Salem’s Whirlees exhibit many of the idiosyncracies that a band acquires through playing together for countless gigs over a long, long time—for what was once a trashy garage band has matured into a fairly eloquent ensemble, capable of a surprising range of stylistic nuance and variation. Still, it remains true that you can take the band out of the garage but you can’t take the garage out of the hand. And the Whirlees are a garage hand all the way. But a real good one.
And those of you fond of Vaughn Berger’s three-pack-a-day growl will dig the first two cuts “Bump lnto Ugly” and “Friendly Reminder” — the former driven by guitarist Scot Hofstetter’s manic wah-wah, like a track left over from a Status Quo session circa 1967; the latter which is propelled through several changes by Mike Jones’ ﬂuid basswork — artfully working in conjunction with Hofstetter‘s rhythm guitar. A line break distinguishes the cut as well, with Hofstetter gnarling out a metal flavored wrangle.
But for me, this recording really begins at cut three, with the twistedly delightful “My Medicine.” The tune kicks of with what sounds like an antique vibrato guitar lick and is quickly joined at a dead run by the bass in a swaggering, Pagey “Peter Gunn” riff, over which Vaughn howls, sounding like a young Mick Jagger in heat. Hofstetter’s wrenching, moaning solo nails the tune to the wall —- a frenetic. cranked up journey through Hell. Segue without pause into almost the same rill‘ (upside down and hackwards) of “Girl Named God:“ a hopped up, ballsy crunch-out—relentlessly motivated by the incessant maneuvering of Jones and Hofstetter in frantic tandem. Hofstetter double tracks riff mayhem into an unexpected close. Oof.
And just when you start to wonder if Vaughn might have any more weapons in his vocal arsenal (other than his stalwart wolfish snarl), he comes in smooth on “’Tattoo.” Then, while the band skips through a spooky bluesy thang, Vaughn heads into the ring modulator, sounding like a voice unearthed and groaning through Paul DeLay‘s vacant harp mic. Scary. Hofstetter and Jones whack through the turnarounds like expert hatchet men.
A faithful, but improved remake of their 1990 single ‘‘In My Groove“ follows, riding on Hofstetter‘s galloping ritfs. “Downstairs” is a twangy ballad which features some nice bass-chord work by Jones in the intro and chorus. “Lullaby” presents the classic rock couplet — “She doesn’t look very good in a dress/ It always ends up around her neck,“ while a tom tilled soup boils underneath. A catchy chorus rilles this puppy right in between Aerosmith and early 70’s Stones.
And while we‘re talking 70’s, check out the “American Woman” meets “Whole Lotta Love” feel of “Tadpole” before it struts off into the hardwalk of the verse, and the dark brood of the thrashy chorus. “Mystery” riffs away on the low guitar strings over a hoppity paradiddle rhythm train, chuggin‘ down the track.
The Whirlees is a party starter if ever there was one. The drunken joyful quality the band exudes, echoes The Replacements at times, though these boys rock harder and are a lot tighter. The Whirlees are one tight band. They’ll riff you till your brain don’t riff no more. And riff you again just for spite. Buy this recording. Play this recording. Be this recording.
I remember the first time I witnessed the Incredible John Davis experience. It was June of ’82. John was playing the Mexican restaurant dungeon of La Bamba. A one-man hand to the 10th power. He played a weird hi-hat/syn-drum set-up with his left foot, a key-bass pedal with his right, wild crazy freaked out guitar over which he sang and occasionally played the harmonica. I always wondered what held John back (besides four years in the federal pen for using artiﬁcial light). But now I know. He didn’t wear his underpants on the outside of his jeans. And he didn’t wear a gold lame cape.
If he had, Roger Nusic would have to be someone else. Oh their trips are different, to be sure. John was the misanthrope, whereas Roger calls all his fans his lovers. But these two boys have one thing entirely in common: rampant ingenuous creativity.
“Electric Boy” is a peppy piece of Who-y goo, a confection that lodges in the brain like a chunk of gum webbing between the synapses. Sludgy, over-driven guitar blades cut the path. Has anybody seen Syd Barrett lately? “I Am” is a Devo out-take with a noisy mosquito of a guitar, that goes on way too long in the solo. “Closing Down the Century” is a thrashy little rant that reminds of XTC’s “Living Through Another Cuba” on, like, really speedy acid; or the Sex Pistols jamming with the Clash. Interesting.
