Victoria BC
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Brand X Media ::: Live Music, Reviews, Art & Writing From The Westcoast Underground
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2003 - 2004 - 2005
David Chenery & The Lonesome Valley Singers David Chenery & The Lonesome Valley Singers

New blood flows from the depths of the Victoria Country/roots hub of Victoria with the full release of David Chenery’s new album.
This is music to whistle along with while hitchhiking from the scene of your own horrific automobile accident while leaving a loved one behind. The album has a sense of emotion and mysticism rarely reached in the genre nowadays, with the exception of such bands as The Sadies or Petunia, the songs reach through a chronology of time tested musical folklore, from handshakes with the devil, to a surprisingly well pulled off spin on a Leadbelly classic.

With the accompaniment of instrumental renaissance-man Scott Henderson (of Amy Honey, David P. Smith’s Eelgirl, etc. etc.), Jana Wessel (Hank Pine & Lily Fawn), and The Sensi-Tones’ Dwayne Strohm, the backing band seems to have no trouble executing Chenery’s vision from the marching band style first track ‘Choking On Bad News’, to the slow emotionally driven ending track ‘When I’m gone’.

The album’s lucidity is deepened with the use of the musical saw, and harmonious vocals of Alison Therrialt that is reminiscent of the John Pine and Iris Dement duets if they were given a dose of sleeping pills and flat tire in the middle of nowhere. The album’s theme is consistent, using a formula that has carried past musicians such as Johnny Cash and Robert Johnson – Heaven, Hell, Mercy, Redemption, angels and Devils.

Though full homage has been paid to the musical tradition and their roots, the album manages to remain fresh, original and honest.

Click here to listen to 'At The Gates Of Hell'

- Jesse Ladret


D.O.A

D.O.A – War & Peace – Sudden Death Records

First off, the very first time I had heard of DOA was back in high school. Me and a friend of mine, who for the most part had nothing in common except for trading and lending each other tapes and drinking horrible home made beer after school. But he had a great collection of punk albums. The Subhumans (UK), Minor threat, some bootlegged Operation Ivy, The Cramps; stuff that has stuck with me for years. So when he lent me a copy of DOA’s ‘Let’s Wreck The Party’ I was pretty excited to give it a listen. Unfortunately the album was tacky and obnoxious. They, like many acts were infected with the tackiness and predictability of 80’s pop, a curse that has indebted many acts of numerous genres. Desmond Decker was bad in the 80s, Johnny Rotten, turned into a new waved John Lydon, Miles Davis went fluorescent and electric, and Madness decided to sing “Our House”. Such a shame. So many senseless victims.

It wasn't until a few years later that I watched DOA play at the (now defunct) Limit Nightclub that I realized my judgment was quite biased, and it took very little convincing to make me realize how good of a band they were, and still are.

I’ll assume as not only a fan of Punk, and a West Coast Canadian, that I’m expected to spread the gospel of how legendary they are, and how they were pioneers of Canadian punk, but I’m not going to forget my first impression, so it was interesting to listen to War & Peace. A twenty year compilation/best of… album spanning from 1978’s ‘Disco Sucks’ EP, to 2001’s ‘Win The Battle’. For the most part Joe Keithly still sounds obnoxious, but that’s why the albums are worth listening to, not to mention the involvement of such notables as Jello Biafra, NoMeansNo’s John Wright, Ford Pier, and many other past members and musical guests.

Though few of the tracks will ever amount to their infamous live shows, the album is a sturdy retrospective, and with the number of past and temporary members - an auditory family tree - each few tracks representing each generation and the hell they’ve endured. Though “best of…” albums seem to be churned out by any artist that wants a quick buck, this is the real deal, and a great map of why DOA still packs them in.

- Jesse Ladret


The Sensi-Tones - Self-titled- Independent

“The airplane of infidelity flew into the twin towers of our love, the airplane of mistrust flew into the pentagon of my heart, and now It’s love terrorism…” some of the funniest lyrics I’ve heard in a very long time.
The Sensi-tones, who consist of a cast of four men who’ve decided to pen themselves as various Johnnys (Johnny Concerned, John E. Motion, Johnny Feelings and Johnny Friendly) have created quite a musical oddity here. Drums that are so peppy their as sharp as a newly ironed v-neck sweater, and insanely upbeat western surf guitar, that coincide with dual male vocals that give these guys a sound that is frighteningly catchy and upbeat. The songs sound as if they could have been used for the soundtracks of various 1950’s mental hygiene videos on the rules of dating, or how to be popular, with just a little more edge. Altogether the album is a strangly arranged gimmick, not to mention the band itself, but you have to give credit to a band that puts in such effort as to give themselves their own theme song. But if you think about it - Doesn't everybody deserve their own theme song?

- Jesse Ladret


Amy Honey

Amy Honey - Self titled - Red Cat Records

The first release of the Redcat record label of Vancouver British Columbia and a damn fine start considering the overall quality of this album.
A slew of familiar names from throughout the local roots/alt. country circuit including Tolan Mcneil, Carolyn mark, Clay George, the always ecclectic Scott Henderson, among others contribute to the fine efforts put forth by Amy Honey, giving her voice and song writing an atmosphere and environment that they can call home.
The music ranges from spaghetti western twang, to simple tapping rhythms reminiscent of early Patsy Cline, to quiet, well paced and spaciously mellow instrumentation that allows her listeners to seize and appreciate the raw, emotionally charged, and for the most part unprompted exquisiteness that her voice and mood put forth.

Click here to listen to 'Porch Lights' courtesy of Redcat.ca

- Jesse Ladret


Crop Circle

Crop Circle - Mexican Cock Fight

Well, I must have received this EP in the mail about four months ago, and really tried to avoid doing this review altogether.
Why?
The album is bad. The title track ‘Mexican Cock fight’ is a poppy number that desecrates Mexican guitar in an attempt to piece together a upbeat and lyrically insipid bit that plays on repetition and fallacy based song writing. The drums and guitar are typical and non-offensive in their mediocre and under-minded presentation. Judging from the musicianship that has been applied to the songs I think it’s safe to assume that the talent here isn’t lacking, but unfortunately any signs of ingenuity lay idle and submissive to the repetition and cliché style that they’ve chosen to give into. The vocalist sounds like what you would imagine the singer of Tool sounding like if he was addicted to prozac and worked at a redneck karaoke bar.
I’ve listened to this three song EP repeatedly trying to find one redeeming quality. If it be a clever lyric, and good bass line, anything. Unfortunately I was going about it the wrong way. This EP did have something good about it: The cover artwork.
So even if I didn’t like this release, and struggled to find Its merits, I’m happy to say I came out of this with two good things; A cool picture of a rooster wearing a sombrero and a shiny, silver drink coaster. I think the coaster will be of good use, because after listening to this one I need a stiff drink.

Click Here to listen to 'Mexican Cock Fight' Courtesy of www.cropcircle.ca

- Jesse Ladret


Hooligan's island

Various - Hooligan's island: A vancouver Island Ska Compilation - Independent

It’s been a long time coming, and it has finally happened.

A fully local ska compilation has been produced (thanks to Kiltlifters Matthew Carter and Scot Rounding) to showcase the wealth of talented ska acts throughout the island. Released just in time to hit the merch tables of Victoria’s Ska festival, the compilation features such recognized acts as the Hoochy Girls, The Bloodwarmers, Street Prophets Union, as well as the first official release of The Kiltlifters/Bloodwarmers hybrid project; Those Rapscallions, who in a very short time have been the subject of interest and notoriety since their premiere performance opening for The Skatalites.
Perhaps the most powerful song which suitably closes the album comes from ex-Bombasts and Nightshift front-man Zsolt Sander who plays a dedication song to his and the local ska communities’ dearly missed friend Matt Bishop. The song simply entitled ‘friend’ leaves the CD on a slow and contemplative note, while also exhibiting how much spirit and community has consistently kept the ska scene going throughout the years, and judging by the compilations’ younger acts, there is no slowing down in sight. Good work Guys.

- Jesse Ladret


Chet

Chet - The Tiger is In The Window

Long, slow melancholy ballads, lyrics that seamlessly flow with harmonic and swooning vocals. Just as good as the live show, this c.d. is full of beautiful noises, echoing guitar and keyboard with a steady labored drum. Each song reminds me of a last call, and end of the night, a high school slow dance I heard far away, but don’t fret, it’s not depressing, its more along the lines of …uh…not to get all Jack Kerouac on you but a “beautiful sadness”. If you like them live, do yourself a favor and buy the CD. Its worth it for those days when your just too happy. it’ll bring you right back where you need to be. It’s greatness.

- Tove Shea


Geoff Berner

Geoff Berner - We Shall Not Flag Or Fail, We Shall Go Onto The End

Geoff Berner is one of the greatest song writers I know of too date. He often comes off as a smart-ass and a cynic, but once you listen to his words and music, the sardonic tone and observant eye go hand in hand with the music that carries his stories. His storytelling is sharp and scathing, but balanced with sincerity, compassion and empathy. It astounds me that someone can write with such sharp observations of various human-conditions and still sing from the heart. Though this can easily apply to his first release ‘Light Enough To Travel’, it becomes exponentially more clear while listening to the songs on this album, assisted by the fact that through the course of ten songs he jumps from songs about the prostitution food chain (“The Twenty dollar whores look down their noses at the ten dollar whores who look down their noses at the five dollar whores who look down on the volunteers”) to songs about bad war tactics of the French in ‘Maginot Line’ (“why didn't’ some smart fella say; your guns are facing the wrong way”) to the token tragic love story of ‘Clown & Bard, in which upon his return, the object of his affection becomes a half dead speed addict (“when I got back to town she wasn't’t hard to track down, though they moved her down a couple of stairs, cold and half dead on an unmade bed, trying to squeeze the speed out of her pores”). Though a couple of the songs seem misplaced, and seem to be pure novelty such as ‘Porn Star Girlfriend’, in which Mr. Berner attempts to make his accordion sound “funky”, but I’m sorry to say that I don’t think anybody can make an accordion sound funky. Though the humour of the song is worth a listen, it does tend to wear thin quite quickly. Altogether the album deserves a listen, some contemplation, and respect for its ingenuity, and intelligence. Geoff Berner is one of a kind, and nowadays that’s worth something in itself.

Click Here to listen to 'Maginot Line' Courtesy Of GeoffBerner.com

- Jesse Ladret


Immaculate Machine

Immaculate Machine - The View

Five songs with an interlude between the 3rd and 4th. Immaculate Machine has a pop/rock sound that stands out right away from the standard guitar/bass/drums format by forgoing the bass in favour of keyboards, which helps the band fill out their sound quite a bit beyond what might be expected of a trio. The band members all participate in the lyrical process, and alternate lead vocals so that everyone sings his/her own songs.
The vocal delivery is consistently heartfelt, with the switching-up providing some good variety for the listener. Their overall sound (especially guitarist Brooke's voice) reminds me of a slightly mellower version The Wipers. Kathryn (keyboard)'s more moody vocals ("Thank You" by Dido is a good comparison) help the band take it down a notch on "Midnight". The title track isthe most charged on the disc, with it's urgent social commentary and more reggae-influenced instrumentation. Nothing about this disc seems haphazard; the songs are all catchy and well played (my only criticism is that the vocals on the final track might have been better suited to a more straight-ahead delivery). All in all, this is a good representation of the band's live sound, and dynamic range. Definitely a sign of more good things to come.

Click Here to listen to 'No Caution' Courtesy of ImmaculateMachine.com

- Kyle Agnew


All-Skanadian Club Vol. 4

All-Skanadian Club Vol. 4 - Various Artists

Probably the strongest All-Skanadian compilation to date, and after a five year wait since the last installment ska fans won’t be disappointed. General Rudie, Los Furios, The Planet Smashers, Chris Murray, among some lesser known artists, as well as a couple of west coast bands including Victoria's (now defunct) Bombasts, Vancouver's Hoodwinks, and Edmonton's The Operators. Not only are the bands that show up on this compilation surprising and well assorted, but the variety of the album is quite refreshing. Punk, Reggae, Rocksteady, Jazz, and everything in between. It's all here.

- Jesse Ladret


Grace Nocturnal

Grace Nocturnal - City Limits

When I first received this CD, I’ve got to admit my skepticism was in the forefront. Why would I be so critical of a CD before the plastic wrapping came off? The name: Grace Nocturnal. It sounded pretty cheesy, like a Goth band from the eighties. I had flashes of vampyro, Anne Rice influenced music seeping out of my stereo. To my surprise though, the sound was solid, original and unpretentious. Seven songs: and all of which show a different face. The track ‘Love me Down’ is an upbeat, distortion laced song that seems to be an unintended ode to 60’s garage style rebellion, while tracks like ‘not the way’ takes on a more paced and dreamlike atmosphere. Distant vocals, and electric, whining guitars. The tracks jump from one corner of the mind to the other, showing an uncompromising level of diversity and energy throughout the whole band. Perhaps I should rely on more cliches such as “don’t judge a book by its cover”. If you find yourself in the mood for some quality home-grown music, this is definitely a worthy choice.

- Jesse Ladret


David P. Smith

David P. Smith - Hurtin' Dance Party

This album is like some sort of white trash alchemist moonshine. Take some of Beck‘s early & strange song writing style, some Mojo Nixon energy, Hank Williams’s hopelessness, A pile of instruments from Tom Wait’s garage sale, a couple bottles of gravol, one week of hangover sweat and distil.

This CD consists of twelve songs, and considering the lead instrument is an accordion, you might expect the CD to sound repetitive or gimmicky, but it isn't. Each song manages to hold it’s own giving the CD a consistent eclecticism from start to finish, which after reading the line up of musicians backing up D.P. Smith should be of no surprise; Two backing bands. A couple special guests and two dozen different instruments ranging from Accordion, to banjo, to musical saw (he has somehow created a dysfunctional and ruthless hillbilly orchestra).

Though this CD will mostly likely be seen as an Alt. Country/Hillbilly album, the songs really don’t follow many rules, or find any constraint in the genre. The song’s topics range from greyhound bus monotony, manic depressive drunkenness, robot clones, an ode to Mohammed Ali, and a haunting and heartbroken cover of Hank Williams’ “I can’t help it (if I’m still in love with you)”, What more can you ask for? I recommend this album to anyone who is looking for something truly original.

Click Here to Listen to 'Ill Wind'

- Jesse Ladret


Frog Eyes

Frog Eyes - The Bloody Hand - Global Symphonic

I really didn't know what to expect when I first gave this CD a listen, After seeing Frog Eyes a number of times in bars I found it sort of hard to grasp what a studio release would sound like, but once I listened to it, it quickly grew on me. I hate comparisons. It seems lazy to me, when a band has an unmistakably original sound, so people have no better way to describe them than to play a game of mix and match of other bands to give the reader a half decent idea of how they sound. Unfortunately I can’t think of any other way to do it in this one. So I’ll try to do it with a little imagination here.
It’s about four in the morning and the the street cleaners take the streets. The night crowd is long gone but their confusion and madness still echo. You look down the sidewalk and you see a drug addled John Fruciente and a rowdy drunk Nick cave in a fight to the death. Their weapons are awkward to handle because they are home made musical instruments they had found in a dumpster just a few feet away. It’s an emotional fight. They may be fighting over a girl, or maybe it’s over an unreturned video rental, the only thing you know for sure is that the sounds of screaming and clanking are strange and beautiful.

Click here to listen to 'The Mayor Laments On The Failures of His Many Townfolk'

- Jesse Ladret



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