With the next CityBeat “Great Demo Review” nearly nine months away, we decided to thresh away at our pile of recently released local albums to see if any shimmering needles were hiding in the haystack of musical mediocrity.
Here's what we found:
Apes of WrathPlastic, Fake and Frozen
The guitarists are good, drummer is good, vocalist is good, songs are good, lyrics are good—everything is pretty much good, almost great. For me, it's the erratic guitar work—the harmonics, finger-tapping, indie-rock riffage, stylish phrasing, synchronized solos and sustains—that ultimately make the record. The vocals are tits, too, exhibiting a little bit of Hollywood-leather bravado and a whole lot of alt-rock introspection. The only issue here is that it's too short. Well, maybe not for an EP. But with seven songs running at about three minutes each, Plastic, Fake and Frozen comes to a screeching halt way too soon.—Edwin DeckerApes of Wrath play Monday, July 28, at The Casbah.
Bedford GroveWelcome to Our Side of Town
The world can always do with a little extra funk. As such, the chops displayed on Bedford Grove's debut are enthusiastically welcome. The album deftly balances playfulness and restraint for an experience that leaves room for the audience to join in on the extemporaneous vibe. And while Bedford Grove is a far cry from lead singer Bedford Nelson's (aka Mark Gould) previous San Diego outfit, Off by One, the occasional well-timed punk break still sneaks in to add punch to otherwise straightforward wide-smile music. At least until the album cools off at the halfway mark. After that, the results are mixed.
Some of the more ambitious lyricism hits (“Robots Just Like You”), and some of it misses (“Annie”). But, by the time the album reaches the spoken-word closer “Chicago,” much of the original energy and exuberance of tracks like “SkAt” and “Whispers in the Rain” has evaporated. The second half of the album could have been just as much fun as the first half if only Bedford Grove had chosen to end Our Side of Town with an emphatic bang instead of an unexpected whisper. —Lucas O'ConnorBedford Grove plays Friday, July 18, at Anthology.
At first listen, it's easy to mistake Braaiins! for a Misfits cover band. Much like those campy horror-punk degenerates, Braaiins!' song titles could've been ripped from '50s B-movies (“Attack of the Martians,” “Bloodlust,” “Werewolf”).
There's absolutely nothing original about the band, but you might wonder why the refrain of “Meteorites” is replaying over and over in your head. It's called a hook, and these dudes know how to write 'em, even if they're playing dumb.
The rudimentary drum thrashing is reminiscent of The Cramps, the trebly guitar sounds like it's played by a 15-year-old metalhead trying to impress the staff at Guitar Center and most of the lyrics are tunelessly howled over the entire mess. But it also sounds like a hell of a lot of fun. —Todd KroviakBraaiins! play Friday, July 11, at Tower Bar.
Dannicus LiveLiquor and Whores
I suppose it was only a matter of time before someone combined punk, sea shanties, Irish pub music and a dash of metal into something called “pirate rock.” But while Dannicus Live has a penchant for all the genres listed above, their contrived brand of drinking songs is satirical almost to the point of offensiveness.
Maybe that's the point, but when the rhymes are this lazy (“Waitress, oh waitress, come sit on my face / Eatin' ain't cheatin', Lord, it ain't no disgrace / Bring me a cold Guinness and make it a case”) and the music is as facsimiled as one of those “Irish” pubs in the Gaslamp, then the whole experience goes down like a pint of piss.
I would think the band's live shows would draw a crowd, but, admittedly, I'm hardly their target demographic.
Perhaps if I didn't prefer bourbon over that juice they call Jameson, or if I didn't think that Guinness tasted like a leprechaun's ass, then perhaps I would enjoy Dannicus Live. But I'm just not that guy—or that drunk.—Seth CombsThe FascinationThe Fascination
I initially found The Fascination's brand of new-wave pop to be schmaltzy, homogenized and arriving about four years too late. But then something funny happened after a few listens. Songs like “Do You Know What I Mean?” and “Here's to You” burrowed through my ears into my brain like those fucked-up bugs in Star Trek II.
And then, just as I was about to slag frontman Robin Nicholl off for singing in a fake British accent, I find out the guy's actually from Britain. Damn it! If these guys lived in London, there'd be bidding wars, NME covers and hipster tastemakers blogging about what drummer Merwan Luck was doing with his hair this week. So fine, The Fascination might be derivative as all hell, but damn it they don't write a catchy tune. —Seth CombsThe Fascination plays Saturday, July 12, at The Epicentre.
The Feelings MutualThe Feelings Mutual
One feeling that certainly seems mutual among the members of this San Diego trio is an unabashed love of Foo Fighters. The sounds of Mr. Grohl and his cohorts are readily referenced throughout the group's self-titled EP. Opening track “Monolith” begins with a monstrous opening riff that is as familiar as it is gargantuan. The Foo theme remains apparent throughout, but after a while, the thought of listening to the master, rather than the student, becomes more appealing. Still, for a debut five-song, this thing reeks of untapped potential. Here's hoping these guys find their own voice. —Paul SaitowitzThe Feelings Mutual plays Monday, July 14, at The Casbah.
