Overdue Review: Peelander-Z – Super DX Hitz

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

It is hard to know how to describe Peelander-Z except by using their own terminology. A “Japanese Action Comic Punk Band”, they have remained unparalleled since they exploded into being in 1999 in New York City (where else?), with only one significant line-up change (in 2008, when Peelander-Blue was replaced with Peelander-Green on “drums and smiles”).

I can offer but one improvement to their tag, which would be that rather than the label of “band”, they might be better described as an experience. They have created a story around themselves: that their costumes (Peelander-Yellow and Peelander-Red are the remaining performing members, although they are sometimes assisted by a Peelander-Pink) are their own skin and that they come from the Z area of the planet Peelander, which does not seem altogether too far-fetched. They encourage active audience participation at their shows (which anybody who has witnessed one would testify is always insanely energetic); this can range from karaoke contests (a step above the usual getting the audience to join in on the choruses), to limbo dancing and human bowling. That this energy transfers to their studio recordings is near-immediately apparent when you see your one-hour musical programme consists of 28 tracks.

These 28 tracks represent a decent cross-section of their first five albums and is a great introduction to an exciting band who are soon to be jetting off on a Spring tour to promote their new album, Space Vacation, due out early next month on Chicken Ranch records.

Peelander-Z: Official site (where you can find a few MP3s and a host of videos, including the one above).

Purchase: Chicken Ranch Records || Amazon UK (MP3) | US (MP3)


Review: Harold’s Leap – Too Much Time

Friday, January 20, 2012

So, that whole festive period is out of the way, which for me meant revision for a week of exams rather than much in the way of rest and recuperation. Subsequently, this is the first opportunity for quite a while to write anything here. Top of my pile for (overdue – they pretty much all are at this point) review is Harold’s Leap’s Too Much Time, which brings about the issue of how to review an album by the band of somebody you consider a friend (Tim Young, whose voice can often be heard along with mine – and many good others – over at his Contrast Podcast).

Besides Tim Young, who here sings and plays the guitar, are Chris Llewellyn on guitar, Tom Lusty on bass and backing vocals and Nick Richardson on drums who have written and recorded together in London over a rather extensive period that culminated with the album release through Constitution Records in 2011.

I am not sure how others might do it, but I have come to the conclusion that anything I write would be unavoidably affected by this connection. I will content myself with the following brief Tweet-sized recommendation:

“This album is excellent; if the weaving of the smart lyrics of a keenly aware contemporary poet over catchy guitar hooks with a pop sensibility sounds the sort of thing you might enjoy, then you should check it out.”

Checking it out can be done via the usual routes: Amazon | iTunes | cdbaby | eMusic

You can also sample the album over on their Facebook page.


Friday, December 9, 2011

This might have the appearance of an overdue review, seeing as this was released on Northern Spy Records back in October of last year, but as it came my way a couple months back as the result of their marking their first year, I figured it should be given an appraisal as their first release, in terms of catalogue numbers, as an example of their inception.

Regular readers will already know the name Colin Langenus from my review of Infinite Ease/Good God by the Colin L. Orchestra, released earlier this year also on Northern Spy Records. While I had my reservations about Good God, Infinite Ease really won me over. The same is true of R.I.P., the last release of his many (at least ten) years’ project with Tom Hohmann, started when squatting Charlottesville, VA.

Langenus’s leaning towards surfer and stoner rock is as apparent as is Hohmann’s interest in Native American culture (this latter most notably within the phenomenally catchy album opener Grey Owl, which, in charting the tale of an Englishman’s conversion from trapper to natural spiritualist, wears these influences right on its sleeve). So, too, is the fact that they have a history together. Their being more than capable of weaving through various styles, complex time signatures and an almost-atonally (especially come the closing track, Dynamite Day) with such cohesion as this  is testament to this fact, even without necessarily knowing the journey they have taken together.

For those who have followed the band along this journey, this album sees them leaving on top of their game and is not so much a swan-song as a taking off (and neither seems to show signs of slowing down – Langenus continues to work various projects, including the Colin L. Orchestra, while Hohmann went on to form new band (from) the Sky [not to be confused with London’s From the Sky, though I cannot find (from) the Sky’s web presence]). However, for me it has left voracious a hunger for more, so I feel almost at an advantage to have been hitherto ignorant of their work, as I have a whole back-catalogue to explore.

