250 word album review: Scruffy & The Janitors – Modeling Is Hard

Scruffy & The Janitors - Modeling is Hard

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Scruffy & The Janitors wanted this one to be a gut punch; they succeeded. Clocking in at 14 songs and over 45 minutes they wanted to make sure no one got left asking “is this it?” The important thing is that there isn’t much fat to be trimmed here, the St. Joseph, Missouri trio spent about 3 years writing and crafting this record and you won’t hear anything that should’ve been left on the cutting floor.

The hard edge of these songs hits quick with the huge hook of “You Got Hit” with plenty dynamics to crank up the intensity. It’s easy to hear that their sound is highly evolved from their self-released garage rock debut album “Pino” several years ago. The sound is clean and they let the fuzz guitars blast throughout right to the closer “Elephant.” On “Hermit” guitarist Teriq Newton pushes a Strokes-style guitar run and on “Jonestown” a more purposely lackadaisical riffage takes place. It’s not all crunchy rock though, singer Steven Foster slows things down and shows off his vocal skills on “Carry Me Home” and later on “Welcome Touch.” The band uses all their white blood cells to keep this long album from getting monotonous and the slower songs play in sequence just when they are needed to break things up.

They are best when the pedal is to the metal though, they get down right veni vidi viscous on rockers like the hook heavy “My Faith” and the power riffs of “The Spins” that create the moments you’ll remember most from “Modeling Is Hard.”

Key Tracks: “You Got Hit” “Hermit” “My Faith”

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Concert Review: Pedro The Lion and Marie/Lepanto at The Record Bar in Kansas City, MO 2/9/18

Pedro The Lion means business. The David Bazan led project was brought out of hiatus unsurprisingly but the outlook of the band is not so much as expected. The band has a whole new ambition it seems. The power trio is just starting their first of three major tour legs in 2018 and at just their second show of the tour lead singer/brainchild David Bazan told a packed Kansas City crowd that his future music will come under the Pedro The Lion moniker for the foreseeable future.

The start of the tour is a fresh start for the band who has released an album since 2004’s “Achillis’ Heel” and also a fresh start for a couple old friends in the opening band, Marie/Lepanto. The geographically named Marie/Lepanto (after a couple towns in Arkansas) is spearheaded by veteran singer/songwriters Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster and Will Johnson. Johnson has been a part of a long list of bands including but not limited to Centro matic, Overseas, Monsters of Folk and South San Gabriel in addition to a successful solo career and Schuster has solo material as well as recordings with his band Water Liars. Friday, February 9th at The Record Bar would be just the second ever Marie/Lepanto show.

Marie/Lepanto (Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster [left] and Will Johnson) play their lead single from their new album "Tenkiller" with Pedro The Lion's David Bazan on drums live at The Record Bar in Kansas City, Missouri on February 9th, 2018.

Marie/Lepanto (Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster [left] and Will Johnson) play their lead single from their new album “Tenkiller” with Pedro The Lion’s David Bazan on drums live at The Record Bar in Kansas City, Missouri on February 9th, 2018.

Their great debut album, “Tenkiller” is a largely quiet, acoustic affair; this show was not. The duo chose to each forgo the acoustic element and each play electric guitars and make some noise. The dynamic payed off as the soft singing by the two who would split the 8 songs on this night was only intensified by being amped up.

Even Johnson’s largely quiet “Patient, Patient Man” would have some hairy guitar feedback as would his dark family tale “Famished Raven.” Schuster would show off his vocal prowess on the catchy “Simple Scenes” and the show closer “Tenkiller” while Johnson provided backing vocals. Even Mr. Pedro The Lion, David Bazan, would join in on drums for a couple songs. The drums adorned the most rocking song by the band, “Inverness” which was ironically slowed a bit from the studio version live. The bar would already be filling up fast during their early set and they proved to be a great opening act for the returning headliner.

Marie/Lepanto setlist from The Record Bar in Kansas City, MO on 2/9/18:

  • Patient, Patient Man
  • Clean Gift
  • Features/Fights
  • Simple Scenes
  • Famished Raven
  • Inverness (with David Bazan on drums)
  • High Desert (with David Bazan on drums)
  • Tenkiller

Pedro The Lion came out with a vendetta it seemed, rocking harder than ever. A solid lighting setup for such a small venue adorned the power 90 minute set. The opening song “Slow and Steady Winds The Race” was an ironic start with the ferocity in which Predro would attack the stage. Between most songs the band wouldn’t even come to a halt before blasting into their next song, in all covering 20 songs from the Pedro and Bazan catalog. The group was in top form with Bazan handling lead vocals and playing bass flanked by Sean Lane on drums and Eric Walters on guitar.

