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Monday, June 29, 2009

Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears: "Tell 'Em What Your Name Is"

I had the priviledge to see Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears on tour with Mates of State in the Spring of 2008, before anyone outside of Austin, TX really had any idea who this "big band" was. The show was energetic and entertaining, but after about 20 minutes, I felt myself becoming disinterested with the music. Songs started to run into one another, sounding far too similar. The constant barage of brass and sax began to sound more calculated than it should have. Simply put; I got bored. In the front row of a loud, energetic performance; I got bored. When I got my hands on the band's debut album, my sincere hope was that this was a one time thing; that it was no fault of the band, but just a consequence of an off day on my part.

The album begins with what I feel is its strongest song, "Gunpowder." With the band fully cranked up to 11, Lewis' vocals are howled out of the speakers in an exciting, near-unintelligible manner. Everything from the drums to the trumpet just seem to click, and it works! Boy, does it work! "Sugarfoot" tones things down a bit, but for the most part maintains the lead-off's unfathomable energy and spirit!

Where things go slightly arry is on the song "I'm Broke," in which Lewis proudly exclaims "I'm broke/ everybody knows." It's somewhat humorous, but entirely uncatchy and lacking in the soul of its two predecessors. The album would be fine if it could recover immediately from this disappointment, but it fails to do so. Tracks 4 - 6 are entirely forgettable, and though I get the aim of "Master Sold My Baby," its execution is ultimately flawed.

Things pick back up with "Get Yo Shit," a song that is pure entertainment. Joe tells the story of how he comes home to a "crazy" girl, how they have an argument, and how he ultimately leaves the situation. The best line has to be when his girl claims that he never buys her presents. He responds with, "I bought you a box of chicken but I ate it on the way home." Hilarious! "Humpin'," a catchy and worthwhile instrumental, and "Bobby Booshay" keep the momentum moving all the way to the final track, "Please Pt. 2." It's not the greatest song on the album, but it's definitely worth listening to.

If the Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears set out to disprove my original "these songs all sound the same" assessment, they more or less succeeded. However, the diversity of the album is also its downfall, as tracks like "Master Sold My Baby" and "Big Booty Woman" don't seem to serve any tangible purpose other than to mix things up a bit. The band is at their best when they are loudly careening out of control, keeping the people moving. There are times on the album where they seem to lose sight of that. Despite this, Tell 'Em What Your Name Is remains an enjoyable introduction to a band heavily influenced by legendary artists like Otis Redding and James Brown. If you find yourself in the mood for some old school funk and soul, you could definitely do worse.

Key Tracks:
1. "Gunpowder"
2. "Sugarfoot"
3. "Get Yo Shit"
4. "Humpin'"
5. "Bobby Booshay"

6 out of 10 Stars

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

29 in 2009 - Led Zepplin: "House of the Holy"

Led Zepplin: House of the Holy
Originally Released: March 28, 1973
Genre: Rock
Rating: 9 out of 10

If you're looking for an Audio Overflow review of House of the Holy, you should look here, as one's already been done. Not by me, of course, but by some other writer who hung out here for a while.

If, however, you're looking for what is probably the most varied, yet consistently entertaining rock album to ever grace these ears, you should look no further than Led Zepplin's 1973 masterpiece. My "relationship" with Zepplin has always been weird. I have always been passingly familiar with their most-famous tunes; familiar enough to even say, "Yeah, I like Zepplin." But had I ever actually sat down and spent time with the band, fully digesting everything that they have to offer? Nope. That's one of the reasons why I added this album to this series. I really wanted a good excuse to listen to an entire Led Zepplin album in full.

House of the Holy is a roller coaster ride of rock goodness, beginning with the upbeat, guitar-heavy track, "The Song Remains the Same." If you've never listened to Zepplin before (who hasn't?) then this song is really the perfect introduction, as it showcases the band members' individual talents proudly. Jimmy Page is a f***ing FORCE on the electric guitar, John Bonham is a BEAST on drums, Robert Plant is an ANIMAL on the mic, and John Paul Jones is...well...a bass player. Sorry.

That song collapses into the beautiful "The Rain Song," Erin's (the aforementioned AO writer) favorite Led Zepplin song of all time. The song is the exact opposite of its predecessor, featuring soft pianos and lush string instrumentation. Bonham's drums are even more powerful here as they playfully interact with the guitar and never overpower a thing. Is it my favorite Zepplin song? Nope, that still belongs to "Misty Mountain Top," but damn!

Elsewhere on the album are the fantastic "The Crunge" - a confusing, yet wholly enjoyable rock freak-out that only gets better as you listen to it over and over again - and "D'yer Mak'er" - an island-esque ballad that was the first Zepplin song I can ever remember hearing. It's brilliant in its simplicity, and a whole lot of fun to sing at karaoke (probably the only Zepplin song that any sane person would attempt, too). "Dancing Days" is another fun guitar-rocker, and one of the band's more famous tracks, though it never charted well in its day.

So what do I think of House of the Holy? I think it's a fantastic rock album. Easily one of the best of that decade, if not ever! There isn't a single bad track on this album, and every song shows a different side of the band that you never would have guess existed. Honestly, to think that the band playing on "The Crunge" is the same band playing on "D'yer Mak'er" is mind-blowing. Aside from Plant's iconic vocals, they are entirely different in both their influences and execution. That, to me, is what makes this such a fascinating listen. It is an album worth coming back to over and over again, as I'm sure millions have done over the course of the last 36 years.

Verdict: Classic

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Run Dan Run Run Through NYC

Note: It's okay to be entirely confused by that title. There's far too many "runs" for anyone's good up there, but that's how these things work sometimes.

Say what you want about Audio Overflow ("man this writing is really amateur," "geez, this guy sounds alarmingly attractive"), but one thing is definitely true, I try to be good to the artists that I like; especially ones that have been featured on the blog. Last year, I reviewed Basic Mechanics, the debut album from Charleston, SC band Run Dan Run (7 out of 10, described as "impressive").

Well Run Dan Run has put together a new acoustic EP (that's really good, btw) and set out to take over New York City. The band will be playing 5 shows in the Big Apple beginning this Saturday, June 27th in support of their second release as a band. Here's the flyer:
You can preview a couple of tracks from the EP on the band's Myspace page. As an added bonus, the band will be giving out a free copy of 27 Coming St. (the EP) with every admission to the July 1st show.

If you're in the New York area, do yourself a favor and check out this up-and-coming band. Tell Dan that Cale from Audio Overflow sent you and you may get a little something extra (a high-five is all I can promise).

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

29 in 2009 - The Doors: "The Doors"

The Doors: The Doors
Originally Released: January 4, 1967
Genre: Rock
Rating: 6 out of 10

When I first sat down to listen to this album, I took a look at the tracklist and recognized the name of two songs. Obviously, those two are "Light My Fire" and "Break on Through (To the Other Side)" - really, their two most-notable songs. I thought to myself, "Cool, I like those songs. I'll probably like this album." For the most part, that's true. The Doors' self-titled debut is a classic American rock album that's totally deserving of all the hoopla that surrounded it then and all the nostalgia that follows it now.

A quick note on "Break On Through"...Whoah! Could this be the greatest song to ever be Track 1 on a debut album? Probably. The song perfectly captures the essence of the band, and honestly whole feel of the late sixties (or at least what I imagine the late sixties to have been like). It's simplistic, honestly, though its power rests mostly within the ferocious howls of the legendary (yet overhyped) Jim Morrison. The song is followed by "Soul Kitchen," a song which may even be better than the album's famous lead-off single. That debate is to be had another day on another random blog. Not here, sadly.

Some of the album's better songs also include "Twentieth Century Fox," "Light My Fire," and "Take it as it Comes." The latter, unfortunately, is the sole track on the album's second half (or Side Two for you old folks out there) that is even remotely interesting to me. "The End," while completely open to dissection and discussion, as a song just doesn't do a thing. Twelve minutes of nonsense if you ask me.

So there are those four songs that I've mentioned enjoying; the rest is either just not my style ("The Crystal Ship" or "I Looked at You") or just downright poor ("Alabama Song" or "Back Door Man"). I can handle, "End of the Night" sometimes, but I just have to be in the right mood. You see, The Doors is not an awful album by any means, but it is definitely a debut; equal parts greatness and missteps. That's too be expected, I suppose, though it's a little disappointing considering the hype that surrounds the band. I guess when the "star" dies at 27, hype is inevitably part of the equation (does anyone care to argue that Nirvana was really that good?).

In these days of digital downloads, I'd be much more inclined to tell someone to download the handful of great tracks off of this album rather than go out and purchase the whole thing. That, to me, is a sign that an album doesn't deserve the "classic" label. So this one won't be receiving it from me. It is a good album though. Weak at parts, but definitely worth listening to.

And am I the only one that finds the organ annoying 90% of the time?

Verdict: Overrated

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Saturday, June 06, 2009

Adventures in Audio: Of Montreal and Bon Iver

There was a time, ladies and gentlemen, when I updated this blog at least 5 times a week (2008 as I recall). One of the things that I never really did during that period was actually write a lot of stuff as informal blog entries, opting instead for a more professional slant. Now that I don't update near as much as I used to, I feel much more comfortable just writing about the music that I happen to be listening to. No agenda or focus, just writing. Whether or not you'll enjoy what I have to say has yet to be seen, but at this point I'm beyond trying to impress with my writing.

Or my logo-design, as fate would have it.

So this past week, the 1st week in June of 2009, most of my music-listening time has been divided between two artists: Of Montreal and Bon Iver. Let's start with the first, and most obvious.

It's no secret that Of Montreal is my favorite band on the planet. Aside from me saying that on numerous occasions, there's also that exhaustive Top 40 Of Montreal Songs list that I typed up last year and nobody really cared about. One album that was absent from that list entirely was the 2002 Tour-Only CD, If He is Protecting Our Nation, Then Who Will Protect Big Oil, Our Children? Now I've had the CD in my collection for several years now, but for the most part I always just brushed it off without ever really giving it a fair shake. Something compelled me to put it on this week, and I've been listening almost non-stop ever since. Seriously, over 90 plays this week according to my page.

The CD has a few week tracks, sure, but songs like "An Ill-Treated Hiccup" and The Zombie's cover, "Friends of Mine" are absolutely winners, and probably should've been included in my Top 40 list. The really tricky thing about this album is that there are two versions of it, the 2002 self-released version (which I have) and the 2003 Track and Field version. The biggest difference between the two is the omission of "Neru no Daisuki" on the newer version. This song is absolutely fantastic and is actually a Japanese version of the song "An Ode to the Nocturnal Muse" from their album, Aldhils Arboretum. I feel bad for saying it, but I totally dig the Japanese version. It's more uptempo, and Kevin sings it with much more enthusiasm. It's also available on the Japanese version of Coquelicot, I believe. Either way, you'll have a tough time obtaining it. Unless, of course, a really cool blogger happens to upload a copy for your streaming pleasure. But where are you gonna find someone that cool?

On the exact opposite side of the musical spectrum we have Bon Iver, a name I have heard several times over the last year and a half and am only now getting around to listening to. The album, For Emma, Forever Ago is near-flawless in its bleak, wintery-ness, and the song "Creature Fear" is just beautiful (as are "Flume" and "Blindsided"). I'm kind of upset that it took me so long to get around to it, and kind of upset that no one even cared to leave a comment saying "Hey Cale, you should check out that new Bon Iver. It's the bomb diggity!"

So if there are two albums that I would definitely tell you to check out today, they are:


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