Before I wrap this up, I feel I should mention, as an aside, that the album art is Hohmann’s original work. As a further aside, during the long periods of touring with USAISAMONSTER he took to knitting and may or may not still do custom knits on etsy.

You can stream (edit: samples only) and purchase the album direct from Northern Spy Records.

Overdue Review: Sarandon – Sarandon’s Age of Reason

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The spirit of C86 is alive and well and inhabiting London’s Sarandon. Sarandon itself has been a band since 2003, but has been quiet on the album front. This is their second or third, depending on whether you count 2006’s culmination of their singles to date, The Completist’s Library. Members have come and gone, but the constant remains Simon Williams, a.k.a. Crayola, whose resume is rather intimidating.

The album has the thread running through it of its narrator, Big Trev, observing in a haphazard, meandering (which is not to say entirely unfocussed) fashion, often shot through with a splendid bitterness, everything from irritation at people thoughtlessly calling him whilst he is eating, feelings of bewilderment and disgust at the discotheque, the dent he expects to make in the world, as well as – once the overpriced booze seems to kick in – love and happiness and the things that really matter in his life.

While these passages are soundtracked by a hideous looping effected accordion dirge, each is punctuated by instances of exquisitely angular pop-punk that expand upon the themes of the spoken word segments (it is splendidly difficult – if not impossible – to tell if the ramblings are constructed around the songs or vice-versa). In a little over half an hour you are taken on a journey with a character it is easy to feel comfortable with and to cheer for with a band that know how to, in Big Trev’s words, “[hit] the nail firmly and squarely on the head.”

This is garage pop-punk at its brightest, the concept helping to hold everything together so not one track, even the 5-minute Mustn’t Grumble, outstays its welcome or feels like filler (the lack of filler is evidenced by the album’s brevity). Its sound has all the hallmarks of authentic punk, and you can rock out to it if you so desire, but there is precision and control at work in its composition. The guitar, bass and drums are capable of working together to create surging waves of noise, but more is built on melodic riffs than heavily distorted power chords. There is much to be heard here, and each of my visits has been as fun as the last.

This aside, you know you have a winner on your hands when an album is released with its own IPA.

Stream a couple of songs below. Piglet, the title track from their latest EP, may also be downloaded.

Sarandon – Big Trev by Odd Box Records

Sarandon – Piglet by Slumberland Records

Buy it on CD or vinyl from Odd Box Records or Slumberland Records, where digital download links are also available.

Sarandon: Official website

Review: everyBoy – Parachute Mind

Monday, October 31, 2011

Not quite an “Overdue Review” (but close), this has been in my listening heap quite a while. It is one of those I find difficult to review because my first impressions have dwindled over time and, given that as a rule I feel more immediately if I dislike something (I did not immediately fall in love with Parachute Mind‘s title track) and I – at least where the blog is concerned – subscribe to the philosophy of not saying anything if I have nothing nice to say, this means that there is something that has shifted in my opinion since that allows me to put some words about it here and, in spite of some qualms I cannot quite overcome, there is something I like about this album, so bear with me if it seems I am derailing a bit here.

We shall start with some words of introduction. everyBoy is the project of South California’s Bruce Nathan, with producer John Holbrook (who has produced most everybody important, it seems, from Pink Floyd through The Rolling Stones to Fountains of Wayne) and Jack Johnson’s drummer Adam Topal. Parachute Mind is their second album after last year’s The Last La-La’s.

In spite of the wealth of (very apparent) talent on this record, I cannot help but feel that either something is missing, or, more accurately, there is something stood in the way of the heart of the record. There are occasions when it seems the production has let its guard down, such as within TV News, and these are my favourite moments on the record. And whilst this is clearly a personal document, with an emotional cord running through it, especially noticeable within tracks such as Bully Me and Ego Solo, there is a near-clinical tightness that refuses to let this emanate at times; to lapse into clumsy metaphor one might compare it to an actress after one too many botox injections: the tears might be seen to run down the cheeks, and there may be power in the words, but the tautness prevents an altogether clear, uninterrupted demonstration of feeling. This is a pity, because overall this album is one that has more going for it that I like than that which I dislike in terms of both quality and quantity and it could be argued that some of that to which I have been exposed lately has given me a need for immediacy of intent that this record cannot quite provide. Time has opened me up more and more to this album and I expect it to grow on me with each listen, and certainly I have kept on coming back to it.

