Thursday, May 02, 2002

Music to My Ears VII
A four-pack of new record reviews!

The Also-Rans: "The Resignation" CD EP
This is the kind of record that you get after months of waiting and wonder, "Why the heck are there only three songs?" Call me biased -- my friends Brad, Matt, and Mary are in the band -- but seriously: Why are you teasing me? The Also-Rans could be Boston's next big thing. "Resignation Letter" opens with a delectable guitar riff that the front man's vocals quickly joins before lapsing into full surround sound. Subsequent verses do not suffer, and the chorus includes Mary's backing vocals in measure better mixed than any of their live shows. Second up, "Glass Jaw" is one of my favorite songs from their live shows. Chris' vocals are spot on until the band's emo breakdown, and then the band gets slightly mathy with overlapping male and female vocal lines. Beautiful. Lastly, "Chapter 3" (How appropriate!) rocks out with an escalating melodic line that buds into a slightly angry vocal exhalation before the chunka-chunk middle part. This song never really wowed me, but the Chris and Mary dual vocals do please, as does the aggressive part two minutes in. Later verses add male vocals in the background -- something the band should consider doing more of in the future. Huh. Three songs. I want more! SINCaudio

Hip Tanaka: "The Sky Is Smaller Than the Sea" CD
This band irks me. The show I saw at the Abbey with the Jack McCoys rocked. The show they played with my band, the Anchormen, at the Upstairs Lounge decidedly did not. And their CD? Aargh. Parts are really good. Why didn't they play well at the Upstairs? Did they? Can they? This CD says they can. "We Love Our Customers" is a brilliant Weezer-inspired pop number that includes some Elephant Six-like elements. The cascading chorus wraps around and around in quite a good way. And the lyrics are surprisingly astute. Yet the song devolves into a wanky, Berklee-inspired prog-rock decline I can't quite condone. "Mustang Pride" leaps out with a power-pop punch and a verse more catchy than its Celtic-tinged chorus. Next up, the title track is even more akin to Elephant Six bands-- specifically Neutral Milk Hotel. Why don't they replicate this feeling live? Maybe they can't, because the rest of the CD is a mix of herky-jerky pop dynamics with keyboards, arpeggiated obscenity, Smoking Popes-meets-Slot Machine classic rock, and inappropriately slap bass-infused Tom Waits wannabe ballads. Ouch. Hip Tanaka exhibits some worthy tendencies but is overly disappointing in so many areas. Pray for them. Because they could use the help. And they might even deserve it. Hip Tanaka, c/o Local 33 1/3 Label, P.O. Box 918, Allston, MA 02134.

Joey Hamilton: demo CD-R
These five songs represent the recorded output of this Midwestern three-piece prior to the release of their debut album. Admittedly inspired by such bands as Weezer, the Rentals, and Fountains of Wayne, Joey -- an eponymous band that features no band member by that name -- plays music that is much the same. Roughly produced but not garagey power pop is what this is, with some degree of sensitive-boy swagger. The banter-laden introduction to "Sara" is more interesting than the song itself. Nevertheless, "Castles in the Sand" indicates the direction the band could really go in -- emo. This slow-paced number really makes me appreciate their earnestness, if not their affect. "Happy Times Ahead of Us" tips hat to honest college-age singer-songwriter music. Not bad for a demo. Joey Hamilton, 1026 N. Franklin Road, Indianapolis, IN 46219.

The Queers: "Pleasant Screams" CD
Finally, a new full-length Queers record -- and one that isn't confused about what makes a good Queers song! While the Beach Boys melodies and harmonies are here, the songs representing that side of Joe aren't overly produced or limp this go 'round, and there's a healthy dose of antisocial anger to balance it out -- primarily "Get a Life and Live It Loser" and "See Ya Later Fuckface," the first two songs. This record mixes the best of what makes the Queers work -- the Beach Boys pop fetish, the Ben Weasel-meets-the Ramones songwriting style, and the unabashed hatred of posers. But there's also a lot of love here: "I Wanna Be Happy," "I Never Got the Girl," and "Psycho Over You." In addition to the requisite nods to scenester back-patting -- "Danny Vapid" and "Molly Neuman" -- the Queers dip their toes in the cold Atlantic Ocean for several appreciative adaptations of songs by the Choir, Donova, and the Fantastic Baggys. A solid record. Lookout Records, 3264 Adeline St., Berkeley, CA 94703.

If you'd like me to consider a record for possible review in Media Diet, send it to Heath Row, P.O. Box 390205, Cambridge, MA 02139.

No comments: