Wednesday, June 20, 2018

CD Review //
Citrus Clouds
"Ultra Sound"
(Custom Made Music)

$10 // //

"Ultra Sound" starts right away in a dreamy way.   It's got that feeling of sounding like The Cure but maybe not exactly The Cure and someone more modern covering "Just Like Heaven" (Which I believe Anberlin did best)     While Erick Pineda sings lead on the opening song, "Ocean Eyes", Stacie Huttleston takes over the lead vocals on the next song, "You Loved Me First".     This has a definite -gaze feel to it overall and in many ways you could call it dreamgaze but then there is a darkwave sense to it as well, so if you could somehow combine dreamgaze and darkwave... Is darkgaze a thing? It must be by now.

The guitar work will be what you hear most on these songs, but the drumming of Angelica Pedrego keeping everything together is truly spectacular.    The middle of this CD is a song called "Happy" and first off, props to Citrus Clouds for *not* making this a cover of that song from the Minions movie.   I often times will see song titles and think "Oh, is that a cover?" and in this case I was strongly hoping it wouldn't be.    The song itself is Erick Pineda singing "And I swear, I'm so happy" but it's in this way that would make you think of the goth new wave bands like Morrissey and Joy Divsion.

While it is a strong feat within itself to create music which matches your mood (Singing about how angry you are while the music that goes with it rages, for example) I've always thought it was somehow better to create songs which seemed sad, depressive and yet had upbeat lyrics or vice versa (Because listening to bubblegum pop songs with lyrics about how much you hate your life would be equally as rad I imagine)   Maybe I'm the only one who feels this way, but based upon the content of these songs on "Ultra Sound" I'm going to kind of guess that I'm not.

"Is This Real?" is an example of why having two vocalists can sometimes work and more importantly how to have two vocalists work together to create a near perfect sound.    As Stacie Huttleston and Erick Pineda sings "Is this real?" they also respond with "I don't know" which will really mess with your sense of reality.     And in that altered sense of reality, the upbeat lyrics with downbeat music continues on "Here Is Where We Are" with the lines "I look up at the sun, I had so much fun / I love everyone".

The final song, "A Dream Of You", is really the most musically heavy song on the CD as sometimes vocals come through but it is mostly just distorted guitars and thundering drums with bass.    It makes for a good final song because some might wonder why they didn't bring this loudness sooner (like perhaps a song to open with rather than close on) but it's something that I feel "Ultra Sound" just builds up to and rather than fading out in a boring way it makes you want to start the whole CD over again which, really, should be the goal of anyone making music.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Blu Ray Review: Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes (2-Disc Special Edition) [Blu-ray + DVD] (MVD Visual)

When I was a kid I would watch movies as they came out and I think we all have this special place for movies which were out during our lifetime over movies released before we were born.   Now, I'm not saying every movie released in 1998 is better than "The Birds" because of the time in that sense, but on a personal level I find we hold the movies most dear to us because of how they relate to our lives and that's usually because they come out when we are old enough to watch them. 

Without giving away my age, I will say that "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" did come out before I was born (just barely) but I remember watching the animated series for it, so the movie itself still has this special place for me.   It was something along the lines of me not realizing until years later when I was older that the cartoon I loved had equally amazing movies to go with them.

"Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" is the ultimate movie to watch when you want something that is both comedic and wholesome.   There are these qualities which make it feel like something you'd see on MST3K, yet at the same time, there is just something enduring about the movie itself which makes me feel like sort of poking fun at it in that way isn't appropriate.    So it has that fine line to walk in a way. 

Though I've never been to a film class or anything like that, I feel like this is something they should teach there-- they should show this movie to film students for reference.   It's just one of those movies I'm not going to write a lot about because I feel like everyone should have seen this at least once in their life and I feel like everyone also agrees with me already on how it is simply one of the best movies ever made.

This Blu-Ray/DVD combo set comes as part of the MVD Rewind collection (It is the second after "D.O.A." which was previously reviewed here) and as such it has a ton of bonus features and also the collectible 9.5" x 11" poster.    I will type this now and hope it does not fall on deaf ears but I'm hoping one day the two movies which followed this will get the MVD Rewind treatment as well and all three posters can be framed on my wall. 

While I feel like so many modern movies are trash (I have yet to pinpoint the exact year it all started falling apart) I will say that one thing movies such as this, released in this way, have made me realize is how disposable modern movies are.   I've watched some movies once and felt like that was enough while others I've not even bothered with.   In many ways, the best sign of a most excellent movie is when you're able to watch it a countless number of times and then also to say you'd rather watch it with commentary than watch some other new movie you haven't seen yet.

