Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Music Reviews: Mourning Rain - "Demo"

In this day and age of music you need to be either radio friendly and trendy or you'll forever be a struggling musician without a snowballs chance in hell of making it on the radio. I've never had much respect for bands or artists who have had a career handed to them (i.e. American Idol) or sell a million albums by dropping the "f bomb", wearing pants around their ankles, rapping about smoking weed, packing heat, killing cops, banging and slapping woman around. There's just no room in my life for that garbage. That's why I always look out for new bands who may not fit the criteria of "Top 40" mainstream, but have true talent none the less. Bands who write their own songs, play an actual instrument and gig around in a van with a passion for their craft. I've found a new band who's happy doing what they love without conforming to what the music industry wants them to be. They are a talented band from Long Island called Mourning Rain.

 Mourning Rain are currently working on their debut album, but in the meantime I was able to get a copy of the bands 4 song demo. And to say I was blown away by their style and talent is being modest. The 4 songs are so well crafted and touch upon so many different styles of music that it's hard to peg them as being one genre or another. "Last Clear Memory" has a classic rock feel to it with great guitar noodling from singer/guitarist Jared Michael Pihl. But it's also very modern sounding with the great rhythm section of bassist Natalie Rose and drummer Devin Justman who fit well with Pihl's style of playing. This track goes from moody and mellow with somber lyrics and melodies into a scorching heavy metal friendly guitar solo without taking away the beauty of the song. It's an odd combination that just goes so well together.

"Lost Connection" has a smooth R&B opening riff that goes into an almost 90's alternative feel, and back again. Once again combining different styles without turning into mush or taking away from the beauty of the song. I can't help but think this band grew up on a healthy diet of Oasis, Black Sabbath and smooth jazz, opening their minds to the possibility of making great songs on their own terms without being cornered by one sound or style. The music is layered wonderfully and played with honest feel and passion throughout. "Nameless" being a standout track that really shows the intensity in the bands playing and songwriting. It's catchy, hook driven with great, tight playing by all involved. This track screams hit. Such a beautiful song.

"Swept Ashore" closes out this demo. It's a cool song, but it kinda gets lost in the muddy production. I think that with some knob twisting it can really bring this track to life. It's a great song, it just needs a little work. If the band re-cut these tracks for their debut, I think they will have a monster hit on their hands. I have heard a lot of demos from up and coming bands trying to find a sound all their own. But this is a really stellar effort form an exciting new band. I can't begin to tell you how refreshing it is to see young musicians taking a giant leap forward with their creativity. Mourning Rain, I salute you! I can't wait to see what this band comes up with next.

4 / 5 stars

Friday, February 24, 2012

Music Review: The Bucky Rage - "Mini Album"

I've always been a fan of garage rock. For me, music ignites the fire in the soul and gets the blood and juices flowing. And there is nothing like the crunch, power, passion, intensity and drive of good old rock n roll. The Bucky Rage, from Glasgow Scotland, take that intensity and passion and bring it to the next level on their new 7 song "mini" album, which is just a taste of what we can expect from the bands up coming full length.

The album opens with "Cut Em Down" which is very reminiscent of The Stooges classic "1969". It's heavy and in your face with just enough umph to make you shake your tail feather without being too heavy. It's a great opening track. "Pow Wow" takes a light turn with super cool 3 part harmonies and a great organ that just adds to the power of  the songs, just like back in the 60's. Sure, I'm a sucker for organs in rock n roll. But these guys truly bring it back old school style without being ridiculously retro that you'll be turned off. It's just good old fashioned fun music played by really competent musicians, so don't let the Mexican wrestling masks fool you into thinking otherwise. 

The band, Philthy Collins (drums/vocals), Handsome Al (guitar/backup vocals), Pete Khaos (organ) and Panther Adams (bass) really take the influential sound of bands like The Stooges, Question Mark And The Mysterians and sprinkle it with Ronettes style harmonies. It's a perfect mixture too.
The band is tight and spontaneous bringing out the best in each player. These guys really have perfected their craft on these tracks.

"Bubblegum Crisis" is another great tune. A true ode to all things 60's from the organ sound and catchy guitar riffs right down to the "whoa oh oh oh" sing along at the end. So sugary sweet you'll wanna break out the old Hullabaloo DVD collection your mom and dad have.

The Bucky Rage really are a fun and exciting band so full of spastic energy and excitement. Throw in a kooky cool image and it's truly a win win for all parties involved. I hope these Libre rock n rollers cross the pond and come to America for some shows soon. They'll fit right in! The Bucky Rage, a great band worth checking out. 

4 ½ / 5 stars

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Music Reviews: Nick Minnow - "Nick Minnow Presents: Plant Music (an untested hypothesis)"

The joy of music is that there is so many different styles to choose from. You have your traditional styles like jazz, country, rock and R&B. Then you can mix and mesh styles to create a different style but still stay true to what you believe in. Jazz fusion, southern rock, alternative country and trip hop...just to name a few. So when an artists comes along that's so diverse and original, it's not only a pleasure to the ears, but to the senses as well.

