ROADKEEPER – Single Review: “Old Man’s War”

Roadkeeper

It always makes me happy when I discover a new band and instantly love their music. I was so impressed by the beautiful songs of the band Roadkeeper that I had to write a review of their latest single “Old Man’s War“. The Tyler, Texas- based group was formed less than a year ago by producer/vocalist John Eric Hetherington and drummer Nick Cogdill, who both previously played in the post-punk group Knifight, as well as guitarist Trevor Tull and bassist Daniel Griffith, all of whom are long-time friends. Roadkeeper is completely independent and self-produced, doing their recording, producing and mixing in John’s studio – dubbed ‘Yacht Country’ – and releasing their songs on their own label Equal Temperament.

Blending dreamy shoegaze with dramatic psychedelic rock, Roadkeeper crafts exquisite songs that envelop us with complex melodies and lush soundscapes, while delivering compelling lyrics that give us something to think about. Beginning in the fall of 2018, they released a series of singles, starting with “God in the Light of the Bar”, a laid-back song with shimmering guitars, horns and breezy synths, and “The Creeps”, a beautiful, anthemic song about emotional manipulation and abuse. In February 2019, they released their mesmerizing third single “Gushers”, which the band explains “deals with recent years’ murders of unarmed black people by police officers, and the way law enforcement and apologists reframe the job of police officer as a war or conflict between the just and unjust. Also how privileged people are starting to reframe their own lives and minor struggles as heroes journeys.”

Now the band follows up with their fourth single “No Man’s War” a melancholy but beautiful song about anxiety and worry over things, both real and imagined. The song starts off with a mix of both chiming and strummed acoustic guitars, as John sings in soft, breathy vocals of his fears:

I’m afraid of so many things
What the hell am I doing
Waiting for a change
People never change
And I’m stuck inside my heart
Waiting for someone to pick me up
And tell me everything’s OK
That it’s only just a dream
Wait and see

The music swells with lush shimmery synths, fuzzy bass and chiming guitars as he tries to convince himself that all is right with the world and he’s got nothing to worry about:

No disease is coming for me
And no conditions waiting to take you from me
And the world is happy
No one is dying
The ice isn’t melting
And everyone can be themselves

The dramatic sweeping synths continue during the bridge, then abruptly end, leaving us with just a simple strummed acoustic guitar as John reaffirms his anxieties and feelings of pessimism in the final verse:

I’m afraid of so many things
Every time I read
What’s breaking in the world
I lose a piece of me
To an old man’s war
They won’t be around to pick it up
When everything falls down

With “No Man’s War”, Roadkeeper continue to bat a thousand, delivering their fourth consecutive win in the form of a perfect song. I’m happy to be following this talented group of guys, and excited to hear what they come up with next!

Connect with Roadkeeper:  Facebook / Twitter  / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

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

DENSE – Single Review: “Displaced Face”

DENSE Displaced Face

DENSE is an awesomely talented psychedelic garage rock band hailing from Leeds, England, who combine thick, fuzzy grooves with fiery riffs and intricate melodies to create a unique and heavy sound that’s at once retro and futuristic. Despite their youthful, boy-next-door image, their music is incredibly intense and badass, with an impressive maturity, complexity and density – as their name would imply. The best description I can think of for their sound would be ‘industrial surf-metal psychedelic rock’. Making this phenomenal music are Charlie Fossick (Guitar/Vocals),  Dylan Metcalf (Bass) and Sam Heffer (Drums).

DENSE2

I’ve previously featured them several times on this blog over the past two years, most recently last May (2018) when I reviewed their explosive single “The Smoke”. (You can check out those reviews by clicking on the “Related” links at the bottom of this page.) Now they return with another mind-blowing new single “Displaced Face“. The song is aptly-named, cause it’s positively face-melting!

The track opens strong, with an ominous, gnarly mix of deep, throbbing bass, distorted psychedelic guitar sounds and spacey background synths lasting approximately 40 seconds. Suddenly, everything erupts into a maelstrom of tortured, reverb-heavy riffs, heavy, thunderous bass and explosive percussion – all seemingly hell-bent on blowing out our eardrums and throwing us against the wall. Charlie screams lyrics I can’t quite make out, but who cares, as the music is fucking on fire! These guys are literal beasts on their respective instruments, and Charlie is a freaking madman when he opens his mouth!

