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Shift – Trash Bar, Williamsburg - 5/15/2014

New Jersey’s Shift – only together a year – is already a force to be reckoned with. Since the moment that their manager played me some clips over his phone, I knew that there was gold in them thar hills (check out my review of their first full-length, “Molly” below.



Those of us lucky enough to be present for their show at Brooklyn’s Trash Bar this past Thursday were treated to a stadium show in a tiny club setting. Replete with laser spotlights, smoke machines, pitch perfect vocals and shredding guitars, Shift got even the most determined wall-huggers on their feet.

Very rarely have I heard such a well-done execution in a bar setting (credit of course to the Trash Bar’s sound guy, the eclectic Dave. I didn’t even see one roadie during the entire performance.) The songs are catchy and the combination of their floaty feel , the light show, frontman Dan Flynn’s engaging performance and guitarist Pete Couto’s expert licks seem way too big for that tiny room (not that that stops it from being fucking awesome.)
Even having to pee didn’t prevent the gig from going by much too quickly, and I was already bugging the road manager for the band’s schedule before they even left the stage.
If you haven’t given this band a listen yet, do yourself a favor and check them out. There’s nothing cooler than discovering a baby band in a self-important scene like Williamsburg with actual potential. I will be shocked if Shift isn’t hopping onto major tours by the end of this year.


SHIFT – Molly (facebook.com/shiftbandpage)

Infant Passaic metal band Shift claims to have sprung from leftover factory ectoplasm (a rumor that their manager will neither confirm nor deny.)

Right out of the gate, the CD screams for your attention as the opening cut “Contra” as harmonic quickly gives way to heavy riff – and an extremely catchy one at that. The vocals are rather unobtrusive, intoning their way in with the steady drumbeat, occasionally giving way to a pleasingly subtle growl as the drum and guitars build to a toe-tapping pitch. The chorus features some interesting tempo shifts, moving the song along at a nice pace. As the track closes out with some fun space-like effects, it’s hard to believe that five minutes have gone by already.

Which is the perfect ebb into “Presence” – a floaty little number with a super clean sound and excellent vocal layering and awesome upper-fretboard picking.

As third track “End” commences with a helicopter-effect lead-in to some chunkier chords, it becomes abundantly clear that this album has been flawlessly designed, with bits of well-placed narration throughout. The “Heys” behind the intriguing lyrics are a rad touch, and there is some fine shredding toward the end of the song.

“The Hard Way” is the ballad, and it has a nice bridge in the middle.
“Abe Froman” is a swinging, bluesy piece, very welcome twenty minutes into this onus.
Instrumental interlude “One, No. 31” will charm classical guitar lovers everywhere as it fades out the much more dissonant opus, “Meditation.”

“Unlearn to Hate” is ingeniously interspersed with lines from 1940’s “The Great Dictator” and gives way to heart-wrenching melodies and solos every bit as gripping as the best rock opera that you can think of.

The album closes out with the ambitious three-part “Sacred Space,” a sad tribute to feeling out of sorts and brilliantly executed.

In short, this freshman album is an absolute masterpiece, and you’d only be enhancing your listening experience by owning a copy.

Shift is: Daniel J. Flynn and Peter J. Cuoto (guitar & vocals,) Jon Flynn (bass) and Christopher M. Delli Santi (drums.)

FAIRMONT – Live & Acoustic From The Forest of Chaos (Mint 400 Records fairmontmusic.com)

If you’ve ever envisioned yourself catching a Fairmont performance in a tropical setting, then you’re in luck with this album. Fairmont’s brand of unplugged without question invokes the image of waves lapping at your feet, frozen, alcoholic fruit drinks, and ukuleles. It’s also an EP full of really great indie. Fans of The Decemberists , Band of Horses or Best Coast (like myself) will enjoy this spin on some of their classics.

