Mod Hippie is a down the middle rock project that pulls from various influences and wears them on their sleeves. It can be reserved and calm but also has a few surprises in store for listeners.
On “Saturday Show” you get a clear Cheap Trick inspired torch rocker that pushes the 7 minute mark to weed out the unbelievers to start the record. On the short follow-up song “Cricket LaRue” Mod Hippie indulges in some cleaned up 70s style garage rock making for one of the most unique songs on the album. On the perfectly transparent “Lux” you’ll find the collective band nailing a Cramps impersonation in the dedication to the band’s late singer. On The Replacement’s cover “Johnny’s Gonna Die” they sound more like that band’s hero Alex Chilton but the band really has fun here though making the record more enjoyable, especially on the punchy “And Everyone The Fashion (So Sorry)” that is full of loose guitar solos and a once again bouncy arrangement. You hear lots of influence from British Invasion bands and other 60s rock as well on songs like “We Leave It All Behind,” which seems to make up the backbone of the record. The latter part of the album is filled with moody and echoey vocals like on the album’s meandering closer “Whatever You Want.”
Mod Hippie’s “Wannabe Nobody” is an interesting listen with clearly talented musicians enjoying making music and you can hear it.
Key Tracks: “We Leave It All Behind” “Saturday Show”
The Bottle Rockets proved they weren’t done making great music with 2015’s “South Broadway Athletic Club” and have returned in late 2018 with a record that is actually a little bit better.
The americana pioneers can come off like a bit of a curmudgeon at times here but it’s only understandable. The title track details the struggle with the digital age as does the song “Lo-Fi.” You’ll also find them complaining about how their career doesn’t pay the way it used to on “Bad Time To Be An Outlaw” and even about traffic on “Highway 70 Blues.” Luckily the songs are good enough to overcome the downer topics. On “Highway 70 Blues” they soundtrack the tough St. Louis to Kansas City trek with some good bluesy boogie. On “Outlaw” they get stompy and in a way only Brian Henneman can, the lyrics flow perfectly with the jangly music, so much so if it weren’t for his twangy delivery you might think he could rap the lyrics. On another Henneman gem, “Saxophone” is a great relationship song about trying to process the feelings when things start to fall apart. The slowed down delivery really helps drive the point home. The predominant mood is still bluesy country rock though with songs like “Knotty Pine” and the semi-mindless barroom rocker “Stovall’s Grove.”
You won’t be very surprised with what the Bottle Rockets deliver on “Bit Logic” but it’s also the band on par with the best they’ve ever been.
Key Tracks: “Highway 70 Blues” “Saxophone” “Bad Time To Be An Outlaw”
Posted in 250 word album reviews, Uncategorized
Tagged 250 word album review, 4 Stars, Americana, Bad Time To Be An Outlaw, Bit Logic, Bloodshot, blues rock, Bottle Rockets, Brian Henneman, Highway 70 Blues, saxophone
Tom Morello ditches his “The Nightwatchman” moniker for his latest solo release and thankfully so. This album couldn’t be further from the coffee shop militant we met on 2007’s “One Man Revolution.”
In Morello’s defense, this record isn’t intended to be in line with that material. I’ll start by answering the burning question, yes, he still whales on his guitar, although sparingly. It is mixed with club sounding songs and tons of keyboards, canned drums and instrumentation that takes songs in an entirely different direction. On “One Nation” featuring Pretty Lights the guitar is missing and the song sounds like a bad dub dance remix of a song you never really liked in the first place. Other times songs land a little better like on the Marcus Mumford aided “Find Another Way” that sounds like a Gotye version of Mumford & Sons. The lyrics here still have a heavy political pull like on “Rabbit’s Revenge” that goes straight hip-hop with the help of “Bassnectar, Big Boi & Killer Mike. Another hip-hop inspired song serves as the album highlight thanks to the helpful hands of Vic Mensa on “We Don’t Need You” that definitely has a bit of a Rage Against The Machine feel albeit with far less rock involved.
At best this album shows Morello’s versatility in a solo career that began with a lone man and an acoustic guitar and now features guests on every track and heavy added instrumentation. This version of Morello is still talented but it leaves you holding out hope that The Nightwatchman will one day return.
Key Tracks: “We Don’t Need You”
Posted in Uncategorized, 250 word album reviews
Tagged 250 word album review, Tom Morello, The Nightwatchman, 2.5 stars, The Atlas Undergorund, Mumford, Killer Mike, Vic Mensa, We Don't Need You, "Find Another Way"
The Smoking Popes have been around forever and the fact that the word “agony” is in the title of this album couldn’t be more appropriate, not because the record is bad, quite the contrary, the album is amazing. The 10 songs here are filled with gut-wreching pain and loss, making the songs all that much better.