I’ve loved every single one of their songs, and “Displaced Face” is no exception, delivering four minutes of intense, psychedelic ear candy. The marvelously creepy artwork for the single was designed by band friend Elle Penketh.

Connect with DENSE:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream “Displaced Face” on  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunesBandcamp

DARKSOFT – Album Review: “Brain”

Darksoft Brain

Darksoft is the music project of Bill Darksoft, a smart and creative young artist from Seattle, Washington who’s produced one of the most interesting and brilliant concept albums I’ve heard in some time. Brain, which dropped in November 2018, is named after the very first computer virus to attack the internet back in 1986, with each track named after infamous viruses that followed.

He operates his own label and website Look Up Records (for which he also writes some pretty awesome reviews), and in addition to his music project, has played with many Seattle acts over the years. About his inspiration behind the creation of Brain, he explains: “Distanced through haunted screens, we rely on spooky contact that we don’t fully understand. At times, dark forces lurk on the other end, with a motive to con. Always a silhouetted hooded presence, the hacker has become our modern portrayal of Death; captor to the mind and its web of memories. As we stare deeper and deeper into the glowing comfort of this synthetic deception, trust has become the challenge of our modern paradigm, and the cyberscape the new Great Unknown. At its core, Brain is a story not only of the brain, but of the heart, as both confront trust and deception, the real and the synthetic, the mind and the motherboard, and the dark web connecting it all where the matter of our endless identities can be created as quickly as it can be erased, infected, encrypted…or simply revealed for what it truly is, beneath the hood.”

Brain opens with “Mydoom” a pleasant track with gauzy riffs of jangly guitars, subtle bass and gentle percussion. The lyrics speak to the seemingly harmless but insidious virus that keeps a watchful eye on one’s internet dealings: “I’ll just pop up in your window to see how it’s going. From time to time I will drain your battery life… Track you close, I’ll watch your move. Mydoom A has put a bug on you to stayIt’s ok to be vulnerable if you’ve got nothing to lose.” Darksoft has a velvety smooth vocal style that’s incredibly pleasing, giving the track a rather dreamy vibe. On “Elk Cloner“, he first warns about a virus that works to take over our thoughts: “They will enter your world. They can infiltrate microchips. They will stick like glue. They will modify you.” But then it’s as if the virus itself tells us not to worry and just remain calm: “No cause. No cause for alarm. No harm. We just occupy thought. No cause for alarm. No cause, just be calm.” The track has a lovely, mesmerizing melody and his vocals are really soothing, belying the rather menacing message.

Darksoft quickens the pace on the bouncy “Conficker“, though it still has a somewhat moody undertone with a mix of fuzzy and jangly guitars, shimmery synths and a determined drumbeat. The lyrics allude to the algorithms that control what we’re fed on social media, shaping our world view in the process: “We choose what you feel. No view into reality. Your life is ours… permanently.

With gnarly guitars and spooky synths propelled by a strutting bass line, “Lamex” speaks to how easy it is to escape into an artificial online world: “If you want a lame existence. They will send you a virus or two. Lamerism is the name of the tool I use”, yet yearning to break free and think clearly and independently: “I need to get out…To free my mind…To quit this code and leave the app I knew behind. If you look away you’ll open your eyes.”

One of my favorite tracks is “Heartbleed“, with its enthralling melody, irresistible drumbeat and gentle psychedelic groove, thanks to deliciously eerie synths. The jangly guitars are marvelous, the bass line’s sublime, and I absolutely love Darksoft’s warm, captivating vocals. I honestly think I would be perfectly happy listening to him sing the yellow pages!  My take on the song’s meaning is it seems to compare the feelings of someone who’s emotionally dead inside to that of a computer – a machine who only does what it’s programmed and directed to do: “Matter is a thing. You focus it’ll bring you life and pleasure. Just wait and see. Let your lead heart bleed.  Silicon and hardware respond.  Nothing really matters when you’re a machine… You live to be used by others.”

Another favorite is “Cryptolocker“, a darkly gorgeous song with dreamy and sometimes eerie synths that create a lush atmospheric soundscape. The gently-strummed chiming guitars are exquisite, as are Darksoft’s ethereal vocals that are seductive, yet menacing, as he coldly warns another not to fuck with him: “You don’t know who you’re dealing with. You don’t understand who you’re messing with. Lock me away and I will pull the plug from under you.”