Nick Minnow is one of those artists that take so many styles and turn it into something original and exciting all at once. It may catch you off guard, but, if you're like me, you'll soon fall so into it you'll enjoy it greatly. Minnow's new album "Nick Minnow Presents: Plant Music (an untested hypothesis)", out now on Mooster Records, is so out there, so off the map that it's kinda cool and invigorating to hear. It's a mixture of jazz, industrial and experimental rock all rolled into one big ball of sound!

The album, which, by the way is a conceptual piece, features some freak out tunes like "Plantae Imploration" "Tenric Excalibur" and "Closer To Photosynthesis". The songs are well crafted and have that acid jazz sonic structure to them but at the same time have almost a danceable feel as well. It's definitely an album to get baked to!

Although it's not normally my style of music, I can appreciate what Minnow's bringing to the table here. This is obviously a man of ideas and imagination. And he's not afraid to take those ideas and put them to music. He's making music that he feels in his soul, and it truly comes out in the songs. Now, if only there were more artists that played what they feel in their gut and not what they think will make them stars, the music world would be a much brighter and diverse place.

4 / 5 stars

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Interview with Lew Palgrave aka The Rag N Bone Man

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Lew. For those new to The Rag N Bone Man, can you give us a little history on how you got started? 

Lew Palgrave: Born outta frustration of life in bands in general. Punk ethos and the D.I.Y route. Being a one man band is the ultimate D.I.Y approach. Be the drummer be the guitarist be the vocalist the song writer, the harmonica player no rules and no sets or song structure to stick too. Nowadays being a musician means you have too compose, write, book, promote, record, mix, master, design etc etc, the one man band approach is taking that one step further.

CM: I really like your dirty blues style along with the distortion vocals. Do you find you're more rooted in Chicago blues, Delta, the English blues explosion of the 1960's or a mixture of all of them?

LP: I'm a great fan of Chicago and delta blues and blues in general, though I'm not a fan of eye's closed head back guitar solo kinda blues I find that stuff shit and insulting to be honest.

CM: Who are some of your musical influences and how do they play into what you do as an artist?

LP: Everything from Little Walter to Minor threat, but my main influences are the people and the bands i share the stage with regularly. There are some cracking bands in the underground scene in  Scotland The Bucky Rage, Acid Fascists, Filthy Little Secret, iwantout, Homesick Aldo, Sleepy Eyes Nelson, Shoogar to name just a few. Playing with bands you dig is the best influence you could possibly ask for.
CM: Have you ever considered adding more musicians and forming a full on blues band?

LP: Not a fuckin chance. I play with a 2 piece band called Ghosts Of Progress which consists of me doing my one man band set up with ONE other guitarist, that's as close as I'll ever get to being in a band again. I don't want the hassle of dealing with egos, opinions, shit time keeping, annoying girl friends and being let down, I have no need to go down that road. thankfully.
CM: I've had the chance to hear and review your 4 song demo, and think it's amazing! Will we be seeing any new material this year?

LP: Definitely, I plan to record music every few months, it's something I've avoided too often due to gigging constantly, I enjoy it a bit more nowadays still enjoy gigging far more.
CM: Have you been approached by any labels as far as releasing your material to a wider audience?

LP: I've a couple of labels interested putting out some Rag N Bone Man vinyl which should be out this year, and one of my tunes will be released by Dead By Mono records as part of a really cool compilation record which is out end of march. I'm in the process of starting up my own D.I.Y Label to release some of my music through that. 

CM: Do you play a lot of shows in your area and are there any plans on touring in the near future?

LP: I play live all the time. pubs, clubs, venues, records shops, book shops, sheds anywhere I can. I plan to get myself to Ireland and Europe on tour very soon too.

CM: Is there a website you wanna plug where fans can get up to date news on new releases, tour date and merch?

LP: There are a few   www.facebook.com/theragnboneman
                          www.petrolbombrecords.bandcamp.com ;
www.twitter.com/theragnboneman ;

CM: Thanks again for talking with Critical Mass. I love the 4 song demo and am excited to hear more form The Rag N Bone Man. Thanks again Lew.  

LP: Cheers, all the best.   

Monday, February 20, 2012

Interview with Goin' Places

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass. For those new to Goin' Places, can you give us some history on how the band got started? 

Victor: "We were hanging out in my basement and started writing songs"

Richie: "We started to jam in our downtime and write songs that we're intended to be jokes - we decided to demo these songs and people took interest in them.  The rest is history."

CM: Your newest release, "Relationship Sneakers", just came out and it's amazing and I know it's been a while since you guys released an album. Was it easy to come up with the songs for this album after being away for so long?

Richie: "It was very easy because most of the songs on 'Relationship Sneakers' were written around the time we made our first album.  Only two songs were written recently - Be With Me (2007/2008) and Bedroom Window (2008)."

Frank: "A few of the songs on the new album were originally written and demoed back in October of 2000.  Other then the two songs Richie mentioned all the songs on the album have been around since at least 2003, if not earlier. We've been wanting to record the album for years, but it kept getting delayed for one reason or another. It's nice to finally get it done."

