Monday, June 28, 2010

Spoke a bit too soon

Found three things today that are worth a little bit. I still don't think they're necessarily all that exciting, but I gotta admit I enjoyed 'em, and think they are worth a post:
1. Studebaker's Blacksmith- Nebula
The Good- They lock in some excellent stoner-hesher jams that are hypnotic enough to get the desired effect, but not so utterly retro that I'd just as soon be listening to a Blue Cheer record. They've got some kind of connection to the mighty Pandora's Box, so they must be good people. The recording is rough enough and deep enough that it sounds like Rocknroll, not fireworks.
The Drawbacks- Kerstin, the singer, has succumbed to European female hard rock singer disease. She's a bit too stiff and formal. I can hear a good voice in there, but she seems like she's trying to hit the note, not feel the music. Like I said- this is fairly endemic, and you can hear it in nearly every female vocalist in a hard rock band in Europe, so, if you're used to that, you might not mind. Me? I prefer the girls who sing just as raw and hard as the guys. Also, the lyrics aren't so great. Maybe if they were in German? Basically, I bet the band is much better live with a good crowd. If they really let loose, I could see them being as good as Hammerbox
2. Deterior- Primitive Circuitry
The Good- For a Sludge/doom/ambient one man metal band there are for-real hooks! I realize that goes against what sludge/doom bands are going for, but endless downtuned howling can get boring. So, unless it's infused with something, such music becomes wallpaper to me. Sure enough, on previous releases, Deterior was basically sonic wallpaper to me. But, I'm kinda retro on this- I'm more a Killing Joke/Head of David/Godflesh guy than a Thou/Eyehategod/Earth guy. Again, he's got some good friends- his myspace lists Crashworship, who are absolutely transcendent. You cannot front on someone with taste that good. So, this is sludge metal bordering on Stoner rock, like Kylesa and Baronness, so yes, I like it.
The drawback- Some of us have voices made for that throaty growl. Some, like me, do not. This guy? Does not. Every time he goes into "that voice" I cringe. It's distracting from the groove. Seriously he should leave the growling to guys like Randy from Lamb of God. Also, it gets a bit proggy with the time signatures, and riffs. Proggy is cool for other folks, but me? I prefer the straight machine motorik. I find a band like Swans or Godflesh far more heavy because the beat is unrelenting, even if it's a crawl.
3. Battle Flags- ColourEngine
The Good- Very nice, exotic flavored minimal electro pop. Picture if Owl City listened to the Ruby Suns. I like pop music, and a good summery hook makes my day, even if the cool, smart kids think it makes me dumb. This has that kind of a hook. I can hum along as I do my laundry. As far as pop music goes, this also hits enough artsy and glammy spots that is seems au courant and hip.
The drawback- it does get a little samey and derivative. If you have been listening to indie pop there's a good chance you'll have heard a hook or two somewhere else. I mean some of it goes all the way back to Tom Tom Club. You also might not like pop music, or the little exotic flourishes, but hey, I do. Also, this guy likes him some treble, and it can get on the shrill side a bit. There are a few notes sung or played that are icepick sharp, so crank the bass for better enjoyment.


  1. Unfortunately, I agree more with your drawbacks than your goods. Especially for the first two. The vocals on Studebaker are absolutely horrendous, making the entire thing unlistenable. The production on Deterior is not very good and undermines the whole thing. And like you said, the vocals are not good. I'm kinda diggin' on the Battle Flags, especially when the dubby basslines kick in. Keep 'em coming Max.

  2. Oh yeah, Tom Tom Club -- definitely.

  3. Hey, fair enough- one of my points about this blog is that the new model for entertainment- call it the long tail, or the infinite tent is that there is enough variety that no one needs to agree. As for the Studebaker's Blacksmith shop, I've found another ep by them on Jamendo that corrects some of the vocal stiltedness, but is in dire need of musical editing- we're talking riffs that spiral off for a good 12 bars without purpose. Say what you want about punk rock, it teaches some decent economics for songwriters. Still, for the stoner rock crowd who are clearly the band's audience, it's not the worst they could be listening to. I have some sympathies with the Stoner-rock crowd; I listened to a lot of Hawkwind, Can, Neu and Faust for awhile there back in the late 1980's, but like any genre, it's prone to some excesses that I'm not so fond of. A song like QOTSA's "Go with the Flow" makes for an excellent pop-rock song- while you couldn't pay me to listen to a Fu Manchu record (way too flacid, and unkempt). Still, I think that if Studebaker could get the vocalist to loosen up, and belt a few lines, while getting the rhythm section to tighten up, they could be a good stoner rock band. Deterior, meanwhile, I don't think will ever make a good sludge band, but, if the dude gets a good collaborator, I think I hear a decent trad-metal band in the making. I agree that as is, the guy needs an editor, and how. I'm unafraid of bad production. I like early misfits records, despite the production being so bad that you can't even hear the instruments. But, I want folks to maximize what they have. Yeah, the Battle Flags stuff is decent electro exotica pop, but watch the mix- play 'em on the wrong set of speakers, and you could punch out some of your hearing around the 18000 HZ mark...