Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

Calgary based writer Brett Klassen doesn't only fit every Canadian stereotype, but delivers blunt and honest takes on punk, rock, and hip hop and much more in this column.

Cat Casual & The Final Word – “The Secret Self” (sonaBLAST)

It’s pretty sad when a band takes the word “experimental music” a little too far, and it’s a shame to see it happen to psychedelic punk/rock band Cat Casual and The Final Word in their second album, “The Secret Self.” This is Cat Casual’s first album with The Final Word, he was formerly with The Holy Midnight for his first release.

The first half of the album is near flawless, it became immediately compelling with the first track, “Introduction (A Kafka Kiss,)” a song that has clean bluesy guitar riffs from William Benton, who wears the name of Cat Casual on the stage. The appeal continued on the next two tracks, “Deconstruct Son,” and “Asphalt” with a heavy bass and guitar riffs assisted by thundering drums and Benton’s voice that is somewhat reminiscent of Mick Jagger. The issue that plagues the rest of the album kicks off in “Black Sun,” where the band’s experimentalism got out of hand. It starts out great, with a slow grooving melody plays while Benton goes on about putting your faith in something, giving it your all, and getting nothing in return. The last two and a half minutes out of the six-minute song is just a synth repeating the same notes over and over again while a plethora of random pitches are playing in the background, it’s like they just ran out of ideas and had to fill the time slot. The song that showcases their overambitious style is the last song on the album, “Floorhand,” where the last half is just a jumbled mess of sounds, with the synth stretching out the boring melody. The only exception to the last half of this album is, “Glorious Life,” which is fueled by abrasive guitar riffs and Benton’s powerful voice.

I enjoyed the first half of this album, it really caught my attention with their unique sound, but my interested corroded when they decided to fly too close to the experimental sun, ultimately anchoring the whole album. Hopefully they tone it down in their next release.

Unhappy Fly – “Unhappy Fly” (Emotional Response Records)

I was uneasy in my first listen of Unhappy Fly’s self-titled debut album. It didn’t sit well with me, but after a few more listens, I really appreciated the impressive work they’ve done. Each track on the album contains a wealth of sound that made each listen sound more different and unique, there’s just so much to listen to. The soft but powerful vocals from Xentos Fray Bentos and slick and smooth acoustic guitar riffs are accompanied by Richard Dudanski’s amazing drums and John Glyn’s superb work on the saxophone. Vocalist and brain behind the harmonies Sarah Washington shines in “Singing Flame” with her polarizing voice that works in tandem with Glyn’s fantastic saxophone. Glyn’s sax solos in “Singing Flame” and “Hit N Miss” is a joy to listen to, you can feel his passion with every note. “Feet of Clay” is the most intriguing song on the album, it has this mysterious aura around it. It starts off with a steady drumline and stunning clavichord work by Bentos that’s assisted by his Bowie-esque voice. It’s very interesting to hear a clavichord in modern music, and Bentos executes it impeccably. I truly love the versatility in guitar in “Angry In The Head,” starting with an aggressive and unhinged acoustic guitar and then having some electric bluesy notes supporting the acoustic sound, it was unexpected but fantastic. This album is super interesting, there’s such a variety of sound, like they’re not locked into some genre. Their fluidity is remarkable, original, and compelling, and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for their next release.

Attaboy – “WILD” (Radiate Music)

Indiana-based pop/rock band Attaboy genuinely surprised with me their sixth album, WILD, with stimulating beats and invigorating lyrics that always had me tapping my feet and bobbing my head. The album offers uplifting songs that will light the fire under the listener with “Never Going Back,” “Giving Up the Fight,” “Waking Up,” and “Fire.” The feeling of wanting to create perfect moments with the perfect people radiates from “Overdrive,” with singer Ryan Payne saying, “This feeling’s got me glowing, fireworks on a perfect summer night, this feeling’s overflowing, cannonballs and swimming in sunlight.” The song emits vibes of pure happiness and the need to seize the day. This track was by far my favourite, but what truly sold me on it was Melanie Morris’ astounding work on the bass, and how it worked impeccability in tandem with Payne’s lyrics. The album never slows down, the fast paced, pedal-to-the-metal drums and guitar intertwined with the captivating beats made by Doug Weier was a joyful and full-throttle experience. Weier’s work was constantly refreshing, he never failed to amaze and made it impossible not have at least one of the beats constantly on the mind. This album was incredible; I was quite shocked about how much I like it. If Attaboy keeps releasing soon-to-be hits like they’ve done on WILD, they’re bound for success.

Lone Wolf – “Together Alone” (Stardumb Records)

Disappointing and boring are the two most accurate words to describe Lone Wolf’s second LP, Together Alone. The Rotterdam-based punk band's tracks sound good at first, but repetitive and boring after multiple listens. Nothing particularly sticks out, every track sounds similar to another with stale guitar riffs, drumming, and so-so vocals from Merel and Ox. It’s barely appealing and whatever interest it garnered faded quickly. It’s a shame to see all their passion amount to something that is adequate at best. The one song that sticks out on the album is “Don’t Know How,” but it only caught my attention for a second and then it went back to the same old repetitive and barely tolerable sound that has plagued the LP. “Together Alone,” is not amazing or horrible, it resides in the gray area of mediocrity. Hopefully more creativity goes into their next release.

