Sunday, July 15, 2007

What's Goin' On (The Good, the Not-So-Good and the Irritating)

Chili Jackson, self-titled EP, Conscious Records

Chili Jackson is the indie version of Quiet Storm. Produced by Jonathan Plum (Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains),
he isn't slick, but nor is he edgy (the AMG classifies his work as Easy Listening).

Adam Zwig's label is called Conscious Records, and this Portland bassist/singer's soul-pop plays like nursery rhymes with a social conscience—"Why do these things go on / Why do they happen" and "She's my girl / And I wouldn't give her up for the world"—
but his voice is too flat for the music he's trying to make.

Maybe he just needs more experience, maybe a few voice lessons—time will tell—but Marvin Gaye he's not. Chili Jackson's self-titled debut is set to be released on August 14, 2007.

The Hanslick Rebellion, The Rebellion Is Here, Eschatone [Reissue]

The Rebellion Is Here is the epitome of the "you had to be there" live album. I found it a real slog, but the audience at this 1997 Albany, NY gig sounds like they had a blast.

Fortunately, this CD allows them to treasure that evening forever. As for the band, they appear to have grown up on a lot of the same stuff I did, i.e. the MC5, Cheech and Chong, Frank Zappa, etc.

Their stage patter sounds like a deliberate attempt to evoke the sarcastic stoners of the 1970s, while their music is an amalgam of classic rock and post-punk. They cover Del Shannon ("Runaway"), Syd Barrett ("Vegetable Man"), and Jonathan Richman (an unfortunately punk-funkified "Pablo Picasso"). They also reference the Archies, the Velvet Underground, and the Talking Heads.

Suffice to say, I didn't dig it in the slightest. I've got a few records by some of these artists in my collection—notably the Modern Lovers—and this just makes me want to listen to them instead.

Jenny Hoyston, Isle Of, Southern Records

The solo debut from San Francisco's Jenny Hoyston (Errase Errata, Paradise Island, Anxious Rats with Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon)
is the rare record that manages to be eclectic and cohesive simultaneously.

To paraphrase Gaye, there's
a lot goin' on—electric and acoustic guitar, drum machine,
video-game sound effects—yet Isle Of doesn't sound scattered.

An example is the bizarre transition between the Suicide-like
"I Don't Need 'Em" which leads into the piercing folk of "Even in This Day and Age." The juxtaposition shouldn't work, but it does.

The tracks sound like they're by different artists, but there's a certain droney quality that unites them. I'm reminded of a few other hard-to-classify artists, but only at momentary junctures, i.e. Come, Kaki King, Scout Niblett, and the Kills. It's a feminine sound, but it it isn't soft. Or hard. Or mean. It's just, um, good.

Leiana, No Going Back, Page Records [9/18/07]

Unlike Isle Of, there's nothing new happening here, but there's no shame
in that game. Leiana's second CD is a throwback to the hairspray and spandex days of Joan Jett and Pat Benatar.

It's more of an American thing than a British one, but a case could also be made for Suzi "Big in the UK" Quatro and Girlschool (and without Quatro to blaze the trail, none of them would exist).

All of this is to say that the Philadelphia-based singer sounds
like a one-woman Donnas. I'd love to say she writes her own material, but just as most of the aforementioned females perform male-penned material—or got their start that way—every song
on this album was co-written by session man extraordinaire Chuck Treece (Bad Brains, the Roots, D'Angelo, etc.).

Treece is also credited with the bulk of the arranging, production, and instrumentation (Leiana gets a co-writing credit). Hey, ya gotta start somewhere. Or maybe he's just a better writer.

In any case, No Going Back is hard rock with a bubble gum twist, and Leiana has the sexy-snotty pipes—and rocker-chick looks—to make this stuff work. My only advice: Drop the ballads, like the listless "Friend," and stick with the fast-paced ravers.

A Shoreline Dream, Coastal EP,
Latenight Weeknight [7/31/07]

These Denver dervishes
serve up atmospheric dream-pop on their new four-song
EP (a follow-up to 2006's
full-length Avoiding the Consequences). It's easy
on the ears, but you've probably heard it before.

Then again, if you're unfamiliar with the shoegazing likes
of the Cure, the Cocteau Twins, the Jesus and Mary Chain,
My Bloody Valentine, Ride, etc., maybe you haven't. Either
way, Coastal isn't bad, but it's not all that original either.

Endnote: If asked to choose between Marvin Gaye and Al Green, I would refuse. For more information: Conscious Records (Chili Jackson), Eschatone Records (the Hanslick Rebellion), Southern Records (Jenny Hoyston), Leiana, and A Shoreline Dream. Images from (Gaye), Boston Rock Storybook (the Modern Lovers), Southern Records (Isle Of), (Liana), and the AMG (A Shoreline Dream).

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