I distinctly remember the virus for which “ILOVEYOU” is named. Darksoft uses it as an allegory for the emptiness and futility that can result from using online dating websites: “Every fuckin day is the same. Can’t look up from the screen. Crushes breakin over the phone. Guess that I’ll be alone. Til I see your message titled ‘love confession’. Feeling’ tempted by a lie; it’s a misdirection. You were nothing more than spam. My little love connection. Engineered to phish my soul. Been spoofed again by a false confession.” The song has an infectious drumbeat and some fine, intricate guitar work.

Code Red” is a beautiful, languid song featuring Darksoft’s resonant, pulsating guitars and sublime vocals, backed by his own harmonic choruses.  The lyrics seem to speak of clearing one’s mind of self-destructive thoughts and behaviors: “Everyone has a code. Some write them, others they follow a worm. Everyday, take a chance. Decrypt all the bullshit and break from the trance.” The final track “NightShade” is a mellow, anthemic rock song with jangly guitars and humming bass, accompanied by snappy drumbeats. NightShade seems to be a metaphor for drugs taken to numb the pains of life: “Where you’re from, how you came as I take it all away with NightShade. / If I can survive maybe then so can you. Aren’t we all playing role games? Infect the database with NightShade.”

Brain is a great album, and I love pretty much everything about it – Darksoft’s clever lyrics inspired by each of the computer viruses, his beautiful melodies, outstanding guitar work, first-rate production values, and stunning vocals. He’s an amazing talent, and I eagerly look forward to hearing what he comes up with for his next music project.

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

LOUD HOUND – Single Review: “Youthful Stranger”

Loud Hound Youthful Stranger

I’ve featured hundreds of artists and bands on this blog over the past three-plus years, and it seems half of them have released new music since the first of the year! Today I’m writing about LOUD HOUND, the music project of Tommy Florio, a talented young singer/songwriter from Ventnor City, New Jersey. The self-described “beachy boi extraordinaire” fuses elements of garage, surf and psych rock to create wonderful songs filled with catchy melodies, honest lyrics and irresistible guitar grooves.

In early 2018, he released his debut single “Fine By Me” – a lo-fi, high-energy, surf rock gem, then followed that May with the outstanding introspective single “Runnin’,” which I reviewed. Now he’s back with a great new single  “Youthful Stranger“, delivering a somewhat moodier dream pop vibe than his two previous singles. It really showcases his skill at writing songs with diverse melodies and instrumentation, and keeping his music sounding fresh.

Starting with a mix of strummed acoustic and jangly electric guitars as the primary drivers, LOUD HOUND adds some distortion, fuzzy bass and low-key percussion to create an intriguing backdrop for his slightly seductive echoed vocals. The music and vocals build as the song progresses, with some nice riffage in the chorus, then slows back down toward the end, with an interesting watery reverb effect on the guitars.

The lyrics seem somewhat ambiguous, but my take is that they speak to depression in a young adult who takes drugs to make it through life, feeling invincible once they take effect:

Youthful stranger watch as your dreams fall apart
Little blue pills keeps your friend up at night
The lonely dreamer survives the night
The lonely dreamer survives the night

Youthful stranger watch as your dreams come to life
Let’s pretend and play God
My life ready to stand tall
The lonely dreamer survives the night
The lonely dreamer survives the night

Connect with LOUD HOUND:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes / Bandcamp

THE SILENCE KIT – Album Review: “Fall Protection”

The Silence Kit2

The Silence Kit is a Philadelphia-based band that plays dark indie alternative rock inspired in equal parts by post punk, shoegaze, neo-psychedelia, goth rock and avant-garde. Formed in 2002 by singer/guitarist Patrick McCay, the current lineup also includes Justin Dushkewich on bass, Darren O’Toole on drums & percussion, James Gross on guitar, and Bryan Streitfeld on synths. The band has released a number of albums, EPs and singles over the years, and in late October, they dropped their fifth album Fall Protection, which follows their acclaimed 2014 album Watershed.

The Silence Kit album

Their music has been compared to bands like The Cure, The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Psychedelic Furs, Nick Cave, and Television, but they’ve forged their own signature sound over the years, and Fall Protection sees the band continuing to grow and evolve, fusing together the atmosphere and intensity of early 80s post-punk and goth rock with the spirit of early 90s grunge and indie rock. In the recording of the album, the band had assistance from guest musician Kristin Kita, who played guitar on tracks #1, 7, 9, 10 and synths on #3, 5, 6, 8. The album was recorded and mixed by band front man Patrick McCay and mastered by Dave Downham.