Pedro The Lion performs live to a packed crowd at The Record Bar in Kansas City, Missouri on February 9th, 2018.

Pedro The Lion performs live to a packed crowd at The Record Bar in Kansas City, Missouri on February 9th, 2018.

The show was surprisingly well balanced from the group’s catalog instead of hitting “Control” extremely heavy as Bazan has done solo in the past. Some of the band’s strongest material is undoubtedly from that record though. The band pounded through “Magazine” “Options” and “Second Best” (among others) from that record providing many of the highlights of the set. Other highlights were a rousing take on “Keep Swinging” and a few unexpected songs like “Nothing” from 1997s “Whole EP.” Again the band just punished through the setlist, rarely slowing to a jog. A couple short intros would be present and as Bazan is customary to doing he hosted a small Q&A from stage at one point.

A couple solo Bazan songs snuck onto the setlist as well. The loyal followers of Pedro still knew every word and crowded to the front to try to get a consistent visual on the band. “Kept Secrets” was great to hear by a rock band instead of the electronic approach that plagued the studio version and “How I Remember” had as much crunch as any song of the night. The encore included the quirky “Big Trucks” and a good closer choice of “Bands With Managers” which Bazan said he has officially renamed “Be Careful.” It was truly a ferocious set by a driven and focused band.

Pedro The Lion setlist from The Record Bar in Kansas City, MO on 2/9/18:

  • Slow and Steady Wins the Race
  • Indian Summer
  • When They Really Get to Know You They Will Run
  • Nothing
  • Keep Swinging
  • Foregone Conclusions
  • How I Remember (David Bazan song)
  • Criticism as Inspiration
  • Options
  • I Do
  • Penetration
  • Kept Secrets (David Bazan song)
  • Magazine
  • Second Best
  • A Mind of Her Own
  • Priests and Paramedics
  • Trouble With Boys (David Bazan song)
  • encore break
  • Of Up and Coming Monarchs
  • Big Trucks
  • Bands With Managers

 

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Album at a glance: Mark Daniel – New Truth EP

Mark Daniel - New Truth EP

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It’s not hard to figure out how Mark Daniel’s sound formed. He wears a long history of classic rock education on his sleeve. You’ll hear the sound of a straight forward blues-rock trio on his “New Truth” EP. Its 5 songs move quickly never leaving a distinct footprint but never becoming a cumbersome listen either.

On “Slow Setting Sun” the EPs tone is set with guitar rock with a big chorus and plenty of elaborate guitar work. Things get a little more stompy with “Heart Stops Beating” with a bit of a Zeppelin-ish romp, it sounds dated but not in a bad way. These songs would’ve been far more comfortable ringing out of a stack of Marshall amps in a 70s arena than they are coming from phone speakers but that takes little away from the songs.

Key Track: “Slow Setting Sun”

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Coming Soon: Pedro The Lion and Marie/Lepanto at Record Bar in Kansas City, MO 2/9/18

WHO’S PLAYING?  Pedro The Lion (David Bazan and company) and Marie/Lepanto (Will Johnson of Centro-matic, Monsters Of Folk, Overseas, South San Gabriel and Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster of Water Liars)

The Pedro The Lion tour poster for the first leg of their 2018 jaunt with Marie/Lepanto

 

WHAT TO EXPECT? The start of a great tour by one seasoned band embarking on a “reunion” tour of sorts and one band playing their very first shows ever.

Marie/Lepanto is a supergroup, or superduo if you will, of Will Johnson and Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster. Johnson has an established solo career and has been part of the bands Centro-matic, South San Gabriel, Overseas, The Undertow Orchestra, Monsters of Folk and the New Multitudes project with Jim James, Anders Parker and Jay Farrar, he also put out a “superduo” album with the late Jason Molina under the moniker Molina & Johnson. Kinkel-Schuster’s resume is a bit shorter but he was the driving force of the band Water Liars and has released a successful solo record under JPKS as well.