The veteran punk band keeps their big sound, jagged guitar riffs and signature lounge style vocals all in place for “Into the Agony” but it is a decidedly mature album. Songs like “Simmer Down” still possess the angsty fire fans want to stick around but there’s also the driving power of “Amanda My Love” with signature pop punk starts and stops and sad sack lyrics. Taking that mood further you have “Wish I Didn’t Love You” “Someday I’ll Smile Again” and “When You Want Something” that extend the ravenous mood of this gem of a record. Almost ironically inserted in the middle of these songs is a cover of the old standard “Get Happy” that is delivered with such a twist that it almost seems like vocalist Josh Caterer is trying to convince himself with the lyrics. On a slight diversion in subject matter the Popes get political on the song “Melting America” that has the fire and bile to be one of the better protest songs of the year thanks to the help of Flatfoot 56’s Tobin Bawinkel who croons the duet with Caterer.
The Smoking Popes have been making records for close to 3 decades now and have released what is easily one of the top punk albums of the year.
Key Tracks: “Simmer Down” “Amanda My Love” “Melting America” “Someday I’ll Smile Again”
Posted in 250 word album reviews, Uncategorized
Tagged 250 word album review, 4.5 stars, Amanda My Love, Flatfoot 56, Josh Caterer, lounge singing, Melting America, pop punk, punk, Simmer Down, Smoking Popes, Tobin Bawinkel
Bradon Prinzing & The Old Revival is a mixed bag of tricks. Their debut album “Hear This” is overflowing with varying influences leading to both a great diversity and an uneven album with some strong spots.
In a world where the banjo and old school instruments are hip again you might think that a band labeled “The Old Revival” is in the thick of this movement but the name is misleading. “Hear This” is a very cleanly produced album without the rustic warts you’d expect from a revival. The passionate “Riot On A Sunday” sounds like it could have come from the church house steps where Christian Rock bands are bred. On the acoustic tracks “Unorthodox” and “Hear This” it sounds like the best Rob Thomas from Matchbox 20 has sounded in years. The songs are unmistakably pop numbers but do have a soulful delivery that sounds genuine. On “Sink” they explore more of a punk driving sound as the song builds and becomes one of the shining moments on the record. The album definitely shows the band can stretch their legs in a few different directions, while it may be a strength it also makes the album feel less cohesive.
Key Tracks: “Sink” “Hear This”
Posted in 250 word album reviews, Uncategorized
Tagged 2.5 stars, 250 word album review, album at a glance, album review, Brandon Prinzing, Brandon Prinzing & The Old Revival, Hear This, pop, Rob Thomas, Sink, The Old Revival
Ever miss the days of staring at your lava lamp while relaxing on some shag carpet? Well, Handsome Jack is here to help. You’ll find the three piece here channeling Muddy Waters and The Black Crows while putting together their blend of soulful southern rock.
On “Holding Off” some raspy vocals howl from the band while they drop into a Creedence style groove. Speaking of CCR, on “Keep On” there are some spot on John Fogerty vocal stylings while the band matches suit by channelling a swampy groove that will make you wonder what witch doctor they went to to get their sound. Back to more traditional bluesy stuff, the title track on “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” has some straight up nasty blues licks reminiscent of what the Black Keys accomplished so well on their first few records. They still mix all of this with some glory days of FM radio classic arena rock centered around stompy guitar riffs. Their isn’t a ton new going on with this record but the band has found a way to hone in on a classic sound and make it their own. You won’t have to search far to find some Aerosmith sounding songs or a Howlin’ Wolf sound alike guitar lick but this is still a fun album and a smooth listen.
Key Tracks: “Keep On” “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”
Art Thieves is punk to the core. Their album “Russian Rats” isn’t just for punk purists though, their natural knack for melody and hooks shines through despite the short, blistering songs on the album.
The violently aggressive first two tracks, “Intro” and “Proxies” show the band refuses to make any niceties to who they are, this goes all the way to the band name and great album cover. Then on “The Untouchables” they shout about “middle fingers up” in the political riot song, foreshadowing the mood of much of the album. Later on they take the foot off the pedal a bit and indulge in some punk pop bliss on “Old Brigade.” The album finds a band longing for when punk was more of an emphatic and fun endeavor, when bands like Lagwagon and The Bouncing Souls thrived. Overall this album is right up that alley, the piercing guitar is there but so are the traveling melodic bass lines that make you come back for songs time and time again.
Key Tracks: “The Untouchables” “Old Brigade”
Posted in Album at a glance, Uncategorized
Tagged 3.5 Stars, album, album at a glance, Art Thieves, east coast, great album covers, punk, record review, review, Russian Rats