CM: Speaking of being away, you guys last released an album back in the early 2000's before taking some time off. What were you guys up to between the last album and "Relationship Sneakers"? Was there any bands that were spawned from Goin' Places that released any material?
Richie: "We were all working full-time jobs.  Two of us got married.  One of us had children.  There weren't any bands that spawned from Goin' Places but I recorded an album with my first band, Yellow Teeth.  Its called "Polyrockisim" - 16 pop punk songs."

Victor: "No bands but 3 movies."

Frank: "We made a short film in 2002 called 'A Goin' Places Tale'.  After spending most of 2008 filming two more short films we decided it was finally time to record the follow up album we'd been planning for years."

CM: With your last album you had Mass Giorgini helping out and Joe Queer playing on it as well. Has Joe or Mass reached out to you guys since getting back together? 

Richie: "We saw Joe recently at a Queers show.  We haven't seen Mass in a while - we need to catch up sometime."

Frank: "Last I heard Mass was still recording at the studio, but he had also gotten a job as a college professor.  Also, even though it seems like we are getting back together for this new album we never actually broke up.  Over the years since our first album we've been playing shows every once in a while and even recorded an album of Beatles covers."

CM: I know this is a silly question, but who are some of the bands musical influences?

Richie: "Green Day,  The Beatles, The Queers, Screeching Weasel, NOFX,  Bad Religion, MTX, The Ataris, Less Than Jake, The Ramones, The Huntingtons, Mxpx, Rancid"

Frank: "Individually we each listen to all kinds of stuff...but as far as influences that end up in our songwriting, anything that is simple and melodic is usually the stuff we all agree on."

CM: When it comes to the whole songwriting process is it a group effort or is there a primary songwriter?

Richie: "It depends on the song - we don't have set rules for this."

Victor: "We have used both methods.  There have been times when we all sit together and write something and there are other times when each of us have brought in a song that we wrote and tried it as a band to see if we like it."

Frank: "The first album was mostly made up of songs that were written as a group. This new one has more songs that were written individually. Richie and Victor do most of the songwriting, but they usually don't work on songs together until it comes time for the arrangement and harmonies."

CM: Do you guys play out a lot in your area? 

Richie: "No.  Nobody gives a shit about us."

Victor: "No longer. There was a time when we played every week, now we are lucky if we play once a year."

CM: I honestly feel that this new album is a REALLY strong effort. Are there any plans on taking the show on the road for some shows? Maybe get out to Chicago at some point?

Richie: "Thank you.  If we can get on some good shows - maybe.  It depends on a lot of things."

Frank: "I don't think we're going to be jumping in a van and driving around the country playing shows anytime soon.  But we will happily make our way out to Chicago if we can get on a show as an opener for Screeching Weasel next time they play Reggies or something like that."

Victor: "If there was a demand we are open to playing a few shows."

CM: How can fans get in touch with the band? Is there a website you guys wanna plug?

Frank: "We have two sites...www.goinplaces.com and www.facebook.com/goinplacesmusic  We can also be contacted at GoinPlacesRock@gmail.com"

CM: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass. I love the new album and can't say enough great things about your guys. Stoked to get you to Chicago for some shows in the near future. Thanks again guys.

Richie: "Thank you!"

Frank: "Thanks for asking us to do this Chris.  Anyone who likes the new album should keep checking our websites cause we've got come cool stuff coming up.  We'll have a music video for "Nobody Gives A Shit About Us" available soon and we'll also have some of the new songs featured as playable tracks in Rock Band in the coming months."

Friday, February 17, 2012

Interview with Jeff Hancock from Hopewrecker

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Jeff. For those new to Hopewrecker, can you give us some history on the band and how you got started?

Jeff Hancock: Thanks for having me! We started around Fall 2011. We all come from other bands and had played together before but I personally hadn’t been in a band for a long time. I’ve really never stopped writing songs though and all of sudden I was coming up with a bunch of great songs and that inspired me to get everyone together and bash them out. Things started moving pretty quick and response has been really good so far.

CM: I know the band’s in the process of finding a label to release your debut 7". How that hunt going?

JH: Well, we’re still looking as of right now. We’re asking around and reaching out to labels from all over the world. It’s tough you know? It’s a lot to ask of someone to drop a chunk of money on making a record for you. We are actually working on a couple split singles though. One is with The Jetty Boys from Wisconsin and another with Brick Mower from New Jersey. These are going to be split label releases and we’re still trying to get a second label to go in on each one. Once the labels are confirmed then things will really be rolling.  Both of those bands made some of my favorite releases from the past couple of years so I’m really crossing my fingers that they happen. My dream is to build up a huge discography for Hopewrecker. I really think we’ll be lucky enough to release a few 7”s this year, between our own EPs and splits.

CM: I had the chance to review your demo for Critical Mass and was greatly surprised at how well it sounded for a demo. Did you guys record the demo on your own?

