– and actually, it could be the fourth or fifth if you say "Killed By Ricky" and "Hell Is Real" are Voidboys releases, since they do have that band on them and since they were combined to make up "Welcome 2 Hell," which was then rereleased as "Ricky Hell & The Voidboys" later. This band has the most complicated discography of any Quality Time group as far as I'm concerned.)  It kicks off with some kind of blaxploitation spoof before kicking into the opening song, "Life In A Northern Town Again," a nod to Dream Academy's 1985 release. Side A is made up of mostly the kind of things you expect: decent, usually catchy punk-pop. "It's Not Really You" is pretty good, as is "Strychnine" (which has what I think is a pretty cool melancholy clarinet line during the chorus, but it's so deep in the mix I'm not certain it's clarinet). Clarinetist Adam Spektor also does some good stuff on "She Always Knows What To Do"; he's at his best here when he's providing a melodic line instead of just the noise stuff, which feels unnecessary a lot of the time. Side B is definitely the winning side here. "Alaska" starts with an electronic kind of intro that gives way to an early '80s sounding post-punk/synth thing, which then abruptly ends and then the actual song, a slow and kinda sad one starts. Noah Depew plays lead guitar here and Kevin Roche (who I think was in Pack Wolf) adds a nice glockenspiel part. It doesn't sound like anything else here, and that's good. "We're So Vain" and "Burn The House Down" are both pretty good, catchy power pop/punk/indie rock type things, and along with "Romantic Comedy" remind you that Ricky really can write good, catchy songs. "Romantic Comedy" is the one that really sticks in my head here, and since there's no backing vocal credit for it, I assume that it's Ricky doing a falsetto, which is a new move for him, I'm pretty sure. "Amnesia" closes out the album with a typical Voidboys style punker, but with Ricky's usual soft and murmury vocal stylings. He's kinda buried in the mix here and the song also feels like it's over after about 20 seconds. I'm not sure it was the best choice for a final track, but there it is. I still don't really like the sound of this band (or maybe I just don't get it)– I don't like the drum machine, I don't like the layer of noise gunk or whatever you wanna call it on them, and sometimes the performances seem less than lively. I guess the band has an actual drummer now (John from The Roobydocks) and he'll be on the next release, so I'm interested to hear how that changes things– almost certainly for the better in my book. I know it seems like I'm always very harsh with this band, but it's because I truly respect all the guys involved and I know that they can make great stuff, so when they're making stuff that's less than great, it's frustrating. That isn't to say that this record is a waste of time or anything by any means; again, most of the songs on the second side are really good and there's a couple winners on the first side as well. By and large, I am a fan of Ricky's work and if you are as well, it's worth checking out. 3.33/5

(try a local record store)

Street Gurgler - Primal Business - It's A Jinx Records - 13 songs - LP, digital

Street Gurgler (with members of Spike Pit, Splat, Brainwashed California, and many other bands) make their studio debut here. They play a good very hard rock-influenced style of punk, with lots of space rock influence and just a touch of metal. It's pretty good stuff. The band is super tight and a lot of the riffs are killer ("Cat Nip" is a great example). I'm wondering if they got Mr. California a real synth to play on here or he just used his phone– either way, the synth sounds cool. The

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Volume 16, Issue 2, Posted 2:29 PM, 01.08.2020

Buh Buh Buh Buh Buh: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 97

Midnight - Midnight - My Mind's Eye - 4 songs - 12"

I guess the deal with this one is that the four songs here were supposed to be released as a 12" of this sort many years ago, but it never came to pass. They've appeared on Midnight compilations before, but never in their intended form…until now! I'll be the first to admit I do not know nearly enough about metal to make any particularly good comparisons here, but I think this is pretty good. The totally ripping opener "Lord In Chains" has some great shredding, it definitely rocks, it has hooks (not pop hooks, but memorable riffs and structure and all that stuff), and it sounds enough like Motörhead that I'm pleased (again, someone who knows more about this kind of thing than me could probably tell you 'it's not Motörhead, it's [some band that was influenced by Motörhead],' but not I). It's well-balanced by the slower, heavier "Strike Of Midnight." Side B has the spooky "Take You To Hell" (the part where he hits the first "when I take you to Hell!" and the music kicks in is especially awesome) which transitions perfectly into "…On The Wings Of Satan," another total ripper. Tell me you're not waving your fist in the air by the end of this thing. Good record. 3.666/5

(mymindseye.bigcartel.com)