Supermarket” kicks off the album with dark, almost psychedelic synths and grungy guitars propelled by a strutting bass line and infectiously melodic drumbeat. McCay’s vocals are wonderful, with a vulnerable urgency as he croons “In the glow of the supermarket. I wanna feel like I’m in my own dream…again. I miss the kiss of your first attraction. I want to be in deep and sleepless love…again. Time and time again, I will find you. / Lucky me, you found me too.” “New Year’s Eve” speaks to the random nature of our lives year in and year out: “There’s no such thing as karma, or what other’s like to call fate. What you give is irrelevant, and what you get is random…” The music features exuberant layers of fuzzy and jangly guitars and powerful drums.

This Time” serves up a deep, thumping bass line, delicious jangly guitars and the kind of strong, pummeling drumbeat that I love in songs. McCay’s emotionally wrought vocals seem to channel The Cure’s Robert Smith on this track. And the stunning chiming guitar work and sweeping melody on “Can We Skip This?” really showcase The Silence Kit’s strong musicianship. By the fifth track, the stellar, hard-hitting “Everything You Feel Good About,” I’m pretty well hooked on this band’s arresting music style and McCay’s slightly off-kilter but always captivating vocals.

The phenomenal “Wound” is another great example of what I’m talking about. The dark song starts off with a melancholy piano riff, accompanied by ominous synths, a deep, buzzing bass line and chugging guitars as McCay sings with a low, almost menacing voice. “I got this one thing on my mind. I’ve got to keep from losing you. / I wear this like it’s my own, a fine wound, so much to lose.” Two thirds of the way in, the tempo speeds up to a frantic pace as guitars rage and McCay screams “Don’t say a word” several times, then the music slows back down through to song’s end.

One of my favorite tracks is the brooding “Worry,” with its reverb-heavy layered guitars, sweeping psychedelic synths and tumultuous percussion that create an immense backdrop for McCay’s intensely passionate vocals. Another standout is the monumental six and a half minute-long “Never Say Goodbye.” Its haunting melody, lush, soaring instrumentals, and intricate guitar work are all positively breathtaking. The band keeps dazing our senses with raging riffs, dark synths, thunderous drums and raw vocals on “How Does it Feel?” and “Tablecloth.” McCay’s vocals sound decidedly British on the former track as he wails “How does it feel when you’re down and you find out everyone loves your best friend now? How does it feel when you’re gone?”

They seem to pull together all the elements of their signature sound and put them on full display on the gorgeous album closer “Discard.” The stunning reverb-heavy jangly guitars that open the epic track and continue throughout are fantastic, serving as the foundation for this magnificent song. Waves of sparkling, psychedelic synths wash over the guitars, aided by a deep bassline and layer upon layer of crashing cymbals and turbulent drums. It’s a massive song and the perfect ending to an equally massive album that leaves me awestruck.

Connect with The Silence Kit:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

LOUD HOUND – Single Review: “Runnin'”

I continue to learn about so many really talented young artists, and another recent find is LOUD HOUND, a musician from Ventnor City, New Jersey. LOUD HOUND is the artistic moniker of singer/songwriter Tommy Florio, who released a wonderful – and aptly named – debut single “Fine By Me” earlier this year (I say aptly named because it’s the kind of lo-fi surf rock I love), and now follows up with another fine new single “Runnin’.” The track has a slightly more polished sound than “Fine By Me,” bit still retains that great surf/garage rock vibe.

According to webzine Born Music, Tommy wrote the song one summer a few years ago when going through a spell of bad luck. “He had watched both his dog and grandmother pass away. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, he discovered his girlfriend was cheating on him with her ex. Oh, and he broke his foot. You’d think this would be a summer he’d rather forget, however Tommy did everything he could to turn the summer into a positive and productively used his housebound time to record music.” Tommy explains that “Runnin’ is a song about love. Fighting for it, losing it, feeling it for the first time, watching it fade away, or even the melancholy feeling that exists with being in love.” 