All of these bonus features should be viewed as many times as you can because who doesn't want to know things about the San Diego Chicken, but one tip I will give you that for some reason worked out better for me was that the first time I watched the original short film which inspired this movie I thought I had selected to watch it without commentary and yet the commentary came on instead.   This was actually better, I think, than watching it without the commentary for the first time, so you might want to do the same with the short film.

"Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" is one of those rare movies where I'll watch just about anything related to it that I can.    It just has a such a unique quality to it that I feel no other movie has really managed to capture since and probably never will again.   Could you imagine someone making this movie in 2018?  But even watching it again, in 2018, I don't think "Oh, those effects are so bad" but rather it takes me back to simpler times, when movies didn't have to cost four hundred million dollars to make because... well, we can say that's something like all flash and no substance and "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" has some flash, but even being all substance is remarkable.

Cassette Review //
Wet Garden
"Deep In Earth"

$7 //
Edition of 50 // //
🎧 //

Right away, I think the first thing you notice with "Deep In Earth" is that even though these other sounds are going on in an electronics way, there are these vocals and it's not in a typical manner.   The vocals come out softer, sultry but they also are kind of hidden behind the other sounds.   They're not so far back there that they become more difficult to hear, but they do seem to be layered underneath things such as the synth beeps which remind me of a dreamy version of "The X-Files".

There aren't a lot of influences to pull out for Wet Garden in terms of comparisons.   There is some Madonna in here, maybe PJ Harvey, but it's so much slowed down compared to them that nothing seems to quite compare with Wet Garden.   And then there's the electronics.   The way the synths just come through is something you might hear on a faster paced instrumental song or maybe even Deerest to some extent, but for the most part, because of this tempo and overall feel to it, Wet Garden is breaking new ground.

See, on one hand, it can have this just chill, minimal vibe to it where you just feel like you're floating along on clouds.   And then a song like "Waking Up" brings in drum machines and the pace seems to pick up a little bit but mostly it just seems to get louder.  I'm not sure why, but I imagine Wet Garden playing shows in a cloud of smoke from a fog machine.   They have that synthwave sort of thing going on.     This can also take us into a Stranger Things vibe as I tend to find these songs to be a bit eerie overall as well. 

It's just that it can be on that verge of sounding like something out of "Alias" or "Hackers" but it just doesn't kind crossover into that faster paced sound directly and I enjoy that about it.    Lasers shoot through space to start "Don't Deny" and this just has a distinct electronic sound to it even if it was instrumental so the fact that it has these vocals and is synth-chill just makes it stand out that much more.     It also becomes this madness, this sort of chaos where nothing seems to make sense and everything just does whatever it wants.

I tend to think music should be listened to at any time.   Now, I don't subscribe to this theory personally, but I've always thought great music should be able to be played at any time.   But it is simply not true.  I have albums I only throw on when I'm angry or sad or need energy.   I think we need to stop cultivating that idea that great music has to apply to any situation.   Perhaps if I've learned anything from music in my years spent living it's that the best music is time specific in the sense that the truer the emotion which comes from it, the harder you feel it and as such the more situational it becomes. 

Loud, distorted drum sounding bursts come through on "Close Up" and though you will be pulled in by the vocals initially, this ultimately becomes something you begin to hear the music more and vocals less the more times you listen to it.    Isn't it funny how music can do that to you- it can feel so far away at first and then the more times you listen to it the closer to you it becomes to the point where you get a better understanding of it and so what you're hearing after five or ten listens isn't the same as when you first pressed play?  Wet Garden takes you on that type of adventure and everyone should be open for adventure.  

Record Review //
"A Rag of Colts: Disgraced Songs 1987-2012"
(Gertrude Tapes)

$17 //
Edition of 300 // //

Sam Raimi has this theory about how he doesn't release deleted scenes as bonus material for his movies because he feels as if they were deleted for a reason, that whole idea of if he wanted people to see them he would have put them in the movie.   What sticks out most about this title is "Disgraced Songs", as I feel like they are songs which maybe were left off of albums in the past and maybe somehow by someone's standards not deemed good enough for whatever reason and those sorts of songs always seem to appeal to me for whatever reason.   Maybe I feel like they're rejected and I can relate more to rejects than that which is accepted, popular.

Simon Joyner has had quite the time making music- since 1990.   To say he's been around seems like an understatement and as such a lot of the artists I can hear within these songs are not influences of Simon Joyner but it's more of the other way around, which just feels crazy to think about.   One influence that I hear in here though that I think actually did influence Simon Joyner would be Bob Dylan.   There is that definite storyteller-folk-rock feeling which draws me back almost instantly to Dylan.

