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June 08


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Say Something
BTO Records

Whenever this reviewer sees a band that has seven or more members a tiny alarm goes off in my musically critical mind.

“Seven? The really need SEVEN guys?” my mind thinks, wondering if one of them plays the Triangle (which is harder than it looks!). Add in the fact that their debut album is only a 6-song EP and you have what would seem like a rather bad recipe for good music (They even credit the album title to a Bob Marley lyric).

All that being said, these East Coast boys (Matt on guitar, “Bunce”, ahem, on bass, Bryce on vocals/guitar, Vito on drums, Andrew on trumpet, Pat on Sax and Dave on Trombone — got all that?) show off a heavy ska influence mixed with a Ben Folds Five-pop sensibility that is both fun and groovy-slick.

Ska has made more than a few great pop musicians: Gwen Stefanni’s pop career started with her ska band No Doubt (which is apparently still touring under their new name “Pretty Doubtful without that Hot Chick”). Mixing those double-fast beats and blaring horns with some good pop lyrics can make some pretty tasty tracks, like the lead-off song “Outside,” which is more than ready for some radio play (or rather free Internet play — but that little fault lies totally at the foot of the music industry, which has so much contempt for its own customers they invented their own way to buy, sell and trade music rather than deal with those pinheads anymore).

They do stumble a little bit on “Take it Easy,” which is a rather weak love song type-thingy, but there’s so much sheer fatness (note to self-patent that word immediately!) generated by these boys the can’t help but seem appealing. Now if they can just come up with six more songs.—Brandon Whitehead (posted 06/27/08)

The Brakes
Tale of Two Cities

While there have been times when this critic has been almost physically angry at the present state of pop music (AC/DC was never the Antichrist: it’s Simon freakin’ Cowell), there are those few trippy dudes out there who can redeem this almost lifeless musical format, and apparently all five of them are in a band called The Brakes.

The idea of recording a “live” album is hardly new, and these guys (Zach Djanikian — by the way sir, you have won the “A Pain to Spell” last name award — doing bass, Derek Feinberg on some slide, Matt Kass on guitar, Adam Flicker on the bones and Josh Sack on drums) did it in two different venues, one in Pennsylvania and the other in New York.

Frankly, the sound quality here is just downright amazing. For once the attempt to give an album a “live” feel actually worked, and how. Indeed, track five is titled “A Tale of Two Cities,” a good nudge and wink at the album’s two-headed birth. All five musicians flip jobs, trading guitars, horns and such, and these boys know how to play.

Other tracks like the fun alt-country sounding “State of the Union” and the rocking and rolling “Big Money” are the kind of music people invented bars for. A real topper is “Danger Blues,” which had my “skip back” button occupied for a while.

Songs this good should be pumped into the water supply for the general well being of the community.

Sadly, a check of their myspace.com page notes the recent passing of their previous drummer, Joel Dorn. Never knew him, but if they liked him, then he surely must have been one of the good guys. Forge on fellas, you need no brakes at all. —Brandon Whitehead (posted 06/06/08)

Brandon Whitehead can be contacted at kinginyellow@juno.com.

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