Monday, January 12, 2009

record reviews

Mazinga - Wild Years - Noman - Old Empire
Wild Years
Old Empire

Mazinga – Open The Blast Doors

Fizzy nitroglycerine and rickety tumbling train trucks and laser beams straight outta your fucking eyes and hard-chugged mischievous rampage tones strummed relentlessly with an air of valiant self-destructive exertion. Or, at least that’s the neon laced blood-spurting muscle-bound image that explodes into your mind on Mazinga’s latest EP, Open the Blast Doors. The storied hard-rock/punk band has gone through some member shifts through their years of playing (having started between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti in the mid 90’s) but realigned and have been playing together steadily since 2003, (currently as Chris “Box” Taylor, Big Tony, Marc McFinn & Al King). They ardently announce their style as “maximum cosmic punk” – which is catchy on its own, but you may as well put commas after each word, because they readily, fully embody the guttural sense of each of those words. It’s the non-stop headbang, the arms-out-propeller-spin across the beer-soaked-sorry-excuse-for-a-dance floor – the clambered rhythms, the spacey psychedelic solos all of it just puts the beast in you and gets you shaking your head and stomping your feet, fills you with that much needed dose of defiance and destruction – but all packaged through a slightly retro-feeling penchant for classic spook punks of the mid 60’s garage days and an undeniable affinity for classic cult comic grime.

Wild Years – Where’d You Go?

Where’d You Go is striking for its candidness, the way “Untitled (Band-Aid)” sort of deconstructs into an abrupt and halting scrape up the strings on the acoustic guitar before singer Alex Itkin nonchalantly sings “and I would never cry…I would never even try…” Culling from a classical singer/songwriter wandering-through-the-world-and-this-is-what-I’ve-seen sort of mid-70’s feel as refracted through the more experimental bends of the late 90’s troubadours of Malkmus or M. Ward - Itkin & Bob Teixeira blend the minimalist-yet-hooky endearment of alternative-space-pop provokers like Neutral Milk Hotel or Elf Power and drape a sunset-swaying neo-country twang over the top, with steady-toe-tapping percussion, poignant strings and intertwining acoustic guitars. Half of the focus is on the frank and unassuming mid-range vocals of Itkin, while the strummed indie-pop balladry picks its way across the reflective star-speckled skies of suburbia – those sort-of resigning, sort-of melodramatic, yet completely relatable lines like “Outside there is no way to go…I’m not coming out, until there is a crowd…out there waiting for me.”

Noman – Broadcast

Local trio Noman explore the history of punk and folk and find their sound somewhere in the middle. They take us back to that glimmer of punk rock’s history – before the dashing eclecticism of late 70’s NY’s experimental “art-punk” and Britain’s then-morphing post-punk style started being overrun by the malicious blitzkrieg of early 80’s hardcore. They pack this delicate intermediary with pop-hinted melodies through raspy rousing vocals that can both inspire and enrage, with all-around-and-all-falling-down drum-styling and bass licks that set a disarming stylized groove that’s distinct to their own blend of grimy folk with pedal-to-the-metal fuzz rock. Just as they root around in the skeleton-stacked closet of punk, this adroit trio (Andrew Beer, Rob Budai, Shayne O'Keefe, aided by bassist Luke Schram) galvanize the intricacies of folk music’s development – through the universal crusade of American folk (and its ties to humanitarian movements) and its melding into that rough smoky British folk (which inevitably had mixings of Celtic style rah-rah-rousing jigs). Take “Morning Song” which opens with a warm but tense acoustic guitar and hurried vocals soon flanked by this building drum roll that eventually bursts into a rhythmic onslaught – or the almost reggae riff opening of “For The Rock Gods” that follows a similar build-and-burst structure that sways on this visceral space-toned guitar wafting in the background before slamming into this cymbal-shambled head-banging chorus. The band cites Against Me! and Dylan as starting points, but you could also throw in the Clash, Ted Leo maybe some latent Pogues and a bit of roots-reggae – but it’s all so amped up, with a distinct explosiveness – captured well on this debut full length on their own label, Woodbridge Records.

Old Empire – Queen City Quandaries (gangplank)

Somewhere along the sun-speckled pavement of the farm-flanked lonely road between towns, the edges of tall-grass neo-country meet the boot-cut denim strutting metropolitian-y millieu of power pop…where easy going swing-ability and let-the-good-times-roll meets pedal-fuzzed left-right-guitar-jabs and sweet rousing choruses that get the head bobbing – and it’d feel at home either in the smoky bar or at the tight-pant’ed-club. It’s a nice, crisp pop record with an Americana ambiance, delivered modestly by an up-and-coming quintet from Detroit who can feel as much gothic-country theatrical as they can singer/songwriter pop-rock – featuring steady-strummed heartfelt balladry and daydreamy boy-girl harmonies. Piano-pounding swing tunes cue up the artsy-indie-rock take on bluegrass (“Track & Field”) and the softly-sung don’t-wake-the-snoozers-in-the-backseat-on-the-road-trip country-flared sonnets (“Reflection”) or the straight-up pop with stylized organs, coaxing vocals and liberating hooks (“Empty Promises”).

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1 comment:

Jukebox said...

Thanks for amazing review of our EP!
-Team Mazinga