JH: Dude, thank you for the compliment! Your review was so fucking positive it really floored us. It reads like we paid you huge amounts of money…which I swear we didn’t. Yeah we did everything ourselves at home. I’m lucky that between Jon and Wal there’s all the equipment and know how to make some great sounding recordings. It’s really a luxury. We are able to record songs for projects as needed.

CM: I hear a lot of pop punk influences in your sound. Who are some of the bands musical influences?

JH: I love pop punk and definitely knew I was going for some specific sound. When I say pop punk I mean primitive beats, catchy riffs, fun lyrics and major hooks…old Lookout stuff. For this band I’m usually thinking about a band like The Riverdales or The Descendents but also just classic melodies and inspiration from old girl groups and forgotten records from the ‘50s and ‘60s. People hear all sorts of influences in our songs, some of which I never noticed…Turbonegro, Swingin’ Utters, Fifteen, Naked Raygun…I’ll take all of those as a big compliment.

CM: When it comes to the whole songwriting process is it a group effort or is there a primary songwriter in the group?

JH Well so far it’s been just me bringing completed songs to the rest of the band and then they give it a thumbs up or down. As soon as the band started, I already had a whole pile of songs pretty much completely written so there was no shortage of material really. I think from this point on, everyone will be bringing songs to the band. We can all write so I’m excited to see what comes out! 

CM: I know you guys have a lot going on with numerous compilations in the works. Can you tell us a little about those comps and when we can expect them to hit the streets?

JH: We did Punk the Halls first, that one came out in December. The next one up is called Give Back and it’s a benefit for a wildlife center up north. We’re on that one with a  bunch of great bands like Rations, Abolitionist, and Crusades. People can get it right now from 1859 Records. We’re contributing a song for this awesome Screeching Weasel tribute that will be out in April with 27 bands on it. People can check our facebook page for the link on where to get it once it’s out. There’s also a Death To False Hope comp that’s in the works right now. That will be a huge honor since they deal with so many great bands. There are two more that I think are for sure but I don’t think I should say just yet. It’s really a lot of fun to be a part of all of these.

CM: Are there any plans on hitting the road for some shows this year? Maybe a possible tour?

JH: There’s no plans right now. We’re all super busy with “real world” stuff so that’s on the back burner for now.

CM: Jeff, I know you had a punk podcast called Needle Drop Radio that recently called it a day. Any plans on getting back into the radio world in the near future?

JH: Yeah, just ended it after two years. Even though it was one of the greatest things I’ve ever done, it was honestly a lot of work so I’m not in a hurry to get back to any radio stuff. I won’t say never, just nothing in the near future.

CM: How can fans and labels get in touch with the band? Is there a website you wanna plug?

JH: The email is hopewreckerband@gmail.com. I started putting a site together but haven’t finished it yet. Right now our Facebook page has all the info, some songs, and people can drop by and say hello or offer to put out a record for us. We’d like that.

CM: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass. I like what you're doing and I hope to get that 7" out and into our hands this year. All the best to you and the band. Thanks again Jeff.

JH: Thanks for helping us out, Chris. Keep up the good work with Critical Mass!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Interview with After The Fact

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass guys. For those new to After The Fact, can you give us some history on the band and how you got started? 

After The Fact: Hey man no problem! Thank you for taking the time to interview us and get to know a little bit about us! When we first started out Eric and Doug's old punk band, Code Zero, had just played their last show (circa 08) and I hadn't played in a band in almost a year (my last band before ATF! being Glory Daze) and was looking to start something new when Eric and Doug called me up about seeing if I wanted to come jam with them and do another punk band. I said hell yeah and we started jamming , we were based out of Doug's house up near downtown Fort Myers, we became a 3 piece and started writing songs.  Eric playing bass, Doug playing drums and myself playing rhythm and lead guitar.  After a little bit my best friend Allen Davies joined the band and played 2nd guitar and became our full time singer with Eric and myself doing back up vocals. After about a half of a year to a year later we had gone through numerous horn players and Allen had left the band to move to Nashville and pursue music production and business. It was then that we recruited our friend Casey Gartland of the band EVAK to sing for us, this was around winter of 09. It was  about that same time another friends of ours, Paul Kalugdan of Withstand The Fire, joined the band playing guitar/trumpet and singing vocal harmonies finally completing and solidifying our lineup. Our sound has changed over the years from harder old school punk with extremely dirty vocals and grungy sounding guitar and bass to a melodic pop punk/ska sound I think we are very happy with now, being more vocally driven than we had initially anticipated and working more and more to strengthen our weaknesses as a band (both instrumentally and professionally between each other) while keeping it fun and focusing primarily on our strengths and most importantly having fun with all of our friends always and making our show a good time for all, no matter what age.

CM:Your newest release, "Super Scary Scenarios" came out last year, and I really enjoyed it. You guys have a great sound and the energy really comes out in the songs. Are there any plans on releasing new material this year? 