The songs are mostly acoustic but other instruments come in like a harmonica.   It feels like something from the Empire Records soundtrack, Ben Kweller or even The Get Up Kids.   It's lo-fi in the way that there is static coming through with the vocals, a minimal recording effort type of feel, which I also love.   I always feel like (and this is not to disrespect or undersell anyone else) those who record into old, broken-feeling tape recorders are the most passionate about music.   Having a studio that costs $1000/hour to use must be great and I'm not saying good music can't come from it, but you just feel like people using whatever means they can to make sure their music is heard really feel it the most and that's how I feel listening to this.

Before the song "May Day, 1941" there is a message left on an answering machine (I would assume, not a voicemail) where someone from MCA Records is asking to hear one of his tapes-- they're saying they want him to send a tape because they're likely interested in potentially signing him.   Wow does that take me back.   See, before you could say "Here's a link to my SoundCloud", people used to take demo tapes as ways of getting their music out there.   Even when CDs were made, it took a while for them to be recordable and still cassettes remained less expensive, so, yes, this idea of someone soliciting a cassette to potentially sign Simon Joyner just hits fairly close to home for me.

The song itself- "May Day, 1941"- comes through like a car crash and yet as you can feel it breaking down before your very ears, there is still this rhythm to it that you have to only wonder how it can be created in such madness-- how such a seemingly uncontrollable substance can be controlled.     "Begging On My Knees Blues" has a rough sound to it as well, and it comes with an introduction indicating as much, but it still is a lot better than many songs I hear on a day to day basis.   "When People Lose Their Color" closes out Side A and it's a stripped down number with only vocals that you have to experience once in your life because if it doesn't give you chills you might truly be dead inside.

On the flip side we open up with a song that is about as destructive musically as "May Day, 1941" and then go into a softer ballad called "September Said" which is about how all someone brings is pain and I can relate to that.    Many of these songs seem like love letters to someone.    "When criminals go clean they nearly never find their way" - that is so true.  I feel like there are just certain things which become a part of us and we cannot let them go.   It's weird and somewhat sad to say, but it's life.

"Your Record Sounded So Beautiful (When I Was Drunk)" has a softer side to it, like a Two Gallants ballad.    "You Take A Train, I'll Take A Bus" is a faster acoustic song, what some these days might call folk punk.    The rest of these songs are mostly mellow and they feel like you're just going to fade off into the night.   The final sound you hear is a clip of the words "MCA Records" on a short loop and it just takes me back to the earlier clip which I found so noteworthy.    These songs may feel "disgraced" but they are among the best I've ever heard and if you've not heard the music of Simon Joyner yet I would highly recommend starting here.

CD Review //
Sonia Leigh & Friends
"Live in London - Studio 3 Sessions" //

Perhaps the first thing which caught my eye on this CD is that it is by Sonia Leigh & Friends.   Not only is the name comparable, but the music is as well when you think of other artists who have been Solo Name & Group such as Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and Neil Young & Crazy Horse.   While I will admit that those group names are cool, I do enjoy Sonia Leigh being with "Friends" because it gives you the impression that this is a group of people getting together to play music because they all love music and since they are friends they share a common opinion on it as well, which just feels like it puts them more on the same page than anything else.

The first thing you hear on this CD is a piece which is strictly piano.   It's a nice way to open up not just this album but any really and it just kind of goes to show what you're in store for-- it's not something done to be cool but rather as a display of the technical skills involved in the making of these songs and more of a way of letting everyone know we are on the same page in that we know all of the effort being put into the following songs.   From Reba to Melissa, there is even some Lynyrd Skynyrd as states from Mississippi to Alabam are name dropped.   Though there are country vibes to this, it's not the type of country you hear on the radio but has more of a Americana/rock n roll vibe to it.

As these songs feel as if they are taking us down a long stretch of highway, my best comparison for a lot of them would be to say that this is perhaps what it might sound like had Janis Joplin somehow been alive to front Blind Melon.    I realize that may sound strange but it's just that raw voice and the grassroots feels of a song like Blind Melon's "Tones of Home" that make me think of it that way.    Some of the songs have others lending vocals as well so this isn't just a straight forward group in a sense but it feels more like a collective.   I'm not sure how to explain that better unless you've dealt with it in music before.