Greg LaswellThree Flights from Alto Nido
If Greg Laswell has proven anything since his stellar and underappreciated 2006 album Through Toledo, it's that he's obsessed with 24-hour periods. And while his gorgeous lament “What a Day” (from the How the Day Sounds EP) doesn't reappear on Three Flights, the redemptive “How the Day Sounds” does, sandwiched between the like-minded singer/songwriter pop of “It's Been a Year” and “Days Go On.”
Judging by the new tunes, the 727 (or so) days since Toledo's release have been good for Laswell. And where his last album travailed in post-divorce pathos, Three Flights is a sunny, concise effort. The lyrics sometimes come off as trite and sappy (see “Sweet Dream” and “I'd Be Lying”) but his words, stellar voice and instrumental theatrics are exactly what can push him from artist-on-the-rise to full-fledged stardom.
Even if he's forsaken San Diego for L.A., dates Mandy Moore and gives morning wood to pompous douches like Nic Harcourt, Laswell still deserves money and fame that goes way beyond the outro to a Grey's Anatomy episode. I sincerely hope he gets it with this album. —Seth CombsGreg Laswell plays Thursday, July 31, at Belly Up Tavern.
Hotel St. GeorgeYippee!!!
This EP desperately needs a killer guitar solo. The energy, rocking beats, cool time signatures and Bowie-meets-Mould-meets-Iggy vocals are all here. But no solo. There are enough interesting riffs meandering around to show that Hotel St. George is capable of delivering guitar hysterics, but the band's restraint literally holds it back. All in all, this is a good rock album that could easily translate into a good live rock show. They even have a nice, long stoner song (“Tell Yourself”) to close things out. But I just can't shake the feeling that something's missing. —Paul Saitowitz Hotel St. George plays Saturday, July 12, at The Casbah.
John Meeks3 Song Demo
For a city known by the rest of the country as a playground of beaches, babes and beautiful weather, San Diego sure does produce some great country music. And now you can throw John Meeks (of local indie-rockers Plural) into that unlikely fold.
The songs on this all-too-short demo are simple enough, sticking close to typical love-and-loss-in Loserville material, but Meeks bypasses the nasally twang for a vocal style that's both passionate and penitent (think Gram Parsons or Nashville Skyline-era Dylan). Some interesting guests stop by (The Album Leaf's Jimmy LaValle on bass, Black Hondo's Lucina González on harmonies), while a chorus of horns closes the concisely epic “On the Road Not Again,” all with splendid results.
Meeks hasn't created anything that'll have Nashville scouts beating down his door (that's a good thing), but he's produced three DIY songs that compare with anything being produced south of the Mason Dixon. Buy it off iTunes. Download it off eMusic. And eagerly wait for more. —Seth Combs
When it comes to hip-hop, if the beats don't rattle my trunk and the lyrics don't rattle my cage, I have a hard time getting into it. That being said, a little more than half the songs on M-Double-A-L's EP made the cut. But you have to give the MC/producer (and Cleveland native) credit for working behind the mic and the boards to create a worthy introduction.
His voice resembles a more suave Xzibit with a verse/chorus/verse attack akin to Rakim, giving fans of Cadence Weapon and Mr. Lif a new local underground hero. And while the title track and “Come Around” suffer from rudimentary audio quality, bangers like “5000” and the Debbie Deb-sampling “Bring U Down” will appeal to old-school hardliners and indie hipsters alike.
M-Double often moves too quickly to fully develop his analogies and themes, but it's hard not to root for him when he spits, “To me the unemployment line's another album budget / I take that money plus a couple up and make the world love it.” If this guy ever gets his hands on a real budget, look out. —Seth Combs
The MoviegoersOr the Gun
This indie-rock collaborative delivers a collection of tracks rife with textured guitars and vocals that are woven together in a menagerie of melancholy. On the sadder side of The Replacements and the happier side of Elliott Smith, Or the Gun is a five-song effort that needs time to breathe. The first few listens may not prick up your ears, but it gets better the more times you listen. The standout track is “SS Vaseline,” sucking you in with an uneven riff and bringing you way down with sleepy vocals before building you up again with a wall of sound. Ah, dynamics.—Paul SaitowitzThe Moviegoers play Thursday, July 27, at The Casbah.
Podunk NowhereBased on a True Story
By most accounts, Ocean Beach is not a particularly desolate or depressing place. But the O.B. duo Podunk Nowhere has clearly spent enough time in desperate towns to deliver familiar feelings of isolation and uncertainty that inevitably lead to an empty bottle at the end of a long night.
Reminiscent of a revved-up Hem while channeling the lyrical resignation of Whiskeytown-era Ryan Adams, Podunk offers nine tracks of bartender commiseration to get you through until morning. Some tracks (like “Devious”) will set off involuntary, if melancholy, foot tapping while others (standout “Tin Pan Alley”) follow you down as you try to “stay a drink ahead of every curse.”
On the rare occasions when the lyrics lapse too deep into conventional storytelling (“Soul Spinning”), they're rescued by the raw sincerity of the vocals and sparse instrumentation. Ultimately, Based on a True Story goes where alt-country has always intended to venture: through the gut-wrenching struggles of an unsympathetic world where surviving means finding the strength to face another day.—Lucas O'ConnorPodunk Nowhere plays Saturday, Aug. 2, at Claire de Lune.