ATF: Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it! We are in the process right now of finishing up about 10 new demos with the help of our friend Rick of another local band(Ghost Dog Ela) that we will be sending off to Roger Lima from Less Than Jake/Moathouse Recording Studio up in Gainesville, FL and will hopefully start tracking everything sometime in April or May for what we intend (in time) to hopefully be our first full length, released later in the year with an EP of fun new demos sometime in the early summer to tide everyone over until the completion of the album.

CM: I can hear certain styles and sounds in the bands approach to playing music. Who are some of the bands musical influences?

All the members of ATF! have a varied Music Back ground everything
from Metal,Hardcore,Too Indie and Punk,and Lots things in between.

As a band Id say our musical influence are definitely Less Than Jake, Jeffries Fan Club, Goldfinger, The Hippos, Dynamite Boy, Slick Shoes, Face to Face, Pulley, Lint, Gameface, Screeching Weasel and ALL.and even a little bit of the really poppy stuff like New Found Glory,and Blink 182.

CM: When it comes to the whole songwriting process is it a group effort or is there a primary songwriter?

ATF: Well since the beginning Eric and I write the majority of the lyrics and each of us have music and structures thought up for our own songs and then we bring them to the band and then after we get the structure down and tweak that we add in the dynamics and everyone adds their own take on their part into the song and develops their own part off the basis of the song structure and it becomes a song.  Just lately though Paul has started bringing some songs he's written in and so has Doug (although previously Doug wrote "Maravilla")

At this point Casey comes in and puts his finishing touch on things, makes the vocals shine and bam another hit song done!

CM: Does the band play out a lot outside of your hometown of Fort Myers, FL? Or have you stayed somewhat local up til now?

ATF: We try to get outta town as much as possible because we have friends all over the state of Florida and its really good to get to see everyone! We all work alot though so alot of the time we play local shows and bring lots of bands thru here especially touring bands thru our home venue, Rack'em Billiards in Cape Coral, FL or Cool Hand Luc's in Fort Myers,FL and sometimes for Music Walk too behind our friend Andy Howl's Howl Gallery/Tattoo in downtown Fort Myers,FL. We are always about making sure the outta town bands get taken care of first and always make sure everyone has a blast! 

CM: Are there any plans on hitting the road for some shows this year? Maybe a tour of the Midwest of the East Coast?

ATF: We would love to be able to get out of town more or even go on tour this summer but money is really what's holding us back from doing that right now. We will definitely try to make it out of the  the state though by the end of this year and hopefully if not this year then definitely next year we will do an East Coast/Mid west tour for sure! Right now we try and take 3 day "MinoTours" (a pun on Mini-Tour and Minotaur's TASTE THE BEAST campaign from Role Models lol) around the state of FL usually to Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, St.Pete/Tampa and back or the opposite way around. We wanna get into Gainesville and Orlando more and definitely up to Tallahassee  too but we've been so busy bringing bands down thru here, playing festivals and recording we haven't had time to get back up there yet. But worry not! We will make it back up there definitely by summer!

CM: Eric, you were telling me that you guys heard Roger from Less Than Jake really liked your album, and if all goes well maybe he'll work with you guys on the new record. That's actually pretty awesome! Can you elaborate on that? Or is it too soon?

ATF: At first we got our Album to Chris (LTJ) and he liked it and thought we really sounded like we knew what we were going for. So that kind of made it easier too approach Roger. After he heard our new demos  he said that he could make sure everything sounded sonically pleasing and capture the energy of our live show while still making a radio quality recording which is definitely what we wanna do! We are just waiting now to get the rest of these demos done which will be done by the end of the month and shipped off to Roger.

CM: Do you think there maybe a Less Than Jake/After The Fact tour in the near future? 

ATF: Well I'd always hope for something like that. But I doubt it cause we still have a long way to go. We still need to get our merch together (t-shirts and what not) and probably a van that can tow our trailer and then save up some money before we can even attempt that. But playing with them on March 17th at the Durty Nelly's Block Party in Downtown St.Pete with A Wilhelm Scream and alot of our friends in other bands like Askultura, Escape Tonight, Trust for Liars and Burning Tree is definitely a start! 

CM: How can fans get in touch with the band? Is there a website you guys wanna plug?

ATF: Eric and I primarily run the Facebook page
with Casey and Paul sometimes adding in their two cents. And for a more professional layout of upcoming shows, songs and reviews you can go to www.reverbnation.com/afterthefact 

CM: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass. I really dig what you're doing and I wanna wish you the best of luck in 2012! I'm stoked to hear some new material in the coming months! Thanks again guys!

ATF: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us and thank you for the kind words! We just love having a good time with all of our friends and making meaningful music that you can dance/mosh/skank to! Take care and thanks again!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Music Reviews: The Rag N Bone Man - "4 Song Demo"

Growing up in Chicago it's hard not to have been fed, either by others or by your own hand, large amounts of blues music. It's part of what makes our city so great. The Chicago blues history is layered with so many talented artists who changed the game for so many bands to come. Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Willie Dixon, Jimmy Reed, Do Diddley, Koko Taylor, Freddie King, Otis Rush, Little Walter, Elmore James...the list goes on for days! It was the Chicago blues that crept into the U.K. in the late 50's/early 60's that started what we now know as the British Invasion! Bands like the Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, John Mayall, Humble Pie and early Peter Green/Jeremy Spencer era Fleetwood Mac were knee deep in the blues. So it comes as no surprise that the U.K. is STILL churning out amazing blues artists. And their newest prodigy is a one man band named The Rag N Bone Man!