By the time you reach the song "Rob The Man" you will likely be feeling those "Wanted Dead or Alive" vibes and it just carries that overall feeling of being something you might enjoy if you are into country as a genre but if you're not into country as a genre (as I tend not to be) this could be still appeal to you as I like to call it "good country", which is not a label I apply a lot.    Sometimes I listen to instrumental songs or songs with long titles that have nothing to do with their lyrics, but most of these songs here are straight forward.  The title is sung in the chorus and they're about what you think they are.    As much as you can create some absurd song title and find hidden meaning in it, I feel like there is perhaps more art in being able to pull this off and Sonia Leigh & Friends wear it oh so well.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Cassette Review //
(Crass Lips Records) // //

What is time?  What is SNARLY?  At first, I have this punk rock feeling and it has that mixture of Buck Wild (google them, trust me) and Twisted Sister but the more you listen to these songs the more they just come out in a punk rock manner like Pennywise or Guttermouth.    I can't find this as a cassette anywhere so you might have to do some digging (or emailing) to purchase it as such, but this was originally posted to the SNARLY Bandcamp page in 2015.   That's wild.   I hadn't heard it before so props to Crass Lips Records for bringing it to my attention and hopefully the attention of others.

Of these nine songs, two of them are covers- one by GWAR and one by The Trashmen.   The audio samples on here are also noted on the Bandcamp page.   I particularly like "Obviously the human race is in love with self destruction", which was made by GWAR to Joan Rivers and that's just a scene I'm sure you could look for on YouTube but just seems all too surreal to me. 

A lot of these songs are what they say in the title.   "You Don't Wanna Eat Lunch With Me", for example, is pretty straight forward and, yes, the lyrics not only have the title in the chorus but they explain why you should not eat lunch with SNARLY (I mean, I assume this applies to everyone in the band and not just whoever wrote the lyrics)   And yet "I Saw Evil" gives us one of my favorite punk rock lines in "Don't wanna go to jail / already in hell" which has a Bad Religion feel to it.

When I was a kid I discovered what punk was from a classmate but I feel like this SNARLY cassette is one you'd keep hidden under your bed and someone would find it for the first time and it would completely change their world.   Even as old as I am, I can still appreciate this side of punk rock and I think everyone should be able to do the same, really, but if you need to hide this from the kids until you feel like they're old enough I understand.

Cassette Review //
Flesh Narc
"Songs of Reality"

$7 //
Edition of 50 // //

"Songs of Reality" opens with this chaotic rock song.   It's a little screamy and has this screechy guitar vibe to it as well.   It reminds me a bit of FBMTOF and then... Is that autotune I hear in there?   It certainly has taken on some sort of Frampton Comes Alive form within the distinct scattered guitars and drums.   It feels like the vocals are doing the scales, but it also sounds a lot like when Finn sings during "Adventure Time", which there is an app for, but is that a genre like T-Pain or something?   I guess I've not studied voice patterns that much but perhaps I should.

The second song has more of a video game thrash feel to it with spoken words and this sounds kind of like Tastes Like Burning but aside from that old band (Which might have actually just been one person) I'm not sure what else to compare this with.    Records scratches or radio frequencies take us into the next track- "Optical Intrusion"- which has that weirdo punk rock sound that is somewhere between Fred Schneider and My Name Is Rar-Rar.   This goes into a psychedelic song which has vocals coming through screeches which make me think of modems.

Whooshes and whirrs make it feel like we're in space but the singing comes through with that feeling again like Finn, yet also there is a Sun Hammer sense to it as well.     Louder bass and higher treble come through and this has a feeling of Primus but something else as well.    I checked the Flesh Narc Bandcamp before writing this and I wrote about two of their earlier cassettes but they seem to have put out a decent amount of music since then and if anything it just seems to be getting weirder, more defined in the weirdness and I enjoy that they're really cementing their own sound on "Songs of Reality".

It gets back into that FBTMOF way, but it's not as heavy, it's more of the art rock/punk side of FBTMOF than the hardcore/screaming/metal, though don't get me wrong, at times this does thrash more than you might expect if I was to compare it with some sort of indie rock weirdo band that I can't quite put my finger on.     The flip side comes out really fast though, so it's starting to lean more towards the punk side even though I still don't have the same comparisons to make as I had in the previous reviews for Flesh Narc. 

I definitely hear a jackhammer now and then the music comes through with "Everyone's taking my advice".    Sharpness and grinding come out with these vocals and it's like watching a musical episode of "Adventure Time" on acid.    I then begin to feel as if the tape is going into rewind.    These next few songs just seem to grind through in a way like you would drive fast around a winding road- which I know is a scene from a Carey Grant movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock but maybe not everyone has seen it yet.     I feel like I'm being asked about yarn as the buildings get richer.

What I perhaps enjoy most about Flesh Narc is that they're a weird band.   I don't mean that in the sense that you go, "Oh, this is a weird band" and then they're still out there on Merge or some fucking record label like that.   I mean this is weird in the sense that it's not "cool weird" where people listen to it because they like that it doesn't sound like everyone else even though it still has some sort of underlying pop appeal to it.    Flesh Narc is weirder than what you're likely thinking of when I type the word "weird" and this music isn't for everyone but I absolutely love that about it.