New York Music Daily

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Tag: radio birdman

Boston Band Aloud Nails a Slew of Catchy Purist Rock Styles

If Boston band Aloud‘s new album It’s Got to Be Now had come out in, say, 1980, it would have been all over the radio. The same would have been true in 1970, or in 1965: their sound is that tuneful, and that timeless. The two guitars of bandleaders Henry Beguiristain and Jen de la Osa jangle and clang, the vocals soar and the rhythm section of bassist Charles Murphy and drummer Frank Hegyi is dynamic verging on explosive. Their songs are eclectic, ranging from 60s flavored garage and surf rock to classic powerpop spiced with psychedelia. And they don’t waste a note – most of the songs are done before the three minute mark (they’re streaming at Spotify). As you might imagine, Aloud are excellent live: they’re at Bowery Electric on April 28 at around 9.

The album kicks off with a triumphantly crescendoing powerpop number, Back Here with Me Again, with its guy/girl vocals, And Your Bird Can Sing bassline, and a tersely tuneful guitar panned in both  left and right channels. Don’t Let It Get You Down shifts nimbly back and forth between funky verses and the band’s signature, wickedly catchy choruses. The Wicked Kind sets a snide, politically-fueled lyric to distantly menacing, chromatically-fueled garage/psych rock, de la Osa singing coolly and imperturbably over the guitars and organ.

Jeanne, It’s Just a Ride! is a funny, catchy janglepop number about a girl who wants to make more of a one-night stand than she ought to. “The futility of existence requires not your assistance,” Beguiristain deadpans. They pick up the pace with the blistering A Little Bit Low and its burning Radio Birdman-esque garage-punk guitar hooks. Then they blend bittersweet twelve-string jangle with Lynchian 60s Nashville pop on Such a Long Time, following that with the new wave Motown of After the Plague, a surprisingly optimistic post-apocalyptic scenaro.

The album’s title track sets a devious variation on a classic garage riff to a vintage soul-clap beat: it’s like the kind of neo-garage that was coming out of the band’s hometown thirty years ago, but without the cliches. A defiant escape anthem, Complicity builds from punchy surf rock to a big roaring chorus. The Beatlesque Ballad of Emily Jane brings the album full circle. Aloud have been around for awhile and have messed with different styles: it’s good to see such an excellent band getting back to the kind of purist tunesmithing they do best.

The Split Squad Hits a Home Run Their First Time Up

During spring training, baseball teams often field two different squads on the same day against different teams, to facilitate plenty of practice time for both the stars and the scrubs. Which explains the sarcasm in the Split Squad’s name: this retro rock supergroup includes keyboardist Josh Kantor from Steve Wynn’s Baseball Project as well as Blondie drummer Clem Burke, guitarists Keith Streng of ageless garage rockers the Fleshtones and Eddie Munoz from powerpop cult legends the Plimsouls along with bassist Michael Giblin. On their debut album Now Here This, the Split Squad goes back through fifty years of rock, plundering ideas all over the place and mixing them up into a snarling, roaring, guitar-fueled blend of powerpop turbocharged with punk and oldschool garage rock. They’re at Bowery Electric on April 25 at around 10 atop a great purist guitar-fueled triplebill: Lakeside Lounge supergroup Los Dudes open the show at around 8 followed by legendary indie power trio the Figgs, still going strong after twenty years. Advance tickets are $10 and highly recommended.

The album unfortunately isn’t streaming on the web, but several of the tracks have made it to youtube (follow the link and enjoy!); there are also brief clips at the band’s music page. The title track opens the album. It’s Clash City Rockers meets Shakin’ All Over, as done by a late edition of Radio Birdman – yeah, that good. Those two paint-peeling wah guitar solos could be Chris Masuak. The steady, punchy, snide Touch & Go is the Kinks as done by Guided by Voices, more or less. With its mean, jangly guitar on the chorus, snappy bass and screaming guitar solo, She Is Everything could be a Del-Lords track from the late 80s. Then Sorry She’s Mine works the La Bamba/Hang On Sloopy riff before it goes in a janglier direction – anybody remember 18, that excellent Williamsburg garage-punk band from about six-seven years ago?

I’ve Got a Feeling has a tasty post-Stooges/Radio Birdman sway, with a deliciously swirly, all-too-brief organ solo. The vicious kiss-off anthem I Can’t Remember goes for a haphazard, 6/8 oldschool soul groove. I Feel the Same About You bookends a somewhat wry Beatles Abbey Road intro and outro around a four-on-the-floor powerpop stomp that could be Cheap Trick, right down to the Bun E. Carlos drumrolls out of the verse. Likewise, Superman Says, a look behind the mask of a stressed-out superhero: “They take it for granted that I never lose,” Clark Kent grouses.

Put It Down keeps the catchy powerpop going over a soul-clap beat that slows down to make way for the organ. Tinker Taylor hints at a Dolls glam vibe, while Hey Hey Baby, the most trad garage rock tune here, blends fuzz guitar into a biting minor-key riff-rock tune. You’ll Never Change is a brooding Vegas tango done as oldschool soul, Spooky by the Classics IV but genuinely spooky. The album winds up with Messin’ Around , which is basically Gloria, right down to the half-assed harmonica. They take it out with a nasty exchange of bars from the guitars. Recycling has seldom been so much fun.

The Plastic Pals Put Their Edgy Spin on Classic New Wave Era Sounds

The Plastic Pals‘ name is a dead giveaway for their sound: ferocious, wickedly tuneful late 70s/early 80s-style new wave and garage-punk. If the Stockholm rockers had recorded their latest album Turn the Tide in 1979 and then had been forgottten, it would be regarded as a lost classic today. The whole thing is streaming at their Soundcloud page, along with their other excellent albums. Yet what they do isn’t purely retro: they add their own guitar-fueled edge and sardonic worldview to well-loved, edgy styles from the late 70s and early 80s. Frontman Håkan “Hawk” Soold sings in good English, with a dry sense of humor that often recalls a classic European band from the new wave era, Holland’s Gruppo Sportivo. Ex-Green on Red keyboardist Chris Cacavas’ production is purist and period-perfect: the growling guitars of Soold and Anders Sahlin in each channel, terse and catchy with no wasted notes, Bengt Alm’s bass and Olov Öqvist’s drums in back, vocals up front where they should be.

One thing that sets the Plastic Pals apart from most of the original new wave bands is that their songs are a lot longer. One of the album’s most spine-tingling tracks, A Couple of Minutes is a good example, a cruelly vengeful, wickedly catchy account of a battered wife. The album’s title track works a bouncy, soul-tinged vintage Elvis Costello vein, a cynical look at how the current global depression hits you between the eyes. Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea nicks the tune from the late 80s Tom Petty/Jeff Lynne hit Runinng Down a Dream and takes it to the next level, with some neat clean/dirty guitar contrasts and a wry Rolling Stones quote at the end. And they go into swaying 6/8 groove for the junkie blues ballad Caramel, She Said, with a hard-hitting, anthemic guitar solo midway through.

Cards sets a biting, bluesy lead over marching multitracked guitars: there are echoes of early Squeeze, the Larch and Radio Birdman in there. Leave It Til Tomorrow has a funky, Stonesy vibe: “Stuck in this tragic sitcom – hey, write me out of the script,” Soold asserts. Miracles follows a slowly ominous, jangly, psychedelic soul-tinged tangent that brings to mind Golden Earring at their most focused. The most memorable song here is the bittersweetly anthemic Providence: with its surreal, nocturnal storyline and blend of country and Memphis soul, it could be the great lost Wallflowers hit. Close behind it is the richly anthemic, soaringly triumphant yet apprehensive All the Way.

The Final Remedy works a late-70s powerpop radio vibe but with better production values. The Sweet Spot again brings to mind Gruppo Sportivo, with its tongue-in-cheek story of a clandestine hookup, half sarcastic, half dead-serious, with some seriously catchy major/minor changes. Traveling completely rips the Radio Birdman classic Man with Golden Helmet, but with its fiery, bluesy guitars and alienated lyrics, it’s a killer song anyway. And Wouldn’t Change a Thing brings to mind Willie Nile at his anthemic best, burning, blues-infused guitars fueling a creepy, phantasmagorical tale. It’s one of the best albums of the year and makes you wonder who else in Stockholm might be making music this good.

Earlier this fall, the Plastic Pals did a brief Dives of New York tour with their pals Band of Outsiders, so it’s not unrealistic to expect them back at some point: watch this space.

