Wednesday, September 26, 2012

LYNCH MOB "Sound Mountain Sessions"

(c) 2012 Rat Pak Records

  1. Slow Drag
  2. World Of Chance
  3. City Of Freedom
  4. Sucka
George Lynch--Guitars
Oni Logan--Vocals
Robbie Crane--Bass, Backing Vocals
Scott Coogan--Drums

I don't know what it is with George Lynch and EP releases.  Following up his own solo release a few months ago, George dusts off the Lynch Mob monicker, calls up his buddies Oni Logan, Scott Coogan, and Robbie Crane, and treats fans to one of the most satisfying mini-releases of 2012 so far.  Sound Mountain Sessions is a logical follow-up to the last full-length record, 2009's Smoke And Mirrors, but I think this EP is actually superior despite its brevity.  Oni Logan is in top form vocally, absolutely nailing the 70's-tinged bluesy, gritty feel of the four tracks included here, and the groove that is locked in by Coogan and Crane provides a solid framework for Lynch to work his magic upon.  In fact, I would say that this is Lynch's most inspired sounding (albeit not most technical) work in quite some time, relying on soul and feel more than flash and speed and tricks.

"Slow Drag" opens things off with a very Lynch-esque riff, but a much blusier vocal approach than Logan has used in past efforts.  In fact, I don't recall Logan spending this much time in his lower register for an entire song, let alone for an entire release.  That's a shame, as I feel this is the best Logan has ever sounded, tackling the 70's styled approach, a la Badlands, Red Sea, or other similar bands, with power and confidence.  As one would expect, there is a very nice Lynch solo on this track, but it's a cleaner-sounding, more understated type of solo that enhances, rather than dominates, the track.   

"World Of Chance" has another big vocal effort from Logan, especially on the chorus, but the dirty sound of the guitars on this mid-tempo groove-heavy rocker is what grabbed me the most.  Again, a perfectly-fit solo really connects this song which also features some excellent rhythm guitar and bass work.

"City Of Freedom" is probably the closest the album comes to an "anthem", if you will.  It still never reaches break-neck speed or anything like that, but the power of this track is impossible to deny, and the positive lyrics, propelled by Logan's powerhouse approach and Crane's adept backing vocals, really drive this track home.  Lynch takes a bit of a southern rock styled approach to the guitars here while still utilizing the bluesy style that is prevalent throughout the disc.       

For me, the real treat on this effort is the EP's closing track, "Sucka".  Featuring a scorching solo, "Sucka" also incorporates some rather unique tribal rhythms from Coogan during the chorus, and some pretty intense double-bass work near the end of the track.  I can imagine that this track will instantly find its way onto Lynch Mob mixes on iPods and mp3 players across the country, as it has that definitive Lynch Mob feel that I think has been at least partially absent since Wicked Sensation.  As such, this is probably the most "familiar" feeling of the tracks here, especially from Lynch, and really sets the stage for the next Lynch Mob effort, which I hope is next up after the T And A project Lynch and his former Dokken bandmates Jeff Pilson and "Wild" Mick Brown are completing.  I'm also hoping that Lynch keeps this particular version of the band intact, as Crane and Coogan are the perfect bottom end for this style of hard rock and the band sounds like a BAND, and not just a George Lynch backing vehicle, for the first time in a long time.  Perhaps this is due to the fact that every member of the band had a hand in writing the music on this disc, with Logan writing or co-writing all of the lyrics.

For those who care, the album comes in a digi-pack of sorts, with no lyrics, but a couple of nice photos and full credits.  Don't let that hold you back, however; get Sound Mountain Sessions as soon as you possibly can.  Just jump over to Rat Pak Records to snag your copy! 

Rating:  Crank this little gem to 8!

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SHIT THE COW "Volume/Cow"

(c) 2012 Independent Release

  1. Head Over Wheels
  2. Darkness Never Ending
  3. Shit The Cow Is On Fire
  4. Holy Cow
Daniel Kjellberg--Guitar/Bass
Peter Soderberg--Guitars/Vocals

Umm, no...this isn't a joke.  Shit The Cow is a very real, surprisingly good, two-man project from Sweden.  Labeling themselves as "scrapyard rock", Shit The Cow combines an Iggy Pop-meets-The Pet Shop Boys-meets-The Refreshments sound with some lo-fi garage rock sensibilities and a fair dose of 80's New Wave music thrown in.  If this sounds like an eclectic mix, it is.  If it sounds like it could be a train wreck of epic proportions....it certainly could be if not handled properly!  Perhaps it's a good thing this is just a 4-track EP, because I am not sure where this band would end up sonically if they went another four or five tracks!