Jim Shepard - Heavy Action - Ever/Never Records - 29 songs - 3xLP, digital

Jim Shepard is one of the big three of the Columbus underground music scene, at least according to that one Obnox song ("Ron and Rep and Jimmy Shep!"). However, whereas it's easy enough to find Quotas records or Great Plains or Slave Apartments or whatever, it is not easy to find Jim Shepard's. Outside of "The Room Isn't Big Enough" by Ego Summit (which has several very good Shepard originals), I don't know if there's any of Jim's music currently in print. Well, until this new set here. This really is a great summary of Jim's music. There's everything from very out-there experimental songs (both of the cuts titled "Music For Instr., Voice, Machine") to scalding noise-punk (most of the V-3 material here, like "Photograph Burns" and "Party at Fifteenth and Summit") to acoustic material somewhere in the tradition of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen (both of whom get covered here, along with similar originals like "One Percent Of Nothing") to excerpts from voicemails he left for people (I assume Charles Cicirella, mainly, whose archive I believe most if not all of this is culled from). The first track is "Fuck The Clock," an Ego Summit outtake of a poem recited by Mike Rep. "Prom Is Coming," which was co-written with Robert Pollard, is a really pretty solo tune performed here live, accompanied by Mike Rep again. The 'banter' on the live tracks, as well as the voicemails, reveal something interesting about Jim Shepard's personality, I guess. I don't know, I don't feel like it's my place to say since I didn't know him or anything, but they paint an interesting picture. Just the way he very earnestly tells the audience on one of the V-3 tracks that if they could find his records anywhere, that'd be really cool seems very self-conscious but not quite self-effacing– same thing with one of the "Devil's Editor Messages," where he ponders whether someone covering his song is a good step, and then immediately decides it's probably better than the original. "Tabernacle Moneygun" is a good Dylan-esque folk tune railing against the selling of oneself to corporate interests, or something like that. Side 2 has three live V-3 performances (and a solo version of Leonard Cohen's "Seems So Long Ago, Nancy"), all of which certainly provide good examples of what "heavy action" means. They're heavy and abrasive and maybe even difficult at times, but there's something about them that puts them above lots of music like that. There's something more tuneful and, well, just more interesting about them. Jim's guitar playing on these is what everyone who plays this type of music wishes they good sound like– it just slashes through you. Even the heavy bass on "Photograph Burns" can't overpower the incendiary leads Jim plays throughout. The second record has a few dark, lo-fi, usually somewhat morose solo tunes: "Come Carry Me Down," "Star Power," and "Damage Control," for example. Not quite folk and not acoustic, but with the same raw feel as a solo acoustic performance tends to have.

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Volume 15, Issue 24, Posted 12:41 PM, 12.04.2019

Horrific Gray Windowless Buildings Of The Most Bleak Kind: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 96

Breathilizör - Emblematic Picasso Banshee Of Chaos Destructors - My Mind's Eye - 3 songs - CD

Somehow, these three songs last for almost an hour. That's the power of metal, I guess. Track 1 is "Hot Cup Of Doom," which is a pretty good heavy number set in some kind of shopping mall from hell (shopping mall of hell?). Absolutely ridiculous but at the same time kinda good, as you'd expect from Breathilizör. Hearing Food read off the names of businesses in his evil metal voice of chaos is pretty funny: "Hickory Farms…Sunglass Hut…a place that sells cellphones in the middle of the mall." This one's followed up by "Something Of Something, Part X." It's pretty impressive that they're up to Part X now. Is X the most metal roman numeral, or is V? I'm not sure. Please send in your opinions. The final track here is the big one, the almost painfully long "Future Invasion Of Robotic Mayhem." There are some pretty ripping parts, and of course it's great to hear Food's delivery (the way he says "unscrupulous" in the opening line has made me laugh every time), but it's almost more fun to read the included lyric sheet than actually sit through the whole thing. But then perhaps I just have a short attention span. In any case, if you're a Breathilizör fan like myself, you'll need this one. 666/???

(mymindseye.bigcartel.com)

The Missed - The Missed - Just Because Records - 4 songs - 7", digital

This is the first real record for The Missed, following their tape on Quality Time from (I think) over a year ago now. It's pretty good. They're definitely sliding away from the more pop-punk sound of the tape toward a more Nervosas-esque post-punk kind of thing, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. They're still both poppy and punky, rest assured, just in a slightly different way. The songs are catchy, the rhythm section is great, and there's some excellent guitar playing on here (I particularly enjoy the solo on "I Wanna Know"). The opening "Stiff" is a tough stomper and for some reason "Summer Girl" reminds me of Paul Westerberg a bit despite not sounding like Paul Westerberg. I still kinda like the tape better (I wish someone would put that out on vinyl), but this is a solid EP to be sure, and I like it more and more with repeated listens. 4/5

(justbecauserecords.bandcamp.com)

 

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Volume 15, Issue 22, Posted 4:39 PM, 11.20.2019

Danger: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 95

Fan Fiction - No Frontier - Just Because Records - 11 songs - cassette, digital

Fan Fiction returns with the follow-up to their tape from last year, the lengthily-titled, "I Thought You Said The Legend Wasn't Real." 11 tracks of perfectly decent indie rock, all catchy and hooky. Not particularly heavy stuff, but not lightweight either. I think most of the best material is on Side B, like the upbeat "Catch 22" and the sorta-power pop "Creeps," maybe my favorite track on the thing. Side B also closes with a hidden acoustic track about how great a dude Fan Fiction's lead guitarist Joe Vecchio (who also runs the Just Because label) is. It's actually a pretty heartwarming track, another favorite here, and when I think about it, yeah, Joe's probably near the top of the list of people who deserve a song in their honor. Overall, it's a decent tape, though it doesn't have the total hits the first tape had, like "Teenage Landlord." I guess my problem is that it's not quite poppy enough on one hand and then not aggressive enough on the other, though that's really my impossible gripe and not their fault. A solid, likable release either way. 3/5

(justbecauserecords.bandcamp.com)

The Society - You Girl - B-W Records / My Mind's Eye - 2 songs - 7"