“There is Only One” would seem to be a piece of the Nusic liturgy which you either buy or get sick of pretty quick, uh luvvers. It grooves well in a BOC blustery sort of way. “Can I Come In and See You” succeeds despite its sappy intro, overwhelming with a hook big enough to land a marlin. “Long Hair” is early 80’s Stonesy, hangin’ surf ﬁre with a little Bowie/T-Rex on the top. “One” restates the liturgy for those who missed it earlier, but packages it nicely in a Beatle-y big chord hunka pop stuff.
“Who is It Knocking” asks the musical question Wild Man Fischer forgot to ask in 1969, and David Byrne knew the answer to with “Don’t Worry About the Government” in 1977. “She Was” may bring Jonathan Richman or They Might Be Giants to mind, the jangly electric guitar is a welcome relief to the buzzy overdrive. A very odd. song, but disarmingly catchy. “What Is the Name” could he a B-52’s out-take — and for good reason. It’s boring. And really long. “Bleach Boys” is funny. Cheeky. Pithy. Kinda Kinksy. Kinda strange. Dig the whacked out mega-solo. Yikes. “Hallelu” would be a continuation of the aforementioned liturgy, a little bit of which goes a long way—especially since it is comprised of the most shopworn of biblical cliches.
“l’m Flying” is quaintly inoffensive, an excellent start to “Peter Pan” the Punk Musical. A very cool guitar solo saves this cut from the novelty bin of Ziggy Stardust clones. “We Are the Lost Children” is Zappa meets Moby Grape. Second chapter in the “Peter Pan’? thing. You think I’m kidding…
“Daniel in the Middle” is more baloney ﬂavored bible stories. “Bring Me a Star” is drunken hula music with a fab violin solo to tie in with the festive feel. “I Want You” is a nutty kinda Talking Heads ’77 thing with more cool violin, this time in a jiggy bagpipe sequence. Hey, Rog. The ﬁddle works. I’d be crankin’ that sucker up more often.
And more than half of the 17 songs included on this too-long opus are great. That’s a good batting average. But there’s a lot of what Jesus would call “chaff” thrown in here for no good reason. It’s probably unfortunate for Roger’s whole schtick that his secular music is far superior to his songs of religious conviction, which ring hollow and shallow. But it’s hard not to like the guy. He’s wearing somebody‘s drapes fer chrissake.
Here’s an intriguingly schizophrenic outfit that has a lot going for it, though the parts are greater than the whole at this point. Just the same, Monde La Bella are a band with a future. Apparently Dan Reed feels the same way, since this recording is one of the first to emerge from his fledgling Hypedreamz Records label. Reed co- produced the project with Tony Lash. So it goes without saying that this recording sounds real good.
And there’s a lot to sound good. Vocalist/lyricist Carrie White has a big, operatic voice that far overshadows in power and majesty anybody else’s that I can think of. Huge voice. And her supporting cast, particularly guitarist Ken de Rouchie and bassist Kade Kemmer are capable of a variety of moods and tones. The title track rumbles grungily, while White wails like a Valkyrie en route to Valhalla or Somewhere. But then comes the chorus chorus and everything comes to a dead halt — “I peel through the sky/I appeal to the cake/ thick with yak butter/ in which I cannot take Whut?
Much more successful are the Cocteau-like “Octopus Arms” and the scintillating “Drove Around the World” which is propelled by de Rouchie’s dancing low-string riff and drummer Scott Adamo’s hard smacking rim shots. White displays a propensity for vocal dynamics and nuance which her peers among the fem-core would do well to emulate. Anyway she chimes in on “Drove You with a kind of odd melody. By the time the kick and snarling bass arrive on the second verse, this tune is in some weird acousticy overdrive. A unique sound that works. Not so “Secret Agenda,” which drops the names of esoteric movies, but fails to make any sort of emotional connection to its subject matter.
Melodically the song goes nowhere. “You Drank From Me” comes back strong, combining a ﬁne guitar ﬁlagree, with a Camper Van-like violin ﬁgure provided by Kaitlyn ni Donovan. A hard crunching middle section fused by the arc of de Rouchie‘s ﬂaming guitar, welds the song in place.
