'Round the Dial
Wednesday 25 June @ 12:01:55
by Tom Hallett
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “I don’t consider my guitar sacred. It could bust and break, it’s pretty old now, and I could still get another one. It’s a tool for me, that’s all it is.”
SONG OF THE WEEK: “Don’t Slander Me”
I sat down the other night to bang out my usual more-words-than-my-editors-know-what-to-do-with column, and realized that my “To Review” stack of CDs had grown so humongous that I couldn’t get at my keyboard to type. Now that’s outta control, man. In order to clear away some of this mess so I can get back to writin’ about fishing trips gone horribly wrong, hitchhiking trips gone horribly wrong, and acid trips gone completely awry (you know, the kinda stuff ya’ll just love to hear about), I’m dedicating the next few weeks of Round The Dial to short, to-the-point record reviews. Who knows, I might even find that long-missing copy of Gram Parson’s International Submarine Band that I just KNOW is somewhere around here...
Grape Or Red
Purple Pit Records
Personnel: Andy Schultz, vocals and guitar / Paul Novak, vocals and guitar / Heath Henjum, bass / Nate Jaqua, drums
Track Listing: Just Like That / Time Will Never Tell / Funny Forever / Movietown / Oh Claudine / A Place To Stay / Lock & Key / Summer Grass / Curtain Call / Last In Line / Lucky Star
Betty Drake (who are, for those out of the loop, comprised of several former members of Twin Cities power-poppers The Beatifics—Schultz and Novak—as well as that band’s current bassist, Henjum) lay down sugar-sweet pop licks with maximum ampage and minimum pretense on Grape Or Red, their second release. Featuring reworked versions of a couple songs from that outing (“Time Will Never Tell,” “Lucky Star”) and a healthy portion of fresh material, the album pretty evenly displays the songcrafting talents of both Schultz and Novak. Though they’re not breaking any new pop ground here with the old two guitar, bass and drums attack, the songs are genuinely strong, witty, soulful confections and you couldn’t ask for a tighter lineup. Schultz continues to pump out the soaring, goose-bump-inducing axe grooves that made the Beatifics’ debut album, How I Learned To Stop Worrying, such a treat a few years back, while Novak’s turned out to be one helluva songwriter/guitarist, and the smashing rhythm section of bass wunderkind Henjum and drummer Jaqua all bleed together under the keen ears of producer extraordinaire Jacques Wait to create what’s sure to be a summer pop fave for years to come. Highlight: Near the end of “Time Will Never Tell,” a Schultz composition, the toss-off Zeppelin line, “When we got there we knew/That the stores were all closed...” proves that although this band takes their music dead serious, they most certainly don’t take themselves seriously at all. And that’s what sets ‘em apart from other foo-foo pop/rockers around these days. Check ‘em out at their CD release party on Sat., June 28, at The Turf Club in St. Paul. $4, 21+, call 651-647-0486 for more info.
Gone Out Gone
Songs For The Panopticon
Personnel: Foster Weyand, vocals, guitar, keys / Kirk Ahlberg, bass, vocals, harmonica/Todd Marushin, drums, percussion / Kait Carlson, keys, vocals / Becky Lowe, vocals/Lori Lewis, vocals / Elizabeth Drotning, cello / Ethan Edwards, cello
Track Listing: Electric Cafe / Edge / Before The Fail / Moonlight / Eris Goes Dancing / Waiting / Duriur / The Blister Gas Party / Gleam / Love Becomes You
If you’re wondering why Gone Out Gone’s latest, Songs For The Panopticon, rings out with just a hint of 12 Rods-ish panache, check the album credits a little more closely. That’s right: although the band was responsible for production duties, mixing was handled by none other than ‘Rods co-founder Ev Olcott. The record’s title refers to “...the All Seeing Machine, (which was) initially conceived in the late 1700s as a model for prisons, workhouses, schools and places of manufacture. The design consisted of a ring of cells facing in towards a tower in the center of the courtyard...” Diggit—one of Big Brother’s earliest attempts at observing and controlling the “little people.” (For a modern update, check out the electric eyes glaring down at you from every nook and cranny in downtown Minneapolis these days) Oh, no, I hear you groaning, not another CONCEPT album!! Well, technically this one may draw its inspiration from a concept (what a concept, man), but actually, the album is made up of what the band itself calls “fiery love songs.” And that’s a pretty decent description—Panopticon’s walls of cleansing guitars, loopy drums and resigned vocals may not elicit the kind of dark passion that say, Johnny Cash’s version of “Ring Of Fire” did, but for the kids of today, this is probably what love SOUNDS like: Big, loud, intimidating, elusive, spooky, aloof bombastery alternating with small, quiet, inviting, palpable, soothing and attentive vibes. A smart, catchy, interesting collection of tasty skronk rawk with one foot in the Orwellian present and one firmly mired in the hazey romanticism of the distant past. Highlight: The positively anthemic cut “Eris Goes Dancing,” which transcends even itself as a moody, sonic ballad that rockets out of a lonely modern heart and doesn’t even bother to slow down as it blasts through the ozone layer and heads for the center of the universe. Watch these guys—I have a feeling they’ve only just begun to wow us.
That’s it for this week, kids. Check in next time for more local and national record reviews, music news, and blibbity blabbity boo. Until we meet again—make yer own damn news.
If you have local music news/gigs/events that you’d like to see listed in this column, or you’d just like to volunteer to do repair work on my four-string banjo, send replies to: TMygunn777@aol.com.