The album opener has a punked-up surf rock sound to the guitars with synthesized vocals that really recall a lot of the 80's New Wave scene.  The raw bass thumping along with the programmed drums help provide the foundation for a lyrically-repetitive song that, for some reason, I find oddly catchy.  "Darkness Never Ending" continues the band's New Wave worship, but this time taking a darker musical slant that gives a nod to The Velvet Underground...as performed by Monster Magnet!  "Shit The Cow Is On Fire" is a sparse number that recalls some of the music recorded by the Refreshments, but with vocals that are a DEAD RINGER for those of Boys Don't Cry a la "I Wanna Be A Cowboy" from 1986 and one of the most ridiculous choruses I think I have ever heard.  And then, with the EP's closer, "Holy Cow" is the darkest sounding material on the disc, with quasi-angry vocal, fuzzed-up bass, and some noisy guitar tones muddling along through this 80's retro romp.  Do you get what I'm saying here?  There is really no simple way to identify what the band is doing here other than to say you likely haven't heard anything like it in quite some time, if ever.  This EP reminds me of the soundtrack of an 80's movie that would always feature one or two top 40 singles and then all sorts of underground garage rock.  In fact, I think you could take Volume/Cow and plug it into the background for Christian Slater's Pump Up The Volume, or Kiefer Sutherland's Lost Boys, with very few people knowing a difference at all as long as you left "Lunatic Fringe" and "Lost In The Shadows" in their respective movie's soundtrack!

The packaging is about as simple as it can get, as this EP comes in a cardboard slipcase with no pictures, notes, lyrics, or anything else.  Heck, had I not been sent what passes for the band's press kit along with the CD, I wouldn't even know who played on the disc!  This is a total indy project all the way. 

Shit The Cow is retro in the truest modern sense, and true children of the 70's and 80's are likely to feel a sense of nostalgia for 1986 Top 40 radio when they spin Volume/Cow.  I will NEVER say that Shit The Cow is going to be a frequent player for me...but I will say I would like to hear more from these two guys, if for no other reason than to see if the train wreck I mentioned in the opening paragraph ever occurs!

Available on iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon.com if you choose to check it out...

Rating:  Rock this to a bizarre...and still charming...6.5.

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ANOTHER LOST YEAR "Better Days"

(c) 2012 Megaforce Records/Thermal Entertainment

  1. Better Days
  2. War On The Inside
  3. All That We Are
  4. Broken
  5. What I Deserve
  6. Angels
  7. Runaway
  8. Last Goodbye
  9. Writing On The Wall
  10. Come And Gone
  11. Forgot About Us
Clinton Cuanan--Lead Vocals
Adam Hall--Vocals/Guitar
David Whitaker--Guitars
Lee Norris--Drums
Andrew Allender--Bass

Ok, let's get it out of the way.  One of the first things people are going to say about Another Lost Year is how much Cuanan sounds like Scott Stapp of Creed at times.  There.  Said it.  Get over it.  Now, to be fair, I have never been a Creed/Stapp hater like so many others.  Sure, some of their radio material was pretty whimpy, but that was what was frustrating...the best Creed songs were left on the album.  Let's hope that isn't the case with AYL because Better Days has a lot of solid material to offer...and a couple of lesser tracks, as well.

The album's opener is a solid, if unspectacular modern rocker, but the lead single, "War On The Inside" is a definite keeper, as the melodic mid-tempo rocker really showcases the strengths of this North Carolina band, as does the follow-up track, "All That We Are", which really lets the band explore their harder rocking sound.  "Broken" fits this mode as well, kicking off with a crunching guitar riff and pounding drums before Cuanan's vocals power this song into what I feel is a can't miss hit at modern rock radio.  The same can be said for the killer album closer, "Forgot About Us", which may be the sleeper track of the disc, with it's buzzing guitar intro and chugging rhythm which lay the foundation for some of Cuanan's darker, angrier sounding vocals. This, for me, is what more of the modern hard rockers should be shooting for, and I can listen to this stuff all day long!   

For the most part, in fact, all of the hard numbers here are very well constructed and carry the album.  The problem for many people is going to be when the band slows down into what, intentional or not, comes off like pure Creed-worship.  "Angels" is a perfect example of this, as this sounds so much like what Creed was offering up a few years ago, my wife actually thought it was Creed.  One thing that keeps "Angels" afloat for me is the addition of Lish Rimer's soaring vocals.  Her higher range is a nice compliment to Cuanan's lower-range tenor, but the programmed strings and "Arms Wide Open" feel are going to be a tough pill for Creed-haters to swallow.  "Run Away" is a sparse number that again relies too much on the programmed string section, at least for my tastes, and comes off as sounding like a direct stab at pop radio.  "Come And Gone" is an acoustic number that likely would have fit well on Creed's debut My Own Prison album, which I consider to be a compliment as I really like that album.  Again, I don't necessarily dislike these songs because, as I said, I have never been a Creed hater.  That being said, there are so many better songs on this album that I am afraid it is going to be these slower songs that people latch onto and bash the band over.

The packaging is a minor drawback here, as there is only one VERY hard to see band picture, a simple, single-fold insert, and not a single mention of who plays what instrument (I had to look it up on the internet).  All of the lyrics are included, which is a bonus, and I'm guessing the band's budget forced them to worry more about the music than the packaging, which, in today's digital download era, is what's most important anyway.

All in all, Better Days is a solid, if sometimes unspectacular record, that features a couple of sure-fire modern rock radio hits that should keep Another Lost Year in the spotlight long enough to get their sophomore album out.  Hopefully the next one won't run into the typical freshman trappings of attempting to score crossover appeal and suffering from a slight case of "sameness syndrome", where several tracks start to run into each other and lose their distinction, which does happen a bit here toward the middle with multiple mid-tempo numbers in a row (although a couple of these are very strong).  These guys need to remember that they are a solid, rocking band, and should play to that strength, as they have a very good guitar tandem and a thumping rhythm section to go along with a knack for writing catchy hard rock songs.  When this album is going balls-out, which is most of the time, it is far above average and better than a lot of what gets passed off as rock today.  People that choose to ignore the talent and go for the obvious Creed-clone bashing are going to miss out on a solid album from a talented band with a good helping of promise.  Their loss, I guess...



Rating:  Despite a couple of misses, the good far outweighs the bad and I still recommend rocking this to 6.5...
     
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Saturday, September 15, 2012

WAYLAND "Welcome To My Head"

(c) 2012 Ironworks Music
 
  1. Nobody's Perfect
  2. Welcome To My Head
  3. On My Knees
  4. Fire Down Below
Mitch Arnold--Vocals
Phillip Vilenski--Guitars
Tyler Coburn--Drums
Dean Pizzazz--Bass
 
Named after their hometown, Wayland is a modern hard rock band that throws a definite nod to the past.  But we aren't talking the 90's or even the 80's here.  Wayland seems to be more infused by the 1970's southern rock sound than anything, as is evidenced throughout this little teaser of an EP.  If I had to pin the sound down further, I would say you could almost label Wayland as a heavier Black Crowes in their approach, but that isn't entirely accurate, either, as Wayland carries enough of a modern take to their sound that they really don't sound like anyone in particular.  You just know where their sound is coming from when you hear it. 
 
Each of the four songs presented here are just a bit different in approach from each other, but all fit together well.  Does that make sense?  Whether it is the current modern hard rock radio single "Welcome To My Head", the more commercial sounding melodic rock of "On My Knees", or the guitar-driven, classic AC/DC styled "Nobody's Perfect", each track has it's own identity.  In the end, however, Arnold's powerful vocals, and the band's workman-like approach to their music, mixed in with that southern rock swagger I mentioned, brings everything back together on an all-too-short EP that is almost cruel in the way it teases and tempts the listener.  I have left this EP playing on repeat for multiple listens both out of enjoyment and frustration as I keep hoping there will be a hidden track I have missed somewhere!
 
Packaged in a simple cardboard slipcase, there are no notes, no lyrics, and I had to hunt down the band members names on-line, but there is a lot going on inside, and that is really what counts, right?  I just hope that the next time these guys decide to send me something, they send MORE!!!
 
Rating:  Crank this little temptress up to 7.5!
 