Twin Guns’ New Album: Dark Reverb Central

Twin Guns’ new album Sweet Dreams is all about the reverb: waves, and waves, and waves of it. What’s most amazing about the album is that it’s just two members, guitarist Andrea Sicco and drummer Jungle Jim (formerly of the Cramps and the Makers).  Recorded by Hugh Pool at Brooklyn’s famed Excello studios and produced by Heavy Trash’s Matt Verta-Ray, it’s a feast of menacing retro guitar sonics. In fact, there’s so much guitar, you don’t even notice that there’s no bass. Fans of vintage equipment will have a field day guessing which amps and guitars are getting a workout. And while you could pigeonhole this as garage rock or ghoulabilly, it transcends any label you could stick on it. It’s just good. Fans of loud, dark rock have a lot to enjoy here. One good band this resembles sometimes is bass-less two-guitar Pennsylvania garage/punk rockers the Brimstones.

The title track is a pounding, syncopated monster surf instrumental with hollers of pain – or something like pain – echoing in the background. It’s the great lost track from the acid trip sequence in Jack Nicholson’s The Trip. The second cut blends ghoul-garage rock with a relentlessly assaultive Radio Birdman vibe. “I always turned away from love to be with all my demons,” Sicco explains.

They follow that with a snarling fuzztone riff-rocker, then a slowish G-L-O-R-I-A vamp with reverbtoned harmonica. Never Satisfied moves ominously from echoing spaghetti western riffage, to a chromatically-charged menace, to a Psychotic Reaction verse and then gets slow and creepy again. The Creeper sounds like Morricone doing Link Wray, while Teenage Boredom, arguably the album’s best song, infuses Lynchian 60s-pop with layers and layers of guitar, tremoloing, smoldering, pulsing, filling every corner of the sonic picture like liquid pitchblende, lethal but irresistible.

Bloodline nicks the riff from Bela Lugosi’s Dead, adds an Apache drumbeat and echoes of the 13th Floor Elevators. Mystery Ride mingles screaming cowpunk and goth, with a tasty, surfy outro. Motor City – a tribute to the Ludlow Street bar, maybe? – blends Syd Barrett and X influences. The album ends with the slow, Gun Club-style dirge Wild Years, taking on a macabre bolero surf edge as its murky waves rise. As far as creating a mood and keeping it going, this is as good as it gets. An early, sonically luscious contender for best rock record of 2013. The whole thing is streaming at Twin Guns’ Bandcamp page.

Mark Steiner and Susan Mitchell Haunt the Delancey

Every now and then, the more-or-less weekly Small Beast gathering upstairs at the Delancey will bring back an artist or two who made this the night for intelligent rock in New York back in 2008-09. A couple of weeks ago it was David J, Little Annie and the night’s founder, Paul Wallfisch of Botanica; this week it was Mark Steiner and His Problems. Steiner had a long and memorable run as the leader of Piker Ryan and then Kundera here in New York in the late 90s and early zeros. Now based in Norway, he and his only Problem this time out, longtime collaborator and violin sorceress Susan Mitchell played one of the most haunting rock shows this town has seen in a long time. And he did it with virtually all new material: he’s never played or sung better.

Steiner’s signature sound is a reverb guitar-fueled menace. In a stripped-down context like this, he builds tension by muting the strings and then letting the chords explode in a shower of overtone-drenched clang and twang. Inscrutable and methodical, Mitchell provided a sepulchral, otherworldly contrast with her custom-made five-string hybrid violin/viola, raising the sonics to the level of epic grandeur with apprehensive microtonal swirls, funereal Balkan tones and haunting, sustained atmospherics: there’s no other string player out there who achieves such high intensity so effortlessly. One of the night’s more memorable tunes was a swampy, syncopated rock song that evoked the Gun Club, Steiner’s enveloping baritone giving it a luridly seductive edge. Another more anthemic song reminded of an early song by the Church, tense syncopation giving way to a richly interwoven, roaring series of variations on an open guitar chord. Steiner switched chords counterintuitively throughout the set, but Mitchell kept up. The best of the new songs matched an ominous Syd Barrett-inflected verse to a roaring, anthemic, surf-tinged Radio Birdman chorus that picked up with a percussive ferocity at the end. They closed with a couple of covers: one a sly, tongue-in-cheek faux pop song by an Australian band, basically a litany of drugs that get harder as the song goes on, and then a macabre tango-flavored number [by Gowanus Somebody? didn’t recognize the name of the artist] that Mitchell ended with a ghostly slide down the fingerboard. Several of these songs are scheduled to be recorded, an auspicious development as it’s been awhile since Steiner put out an album.