Here's a really good archival find. The Society (most of whom were Lakewood High School students) would later morph into the Damnation Of Adam Blessing, but this is their 1967 debut, unheard until now. These tracks are both absolute killers. "You Girl" is a garage fuzz pounder, with incredible guitar playing throughout and a similar vocal line to The Sparkles' "No Friend Of Mine" and, indeed, sounds like something pulled straight off of "Nuggets." There's a guitar solo barely a minute into the song and great call and response vocals: "You're a LOSER!" sings Bill Constable, answered by the rest of the band singing, "You girl!" A total teenage monster here. The B-side, "Lonely," is also absolutely great, trading the fuzz guitar for a slower, organ-driven sound. I wasn't quite sold on it the first few listens, but it really grows on you. And when you think about it, all the best garage singles have the destructo first side with the cool-down flip: "Open Up Your Door" has "Once Upon Your Smile," "Talk Talk" has "Come On In," and "You Girl" has "Lonely." Both sides sound great, too, courtesy of Cleveland Recording and Ken Hamann. Great packaging as well here: looks truly vintage, phenomenal band photo on the cover (and more cool photos on the insert), and interesting and informative liner notes from the garage rock genius Tom Fallon. For fans of garage rock or local stuff or local garage, this is pretty essential. 5/5

(mymindseye.bigcartel.com)

Are you a local-ish band? Do you have a record out? Email vaguelythreatening@gmail.com or send it directly to Observer headquarters: The Lakewood Observer, c/o Buzz Kompier, 14900 Detroit Avenue, Suite 205, Lakewood, OH 44107.

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Volume 15, Issue 20, Posted 5:57 PM, 10.02.2019

Lakewood Author Publishes First YA Novel

When Tony Harmon graduated from Lakewood High School in 2015, he didn’t feel like he had much direction for what was next. So he picked up a pen and a legal pad and decided to write a story. 

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Volume 15, Issue 20, Posted 5:57 PM, 10.02.2019

Nightmare On Merl Avenue

As the fall season begins, so comes the time for tricks and treats. How do you plan to spend the spookiest holiday of the year? If you’re looking for something fun, free, and close to home on Halloween, consider attending the scariest experience Lakewood has to offer: Nightmare on Merl Avenue!

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Volume 15, Issue 19, Posted 6:00 PM, 10.02.2019

This Year In Punk: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 94

Brat Curse - Brat Curse - Just Because Records / Anyway Records - 12 songs - LP, digital

This is the debut full-length LP from Columbus's Brat Curse, as far as I'm aware. They were part of that OH7O comp that came out a couple years back and they covered Brainiac. They do not sound like Brainiac. This is a solid twelve songs of hooky, largely upbeat poppy punk. Some of it heads more towards punk and some more towards pop and a few songs (particularly "Modern Snakes") have just the lightest sprinkle of some emo characteristics, but please don't let my saying that put you off. It's somewhere in the middle ground between a Dirtnap Records kind of power pop/punk sound ("Sweat Pants Lawyer," "Who Do You Call") and, say, Cloud Nothings' "Life Without Sound" ("Under The Gun"). "Psycho In The Future" sounds like their Just Because labelmates Fan Fiction, actually. Pretty good record here. It's consistent throughout. I like the back cover photo that kinda apes the back cover of "Something Else By The Kinks." This doesn't sound anything like that, but I like the photo anyway. 4/5

(justbecauserecords.bandcamp.com)

The Choir - I'd Rather You Leave Me - Norton Records - 2 songs - 7"

Here's a real two-sider for you. I think these tracks were recorded sometime after "It's Cold Outside" (and with a slightly different lineup, if I'm not mistaken), but they're every bit as great as that single. "I'd Rather You Leave Me" is very Byrds-esque– lots of twelve-string jangle and great harmonies– and is just a fantastic pop tune. It coulda (shoulda!) been a hit. The flip side, "I Only Did It 'Cause I Felt So Lonely," is equally great; maybe a little less directly influenced by the

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Volume 15, Issue 18, Posted 3:47 PM, 09.18.2019

Better Than Deader: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 93

Peter Laughner - Peter Laughner - Smog Veil Records - 56 (or 61) songs - 5xLP box, 5xCD box (and bonus 7")

Here it is, the Peter Laughner box set, long-awaited for 15 or so years. It's a hefty thing here. On one hand, I feel like it's giving this box set more credit than I'm comfortable giving it to review it and only it this week, but at the same time, I am reviewing five records (or six, actually) and a book and an overall concept here, so…well, so be it. I'll start by going record by record, I suppose, and then onto the other stuff. You're about to see something you don't usually see in these reviews, which is paragraphs. That's right, I'm breaking my aesthetic for this thing. You're welcome, Laughner fans. 

The first record is "Fat City Jive," comprised of selections from two WMMS Coffeebreak concerts Peter did in late 1972, which represents the earliest material here. The first half is with The Original Wolverines, which was Peter along with Mike Sands and Pete Sinks, both recruited from the Mr. Stress Blues Band. The second half is just Pete and Mike. You'll find here 17 folk-blues type tunes, all very competently performed. There's some Bob Dylan (the unreleased (at the time) "Please Mrs. Henry" and a straight version of "Love Minus Zero"), some older country and blues, some Lou Reed, basically what you'd expect. There's also two tracks by Terry Hartman, who Peter recorded a LP with entitled "Notes On A Cocktail Napkin" that I'd heard was supposed to be released as a standalone LP by Smog Veil at some point– will this happen or not, who knows– "Drunkard's Lament," which is pretty solid, and what was rather arbitrarily made the title track, "Fat City Jive," which is, I don't know, fine and all. There are even two, count 'em two originals on here, and wouldn't ya know it, they're probably the most interesting tracks here. "Solomon's Mines" is a nice love ballad and "It's Saturday Night (Dance The Night Away)" is a good sad tune ("I like sad songs," Peter admits in between this one and the next, a decent cover of "These Days"). It's a perfectly acceptable set here, though there are certain things that are kinda like, ok, I get why they'd play this on a live radio performance and all that, but why release it? There are alright tunes, but I don't know if it's really peak material. 