The two accomplished musicians compliment each other nearly perfectly. They both have soft but big voices that have no problems filling rooms from a crowded living room house concert to an echoey theater. Their songwriting is very comparable as well, Johnson has written a seemingly endless amount of songs and it is clear he is still refining his craft and getting better. Kinkel-Schuster is finding his voice as a songwriter away from his former band and it is fitting him well. These two artists are clearly still ascending in their career.

Marie/Lepanto: Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster and Will Johnson

Marie/Lepanto: Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster and Will Johnson

Headlining the tour is Johnson’s longtime friend’s original band, David Bazan of Pedro The Lion. The largely Christian Rock band hasn’t toured under that name in several years although lead singer David Bazan has kept the band’s catalog alive with his solo shows. Bazan has always been the kingpin of the Pedro the Lion name with a wide variety from a rotating cast around him to fill the other roles in the group.

The band started releasing records in 1998 and now has 4 full-length records and 5 EPs under their belt. On the tour they are expected to sample all material but will likely concentrate on what is considered their best and most popular album “Control.” David Bazan has also put together several solo records while Pedro the Lion was on hiatus and the group is likely to perform some of his solo material as well.

David Bazan of Pedro The Lion

David Bazan of Pedro The Lion

WHERE IS IT?  The Record Bar (1520 Grand Blvd, Kansas City, MO)

WHEN IS IT?  Friday, February 9th, 2018 9:00 PM, $20, 18+

Here is a link to buy your tickets right NOW.

WHY SHOULD I GO?

  • Tickets are $20… that’s the cost of a couple beers, these artists have released well over 20 records too
  • Will Johnson is a marvel, simply one of the best active songwriters around
  • This will be just the second show for Marie/Lepanto
  • These guys are are legendarily humble
  • If you like signed stuff… I bet these guys will sign some stuff
  • Marie/Lepanto just released an excellent new record named “Tenkiller”
  • Pedro The Lion has decades of experience now, treat this as a “greatest hits” tour
  • It’s a Friday night… in February… what else are you going to be doing?
  • The Record Bar is pretty awesome, the new location kept the intimacy of the old Record Bar but has some fresh new digs

You should RSVP on facebook to the event so you don’t forget, here is the link: FACEBOOK EVENT PAGE

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250 word album review: Toward Space – The Bomb That Fell

Toward Space - The Bomb That Fell

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Toward Space’s latest EP “The Bomb That Fell” is very informal. It’s unapologetic and raw. The seven lo-fi songs aren’t all cut from the same cloth either, each one sees the band spread their wings in a different direction.

On the opening track, coincidentally the title track they come out sounding like The Cramps with some irreverent guitar licks. They turn around on the song “Night Sorrows” and show their true raw punk leanings with a track that sounds like it was found recorded on a beer soaked cassette in Jay Retard’s house. On “Dream Love Kill” and “Swamp Theme” you get some aggressive female vocals by Seyla Hossaini, spelling male vocalist David Patton, adding even more variance to the album. “Swamp Theme” is filled with psych-rock drug through a grunge filter, the jammy song sounds right decorated with the haunting female vocals. Pop melody isn’t absent though, on “Take Peace” the group puts together a sweet sounding, hooky number. It sticks out in the grand scheme of the record but that isn’t too surprising given the band’s very loose style.

This EP shows the band has many talents, the album is a little schizophrenic because of it. It’s still a fun listen seeing what all the garage sounding band can do.

Key Tracks: “The Bomb That Fell” “Night Sorrows”

 

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Concert Review: Travis Meadows at Knucklehead’s Saloon in Kansas City, MO 1/25/18

Travis Meadows is a truly magnetic individual. Going into his show on a unseasonably warm January night at Kansas City’s honky tonk mecca, Knucklehead’s Saloon, everyone knew this. What might have come as a bit of a surprise is how entrancing he is as a person and a storyteller. Sure, he was armed with one of four guitars he had on stage throughout the night but he spent as much time playing them as he did telling honest and revealing stories that were every bit as valuable as the show.

Travis Meadows performs a solo show at Knucklehead's Saloon in Kansas City, MO on 1/25/18. He storytelling would rival his own songs as he kept the crowd captivated for a full two hour set.

Travis Meadows performs a solo show at Knucklehead’s Saloon in Kansas City, MO on 1/25/18. He storytelling would rival his own songs as he kept the crowd captivated for a full two hour set.

