All Access Magazine Articles

September 13, 2007

Sound Bites - little nibbles of recent releases

CD Reviews

By Rob Swick

Bittersweet by Brooke Trout         

A solid effort from a tasty female singer-songwriter, who compiled the entire ten-song disk with only one other musician, the versatile Timon Marmex.  Brooke handles guitars, while Timon takes care of keyboards, bass, and drums, and additional guitars as needed. 

The opening track, “Roller Coaster Lover,” opens with a loony organ loop like a circus melodeon, giving the listener a hint of the wild ride that Brooke is about to embark upon, both in the dramatic song itself, and throughout the disk.  Hitting all kinds of highs and lows in both her lyrics and her vocals, Brooke squeaks, squeals, and chirps like a quirky new-wave heroine of many years ago, Lene Lovich.   Remember “New Toy” or “Lucky Number” from the Eighties?  Well, Brooke fills this bill for a new generation, punctuating her lyrics with peppy interjections, as the spirit strikes her.

Brooke takes a left-turn away from Alanis Morisette and Led Zeppelin in her song “Thanks,” this time expressing gratitude for a lover who’s getting going, good and gone.

A couple of the songs have a punky punch to them, such as “Suburban Cocktail,” highlighting how expert Brooke is at making various two- and three-chord progressions interesting and fresh, while at other times a more melodic mood moves her, until finally, as she sings in the wryly-named “Prince Harming,” “The fairy tale is through”

The net result on Bittersweet is a good catch of titillating tuneage.  As an accomplished chanteuse who can write and play as well as sing, Brooke Trout is the real deal – well worth reeling in.

Kill the Headlights by Adema

Nowadays, Bakersfield is known for a lot more than just Buck Owens, that’s for sure.  The international success of Korn put the California cow-town on the map for rockers everywhere, and helped to pave the way for other rural-roots artists whose music ventures beyond old-time acoustic twang.  One new-breed band from Bakersfield is Adema, whose new album, “Kill the Headlights,” hits the racks soon.   The band can cite connections and influences that include not only Korn, but also Linkin Park. Cuts such as  “What Doesn’t Kill Us” and “Black Clouds” open with a chunky beats that could have come from the mind of Korn’s Jonathan Smith, but the songs soon flow in more harmonious directions, fueled by guitars from Tim Fluckey and Ed Faris, and grounded by the bass of Dave DeRoo and the drums of Kris Kohls.  Yes, Adema’s new singer, Bobby Reeves, has a voice that can yell quite nicely, like Chester of Linkin Park, but that can also be quite harmonious, as needed.  “Los Angeles” starts mellow and almost acoustic, then bursts into an ear-catching scream, then goes tuneful again – keeping listeners on their toes, stringing them along.  Some might call it nu-metal (or is that neu-metal?), and others might say “scream-o,” while still others might simply desire to dispense with definitions and move to the rhythms, because Kill the Headlights by Adema certainly rocks, and rocks hard.

Prey for Eyes by The Red Chord

Here’s a heavy effort that should appeal to those with a taste for today’s Drāno-drenched vocals.  Yes, Guy Kozowik has a raspy voice that seems intent on unclogging the listener’s aural passages, but he can also cool it down for a melodic passage, when he chooses.  A peek at the lyrics sheet reveals that The Red Chord has a lot to say, and they say it well.  Beyond doom and gloom and political tirades, the band’s songs cover topics of deep personal and social significance, such as in “Responsibilities” and “Midas Touch.” Not only that, but their vocal-free instrumental track, “It Came from Over There,” reveals a surprising depth and creativity.  Supported by Mirai Kawashima on Moog, piano, and synthesizer, the track goes in an unexpectedly melodic direction, impressing the listener with the breadth of expression derived from what otherwise appears to be a hard-thrashing crew of screamers.  There are two Mikes on guitar, one surnamed Keller and the other McKenzie, and they both are adept in the conventions of the Genre, while of bassist Greg Weeks and drummer Brad Fickeisen support the churning mix quite capably.  Initially, Prey for Eyes might sound a tad harsh to the uninitiated, but for those who know, The Red Chord is a band to be reckoned with.