 

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Volume 15, Issue 17, Posted 6:27 PM, 09.04.2019

Dale Is Our Guru: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 92

Junkhouse Bones - Safari - self-released - 6 songs - digital

This band or project or whatever it is is one of those things that I know I've reviewed before but cannot remember anything about it. The name Junkhouse Bones made me think it was gonna be bluesy or swampy or something like that. It's not. I'd say it's alternative rock/pop punk (pop punk to me always means bands like the Undertones, but I mean the other definition of pop punk). The first three tracks are in a full band kind of mode and the remaining three are more subdued, with more sparse arrangements. I think I like this second half better. "God's Eye View" goes on a bit too long, but it's at times reminiscent of Nirvana with a drum machine. The closing "A Million Years Of Lies," which is just acoustic guitar and vocals, is probably my favorite of the bunch. This is what I assume Brand New sounds like, though I'm not familiar enough with Brand New to make a definitive statement in that regard. It's actually decent stuff, song-wise. My problem with it is the same as my problem with almost everything in this genre (the alternative rock/pop punk/emo continuum), and it's the production. The vocals are mixed too loud (at the same time, the vocals feel kinda quiet, so I guess it balances out), I just don't agree with the guitar and drum sounds (or they don't agree with me, rather). I don't know. I have a friend who absolutely loves music like this (and has no problems with the production and thinks I'm nuts), so I'm happy to have this to recommend to her. Decent stuff, but it doesn't quite grab me. 3/5

(junkhousebones.bandcamp.com)

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Volume 15, Issue 17, Posted 3:19 PM, 08.21.2019

Former Local Poet Dillon Bodnar Publishes Second Volume Of Poetry, "Harmonic Emotions: A Resonating Assembly Of Reflections"

I am so proud as Dillon’s Editor and Press Agent and Publicity Chief to introduce to you, "Harmonic Emotions: A Resonating Assembly of Reflections," his second volume of poetry! Dillon moved to Lakewood at age 3 and went through Lakewood City Schools where his talent for poetry was recognized and nurtured from a very early age. After graduating from Lakewood High School, Dillon attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY and earned a Physics Degree in 2017. Up until recently, he was building lasers for Spectra Physics in Silicon Valley, CA where he moved after college graduation. Dillon’s "Music of Our Spheres: A Roundabout Collection of Ruminations," his first volume of poetry, was published in 2014 when he was only 19. It consisted of poems he wrote between the ages of 10 – 18 and received wide acclaim from readers and critics alike. "Harmonic Emotions: A Resonating Assembly of Reflections" includes poems written between ages 19 – 23, plus some early childhood gems.

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Volume 15, Issue 15, Posted 2:59 PM, 08.07.2019

In HARMONY At Good Goat Gallery

In HARMONY is a collaborative art exhibition by Lizzie Essi and Catherine Reitz. The show will feature works revolving around the themes of transformation, balance, growth, rebirth and coexistence. The show will include paintings, prints, multimedia and digitally produced content. This project was funded by the Cleveland Foundation through Cleveland Institute of Art’s Creativity Works “build-your-own internship” program. When generating ideas for the collaborative project with different approaches to thinking and making we wanted to embrace the common goal of creating expressive works in the spirit of fun and freedom of making and also create a space where these differences are in harmony with another. The artists works alongside each other showcase and celebrate the contrast and commonality between varied modes and results of making that emphasizes the idea of coexistence. The show seeks to offer spaces for a viewer to slow down, realize, and meditate on the world that surrounds and shapes us.  The work provides insight into the process and concept as it offers many levels of contrast and commonality emphasizing the theme of coexistence.

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Volume 15, Issue 15, Posted 7:18 PM, 07.17.2019

When I Look In Your Eyes, I See Your Eyes: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 90

Human Switchboard - Who's Landing In My Hangar? - Fat Possum Records - 10 songs - LP, digital

