Soda Cracker Jesus – Single Review: “My Anthem”

I love the quirky and colorful names that musicians often come up with for their music projects, and one of the best I’ve seen lately is Soda Cracker Jesus, the new brainchild of longtime Tacoma-based singer-songwriter and producer Regan Lane. Lane is also front man and ringmaster of psychedelic punk-rock band Strangely Alright, who I’ve featured numerous times on this blog. The wildly imaginative, talented and seasoned artist has been a mainstay in the Northwest music scene for years. Besides Strangely Alright, he was previously a member of Tacoma punk band Baby Knockors and 80s rock band Strypes. More recently, he helped produce the new album Butterfly Hand Grenade for up-and-coming rockers Stargazy Pie, and is an active mentor in the successful Ted Brown Music Program, where he helps aspiring northwest musicians hone their craft. 

Lane created Soda Cracker Jesus to express his “more punky power pop side”, with music influenced by acts like the Beatles, Kinks, Robyn Hitchcock, Julian Cope, XTC and more. He’s also been honest and candid on his social media about his former struggles with alcohol and substance abuse, and the happiness and joy that sobriety now brings him. He recently confided on Facebook, “I’ve come to the point in my life where I know for me that happiness comes from the inside. It’s not about being the greatest or the best, but about having gratitude for what I have, appreciating the people and love in my life and continuing to try to treat people like I’d like to be treated. And all those things help me feel creative and free to share who I really am.” It’s in this spirit that he wrote “My Anthem“, which he’s released today, April 1st, as his debut single.

The aptly-titled song is a euphoric power pop anthem and foot-stomping banger, with a joyously upbeat old school punk-infused vibe that nicely conveys Lane’s hopeful message. In addition to singing vocals, he played all instruments, mixed, and produced the track, and Todd Ensminger did the mastering. I love his chugging riffs of gnarly guitars and aggressive pounding drumbeats, and his always colorful vocals are emphatic and animated, perfectly complementing the song’s powerful driving rhythms. The lyrics speak to having an optimistic, open-minded and courageous philosophy for living your best life possible, and with gratitude, which Lane sings with such conviction and joy that we can’t help but be swept up alongside him: “I can hope and I can dream. I can fight and I can scream. Look to the light I won’t disappear. Never have to run away from anything I got no fear. Clear and Real and Free. Ya ya ya ya ya This Is My Anthem.

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Stream/purchase “My Anthem” on Bandcamp

STRANGELY ALRIGHT – Single Review: “Alien Lover”

Strangely Alright is a delightfully quirky and wonderful psychedelic-punk rock band based in and around Seattle-Tacoma, Washington. I’ve been following them for approximately three years, and have become especially fond of them, both because of their terrific music and also for their strong sense of humanity. Accordingly, I’ve featured them several times on this blog (you can read my reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the end of this post).

Referring to themselves as an “Eclectic Traveling Minstrel Magic Music Medicine Show”, their unique and entertaining style of punk-infused alternative rock is heavily influenced by such iconic British acts as David Bowie, T.Rex, Pink Floyd, later-period Beatles, Suede, the Buzzcocks and Supergrass. Through their music, they strive to spread positive messages of love, kindness and acceptance, with a guiding philosophy of “Be kind. It matters. Love always wins, so don’t be a dick.

The band is comprised of front man and ringmaster Regan Lane, who does much of the songwriting and sings lead vocals, Sean Van Dommelen (lead guitar, backing vocals), Ken Schaff (bass), Raymond Hayden (keyboards, backing vocals) and Jason Bair (drums). They’ve released a number of recordings over the past several years, beginning in 2013 with their debut album The Time Machine is Broken, a compilation album All of Us Are Strange (The Singles) and an EP Stuff, both released in 2018, and too many singles to mention along the way. One of my favorites is the brilliant and trippy single “Psych Film”, which spent over four months on my Weekly Top 30, and ranked #42 on my Top 100 Songs of 2020 list.

On March 5th, they dropped their latest single “Alien Lover“, a song Regan describes as “that space between a dream and waking up. We wanted to do something that sounded and looked like the world inside our heads… Where answers lead to questions like the light leads to the dark and back.” Like some of their other recent singles, “Alien Lover” is a long one, clocking in at eight minutes. With it’s meandering cinematic arrangement, trippy otherworldly synths, sweeping orchestral flourishes and bold, psychedelic guitars, the song has a marvelous and epic Pink Floyd-esque vibe. The spacey psychedelic touches and distorted guitar notes perfectly conjure up images of both that blurred state between dreaming and being half-awake, and of an ethereal alien lover inhabiting our dreams. Regan has a terrific and highly emotive vocal style, and his rather mischievous-sounding croons nicely complement the otherworldly music, as well as imparting a sense of an unconventional love described in the lyrics. It all makes for a wonderful trip we’re more than happy to take!

I’m so glad you’re here so I don’t have to disappear into the shame
Nothing really matters when I’m feeling like a shadow that can’t change
I was wrong and you were right and I am sad without your light we need
I just want to fly up in the sky so we’ll be free

Alien Lover
What’s your name?
Alien Lover
We can change
Alien Lover lover
I don’t know where to go
I am here to see the life you sacrificed for me to be here now
The gift I have is you and all your love it tells the truth it never shouts
Where we are and what we do and all the things that we can choose to be
Time is on our side we’re both alive to play the game
Alien Lover
What’s your name?
Alien Lover
We can change
Alien Lover

What’s your name?
Alien Lover lover
I don’t know where to go
Who we are
What we do
Who we are it always shows
What we give
What we lose
Who we are it always shows
Love gonna change what it needs to change
Love gonna go where it goes
Oh Oh
Oh oh
Oh Oh
Oh Oh

Alien Lover
Alien Lover
What’s your name?
Alien Lover
We can change
We can change, we can change
Alien Lover lover
I don’t know where to go
I don’t know where to go

To learn more about Strangely Alright, check out their website
Connect with them on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

JONNY POLONSKY – Album Review: “Power and Greed and Money and Sex and Death”

This past April, I wrote a feature article about Brooklyn-based artist Jonny Polonsky, along with a review of his marvelous album Kingdom of Sleep, which you can read here. An accomplished singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist, he’s been actively involved in the music industry for over a quarter century, both as a solo artist and as a session musician and/or member of a number of bands, including Big Nose (with Audioslave/Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk and bassist Tim Commerford) and Puscifer. On November 13, Jonny returned with his eighth album Power and Greed and Money and Sex and Death, featuring eight songs touching on the good, the bad and the ugly of this thing called life. He wrote, arranged, recorded, produced and engineered the album at home during the pandemic lockdown in Spring and Summer 2020. Mixing was done by Mike Tholen and mastering by Dave Collins. 

Jonny Polonsky3

The album kicks off with “Electric Tears“, a foot-stomping psychedelic rocker that seems to touch on the vow “til death do us part”. With lyrics like “To the sound of thunder we’re torn asunder / O, Dulcinea! So sweet the vulture / The main offender, the plane descender / We fall together and live forever!“, I’m guessing the two lovers are about to perish in a plane crash, confirming their love for each other. On the timely and topical “In Between Worlds“, Jonny lobs a scathing attack on racism and bigotry, and those afraid or unable to accept that America continues to evolve, both socially and demographically: “I think your thinking is deranged / I see the sadness in your soul /Morbid, bent /And strange how you still fail to see that these changing times are not your enemy.” In the terrific video, he plays both a TV newsman reporting the news and a musician performing the song on a television show stage, accompanied by footage of street protests and a defeated-looking Trump. Musically, the song has an urgent, piano-driven melody, with gnarly guitars, organ and dark synths. The piano work is especially good here.

Imitation Life” is a lively power pop gem, with a strong driving beat and wonderful jangly guitars that give the song a retro 60s sound. Jonny admonishes another to let go of phoniness and superficiality, and live her truth: “Sad eyes, you shouldn’t waste your time / Realize, this is no imitation life. You’re alive.” One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Summer Soldiers“, a melodic tune featuring lovely vocals by singer-songwriter and former member of the Go-Go’s Jane Wiedlin. The song’s uplifting lyrics seem to be telling us not to let others define us, nor keep us from living our full potential: “Don’t let ’em lay you down and roll you out / And when you’re alone and don’t know who to trust / Tempted to self destruct / Discarded and left to rust.” The song starts off with a brief snippet of Little Richard’s hysterical laughter, then settles into a pleasing mid-tempo beat, with enchanting spacy synths, shimmery keyboards and crisp percussion. I really like how Jonny and Jane’s vocals are in perfect harmony.

On the brooding “Under Your Spell“, Jonny uses sweeping industrial synths and beautiful distorted guitars to create a haunting cinematic soundscape that gives the song a bit of a David Bowie vibe. He has an unusual vocal style that’s both raspy and breathy, which he uses to great effect on this track. The lyrics speak to him having fallen for someone who seems to be emotionally unavailable, insecure and afraid of revealing their true self:  “How’d you end up on the inside? How do you know me so well? With your eyes on fire and your coat made of eagle, now I’m under your spell.” Another standout track for me is “Completely Surrounded by Love“, with its gorgeous blend of twangy and jangly guitars that give the song a folk-rock feel. The song seems to be a thank you to someone who helped him overcome his personal demons through their love and devotion: “I was afraid, so afraid of my own mind / I believed in you / I couldn’t think for my own self / But I know I am completely surrounded by love.

Jonny saves the best for last with the stunning and bittersweet “Where the Sunset Sets“. Starting with an achingly beautiful melody, he layers shimmery keyboards, chiming guitars and airy synths to create a breathtaking atmospheric soundscape. His vocals are deeply heartfelt as he sings to someone who seems to be slipping away, possibly from dementia or even on the verge of their death: “And everything that had binded me to you, just leaves you sad and confounded / What once had been a folie a deux, is just a memory you detest. Your name, it doesn’t matter / Your face, you will soon forget / Our eyes, beaming into one another / Leave a trace in anyone you’ve ever met .” The seven-minute-long song has an epic and cinematic quality, and is my favorite track on the album.

Power and Greed and Money and Sex and Death is a wonderful album that gets better with each listen. I like how Jonny keeps things sounding fresh and varied by using different music styles, tempos and sounds on each track, and as always, the production values and arrangements are first-rate.

Jonny will be releasing a deluxe 12-inch vinyl version of the album, pressed on transparent red vinyl, with a full color cover and lyric insert with photos, and including a 16.5″x23″ fold out poster and free digital download card. Purchase of this deluxe album includes unlimited streaming of Power and Greed and Money and Sex and Death via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more. Shipping is anticipated on or around February 1, 2021.

Connect with Jonny: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  BandcampAmazon

THE RARE OCCASIONS – Single Review: “Alone”

I recently got a notification in my inbox for the new single “Alone” by an indie rock band called The Rare Occasions. Being the dutiful music blogger that I am, I gave it a listen and liked it so much that I started delving into their impressive music catalog. Well, I’m happy to report that I love their music and am now a big fan. Fashioned with colorful melodies, sparkling arrangements, exuberant instrumentals and endearing vocals, but with contemplative and often biting lyrics, their songs are immediately memorable and deeply addictive. It’s not surprising they have a sizable following; their song “Notion” has been streamed over 1.7 million times on Spotify, with another six of their songs garnering between 100,000-800,000 streams.

With origins in Providence, Rhode Island and now based in Los Angeles via Boston, The Rare Occasions was formed by childhood friends Brian McLaughlin and Luke Imbusch after they moved to Boston to form a band. They soon met bassist Jeremy Cohen and guitarist Peter Stone, and with McLaughlin on vocals and Imbusch on drums, their lineup was complete. In 2013, they released their debut EP Applefork, then followed up a year later with Feelers. Their song “Dysphoric”, one of the tracks from Feelers, won the ‘Song of the Year’ award in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. They released more singles and a third EP, the wonderful Futureproof, in 2016.

Fiercely independent, the band has always recorded and produced all their own music, getting help only with final mastering. Wanting to devote their full energies and earn a living from music by doing studio session work and songwriting, they relocated to Los Angeles in 2017, and would go on to record their exquisite full-length album Into the Shallows, which they released in 2018. After a national tour to promote the album, The Rare Occasions saw the amicable departure of guitarist Peter Stone. Now forced to reinvent themselves as a three-piece, they continued writing and recording new songs featuring, in their own words, “three-part harmonies, wall-of-sound instrumentation, and a pointed sense of cheekiness.”

Since becoming a three-piece, they’ve released three singles, “Control”, “Set It Right”, and their latest “Alone” which dropped September 16th. It’s an infectious, anthemic banger, highlighted by an aggressive foot-stomping beat and explosive instrumentals. The thunderous mix of jangly and gnarly riffs, punctuating by lunging guitar notes, and driven by Jeremy’s powerful buzzing bass line and Luke’s smashing percussion, create an electrifying wall of sound that serves as a dramatic backdrop for Brian’s wonderful plaintive vocals. I especially love the soaring vocal harmonies in the choruses. It’s a fantastic song.

The lyrics are a defiant repudiation of an affluent and controlling parental figure who wants their son to toe the line and adopt their status symbol-based materialistic lifestyle, or face being cut off from the family fortune:

I take time kicking it down the line
I don’t know where I’m going where I’m going
I think twice before taking your advice
‘cause I can see your ignorance is showing

you say “real estate is what you need
a little place beside the sea
if you don’t fall in line
then you’re no son of mine”

so I swing my shoulder through the thick of it
and face tomorrow alone
because you own me and I’m sick of it
but you don’t own me no more

where’ve we seen this before?
the age was gilded; cronuts weren’t to blame
your world is purely transactional
why don’t you look around and think
before you blurt out gems like:

“jewelry is what you want
a sterling piece that you can flaunt
if you don’t fall in line
then you’re no son of mine”

so I swing my shoulder through the thick of it
and face tomorrow alone
because you own me and I’m sick of it
but you don’t own me no more

And here’s a cute video of them performing the song at their virtual release party:

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Purchase:  BandcampGoogle Play

STRANGELY ALRIGHT – Single Review: “Maybe If”

Strangely Alright is a wonderful and wildly-entertaining psychedelic-punk rock band based in Seattle-Tacoma, Washington. Referring to themselves as an “Eclectic Traveling Minstrel Magic Music Medicine Show”, they’ve built a loyal following not only through their great music, but also for the positive messages of humanity, love, kindness and acceptance in their songs. Their quirky and unique style of punk-infused rock is inspired by such iconic British artists as David Bowie, T.Rex, Pink Floyd, the Jam, Suede, the Buzzcocks and Supergrass. The band is fronted by Regan Lane, who does much of the songwriting and sings lead vocals, Sean Van Dommelen (lead guitar, backing vocals), Ken Schaff (bass), Raymond Hayden (keyboards, backing vocals) and Jason Bair (drums).

They’ve released a number of recordings over the past several years, including their debut album The Time Machine is Broken in 2013, as well as a compilation album All of Us Are Strange (The Singles) and an EP Stuff, both of which were released in 2018. Since then, they’ve dropped a number of terrific singles, one of them the brilliant and trippy “Psych Film”, which has been streamed nearly 75,000 times on Spotify. The song has also spent the past four months on my Weekly Top 30 list, peaking at #4. (You can read my reviews of Stuff and “Psych Film” by clicking on the links under “Related” at the end of this post.)

Now Strangely Alright returns with their marvelous new single “Maybe If“, a beautiful song of hope, love and gratitude. About the song’s message, the band states “In a world of pointing fingers, we have decided to look inside for the answers. And let’s be kind! It matters in ways we often never see.” Running nearly eight minutes long, the song has an epic, otherworldly feel reminiscent of some of Pink Floyd’s music. The intricate guitar work is fantastic, alternating between jangly, chiming and grungy textures, and accompanied by sparkling piano keys, measured percussion, and a colorful mix of spacey and sweeping orchestral synths. It all comes together beautifully to create a dreamy cinematic backdrop for Regan’s wonderful Bowie-esque vocals.

Feeling like an alien
Who fell and landed here
Maybe if I face my pride
The answers will be clear
Maybe if I ride a cloud
Into the sun my darkness disappears

Everything I never had
I’d give it all away
If I have to steal a smile
I’ll wear it for the day
If I have to tell where I have been
I have to sell there’s nothing left to win

Maybe If I look inside
I’ll see the things I’ve always tried to hide

Maybe everything I have
Is everything I need
And I can’t control the world outside
And I hate who I can be
If I lose control will I disappear
And will I fade away to the nothing
In the mirror

Galaxies of brokenness that fabricate what I have missed
Peculiar thoughts I died when I was young
Can’t escape what might have been
The atmosphere is getting thin
I’m out of gas
Maybe If

Maybe If my gratitude is greater than my faith
If I see myself in everyone will I share a little grace
And I want to trust all the things I see
And I want to feel just a little peace
There’s a million no’s deep inside of me
If I let em go
I just might end up free

Strangely Alright hit the ball out of the park yet again with “Maybe If”, further cementing their reputation for putting out stellar tunes with the power to both dazzle our senses and stir our souls.

To learn more about Strangely Alright, check out their website
Connect with them on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / Google Play

REVOLUTION RABBIT DELUXE – Album Review: “Swipe Left”

RRD Swipe Left

Revolution Rabbit Deluxe (RRD) is an indie rock band hailing from south Wales. Their innovative, alt-rock sound draws from Brit-rock, pop and punk influences, with meaningful lyrics tackling topical issues ranging from politics, culture and environmental justice to mental health. RRD started out as a solo project for founder and guitarist Rev Rab, but gradually evolved into a four-piece band. With the exception of Rev Rab, the band has an entirely new lineup since I last visited them a little over a year ago, when I reviewed their terrific debut album Tales From Armageddonsville. They’re now comprised of Rev Rab (guitar, lead vocals), Dan (guitar, backing vocals), Ben (bass, backing vocals) and Nick (drums), and recently dropped their sophomore album Swipe Left.

The album contains 12 tracks, and I’ll touch on what I think are the highlights. RRD gets right down to business on the opening track “Doomsday Clock/Cornucopia Croaked“, a rousing foot-stomper about mankind’s relentless assault on our planet. The track starts off with what sounds like a huge ticking clock in an empty room, backed by distant sounds of civil unrest. At the 30 second mark, the clock stops and we’re hit with a barrage of gnarly distorted guitars and hammering drums, driving home the urgency of the subject. Rev Rab issues a scathing assessment of our destructive tendencies: “We tore down the hills. We dug up the valleys. We pulled up the trees. Replaced them with concrete. And it’s goodbye world. Cornucopia croaked. Strangled by plastic. All our footprints soaked. Need to do something drastic.”

Keeping with the theme of earthly degradation, “Gods of Folded Bills” speaks to how our greed, over-consumption, and the downside of capitalism in general have led us down a path toward the looming prospect of our own demise: “We sold out to darker powers, and all the while, we pray to gods of folded bills. There’s no return, we’re driving down a one-way street. There’s no concern, as the rhino joins the queue.” The song has a cheerful synth-driven melody that belies the darker lyrics. So too with “Superglue“, its catchy new wave/psychedelic grooves in contrast with the more serious subject matter.  “Can’t you tell this fragile shell on which we live…is gonna give./The edifice you build is in your heart. A monument to pride. A prisoner inside. A prisoner to hide. The prisoner is you. And my advice is pull it down, tear it down, smash it down.

Picture of a Man” is a rather somber song about a man who puts forth a charming, gallant image that’s at sharp odds with his substantial shortcomings and cruel nature: “Don’t you paint a fine, fine picture of a man. So subtle, so refined, so charming, so cultured, so well-groomed. / A player, you play her well. You beat her, you cheat her./ Please leave her, relieve her. Just walk away. But freedom is what she wants from you. The one thing you can’t give.” “Guess Which Number” is a sweet tune, with sparkling synths and a lovely piano-driven melody, while “Father of Lies” seems to pay homage to David Bowie’s “Heroes” with its similar iconic driving riff early in the song.

One of my favorite tracks is “Punk Rock is Dead“, a bouncy punk-infused song about how societal pressure to conform killed off the free-thinking, anti-establishment spirit embodied by punk rock:  “Take a message. Subvert it. Pump it out as truth. Take a free man, create dependence, and roll away identity. Millions like him share the uniform. A corporate rebellion. Punk rock is dead. Who killed it? Punk rock is dead. You killed it. Punk rock is dead. We killed it.

Steel September Skies” is a complex and haunting track. It begins with a gently strummed folk guitar, then a thumping drumbeat ensues as Rev Rab describes what starts off as a bucolic scene that quickly turns ominous, perhaps symbolizing a nation formerly at peace but now plunged into an authoritarian regime or civil war: “A picture-perfect parade winds down my street. As idols clap and children cheer, frozen in time. I hear the crash of jackboots black. Let’s change the scene. Ignore the screams. My mother’s arms holding me tight, keeping my safe. I try to smile, but my belly aches, there’s flies in my eyes. And then the screams, my mother screams.”

The music intensifies as his vocals turn urgent: “I am just one man, got no master plan. But I’ll try to find if you’ll take my hand. Til the sun turns black, Til the sky is cracked. Til the kiss lies choked, I will cling to hope.” Suddenly, things turn around to a more positive, hopeful tone: “Parade’s rewind and jackboots fade. All our wrongs are being undone, the guilty can’t run. It’s time to live, it’s time to love. I am just one man, got no master plan. But I’ll try to find if you’ll take my hand. Til the sun turns black, Til the sky is cracked. Til the kiss lies choked, I will cling to hope.” The music calms back down to the gently strummed guitar as the song fades out. It’s such a powerful and stirring song.

Swipe Left is another strong work by Revolution Rabbit Deluxe. Given their unique, sometimes unorthodox sound and deep, thought-provoking lyrics, their songs often require a couple of listens to unpack and fully appreciate all the nuance to be discovered within them. Putting forth the effort pays off nicely once you come to realize the high quality of their music.

Follow RRD on FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase hereBandcamp

New Song of the Week: DARKSOFT – “WannaCry”

Darksoft single art

This past February, I featured the creative and talented young Seattle music artist Darksoft when I reviewed his brilliant debut album Brain. Released in November 2018, Brain is a concept album named for the very first computer virus to attack the internet back in 1986, with each track named after infamous viruses that followed. In keeping with his penchant for writing and recording songs that address timely and relevant social and cultural issues related to technology, he’s just dropped a great new single “WannaCry“. The song was written and produced by Darksoft, and mixed and mastered by Mathieu Riede of L453RL4Dy Studios

The song features Darksoft’s signature fuzz-coated jangly guitars, accompanied by swirling synths and crisp percussion that create a dreamy, almost psychedelic soundscape. But my favorite aspect of the overall sound is his silky, almost breathy vocals that are incredibly pleasing, even when he sings of a rather disquieting subject.

The lyrics speak to the deep cultural and political divide in America, fed by our tendency to stay stuck in our own echo chambers. Reading and hearing only what we choose to read and hear makes it harder to learn the real truth, and reinforces our beliefs and opinions. Furthermore, the social networks we thought were friendly spaces now seem to be corrupted by those who use them to spread misinformation.

Maybe they just wanna give us all a say 
But I can’t help but feel like a pawn in some conspiracy 
What am I used to fight? 
Am I lined with the right history? 
Who are you working for? 
Are you buried in your day to day? 
I know, it shows 

So we live alone in our twin code 
Seeing polar sides to every lie 

wanna wanna cry 
you wanna wanna cry 
But you don’t know how… or why

Since I published this review, Darksoft released a fantastic video for the song:

Connect with Darksoft on Facebook / TwitterInstagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Google Play
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / cdbaby

RUBBER CLOWN CAR – Album Review: “Horse Logic”

Rubber Clown Car album

One of my absolute favorite-named bands has got to be Rubber Clown Car.  Based in Oswego, Illinois, on the far western outskirts of greater Chicago, they were one of the earliest bands I featured on this blog, three years ago in April 2016. The band is the brainchild of singer/songwriter Dirk Prysby, a wildly imaginative and zany guy who creates songs that are thoroughly original, sometimes serious but often hilarious, and unlike anything else you’ve ever heard. He also happens to be a thoughtful and creative lyricist who’s quite skilled on the six-string. His quirky, off-kilter vocal style wouldn’t get him very far on The Voice or American Idol, but that’s okay, as it’s perfectly suited for their eccentric songs. Besides Dirk, Rubber Clown Car includes Fred Beasley (drums, backing vocals, guitar) and Tony Pantalones (bass, keyboards and everything else).

Rubber Clown Car

Their sound has been compared to a mixture of XTC, Bob Mould, the Damned, the Who, GBV, the Replacements, and Matthew Sweet, with one reviewer observing they’re like “the Beatles on Quaaludes”. Formed back in the mid-2000s, Rubber Clown Car started out making fairly straightforward music drawing from rock, grunge and punk elements. Their first release was the excellent 2006 album Make the Noise, featuring one of my favorite of their songs “Home in the Suburbs”, a clear-eyed commentary on the American Dream. They subsequently began experimenting with their sound and lyrical themes, incorporating more psychedelic and alternative elements into their music. This can be clearly heard on their follow-up 2008 release Music “They” Don’t Want You To Hear, with songs like “The Boy With the Plexiglas Head” and “Gene Pool Party”. Since then, they’ve been prolific in their output, releasing eight more albums, including such wonderful titles as Jesus is not a Weapon, Cake Solves Heartaches and Let’s Go Bowling.

Their latest effort is Horse Logic, an ambitious and trippy tour de force featuring 18 tracks, which dropped in March. It’s perhaps their most experimental and eclectic work yet, with songs ranging from rock to psychedelic to blues to ballads, and everything in between. Employing lots of unusual sound effects and discordant melodies, and incorporating snippets of song, voice, sound, and spoken-word contributed by several of the band’s Twitter friends, they’ve created interesting and sometimes outlandish compositions. Because it’s such a long album with so many tracks, I’ll discuss what I feel are the highlights, along with a few others that provide a good representation of the work.

Kicking things off is the delightfully psychedelic “Where Have All the Mushrooms Gone?“, an appropriately-titled song that sounds pretty much like what I would expect an hallucinogenic trip on magic mushrooms to sound like. It begins with a woman in a distinctly British accent saying “Right. So, what shall I see?” followed by sounds of a horse neighing a response to her question. We’re then greeted by an onslaught of exuberant cinematic rock, accompanied by dramatic soaring choruses, bouncy xylophone, and a colorful assortment of weird sound effects you might hear in a carnival funhouse, along with more of those neighing horses. The guitars, bass and percussion are all perfection, more than ample proof that Rubber Clown Car are incredible musicians. Dirk croons the whimsical lyrics that include “Rub-a-dub, where the dub, where do I put my bubba? Wubba wubba it’ll come out if ya scrub it. And the clouds all turn to oil. Telepathic banana.” The song closes with horses neighing in rather diabolical-sounding tones.

The next track “Unusual Ducks and Rainy Days” is even trippier, opening with a creepy voice declaring “I don’t want a goddam robot serving me a chicken!” A slow drumbeat kicks in along with riffs of funky guitar and bass, and Dirk’s quirky vocals backed by his own choruses. From there on out, the song becomes an extended psychedelic trip that lasts nearly 11 minutes, growing increasingly strange with the addition of all sorts of crazy carnival, barnyard and zoo sound effects, including honking horns, buzzing mosquitoes, monkeys and elephants. Through it all, the guys lay down some fine bluesy guitar runs.

Abruptly changing the vibe, the band turns wistful and serious on “Girl I Left Behind“, a sweet but melancholy song about a lost love. The twangy guitars and keyboard synths are really wonderful, and Dirk’s heartfelt vocals are great, with nice backing vocals by the Inflateable Girls, who also appear on several other tracks on Horse Logic. “Sandbox” sees the band getting in touch with their playful inner child:  “Didn’t matter what anyone would say. We only want to play in our sandbox.” Musically, the song features a catchy tempo, upbeat jangly guitars and effervescent spacey synths, accompanied by sounds of children having fun at a playground.

The lovely title track “Horse Logic” is a brief instrumental interlude with beautiful jangly strummed guitar and sweeping string synths creating an enthralling atmospheric soundscape. Next up is “Action Brats“, one of the more bizarre tracks on the album. It starts off with the opening lines from the Elvis Presley classic “Heartbreak Hotel” sung by The Quiet Professor (the band’s and my Twitter friend Logos Pilgrim, who’s an author, artist, blogger and singer). Then a repetitive thumping drumbeat and funky bass line take over, accompanied by an eerie assortment of sounds, including creepy childrens’ voices, gregorian chants, and munchkin-like noises. The track ends with a snippet from what sounds like a Japanese song. That magic mushroom trip that started off the album is now on full-blown steroids!

Dirk sings the blues on “The Hanging Mess“, baring his soul with heart-wrenching vocals lamenting his fragile state: “Blue, oh I don’t know which way to turn / I just can’t get through to you.” The bluesy, twangy and distorted guitar work is really outstanding. “Evil Shrimp” is another bizarre track that had me thinking ‘what the hell?’, yet loving it’s great hard-driving noise rock vibe. The song features some terrific gnarly guitar work and snappy percussion, accompanied by sounds of wailing police sirens and strange muffled vocals that are completely unintelligible.

One of the best rock tunes on the album is “Our Magic Sauce“, a musically complex track featuring a killer psychedelic guitar solo by British musician Leg Puppy. There are some background murmuring vocals that are indeciferable, so this is essentially an instrumental track. On the folk-rockish “Turn the Wheel Earl” Dirk yearns for home, sampling lines from the Beatles “A Hard Days Night” (“when I’m home, everything seems to be right“) and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound” (“home, where my thought’s escaping“).

My personal favorite on the album is the captivating ballad “Sleep Tight“. The jangly and chiming guitars are gorgeous, and I’m elated that the band did a duet with The Quiet Professor, who has a voice like spun silk. Her vocals harmonize beautifully with Dirk’s as they croon “Your heart will be broken a thousand times. By words unspoken or a thousand lies. You’ve got it all behind you, dream away, dream away.” The charming video for the song was created by another Twitter friend of the band’s and mine – Sherry Ruth.

Closing the album is “Cabbage” a quirky two-minute long rock’n’roll ditty that ends things on a fun, upbeat note. The song consists of just strummed guitar and Dirk crooning “If you wanna be my baby, this is what you gotta say”, followed by a lot of melodic gibberish. At song’s end, he exclaims “Woo, that was in interesting tune!

I think Horse Logic is brilliant, and their best work yet.  Rubber Clown Car won’t appeal to everyone, but if you’re the type of person who goes for music that’s offbeat, completely original and fun, you’ll enjoy this album. I certainly do!

Connect with Rubber Clown Car on  Twitter 
Stream:  Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp  / iTunes / cdbaby

MORNING FUZZ – Single Review: “I’ll Be Around”

Morning Fuzz I'll Be Around

As I mentioned in a recent review, so many artists and bands that I’ve previously featured on this blog seem to be releasing new music in 2019, and another is Morning Fuzz, an outstanding rock band from Brooklyn, New York. Nearly two years ago, in April 2017, I reviewed their fantastic hard-hitting single “Silent Sun” (which you can read here). They subsequently dropped a great rock ballad “Fellow Creep” that December, and I’m thrilled they’re back with a new single “I’ll Be Around“, which drops today.

The band has been around for 10 years now, and has released a fair number of excellent recordings, including two EPs, a 2013 album Chasing Ghosts, and several singles. Formed in 2009 by singer/songwriter & guitarist Frank Fussa and his childhood friend, bassist Chris Johanidesz after the breakup of their previous band Ultra High Frequency, Morning Fuzz was later joined by longtime friend and guitarist Michael Cullari, but has been hampered by several changes in drummers (something that’s plagued several other bands I’ve written about). In Spring, 2018, new drummer Dan Leo came on board, putting them back on track and in the studio recording new music. “I’ll Be Around” is their first single on what will be their forthcoming album that the band hopes to release later in the year. It was expertly produced and mixed by Lou Giordano, and engineered by Frank, Aaron Bastinelli, and Benny Grotto.

It’s an exuberant, upbeat song, filled with the dynamic riffs, tight rhythms and melodic grooves we’ve come to expect from Morning Fuzz. Frank and Michael’s intricate guitar work is impressive, and I love how they make them chime in the bridge. Chris drives the song forward with his deep, strutting bass line while Dan deftly keeps the beat on his drum kit. Frank possesses a beautiful and powerful singing voice with considerable range, and sounds fantastic whether he’s crooning or wailing. One of the most striking aspects of the track is the guys’ sublime four-part harmonies that call to mind the Beatles or Beach Boys. I really love their sound, and found myself loving this song more with each listen. “I’ll Be Around” is superb, and I’m excited about hearing more new songs from them.

The lyrics seem to speak of the struggles we face with regard to making choices about which paths to take in life, and both giving and getting love and support from others through good times and bad along the way.

I’ll be around
Even in that crazy part of town
And I’ll figure out
Even when the rain is pouring down
We’ll work it out
When there’s not a drop of love to be found
Don’t run away
No hide and seek, no roads to stray

Which way to go 
Another fork splits up the road 
Futures untold 
Get on my side 
And we will float above the tide 
Might not make it through the night 
But it’s alright

Their song premiered on Thresher TV with a wonderful video of the band performing their song in Frank’s basement studio. Their natural charisma and joy of playing music is clearly evident. He also speaks a bit about how they started out writing and playing songs way back in 1999, and of his love for making music. Take a look:

Morning Fuzz has an upcoming show on Saturday, March 30 with Flak Jacket at The Rail in Smithtown, NY

Connect with Morning Fuzz:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Soundcloud / Spotify /  YouTube
Purchase it:  iTunes / Bandcamp

REVOLUTION RABBIT DELUXE – Album Review: “Tales From Armageddonsville”

Revolution Rabbit Deluxe

Being a music blogger who’s earned a reputation for writing reviews, I receive a continuous stream of requests from indie artists and bands to listen to – and hopefully review – their music. So it was a pleasant surprise when I was contacted by Welsh band Revolution Rabbit Deluxe (is that not a great band name!) about their debut album Tales From Armageddonsville. I gave a few songs a listen and was immediately intrigued by their lively, Brit-rock sound and deep, thought-provoking lyrics.

Revolution Rabbit Deluxe began as a solo act by guitarist & vocalist Revolution Rabbit (RR), but eventually grew into a four-piece band with the addition of three very talented ladies: May Dupp (guitar, vocals), Una Corne (drums, vocals) and Chanda Lear (bass, vocals). How can you not love a band with such a sense of humor? In their bio, they describe themselves thusly:

Revolution Rabbit Deluxe live in one house, just like the Monkees, and in between writing, recording and gigging, they tour the world looking for suitable crimes to solve. They lost their summer jobs as archaeologists on Time Team after a drunken lunchtime argument with Tony Robinson led to an unfortunate incident with a toilet, some dynamite, and a very angry, wet, red-faced, tender-assed TV host. To this day, Tony twitches violently when he passes a lavatory.

The album kicks off to a rousing start with “Tarred and Feathered,” a pointed attack on racism and inequality that are institutionalized by the state: “When you’re judge and jury to approve but are disapproving. / Our best qualities are arrogance and pride.”  The band delivers chugging riffs of gritty guitars set to a hard-driving beat and strutting bass line. The piano keys used throughout the track provide a nice melodic counterpoint to the guitars, making for quite an exciting and powerful song.

The band takes on cultural and media mind-control on “Pavlov’s Dogs,” driving home their message with a barrage of punchy guitars, fuzzy riffs, screeching synths and thumping drumbeats. RR fervently laments of the false expectations we fall victim to: “See that girl, she’s so unhappy. Thinks her life should be like the silver screen. Sometimes she wants to scream./ The video is so seductive. Feeds the dream, but denies the needs.”

One of my favorite tracks is “In God We Trust,” a song that calls into question one’s faith in God with an air that exists somewhere between a catchy Beach Boys-esque vibe and a darker psychedelic tone. RR implores “Save me, why don’t you save me?” He goes on to ask why not save a whole assortment of entities that society deems ‘undesirable’ – like the hookers, the pushers, the pimps, the dealers, the one-parent family and the union local. He finally caustically beseeches “And while you’re at it, you can save the man. And while you’re at it, save the man in the moon!

I Can’t Change Your Mind” speaks to mental illness, with jangly guitars and spooky synths that lend a strong 80s feel. RR laments of his feelings of loneliness and irrelevance: “I’m alone here in the dark. / Please don’t throw in scraps of hope. / Fade away, I fade away. A shadow lost on sunny days” while a backing chorus whisper/sings the refrain “I cannot take much more. I cannot change your mind” throughout the track.

The terrific lo-fi guitar-driven tracks “Going Solo” and “Chords Played All Wrong” would have been right at home on the Beatles’ White Album, and “Blackwood Calling” has a throwback 60s Brit-rock vibe, but with an early 80s New Wave sensibility. More grungy lo-fi goodness abounds on “Helen Needs,” a song about a woman looking for relief from her negativity and self-pity. “Helen needs another love song. Spitting sweetness from her headphones.” I especially like the quirky little guitar notes and powerful drumbeat that continue throughout the track.

Another favorite of mine is the hard-hitting and provocative “Whore?” – a song that, in the band’s words, “deconstructs the modern Western family and asks why so many people in the Third World suffer to give us our standard of living.” “You perfect family, for you it’s milk and honey, while for others it’s a river of blood.” The song has a bit of a Depeche Mode vibe, with its strong, crunchy guitars, spacey synths and the kind of heavy, mesmerizing beat that I love. “Catechisms Cataclysms” urges us to change our wicked ways for the betterment of the world, delivered with a barrage of gritty guitars and a hard-driving beat.

Armageddonsville” closes out the album with an ominous warning of the consequences of our wicked ways. The track opens with late 80s-sounding techno synths and a strummed guitar as RR cautions: “It’s getting hotter and they say we’re gonna fry. The ice is melting, polar bears are gonna die. Spilling blood for oil, it makes me want to cry.”  The guitars, bass and drums intensify to become a tumultuous onslaught, driving home the seriousness of the subject matter. RR wails “Welcome stranger, take a seat and say a prayer. There’s nothing else to do in Armageddonsville.”

Tales From Armageddonsville is a fine work, and succeeds quite nicely as a concept album that speaks to a number of thorny issues currently facing Western societies. The songwriting, lyrics, instrumentation and arrangements are all exceptional, and I enjoyed this album immensely.

To learn more about Revolution Rabbit Deluxe check out their Website and follow them on Facebook & Twitter
Stream on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes