Archive for May, 2011

Cheer-Accident – No Ifs Ands Or Dogs

May 17, 2011

Cheer Accident – No Ifs Ands Or Dogs

So, in my last GEPR update, I called Fear Draws Misfortune “listenable” (among other things). The question I’m asking myself now is whether I’d say the same of their 2011 release No Ifs Ands or Dogs. My answer, for better or worse, is “no”. Not that this makes it a bad album. Quite the contrary, No Ifs Ands or Dogs is a really interesting album, very much able to hold my attention and keep me engaged. Not quite the same as “listenable”. This album does take a bit more work to get through.

Like Fear Draws Misfortune, the array of musical styles is dizzying, from Frank Zappa stylings to songs that sound like The Monkees interpreted by The Residents to your usual Cuneiform type avant-RIO with Magma on backing vocals. One song, “Pre-Somnia”, features a sound that’s halfway between a fuzzed guitar and a bagpipe, leading into “Sleep”, which features the same riff of the same sound as a backing harmony instead of the main focus. Given that there’s a later song called “Post-Somnia” and several other related title-pairs (“Life in Polyanna” and “Death By Polyanna” / “Drag You Down” and “Drug You Down”), there does seem to be some unifying principle behind the album, but I’ll be darned if I can figure out what it is. It seems pretty stream-of-consciousness. “Drag You Down” is especially interesting with its (clearly intentional) rhythmic mis-steps, slow-downs, and overall “not quite up to speed”-iness. And the “Drug You Down” bookend is obviously what this sounds like while on major drugs. But what it has to do with the rest of the album (if anything) is anyone’s guess.

No Ifs Ands or Dogs doesn’t jazz me as much Fear Draws Misfortune did, but nonetheless it’s a good album worthy of a listen or three for those who have what it takes to … uhm … endure this sort of music. That may sound negative, but it’s like the stimulating, adrenaline-pumping part of pain without the actual hurt. Sorta like biting into a jalapeño pepper. And I mean that in a good way. Some people like this kind of pain. I guess I’m one of them, when I’m in the right mood. But don’t play this for someone who thinks “music” is the stuff they hear on The Voice. As Thymme Jones said on their forum, “Hang in there! It starts to get really good in that half-second just before you hear it.”

I did find out something else of interest … Cheer-Accident got their name from a Hallmark card display. I can only guess it was cards that were supposed to cheer you up after you’ve had an accident. Obviously the band found these seemingly contradictory words used together to be a good name for their band. — Fred Trafton

Click here for Cheer-Accident‘s web site
Click here for Cheer-Accident‘s MySpace page
Click here for Cheer-Accident‘s Cuneiform Records page
Click here for Cheer Accident‘s page at Skin Graft Records web site (antiquated)
Click here for a listing of Cheer Accident‘s idea of the top ten best albums of all time. The review of YesRelayer is particularly brilliant. I wish I’d said those things.

Electric Sorcery – Believe In Own Best Friend

May 12, 2011

Believe In Own Best Friend

OMFG! Electric Sorcery has released their rock opera/concept album Believe In Own Best Friend. What to say about this album? I suppose I’ll start with the warning from the band:

This album is not recommended for anyone who lacks a somewhat twisted and slightly naughty sense of humor, neither is it recommended for children (unless of course you want your child to sing out dirty words in the grocery store and ask you embarrassing questions about adult apparatuses). It is also not recommended for the elderly as it may cause them to lose all hope for the future of mankind (unless of course they have cable TV in which case they already have). To quote this piece’s main inspiration, Frank Zappa: “It’s f***ing great to be alive, ladies and gentlemen, and if you do not believe it is f***ing great to be alive, you better go now, because this show will bring you down so much.” …Enjoy!

To say this album is “Frank Zappa inspired” is perhaps not strongly worded enough. “Frank Zappa-channeled” is more like it. Not the jazzy Zappa of The Grand Wazoo nor the wannabe-classical Zappa of The Yellow Shark. No, this is the filthy Zappa … the one that “Dinah Moe Humm” was a cleaned-up example of. This has everything a Zappa fan could want … screwing your business partner’s underage daughter, then killing him when he finds out she’s pregnant. Of course, since he needed to get rid of the evidence, he made a soup and ate him. Then the daughter started looking pretty yummy too, so … and this is just the opening “Suite”. The remainder of the album covers teenage sexual angst, electronic penises, prescription drug abuse, and finally the annihilation of humankind. Zappa at his finest!

Oh, no, I forgot! Not Zappa, this is Electric Sorcery. But I already accused them of mugging Dweezil Zappa and making off with the keys to Frank‘s vault. They never answered me on that one. Hmmm … can you say Dweezil soup? Too ugly to contemplate. [shudder]

Musically, this sounds like the very earliest Zappa circa We’re Only In It For The Money or Uncle Meat. Recording technique and anarchy level is also similar. The growly vocals at the beginning of “Suite : Yehsu Beelzebobs” is very reminiscent of “I’m the Slime” from Overnite Sensation. The guitar playing and woodwinds are also reminiscent of earlier Zappa, not so much the Shut Up And Play Yer Guitar era, and also don’t expect marimba/vibes gnat-notes. The similarities don’t extend that far. But you’ll have no doubt about who inspired Believe In Own Best Friend. Unlike their other albums, they want $5.00 for this download instead of “Name Your Own Price” (which many people name as $0). It’s WELL worth it! Try it out at their Bandcamp site (link below). Oh, yeah, the cover art is really cool too (above). Don’t ask me what it’s a picture of, but it’s very cool anyway. — Fred Trafton

