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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Acing dour funk.

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Today I learned that the phrase “Styx and Foreigner” — two bands who will soon stink up Musikfest, my local annual musik festival — anagrams to “I, foxy transgender.”

I don’t have anything else to write about tonight. So I’m gonna run some other musical names and phrases through the machine and see what they anagram out to.

Special thanks to the Internet Anagram Server, without whom none of this would be possible, or at least not without my putting waaaaay more time into it than it was worth.

Van Dyke Parks: Dark Knave Spy

Goats Head Soup: Toad Esophagus

Toys In The Attic: Stoat Ethnicity

Ronnie James Dio: Edema Joins Iron

Terrapin Station: A Stentorian Trip

Malcolm Young: Manly Cum Logo

Angus Young: Gay Gnu Onus

E Pluribus Funk: Flubs Puke Ruin

Gordon Lightfoot: Hotdog Loft Groin

By-Tor and the Snow Dog: A Debtor’s Downy Thong

Graham Central Station: A Theatrical Strongman

Walt Parazaider: A Tawdrier Plaza

Rust Never Sleeps: Revelers Sent Pus

Eumir Deodato: Audited Romeo

Meco Monardo: Comrade Mono

Dean Friedman: Remanded Naif

Colonel Tom Parker: Mackerel Poltroon

Ace Frehley: A Fey Lecher

Mothership Connection: Ethnocentric Hip Moons

Frampton Comes Alive: From A Campiest Novel

Love Unlimited Orchestra: Cede A Trillion Vermouths

Doobie Brothers: Ribbed Sore Hoot

Eric Carmen: Nicer Cream

Muskrat Love: Tusk Removal

You’re So Vain: Your Evasion

Gordon Sinclair: Ironclad Groins

Velvet Underground: Revolved Dung Tuner

Midnight At The Oasis: Tinsmith Hogties Ada

Aerosmith: Ham Sortie

Court And Spark: Rap Soundtrack


From the Valley: OVLO, “Malcontent.”

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Another in an ongoing series of reviews of recent releases by Lehigh Valley bands.

In February 1959, nine hikers in the Dyatlov Pass of the northern Ural Mountains were found dead, having abandoned their tent and walked barefoot into frigid temperatures and heavy snow. Several of the hikers had serious internal injuries; one was missing her tongue.

The causes of their deaths have never been fully explained.

New evidence suggests, though, that they may have stumbled into a time machine and received a vicious pummeling by OVLO, an Allentown alternative-metal band whose new album, Malcontent, is capped off by a galloping growlfest called “The Dyatlov Pass Incident.”

(Malcontent was released about three weeks ago; it can be streamed free on Bandcamp here. Apparently it’s available for purchase on another site, though it wasn’t working when I tried it. If you want it, you’ll find it.)

The members of OVLO cite Tool, Godsmack and Metallica as influences. And, to my ears, they stay fairly true to those influences, cranking out aggressive, high-gain modern metal with all the familiar trappings.

Singer Jamey Holben has three voices — a raw animal growl; a melodic croon; and a slightly cynical spoken-voice style that suggests a carnival barker who’s tired of selling the two-headed mermaid to gullible passers-by.

I personally prefer the latter two voices. (I seem to be becoming a broken record on the subject of scream vocals, don’t I?)

I admit, though, that I like a metal growl more than a punk scream. The metal growl seems more natural and less pretentious; more ass-kicking and less angsty; more likely to inflict pain and less likely to whine about receiving it.

Meanwhile, the band fills the songs — there are 10 of them — with outsized, slashing mid-tempo riffs and double-bass-drum thumps.

No single riff is quite epic enough to stick in my head and insist on being replayed again and again. (OK, maybe the machine-gun sections of “Ocean of Mountains” make it there.)

Still, they add up to an album that leaves a powerful impression and deserves a listen if you’re into the style.

These guys have been playing together for a while now — their first self-released EP came out in 2006 — and they come across as a band that has its act together, has worked through its exploring and experimenting phase, and knows what it wants to sound like.

I don’t know metal well enough to know whether OVLO has a truly distinctive voice and vision that set them apart from other bands. (I suspect they don’t, which is not an insult. Truly distinctive voices and visions are hard to come by in any genre.)

