(2013) Independent Release
- See Ya Later
- The Evil Inside
- Such A Psycho
- No Love Remains
- Bad Habits
- Missing You
Rachel O'Neil--Lead and Backing Vocals
Micheal Drake--Bass, Keys
Hailing from Italy, Cream Pie come screaming out of the box on this EP with a pissed off form of sleaze that has not been heard in quite some time, only to find time to shift gears, flash some creativity, and then get pissed off again! Imagine Guns N Roses' swagger and attitude on Appetite For Destruction, but mixed with some of the experimentation of Use Your Illusion (pick which one you want), then combine these with the pure angst and fury that was delivered by Sledgehammer Ledge or Skid Row on Subhuman Race, and you have a decent idea of what these guys bring to the table.
Now, I'm sure that there are more than a few people who are going to take one look at the name of the band and instantly dismiss them as being nothing but a running sex joke (a la Steel Panther), but those people would be wrong. This band, and this EP, are all about the music, and it is evident from the moment that lead single, "Tiger" comes roaring from your speakers (pardon the pun). With a very Axl-esque screech to his voice, Rachel O'Neil proves that he is more than capable on the microphone, and the twin guitar attack of Nikki and Phantom instantly recall the heyday of the underside of the Sunset Strip. It's pure balls-to-the-wall power here, and a great way to start things off.
"See Ya Later" is not quite as scorching as "Tiger", but it doesn't miss by much, mixing in a bit more rhythm and pulling a little bit of the anger out. Again, O'Neil uses his voice to good effect, but he spends more time singing here and less time shredding his vocal chords to bloody masses. The same can be said of "The Evil Inside", which starts off with a little bit of keyboard work from Mr. Drake, but is not some Euro-AOR song by any stretch, especially when O'Neil cuts loose on the chorus and the guitar solo springs to life. The distortion in the guitars is cleaned up just a bit and a more classic hair-metal solo is utilized here, but it works very well and doesn't detract from the urgency of the song.
The boys show their GnR influence in a big way with "Such A Psycho", which, much like "November Rain", starts off in ballad territory then builds up, backs off, re-builds, launches into a nice guitar solo, introduces some keyboards, and then plunges headlong toward the end. Carrying an almost "epic" feeling to the way the song is put together, I dare to consider this the band's masterpiece and showcases the band's ability to write powerful and interesting, if not overly original, songs that capture the ear and imagination of the listener.
"No Love Remains" keeps things on the slower side of things again, and O'Neil shifts almost entirely into his singing voice, even exploring a lower range to his vocals. People are either going to really like...or really hate...this song, as it is the area where the band either takes a misstep or chooses to show their ability to change things up without completely losing their identity. I tend to think it's the latter, especially since "No Love Remains" was positioned on this EP to follow "Such A Psycho", as this track kind of feeds off the previous tune's "epic" feeling. Here we even have some layered "whoas" chanted in the background vocals to add some depth to the track. It took me a few listens, but I really found myself enjoying this track more and more each time, so I encourage people to not stop with one spin through.
"Bad Habits" kicks things back up, coming off like GnR meets Skid Row at a Motley Crue concert. The buzzing rhythm guitars, the gang backing vocals, and O'Neil's snarling screech all have that 80's feel to them, but using today's production techniques. Not slick or polished, but not raw, either, this is a decent track, but it's not my favorite by any stretch as it lacks either the brutal anguish of "Tiger" or the experimental-yet-sleazy progression of "...Psycho" or "No Love Remains".
The EP closes with the "bonus track" of "Missing You". Honestly, I think this may have been thrown in to either generate a few more electronic purchases or to fill a bit more time on the EP, as it really sticks out and is the weakest track here. It has a kind of bump-and-grind rhythm to it, but it sounds like it was put together in a hurry and all of the pieces don't quite seem to fit correctly. Maybe with some re-tooling this mid-tempo bouncer could amount to something a bit more, but as it is, if you have the option and really need to save a dollar (or whatever the download cost is), I'd just skip this one. It's really not that good.
The project is independently released but still has an above average quality to the production. I have no idea about the packaging, as my copy is an electronic version sent to me directly from the band. All lyrics are in English, so there is no problem with figuring out what the guys are singing about, and there is also not a major accent of any kind to O'Neil's vocals, so that is also helpful.
The high points here are the guitar work, the anger, and the willingness to experiment. O'Neil is a more-than-competent vocalist who uses his voice to good effect most of the time and will only get better, I suspect. The rhythm section is tight, if not spectacular, and the keyboards are a minor supporting instrument.
As far as low points, like I said, "Missing You" is purely a space-filler, and "Bad Habits", while not bad, isn't overly original or interest-piquing. The mix is a bit muddy in a couple of places, but not overly so and it never becomes so bad it can't be listened to. I do think a bigger recording budget and a name producer might help...but there is also a chance that these things will smooth down the rough edges that add to this EP's likability, at least for me.
In the end, Unsigned 2.0 is definitely worth picking up, especially for those of you who are having a hard time finding a new, sleazy band to throw into the mix with all of the AOR and glam that has been coming out lately. Definitely not trying to reinvent the wheel, but willing to gamble here and there, Cream Pie deserves to be listened to...even if you could do without hearing their ridiculous name.
Rating: Crank it, folks...7.5 for sure.