The Rag N Bone Man plays a wide variety of modern day blues music on his new 4 track demo that you can hear on his Bandcamp site. The demo kicks off with a tune called "Savage". It's an in your face blast of dirty blues that's one part Little Walter kick ass harp, one part Jack White with a distortion laced vocal treatment pieced together with a killer finger picking and slide guitar riff that just brings it all together. It gives you a slight taste of what the rest of the EP will be like.

"Junkie In The Phone Box" has more of a clean sound, but still has enough dirt to make it worthy of the Mississippi Delta meets Chicago sound of the early 60's. The songs main character is strung out and doesn't have a chance in the world and neither does the kids she brings into her drug infested world. Great tune about the life of a junkie on a one way ride with a hellhound on her trail. Brilliant!

The last track is by far the biggest surprise on the EP. "Sunnycidal" kicks off with a palm muted riff and lyrics about sleeping pills and desperation before kicking in, for a short time, with a great beat and sharp sound. It's basically a topic and lyrical content that's not a far stretch from your typical blues tune. But what really stands out on this track is that The Rag N Bone Man has a really beautiful voice! It's sounds a little like Freddie Mercury on "Hammer Will Fall" without all the dramatic vocal layering that Queen was identified with. This EP has a little something for every blues fan. It's dirty, meat and potatoes music that the blue collar hard working man can identify with. I can't wait to hear MORE from The Rag N Bone Man.

4 ½ / 5 stars

Monday, February 13, 2012

Music News: Mooster Records Takes Off

Just when you thought the whole music industry had gone bust, there's a new independent record label coming out of Chicago! And they are looking to change the face of indie music! 

 Mooster Records is run and operated by Brandon Harrod who plays drums in the Chicago based garage rock band The Larroquettes. Brandon's vision is to release quality music to music lovers. Not specifically one style or genre of music either.

So far the label has released 2 of Harrod's solo releases,
"Kuna For Dayzzzzz" and "Wide Open Sun", both of which are more along the lines of singer/songwriter meets Violent Femmes style than Harrod's hard rocking and garage based music with The Larroquettes. Up next on the labels roster is the new album by Nick Minnow "Plant Music (an untested hypothesis)" as well as Harrod's new "Karaoke Party". You can get both releases in digital format with hard copies coming shortly.

I spoke with Mr. Harrod yesterday and he describes Minnow's album as "
an experimental rock free jazz concept album
!" And I've heard the album, and it's quite mind blowing to say the least. It's very original in it's style and complexity. Any music lover with an open mind will definitely dig this album. My review of the record will be coming shortly to Critical Mass. But in the meantime I suggest you check it out at Minnow's bandcamp page.

2012 is looking to be a big year for Mooster Records, and the entire Critical Mass family couldn't be more happy. We'll be here reporting on all things Mooster Records as they become available. And we want to wish Brandon all the best, and thank him for taking the indie label to the next step here in Chicago.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Music Reviews: Goin' Places - "Relationship Sneakers"

Remember when punk rock WASN'T about going to Hot Topic for nut hugger skinny jeans and fruity emo haircuts? When it was all about being who we are instead of trying to be something you're not? It pretty much started with the Ramones in the 70s and ended with them in '97. Sure, there have been the occasional exception to the rule. But mostly it's been all about fashion and bandwagon jumping since. Now there's a band who coming out of retirement to bring it all back t where it should have stayed all along....on the streets!

Goin' Places started out in 2000 and were one of those bands who didn't do what was expected in order to make a quick buck riding the punk rock bandwagon that was oh so popular at that time. They were students of old school pop punk. They liked the Ramones, but also followed bands like The Queers, Mr. T Experience and Screeching Weasel. They released one record ("Girl Songwriting 101") in 2002, toured shortly and dropped out of the scene to get real jobs. But they never gave up the dream of one day making music again on their own terms. And NOW is that time!

"Relationship Sneakers" (Bright & Borrow Records) is 15 catchy gems in the style of all things pop punk. This album could have come out in the early 90s and been neck and neck with "Love Songs For The Retarded" and "Wiggle". It's just a fun record. "Be With Me" is a cool tune about being just friends with a girl who you really dig, only to get drunk and spill the beans and find out she doesn't feel the same way. We've been there. And that's why I can identify with this track. So good! Throw in a wicked keyboard solo in the vein of "Let's Dance" by the Ramones, and you have instant classic stamped all over it!

"Tongue Tied", "Bedroom Window" and "Relationship Sneakers" all have some really kick ass harmonies and will have you hooked in seconds. There is just so much going on with this band, musically and lyrically, and it's all brought together in a sunny fun way. The band. Richie (guitar/vocals), Victor (drums/vocals) and Frank (bass) write and play songs that will make you remember why we love pop punk in the first place. They take you away from all your problems and bring you to a place filled with harmony, good times and fun!

