Contributors: Jeff Rey, Stephan Jaser, Malcolm Sane, BonnieTagate and Michele Falk
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|An end-page review &
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|The NEON Archives
including recent past issues
|AUTUMDIVERS - Autumdivers (OnlineRock Records)
From the ethereal opening soundscape that introduces their just released album, Autumdivers add layer upon layer of lush, atmospheric sounds that are brought to a climax with the 17-minute finale of “Star Crossed.” That self-contained, multi-faceted opus reminds one of an early Pink Floyd vinyl where you could just crash and groove to an entire side without interruption, or without expenditure of anything more stressful than rolling another fat one. But preceding that are such decidedly modern delights as the spatial flight of “Amend,” the uptempo, acoustic rhythms of “I Still Feel” and the haunting and memorable riff of “Inasmuch.” That one is a highlight here and also when we saw them at a recent CBGB’s Lounge show (see photos in Hot Nites section). Singer/guitarist Gregory Paul and drummer Aaron Bucher are longtime band mates having both been in acclaimed shoegazers Stillmotion and in the later outfit known as The Gregory Paul Duo. Bassist Tony Wensel joined on three years ago, and their seamless interplay is evident on both this disc and in live performance.
|BLACK CAT MUSIC - October, November (Lookout Recordsl)
Veterans of San Francisco’s music scene, Black Cat Music sound pretty much like their name would suggest. Dark, a little dangerous and in need of a bit of good luck for a change. And the good luck may have been getting Bay area producer Jeff Saltzman to bring out their vibrant mix of hard and heavy retro punk with a lyrical sensitivity that’s most apparent on the tracks “Thirteen Foot Waves” and “The Jet Trash.” But, they can plain just rock out on “Hearts of Chrome” and “The French Exit.” Singer Brady Baltezore seems equally comfortable doing either and at times the band can dance dangerously close to the edges of metal then easily segue into songs that are just this side of emo. An impressive trick.
|THE BREAK-UP - She Went Black
The Break-Up aren’t exactly newcomers on the NYC music scene. Guitarist Jeff Mensch, singer Jamie Spoiler and drummer Greg Altman formerly held forth as Girl Harbor and Allie L. played keys with country-rockers the Blue 88s. With the addition of bassist Jay H. The Break-Up have hit the streets to once again kick out the jams. The title track of this five-song CD is a strutting rocker with a catchy lyric and crunchy guitars that breaks from the line in fine form. Things continue on from there with the high-octane “Life of Crime” and the more poppy (thanks to the keyboards) “Don’t Save Me.” Those same keys of Allie give “One Little Sign” a retro feel that recalls early Animals and Kinks. While the closer “Waiting for the Snow” is a helter skelter ride that sounds like a power-pop tune that has skidded thrillingly out of control. We can’t wait to hear more.
|FIXER -The Pleasure That You Crave
More commercial hard rock from Fixer. This time out, they’ve gone to a more anthemic formula that sounds a lot more contemporary than the 90s flavored metal rock leanings of their previous releases. Once again, Evan R. Saffer dynamically stretches his vocals through the upper registers with what seems like effortless ease, while Wilson Lihn continues the tradition of the screaming and screeching lead guitarist playing under, over and around the vocals for maximum impact. Behind them is the thunder and fire of bassist J. Brown and drummer Tim Newton. Produced by Grammy Award winner Jason Corsaro (Duran Duran, Madonna) and Jonathan Goldstein the 5-song EP also features a separate bonus DVD video of the cut “Need It Now.”
|EMOK - Unknown Album (Advance EP)
It might be easy to toss off EMOK as yet another hypocrisy and bullshit post-punk metal band. After all, the group is comprised of three young guys (of draft age) who exited their own volatile homeland of Israel to hit the streets of Williamsburg to rage a decidedly more comfortable war against the machine. Yet, they do speak with an experience most young Americans can’t even begin to visualize. This 3-song advance for a scheduled full-length showcases EMOK employing Middle Eastern rhythms beneath heavy sludge bass and distorted Metallican guitars while the tortured vocals soar over it all in an apparent plea for sanity. EMOK’s previous EP Crumbs (shown on left) garnered raves from the UK press and made the U.S. underground circuit take notice. The new recording should only add to that.
|DIRTY ON PURPOSE - Sleep Late For A Better Tomorrow (5-Song EP)
Dirty On Purpose’s sweetly soaring vocals and quietly rhythmic grooves shimmer like melancholy reflections along the surface of a placid lake. But as we know, still waters can run deep and this Brooklyn quintet is much more than another pensive emo outfit. Four of the group handle vocals with drummer Doug Marvin usually taking the lead, but ever present is Erika Forster’s evocative voice weaving its way throughout and stirring up a ripple or two. And a highlight is the dramatic“Spider Eyes” featuring the vocals of guitarist Joseph Jurewicz. But the other group memebers sparkle, too - DJ Boudreau on bass, George Wilson on guitar and vocals. Employing theramins and bowed guitar, the band has a rich instrumental fullness which isn’t always expected, or often found in this genre. Listen for backing vocals from Au Revoir Simone on “All New Friends.”
|FRESH KILLS - Fresh Kills (5-Song EPl)
Bill Miller's guitar is the motor that powers Fresh Kills. The fact that his axe is a bass should clue you in that this is a band you feel as much as hear. This is industrial strength rock 'n roll that is served up with the snarling lyrics, buzz-saw guitars and the relentless beat that made original punk so exciting. Claiming turf somewhere between Prong and Ministry, these guys seem a tad more pissed off and take it in new directions. This isn't all headbanging. Zachary Lipez can come up as a sensitive guy - well kind of - if you consider "Hot Ex-Wife Action" and "Live In The City" sentimental tunes. Guitarists Tim Murray and Johnny Rauberts shred throughout and Jim Paradise's steady (but powerful) beat just manages to keep things under control - and that's what makes this all so stimulating.
|RIFF RANDOM - Random Love EP (Shock)
Austalian rock falls into two categories, right? Either pump-yur-fist dated arena rock like AC/DC, or over-hyped retro-garage like The Vines. Right? Wrong! Based in Melbourne, Riff Random's lead singer/guitarist Ralph Brous has called their music "deathrock." But what they're really playing is scruffy and trashy street rock, with more than a nod and a wink to the Stooges, The Sex Pistols and their fellow countrymen the Saints. Lead off track "There Is No Love" could have been from a New York City band circa 1976 - or, for that matter 2004. The Random Love EP is a loud and loose Rave-Up with a live feel. Having already shared stages with the likes of The Strokes, Nick Cave, Burning Brides and Kings of Leon, Riff Random played a string of memorable NYC gigs this past Spring. They're presently touring the UK with The Reading and Leeds Festival scheduled for August.
|SEX POSITIONS - Sex Positions
You know, I spent a bunch of years in Boston and maybe some of the locals there just never lost that old "banned-in-Boston" provincial Puritan vibe. So maybe naming your hard-core band Sex Positions or using "fuck/fuckin'" profusely instead of coming up with a linguistic twist or two in your lyrics still equates to shocking along the banks of the River Charles. But even The Sex Pistols' name didn't really cause all that much of a stir in the rest of the world almost three full decades ago. This release has all the required constipated "I'm such a punk" ranting, bang you senseless jack-hammer beats and distorted power chords you've come to expect from hard-core. They even add pretentious slow musings for some intros before going full-throttle, I guess to show they're 'deep’ too. The band has their shtick down as well as any, but unless you just want new names to song titles, you've heard it all before.
|SQUAD FIVE-O - Late News Breaking (Advance - Capitol)
Squad Five-O is a guitar band with their past ties to punk evident in the fury they play with. Bringing to mind the glory days of the Clash with intelligent lyrics, driving rhythms and an undeniable urgency. “Lay It Down,” “Bye American” as well as several others don’t sound that far removed from London Calling or for that matter Exile On Main Street. But Squad Five-O is hardly a retro band, they are just carrying on the rock ‘n roll tradition of hot guitars and driving rhythms. And vocalist Jeff Fortson actually sounds like he’s excited to sing these tunes. What a concept. Fortson is joined by twin brother John on bass, a classic two guitar attack in Adam Garninski and Kris Klein and drummer Dave Peterson who wrote more than half the album’s songs. Producer Matt Wallace (Faith No More, Replacements) has managed to capture the band's raw energy without taking the bite out of their bark.
|THE KICKS - Hello Hong Kong (TVT)
The Kicks are a radio-ready power pop band from the unlikely locale of Little Rock, Arkansas. Scottie Cook’s vocals are nothing if not charming in the classic mold of Cheap Trick as he leads the lads through a set of sing-along tunes that already sound like you’ve heard them a hundred times before. Which is all well and good if your goal is to make a mark in the record ‘industry’ in these trying times. But, it sure sounds as if these guys could rock out if they had been allowed to let loose a bit in the studio. Producer Doug Olson (Dwarves, L7, Remy Zero) seems to have sweetly layered the recording as if the point was to come up with a more commercially accessible garage band, minus the rough edges that would have made them a lot more interesting. Yet, all and all this is a strong debut.
|Not current release|