I’d still recommend Malcontent to serious metalheads, as well as casual fans who need some high-volume energy to help them get started in the morning or finish that last round of reps at the gym.

I’m not sure I’d recommend bringing it along on a remote winter hiking trip, though…


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Having won me over with his songwriting and his live performances, Graham Parker is now winning me over with his tweets.

Over the past week or so, the peppery English singer-songwriter has been posting a list of every car he’s ever owned, complete with brief reminiscences. (“A possibly drunk postman ran into it whilst parked and totaled it!”)

I’m not sure why I’ve enjoyed this so much. I just find it fun to watch someone like Parker willingly head down a random personal tangent to the delight of his fans. And I guess I like following a well-known figure who knows that sharing personal information and letting fans know about their lives doesn’t have to mean going all TMI.

(As a former gas station attendant, Parker might be expected to have a particular bond with cars — though he claims he doesn’t care what he owns now, as long as it’s new when he gets it and it has room for guitars.)

From the Valley: “Summer 2013,” the Coven.

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The latest in a series of reviews of Lehigh Valley-area online music releases.

Somewhere in south Bethlehem, there’s a house that’s going to live a long time in the memories of the people lucky enough to know where it is.

Its inhabitants call it the Coven. And it’s hosting shows all summer by independent bands from the Lehigh Valley and beyond.

(At least, this is what I’ve deduced from the interwebs. It could be an elaborate fiction meant to trip up outsiders like me — like that fake list of Seattle grunge slang the New York Times fell for back in ’92. Yes, perhaps they will be swingin’ on the flippity-flop down at the Coven this summer.)

Anyway, this past week, the folks involved in the Coven posted a 12-song compilation of the bands slated to play there, like a postcard from the happening. (The weather is beautiful; the tunes are bitchin’; wish you were here.)

So what’s on the menu?

– The first three songs (by Frameworks, Voyage in Coma and Dead Gods) make it clear that there’s gonna be a fair amount of raw-throated shrieking going on at the Coven this summer.

I wrote in my last post that I personally don’t like that style of singing; and in the last two days, my opinion hasn’t changed.

Still, the songs’ instrumental touches kept me listening.

Voyage in Coma’s “Predation” melts down at one point, sailing almost beyond key and pitch into a riptide of thrashing instrumental energy. It only lasts 10 seconds, but it’s great while it’s there.

And Frameworks’ “Old Chokesadds a mournful-sounding, horn-toned keyboard line and sleigh bells into the mix, with positive results.

– It’s probably no great surprise that the poppier tunes grabbed me more than the thrash did.

Ringing pop — some hard, some soft — is well-represented on the Coven’s playlist, with Prawn’s college-rocky “Praxis,” Tiny Teeth’s pop-punk “Shapes” and the Infected Flies’ “Astro Pastro Zoom” all carrying the banner in memorable ways.

“Astro Pastro Zoom” (no, I don’t know what it means either) is my pick hit among the more melodic tracks, combining Hammond organ, a laid-back-to-the-point-of-jazzy rhythm section, and charming schoolboy lyrics. (Is “I could use a fairy-tale specialist / To help defeat the trolls of Santiago” the lyric of the year?)

– Actually, I take that back. The Tallboys’ “Manhattan & Driggs” is my favorite tune here — an eighty-second acoustic strum-along driven by a rowdy, scuffling snare-drum rhythm that’s implied as much as it is heard.

(“We go outside / We share a smoke / We ruin our throats / With everything we do” is another great line — one of those tossed-off bits that is either subtly profound, or says absolutely nothing. The best kinds of lyrics, those are.)

– A couple singer-songwriter types are scheduled to drop by the Coven as well.

Most notable among them are Alison Lutz, whose love lament “On My Back” I would have liked just fine except for my aversion to ukuleles, and Marco Polio’s “The Struggle,” a firsthand description of — mental illness? drug addiction? general failure to thrive? — distinguished by its singer’s unsettled Lou-Reed-meets-Fred-Schneider vocal quirks.

I can’t direct you to the Coven; you’ll have to do your own research. But I can tell you, based on this mix, that it sounds like a good time.