"Just Another Girl Song" could have been on the Queers classic album "Don't Back Down" and "Goin' Places" is as close to a Ramones classic as we're gonna get. But they do it with dignity and respect for the bands who have inspired them. They don't rip off as much as pay tribute to the greats of the past and present.

"I Love You Girl" is damn close to being the best tune on the record. It's pretty much an instrumental, besides the "Oh oh oh" sing along and the title track said only once at the very end. "Gum Would Be Perfection" IS a full instrumental track but it's done so well that the music sings it's self without words. You have to hear it to really get what I'm saying.

The album closes with a tribute to our fallen hero's, Joey Johnny and Dee, as well as the Ramones as a band! There have been tribute tunes in the past. But none that can hold a candle to this track. We'll never forget what they gave us and what they continue to do even after 15 years away. There's also a hidden track that comes in at around the 14 minute mark that you need to hear. If your sensitive to foul language
you may wanna skip the hidden track altogether. But all in all this is a great album. And I'm glad to have this band back after being away for so long.

4 ½ / 5 stars

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Interview with The Creeping Ivies

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass. For those new to The Creeping Ivies, can you give us some history on the band and how you got started?

The Creeping Ivies: We are Becca Bomb (vox.guitar) and Duncan Destruction (drums) and we formed the band late 2010.  We are friends and met a couple of years before at a gig Becca was playing at with another band.  Duncan briefly joined this previous band just before we split up but shortly that after we formed the Creeping Ivies.

We spent a lot of time initially in the rehearsal studio just playing and practicing and started doing gigs later in 2011.  We released one of our tracks 'Shake It Up' on a couple of cool compilation records (GRG PNK Records and Dead By Mono) and then recorded our debut 3 track EP Rock N Roll Party which was released in November 2011.

CM: Your newest release, "Rock N Roll Party EP", came out this past November, as you stated, and is really well done. Anyone into garage rock will really dig this EP! Are there any plans on releasing new material this year?

TCI: Thanks! This was our first recording together so it was quite exciting for us to get something out there.  We've also been finding our feet and we're growing as a band all the time so there's a lot of new songs being written.  So, yeah, we're pretty keen to get new stuff recorded, we're already planning a second EP for later this year. Details of this are to be confirmed soon!

CM: Who are some of the bands musical influences?

TCI: Artists we love are Bo Diddley, The Cramps, Link Wray, The Ramones,  Velvet Underground, The Clash, Elvis, New York Dolls, The Sonics, Hasil Adkins, Iggy Pop, the list goes on and on, we have a lot of varied personal influences but as a band we're inspired by wild rock n roll and music you can bop to.

CM: The band is still somewhat new, since you formed recently. Have you guys played together in any other bands in the past?

TCI: Becca had a couple of bands before (Trash Superstar and The Leatherettes).  The latter was a duo and we used a drum machine but Duncan briefly joined us on drums near the end although we never played a gig as a three piece.  We also have a club night together called FEVER where we play our favourite Rock n Roll Vinyl records so we share a mutual love for the music.

CM: When it comes to the whole songwriting process is it a group effort or is there a primary songwriter?

TCI: Becca writes all the songs then brings them to rehearsals where we just take it from there.  Sometimes we just have a loose jam and improvise and Becca will maybe work on that later and sort out the lyrics.  Sometimes lyrics don't get written until the night before a gig!

CM: Being a duo and not having a bass player is somewhat unheard of. Originally, was it planned out to just be a guitar and drums only band? And will there be a bass player added later on?

TCI: No, we never seen this as an issue at all.  We always planned to be stripped back and raw.  We wouldn't rule out working with other musicians in the future but its not something we're thinking about at the moment. Its less people to have to worry about and less people to piss you off. We're primitive. We're basically the rock n roll Flintstones.

CM: Does the band play out a lot in your area?

TCI: We only started playing live last year so we're beginning to get a few gigs under our belt.  Our first show we put on as a party of our Rock N Roll night FEVER.  We played a show with Viv Albertine of The Slits last year and will be playing with Vic Godard & Subway Sect next Month.  We're getting involved with some other local bands and will be putting on a few gigs here and there.

CM: Are there any plans on hitting the road for some shows this year? Maybe a possible tour of the United States at some point?

TCI: We will travel further a field this year and hopefully we'll get some opportunities to play bigger audiences.  We want to spread the rock n roll germ and Tear it up everywhere.  We would love to do a tour of the US, that's the dream.

CM: How can fans and labels get in touch with the band? Is there a website you guys wanna plug?

TCI: Our official website is www.thecreepingivies.com but we're always updating our Facebook and twitter with news or random crap so follow us on those!  You can buy our CD from Bandcamp and download from Itunes/amazon etc.

CM: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass. I like what you're doing and I hope to get more music out and into our hands this year. All the best to you both. Thanks again guys.

