Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The #1s s/t LP

     The year is 1979. The violence of The Troubles in Ireland is closing in on it's second decade. Along with a very poorly managed of the economy it could be very well expected that the youth of the country would scoff at any positive proverb their grandparents may try to lay on them.
     That is not to say the kids didn't find away to get away, if only for a few hours, from the gloom around.
     In dingy youth halls and dilapidated hotel ballrooms a sound of cheerful exuberance and escape blasted from battered guitars giving those in the room, if not at least a glimmer of hope, at least a reason to flirt, chat, dance and escape from all the bullshit going down.
     Aside from The Troubles being long over and the year is 2014 not '79, Dublin's #1s sound like they could be one of those bands playing on such an evening.
     Putting loud and snarling guitars over a classic AM pop radio song structure that's is rockin' enough for the boys but catchy enough for the girls (or vice versa depending on the crowd you run with) is nothing new. The trick is though doing it right.
     Instead of relying on the Rod Stewart haircuts and skinny leather ties that have cursed the post-powerpop-whatever for ages to carry them through a plodding of lackluster songs, the #1s have paid close attention to the sounds that were being made a couple hours north on the Good Vibrations label and learning the craft on how to make tunes that may too boppy and melodic for the bottle throwing set but also a bit much rowdy for those who want their hooks homogenized.
     Including the previously released singles "I Wish I Was Lonely" and "Sharon Shouldn’t" (the former a choppy guitar and harmony laden recorded on bargain basement budget blaster that John Peel would have possibly played more than once on his show, the latter a speedy number that resembles the Undertones exuding much higher levels of testosterone) the music is reeling with ragged but right power pop gems. New songs such the candy coated very sour apple "Heartsmash" and especially "Favorite Game" harkens much gruff Exploding Hearts while "Boy" and "Anything" will have you double checking the sleeve as well as your calendar to make sure what year you are actually in.
www.facebook.com/thenumberonesdublin

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Odd Side Ale IPA and Grapefruit Wheat

 
     Odd Side's Pineapple IPA pours a rich and luminous amber in color with a minimal head that melts fairly quickly. The pineapple comes out even before the nose is near the glass. Not not overbearing and is not unlike the smell when I slice up a fresh one on a summer morning. Giving it a more investigative whiff aromas of orange peel and caramel notes of the malt sit on top of a piney hop character.
As I sit here and write this it is one of the warmest days of the year here. I also just so happens, even though most people write it all off after Labor Day, that summer ends and fall starts in two days. Seems a good time as any to compile my notes on the last strays of these two I have had on the stash for later shelf in my fridge.

     A mix of tropical fruits such as tangerine, papaya and mango come into play first in the flavor along with the pineapple which though, based off the the scent, is not as dominant as expected at first. That is followed by some toasty grains and slightly sweet malts. A hop bitterness finds itself getting comfy with some refreshing fruit juices in the finish.
     As the beer breathes and adjusts to room temperature the pineapple seems to step up it's roll as the star of the show but still doesn't hop the limelight. Due to a bit of stickiness I don't know if I would have classified this as a beach beer but, then again, the weather kinda jacked most beach days this past summer. Either way I enjoyed my share of them for the season and it worked well while out in my backyard today while doing some end of the summer work and surveying the things I gotta do before the snow starts to fly.
     Though I have been a serious IPA head for many years and plenty of times over the last year it seemed that I have gotten a little jaded on the style. I like them getting ridiculous but there's been a few where I'm like "Calm down dude" in more recent times. This is a cool twist on the style though. It's different and in no way doing it over the top just for the sake of doing so. Looking forward to having some more of these when they come around again next summer.

     Slightly cloudy and gold in color Odd Side's Grapefruit Wheat produces a small foam cap as a head which slowly melts away. The smell of grapefruit is very faint on the nose but the bready and banana like characteristics that come with along for the ride when it usually comes to wheat beers is there. Giving it a little time to breathe some fruit scents come out but it seems to me more along the lines of white grapes along with a dint of earthy raw honey.
     The taste is dominant of that of a standard wheat beer. Light and easy summer drinking in that respect. The grapefruit flavor comes out much, much more in the flavor than it does in the smell but also leans more towards the rind of it than the juice. The finish has an odd sticky bitterness that doesn't seem to work right to these taste buds though..  
     Everything I've tried by Odd Side I have enjoyed immensely but there is something missing. Not saying it struck out when it went up to bat but never got past 2nd base for me either. Worth giving a shot if somebody offers one but no worries passing on investing 10+ bucks on a six pack of it.
www.oddsideales.com

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

RAT COLUMNS "Leaf" LP

     As a member of Total Control and indietronic stars Lace Curtain there are many that would expect a project that Aussie David West is involved in to not shy away from having a dominant synth bent to them.  
     On the other hand his band Rat Column did have a bit of six string sounds going on on their debut album, 2012's Spectre Hole. The thing with that record though it also leaned towards an ambient vibe. It was nice for music to have going on the background or zoning out but, for the most part, it wasn't really something that was made to played at crank it up volumes.
     The jittery guitar line which then gives way to an almost mod ala the Creation or the Jam slashing chords on "Straight To Hell" that opens up Leaf though makes one wonder in what direction this record is going to head. It seems that the C86 thing along with the Clean and the Chills, especially in the ringing blare and twisted take on the Byrds jangle on "Another Day" for instance, are serving as the jumping off point here. After landing the songs then take off in a jagged direction which eventually gets them back to where the leapt off.
     If Orange Juice had decided to not let their love for Chic show through as much as they chose to on their You Can't Hide Your Love Forever album and replaced it with getting baked even before they rubbed the sleep out of their eyes on a dewy morning it may not take much to convince people that "Pink Mist" and "Walking Back" were taken from it while "Alone" starts off as twangy vibrato surf music which then rides straight to a torrential downpour.
   The sound of cathedral bells covered in fuzz guitar chug and buzzing wheezy organ rasp that continue to build tension as a song progresses and launched a million Velvet Underground acolytes marks it territory on "Fooling Around" and if these guys were to tell people that they weren't thinking about Can (Ege Bamyasi the most but even Landed at the least) on the album's title track probably no one would believe them.
http://ratcolumns.tumblr.com 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

VACATION CLUB "Heaven Is Too High" LP

     Sun kissed and misted with with something tipsy, Indiana's Vacation Club have been tooling flower bright pink and phlegm green colored bit of disturbed jangle for a few years now. The singles they've had released have given off the ol' angel on one shoulder/the devil on the other vibe resulting in a sound that fed the ears with something that felt like a confectionery fluff.
     It seems all airy, light and sweet. Then the burning sensation and blistering sets in.
      On this, the band's first long player, as soon as teeth sink into a sounding like something on Budda Records circa '68 going on a fuzz binge candy coated outer shell the fortified with splinted glass oozy filling starts seeping into the saliva glands and then bloodstream.
    Backed up by splattery guitars that blast off from an echo chamber of dampness where a ne'er do well rhythm section hold down a fort, Vacation Club's Samuel James vocals resemble, depending on the song, something like childlike stupefaction and snotty teenage degeneration.
     While the sound here is working within the framework of juvenile delinquent garage rock of nearly five decades ago with the lips smacking bubblegum sound of a few years later factored in, Vacation Club bring a bit of Midwest/Corn Belt out of stepness that sets itself away from a recent crop of drowning in reverb bands who sound like spent a week listening to the Jesus and Mary Chain and the Black Lips then sent a demo to Burger Records. A martian robot march makes the album's opener "Gas Station" and "In My Eyes" guitar sludge landslide sound something akin to Wire's Pink Flag on a steady diet of chili fries, "Hound" and "Chip Taylor Nightmare" ring of King Tuff's first album if heard coming through a sewer pipe. Along with that, the songs that would sound like high school desperation bloooze stompers in the hands of a lot of other bands, like "Pyramid Culture", "Oh, Patty" and "Rats As Rats" wring out twisted melodies that make one wonder if the Jolly Rancher they've been sucking on has been laced with something illicit.
www.magneticsouthrecordings.org 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Little Ann “Going Down A One Way Street (the Wrong Way)”

  
     Here’s a hot slab of horn heavy funky soul from the Motor City. Born in Chicago,  Anne "Little Ann" Bridgeforth recorded a slew of track for Detroit producer Dave Hamilton before having this song picked up by the Ric Tic label in 1969. “Going  Down A One Way Street (the Wrong Way)”  was the only 45 released in the US by her (and she only got the A side too. The flipside was taken by an instrumental ‘I’d Like To Know You Better’, credited to Ric Tic’s owner Wingate).
     In the late 80’s a couple of soul aficionados were visiting Hamilton and going through the many reels of tape he had. One of those reels included Ann’s unreleased recordings. Some of those songs started appearing on British label Ace record compilations in the 90’s, introducing her to a new audience as well as being flown over to the  UK to play for adoring fans before passing away in 2003.
     In 2009, Finland based label Timmion label released an entire album of Little Ann tracks under the name Deep Shadows.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Another Summer in Port Huron


     Even though there will, hopefully, some nice weather for a day at the beach and so on, Labor Day traditionally marks the end of summer as far as most people feel. Here in Port Huron we decided to send out with some bang, hiss and rock-n-roll at the Roche Bar.
     This past Friday, two Wisconsin bands played their first shows out of home state but, for members of both bands, not their first time playing this town and, in particularly, this bar.