THE LAST VEGAS "Bad Decisions"

(c) 2012 FrostByte Media/eOne Entertainment
  1. Beat To Hell
  2. Other Side
  3. Bad Decisions
  4. Evil Eyes
  5. Don't Take It So Hard
  6. She's My Confusion
  7. It Ain't Easy
  8. My Way Forever
  9. Leonida
  10. Devil In You
  11. You Are The One
  12. Good Night
Chad Cherry--Vocals
Nate Arling--Drums
Johnny Wator--Guitars
Danny Smash--Bass
Adam Arling--Guitars
 Chicago's The Last Vegas has returned with their most ambitious, cohesive set to date in Bad Decisions.  Picking up where they left off with 2009's Whatever Gets You Off, The Last Vegas beefs up the sound on this one, but they don't alter who they are.  Combining definite 1970's hard rock overtones with a modern take on the sleaze style, The Last Vegas continue to impress with their songwriting abilities, their musical performances, and their overall recorded sound despite not receiving backing from a major label. 

For me, the major improvement on Bad Decisions is the overall songwriting and delivery.  In the past, albums by The Last Vegas typically consisted of about 4-6 really strong songs with a handful of lesser tracks that were propped up by the attitude and style of the performances. While that attitude is still present, the songs don't need to be salvaged any longer; the lesser tracks have been weeded out for the most part and we are treated to (mostly) nothing but top-shelf songs.  There are several stand-out tracks for me, including the single "Evil Eyes", which is easily the most modern sounding cut which Cherry states in concert is "about his hobby of voyeurism".  Other outstanding cuts would include "She's My Confusion", the crushing, riff-driven album opener, "Beat To Hell", the Aerosmith-inspired "Other Side", and the title track, "Bad Decisions".  "Leonida" has a definite 70's swagger to it that most fans will find instantly catchy, and "It Ain't Easy" has a groove and sound that you will swear you have heard before but can't quite place. 

The only song on the disc that misses at all for me is the closing ballad, "Good Night".  Perhaps I have just come to expect my Last Vegas music to have me bobbing my head/tapping my toes/pounding on my steering wheel, and this slow album closer just doesn't do much for me at all.  The performance is not the issue...I just don't care for the track.  Maybe that will change with time.

Cherry's vocals are as unique and pronounced as ever, but there is a bit more attitude to the delivery this time around, even if the production on the album has taken a bit of the rawness out.  He continues to slip between a higher, almost Tom Keifer-like rasp and a bottom end that reminds me quite a bit of Axl's lower range. The guitar tandem of Wator and Adam Arling is tight and feeds off of each other, which is especially noticable in a live setting.  Whether riffing through the rhythm guitar parts or tearing into some quick and tasty leads, the guitars are definitely a plus for this band, especially in a musical world that seems satisified with sub-par axework most of the time.  As always, the rhythm section of Nate Arling and Danny Smash really delivers throughout, pummeling the bottom end of each of these tracks. 

Really, there is very little to not like about this album, in my opinion, even down to how the album was made and released. The production is crisp with all of the instruments easily discernable from each other and no one buried in the mix. The packaging, despite being a dreaded digi-pack, is upper-tier with multiple full-color photos, full lyrics, wiritng credits, contact listings, etc. 

As you can see, my copy was autographed (yeah they misspelled my name and had to write over it!!!) when I was fortunate enough to meet the band when they performed at Sculley's Shooters in North Platte, NE on Sept. 7, 2012.

 As of this review, Bad Decisions has only been out for a couple of weeks, so if you have not yet had a chance to track down a copy, by all means DO SO, either from the band's own site (www.thelastvegas.com ) or from any number of on-line outlets, including Amazon and iTunes. 
Rating:  Crank this one up folks, setting the dial to a healthy 9!

Monday, September 3, 2012

JACKYL "Best In Show"

(c) 2012 Mighty Loud Entertainment

  1. Best In Show
  2. Encore (It Makes My Bic Dig Her)
  3. Screw Driver
  4. Horns Up
  5. Golden Spookytooth
  6. Cover Of The Rolling Stone
  7. Walk My Mile
  8. Favorite Sin
  9. Better Than Chicken
  10. Don't Lay Down On Me
  11. Eleven
  12. It's Tricky (hidden)

Jesse James Dupree--Vocals, Guitar, Chainsaw
Jeff Worley--Guitars
Roman Glick--Bass
Chris Worley--Drums