The song opens with jangly surf guitar and a pleasing drumbeat that evoke a sun-kissed afternoon at the beach. At around 1:20, the guitars turn grittier, the drums more intense, and LOUD HOUND’s smooth vocals more impassioned as he sings of fleeing from painful experiences, yet running toward things that are unattainable:

runnin’ as far as we go
runnin’ is all i know, alright now
runnin’ for the poor man’s soul
runnin’ for all your gold, alright now

He lays down some pretty tasty distorted guitar in the bridge, then around 3:45 the track shifts to a languid tempo with gentle jangly guitar and cool, faraway-sounding synths. LOUD HOUND’s echoed vocals turn a bit melancholy as he wistfully sings the poignant lyrics about the love he lost:

there was so much i had to say 
she’s so far away
she was my gold, my lady
my baby, the summer rain

It’s a long track, running nearly six minutes, but is so good I didn’t notice it’s length one bit. Take a listen:

Connect with LOUD HOUND:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes / Bandcamp

DENSE – Single Review: “The Smoke”

DENSE The Smoke

Despite seemingly continuous reports announcing its demise, rock music seems to be alive and well, especially in the UK where it’s thriving. One of the more innovative rock bands I’ve been following is DENSE, a young and immensely talented trio from Leeds, England, whose unique sound could best be described as ‘industrial psychedelic surfer garage rock.’ Sounds a bit complex, but when you hear their music you’ll understand what I mean. DENSE consists of Charlie Fossick (Guitar/Vocals), Dylan Metcalf (Bass) and Sam Heffer (Drums). Charlie also produces, mixes and masters their music. Despite their youth, their intense music style exhibits an impressive maturity, complexity and density – implied by their name, perhaps?

I’ve previously featured them twice on this blog, first in 2017 when I reviewed their mind-blowing debut EP Third Eye, then again this past January when I reviewed their monumental single “Irreversible Knot.” Now they’ve dropped another new single “The Smoke,” and it’s a real banger!

An opening spacey synth and little surf guitar riff give way to an explosion of gritty guitars, crushing bass and tumultuous percussion. As the track progresses, the intensity of the music ebbs and flows, allowing each instrument to dominate. One moment there’s a cacophony of raging psychedelic guitar, then an interlude of relative calm with the sounds of Dylan’s heavy throbbing bass and Sam’s simple drumbeat, only to be suddenly broken by a thunderbolt of Charlie’s distorted guitar. It all serves to create a continuous sense of tension that’s a signature component of their dynamic and complex sound. Charlie’s echoed, distorted vocals rise and fall in tandem with the instrumentals, adding to the song’s drama. It’s interesting that his wailing refrain of the title lyric “the smoke” sounds a lot like “bang bang” – at least to my ears.

Give this amazing song a listen and decide for yourself.

Connect with DENSE:  FacebookTwitter / Instagram

OLI BARTON & THE MOVEMENT – EP Review: “How Would I Know”

UK band Oli Barton & the Movement have been making quite the splash on the London music scene over the past year and a half. Beginning with their deliciously menacing debut single “Photograph” in late 2016, they dropped two more singles in 2017, then released their smashing album Into the Back Room that August, which I reviewed. They now follow up with a new EP How Would I Know, featuring three new tracks plus a live performance of the title track “How Would I Know?” that originally appeared on Into the Back Room.

The five member band is headed by the brilliant mastermind Oli Barton, who does the majority of the songwriting, plays guitar and sings lead vocals. The ace musicians helping Barton bring his songs to life include Ryan Wilson on lead guitar, Jamal Lagoon on Rhythm Guitar, Marco “Fuzz” Paone on Bass, and Josh Needham on Drums. With a winning combination of talent, creativity and personality, their eccentric style of alternative rock is a crazy-good mix of post-punk and psychedelia, fortified with touches of funk, grunge and pop. They employ all sorts of instruments, sounds and textures to create music that’s original and unconventional, and their direct, tongue-in-cheek lyrics are delivered with an abundance of irony and humor.

