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January 2009


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Various Artists: Slumdog Millionaire — Music From the Motion Picture
Interscope Records

While some might argue that a review of a motion picture soundtrack is pointless, they would in fact be discounting a huge body of some fantastic songs. Think of movies like High Fidelity or The Blues Brothers — would you call Cab Calloway or James Brown “background music”?

The fact is that a good soundtrack can add a unique element to even crappy films, enhancing that experience while also branding it with its own sound.

While most of the musicians on the soundtrack for Slumdog Millionaire are unknowns in the states, the skill they show here would equal the likes of any of our top-10 artists. “Paper Planes” by M.I.A. take an eastern style and merge it with western hip-hop with amazing skill. If you don’t tap your feet to that song, you are probably dead.

On the bad side, however, is the number of “remix” versions — there is really only a couple of songs here, the rest are all just instrumentals and such, most of which are just too long. Why couldn’t they edit them down? Its not like we need the exact versions from the film.

Also, there’s a little too much of that mix of classic Hindi vocals with a disco backbeat, though even that is well performed, creating a weird and ethereal sound that can be quite compelling.

Next time, more songs and less remixes! — Brandon Whitehead (posted 01/30/09)

Vibraphone Records

Back in the later ‘80s to the beginning of the ‘90s, the British musical style often called “shoegaze” had a brief moment in the sun — until Seattle and San Francisco’s burgeoning grunge movement kicked it to the door, that is.

Known for lush and layered and somewhat drugged-out melodies backed by merging guitar and vocal tracks (nobody knows what any of these songs are actually about), shoegaze is at best an acquired taste left for your more frenetic fans of The Cure and such.

Perhaps it’s a bit ironic that San Fran has also now produced one of the better shoegaze (or now, nu-gaze) bands around.

Sleepwalker by the four-member band Astral is a real triumph of that eerie, atmospheric style, particularly on tracks like “A Lullaby from Amsterdam” and the exceptional “In Circles”, which could have been an unreleased Cure tune (from back when the Cure was good).

It’s really hard to find anything to complain about here: They don’t even have a goofy/stupid/juvenile photo of themselves with heavily worked hairdos, which is pretty remarkable given that these days most “musicians” are models first and performers last (note to American Idol: just stop. Please).

The four members — the press release calls them a trio, so somebody’s not counting right — have defiantly got some talent: Dave Han’s vocals are right on, and Scott Christy’s drum work is simply phenomenal.

Also notable is there use of 8-track analog tape: no digital editing here. Now that’s Guns and Roses! —Brandon Whitehead (posted 01/23/09)

Stare Into the Sun
Whispers Turn to Howls
Reformer Records

Whenever a band sites Joy Division as an influence, it tends to set off a few warning bells here. That ‘80s Manchester band’s jangly, discordant style would quickly fall apart in the hands of most others, who simply would not be able to handle it (believe me — I’ve heard and endless litany and wanna-be JD’s, and with out question they all pretty much sucked).

Luckily, nobody’s told that to the Detroit-area trio known as Stare Into the Sun. Right from the first track these guys lay it down, with a confidence you rarely hear from seasoned pros. Even more impressive is the fact that their newest album Whispers Turn to Howls is only their second, and man does this beast howl!

Led by guitar/vocalist Kevin Murphy (who probably has one of the best voices ever for this type of music in a looong time (cherish it, dude), with Jay Livernois on bass/vocals and Mark Pankonin-drums/vocals, these three have produced one of the sharpest and tightest angst/pop heard in a long time.

Just listening to tracks like “Henrietta” and the remarkable “The Most Fun I’ve had in Years” is a tasty experience, and like any good album, the last track seems to come far to soon.

Only complaint: no touring anywhere near here. WTF?

Not that KC doesn’t have lots of great bands — we do, more than most cities our size, but since all we have is a bunch of small bars for them to play in, its hard for them to make enough money just to stay in the game…gee, pretty much like the rest of us Americans, huh?

Given that hopefully there’s a new change towards reality and away from demagoguery (and because there’s some good music out there too — I’ll help you find it!), here’s to a happy New Year and a better one for all. — Brandon Whitehead (posted 01/09/09)

All American Rejects
When the World Comes Down

Well, well, well. Any regular readers of this column might have caught on to the less-than-thrilled attitude towards emo. The main reason for this (other than the fact that emo sucks) is the standard emo fan: white upper-class fifteen-year-old kids who constantly whine about how hard their lives are, and generally are in love with melancholy and sadness. Jeez, at least the Goth kids have some cool clothes!

Emo music is that guy in Animal House playing “I gave my Love a Cherry” on the stairs, and this writer is John freakin’ Belushi. That being said, imagine the surprise when Stillwater, Oklahoma’s own All-American Rejects (perfect emo band name, by the way) didn’t totally suck.

There’s even a few tracks, like “Real World” (which no doubt will be used in the next season of MTV’s Real World — do I know marketing or what?) that start off pretty cool…ooooh, yeah, all most forgot — emo.

Another thing about emo that’s annoying is that-of course-it makes absolutely oodles and oodles of money, and AAR is sittin’ right on top of that big pile. Led by Tyson Ritter on vocals, these four (forget the rest of their names: if you’re a fan you probably have them tattooed on your neck) mix enough pop in here to make it palatable, even though tracks like “Another Heart Calls” are still so juvenile you better be a juvenile to like them.

Still, if you’re a fan, this third album will satisfy all your whiny self-centered childishness, and the band is pretty much gonna be on every talk-show there is, so catching up to them shouldn’t be to hard, and besides that they’ll need all the money they can get before their shelf-life runs out.

Now ‘scuse me, I gotta go smash a guitar. — Brandon Whitehead (posted 01/09/09)

The Roman Holiday
The Apocalyptic Genocide of the Human Race
Disgorge Media

It’s been over a month since yours truly watched Riverside’s five-member thrash-metal band The Roman Holiday perform at a midtown bookstore, but as the holidays this year have been about as fun as a root-canal, getting a review done has taken a tad bit longer than expected.

In the past most of today’s thrash/screamo shit has taken a much deserved pounding in these reviews, and with good reason: They simply are not very metal, and therefore hardly brutal at all.

You see, back in the ‘80s heyday of metal, the themes were simple. The songs were about partying, girls, drugs, and partying with girls and drugs. They were fun, hedonistic shouts that reveled in simply digging life. But not today’s metal, no, today’s metal has done the most single annoying thing any musical style could do.

It got political.

Now, there are no fans of our out-going administration here at the mighty eKC, but really, songs that whine about Bush/Cheney/Rumsfield etc are just fucking stupid. Do you really think you’re going to change the military-industrial complex’s death-grip on us all with a song called “Bush Sucks” (and no, you can’t use that, I just made it up now myself, so blow off)?

Luckily, The Roman Holiday bunch (Craig Bruenger-Bass, Dalton Harper, guitar, Brent Turnbow, vocals, Seth Greenbank, guitar and George Schmitz on drums) keep their thrash straightforward on their first album The Apocalyptic Genocide of the Human Race, which also has the distinction of being on of the coolest album titles of the year.

Songs like “Ream Dreams” are pure thrash, although thrash has yet to figure out how to make a vocal track that is actually understandable — but that hardly matters. This is fun loud stuff, although with just four songs (the fifth track, “Lehi”, is not a…well, if you listen, you will get what it is) it ends all to soon.

Hit the site above and you can get this CD, plus a code for an MP3 download of all the songs here, as well as all their upcoming gigs.

Happy New Year to all, and here’s wishing a year free of apocalyptic genocide. Unless of course they were asking for it… — Brandon Whitehead (posted 01/02/09)

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



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