Like a lot of people, I am sure, when I saw the title to the new Jackyl CD, I thought it was a greatest hits disc.  While technically that is not correct, I can't say that it is completely wrong, either, as this may very well be the best album Jackyl has put out in at least fifteen years, if not their entire career!  Part of this, I feel, stems from the fact that this line-up of the band has been together since 1998, giving the current line-up more time playing together than any version of the band's history.  As such, there is a tightness, a cohesion, in the performance of the songs, that is not always present when bands are constantly shifting members.  Of course, as has always been the case with Jackyl, it's the attitude of the songs that really drives the band, and Best In Show is no different in that respect.  Numerous songs on this fun raunch-fest are sure to find their way into live sets, onto iPods, and onto personal "best of" compilations, finding a home next to "Down On Me", "When Will It Rain", "Locked And Loaded", and "The Lumberjack" in a smooth, seamless fashion.  There is never a doubt that this is Jackyl....

Jackyl has come back full-force, picking up where they left off with the very good When Moonshine And Dynamite Collide from 2010, and adding in even more grit, more balls, and all the sleaze and innuendo that has made whatever version of the band that Jesse James Dupree puts together an absolute blast to listen to!  
From the very start of the album, it is apparent that Jackyl is here to rock your face off, and that attitude continues throughout most of the disc.  Whether it's the guitar work on Jeff Worley on the opening title track, or the thunderous bass playing of Glick, which is especially evident on the jaunty "Encore (It Makes My Bic Dig Her)", Jackyl proves that there is more to the band than a chainsaw and some humorously tongue-in-cheek sexual innuendo-laden lyrics, although there are plenty of those, as well.  I mean, who else but Jackyl would even attempt to write a song with the lyrics "I like poontang better than chicken" ("Better Than Chicken") or compose a song today that is all about extolling the virtues of a particular stripper ("Encore")?  Answer?  No one...at least not the way that Jackly does it.

Oh...and yes, the chainsaw does show up in the excellent version of "Cover Of The Rolling Stone", complete with a "stomp-stomp-clap" rhythm section that Queen would have sworn was lifted straight off of "We Will Rock You".  While many people have attempted to tackle this relatively simple song, few have done so with any degree of success, and while I thought Poison did a credible job on their Crack A Smile album, their version misses the mark when compared to Jackyl's take.

    
The band makes no attempt to update or alter their sound at all, which is refreshing, but that does not mean there is no growth on this album.  A perfect example of this is the track, "Walk My Mile", which has a bluesier feel than what most people are going to typically associate with Jackyl, but at no time does this song feel like it doesn't fit this set.  It's darker and angrier in tone than anything else in the band's catalog, and yet the listener will still find a comfort level here that will have him or her nodding along to the groove as they not along to the concept of the lyrics as well.  Jeff Worley's guitar work on this track is stellar and really adds a soulful feel, and Jesse cranks up the soul as well, but at no time is there any doubt as to who is singing this track.

There is also a slower moment or two on the track, but they are more mid-tempo southern rock in nature than true ballad material.  The best example of this is "Don't Lay Down On Me", which is a great ode to friendships and love, that is, again, probably more lyrically mature than much of what people are going to associate with Dupree and his gang.  They make it work, however, and at no time did my finger even flinch toward the skip button.

Always looking to shake things up a bit, Jackyl closes out this album with a hidden track, choosing to update the Run-DMC rap classic, "It's Tricky".  Before you cringe, I have to tell you that you really should give it a listen.  Not only do they add a couple of lyrical lines themselves, you can hear the grin that is plastered on the faces of these guys as they rock their way through this odd cover choice.

Stand out cuts are difficult to pin down, as there are no real off numbers here.  My personal favorites would be "Eleven", "Horns Up", the title track, "Walk My Mile", and "Screw Driver".  If I HAD to pick a song that doesn't work as well for me, I guess it would have to be "Golden Spookytooth" which just never grabs me for some reason.  Other than that very minor hiccup, however, this album is pretty much flawless, and, as I stated in the opening paragraph, quite possibly the best, most complete album in the band's 20 year history.  Here's to 20 more years from this seemingly tireless band, as Best In Show is definitely a mid-year contender for Album Of The Year here at Glitter2Gutter...even if it does come in the dreaded digi-pack!!!


Rating:  Crank this slab of southern sleaze to a killer 9!