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August 08


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Backyard Tire Fire
The Places We Lived
Hyena Records

After their debut album hooligans and vagabonds came out on Hyena Records, the Illinois-based trio called Backyard Tire Fire got a fair amount of blog and “Best of” buzz, toured all over the Midwest and got to open for the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Clutch. Not at all bad for any alt-country band, to say the least…

Given all that success it would seem automatic that they would implode in some suitably spectacular fashion, but instead they have returned with a new studio-based album The Places We Lived, and the result is a suitable evolution for a great band to become even greater.

Rolling through ten tracks of slick hipster angst (“The Places We Lived”, “Shoulda Shut It”) and melancholy string-driven classics (“Rainy Day” — the best song on the album), these three musicians not only show how to write some great music, they show how to perform it as well. Edward Anderson’s vocals are still strong and effective, and Matt Anderson and Tim Kramp’s percussion continues to have a wonderful fuzziness to every freakin’ beat.

The only complaint here is that once again they have listed their songs as having an “A” and “B” side, meaning once again some dipshit will have to buy a new player because they put the CD in upside down, but then hey, our economy needs all the pointless consumerism it can get, right?

You can catch their big, smelly conflagration Sept. 18 at the Record Bar in Old Westport, call or check their website for an exact (and incorrect) start time; and given that it’s the Record Bar don’t forget to spend an hour working on your hair to make it look like you just got up. — Brandon Whitehead (posted 08/29/08)

Black Diamond Heavies
A Touch of Someone Else’s Class
ALIVE Records

Mixing Tom Waits-style vocals, organ heavy melodies and blistering drums, the southern duo known as the Black Diamond Heavies are true artists in the genre — generally known as Southern Punk — and their newest album A Touch of Someone Else’s Class only cements their position at the forefront.

First of all, it seems a little impossible that just two guys can make this much damn noise with only two arms each. Van Campbell’s lightning-like drum-work should easily set fire to his sticks, and James Leg’s blistering organ riffs (who knew a set of keyboards could be so freakin’ punk?) sound on the verge of blowing every amp in the room, particularly on tracks like the face-blasting “Make Some Time”. They do get the occasional help from some of their friends here and there, like Dan Auerbach’s guitar work or the Tour-ettes on some backing vocals, but mostly it’s just them. This much sound would be impressive for a four-piece group let alone just two freakin’ guys…

There’s plenty of homage to the blues origins of modern punk here as well, particularly on “Oh, Sinnerman” (written originally by Nina Simone), which is as eerie as is it just damn cool (not to mention being one of the funkiest songs this writer has heard in half-a-year or so).

That being said the best of the Black Diamond Heavies is still when they just rock out on some insanely fun tracks like the ‘50s-tinted “Happy Hour,” which will defy even the dourest Judo-Christian Republican’s need to prove his love of Jesus by not dancing.

Fans of Scott H. Biram (who just put on a fantastic show at the Riot Room this week) or the High Plains Drifters should have a new best friend in BDH, and since their current touring schedule says they will be in the “Midwest” in October…so maybe, just maybe they might reach out and touch KC — Jesus knows we could use the class. — Brandon Whitehead (posted 08/15/08)

Bag of Toys

What do you do if your first acoustic surf rock album Nooner was a somewhat success, including an appearance in adds for Microsoft’s Zune media player (whatever the hell that is) and a top ranking on Myspace.com? Why, you come up with a second album called…Afternooner.

While the possible future advertising revenue here remains a question, there’s no doubt that the San Francisco-based band Bag of Toys still has a lot left to pull out of their collective…bag.

Under the guise of lead guitar/vocalist Robert Tait, this foursome has produced a far more adult and frankly fun version of your standard surf rock, mixing slow beats and melodic vocals, and the result is just downright cool.

Starting with the aptly named “Ooh La La,” Rob and his friends (Robert Stadler on drums, Joe Schewe on bass and Steve “More Cowbell, Please” Cowgill on another guitar) have a lot of fun mixing calypso, alt/country and even reggae sensibility in their music. The result is a light-hearted and upbeat album filled with catchy songs that dare your head not to do some bobbin’ with simple songs like “Feel It” leading the way.

While you have to go to CDBaby.com to get your own copy (they also have a deal with the surfing website Reelcomp.com), you can catch their video for “Smile so Wide” on YouTube.com, in between watching video of planes crashing and clips of the Colbert Report, of course.

They might not be Santa exactly, but this is defiantly a bag of some pretty nice toys, and with luck they will pass it around again — hey, how about “After-afternooner?” — Brandon Whitehead (posted 08/01/08)

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

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