Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Popping in the burned copy of Caddywhompus’ EP there is one word that comes to mind…Raw. This is not to say that the duo’s 4 songs on the EP, which are also available online for a free download, are not refined or basic in sense. Instead, the rawness comes through in that of the production of the music (recorded in their living room), the packaging (those lucy enough get a burned CD with the names of the songs handwritten on the back of the white envelope) and most importantly the attitude of the songs. This is two guys, one with a guitar and one with a set of drums, making music together who absolutely love what they are doing. With bits of shoe gaze guitars, garage rock, melodic choruses and a hint of punk, it is no wonder where they dreamt up the genre Noise Pop to classify their music. This is a record that will constantly have you moving from uncomfortable “how is making that sound” to catchy sign along to knocking you over the head with a piece of scrap metal.
“This is Where We Blaze the Nuggz” starts the album with a simple guitar opening leading to a click off that immediately transfers into rim shots and hi hat. This all builds with the volume of the guitar with addition of kick drum with a sudden explosion that is nothing short of a punch to the groin. Unsettled by LOUD guitars and vocals that you will probably have to hear 3 to 4 times to understand, the listener is dragged along to a chant of Oh ohhh Oh, Oh Ohhhh oh followed by a melodic guitar. This leads to a moment where Chris Rehm;s fingers dance around the fret board like drunk girl at her senior prom. After another melodic build that alternates from vocals to guitars the song ends a climatic thunderstorm where there are screams of “Waaa Ahhhhh Ahhhh” added to the melody. This is nothing short of what is to come.
When bands are young and looking to produce material many times ideas are taken as individual songs and the end product is a slew of mediocre drawn out songs based on simple concepts. Caddywhompus, however, does not fall victim to such a short coming. Maybe it is their youth in age (Chris, 18 and Sean, 19), not experience, but one of the cleverest parts of the album is the way that each song seems to be composed of pieces of many different songs. “Fun Times at Whiskey Bay” is the perfect example of just how they do this. The heavy intro that steps down to a very simple mid section which is then abandoned almost instantaneously for a repeat of a short version of the intro. This all leads the repetition of what could possibly be one of the best lyrics of any local band this year: “I feel safe with you, and you with me my smile spreads till I can’t see. And you, you are the earth and I am your dirt, we seem to be for what its worth.” The seamless change into “Absinthesizer” again shows the maturity of Caddywhompus. The shortest song on the EP, this is the song where they say “fuck it” and let a great idea stand on very short legs, and that it simply does.
The EP closes out with “Untitled #7408”which stands as the most radio friendly of the album. With the tightest pop structure of all the songs it moves quickly and shows that while they are willing to take risks, they also know how to step back and draw people in.
This is by far one of the most promising local bands to be playing in New Orleans right now, and with a second EP coming quickly on the heels of the first and buzz that will hopefully get people flocking to their shows, make sure you keep your eyes and ears open to what they are doing so you don’t miss a beat.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Smiley with a Knife’s How a Reign Comes to an End is an album that exists in the realm of duality. It is one thing and at the same time the antithesis of that same very thing. For an album that breaks almost every rule of the rock genre in its experimental nature, How a Reign Comes to an End manages to be a rock album. It provides emotion and tells stories without using a single spoken word. It allows the listener to feel free, yet pulls back with a head bobbing groove.
The album begins with a dark introduction, as if one is walking down a poorly lit hallway towards a door at the end with traces of noise around them. As that door opens, one is bathed in light that barely gleamed around the edges of it before and surrounded by sounds. Immediately, the air is filled with bouncy bright guitars, punchy bass and crsip drums. As the sounds grow the title “The Whole Town was Watching” makes sense. Without words, the listener begins to understand the town saw what happened, and now it is all a buzz with the passing of the story. Some are more than happy to continue to pass the story along, while others pause in skepticism. This theme of telling a story through the emotion of the instruments is carried throughout the album, though not are all as quite as airy and bright as the opening track.
“Until the Scandal Unveiled Her” slips into a darker realm where the guitars are forced into a much more rhythmic distorted pattern. Beginning with a drum roll, the bright guitars appear to ricochet from left to right off the straight forward bass, like the ball in a game of Pong. This continues until frustration builds and the guitars erupt into a growling roar.
The guitars are what truly speak through the music. They are the characters allowed to roam seemingly free at times expressing what they see and feel. They are the emotion. To maintain some order and not allowing the guitars to become too free in the space, the rhythm section lays down a solid groove, it is the scenery, the boundaries. The songs become more progressive tales than the standard repetition of parts as are most rock songs. The linear attitude to the songs juxtaposed to the tight bass and drums is clear example of the duality of this rock album – without the linear nature it would be just a rock album and without the tight rhythm it would be pure experiment.
How a Reign Comes to an End exists in a time where so many bands are pushing the limits to the point past the recognizable, Smiley with a Knife achieves a sound that is free, yet grounded – allowing for experimentation while not letting things end up in another world. This duality combined with the emotionality is what gives How a Reign Comes to an End its vitality to stand.
Rarely are there records that are exactly what you expect them to be, yet leave you feeling amazed. Delta Spirit’s Ode To Sunshine is one. My introduction to Delta Spirit was one of excitement and anticipation. I had heard rumblings of their amazing live performance from friends lucky enough to see them at SXSW or in other cities and waited restlessly for their show in New Orleans. To hold myself over till the show, I grabbed onto whatever tracks I could online and fell in love with the rotation of three to four songs. The show did not disappoint as the band delivered an energy that moved the room. Statements such as “I feel like I just went to church” and “I have balls now, and I am a girl. That just made me a man” were spoken in the crowd after the show. I bought the album and took it home.
None of the songs that I had not heard were far from my expectations based upon the short selection I had already heard and what I experienced at the show. Yet, every song grabs you. This is music that lives inside of you. With a healthy dose of Americana mixed to perfection with the gritty raw rock that sounds like the illegitimate child of The Walkmen and the lead singer of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Ode To Sunshine resonates with a listener. It is something familiar, yet at the same time quite different, and most importantly epic.
Of the eleven tracks on the album, the stands out are Trashcan, House Built For Two and People C’Mon. Trashcan comes in with a simple beat that draws the listener in and is then built upon keeping the verses simple. All of which is done to lead to the explosive yet, short chorus that screams out “My Love is coming, I can barely hardly wait…around.” While Trashcan is all about moment, House Built For Two, one of the few ballads on the album, travels, though as if it is a journey on an old rust bike with a slipping chain. The verses coast through with a simple rhythm. The chorus comes in and peddles a little harder, but slows back to the cruising level. The moment of freedom, where the listener takes their feet off the peddles and coasts down the hill, comes in the bridge when a chorus comes in with a simple “Nah, Nah Nah…” People C’Mon is definitely the thickest songs on the album, and the clearest anthem of the album. Grooving bass lines, drum beats and in your face vocals create a robust composition that delivers and as the singer’s raw voice belts out the line “If feeling what I am feeling come on, all you soul searching people come on,” notice how it grasps a hold of your tongue for days on end and come on.