Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dolly Rocker Movement : Trippy Psych-Pop with Panache

Originally from Sydney, Australia, the home of many kickin’ garage rock and psychedelic rock bands, the Dolly Rocker Movement imported its layered  psychedelia to America via a recent stint in Hollywood. (The band played the International Pop Overthrow in August). Lead singer/songwriter Daniel Darling formed the band in 2002. Since then, they’ve released three full-length albums and 2 EPs, (with more on the way). Darling recently appeared on the Internet radio station ErrorFM, playing live tunes on the“Buddhaman  International Experience” show., including the new tunes I Drive a Mustang and A Corner Conversation.

The Dolly Rocker Movement builds on retro psych pop with harpsichords, trippy, feather-light, female vocals, synthesizers, folk-oriented acoustic guitars and twangy surfer-rock riffs. DRM’s well-constructed songs experiment with different tempos & vocal presentations, veering from Velvet Underground and Pink Floyd  orchestrations to straightforward fuzzy-guitar rockers.  I’ll be reviewing their CDs in a future post.

You can read an interview with Daniel on Ripple Music. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Crazy Squeeze - Glam & Punk Rock from the Heart of Hollywood

The members of Hollywood glam-punk band The Crazy Squeeze logged time with Teenage Frames (Frankie Delmane, guitar/vocals/keyboards), the Stitches (Johnny Witmer, guitar/vocals), Superbees, ( Johnny Sleeper, drums/vocals) and Richmond Sluts (Chris Beltran, bass). Judging by that resumĂ©, you know the band has the chops to deliver some badass rock.  From the crunchy chords that begin All Lies to the catchy power-pop melody of With A Girl Like That, every song is an upbeat slice of sleazy, '70s glam rock influences and gritty punk. A fun live band that will keep you moving on the club floor, Crazy Squeeze’s sound is part Slade, part Dolls and all attitude. The band’s currently in the studio recording their debut CD.

The Crazy Squeeze plays The Redwood Bar in downtown L.A. on November 20th with The Red Roses and The Commotion.

Single available from Rapid Pulse Records

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Fave Local L.A. Bands - The Ruby Friedman Orchestra

When you take a skilled female vocalist and back her up with talented rock musicians, that combo can get lost in crowd if it’s not peppered with that “something extra.” After all, how many hotel lounge bands and “American Idol” contestants have trained voices, good back-up musicians, and no pizzazz?

The L.A. based Ruby Friedman Orchestra takes the above-mentioned formula and shakes ‘n’ bakes it into a bluesy rock spectacle. There are a few things that differentiate redheaded sparkler Ruby from the current crop of “technically adept” female vocalists. Ruby has a sharp sense of humor and quirky intelligence that comes through in her songwriting and live performances.  (Some of her songs concern subjects as diverse as transcendental meditation and suicide.) Ruby draws from a variety of musical influences. Bessie Smith is one of her vocal idols. And one of  RFO’s show-stoppers in concert is a soulful cover of the Beatles  “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).”

RFO plays L.A. haunts like the Hotel CafĂ©, the Mint , and the Echo, where Ruby’s voice alone seems too big for the venue. Bigger things are on the horizon, though.  The band’s song “Shooting Stars” was prominently featured on this year’s promos for the TV show “America’s Got Talent.” A fave of legendary DJ  Rodney Bingenheimer, RFO’s song “Burning Skies” has also rated highly with listeners of KROQ’s “Locals Only” show.  The band’s currently recording a full-length CD.

The Ruby Friedman Orchestra plays Friday, November 12, 2010 at the Sunset Room (behind Amoeba Records) in Hollywood.

CD Review: Reunited by The Jazz Passengers

The Jazz Passengers first came to prominence in the mid-1990s when they released In Love and Individually Twisted with Debbie Harry contributing vocals on certain cuts.  But they’re more than a backing band for a punk chanteuse. The band formed in New York City in 1987 with a mission to make jazz fun without compromising form or musicianship. Debbie’s guesting with the band again on Reunited, their first album since 1997’s Live in Spain.

The CD opens with Elvis Costello singing an original composition by the Passengers’ Roy Nathanson called “Wind Walked By.” It  begins with a conventional jazz vocal, then unfastens into a lazy, discordant vibe that frazzles the listener with a cacophony of horns only a freeform lover can truly appreciate. The lyrics reference “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” and echo current economic woes with lines like “Time’s is hard now/I lost my home.” The back and forth bohemian approach is the Jazz Passengers trademark. If their goal is to make jazz music interesting and unpredictable, they’ve achieved it. Really, most modern vocal jazz music is nothing more than a skilled vocalist singing torch songs with piano and an occasional horn section.

The cover of Peaches and Herb’s disco hit “Reunited” is barely recognizable until the chorus, between the plucky strings and hush-hush vocals. (And was that a dj scratching a vinyl record in there somewhere?) with discordant horns thrown here and there for good measure. This is the antithesis of the smooth disco original. Vocalist/ sax player Roy Nathanson and Passengers’ trombonist Curtis Fowlkes trade wry, half-sung, half-spoken vocals. It’s the musical equivalent of a Cubist painting, taking elements and rearranging them in unusual and sometimes grating juxtapositions.

Debbie Harry’s contributions close out the CD. She lends a smooth and straightforward vocal interpretation to “Think of Me”, the most mainstream cut on Reunited. Her second song  is a hit-or-miss reworking of “One Way or Another” that starts out strong, but gets too “busy” near the end.

The bulk of this CD can be truly enjoyed only by avant-garde jazz aficionados. Reunited has a modern Beatnik vibe, like an Uptown ode to Dave Brubeck and Ella Fitzgerald. You can almost hear Jack Kerouac reading from “On the Road” over some of the instrumental interludes. Those unaccustomed to Bohemian jazz may find it amusing here and there, but it’s too “all over the place” for casual listeners- unless you live in a West Village apartment with bongos and a fireplace.

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Monday, November 08, 2010

DVD Review: Anything Boys Can Do: A Music Documentary by Ethan Minsker


Anything Boys Can Do, is a gritty portrait of female punk and alternative musicians in 1990s New York City. Released in 1996 by filmmaker Ethan Minkser of the Antagonist Arts Movement, the young women in this film infiltrate the Lower East Side and other artsy haunts of Manhattan with performances that are way beyond underground. Even the band names (except for the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black)  might be unknown to anyone but New York scenesters of the time. The NYC alternative punk girls of the ‘90s were known for extremes in message and looks. They weren’t family or celebrity friendly like today’s “punks.” 

The girls from “Thrust” perform what looks like a “secret” show in a parking lot, playing thrashy music and simulating sex acts while partially clothed. Tribe 8 plays rough pro-lesbian, pro-feminist grunge, Sexpod, perhaps the most musically adept band in the documentary, has a lazy, bluesy tinge to their songs. Kembra  Pfahler of the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black performs topless in her signature horror movie make-up and body paint, growling/screeching/singing and engaging in all types of antics. She does a headstand while a member of her troupe cracks an egg over her vulva. By the time this happens, we’re so immune to the noise and nudity it’s neither shocking nor titillating. It’s just part of the show. Actually, I think I’d be shocked if I ever saw Kembra onstage with her breasts fully covered. This 71-minute film delves deeply into the aspects of the bands' struggles with making it in the male-dominated music world  as well as some of their personal struggles. This isn’t documentary “lite” – it really gets under its subjects’ skin.