 TCI: Cheers Chris, thanks for the support, hope to see you on our travels! 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Music Reviews: The Heat Tape - "The Heat Tape"

Over the years bands who have made a name for themselves have had members who wanna branch out and release an album of their own. Or form a side project that reflects who they are as individuals. Sometimes these solo albums and side projects work. Other times they fall flat and show little resemblance of the greatness of their day job. This is NOT the case with Brett Hunter, guitarist of Carbondale, IL favorite sons The Copyrights. Hunter, who has not one but TWO side projects, has just released the self titled 7" from his band The Heat Tape (Underground Communique Records). And it's a damn good release.

For close to 10 years Hunter has been a part of the greatness that is The Copyrights, releasing 5 full length albums along with a handful of singles and splits. The Heat Tape are a trio from Makanda, IL who play a little more grittier and lo-fi than The Copyrights or Hunters OTHER band Dear Landlord. But the 4 songs on this 7" are equally as effective and strong. The band Hunter,
Brooks Davey and Ben Bleyer play more of a garage style of dirty punk rock. And it really works for them.

"Love And Sweat" is a great tune about having fun while you still can. And try to remember the years are not slowing down for any of us. We gotta get while the gettings good! "Freebird" should have been called "Freedom" since it's all about not being locked up and being able to do as you please. I guess at the end of the day the 4 songs on this amazing EP are all about living for today and enjoying what you have because it may not be there tomorrow. A wonderful philosophy to live by in this day and age! No matter who you are, what your background is and how financially stable you may or may not be...we can STILL have fun and be carefree, even for a short time. And The Heat Tape remind us of that.

4 / 5 stars

Friday, February 3, 2012

Music Reviews: After The Fact - "Super Scary Scenarios" EP

After The Fact are a new band from Fort Myers, FL who play an infectious brand of ska punk and like having fun. The bands debut EP "Super Scary Scenarios" (Route 8 Records) is loaded with catchy riffs and hooks, a good beat, great vocals and or course horns! The band has a sound similar to that of Less Than Jake, but at the same time have their own style of songwriting.

This incredible EP kicks off with "Stuck" and fun track about being, well, STUCK! But it could be about being stuck anywhere...in a bad relationship, a dead end job, your hometown...anywhere! And the sound bites from "Office Space" just add to the good times. Who knew being stuck in a rut could be so much fun!

"This Time" has an all killer no filler opening guitar riff and harmonies that make this track an instant favorite for this listener. Singer Casey Gartland has a really good voice and he lets it shine all over this track (and all 6 tracks on this album, actually). His vocals never strain or overpower the other players on the album. They all just gel so well together.

"Frustrated" kicks off with an old school bass riff that goes into a great horn sound and we're off and running! Gang style vocals galore and a heavy groove make this another stand out track. I can't get enough of this album!

The band is tight as fuck. Guitarist Tim Tim is a great player who can play heavy riff solos and then play a beautiful acoustic song like "Maravilla" without a hitch. This kids got talent! The rhythm section of Big E (bass) and Dougie Fresh (drums) along with Paul Kalugdan (trumpet/guitar) just gel so well together. And along with Gartland bring the good times without tripping over each other musically. Bring these guys together and you have a great band who play energetic summer friendly music. Just when you thought this style of music has grown old and stale, After The Fact bring it all home with a fresh sound and show that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.

4 ½ / 5 stars

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Music Reviews: Dot Dash - "Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash"

Dot Dash, who hail from Washington D.C., can best be described as an alternative band who play jangly pop blasts in the vein of The Cure and The Smiths. Now, normally I wouldn't touch a band like this with a ten foot pole. But something just caught me off guard with this band. Maybe it's the infectious style of playing? Maybe it's the rolling backbeat? Maybe it's the smooth vocal styling's? The quality of the songwriting? ALL of the above? It's hard to pinpoint when they took hold of my attention span and refused to let go.

Dot Dash are a fierce 4 piece that consist of singer/guitarist/main songwriter Terry Banks, guitarist Bill Crandall, bassist Hunter Bennett and drummer Danny Ingram. These 4 gentlemen are seasoned professionals and it shows on tracks like "The Color And The Sound" and "That Was Now, This Is Then" from their latest album Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash (The Beautiful Music). The album has an almost English feel to it and is very much 1984 in it's approach. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. I mean hey, if you have a knack for something different and tasteful, go for it!

 "Alright, Alright" has hit record written all over it with it's soft vocal's going into falsetto towards the end, it just makes you feel good. It's a short tune, but great none the less. Being a music lover I find so much good in this album. If you grew up loving 180 Minutes on MTV this is a great album to pick up. Some music just don't go out of style. And, like I said before, this particular style isn't really my cup of tea...but this band just has SOMETHING that will make you take notice and listen. The records pop sensibility and fine execution make this a must have for any 80s alternative music lover who still love to be different and wanna stand out in a crowd of hipsters and phonies. Be yourself and let it ride. That's what I get from Dot Dash. Well, that AND some really great music.

4 / 5 stars