Silent Drape Runners at the Roche Bar August 29th 2014 Photo by Dale Merrill

Silent Drape Runners at the Roche Bar August 29th 2014 Photo by Dale Merrill
    Mike, frontman for Silent Drape Runners, drummer Gus and bassist Phil were a band that very few people around here knew anything about but knew the guys in the band. Mike played bass (and later drums) in the Mystery Girls, Gus in Hue Blanc's Joyless ones and Phil in Death and Taxes, all of which had rocked the Roche before. The combination of the three made us curious as to what they would deliver. 
     Sounding something like well oiled 90's garage punk band who formed after spending a weekend together listening to Grand Funk Railroad's On Time blasting through some dry rotted and mildewy car speakers, the band got the room jumpin' and the beer flowing. Did they deliver? Hell yeah! They delivered it hot! Don't take my work for it though; Jon Heibler (he currently Sugar Stems fame and once of the Catholic Boys) was part of the Wisco contingent that was tagging along for evening took to his Instagram page after their set to to declare them his new favorite band.
Space Raft at the Roche Bar August 29th 2014 Photo by Dale Merrill
Space Raft at the Roche Bar August 29th 2014 Photo by Dale Merrill
Space Raft at the Roche Bar August 29th 2014 Photo by Dale Merrill
Space Raft at the Roche Bar August 29th 2014 Photo by Dale Merrill
Space Raft at the Roche Bar August 29th 2014 Photo by Dale Merrill
     I believe that I have made it very well known that I dig Space Raft's debut album from earlier this very much.  Having worked with the band's main man Jordan in the past from the Mystery Girls up til the last band he had, the Fairweather Friends, I was naturally all over the idea of getting them to come here to play. Then, factor in folks who had seen them live already telling me how great they are of a live band (not that I had any doubts of that) I was all over the idea of having them make their out of state live debut here in the mitten and, in particular, the hamlet which I reside.
     On stage, the band was locked in to each others vibe playing very tight but still having an organic looseness in their with soaring harmonies and iridescencent instrumental passages to make things a little scruffy, wiggly and oh so real. After they finished I made the statement that "I no longer need my Badfinger records any more. I got Space Raft!!!" It was only meant it to be slightly hyperbolic. I mean, I doubt Space Raft would turn down an helping hand from a former Beatle but they don't one. They are doing just fine own their own. I knew they would be good live but they went way beyond that.

     After some relaxing and kicking back on Saturday afternoon, the Roche's foundation was ready to get rocked again for the evening and man, oh man! Did it ever get rocked!

Radio Burns at the Roche Bar August 30th 2014 Photo by Dale Merrill
Radio Burns at the Roche Bar August 30th 2014 Photo by Dale Merrill
     Though being Hamtramck based, Radio Burns are no strangers to the city where Lake Huron starts and it's not just because their drummer, Nick Lloyd, was a member of the town's most beloved and legendary scourge, The Dirtys.
     This night was their 3rd time playing around these parts in the last few months. Their sound, which has a stomp from 70's big rocks like Slade and a hyperactive melodic buzz like sorts such as the Marked Men, won people over immediately the first time they played in town and each time since then they continue to turn up a notch a blowing away show-goers. This evening's show was a bit of a bittersweet affair for the guys on stage and many in the crowd. A good soul from Port Huron, Denny Brown, who was a superhuge fan of the band, shuffled off this mortal coil the previous weekend from a heart attack. Radio Burns dedicated their set to him and sounds set him off on his next journey in style.