“Van Gogh” suffers from a boring melody that simply follows the boring chord progression. “A Woman’s Tale“ suffers from the same fate. “Long Pale Land” tries to be profound but stumbles over its own misplaced similes: “I’ll think of you and carry your words/ on my chest just like a mask …” Huh?
“Where You Wanna Go” works well, given its strange story line. Sounds dirt eating urgent. And “Diary of Pleasures” is an exciting tour de Rouchie and a ﬁne vehicle for Carrie’s prowess as well.
Monde La Bella are a very promising band. Their ensemble work is rock solid, unusual and evocative. Exquisite Corpse delivers evidence of a huge possible talent in Carrie White. But she has much to work on. Her lyrics show a poetic nature. But, as with the melodies she employs, Carrie too often seems to be satisﬁed with whatever comes to mind lyrically. With a little more effort in both categories, Carrie will have quality material to which she may apply all the various and manifold abilities at her command
Yoy! Here are four lads who purvey a diligent, unremittent sludge. Punctuated by Joe Wickstrom’s bass forays, the title cut serves as a vehicle to demonstrate Anzio’s strengths and‘ weaknesses. The strengths are a tight rhythm section and commendable ensemble work. That the vocals are nearly buried in the mix, slathered with an effect that gives them a bullhorn quality—goes a long way toward disguising the fact that the lyrics are mostly unintelligible gibberish. “And I’ll show you, I’ll show you the way/Look into my eyes.” Yeah. Right!
“Sunday” sets up a cool groove, a lurching syncopated shuffle that swings into hard hitting turnarounds. As to what the boys would have you understand regarding their stance toward “Sunday mornings,” little is known, but they certainly undergo a lot of musical changes in arriving at that murkey destination. Likewise, the litany of anomic cliches that props up “Dedicate” are little more than rehashed Alice in Cobwebs. “I Remain” crunches well,
once it ﬁnally gets rolling past the embarrassing tribal/aborigine intro. Attempts at a sort of spiritual profundity are subverted severely by incredibly dumb lyrics—delivered earnestly enough. The song subsequently degenerates into aimless musical shots in the dark. Solo showcases and groove extrapolations. Yahoo.
“End Without a Note“ is a jam without a point. And that would be a fair assessment of Anzio Bridgehead. For here they demonstrate some solid playing—nothing groundbreaking, but certainly proﬁcient. And the project is impeccably recorded. But they just don’t have anything to say.
Picklehead is the work of a well-known local cartoonist whose identity (in order to keep the name calling and shit slinging to a minimum) I demur to divulge. Anyway, we’ll call him R.R. here, and he knows his way around the craft of writing pop-songs as well. Check out “Quite My Job,” a snappy Replacements — like ditty detailing the demise of an occupation. “You Had a Walk” is a sarcastic catalogue of a young starlet‘s most obvious assets — a chunky piece of surf/folk.
“G.F.U.” hints at Jane’s Addiction while depicting a stressful Attempt at interaction in a situation Where that is impossible guitarist Kevin Sanders uncorks several delightfully succinct solos throughout the proceedings — particularly on the intro to “Someone Better,” and the raw middle section as well.
While there is nothing here that’s over the top exactly, Please offers energetic hooky tunes that are memorable in a disposable kind of way that’s so popular in these, the discreet 90’s Old R.R.‘s hip to the trip, babe.
Here is the result of a three- month long campaign mounted by an enterprising band. For, contained among the eight songs are the three cassingles reviewed here in months passed. In addition, the band have included five other tunes that were only available before on rare demo recordings — with additional electric guitar tracks inserted by recent convert Michael Dion.
And to be sure, Dion’s contribution, along with that of bassist supremo Jonathan Drechsler, has helped to solidify the core of the music Robert and Gina create. Robert Noel has been writing and performing his songs with his ex-wife Gina for nearly 10 years in Portland — since the two of them returned to her home town from Michigan. Dion and Drechsler provide the strongest support and Gina have ever had behind their act.
This band has angels hovering around it. Don’t say I didn’t try to alert you, if one day soon they just slipped out of town and became real well known. They have acquired a sound that is unique and intelligently assembled. And such precision is bound to be rewarded one day.