Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Future Is Square ...

Andrew Starr is a co-worker of mine from a department I used to work in. I never really knew him all that well at the time, but my buddy FBI works closer with him and I gradually got to know him better that way. FBI used to go on about how Andrew Starr was a guitar player in a band and that Andrew wanted him to come see their show. So after a couple of years of asking FBI talked me into going with him to see them play. Andrew's band is Slave To The Square Wave and let me tell you, what a performance it was. They really know how to put on a good live show, with catchy music, stagey theatrics and one heck of a frontman. A copy of their compilation album "12 Top Hits" came with the admission, which was nice cause now I finally have an album I can share with my Wife. So how's the music you ask? Well ....

This is not the sort of fare I tend to lean towards, but there is enough rock elements that I don't feel ashamed of myself. Seriously though, the music is funky, techno beat laden pop rock. The album begins with the hooky bass driven funkilious "Evolution#9". Other funky tracks are "PET (Pressure, Pressure)", "Pumpin' Up The P House" and the deliciously blasphemous "Johnny 3:16" with lyrics like ~If you wanna get to Heaven, just snap your fingers then you twist your hips, etc.~ . "London Baby" has a discoy feel and the vocalist, Colin Troy, just shines. His voice is closest to Bowie. Smooth and powerful. From the chest.

Some songs have a Prince feel such as "Thank You Very Much" and "Pumpin' Up The P House". "Gorilla Swingin' Discotheque" is a technoy faster song that when performed live Colin makes like a cymbal crashing monkey toy and is a nice visual that fits the song perfectly. This is just one example of Colin's fantastic stage presents. "Spit On Me" and "The Last Day" have an 80's pop sound and "Sinners Of Saint Avenue" has a touch of early U2. It's melodic and ballad-like. The album ends with "Re-Evolution" a remix of "Evolution#9" done acousticy and much shorter.

My favourite tracks are "Gorilla Swingin' Discotheque" cause of it's wonderful live performance and "Sinners Of Saint Avenue" for its passionate lyrics and melodic sense. There is also a country remix of "Pumpin' Up The P House" as a hidden bonus track. I must commend Andrew Starr for his guitar work. He is quite talented and brings a variety of guitar styles to various songs. He adds a rock element that allows the music to be dancey, yet I can pump my fist with. He stands out on the songs "PET (Pressure,Pressure)", "My Spine Is A Bassline" which all around is too hip hoppy for me , and "The Last Day".

In the end, the music is not what I prefer and if the CD wasn't included with admission, I mightn't have bought it. But I do enjoy the music and will give it a spin at work now and then. I really enjoy their live performance and look forward to seeing them some more. Feel free to check out their music and some video on their myspace/website. For some wailing guitar driven rock checkout "Voodoo Sex".

I've made some corrections to the SNAK posting I did previously and please stay tuned for Slang, my Step Uncles vehicle out of St.Catherine's. Think Aerosmithy style hard rock....

Sunday, January 21, 2007

This Snak Is Phat-ning

Snak is a band featuring a fellow co-worker of mine, Dave Beeson. I started working with Dave about 5 odd years ago and at first I just called him the long haired rocker guy. When I got to know him better it turned out he was actually a long haired rocker guy. Dave is the bass player and part vocalist ala Kiss's Gene Simmons, with Paul Stanley to Snak's main vocalist Tynur. Snak perform straight up rock with touches of the Cars and Headstones, and perhaps just a little Depeche Mode. Today I'm going to look at the three stages of Snak's career (as I see it). Their debut album, some demos and their full length sophomore effort.

Snak's first album (as far as I know, but don't quote me) "Sayin' You're Done" is actually better than I remembered it. That sounds terrible, but as hard as it is for me to say this, Snak's major weakness is poor production. However, "Sayin' You're Done" is probably their best effort. My main critique is probably that the guitars sounds thin and computery. "Good Morning ... Say Hello", "Deep In My Shoe" and "My Magnamify" are all Cars ish and fun guitar wailing tunes with "My Magnamify" having a darker, gothy feel. "My Way" has a Headstones sound with its poetic vocals. "What Am I" is a Beeson sung song and it is Rock. His gruff vocals bring a different sound to the band. "Crazy" is the most original sounding song here and Tynur's vocals veer into a more unique sound. It's a Cure-ish influenced song with an atmospheric touch. "After Thought" is an instrumental very much in line with America's "Horse With No Name". The songs on "Sayin' You're Done" are catchy and fun, but the band sounds like they are still trying to find themselves.