The Coven’s Summer 2013 mix album is available as a free download here.

From the Valley: “Nam Le,” Nam Le.

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Part of an ongoing series of posts in which I write about online music releases by Lehigh Valley bands.

In the last installment of From the Valley, I confessed my love for high-school garage bands.

College bands are a little dicier. The kids get older, they start reading European novels, they start wearing black, they start getting all serious. And somewhere along the line, they lose the jive.

Nam Le may be deadly earnest. And, they may use the impenetrable label “post-hardcore” to describe the noise they make.

But the Muhlenberg College quartet still lands on the right side of the divide with its self-titled album, which showed up on Bandcamp only two days ago.

On their eight tracks (seven, really — one song is an instrumental that lasts about as long as a cube of bouillon in a bowl of hot water), Nam Le rocks with power, energy and well-drilled musicianship.

Slamming in at 1:44, opening track “Buried” is one of the few songs I’ve heard in a while that actually made me wish it were longer.

“Chambered,” at 3:21, is the album’s longest song; and I could have stood some more of that one too, particularly the gentle, ringing, mesmeric sections that nicely offset the hardcore (sorry, post-hardcore) roar.

Just past the album’s halfway mark, on the curiously titled “Raw Dog ABE 2012” (I’m guessing it’s a reference to Lehigh Valley International Airport), hardcore-style screaming starts making its way into more and more of the vocals.

That’s where Nam Le lost me a little bit.

I’ve never liked the open-throated punk-scream style of singing. It wears thin quickly. It’s been done so often that it doesn’t really connote all that much energy. And, in some cases, I suspect it is an easy alternative to writing actual melodies — playing tennis with the net down, as it were.

Closing track “Shattered” opts for the wounded howl pretty much all the way through. I hesitate to criticize it — it is a matter of personal taste, after all, and the young man at the mic might be opening a vein — but “Shattered” is the one song on Nam Le I have trouble listening to.

Not every song goes that way. “Acton-Boxboro” (a school district in the northwest suburbs of Boston — given the lyrics about “leaving home,” I’m guessing it’s someone’s alma mater) ends with a group vocal, or perhaps a single singer overdubbed a couple times for a singalong effect. Close your eyes and you can almost imagine it’s an entire graduating class singing along. It works.

This is not music for 40-year-old men, and on a certain level I don’t connect with it; I feel like I listened to the whole thing through an invisible wall.

But that’s not particularly Nam Le’s fault. These guys are pretty good at what they do — good enough to make me come back for repeated listens. And that doesn’t happen often in this style of music.

(Whatever you choose to call it.)

Nam Le’s self-titled album is available as a name-your-own-price download here.

Out of season.

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In the autumn of 1996 I was 23 years old, newly married and covering the Boston suburb of Brookline for a weekly newspaper there.

As part of my duties, I got a Brookline library card.

And as part of getting a Brookline library card, I took out their 2-LP vinyl copy of the Kinks compilation The Kink Kronikles. Sides 3 and 4 were too warped and scratched to enjoy, but sides 1 and 2 more than made up for it.

I taped my favourites — which, really, was just about the entire first album — and listened to them repeatedly that autumn.

There was a certain English cosiness and provinciality, even in the brasher numbers, that seemed to fit nicely with crisp air and dead leaves in the gutters. Even now, I associate those songs and that album very closely with autumn.

Fast-forward to the present.

Eastern Pennsylvania gets a few truly stinking weeks of summer every year, and we’ve just started one of ’em, with temperatures forecast to reach 95 degrees every day this week.

Reaching for some music on my way out the door, I grabbed both discs of The Kink Kronikles. (My old Brookline cassette has gone the way of dead leaves; there’s nothing in my car to play it on.)

About thirty seconds into “Victoria” it became clear that the music was totally, completely out of place on a hot summer morning.

I didn’t care. I listened anyway.

And I truly enjoyed the most autumnal song of them all, “Autumn Almanac,” which is a wonderful meandering slice of power-pop with enough production touches to shine any time of year. To list is to omit, but here are a few:

– One of those marvelous sad-sack Kinks horn sections.

– Ray Davies singing about his “poor rheumatic back,” and randomly mispronouncing “almanac” as if it rhymed with “Armagnac.”

