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Local CD Reviews

| December 30, 2005 | 1 Comment

Bipolar is the latest LP from American Heritage, a Chicago collective that has weathered various lineup and label changes throughout its history. The band’s Escape Artist Records debut includes both new material and some previously unreleased tracks. American Heritage uses an onslaught of technical guitar work and odd time signatures to craft its math rock and sludge metal sound, which no doubt distinguishes the group as one the city’s better metal bands. (www.americanfuckingheritage.com)
— Joseph Simek

Jeanne T. Arrigo‘s sensitive lyrics are the emphasis of her full-length, The Journey’s About To Begin. Arrigo uses melodic acoustic-based arrangements to decribe overcoming abuse on “She” and the loss of a friend on “Remember.” “Without You” and “LoveSong” eloquently express the joy of sharing even common place things with a loved one. The clever and bluesy “Chiropractor” provides another highlight. (www.jeannetarrigo.com)
— Terrence Flamm

The best way to describe Camera is that they’re probably everything Bauhaus would be if they formed today instead of 27 years ago, which is especially apparent in David Syvilian’s more romantic and less seizure- prone vocals. Armed with moody guitars and (not surprisingly) a beat you can dance to, Tight Ship is every bit exquisite as it is electrifying. (www.cameraband.com)
— Dean Ramos

Singer-guitarist Julie Elzerman once again gives Celestial Static a dynamic presence up front on the trio’s latest release, the 14-song Between Chaos And Melody. Elzerman sounds like Harriet Wheeler of The Sundays, particularly on lighter tracks like “Forget This” and “The Say Fell Down.” Celestial Static is even more impressive on the harder-edged, catchy stuff like “Rice Paper” and “So Good.” (www.celestialstatic.com)
— Terrence Flamm

Sharing a name with the cult filmmaking credo that emphasized naturalistic sound and lighting, Dogme 95, a.k.a. Nick Wright, create tiny symphonies of densely layered sound. While ostensibly lo-fi, Wright culls enormous charm from his delicate melodies, chattering electronic clatter, and warm, organic synths. Arcadian Hymns (Mission) is a minor masterwork. (www.missionlabel.com/dogme95)
— Patrick Conlan

Two years removed from their three-song demo submission finds a slightly re-jiggered Gold Coast Refuse in a fuller and much more slickly executed 10-song CD, Yours From Ascentia. The promise hinted at two years ago rings truer on this collection of alt-country/Americana originals whose influences are too many and obvious to name. (Indeed, one could go mad trying to place where traces of this riff or that hook were heard before.) Once again, there’s a fine mix and balance of acoustic and electric guitar in the playing, along with tasty sprinklings of keys/organ here and there. Occasional vocal /instrumental tempo disconnects aside, what the group really needs at this point is more inventive drumming that propels the music as opposed to merely marching in lockstep with their guitar chordings. (www.goldcoastrefuse.com)
— David C. Eldredge

Boasting a tough, slightly cynical outlook on life, and enough conviction to live it like he tells it, Matt Hoffer offers a collection of working- man woes dressed in crisp modern rock. There’s an angry bite to the guitar crunch in “Under The Gun” that matches the simple, simmering lyrics. (www.matthoffer.com)
— Patrick Conlan

inchWORM‘s Porchlight EP has a raw sound, although some of the tracks may appeal mostly to slowcore fans. “You Know I Need You” and “The Bones Down Your Back” are long and mournful, but the plodding arrangements get a boost from the band’s harmony vocals and Neil Young-style jamming. “Rotten Fruit” is more energetic, while the melodic “Nowhere Bound” taps into Americana. (www.inchworm.com)
— Terrence Flamm

For one of the best examples of punk rock that will be never heard on commercial rock ‘n’ roll radio or seen on MTV, look no further than The Krunchies. Clocking in at just under 20 minutes, In De Winkel is a collection of 12 songs likely to leave scorch marks on even the most durable of speakers. From the in-your-face dueling male/female vocals to the guitars that rip through you like a bullet, for nearly everything great about punk rock, pick this disc up. (thekrunchies.tripod.com)
— Dean Ramos

1960s pop is still Leave‘s bread and butter, but the band continues to explore variations on that style of music with its new full-length, I’d Rather Not Say. “Rent To Own” is a playful, midtempo number while the ballad “A Thousand Different Voices” offers some country twang. Leave still excels at harmony vocals and stretches out with instrumental passages on the catchy “Betsy Blue” and “Nothing On Me.” (www.leavemusic.com)
— Terrence Flamm