After that album, Snak changed drummers. Brandon left and after a short stint with a guy named Agustine, Jason was brought in. Dave gave me a few demo CD's of stuff he'd been working on with the band and now I'll talk about those.

Here is where we get a lot of the bad production stuff. "Lunatic's Halo", "Claire" and "Rascal's Odyssey" are unfortunately bad productions. I have been told that these were done during their salad bowl sessions ... literally. "Lunatic ..." vocals are a little over the top and sounds like Tynur is struggling to find his voice. "Rascal..." has some nice spacey guitar work, but you forget it after you hear it. "Claire" is not a bad song, catchy, but the bad production quality makes it hard to appreciate it; as is with "Beautiful Superstar". "Magnificent Twist" is a great song. Fun and you can really get down to it. The quality is terrible, but this song really shines live. "Mall Slots" and "Happy Now" are Beeson sung songs and are truly the first real hooky and sing a long songs I enjoyed. "Mall Slots" suffers from poor production, but it has some great solos and a funky bridge section and for some reason always reminds me of Kiss's "Prisoner of Love" ... I don't know why, I think it's Dave's vocals. "Happy Now" is my favourite Snak song. It's a Dave sung song with Tynur adding backing vocal flourishes and gives the band what I think is a real original Snak sound. The guitar work is great and it's really catchy. The highlight of these demos is their rocky/blues cover of Monty Python's "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life". Tynur comes into his own vocally here and little Alex's guitar work is fantastic. A real pleasure of a tune. The demos suffered a lot with bad production, but the song work really improved.

Now finally I'll take you through Snak's full length sophomore release "6 Months Of Sundays". This album includes some of the demos and a number of new tracks. "Mall Slots" and "Rascal's Odyssey" receive better production treatment, but I'm still not a big fan of "Rascal..." but that's probably just me. "Happy Now" for some reason doesn't sound as good as the demo, but it's my favourite of theirs so I'll let it be. "Magnificent Twist" gets the better production treatment too and a well deserved one, because this is a very fun song.

Of the new tracks, the album opener "No One Recalls" is some of Tynur's best vocals with a nice mix of both Ric Okasek and Hugh Dillon. You can hear the influence, but his voice is distinct and original. "Rockstar" is another Snak original sounding tune. "Wiggle" and "In Wake" get noisy and sound over produced, but aren't bad songs. Dave Beeson grabs the mic on the rockers "Another 2 am Phone Call", "Wiggle" and "Victoria" though the production sounds a little muffled. Now I think I am just being picky.

Alex, the Wee One (lead guitarist) is good. Over the years I've watched him come out of his shell and now he just wails and has a lot of fun on stage. He's good and he should show that off. He is called the Wee One cause Snak has added a third guitarist to the band who also goes by Alex or Sea Bass and was their roady before hand. After this album they split with drummer Jason and have found a new one in Ian. This is why I picked Dave to help me on another blog I contribute to (he's One Useless Rockstar). The drum work in Snak songs is impressive and I must commend all the drummers for their strong performances.

I've seen Snak several times over the years and very much enjoy their stage antics and performances. In case you're wondering ... yes those are my underwear on the end of Dave's bass guitar. If it can happen to Tom Jones, why not Snak. You're welcome Dave. I have no idea what happened to them and that's probably best. In the end, I think I've come across a little harsher than I needed to be, but Snak do have some catchy songs and some fine performances. Please head to their website/myspace and check them out for yourselves.

And don't let the monkey mascot turn you off.

Up next is another fellow co-worker, who I had heard about for years and finally went and saw... you'll be pleasantly surprised. I was ...

Sunday, January 14, 2007

High School Musical....

Zoe is a band with 2 members who I went to highschool with. Mike Rowe and Rick Mattka "hey" buddies of mine who I knew threw of schools theatre program. I didn't know them well cause they were in another year then me, but if I ran into them now, I'm sure we could swap memorable theatre stories.

I had no idea that either of these guys were "band" people and it wasn't till a few years after highschool that I stumbled across the end of their set as they performed at the "Sound Of Music" festival in Burlington. If I remember correctly they were finishing up with a very moody and dark cover of "Video Killed The Radio Star" which was cool and I wished I had seen the rest of their set. I bought their album all the same, cause you just never know (I don't think they've made ... yet) and although their cover of "Video ..." wasn't on the album, I was rather surprised at the quality of the music.

The music is like jazzy pop punk. They use standard punk style riffing, but the clean guitar work has a jazz guitar sound. The production quality is good and the sound has a raw feel to it. The punky songs are "Why?" which is straight up punk with a nice solo and a build/release style. "Crows Feet" has an aggressive sound and "Wonderland" is faster, very catchy song with a sing along chorus and playful Alice In Wonderland lyrics. "Winslow" is punky, but unmemorable.