WIVES – “So Removed” (City Slang)

I was left somewhat unsatisfied with WIVES’ debut album, So Removed. The band, who hail from Queens, NY delivered the raw power of punk rock intertwined with the Bob Dylan-esque voice of singer Jay Beach. Songs like “20 Teens,” “Servants,” “Sold Out Seatz,” and “The Future Is A Drag” drive the album with wild and unhinged harmonies that make you feel like raising hell. “The Future Is A Drag,” is a song that perfectly caps the album off with a punk Buddy Holly feel to it. It was a song that was irresistibly interesting to listen to Beach talk about blowing it, missing second chances, and living with those mistakes. It’s too bad the rest of the tracks on the album couldn’t carry that momentum. “Why is Life” and especially, “Even The Dead,” severely missed the mark with flat vocals and a culmination of instrumental mediocrity that was headache inducing. A lot of the songs suffer from this abysmal trend, it sounds lazy, sloppy, and overall careless. If WIVES just put more effort into making each song as catchy and savage as their best tracks, their debut would’ve been quite impressive.

Plastic Friends – “The Lookout” (Independent)

At first, I thought I was going to love Plastic Friends’ second album, The Lookout” but I was left severely disappointed from the absence of one important element that could’ve made this album amazing instead of extraordinarily mediocre. The band is exceptionally talented; Matt Long’s work on the guitar was beyond incredible, seamlessly implementing a Motley Crue-esque solo within a funk fueled melody on “From Here,” bassist Phillip Ryerson’s ferocious bass work that helps drive home Long’s heavy and aggressive riffs in “Mask” is impeccable, and Nate Harrison’s ability to be a constant powerhouse on the drums throughout every track. Every song is tremendously appealing, but the vocals by Will Perkins are exceedingly hit and miss, causing boredom at a massive rate. The lack of power and abundance of vocal flatness really killed my amusement, it just doesn’t fit with the high intensity guitar riffs and the in-your-face drums. In “White Mirror” there is a subtle note of The Pixies’ “Where is My Mind?” that’s bombarded with stretched out lyrics that sucked all my enjoyment out of the song, which is a damn shame since the track started out so strong. The lack of exciting and electrifying vocals that I thought were going to accompany the vigorous melody brought down the whole album for me, it made every track boring and frankly hard to listen to. It was a bummer to see that trend throughout the whole album.

LA FLEUR FATALE – “Bound To Nowhere” (Lovely Records)

It took me only one listen to be sold on La Fleur Fatale’s fourth EP "Bound to Nowhere." The Swedish band delivers a beautiful mix of Beatle’s Sgt. Pepper-type psychedelia with the modern power of OK Go. Each song takes on a different tone, sounding increasingly more different and unique than the next, from fast paced abrasive rock, to melancholic pop fueled by a jaw-dropping melody. “Suicide” kicks off the EP with sharp guitar work and a rapid drum beat with a hint of The Door’s psychedelic organ that had me unexpectedly excited. The band spares no time to slow things down in a surprisingly great way with the next track, “Wasted Ghosts,” a gloomy and acoustic tune that’s accompanied by the spectacular voice of Alexander Vibeck. Out of the four songs, “Strange Flowers” was the one that stuck out to me the most. The opening seconds to this track are almost trance inducing due to the psychedelic key stroking of pianist and organist David Drejstam. I fell in love with higher pitch notes in the chorus, reminding me of the peaceful melody of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.” They capture the essence of what psychedelic rock is in this track, which is by far the most mind blowing song on the EP. The first three songs floored me with the versatile and unique sound they each presented, but their closing track, “Drift Away,” misses the mark with a generic melody, and overall plainness. It’s an alright song, but I was hoping for something with the same energy as the previous tracks. Despite the rather underwhelming ending to the EP, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it and can’t wait to see what they have in store.

SHREDDERS – Great Hits (Doomtree Records;

When it comes to rap, I usually don’t listen to what current artists are putting out, since the majority of it sounds the same, none of it particularly piques my interest. Shredders’ second album, Great Hits, almost gave me hope in the new age spitting bars, but gave me disappointment instead. The album starts off strong with an aggressive house beat and rhyme spitting that can only be compared to Logic or Eminem in ‘Suburban Base.’ The group tried to keep it going with the next track, ‘Vanilla ISIS,’ but misses the mark with a lack luster hook, which does the opposite of what hooks are supposed to do. The flow that MCs Sims and P.O.S deliver are in your face, hostile, and downright irresistible, but gets separated by a hook that is less exciting and attention grabbing than the build-up. The somewhat dull hooks are a reoccurring theme throughout Great Hits, but not with the third track ‘Ayeyayaya.’ The song has a beat that reminds me of Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Opps’ mixed with the consistent rhyme intensity from Lil Dicky’s ‘Bruh’ which instantly grabbed my attention and was the only song that could do that for its entirety. There was not even a second of this track where I thought it would slow down, it was non-stop energetic excellence. The last four tracks, ‘Shadap You Face Pt. II,’ ‘Young Bros,’ ‘Chips,’ and, ‘It Was Written…Again” sound so similar to each other and the previous three songs that I had to check to see if I was listening on repeat. The beats dramatically stay the same, making the rhyme flow painfully repetitive despite having entirely different lyrics. Great Hits was mainly a miss with only two songs that stuck out from the rest.

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