The only complaint that I have is that the only songs included are those recorded last year: “Alone At Last,” “Black Heart Burns,” “Elephant” and “The Sun Shines Only For Me” are from the full-length, “The Grand and Grandiose” and “I Am The Mountain,” “The King and Queen” and “All About You” are from the EP, “The Meadow At Dusk.” However, I really like both albums, so it’s not a very serious complaint.
The songs still make you want to shimmy around your kitchen while fixing dinner, yet are also perfect for a reflective moment on your morning commute with your eyes closed.
With the band back in action after multiple life overhauls (drummer Andy’s successful hip replacement surgery, backup vocalist Sam(antha's) switch from xylophone to bass, the addition of Christian Kisala on synths, percussion, and xylopphone, and the arrival of Neil’s new daughter,) it’s exciting to see them continue to grow and change. I personally can’t wait to see what they do next.

MINDLESS SELF INDULGENCE – Fuck Machine (Remixes) (Metropolis)

Do you really need twelve versions of the same exact song, released only a short while ago on Mindless Self Indulgence’s latest effort, How I Learned To Stop Giving A Shit And Love Mindless Self Indulgence? Don’t be silly, of course you do! You also need this kickass accompanying animè video, featuring the band as superheroes conquering their infamous icon, The Giant Pink Squid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIQtBPTTrwE
Besides, the EP also features a remix of another track off the new album, “Jack You Up,”

Believe it or not, there are dramatic variances in each version: The Mustard Pump remix is slower and more robotic, more techno-creative. The KMFDM remix is more melodic (there’s even some piano tossed in on the intro and some violin at the outro.) The Flock Of Jimmys remix is haunting, very alternative – almost New Age-y. The Blush Response remix has really floaty moments.
The full list of versions are as follows: LJU, Scandinavian Cock, Chantal Loves Jimmy (anyone who knows Chantal Claret’s voice will recognize it here,) Combichrist, Coming Soon To A Theater Near You, Black Lipstick, Album Version and A Capella.




NINE INCH NAILS – Hesitation Marks (Columbia)

After a long and protracted battle with Universal and a four year respite, Trent Reznor is back on the scene with the newly minted “Hesitation Marks.”

A “Pretty Hate Machine” through “The Downward Spiral” era fan of NIN, I initially found “Hesitation Marks” to be a bit dancier than I remembered the band being, and my ear was therefore drawn to the pretty ballad “Find My Way” as the departure that I was looking for. However, upon my second and third listen, NIN’s cleverly sneaky catchiness drew me in with the super addictive refrain of “Copy of A” refrain of (Opening cut, “The Eater of Dreams” is one second long.)The song ear-wormed me all day until I got to spin it again for this review.

The song is a smooth opener for the more vintage-y “Came Back Haunted,” which nonetheless updates NIN’s sound to a more modern synth line.

“Find My Way” is a captivating piece, with a true piano sound floating alongside the beat and the vocals. “All Time Low” is a funkier one with a bit of an Arabic flavor to it, closing out with a long peace-pipe moment with the repeated line “Stretch across the sky.”

“Disappointed” is a quiet little reflection on feeling like you can’t satisfy anybody, no matter what you do, the perfect paradoxical lead-in to the upbeat “Everything,” which is about survival.

By “Satellite,” slightly past the midway point of the album, NIN has really shown their range, having hit what seems like every genre possible on a synth. “Various Methods of Escape” adds a beautiful guitar sound as backup vocals with just the slightest of distortion on Trent’s instantly recognizable lilt in the verse.

“Running” punctuates the title with a galloping beat and some dialogue andharmonymixing things up. “I Would For You” is a sad number lamenting the need to change in order to be loved. “In Two” is back to your quintessential NIN song, but peppered with an interesting layered gang-like vocal in one section, a choir-like sound in another.

“While I’m Still Here” is almost primarily vocals, with a tiny one-note background against a barely there beat which erupts into a space-catastrophe sounding ending in “Black Noise,” and that’s a wrap.

This is the perfect album for chilling in the armchair with a book, in the bathtub with some candles, in the studio with some paints. Relaxing is what I’m going for here. A far cry from the truly fucking upsetting mood that NIN set in their earlier years (although Trent’s dark lyrics still pervade at times.) I can see why the band felt that a true stage show was needed for this one. I’m a bit jealous that I can’t be there, to tell you the truth (it’s just too fucking steep!) but if you go, let me know how it went, will you?