Obnox at the Roche Bar August 30th Photo by Dale Merrill
Obnox at the Roche Bar August 30th Photo by Dale Merrill
Obnox at the Roche Bar August 30th Photo by Dale Merrill
Obnox at the Roche Bar August 30th Photo by Dale Merrill
Obnox at the Roche Bar August 30th Photo by Dale Merrill
     Though it was the first time for Obnox to roll through this town people were already down and excited for what they have going on. The college radio station here, WSGR, has been showing the Ohio band mad love and support since their first singles and the most recent album, Louder Space, spent a good few weeks at number one on their charts. Even with all it still didn't prepare the crowd for torrential downpour of sound the duo was about the throw down.
     With a guitar growl resembling Poison Ivy Rorschach's swampy six string gruel if it was powered by a rock crusher and a voice that balances the fine line between a guttural howl, a funky foghorn and a very blazed out store front preacher whoop, 'Nox's creator Lamont "Bim" Thomas string slinging and pontificating commands attention. It delivers a one-two punch with the first one aiming to rattle brains and the second getting people to shake their hips. When a song come to an end, his crowd banter shows that if he ever gives up playing the rock-n-roll (which this writer hopes is not for a long time coming) he will still rule any stage he steps on as a stand up comedian.
     Lamont's probably best known for his drumming gig in the Bassholes so he not gonna settle for just anyone behind the kit an with drummer Rose Safos he has a secret weapon. Her beat keeping is pummeling but not plodding and all about keeping the swing intact and driving the songs home. Those who stand to close to her when she's playing will probably get a concussion just from watching while the rest of the onlookers simply wonder who the drum set hasn't been reduced to splinters by the end of the set.

     Carla from across the river in Canada made it over for the Obnox show and got a few things on video from it. Check 'em out.







     It's always a drag to see summer go (even if weather wise it was a pretty lame one in this part of the world) but having a send off like this and the 100% fun it all was will give us something around here to look back on and say "Awww yeah! We need to do that again!" when the mean ol' winter and the pain in the ass things it brings become commonplace in the next few months.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Smashin' Radio Transistors for August 28th 2014

     Three big hours of listening fun from last night. The station's temporary did us fine over the summer but with the sound of an old timey air conditioner rumbling in the background and a cider block/high ceiling room who's sound would be more conducive to recording some lo-fi rockabilly record  it will be nice to be back in our old studio soon. Give a listen to the whole thing here.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Smashin' Radio Transistors for August 21st 2014

      The upgrades at Ye Ol' 'SGR are still in the budget approval stages so we still have to improvise if people want to hear them outside of our twenty mile broadcast range. After my last gadget bit the dust from A LOT of use the past gob of years I've been looking for a solution to share my shows for those who wanna give them a listen. The latest way needs a few bugs worked out but here's the show from tonight with some radio static included to, y'know, keep it real, man.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Odd Side Ale's Lucid Dreams Red Wine Barrel Aged Dubbel Ale

     In business for the last four years (and bottling a variety of their liquids for about the past two) Grand Haven's Odd Side Ales has become one of the fastest growing breweries in the state of Michigan. With the amount of beermakers there are in the Mitten now (and, it seems, a new one opening up every week) and, that Odd Side's distribution is currently kept only within state lines, they must be doing something right.
     Aged in red wine barrels, this Dubbel style ale pours a hazy firebrick red in color with a two finger fizzy, bubbly head that melts into consistent ring that hangs through the rest of it's session. The smell of fermented grapes are obvious when giving it whiff followed by currants, a dash of black pepper, some toast, vanilla and a slight nudge of oak.
     Buttery and candied malts that are common in the Dubbel style come out in the front and back of the initial sip. What those flavors surround though, such as tart cherries, a medium tannic that is found in a lot of Merlot's along with a dash of tobacco and some light pepper notes, give this creamy but quite lively to the feel brew a curveball of complexities that makes it individual and unique. The barrel aged factor of it is somewhat muted all the way through save for the when it drifts it way in at the finish amongst a blend of farmhouse ale funkiness, red wine astringents and Dubbel sweet notes in the finish.
     If you know of someone who claims to be just a wine drinker that has a tendency to turn it's nose up to beer of any kind this may be the kind of thing that changes their mind and open them up to the many different offerings, ideas and interesting things the brewmasters of this country (and especially this state) are up. It's ain't no soda pop tasting wine cooler (or whatever those bright colored "malt beverages are suppose to be.) It also goes well equally with something to sip after doing yard work or a quiet fancy dinner with the sweetheart of your choice.
www.oddsideales.com

Friday, August 8, 2014

Gwen Owens "Just Say You're Wanted (And Needed)"


    
     I was doing a little research on something totally unrelated and learned that the label this Gwen Owens single was released, Velgo, was owned by a friend of my family. This record here was a 14 year old Gwen’s follow up to her ‘67 Detroit hit “I Lost A Good Thing” (which was also on the Velgo label.)
     Not many heard this record because the pressing plant screwed up most of the copies during manufacturing making it play all warped. Most copies didn’t even make it out to stores and what was in the warehouse went to the trash.
     The family friend has been dead for some years now. Every once in awhile he would talk about his music biz days but it was mostly stories of the biggest star he worked with, Jack Scott.
     Gwen Owens had a national top 40 soul hit in 1969 with “Keep on Living.”