"Peter" is a slower, playful song thats jazzy and makes ya wanna dance to. The lyrics are cleverly written about a murderous neighbour, a Do you really know your neighbours thing.. "Moon" is a jazz-like ballad and Mike's vocals are strong. They should be with his musical theater background. Mrs.Z wouldn't have allowed any muffledness and crisp pronunciation. And she's thanked in the liner notes. In a side note before I go on to the standout tracks, Mike Rowe does one heck of a performance as Jack in "Into The Woods". The best I've seen, and I've seen the musical twice ...

Anywho ... there are 3 songs that I'm torn between as my favourite. "Monopoly" has a simple, but hooky bass intro and is darker and passionate. The vocals shine and the lyrics are catchy. "Everton" is melodic and starts slow with a picking intro and then builds into a heartfelt and passionate end. And "Scrumptious" the album opener is hooky and very catchy and although it's fun to sing a long with, Mike's vocals reek of emotion and you can really feel the song. It also got exposure on the "Hamilton Music Scene" compilation CD's. It's hard to decide, so I'll just say all three are. They all feature hooky riffs, catchy lyrics and passionate performances.

I wouldn't say that Zoe was breaking new ground here, and I really don't think they've done anything else, but this is a fine album and I'm glad I bought it. Who knew Rick Mattka could play bass.... I didn't. I knew Mike could sing from the theater, but Rick's performance on bass is good. This is the first in a series of reviews on bands where I know a member or so. Up next is the band Snak ...

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Ringing In The New Year By traveling Back To The 11th Century ...

Well, I'm back and I thought my first review of 2007 would be the Medieval Times (Dinner and Tournament ) soundtrack by Dan Friedman and Michael Schwartz. Why you ask? Well my wife and I rung in the new year with some good old cheesy fun! And what better place then Medieval Times. It was a fun night with food, drinks and song. I've been to the show about 3 times now and after my first visit a number of years ago I purchased the soundtrack to Medieval Times. This was at a time when I was listening to a lot of classical, folk and new age music. I had enjoyed the shows music enough to want to bring it home with me.

It's OK. I have to admit that when you separate the music from the live experience it seems a little silly. But I kept it for nostalgia and novelty. It's not a terrible album, but it seems like it was made with Microsoft "Orchestra". This however, is not the case and a full orchestra was used, but there is an air of standardness to it, that leaves you with a cheesy feeling. That said, I did thoroughly enjoy going back and listening to it again, especially after seeing the live show. Once you accept the overly polished no surprises feel, the music is not to bad. I can't shake the feeling that there were songs used in the show that weren't on this soundtrack ... some good Conan's "Riders of Doom" style choral work, and that may be why I was somewhat disappointed. So without to much time spent here, let me give you a brief explanation of the music and it's highlights, and then I'll move on to bigger and better things!

The music consists of a lot of trumpeting fanfare which I do adore and I'm guessing it's because Michael Shwartz, one half of the composers, is a trumpeter in the orchestra. The "Title Theme" is a regal galloper with shout-outs to "Indiana Jones theme" and "Blazing Saddles" and a little touch of Russian influence. The theme appears throughout the CD which helps keep the feel of storiness and it's perform with various styles and tempos. Most of the music has a Disney movie soundtrack feel with touches of Looney Tunes. That's not a bad thing. You get a family friendly sense in the music.

The stand out songs are "The Journey Begins" with its Nutcracker feel and the 2 darker tracks "Druid" and "Executioner". These 2 are brooding and sinister and feature some excellent and thunderous percussions. And I have to mention "Guard Of The Castle" just for its strong A-Team theme resemblance.

My favourite track here is "Falcon's Flight". It's airy and majestic and is truly passionate. Watching the Falcon fly during the show with this music was an uplifting experience and listening to this piece on its own leaves you feeling the same. A good comparison would be the main theme from the movie "Forever Young".

This is not an album I'll be cracking out for parties or anything, but it is fun to pull out once in a while. It's a solid effort although slightly silly in feel.

As I said in my last post before the new year, I'm going to be posting once a week and see how that goes. I've discovered that I have to much Leisure for the amount of leisure time I'm afforded. I want to enjoy this blogging experience and give my albums a proper exploration. We'll see how it goes. So for you loyal readers, I'll be posting Sunday nights and then giving you a week to enjoy it! I'll be featuring some local bands of friends of mine coming up. These are not metal, but more rock, punk, alternative. I hope you enjoy reading about them.