Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Pure Organic Junk-Peter Blast

Pure Organic Junk
Peter Blast
Poptown Records

Chicago’s Peter Blast has a colorful rock 'n' roll pedigree. He survived the first wave of ’77 punk as the guitarist/frontman for the vastly underappreciated Degeneration. After Degeneration ended, Blast hung out and played with such punk icons as Johnny Thunders and Stiv Bators, then returned to his hometown of Chicago, first touring with the Blast Factory under the name Peter Blastiosso, and formed Junebug with ex-members of D’Molls and Alice Cooper. More hard rock than retro punk, Pure Organic Junk showcases Blast’s versatile songwriting. Buoyed by Chip Z’nuff’s production, the CD showcases a variety of songs from Blast’s storied career, as well as a few new tracks.

From the relentless rock of Orange Sunshine to the 70s “big rock” feel of Heaven Only Knows, the raunchy, no-frills sound is a little like classic Stones or Aerosmith with a touch of Alice Cooper inspired vocals. The ballads really shine, too. Place The Blame On Me features crisp, melancholy acoustic guitar that perfectly embellishes this tale of regret and broken love. The Crossroads Hotel and It’s a Cruel, Cruel World have a country twang, while On An Angel’s Wings is delicate without being sappy. The bonus tracks include a cover of Pills, first popularized by Blast’s buddies, the New York Dolls.

Pure Organic Junk is an unpretentious, bare-bones album from one of punk rock’s lesser known trailblazers.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Return of The Golden Rhodes-The Baldwin Brothers

The Baldwin Brothers
Return of the Golden Rhodes

No, Alec, Stephen, William and Daniel have not followed the Bacon Brothers lead and formed a band. These Baldwin Brothers are not actors but two childhood friends/musicians from Indiana, Jason Hinkle and TJ Widner. They specialize in jazz/electronica or “junktronic” music. A hybrid of indie pop, funk and electronica that combines influences as divergent as 70s funk, Kraftwork, the Beastie Boys, and Herbie Hancock. Golden Rhodes is the follow-up to the Brothers’ acclaimed 2002 CD Cooking With Lasers.

On Return of the Golden Rhodes, this junktronic vibe is the hippest easy listening music you’ve ever heard. While this eclectic pop/ jazz hybrid may confuse some listeners used to a straightforward approach, the more adventurous are in for a treat. The building blocks of the Baldwin Brothers sound are bass, drums and synthesizers, with occasional turntables and trumpets for embellishment.

The space-age drum ‘n bass of Right On sets the album’s trippy vibe. The laconic under the strobe lights trance of Just Me (On The Dance Floor) has a generic dance club feel. This sound morphs into an early ‘90s hip-hop groove on A Matter Of Time, which features guest rapper Sarai. Other guest vocalists are Lisa Kekula (BellRays) and Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees). Kekula’s turn on Leave The Past Behind is an upbeat and near perfect example of “smooth jazz”. Mark Lanegan’s subdued, almost whispered vocals on the somber The Party’s Over close out the album.

At the very least, Golden Rhodes offers pleasurable and unobtrusive background music. It doesn’t provide beats you can really sink your teeth into, but it’s catchy and user-friendly. The Baldwin Brothers’ funky, light-hearted approach to indie electronica puts them in a league of their own, and I wouldn’t be surprised if their popularity expands out of the Mixer Mag crowd and into the mainstream.