'Round the Dial
Wednesday 02 July @ 12:59:22
by Tom Hallett
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “I want to be the Prime Minister of England someday.”
SONG OF THE WEEK: “America Drinks And Goes Home”
—Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention
Hola, Dial-heads! Hope this column finds you all well, happy, and enjoying the Fourth Of July holiday—just don’t forget that we’ve all got a lot of work to do if we wanna keep celebrating real freedom in the good ole U.S. of A., eh? We continue with CD reviews this week—man, you wouldn’t believe the shit I’ve found on my desk as I’ve been going through these albums! Ethyl Merman note pads, old capos, phone numbers and addresses of people I don’t even remember meeting, 8-track tapes of Rod Stewart and Johnny Cash, and some leafy green substance that just might carry me through the weekend...whoo hoo!!
Personnel: AJ Buzza, bass, vocals / Tim Buzza, electric and acoustic guitars, percussion, vocals / Paul Carpenter, drums, vocals / ”The Grimm,” keyboards, vocals / Peter Lawton, vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, percussion / Craig Wright, keyboards, vocals/Luke Harper, keyboards
Track Listing: Any Day / Right In The Face / River / Satellite / June / So Down / Message (Simple Version) / Skyscraper Spaceship / You’re Something Beautiful / Befriended / Here We Go / Sweet Dreams / Splash
I remember when this disc first made its way into “The Pile.” After noticing in the liner notes that it had been recorded at Two Fish Studios in Mankato, I threw it in the player and cranked it up. I recall thinking, “What in the hell IS this?” as a sample (“120 beats per minute...”) and cheesy, processed beats came dribbling outta the speakers. The first track, “Any Day,” sounded to me like the kinda cookie-cutter, assembly line bullshit you hear on KDWB or Cities 97, totally inoffensive, safe as milk. I did some housecleanin’, left the disc rolling, and although the song that spewed forth were bright, uptempo, and energetic, they certainly didn’t inspire an immediate rush to the player to hit the back button. “Right In The Face,” a jumpy, keyboard-laced funk-a-thon, had a hint of local jam-meister Peal’s skewed, stoner chutzpah, but didn’t take it much beyond that.
What I’d stumbled upon, I figured, was a silly, goofy little batch of tunes that might be a kick to shake yer ass to on a dance floor after a cocktail or six, but wouldn’t hold my ear for as long as my sixth grade math teacher had when he caught me doodling bizarre caricatures of he and a certain three-hundred pound lunch lady in compromising positions...but I digress. I found myself shaking my head, wondering exactly what I’d gotten myself into, when, nearly halfway through the album, something amazing happened.
Starting with track No. 5, “June,” Kangaroo present an entirely different record. And I don’t mean just a different sounding part of the album, I mean, if I put this album on and it kicked in at this track, I wouldn’t even recognize it as the same work by the same artists. Wistful, breezy, carefree melodies carved outta thin air with keys, acoustic pickin’, and smart, slightly sorrowful vocals make this some mighty tasty pop. Throw in lyrics like, “June and the world is openin’ wide/In the summer haze/You and I’ve come to a fork in the road/It goes three ways...” and you’d have to have a heart made of coal not to at least identify with the meaning here. “So Down” kicks off with mean guitar, rattling snare and nasty harmonies. “Message” flows out on a bed of acoustic guitar, then morphs with tinkling keys and a blast of rawk into a catchy, (indie) radio-friendly pop nugget.
The title track eases in (after a NASA countdown) with Beach Boys-esque harmonies, then lifts off for the stratosphere, “Way up way up in the way...” Snappy, baby. “You’re Something Beautiful” brings back the mellow vibe, with super-sweet pickin’ and Negro Problem-style balladry—Stew himself would likely find himself hittin’ the back button for awhile here. “Befriended” comes on like the intro to something from Dylan’s Time Out Of Mind, with some rain and thunder sound effects and weepy guitars. “Here We Go” is another indie-style showstopper, tasteful cymbals offsetting wah-wahs from the axe(s) and lyrics like, “And baby, you ain’t never seen merchandise like me...” “Sweet Dreams” fairly rolls out on piano licks and synthesized finger snaps, an off-putting, slightly neurotic, life (and death)-affirming ballad: “Welcome to this world, this place, this time, this space/This sea, this shore, you get this long and a little more maybe...” The final track, “Splash,” brings you back down like an atmosphere-burned shuttle, hanging in the breeze from a tenuous parachute: “Splash, you’re gonna splash wherever you go/People will run, run from the fun/But let ‘em all run, run to their graves...”
All in all, a weird mix of a cheesy dance EP (the first four cuts) and an absolutely gorgeous pop/rock masterpiece (tracks 5-13) that deserves an attentive ear—preferably one that’s got a sense of humor on top of that ole indie rock, heartbreak beat inner self. I bet these cats are a real hoot live, and despite their blatent use of studio wizardry and what I’m assuming is top of the line equipment, I think they’ve got more soul than a buttload of those pretentious, so-called DIY acts I hear on college and public radio. One-and-a-half thumbs up for Kangaroo. Hop on, kids! That’s it for this week, tune in next time for more reviews, news, and payin’ dues.
If you have local music news/gigs/events that you’d like to see listed in this column, or you’d just like to offer me a ride in your personal spacecraft, send replies to:TMygunn777@aol.com.