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Articles and thoughts by Peter Holslin

The Great Demo Review 2010

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My, it’s been a while since I’ve had an article out, hasn’t it? Well, things are about to change around here, as I’ve got a few things in the oven and some of them should be coming out fairly soon.

In the mean time, check out the reviews I wrote for CityBeat‘s annual Great Demo Review, a collection of some two-hundred reviews of every demo sent to CityBeat‘s offices over the past few months. I contributed ten reviews, including an “EXTRASPECIALGOOD,” which were the best picks of the year. Here they are in alphabetical order:

(MS = myspace.com)

Afterschoolspecial

Not One for Words

Succeeding in its portentous effort to match Dan a.k.a. Dan’s tough-guy rapping with Jaimie Block-Smith’s soaring vocals and Brian Figueroa’s romantic keyboards with Keane Aranita’s ham-fisted power chords, Afterschoolspecial have found their place alongside rap-rockers like Linkin Park with this EP. “Bad Education” makes for a fine fist-pumping rocker, but “Future Rock Stars of America” is kind of corny and “Forever” is sorely in need of a consistent melody. MS/afterschoolspecialband.

EXTRASPECIALGOOD

Author & Punisher

Drone Machines
If you’ve ever wondered what it must be like to inhabit the deepest depths of Hell—the underworld’s boiler room, where pedophile priests shovel serial killer brains into the burner to keep Hell’s gears moving at a steady pace—then listen to Drone Machines. Performing under the moniker Author & Punisher, Tristan Shone uses precision-built “sound machines” of his own invention to produce mechanical doom metal that crosses Einstürzende Neubauten with Sunn O))) while sounding more fearsome than both. The crushing melodic patterns anchoring tracks like “NTG Part 1 – Time” rang in my ears long after they ran their course, which is as much a testament to this album’s force as it is to its originality. MS/authorandpunisher.

Broken Dreams

It’s All Happening

The name Broken Dreams certainly says a lot about this rap trio’s outlook on life, but It’s All Happening is neither doom-saying nor didactic. Making references to blunts and “bitches”—not to mention Almost Famous and the John Denver tune “Leaving on a Jet Plane”—producer C+locious and MCs Brek 1 and MoodSwings keep it real with solid beats and inventive rhymes in highlights like “It’s All the Same” and “We Get Down.” MS/brokendreamssd.

B-Side Players

Radio Afro Mexica

Local Latin-jazz stars B-Side Players are all over the place on this album: Some songs have the cutting-edge musicality and political outlook of Manu Chao; others approach smooth-jazz territory; certain points of “Radio FM” have a hint of prog, while the closing minutes of “Concrete Jungle” veer into punk rock. But consistent throughout is the band’s sexy, sumptuous Latin percussion, making this an irresistibly danceable affair. MS/bsideplayers.

John DiMaggio

Altiplano

You know the guy who plays dreamy new-age music on a keyboard at the mall? Get him in the studio with guitar, bass, drums and exotic percussion (or at least MIDI versions thereof) and you’ll have this 59-minute track. Even the most avid mallrat may find the sappiness hard to stomach—unless, of course, that’s why they go to the mall in the first place.

The Heavy Guilt

Lift Us Up from This

With a name like The Heavy Guilt, you know you’re in for something heavy-handed. The mellow country rock on this album can be a little dry in songs like “Clove,” especially with Erik Canzona’s lovelorn vocals. But the band shows its chops in highlight “You Took So Little,” in which Sean Martin pulls off a perfectly sly guitar solo. MS/theheavyguilt.

Irradio

I Am the Horn

Sounding like At the Drive-In with woodwinds, Irradio packs its volatile but emotional rock with layers of guitar, saxophone and organ, topping it off Steven Welker’s raspy vocals. The jumble of riffs that muck up “Espera Na Esquina” fail to coalesce into a memorable hook, but I feel exhilarated just thinking about the soaring guitar riff and thumping beat of “Think About the Dream.” MS/irradio.

Kennedys Curse

Live at Beauty Bar, Aug. 25th at 9 p.m.

The four songs on this CD-R, which arrived at CityBeat’s offices in a paper case without aid of track titles or band info, show a band with a keen ear for good, old-fashioned song-craft. Bringing to mind the emotional indie rock of Rainer Maria, Tracks 2 and 4 feature inventive guitar while Track 3’s lush chorus is accented with a perfectly simple synth. But what really gets me is Track 1, with its jumpy rhythm section, spidery guitars and winsome vocal harmonies. MS/kennedyscurse.

Ringo Jones Gang

The Vulture City Bank Robbery

I have no doubt in my mind that a gun-slinging, Indian-fighting bank robber like Ringo Jones would be embarrassed by the uninspired instrumentation, unmoving harmonies and unimaginative lyrics that tell the story of his most ambitious heist in this unexciting rock opera. Then again, a character as uninteresting as Jones is hardly deserving of a score by the esteemed Ennio Morricone. MS/theoutlawringojones.

Schitzophonics

Untitled DVD

The psychedelic blues-rock that this three-piece throws down in this 24-minute performance may not rise to the level of “Purple Haze” in terms of innovation or catchiness, but guitarist Pat Beers certainly conjures the spirit of Jimi Hendrix with his rough-hewn vocals and gnarled riffs—not to mention his bizarre alien-wizard costume. Extra credit goes to bassist Jim Accardi for playing an entire song with his instrument running through an awesome laser-blast effect without a hint of irony. MS/schitzophonicsmusic.

To read the whole Great Demo Review of 2010, go here.

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Written by Peter Holslin

March 10, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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