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February 08


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The Big Iron
Thanks for the Therapy

Probably the most surprising thing about KC’s own punk/rock act Big Iron (other than the fact that their unsigned) is how easily they pump out some of the best classic ‘80s and ‘90s punk songs that this critic has heard since the heydays of the old Outhouse in Lawrence (spent a fair amount of time there, remember very little — you do the math).

Ricky Reyes thumps the guitar with vicious love, Jon Paul’s drums rock the room, Jeff Pendergraft’s vocals are nice and slick, and Chubby Smith on bass perfectly tricks out this fast and downright fun “Saturday night drinkin’ music.”

Thanks for the Therapy is their latest opus, with eleven tracks of crunchy, cracklin’ punk and alt/country rock. All the songs here are tasty, but tracks like “Gotta Love Me Too” make this boy want to find my old stompin’ boots and that crappy cheap pleather jacket that was mostly held together by patches and beer stains. “In My Head” is a foot-thumping punk/country anthem, and if you don’t like “Give it to Me,” you can go ahead and have your ears removed ‘cause you ain’t using them right.

Now that you know you should buy this music (check their myspace page for a list of local outlets and remember, BUY LOCAL unless you want to live in a world where Starbucks picks your music for you). There is one more thing worth mentioning, and it might seem small but it’s still important.

The CD comes with a sticker. A cool one. Maybe, just maybe, if you’re lucky you can get one from Chubby himself — they’ll be at the Studio April 26 with the Throttlers (that should be a HELL of a show) and in Lawrence at the Replay Lounge May 10 with the Goners. Good therapy, indeed. —Brandon Whitehead (posted 02/29/08)

Marco Benevento
Invisible Baby

Hyena Records

The press release from Hyena calls keyboardist Marco Benevento “…a sonic innovator in peak form, defying boundaries and blasting through genres to carve out his own universe.”

Goodness, well… this little critic doesn’t know what all those big words mean but what he does know is that one of the annoying thing about Mr. Benevento is that he’s already a virtuoso musician at the age of thirty, and if his newest album Invisible Baby is any indication, he’s gonna get even better, which is pretty friggin’ hard to believe.

Backed up by bassist Reed Mathis (Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey), and drummers Matt Chamberlain (Tori Amos) and Andrew Barr (The Slip), Benevento has created a lush sound-scape that weaves through mixed, layered rhythms and ever-morphing melodies, and if you like that sentence you’ll love this album.

It is important to note that this is essentially a jazz album: This is music for music’s sake, devoid of lyrical catchphrases or ludicrous ego-pumping attitude. Tracks like “Bus Ride” seem to be a mess…only to suddenly explode into a perfect unison that seems almost impossible to plan out. “The Real Morning Party” (partially written in Lawrence, KS) mixes video game sounds with a poppy, silly little ditto that will stick in your head till next Christmas, or we stop getting snowed on, whichever comes first…

With any luck Invisible Baby won’t stay hidden in the crib unseen, and given the fact that the Grammy for best album this year was given to Herbie Hancock, maybe, just maybe the music industry will actually pay some more attention to the musician and less to moronic underwear models… right, sure. Got a bridge you can buy, too. Cheap. —Brandon Whitehead (posted 02/22/08)

Elyse Bruce
Countdown to Midnight


Singer/songwriter Elyse Bruce has a long pedigree in music having studied classical piano in Paris and jazz in Canada with numerous musicians. That’s not even mentioning her impressive amount of on-stage and studio experience. But in her album Countdown to Midnight, Bruce seek more than just producing a album of both original and lite blues and pop: — 20 percent of every sale goes to the Midnight in Chicago project, which seeks to raise awareness of autism, Asperger Syndrome, and Autistic Spectrum Disorders.

The album’s sales also help fund their educational pod casts (available free at the first site listed above), which Bruce hosts with MIC artist Thomas D. Taylor and the help of her own son, Lewis, who has Asperger Syndrome.

With the twelve, simple pop, Elton John-ish arrangements, featuring Gerry Dere on keyboards and Doug Jensen on guitar for “Autoroute,” Bruce has produced a mature and cultured album most fans of classic pop will love. If there’s any complaint here, it’s all the business ads inside the liner notes. But since they’re also supporting a good cause, it seems a little petty to quibble about after all.

In an age when all the music industry can offer is the next Britney train wreck for us to watch, it’s nice to see someone actually trying to do something positive with their talent, while having fun at the same time. Countdown to Midnight proves that it can be done, no matter what time it is… —Brandon Whitehead (posted 02/01/08)

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