Wednesday, February 27, 2002

Music to My Ears III
A five-pack of new record reviews!

Binge: "One More Cup" CD
Opening with a heavy-metal chunka-chunka guitar riff, this nine-song CD doesn't really remind me of the Binge I saw at O'Brien's. Binge plays passable hard rock, with bassist K.T. Gelwick's vocals being a high point. But for the most part, I find this boring. Maybe it's Paul Marrochello's guitars or the able arrangements that don't leave much room for risk or surprise. Then there's the lyrics. Maybe it's Binge's concept or gimmick, but I can only listen to so many songs about drinking, Johnny Walker, whiskey and coffee, beer, and Mescal before I disconnect. That said, "Lou," which I found irritating at the show, is quite a song -- the backing vocals are well placed, and K.T.'s emotional escalation is done to good effect. At the same time, while the introduction to "Be Gone" indicates that Binge isn't all hard rock and heavy metal, the song strikes me as what might happen if King Diamond were fronted by a woman. The screeching delivery doesn't work as well here, and I now remember why I was irritated at the show. The dark rock of "My Cancer," a song that addresses frustrating relationships, or the faster-paced "Chlorine," which features some interesting vocal effects and good backing vocal placement, might be the most palatable songs -- if you write off Binge's goth-tinged cover of Foreigner's "Juke Box Hero." And I only say that because the blistering punk number "Something More" is so far outside of Binge's oeuvre. This might very well be my favorite song. More of this, please! Binge, P.O. Box 35439, Brighton, MA 02135.

Darryl Leigh Blood: "This Isn't Goodbye" CD
Darryl's moving to Los Angeles, and he recorded this nine-song CD as a sort of farewell. I scabbed my hands the night of the listening party in Jamaica Plain, but I'm really hearing this for the first time today. And it's good. The five-piece (largely encompassing Darryl's eight-track recordings) performs beautiful pop that reminds me of a sleepier Brett Rosenberg, Brian Wilson's pop arrangements, and the DIY masterpieces of Graham Smith and Kleenex Girl Wonder. There's a hesitant aspect to the music, at times tinged with country, and Darry's vocal delivery evokes a quiet Church or even Simon and Garfunkel. The violin sounds on "True Hearts" and McCann Melton's slide guitar on "Unsettling Sweet" are especially nice, as is the banjo-cello interplay on "All Confused." For the most part, Darryl's lyrics are a less-pretentious, personal, and DIY take on Robyn Hitchcock's elliptical poetry. An extremely well self-produced recording capturing many excellent dark pop songs. Be sure to check out Darryl's compilations and other projects on Black Apple.

Clare Burson: "Undone" CD
Clare has moved from Boston to Nashville, but let's consider her a local a little longer, shall we? On the edge of Cambridge's Club Passim singer-songwriter school, Clare blends pop and country in an extremely adept and honest way. These five songs, which make the CD doubly expensive at $10, are excellent examples of Clare's songwriting, and one song even involves T-Bone Burnett on piano, banjo, and drum machine. I had a crush on Clare while we worked together, and he singing certainly doesn't help -- Clare's emotive, halting, interruptive, and melodic vocal styling reminds me slightly of Dar Williams, whom I also adore. Clare's delivery is almost arhythmic at times, which makes many verse lines scan in an off-kilter yet interesting way, and the music is slightly disinterested and sleepy pop country (for lack of a better description) that is energetic and personal enough that, regardless of whether you listen to the CD or see Clare perform, you'll feel like you know her and want to know more. In fact, go see her play in Nashville or Boston -- the CD is short and doesn't quite capture her allure or talent. You can sign up for her mailing list to learn more about her current activities.

Pracky Pranky: "Easter Eve" CD
16 minutes of art-damaged noise from the Paper Radio set. People involved might include Jacob Ciocci and Jessica Ciocci, but who can tell with these fellows? Eerie synthesizer stylings, drum beats and manic tribal drumming, flute, atmospheric guitar, vocal effects, loose strings, yelping, monotony, bleep-blorky keyboards, laughter, Fugs-esque singing, animalistic grunting, more laughter, whistling, drum stick clicking, sleepy singing, and distortion make up these 18 ideas and suggestions of songs. What K-Rad is to electronica, Pracky Pranky might be to lo-fi pop or DIY noise, but I suggest you take this as seriously as Paper Radio does.

The Brett Rosenberg Problem: "Pop Riot!" CD
It's taken me awhile to get to this CD despite having seen Brett and his sister band Army of Jasons play several times. What we have here are 12 solid power pop songs in the vein of the Replacements, the Kinks, and maybe even the Who and Cheap Trick. Dave Aaronoff, formerly of the Shods and another Kinks-influenced popster, sits in on organ for two tracks. The music is energetic and catchy. Brett's vocals are extremely well performed, and this CD cements Brett as one of the most energetic and productive additions to the Boston scene in quite awhile. "What Do You Want Me to Do?" "I still Know You Better," and "New York" stand out. Shay would love this record. Look for a new CD soon.

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