I shall stop with my words and provide a sample or two so as to help you decide for yourselves what my somewhat conflicted rambling means. I will start with title track Parachute Mind, but bear in mind that, as I stated above, this is not in my opinion one of the finer tracks on the album (the actual opening track To Arjun, also below, is to my mind a far better introduction). It was, however, the lead-off single and has a video to go with it (and I cannot deny that it has an awful habit of sticking in my head), so I will leave you with this and encourage you to look into it if afterwards you are even only slightly inclined.

All the links you might need to purchase the album in various formats are available via everyBoy’s official website.

everyBoy – To Arjun by fanaticpro

EDIT: It transpires everyBoy has made a full album stream available, if you want to delve a little deeper and judge for yourself:

Review: Zs – 33

Monday, October 24, 2011

Remember two posts ago, when I said that Ben Greenberg’s group project – with Sam Hillmer on tenor saxophone and Ian Antonio on drums – Zs’ 33 was due for review soon? Well, not quite as soon as otherwise expected, here it is. (It is expected to be my last Northern Spy review in a row for a short while – though I expect to cover everything they have released in their year-and-a-bit of existence eventually.)

As with Hubble (Ben Greenberg’s solo project), this is improvisational performance at its most immediate and rawest. Unlike Hubble, the dynamics are altered by the varying timbres of the instruments to hand, the drums here largely providing a foundation on the top of which the guitar and sax intertwine, both as able to let their instruments ring out to create the impression of a great breadth of space as to fill out all the niches with a controlled cacophony of sound. Also unlike Hubble, the four sides of this vinyl release seem more like excerpts of a potential larger picture, meaning the risk here is that at each side’s close you will want for far more than is given.

Zs have, according to the description on the customary video located below, existed for ten years, over the course of which it has been a trio, a quartet and a sextet, so each member is well aware of being a part of something greater. This awareness is what prevents the sound from derailing; as a direct consequence, everything feels as carefully constructed as it does free-flowing and chaotic.

ZS from Haba on Vimeo.

33 is available for download now from Northern Spy Records, with a physical release date of November 8.

Review: Dan Melchior und das Menace – Catbirds & Cardinals

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The return to university and Freshers’ Fortnight has taken up a lot of my time lately, which is why there has been a lull in activity there. I am keen to address this, so here is the next review from my increasingly formidable stack of items for review, another from Northern Spy Records: Dan Melchior und das Menace’s Catbirds & Cardinals.

This is a record I want very much to love. Indeed, the good moments outweigh the bad; the lyrics – when they can be discerned (see below) – are excellently crafted and there are many well-crafted melodies to be found hidden beneath all the fuzz and distortion. Yet for all that makes me want to keep coming back for repeated listens, there is also something that pushes me away.

“What’s the use of even (evil?) speaking if you’re buried in bad static? May as well be mute like one of those masked record clerks,” Melchior may or may not sing (I listened closely three or four times and could not work out the words here), and this is probably my biggest problem with the record. Melchior’s heavily overdriven sound does not lend itself to easy listening, which is partly the point, but there is so much in songs like Catbird (from which these lyrics were taken) and Crow Radio #2 that contains inherent threat that it feels that one unnecessary extra step into the alienation territory.

Maybe I am trying too hard to review this as a pop record, which is not (quite) what it claims to be. Melchior’s construction should be perhaps seen as a sort of artful play, an antithesis to works such as Poptastic’s The Teen-Pop-Noise Virus (a project in which carefully-crafted pop songs were transformed by way of effects into a sonic barrage) – meeting at a similar juncture from opposite directions; Melchior has created something akin to ‘pop’ from the chaos of his sludgy signature sound and, on this basis alone, given that there is much to be explored that you have to work for, this album can be said to be a success. Certainly, this is not an album you can casually exhaust.

Below, you can stream and download English Shame (which would not actually be my pick of the tracks from the album) and watch Melchior perform No Horizons/No Prescription at Scion Garage Fest 2009:

Scion Garage Fest 2009: Dan Melchior “No Horizons/No Prescription” from Scion A/V on Vimeo.

Catbirds and Cardinals is available direct from Northern Spy Records and the usual others:

Amazon UK (MP3) | US (MP3)