I always seem to see Human Switchboard listed as "Cleveland punk" even though their path to Cleveland was a wayward and inconsistent one (they were in Syracuse, and then Cleveland, and then Columbus, and then Kent, and then…) and they aren't really all that punk. What they are is garage/power pop/new wave, that kind of thing. It's very '60s-based (Farfisa is all over it), but with a bit of that late '70s punk energy, ya know? A good comparison would be their contemporaries Saucers, if that helps anyone. The songs Myrna Marcarian takes the lead on are especially good, like the opening "(Say No To) Saturday's Girl" and the excellent "I Can Walk Alone," but I really like Bob Pfeifer's songs too. The thing about his songs is that he's a little bit goofy. I don't mean that in a bad way, but there's something that seems a bit self-conscious about him. He also does this thing on a few songs that's particularly noticeable on the slow, Velvets-y burner "Refrigerator Door" where he almost seems like he's doing a Jonathan Richman impression (it's really, really apparent on "In My Room," which isn't on this album, but is similar in execution to "Refrigerator Door")– the question is, is he trying to sound like Jonathan Richman or did he and Jonathan just both independently copy the same elements of Lou Reed? Does "Refrigerator Door" borrow its style from "Hospital," or are both songs just inspired by "Heroin?" Hard to say. Most of the time, it doesn't sound like the Modern Lovers, it's just something in Pfeifer's vocal style. In any case, I think it's a good record. The peppy stuff is good ("(I Used To) Believe In You," the title track) as are the other things they do, like the sinister "Don't Follow Me Home" or the strange, arty closer "Where The Light Breaks." Mostly upbeat, very catchy stuff, and consistently good if you can look past the things I find funny about it that I don't even know why I find funny. You, reader, probably won't even find it that funny, so maybe just ignore my babbling. 4/5

(fatpossum.com)

Are you a local-ish band? Do you have a record out? Email vaguelythreatening@gmail.com or send it directly to Observer headquarters: The Lakewood Observer, c/o Buzz Kompier, 14900 Detroit Avenue, Suite 205, Lakewood, OH 44107.

 

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Volume 15, Issue 15, Posted 7:18 PM, 07.17.2019

Annual LHS Alumni Ranger Marching Band Celebration

The Lakewood High School Alumni Ranger Marching band is proud to announce the 40th Anniversary of the Trip to England Celebration. All alumni marching band and auxiliary members are welcome to join us for Homecoming game against North Olmsted on Friday, September 27, 2019 at 7 p.m. Save the date and plan on coming out for a night of marching band fun and hopefully some great surprises! “Like” us on Facebook at LHS Alumni Ranger Marching Band for event updates and other events. You may also visit the Lakewood High School Bands Alumni page for updates and to register as an alum band member. It's free to join and we won't bog you down with unnecessary emails. Email us, lhsarmb@yahoo.com with any questions you may have or contact Sean DeRenzo, Alumni Marching Band President.

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Volume 15, Issue 13, Posted 6:32 PM, 07.03.2019

Look Here, Buddy...: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 89

Rat Fucker - First Show First Blood - self-released - 6 songs - cassette

This is a new band featuring members of Basement Boys, Weed Whacker, possibly Spike Pit, and probably several others. You know how these things go. There aren't any tracks listed on here (I hope I got the count right– if there are more or less than six, you're more than welcome to send me hate mail, but only if you're a member of the band). Rat Fucker play pretty good hardcore. It took a couple songs for me to get into it, but by song three or so I was digging it. It's a lively performance (I wish I'd been there, but I'm a poser) and the recording is pretty good, things are nice and clear. There are some good guitar leads throughout, the bass is loud and crunchy in the mix. There's not quite as much live banter as I'd prefer, but what's on there isn't bad, particularly the "we'll do better next time" after the last song. A bit more Noncommercial Records than Mirror Records, just a heads up. Pretty good. 3.5/5

(listen at youtu.be/vwbDCh-me7Y– I think you'll have to see the band if you want the tape)

S

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Volume 15, Issue 12, Posted 2:52 PM, 06.19.2019

Whoa Oh Oh Oh?: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 88

Redness - Killer Bees - not on label - 6 songs - 12"

This is a reissue of a 7" that originally came out in 1980 as the sole release on Non Records, to my knowledge. I'm not sure how official this release is, but it's cool to have nonetheless. I usually seem to see Redness listed as a "punk" band, but that's really not the case. It's maybe art-punk and there are a few tracks that could definitely be called no wave, but it's more of an experimental, artsy, DIY kinda sound. The title track has a synthesizer emulating constant bee-buzzing over a jazzy track while a guy screams about killer bees. Bizarrely, it reminds me a lot of Fossil Fuel, and you can try and figure that one out. "Gran Torismo" continues the sorta art-jazz style with a story about the titular car while someone in the background does a ridiculous performance of "Dead Man's Curve." Now, as far as Cleveland "punk" bands with jazz influences covering "Dead Man's Curve" goes, it's not as good as the version by the electric eels, but it's still pretty cool. The last track on Side 1 is "Little Debbie," which is the first one you'd certainly call no wave or art punk. Continuing that theme, the first song on Side 2 is "Creme Rinse," which is punk but also bossa nova or something like that. It might be my pick for the best one on here. "Backwards, Forwards" goes back to the weird artiness and fades out halfway through one of the lines, which leaves me really wondering what it is he said. Finally, "Primitivjam," as the title implies, is a short instrumental noodling freakout song. I'm not quite sure what to make of all this, especially since the band is apparently a complete mystery. Is it serious? Is it a punxploitation kind of thing but making fun of a far more obscure genre? I really don't know. If you're into the weirder side of things, this is a good one to check out. 3.5/5

(Due to this release's dubious officialness, I don't know where the best place to get a copy is. Try a local record store.)

Are you a local-ish band? Do you have a record out? Email vaguelythreatening@gmail.com or send it directly to Observer headquarters: The Lakewood Observer, c/o Buzz Kompier, 14900 Detroit Avenue, Suite 205, Lakewood, OH 44107.

