There seems to be some confusion as to whether Tao Jones have truly re-grouped, or have merely played a few recent gigs to promote this release. Whatever the case may be, there are six previously unreleased songs to be uncovered among the twelve presented here. All combine to showcase the stalwart esotericism which has always made of the band an acquired taste.
The first two cuts, “Sally” and “Pretty Blue” appear to be remakes (or re-mixes at the very least) of versions first heard on their debut release Pyorrhea from 1992. Both cuts highlight the intense jazz/funk/folk fusion of the three piece band which spectacularly supports the leather-lung exhortations of Leah Welch. Steady rhythmic syncopations and counterpoints from the drums are fleshed out by the frenetic agitation of the funky bass and the cool modulations of the guitar. As if the Mahavishnu Orchestra were backing up Sinead O’Connor. Curious.
“Perspectives” calls to mind Adrian Belew, intricate triplets filigree between the guitar and bass, flitting wildly as Leah echoes from above. The rolling train of “Olive” rumbles down the track in a fashion uncharacteristically straight-ahead, nearly reminiscent of 4 Non-Blondes.
The remake of ” Brother” from Pyorrhea gives full indication of how far the band has evolved in their years together, several searing guitar salvos through the body of the song still offer no warning for the scorching roil riff between the guitar and bass which takes the tune out and into the brief tone koan of “Tadpole.” The bass slithers and slides through the sinewy intro of “Someone I Used To Know” before the ensemble kick into more familiar turf where wailing Leah gooses a Gaelic yodel above the churning boil of the instruments. The remake of the polyrhythmic “Nothing’s Changed” highlights one of Tao Jones’ considerable strengths–tremendously adept instrumental interplay.
“Gone” and “Aretha” are included here for those who neglected to pick up last years single version of the same cuts. “Grandma’s Chair” exhibits a higher level of sophistication by the band, especially Leah who sings more and hollers less with satisfyingly positive results. The Belew-like guitar movements are better integrated with her vocal, as well. Similarly the eerie lullaby of “Pisces” gives rise to speculation as to the bands’ future endeavors and the direction to which they might migrate.
Tao Jones serves as a fine sampler for an inscrutable band. They are out of the ordinary and not easily pigeon-holed in a world which prefers such easy distinctions. But for those who are willing to apply themselves to the task of unraveling thecomplex manifestations of their intramural creativity, great rewards can be secured from the work of Tao Jones.
Here’s a full packaged follow-up to last year’s critically acclaimed cassette, Field Trip, featuring fourteen power pop tunes that fuse elements of U-2, Toad the Wet Sprocket, the Mieces and the Replacements into an intoxicating brew of some considerable potency; undercut, somewhat by a pervading air of sloppiness.
“Scary Stupid Small” illustrates this improbable fusion. Guitarists John Brunco and Bryan Everett combine to form a gritty drone movement while bassist Phil Collier accents 8th notes and tonics. The feel is early U-2, the momentum is closer to the Mieces. The tune succeeds, despite the fact that it really doesn’t have much of a chorus.
The title cut sounds like early Toad. As a vocalist, Everett is somewhat non descript– though he does exude a certain post-adolescent angst which probably appeals immensely to his extended peer group. The rhythm section tend to dwell with the rhythm guitars in 8th note land, which worked well on U-2’s Boy in 1980. “Nail Scarred ” shows more imagination from all involved. Well executed rhythm changes are controlled by drummer Steve Deters. Everett’s vocal displays sensitivity and a clearer notion of pitch, delivering a plaintive melody. Brunco and Collier allow for some space on the guitar and the bass. “So Blown” reverts halfway back to the former stylistic shortcomings.
“33” nearly recovers ETB’s direction, though Brunco sometimes displays a propensity for wandering a bit further than his knowledge of the frets will allow. Shortening the solos will solve that, as on “Ino”– where an acoustic guitar is introduced into the mix as well: with positive results. “Hands” reveals a tougher sound that works well. Brunco’s twisted riffs are a standout.
But the hit of the set is “Nameless.” Uncharacteristically, the song begins as a drowsy ballad, led along by Collier’s smudgy bass chords. Despite a poorly tuned guitar, the song builds substantially in intensity; eventually arriving at Everett’s powerful chorus: “You use your pride and hate with skill/And change the truth to fit your bill.” Potentially, this is a hit song. But not this version.
“Grandma Swore” grows on you after awhile, exposing a Paul Westerberg influence along the way. “Anyday” continues successfully to mine a certain sound reminiscent of the Replacements, as well. “If I Could Only Dream” has charms to recommend it, as does the occasionally terrible “Jeff.”
Evil Twin Brother are sometimes pretty terrible. The instruments are out of tune, the drums fall out of time, and the vocals are flat and tuneless. Despite all this, they seem destined for greatness. Many of these songs stand on their own. Clearly, more than half have an unique sound of some majesty–if not as yet fully realized nor clearly defined.
If the band can summon the will to commit the time it will take to become as good as their songs often are– by rehearsing and gigging and refining the things they do well–Evil Twin Brother would seem clearly destined for notoriety.
The Evil Twins, and everyone else for that matter, would do well to check out this masterfully recorded and powerfully performed gem–the finest recording yet to come from the Schizophonic label out of Salem.
Instrumentally, Skiploader hale from Smashing Pumpkins territory–jagged distorted guitars erecting angular riffs, rhythm section providing the momentum. But Skiploader are no drone clones. Drummer Jeffrey Turner and bassist Craig Koozer are rhythm section Gods, snaking between time signatures and tempo changes like summertime skiers, navigating rock torn glaciers at high speed.
And many of the songs come from a Dando/Hatfield perspective. Thomas Ackerman’s vocals share a personality with those of Evan Dando, the shrewd diffidence of which betray a deeper emotional content. The vocals are subtly, but demonstratively augmented by Kevin Higgins’ stratospheric guitar-work.
Each cut is deserving of praise, but several are worthy of extended certification. The first two tracks, “No” and “Hasty in C#Major,” are like two sides of the same stylistic coin, demonstrating Skiploader’s abundant potency . “No” hinges on Higgins’ raspy guitar lick, which eventually comes around to be the hook at the chorus. Ackerman’s vocals are assured and compelling, Turner and Koozer segue through each quirky time change with effortless ease. Higgins contributes another memorable riff extension to lead into “Hasty,” a cut that could easily pass as an Afghan Whigs tune. It carries as much power an punch.
Turner pounds out the accents behind Ackerman in the verses of “All Smiles,” creating a tension that releases for a measure in the turnarounds, before regenerating all over again. The guitar interlude in the middle section is a thing of uncommon grandeur, recalling the master Page himself.
“King Of The Hill” runs along the path that Higgins axes into the dense jungle of Turner’s snare and tom fills, before resolving into the restraint of the verse. And the innovative interaction between the guitar and bass in the chorus is incredibly imaginative and complex in composition.
But for the apparent maleness of Ackerman’s vocal disposition, “Hubris” could easily be a hopped up Juliana Hatfield song, complete with self-consciously ingenuous insights: “I don’t trust how I’m starting to like my own voice/the sounds of my head swelling” and “Guess I was cooler when I hated myself.”
The savage intro to “Unlimited…” seamlessly incorporates the vocal into the architecture, creating some Lemonhead hybrid: Dando fronting the Whigs, perhaps– to marvelous effect. “Gyp” maybe adopts some Smashing Pump mood dogma as a context for exposition, while retaining a distinctively original sound of it’s own. Incredibly concise ensemble work– rhythmic displays of unbelievable dexterity.
“Baker’s Chocolate” soars and trills upon Higgins’ guitar; clucking spasmodically through the verses, roaring brutally though the chorus. Koozer’s stutteringly melodic bassline provides the foundation for “Another Billy,” Higgins responds to the bass figure in a manner similar to “King Of The Hill,” interweaving a separate theme
Finally the thirteenth and title track “Sprainy” is an excursion into the twilight zone of rock last entered by John Lennon in “Revolution #9.” Don’t let the false ending fool you. The cut goes on for ten minutes. Everything you want to know about hotel management.
Without a doubt, Skiploader’s Sprainy is far and away the most important recording to come from the local scene this year, This is a project of considerable depth and a wealth of invention. No corners cut. No superfluous bullshit. Intelligent lyrics. Thoughtful, sophisticated presentation. Stalwart musicianship. Stellar execution.
Buy three copies. Give one to a friend. Play one every day for everyone you know. Hide the other copy. The one you play will get lifted soon enough.
Here’s a fine effort from Pilot, well recorded and well rendered. The intro to “Fork For A Tongue” vibrates from the bazouki-like tone of Jeremy Wilson’s acoustic guitar, pulsing with Ric Johnston’s bass. Patrick Gundran’s guitar moans through the clouds of smoke the mood creates. Jeremy’s voice is quietly strong through the A section, where Gundran’s guitar alternately chimes then cries in a cello-like tone. Drummer Eric Alto kicks in at the B section, as Jeremy breaks into a shout and the full band moves into the churning drone of the C section, “And it feels so alive.” Where Jeremy almost sounds like Peter Gabriel for a moment, before the loose footing of the song gives way to a modified Section A, before returning to the reaffirming anthem of the C section, chanting the word life. A Beatleseque extended fade completes the opus. Without sounding much at all like the Beatles, Pilot manage to capture a piece of their spirit, transforming a 60’s cliché into the spiritual battle cry of the loveless 90’s: all you need is life.
“Another Day Has Begun” is more straight-ahead, in a Pilot sense, cutting through most of the lyrical material with nary a sideward excursion. A brief, but effective guitar solo leads back to the verse. A simple song with an enigmatic storyline.
Though the music and sentiments contained on this record could hardly be regarded as controversial, there is a certain depth in Pilot’s ostensible message and obvious courage in their unequivocal stance.
National Dust Records
Speaking of the fab four, check out the Jimmies’ “65 Miles”– like the Sex Pistols doing a version of “She Loves You,” from Hell. Nuance free. Dynamic free. High octane two beat rocketfuel propelling a lawn mower across the Garden of Eden. Get out of the way or get run over. Energy supersedes intention. Function is its own motivation. The end. Song over.
“John Skobs” only proves to be even more relentless still, surging over four occasional chords; racing like a runaway Pinto, stuck in second gear; hurtling ever forward, almost out of control. Only a telephone pole ending could forestall the motion.
The Jimmies will leave the finesse to some other outfit. Irrepressible rhino charges suit this band best. Wear a helmet and dive right in. If you want a message, go look for bottles on the beach.
A stirring three-piece, with an oblique outlook and a ballsy presentation which utilizes a few new wrinkles, to manifest a distinct vision.
While not particularly gifted as musicians, the Shaven play very well together what they play. Drummer Steve, bassist John, and guitarist Robert all contribute vocals. Robert adds a fiery harmonica to “Upsetting Mine,” a Who-ish update of the Pretenders’ “Middle Of The Road.” Robert rocks out squarely on the guitar solo peppering the finale with a whining harp overdub.
An ineffable swamp feel hovers like methane around these songs. Check out the intro to the Jam-like “Girl I Haven’t Met”–a tender love song with the touching chorus: “I think I smell her on my shirt/ I think there’s pants beneath her skirt/ Takes her shoes off in the dirt.” Robert obliges with a succinctly mordant guitar solo, which adds tone and texture to the melange.
“Clover” is the most successful of the three tunes. A dreamy vocal and a smart and sunny demeanor clothe a restless spirit, hearkening to early Material Issue in it’s simplicity and accessibility. Steve underpins the rhythm with deft acuity on the drums, while Robert hammers on a minimal two-chord figure, singing in a daze.
The Shaven display a great deal of savvy in the concoction of this record. They don’t waste their abilities and they don’t overextend them either. That fine balance is more easily described than attained. With the potential they show, there is every reason to expect to hear more from the Shaven.