The background on Travis Meadows reads like a dramatic book, from watching his brother drown as a kid to the cancer that took part of his leg before he hit 20 there is a lot there. His multiple stints in rehab (the last one remaining successful for several years now) are the largest part of the story. Drawing from his often dark past he was able to spin it with humor throughout his two hours on stage on the Knucklehead’s stage on a weekday night. The crowd of about 60-70 people soaked up every word, they laughed, they cried and obviously they enjoyed some songs too.

Meadows led off with a solo electric version of “Travelin’ Bone” off his latest and greatest album “First Cigarette” before moving into a very personal song with “Minefield.” He toggled all evening between selections from his catalog while never losing the attention of one set of ears in the crowd. He played some songs that far more successful artists have recorded like “Riser” and “What We Ain’t Got” but maintained his own personal stake on the tracks. The fact that Dierks Bentley and Jake Owen covered these songs didn’t bare much on the performances this evening because on this night they belonged to the short, left handed songwriter on stage and to him only.

Meadows wove his songs with stories about the songs and beyond, with the comedic timing of Todd Snider and the songwriting skill of Bruce Springsteen and well… Todd Snider, he navigated an enthralling two hours of music and stories. Some of the best songs on this night were the beautifully done call-and-answer performance of “Underdogs” where the audience handled the refrain while an extremely grateful Meadows strummed on his acoustic guitar and handled the lyrics. He told a captivating story of being a teenager listening to Bruce Springsteen while cruising the strip of his hometown before pounding out a great take on “Pray For Jungleland.” His take on songs like “Sideways” and “Let It Go” were powerful and moving delivered to an appreciative crowd. All his performances were solo on this night while his loyal sideman Whiskey Jack was away on a cruise. Normally Whiskey Jack would be his accomplice but for these shows Meadows had to fill the songs in himself. On a couple tracks like the uncharacteristically upbeat “Guy Like Me” he would accompany himself with a harmonica.

After leaving the stage for a few seconds the crowd applause forced him back to the mic, he would respond with a modest “Well thank you, that never happens.” The encore was deserving, he put on a great show, he would also add to that with a three song encore that would include the crowd favorite “Unfinished Business” and the dark humor of “Davidson County Police.” When he walked off the stage for the second time is was safe to assume that the crowd was endlessly pleased with what they got. A rare tour performance by a truly great songwriter willing to bare his heart, everyone can only hope he finds a way to make it back to Kansas City again.

Travis Meadows live at Knucklehead’s Saloon in Kansas City, MO on 1/25/18 setlist:

  • Travelin’ Bone
  • Minefield
  • Let it Go
  • Grown Up Clothes
  • Black
  • Udnerdogs
  • Sideways
  • Pontiac
  • Hungry
  • Better Boat
  • Pray For Jungleland
  • Riser
  • Guy Like Me
  • encore break
  • What We Ain’t Got
  • Unfinished Business
  • Davidson County Police
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250 word album review: Ruby Boots – Don’t Talk About It

Ruby Boots - Don't Talk About It

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Ruby Boots’ new album “Don’t Talk About It” is a hell of a smooth listen. It’s the embodiment of old school alt-country. With the twangy vocals there is no disguising that this is country music but the pop hooks here are some of the best you will hear.

The raunchy electric guitar that kicks off the album on the song “It’s So Cruel” throws up a flag that this album is as much Joan Jett as Patsy Cline. Sure there may be some line dancing to the record anyway but it will surely be line dancing with a lot of attitude. The radio ready “Don’t Talk About It” will make you wonder what Rosanne Cash is doing these days and probably make you pull out her “Seven Year Ache” album and give it a spin. The subject of this Ruby Boots record is all sides of love but mainly heartbreak. See the songs “Break My Heart Twice” and “I’ll Make It Through” and this will become very obvious. Whether exploring down tempo numbers like “I Am A Woman” or the rocking anthem songs like “Don’t Talk About It” or “It’s So Cruel” the songs here never lose their sense of pop melody. The fuzz guitar on “Somebody Else” and “It’s So Cruel” really set some of these songs apart from others in the genre.

This album is solid heartbreak country record with strong hooks throughout. It’s smart in spots and has some mindless bar rock in others making for a very accessible balance that is easy to take in.

Key Tracks: “Don’t Talk About It” “I’ll Make It Through” “It’s So Cruel”

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