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soundbites
March 2009

THE YEAH YEAH YEAHSRED KATEUGLY STICK

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The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
It’s Blitz!
Interscope

The New York punk-trio known as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs! had a decent response to their first album 2003’s Fever to Tell, starring singer Karen O’s ethereal, edgy voice sent to some raunchy punk vibes.

There second, Show your Bones, came out in 2006, and by year’s end had been named the second best album of the year by NME magazine, as well as "Cheated Hearts" being voted the 10th best song. Spin magazine ranked it number 31 on their 40 best albums of 2006 and Rolling Stone magazine named it the 44th best album of the year, which is impressive to say the least. The video of their single “Y Control”, was even filmed by Spike Jonze himself, who was “involved” with Ms. O for a while, whatever that means…

Basing their sound on the Ohio art-school punk bands that both lead-singer Karen O (a goofy moniker, but then talent rights all wrongs here) and fellow student Brian Chase had once admired, the two teamed up with Nick Zinner, and soon found themselves opening for the likes of The Strokes and The White Stripes.

Now, any good punk fan will probably start to get a little edgy here, after all, nothing kills a good punk band more quickly than success (or heroin, of course), and frankly they might get a little cheezed at this album. This is not at all straight out punk, but a more evolved (image of punk fan pulling his green hair out) and operatic sound.

Oh, stop groaning, you babies.

Yes, this is an almost ‘80s-type wall-of-music stuff, slower and far more dramatic than what they’ve done before…and it works. It works pretty damn fine.

Karen O simply has one of the best punk-chick voices around, and she alone pretty much rocks each song by her little ol’ self, even on tracks like the intro song “Zero” with all it’s euro-popy-ness (ok, maybe not a real word).

Chase and Zinner propel that voice with complex orchestras and simply ballad-y type melodies, and buoy it up in ways that remind me of Annie Lennox or Pat Benatar (that’s a compliment, by the way. Benatar rocked. Yeah, I said it. She rocked!).

Their fans might not like this album, but I’d ask them to at least listen to the whole thing, and then decide. There’s still that throbbing punk energy here — they just decided to do something different with it, and baby that’s a type of musician we all need a whole more of in this world. —Brandon Whitehead

(posted 03/27/09)


Red Kate
Little Red Songbook
Self-Released

Pretty much all the albums reviewed by eKC online now come via the magical computerized hoo-ha of the Internet, so I tend to listen to said music through my trusty KOSS Pro/4AAA Plus headset, as most computer speakers generally have all the power of a couple of squished mice. After meeting one of the members of KC’s own punk/rock band Red Kate, I promptly looked up their MySpace page, settled in for a little listen…and nearly blew my damn head off.

After looking at some of RK’s members, I wasn’t surprised: these four dudes (L. Ron Drunkard, bass/vocals, Scott Orangutang-a-ding-dong, guitar, Brad “He’s an Ape but he ain’t no Monkey” Huhmann, guitar/vocals, and Andrew the Revenuer Whelan, drums/vocals) have quite a pedigree behind them, including: Gourmet Mushroom X (KS), Truck Stop Love (KS), The E-Vans (Chicago), Snubnose (Sacramento), Squad Car (StL), Goodpuss (KC), Wayback Machine (KS), Pizzasaurus Rex (StL), Second Chance (KC), 2-Mile Death Plunge (KS), and DPHC (StL). Sheesh!

Their newest opus, Little Red Songbook, is a 4-song EP that rocks from start to finish. This isn’t your standard sloppy punk music either: the songs here, like “Flirty Hips” and the rockin’ “My City,” are tight, fast and clean feet-stompers that leave you begging for more!

Even better, Red Kate is having a CD release party March 20 at The Brick, with fellow rockers The Pink Socks and The Rockers (man, that’s what I call a show!), where you can fling some bucks at ‘em, buy some great music and just plain rock out. The show starts at 10 (yeah, right…), and may damn well be the best show this year. Amen, on that fellow babies. —Brandon Whitehead

(posted 03/13/09)


Ugly Stick
Still Glistening
Hovercraft Records


Back in 1993, the four dudes who make up Columbus, Ohio’s own Ugly Stick (Hey, that’s their name, I’m not judging) produced an fantastic album, Absinthe, that’s still listed on many a critic’s top 100 of all time list. A happy mix of rock/alt-country with some Clash-type pop, Eddie Mann, David Holm, Jeff Clowdus and Al Huckabee made some great music…and as so often happens with great bands, then broke up not long after.

Fast forward fifteen years and suddenly the Stick is back with 14 — count ‘em — 14 kick-ass songs with their new album Still Glistening, and thank the music gods for that! Really, any fan of music could just sit here and play this awesome album all freakin’ day long.

Right from the start they hit the ground running with the raucous “Little Lynn”, an incredible toe-tapper of a song. Other tunes, like “Rock and Roll Party Weekend” are like a…like a…well, like a rock and roll party weekend!

Given that this critic, when hearing of yet another “reunion” of the likes of a once-famous band, reacts with a mildly strong yawn, it is with joy that I realize how wrong that attitude can be.

This is a prime example of a band that goes right, making great music, going their own way, and finally coming back with as much skill and strength as the first time. They probably won’t be touring anywhere near KC, but you can get their newest album at cdbaby.com, where they are not only glistening, they are also rocking the house down. Amen to that. — Brandon Whitehead

(posted 03/06/09)


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

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