(The Red Chord plays at the House of Blues in Hollywood on Friday, September 14)

Lonesome Spurs Self-titled CD

Riding across the So-Cal landscape as if it was still simply sagebrush and tumbleweeds, Lonesome Spurs is a sweet hay-flavored duo consisting of Lynda Kay Parker and Danny B. Harvey, both of whom sing and play guitar, and honor the cowpoke legacies of such hillbilly heroes as Roy Clark, Buck Owens, Hank Williams, and Patsy Cline.  Linda handles lead vocals, and also plays a mean Samsonite suitcase kickdrum (!), while Danny keeps supplemental time on a “foot shaker,” and that’s quite enough instrumentation for this good, old-fashioned roadhouse team.  Though the two wrote 12 of the 14 songs on the CD, either individually or together, the tunes have a comfortable familiarity to them, welling up from the twin American springheads of country and blues. The listener will hear the ghosts of bygone honky-tonks and sock-hops on this disk , brought back to life by a pair of musicians who evidently have a long love for this kind of heritage music, along with the heart and talent to pull it off.  Liner notes report that the tracks were recorded “live” at a studio in Agua Dulce, projecting an intimacy that comes through loud and clear without benefit of backup band, overdubs, and slick production tricks.  Lynda’s voice is strong and clear throughout, belting out roadhouse-ready ditties such as “Ride Straddle Saloon,” “One Cup of Coffee,” and “Jack & Coke,” all of which are tastily complemented by Danny’s vintage licks. 

Here and Gone / Rare Tracks from the XYZ and solo years by Terry Ilous

This 18-track disk covers a lot of music from a man who has put a lot of heart and soul into rock for a lot of years.  Terry Ilous is a top-rate vocalist who can go toe to toe with the best, packing a gravelly yet on-key power that matches the finest vocal excursions of talents such as Paul Rodgers, Sammy Hagar, or Chris Robinson.  Known mainly for his years as front-man for L.A.-based rock band XYZ, Here and Gone covers prime tracks by that band, including the hit “Inside Out.”  Also included are covers such as Guess Who’s “American Woman” and Foreigner’s “Waiting for a Girl Like You,” which receive admirable justice from Terry and his various backing musicians.  The album’s roster of players is impressive, containing contributors such as Vinnie Appice, James Kottak, and Chris Slade on drums, for instance.

XYZ arose during the glam heyday of the late Eighties, and some tracks will bring back memories of Terry Ilous and his bandmates at one of the clubs on the Sunset Strip.  The scene has changed since then, and not all of the clubs are the same, or even still there, but Terry Ilous is still on face of the musical landscape, singing strong and rocking hard.  Here and Gone will give listeners an overview of his impressivevocal talent, along with the colorful breadth of his work.

Take it Sleezy by Dirty Penny

Here’s a guilty pleasure that keeps on pleasuring, offering evidence that certain kinds of stolen sweets taste better when pilfered.  Dirty Penny lifts from all the great glamsters gone by, punching out “hey-hey-hey” and “ooh-ooh” and “yeah!” like Van Halen and Mötley Crüe did during their days on the Strip, back when Spandex and satin bandanas were more than mere clichés.  These boys bite into familiar chord progressions that have been recycled since the Seventies, by bands both remembered and forgotten.  Song titles such as “Black n’ Blue, “Push Comes to Shove” and “Runnin’ Wild” ring well-known lyrical bells, yet singer Binge Daniels puts his heart into each one, belting them boldly into the millennium.  Guitarist Jonny Prynce, bassist Tyno Vincent, and drummer Spanky Savage play tightly and capably, delivering the proper punch and crunch merited by the familiar concoctions cooked up by Dirty Penny.  Like after-school treats swiped from a candy store, Dirty Penny’s Take it Sleezy might be disreputable, low-down, and not necessarily nourishing, but oh, some say they’re tasty.

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