This is immediately evident on the frantic head banger “Stayed In.” The wild track has a bouncy punk/rock beat with a cacophony of plucky distorted guitars, galloping drums and tons of crashing cymbals. I love it! The amusing lyrics are a litany of bad shit that happens on those nights when you go out, drink too much, and get into trouble, thinking afterwards that you should have just stayed home to begin with (I’ve certainly had my share of those nights):

There’s blood on the dance floor
I’m fighting Mickey Mantle
for the last place in the queue

There’s puke down your shirt
from that girl who’s a flirt
and said she’d only had a few

Yeah you should have just stayed in
And no one would have thought any worse oh yeah

How Would I Know?” is a terrific live performance of the song at the University of West London. The song speaks to teenage relationship angst, specifically the frustrations of a 16-year old boy wishing he was older so he could marry his girlfriend and “cause everyone just seems so cool.” Then, with much exasperation, Barton implores ”But are you happy? “Cause that don’t seem such an awful thing to me. Yeah, did you ever try to deceive me yeah? How would I know?” It just occurred to me that the song has a bit of an early Weezer vibe, sort of like a more punkish take on “Say It Ain’t So.” I love the barrage of jangly and heavily distorted guitars and Paone’s funky bass, and Barton’s wonderful animated vocals are passionately delivered with his charming British accent. It’s a fantastic song.

As I listen to each track I decide that one is my favorite – until I hear the next one, causing me to reassess my earlier decision. “Turning the Noose” is a phenomenal track that really showcases the band’s outstanding musicianship and Barton’s jaw-dropping vocal gymnastics. God, I love this band!

The rousing “44” is a hard-driving rock’n’roll song that addresses the debauchery of celebrities like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey who use their fame and power to abuse others to get what they want. Wilson, Lagoon and Barton dazzle us with their adept guitar work, and Needham pounds his drum kit with abandon. Barton snarls the frank lyrics that get right to the point:

Would you ever so mind if I put it in raw, I’m 44
I’m sorry young girl but I’m wanting more, and I’m 44
And I look 26 but I am much more, I’m 44
I eat up every guy on the dance floor, I’m 44
Will you mind me closing that bedroom door, I’m 44
I’m sorry young boy but I’m wanting more, and I’m 44
My best friend told me the other night
This ain’t the way to be
If you swallow me I’ll give you the right
And I’ll show you how to get your kicks for free

How Would I Know is a tasty little EP that packs a hell of a punch in just four tracks. Oli Barton & the Movement excel with every single song they’ve ever recorded, and I’m excited to hear what they come up with next.

Follow Oli Barton and the Movement:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase:  iTunes / Amazon / Google Play

DENSE – Single Review: “Irreversible Knot”

Dense cover art

DENSE is an awesomely talented psychedelic garage rock band hailing from Leeds, England. In March 2017 they released a mind-blowing debut EP Third Eye, which I reviewed and you can read here. They’ve now returned with a new single “Irreversible Knot,” and it’s fantastic.

Their unique psychedelic garage rock sound is at once retro and futuristic. They claim as their inspiration such bands as Wand, King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard and Queens of the Stone Age, but I also detect hints of 60’s Yardbirds and early 80’s Billy Idol. If I had to put a label on their music style, it would be ‘industrial surfer metal rock.’ DENSE consists of Charlie Fossick (Guitar/Vocals),  Dylan Metcalf (Bass) and Sam Heffer (Drums). Charlie also produces, mixes and masters their music. Despite their youth, their intense music style exhibits an impressive maturity and density – implied by their name, perhaps? – that would be expected from a more seasoned band. Of course, based on the photo below, they still retain a playful sense of humor that would be expected from a group of young guys.

DENSE2

“Irreversible Knot” opens with a grainy echoed synth chord, then an ominous rapid surf guitar riff and buzzing bass line enter the scene, propelled by a tapping drumbeat. Just as we’re becoming mesmerized by the hypnotic beat, we’re hit with a thunderous barrage of fuzzy distorted guitars steeped in reverb, Sam’s wildly crashing cymbals, and Dylan’s heavy throbbing bass. Charlie’s echoed, distorted vocals go from sultry drones to savage wails, while he shreds and distorts his guitar even further, creating a trippy, psychedelic wall of sound.

Halfway through the track, things calm down to just echoed synths and throbbing bass, then with a scream from Charlie, a cacophony of distortion comes crashing back like a tsunami wave. A second lull occurs three quarters of the way through, with a final return of heavy chaotic sounds. This back and forth ramps up the song’s tension to the breaking point, clearly with the aim of tying us into irreversible knots. The track is so delicious that, even at over four minutes long it seems over in an instant, leaving me craving more.

Connect with DENSE:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on  Spotify