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Volume 15, Issue 11, Posted 9:40 AM, 05.22.2019

NYC Based Folk-Noir Duo "Charming Disaster" Returns To The Good Goat Gallery

Brooklyn, NY based goth-folk duo Charming Disaster will perform in Cleveland on May 23, bringing their whimsically macabre duets inspired by love, death, true crime, ancient mythology, and the occult to Lakewood's Good Goat Gallery. The playfully dark duo are touring in advance of the release of their third album, SPELLS + RITUALS. Pre-release copies of the album will be available at the show. Doors open at 6pm.

They will share the bill with local vaudeville duo Pinch & Squeal, whose modern take on old-time comedic performance, from music to juggling to naughty jokes, has made them a longstanding Cleveland favorite in the circus and burlesque scene. Admission is $13.

"Charming Disaster balances smart pop songs against a confident stage presence, sort of a swagger, that suggest the two people out front are destined for great things...these people are overflowing with musical ideas that simply defy categorization." –The Vinyl Anachronist

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Volume 15, Issue 10, Posted 9:38 AM, 05.22.2019

Precocious Young Men: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 87

Guided By Voices - Zeppelin Over China - Guided By Voices Inc. - 32 songs - CD, LP, digital

I did have the thought that it might be a little irrelevant what I think of any new Guided By Voices release. After all, most GBV fans will buy anything they put out and it's relatively rare that someone's gonna just happen to pick up one of their records to check them out. Also, by the time this review is published, there'll be a new one out. I know that sounds like "ha ha because Robert Pollard puts out a new record every week," but seriously, there's a new LP out April 26th, which is before the publishing date of this review. But I decided I'd review it anyway, because maybe someone reading this has heard of Guided By Voices but doesn't really know anything about them and this will sway them one way or another, or, like me, already appreciate some Guided By Voices stuff but are hesitant to pick up anything they put out because they're not sure if it'll be worth their time (I realize this sounds a little harsh, but you've gotta understand that Guided By Voices and any other Robert Pollard projects put out quite a lot of material– it can't all be great). So here I am to help. You know what? This isn't a bad record at all. It sounds quite a lot like "Isolation Drills"-era GBV, I'm assuming in no small part due to the presence of lead guitarist Doug Gillard, who's got some great playing scattered over the four sides here. The entire first LP is really good, with a solid array of songs (my favorite, probably of the whole record, is "Your Lights Are Out," which is upbeat but also melancholy and is just a great tune). Other highlights include the near-glam stomper "Carapace," the more subdued college rock sound of "Send In The Suicide Squad," and the driving "Wrong Turn On" (I especially like the part where the drums stutter off the beat and then back into it– that's a cool touch). "Think. Be A Man" is a cool pounder with the great closing line, "the little girls do not understand" and to finish off the first half of the record is "You Own The Night," which starts as a total pop hit (with the opening line, "What's it like being all that?," which is pretty good), disappears into a seemingly unrelated second part, and then bursts back into the song. It took a while for me to come around to it, but I kinda like it. How about the second half of the album, or record 2 if you have the LP version? Well, like a lot of double albums, it starts to drag a bit. That said, however, I think there's enough decent material that, okay, the second LP is warranted, but only because it's Guided By Voices and the "why didn't they lose some of the filler songs on here" argument is utterly irrelevant. My favorites from the second LP are "Nice About You" (which has a very familiar melody, but I can't think of why), "Where Have You Been All My Life" (which is the closest this album gets to punk and has a melody that almost sounds drunken– I bet this one's fun live), "Enough Is Never At The End" (which is all piano and strings, which is kinda weird to hear on a GBV album but is an interesting change of pace), and "My Future In Barcelona" (which is another one of the best songs on the whole thing). Once I saw that Doug Gillard was responsible for horn and string arrangements (and there are some nice ones on here– particularly on "The Rally Boys" and "Vertiginous Raft") that made me think, "Oh, so he's like Mick Ronson to, I guess, Pollard's Bowie." I don't know how far you can stretch that comparison, but I've brought it this far and that's where I'll leave it. Solidly a good album, I'd say. 4/5

(rockathonrecords.com)

 

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Volume 15, Issue 9, Posted 8:01 PM, 05.08.2019

Silly Rabbit...A Twisted Vendors Easter Event

The Twisted Vendors Network is bringing the weird once again. If you’re looking for some non-traditional items, come join us at the Winchester Music Tavern on Saturday April 6th from 12 - 5 p.m.

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Volume 15, Issue 7, Posted 7:53 AM, 04.03.2019

Poetry + Presents Kevin Latimer

Poetry + is a monthly reading series hosted by Art on Madison for emerging and established writers in Cleveland and surrounding regions. Poetry + aims to shine the spotlight on a single writer, providing them with the platform and time necessary to present a body of their work and to connect with their audience. Each presenter is given the freedom to decide the materials and anecdotes they will share and can determine the duration of their reading. Poetry + is open to all forms of poetry, short and flash fiction, and performative happenings.

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Volume 15, Issue 7, Posted 7:53 AM, 04.03.2019

Forced Sneezes: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 86

Red Devil Ryders - Red Devil Ryders - self-released - 9? songs - cassette

This is the official "debut" of Red Devil Ryders so long as you don't count the limited edition live tape or Carter Luckfield's "Crowley 666," which is kind of like the prequel to the whole thing. The sound of the group is firmly rooted in about 1975 or so, in a sort of obscure middle ground between glam rock and pub rock with added hints of country rock and power pop (at its most rock 'n' roll– think Dave Edmunds, say). There's some Brinsley Schwarz influence, a bit of Neil Young, you probably get the picture. Lyrically, the trend is towards themes of driving, women, "gotta get to the show," or, commonly, all three at once. Though I (perhaps unfairly) think of this as guitarist/vocalist Carter Luckfield's band, bassist Adam Spektor takes lead vocals on two of the A-side tracks, "Alabamarama" (a song that sounds exactly like the title makes you think it sounds– it's a "gotta get to the show" tune) and "Spicy Boys" (in which a variety of spicy foods are listed– it's kind of ridiculous, but it's done in good spirit. Come to think of it, this one could probably fall under "gotta get to the show" as well.). "Down At The Club" and "Buy Me A Drink" are very strong as opening and closing songs, respectively. I was worried that "Red Devil" might be another hot sauce song, but it isn't unless it's going for a really weird metaphor, and "The Ballad Of Texas Pete" is an outlaw story song, because what more can you say than that this band goes all in on their schtick? I have to admit I'm slightly annoyed by the flip side, which is taken up with "666 Pt. 2." I thought it might be a really long freakout jam thing, or like Blues Magoos' "Dante's Inferno" or something, but it's not even really a cohesive piece. It's basically four more songs (the last of which, appropriately closing out the tape, is the fantastic "End Of The World") interspersed with bits of recordings played backwards, sometimes jammed over/along with by the band. I don't know, maybe I just find the forced mystery of it a bit irritating. The complaint I have about the tape as a whole, and I feel bad about saying it because I genuinely like this band, is that a number of the songs are very stylistically similar and I think the fact that four more of them are lumped together on side two just adds to the impression of slight sameiness. However, when it works, it works, and there are definitely some really good songs on here and this is a solid debut. You should be able to tell if you'll like this just by looking at the artwork, which includes a van, a cowboy, and a pepper. I also like that they went for a goofy band photo. 3.5/5

(reddevilryders.bandcamp.com)

 

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Volume 15, Issue 6, Posted 12:58 PM, 03.05.2019

Burning River Baroque Performs March 23 At Lakewood Congregational Church

Burning River Baroque continues their 7th season with a series of thought-provoking performances, beginning Tuesday, March 19. "The Other Side of the Story: Untold Perspectives on Familiar Tales" has been crafted to connect baroque music to contemporary social issues.

The March performances engage audiences around the timeless issues of toxic masculinity and consent. Historic passages and tales have been interwoven with a broad range of musical compositions and related commentary. “We frequently get to experience history through the victor’s eyes,” said co-director Malina Rauschenfels, “We’re interested in hearing the other side of the story — from those populations that are often marginalized.”

Drawing from ancient mythology, literature, and Biblical passages, the dramatic music highlights themes raised by the #MeToo movement. From the Book of Judith to the story of a Siren from her own perspective, the performers discuss the ways in which ancient tales resonate in our communities today.

The program for soprano, flute, cello and harpsichord includes baroque repertoire, a medieval work, and the premiere of "Honey sweet we sing for you," a cantata by Aaron Grad and Jennifer Bullis. Amid the week of performances, Burning River Baroque will perform at and host outreach workshops especially designed for the Renee Jones Empowerment Center and CMSD’s Bard High School Early College.

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Volume 15, Issue 5, Posted 12:58 PM, 03.05.2019

Calling All Artists To Join Lakewood Art League

Please consider joining the Lakewood Art League! Now is our membership drive for 2019. We meet the third Thursday of the month. Come to our first meeting to kick off 2019 on Thurs Feb 21st from 7 to 8:30pm at our beautiful new space in the Café of Lakewood United Methodist Church, 15700 Detroit Ave!

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Volume 15, Issue 4, Posted 2:41 PM, 02.19.2019

Further Proof Of Something: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 84

Stinky Monkey Finger - Slapping The Bag - DF Records - 13 songs - CD

I tend to get a build-up of stuff to review (especially CDs, since I usually let records get priority) and so I've misplaced the envelope this was sent in but I believe this…group? project? has something to do with Dennis Baker, whose work I've reviewed here before. (I confirmed this when I looked up where to get the CD– see below). This is a weird one. Somewhere close to half of it is lo-fi acoustic sorta-indie rock, sometimes featuring synth and/or drum machine as well, which is most reminiscent to me of the lo-fi acoustic songs on a Guided By Voices record. That's the nearest comparison I can draw, I'd say. However, instead of then kicking into a full band tune like "Echos Myron" or whatever after one of these songs, Stinky Monkey Finger instead goes into full experimental weirdness. Some of these songs, like "Jazzy Jeff Becomes A Pig" and "ZLT" have a kind of quality to them that makes me want to say they're kind of like the aural equivalent of stumbling across some strange video online, the kind of video that there's nothing necessarily wrong with it in any kind of tangible sense, but you just feel like it wasn't exactly made for you to see– and yet it's there, available to be seen (or heard) by the general public, so clearly in some sense it was meant for you to see. And then there's "I Won't Ask," which is a rather melodramatic piano piece with some keyboard strings and opens with "Have you ever opened an envelope? I mean really opened it up?" Is this song a joke? If it's a parody, it's an interesting one, and if it isn't, well, it's an abrupt change of gears that doesn't really mix with anything else on here. That's kind of my question at the center of this whole thing. I genuinely can't tell how much of this is at least somewhat tongue-in-cheek and how much is entirely serious. In any case, some of the more normal songs ("Have You Met Me?" and "I Fold You," for example) are not bad, and while I still don't know what to make of certain parts of the rest of it, it makes for an intriguing listen. 3.3/5