– That upwards rip of guitar and/or saxophone that follows each “la la la la la” chorus.

– A few stray incursions of clap track — don’t sneeze or you’ll miss it.

– The tasteful use of backwards effects at the end of the song, which works marvelously in a tune that otherwise sounds like it could have been recorded in 1920.

“Autumn Almanac,” appropriately, was issued in October 1967 in the U.K. — where it hit the Top Five — and November in the States, where it went pretty much nowhere.

It’s still got the power, at least for two or three minutes, to take a little of the edge off a ferocious summer day.

From the Valley: “Petrella Orchards,” Boss Tweed.

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Another in a series of posts about recent online releases by Lehigh Valley bands.

I love high school rock bands. I’ll listen to anybody’s, any time.

I’m a sucker for the concept of kids getting together in dingy basements, overcoming their jitters, regurgitating their shared influences and finding something of their own together … even if the execution frequently leaves much to be desired.

How fortunate, then, that Boss Tweed should come along just in time for the launch of the From the Valley series.

Boss Tweed — known to the girls at Our Lady of Perpetual Insouciance High as Korey, Michal, Riley and Isaac — posted what I think is their first full-length recording, Petrella Orchards, just about a week ago.

“This album was written for all those miley cyrus fans,” their Bandcamp page declares. “We are modern cosmonauts and are sexy and hairy.”

Clearly, they don’t take themselves too seriously. (Plus, they’re savvy enough to maybe pick up a couple hits from Web-surfers looking for Miley Cyrus.)

But are they any good?

Well, that depends what you’re looking for. I didn’t find any of their lyrics (such as could be understood) particularly memorable.

And for the most part, their rhythm section doesn’t swing, cook, bop, groove, jive or otherwise propel the band in any firm direction.

If I had to give these guys any advice (and yeah, I’m fully aware that no one asked me, and I’ve turned into the annoying, well-meaning 40-year-old I never wanted to become), I’d suggest that they pick a band they like that grooves, and absorb its music for a while.

Sleep it, breathe it, pour it on their pancakes, dive down in it until something like it starts coming out in their own tunes. Because sexy cosmonaut shenanigans go over much better when people can shake their asses at the same time.

Enough of that, though. Criticizing garage bands is like shooting at lifeboats. And, in any event, there is plenty to like about Petrella Orchards.

The rubbery chug of the guitars suggests the glory days of rock n’ roll primitivism, redolent of “Surfin’ Bird” and twisting in the basement.

High school bands today have access to better performing and recording gear than ever before. But I kind of like the fact that Boss Tweed — which cites surf music as an influence — still has a touch of the old twang people used to get playing Harmony guitars through cardboard Sears amps.

“Mother Theresa,” meanwhile, features a gnarly fuzztone that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Nuggets. That gladdened my heart to hear, let me tell you. I bet these guys could do a pretty mean version of “Psychotic Reaction” if they could be troubled to learn it.

(“Strawberry Jam,” with its reverberant vocals, insistent riffing and weird not-quite-a-Hammond-organ sound, could hold its head up proudly on Nuggets as well. Sexy modern cosmonauts for the win!)

I was all set to dislike “Jack Bauer is a Badass” — pop culture is the easiest possible thing to bash out a song about, and maybe the laziest.

And then Boss Tweed’s singer (it’s either Korey, Michal or Isaac) unexpectedly burst out with a falsetto “Jack Bauer!” about an octave higher than the others. It was loose and sloppy and inspired, and it didn’t give a damn, and it reminded me of Willie “Loco” Alexander doing the same thing on “Mass. Ave.” In other words, it ruled.

I could probably toss out a couple other examples, but you get the idea. The spirit of DIY basement rock is good and alive in these guys, if you’re in the mood for that sort of thing.

And in the end, a high-school band that doesn’t take itself too seriously and stumbles every so often (the last word of Petrella Orchards is an embarrassed Shit!”) is far better company than a high-school band that can crank out professional-quality, note-for-note covers.

“Strawberry Jam” is probably my favorite song here. But it’s worth the trip to go to Petrella Orchards and pick your own.

Petrella Orchards can be streamed and downloaded here.