Click here for Electric Sorcery‘s MySpace page
Click here to download Electric Sorcery albums from Bandcamp

Spiral – The Capital in Ruins

May 5, 2011

Spiral – The Capital in Ruins

Spiral is a band from Albuquerque, New Mexico who’ve just released their debut album The Capital in Ruins. It’s just Chris Boat and Aaron Frale, though the album does feature several other guest musicians. It’s an ambitious first outing. More than 72 minutes long, it’s a concept album that’s a sci-fi update of the Rip Van Winkle story, morphed here into the story of a scientist that creates a nano-machine plague that wipes out all of humanity except for himself.

Musically, the album is certainly prog by any definition, but more modern prog than retro. Though the only influence they cite on their web site is Pink Floyd (and I can certainly hear this, particularly in the guitar soloing and some dogs barking that are very reminiscent of Animals), I’d say their sound more closely resembles a cross between Van der Graaf Generator and Porcupine Tree with a dash of Hawkwind and Pure Reason Revolution.

The production is a bit “garage band”-ish, and the vocals aren’t the most trained you’ll ever hear, but not bad, especially when they’re overdubbed to make harmonies. For my tastes, I’d like to hear a bit more in the way of keyboards. The textures are a bit sparse for me. On the other hand, they’re trying to impart the feeling of loneliness felt by the last man on earth, doomed by his own invention to an immortality filled with solitude. All things considered, this is an amazing piece of work. Good enough to get it on the GEPR‘s front page as an “Editor’s Choice” pick. And since, for the time being at least, they’re offering this album for free on their Bandcamp page, it’s pretty hard to beat. Better get over there and check it out (and get your copy!) fast before they change their minds!

Oh, and guys … sorry for being a Spelling Nazi, but … it’s “Capitol”, unless you’re talking about CAPITAL letters or investment capital. Never mind. Maybe Rip can’t spell. — Fred Trafton

Click here for Spiral‘s Bandcamp page, where you can download The Capital in Ruins for free. For now.
Click here for Spiral‘s MySpace page

Zen Rock and Roll – Undone

May 4, 2011

Zen Rock and Roll – Undone

It hasn’t been so long since I added Zen Rock and Roll and noted that Jonathan Saunders no longer had much of a web presence. I assumed he had moved on to other pursuits, but apparently it has been health issues that prevented him from creating new music. My impression is that these are now resolved, at least enough for Saunders to complete a new Zen Rock and Roll album, released yesterday, and entitled Undone.

To my ears, this album is more symphonic prog-pop than the previous albums, which while having some pop aspects, were really more symphonic prog. By this I mean there are standard song structures with very heavy emphasis on the lyrical content. In some ways it recalls Thomas Dolby‘s early work, with vocals and synthesizers, including innovative synth sounds.

The exception to this is the nearly 15-minute instrumental epic “Concerto for the Original Sinners”. This piece is mostly synth-orchestra, complete with string machines and overdubbed faux-brass and woodwind sections, but also with some Queen-like guitar multitracking. It’s an ambitions piece that nearly lives up to its ambition, despite a couple of sections that get dull due to maybe one too many variations on the theme before moving on. Still, not bad.

For my taste, I liked End of the Age and The Birthright Circle more than Undone, though Undone certainly has its moments. I found the lyrics to be a bit depressing, which felt strange juxtaposed against the sunny, bouncy, almost dance-able music. But you might not be bothered by this. So head over to the Zen Rock and Roll‘s web site (link below) to check out some samples and decide for yourself. — Fred Trafton

Click here for Zen Rock and Roll‘s web site
Click here for the Zen Rock and Roll Facebook page
Click here to order all Zen R&R titles from ProgRock Records

Dream Theater – Mike Portnoy’s replacement

May 3, 2011

Mike Who? No, not that Mike!

The Departure of Mike Portnoy! The biggest line-up controversy in prog rock since … well, what? Rick Wakeman‘s replacement in Yes? The first time? Mike Portnoy claims he just doesn’t understand why the guys won’t let him back into the band. The rest of Dream Theater are shocked that Portnoy just abandoned them like this. They all say, “but … but … but … I thought we were a family!”

Got news for ya, gents. Families fight, get sick of each other, split up, come back together again. Shit happens. Forgiveness happens. So do unmendable grudges. I don’t know which variety this breakup is, only time will tell. One thing I do know … a few days ago, Dream Theater, with much fanfare and suspenseful buildup, have finally announced their new drummer a couple of days ago. It’s Mike Mangini (Steve Vai, Extreme, Annihilator). So what if I never heard of him? I’m sure he’ll be great.

I had actually heard a couple of months ago that they may not get a new drummer, but may replace Portnoy with a drum machine. Well, maybe that was an April Fool’s joke. Whatever. In the end, I’m sure I’ll continue following everything that both this new incarnation of Dream Theater produces, and also everything Portnoy produces from here on out. Even the new Neal Morse solo album. I’m already following the careers of Derek Sherinian and Kevin Moore. Because they’re all awesome. Not because they’re ex-DT. They all have something to say outside of DT. — Fred Trafton