 

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Volume 15, Issue 3, Posted 2:00 PM, 02.05.2019

Just The One This Time: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 83

Rubella - Gallows Humor - Eleventh Hour Recording Company - 8 songs - LP

If we are to make assumptions based on the "r 60" that appears on the insert, I believe this is Rubella's 60th release, which is pretty impressive. It's pretty weird that this is on Eleventh Hour, making Rubella label mates with Bill Fox, since this is not in any way folky. It's more of an electronic alternative rock thing, with some songs slipping more towards punk, some with an industrial feel, and some, weirdly, towards pop. Songs like "Hungry Horses" and "Short Breaths" are almost songs I could hear playing on a different universe's version of whatever the alternative rock radio station is. I was told there was no guitar on this record and I have to agree. I also realized at some point that almost none of the lyrics rhyme, but you barely notice. The lyrics tend to be somewhat, shall I say, edgy, but not in a bad way. It works with the music. Also, in the first song, they reference the Hilliard Bridge, which makes this record solidly more local than most of what I review here. At certain times (especially on the opening track, "Trust Falls"), I'm reminded a bit of Brainiac, but with some of the manic energy replaced by a more resigned feel– especially in terms of the vocals; where Brainiac would have falsetto and yelps, Rubella have a weary almost-monotone– which, again, does work with the overall feel of the record. The songs all seem like they were pieced together very intentionally, and as a whole, the record works well as an album. There's a certain mood you have to be in to listen to this kind of thing, I think, but when you're in that mood, it's not bad. 3.5/5

(2300records.com)

Are you a local-ish band? Do you have a record out? Email vaguelythreatening@gmail.com or send it directly to Observer headquarters: The Lakewood Observer, c/o Buzz Kompier, 14900 Detroit Avenue, Suite 205, Lakewood, OH 44107.

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Volume 15, Issue 3, Posted 3:56 PM, 01.22.2019

Yes, We Are Open!

It is hard to believe that we are finally open but after serveral false starts and unforseen delays we are ready to share our art with Lakewood. Our last hurdle is waiting for the broken window to be fixed. Yes, we were the unlucky business that had a car come through the front window in October. 

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Volume 15, Issue 1, Posted 5:06 PM, 01.08.2019

Pfffffffft: Reviews Of Recent Releases By Local Bands, Pt. 82

Chris Butler - Got It Togehter! - Future Fossil - 16 songs - CD

The title of this one is intentionally misspelled (it's a joke, you see), so please don't write in to say that the Lakewood Observer is a disgrace to the community or whatever. The first 12 songs on here are the album proper, plus four bonus tracks. I appreciate the sentiment of that, but if you're gonna do that, you need to also release a version that doesn't have bonus tracks, ya know? I mean, I guess I prefer that to Smog Veil leaving between 1 and 4 songs off of CDs for no reason at all other than to have "download exclusive tracks," but still. Some songs here are contemplative, some are kinda weird (I mean, Chris was in Tin Huey), and the majority of them are pretty catchy (I mean, Chris was in (and wrote the songs for) The Waitresses). I would put the overall genre down as "alternative rock" in a sort of quirky, '90s way that's not entirely mainstream but also not entirely abstract or whatever, especially given the interesting instrumentation. Some have a bit of a They Might Be Giants feel, the "I can't I can't I can't I can't" etc. part of "Late For Work" kinda reminds me of Cake…you see what I'm saying here? If you're familiar with Tin Huey– or actually, even if you just know The Waitresses– you know that Chris Butler writes with a definite sense of humor. I don't always find that sense of humor agreeing with me, (in the same way that sometimes I just can't get with The Tubes) but it's there and I'd rather have that than something that takes itself too seriously. My biggest complaint here is the length, which I touched on before with the bonus track thing, but actually just applies to the album proper as well. Mr. Butler posits on the inner cover that the problem with the CD format is that there isn't enough…space, which is a good visual joke, but I think sometimes the CD format (as in on the disc itself) has too much space. Oh well. The highlights (including "Songs For Guys," "Late For Work," and "Better Than I Ever Was" (though I actually like the bonus track demo better, funnily enough)) are pretty decent tunes. I don't know how often I'll pull this one out, but it's a perfectly okay listen and I know there are people who will love this kind of sense of humor far more than I, so there you go. One more thing: so, there should've been a version without the bonus tracks, like I said, and there also should've been a deluxe version with the bonus tracks and the cover for that should've been an actual puzzle. That would've been cool. 3.3/5

(chrisbutler1.bandcamp.com)

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Volume 15, Issue 1, Posted 3:50 PM, 12.18.2018

Twisted Vendor's Xmas Art Shop

Don't let the name of our group fool you, we have artwork for sale that appeals to just about everyone. Join us at the Winchester Music Tavern on Saturday December 15th from 12-5pm and take care of that last minute Christmas shopping. We'll have paintings, prints and jewelry just to name a few items. We work with all local artists and everything is handmade so whether you're a procrastinator or not, this even is for you! The Winchester is located at 12112 Madison Avenue, Lakewood, OH 44107

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Volume 14, Issue 23, Posted 2:28 PM, 12.04.2018