As evidenced by the 2003 copyright date, it’s taken a couple of years for Joey Matthews & The Vulg (a.k.a. “Vulgar” Vic Pedraza) to unleash Taste Of Heaven. For the most part the wait was worth it, especially for “Get That Goat,” a rough-around-the-edges but amusing Cubs novelty number. The dozen remaining cuts are a mixed bag, spotlighting Matthews’ occasionally strained voice crooning above solid pop melodies, but overall the disc is an entertaining effort. (littlejoe2004@ hotmail.com)
— Jeff Berkwits

Mestizo and producer Mike Gao have created a thickly layered urban protest album. Blindfaith (Galapagos4) is packed with 19 soulful grooves, funky jams, and West Coast-flavored raps. The scratching and sampling are precise and disciplined, allowing Mestizo’s rhymes to flourish in the open space. There’s a suave, smoky vibe to the political critique “Building A Burial Ground,” and a slick, street-savvy toughness to “Bad Impressionist.” (www.galapagos4.com)
— Patrick Conlan

It’s hard to believe New Orleans-based M.O.T.O. (stands for Masters Of The Obvious, duh) have been releasing their brand of punk rock for more than 15 years now. They’ve spent the majority of that time in Chicago, and the majority of their music making jokes. Sadly, their musical maturity has grown very little during that span, as evidenced by their latest release, Raw Power. It’s more entertaining to read the track titles (such gems as “Getting It Up For Physics” and “Flipping You Off With Every Finger On My Hand”) than to listen to the 14 tracks of un-original two-chord guitar rock. Maybe they are actually missing the obvious. (www.motorock.com)
— Carter Moss

The hard rock sound of S&M is unquestionably familiar. Their chunky guitar riffs, booming drums, and emotive vocals featured on their self-titled, three-song demo resemble much of what’s already being played on rock radio. Yet amid the predictability, it’s hard to ignore the musicianship of this hardworking quartet, as there’s not one misstep to be found. With their sound intact, expect to hear S&M being played alongside their mainstream predecessors so-oner than later. (www.snmmusic.com)
— Max Herman

Serengeti is one of the most peculiar MCs to ever call Chicago home. But on Gasoline Rainbows, he proves he’s also one of the city’s most creative. Whether he’s contemplating the choices he’s made with a straightforward flow (“All Along”) or playfully crooning with a female vocalist about what he wants out of life (“Borderline”), this well-traveled MC shares something about himself in a different style on every track. Geti makes his own rules with his hip-hop, and for the most part, he succeeds in doing so. (www.daybydayent.com/artists/serengeti.shtml)
— Max Herman

William Steffey certainly has the smooth synth sounds of 1980s Top 40 down pat on his latest EP, Love Song For Kyrie Snow. Occasionally, Steffey’s vocal phrasing is awkward, and lyrics are not his strong suit, but overall, the CD is a blast of nostalgic fun. “Brutal,” with its infectious dance beat and energetic guitar, showcases Steffey at his best. (www.williamsteffey.com)
— Terrence Flamm

Improbable, and therefore that much more satisfying, This Is Me Smiling manage to contort their indie rock influences into something bold and refreshing. From the opening swell of “Ephemera” to the tangled, taut “A Better Way To Fall In Love,” their self-titled debut on The Vinyl Summer is bursting with surprising melodic twists and meticulous sonic details. (www.thisismesmiling.net)
— Patrick Conlan

Watch your girls and your brew ’cause Velcro Lewis And His 100 Proof Band are about to take them both. On their aptly titled debut, Ruin Everything, this party-crashing quintet churn out a non-stop barrage of drunken rock ‘n’ roll with a heavy blues influence. Their tunes can be herky-jerky, occassioanally slow rolling, but always soulful, upfront, and bound to get you out of your seat and ready to get down. (www.velcrolewis.com)
— Max Herman

There’s a legendary punk store in Philadelphia called #Zipperhead# that’s been around since 1980, and while the Chicago band Zipperhead isn’t quite so storied — they’ve only been together a decade — they have likewise established themselves within the local music scene. Their new 15-song CD, *Key Of Z*, nicely showcases their piledriving rock prowess, especially on such tunes as “Spray & Pray” and the rousing, KISS-influenced “She Looked Good.” Hopefully they’ll remain, like their East Coast namesake, a Chi-town institution for years to come. (www.zipperheadrocks.com)
— Jeff Berkwits

Category: Around Hear, Monthly

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  1. While we’re tackling the subject of Local CD Reviews : Illinois Entertainer, Radio and television programming as it relates to Hip-Hop is wack. The most popular Hip-Hop show on TV (You know what I’m talking about) is the wackest. And it’s not because of the hosts or the young, ill informed audience. The blame could be spread across the board between the producers and the corporate companies who are responsible for putting the show on the air.

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