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Read up, listen up, watch a vid:
http://www.nin.com/
http://www.youtube.com/artist/nine-inch-nails


Give the band a shout:
https://twitter.com/nineinchnails
https://www.facebook.com/ninofficial


DAVE HAUSE – Devour (Rise Records)

Dave Hause’s sophomore solo release through his newly inked deal with pop-punk aficionados Rise Records flawlessly continues the story that he began with his debut album, Resolutions(minus the seven EPs which preceded it, of course.) Hause’s solo material consistently manages to retain his individuality while giving a heavy and unapologetic nod to The Boss.

Loved Ones’ frontman Hause retains his cut-to-the-bone storytelling capability with heartbreakingly raw, bitter, yet cautiously optimistic lyrics which fans scream at the top of their lungs at every show. The songs on Devour flow from finger-tapping to ballad acoustic-y and back again – you always feel like you’re being taken on a journey by a Dave Hause-stamped product.

With an intriguing introduction to the album “Welcome, my friends, to the show – dance and drink if you’d like, or just sit back and take notes” (opening track “Damascus.”) The song laments “I promised that this wouldn’t happen to me” as it fades into “The Great Depression,” a title which is the mother of all despondent thoughts. The song investigates the process of growing up and away from your dreams. The song also, as does“We Could Be Kings" right afterward, addresses the betrayal of enlisting in the military with heroic aspirations to come away with only loss (Hause warns “You asked me, you asked me” in the bridge.)

Amid the somber tone, a bit of dark humor pervades with titles like “Autism Vaccine Blues,” a song virtually peppered with nihilism, which flows perfectly into “Same Disease.” With the refrain “I think she fell in love because it made her sad,” the approaching midway point of the album has already almost buried you in despair as surely as anything by Jawbreaker or Joy Division ever did – a state of mind that you nonetheless embrace because it’s just so fucking true. By the time the inevitable abandonment issues resurface in “Before,” you’re determined to see this thing through to the end because it’s been such a helluva ride.

“Father’s Son” waxes poetic on everyone’s inner “Free Bird.” It’s also at this point that you realize just how fond Dave Hause is of the adjective “sickening.” “Stockholm Syndrome” explores the paradox of needing to get away while also needing people around to love.

“Becoming Secular” tells the sad tale of losing someone and draws a line between human suffering and religious teaching: “Lost faith, but I’m trying to believe.”

“The Shine” returns to the upbeat with lines like “I don’t stutter when I sing…return darkness with the shine…if you’ve got the shine, shine on.” “Bricks” brings back the pretty acoustic wanderlust, while “Benediction” closes things out absolutely perfectly with a gospel-like summation of all the sentiments contained in the eleven songs prior, begging the listener to identify their woes and simply hang on, because we’re all in this together.

I really, really love this album, and I can’t wait until I can put my preordered copy onto my iPod (I purchased it the second my first stream of it finished) for multiple plays on my worst days. This cd is likely making this year’s “Ten Best” for me.

Face to Face – Three Chords and a Half Truth (Rise Records)

Revolving door of artistry and official breakup almost a decade ago notwithstanding, Face to Face has proven itself to be a model of resilience. With the current lineup of Keith, Yaro and Shiflett actually holding steadily (with the exception of newer drummer Danny Thompson) through the bulk of their career, Face to Face has just released their second album and played a handful of festivals.

Their reunion – a concept once deemed “unappealing” by Keith – has resulted in a catchy album which takes its influence from every genre imaginable (punk, classic rock, indie) which it’s hard not to like.

I’ve always quite liked the sound that Face to Face gets. There is quality musicianship within this band and an inherent knowledge about writing tunes which make the foot tap and the ear worm.

“123 Drop” is an unexpected introduction band’s eighth studio effort, “Three Chords and a Half Truth.” Track 2, the irresistible “Welcome Back to Nothing” is all that emo should be (when it was actually an awesome genre and not just a dirty word.) Super hooky “Smokestacks and Skyscrapers” is just begging for crowd favorite status. “Right as Rain” channels Social Distortion at their best, while :First Step, Misstep” evokes MC5 and ends with the perfect halfway interlude.

“Bright Lights Go Down” kicks in again with a vengeance, and this cut is pure punk at its best - what this band is best known for. Track 7, “Paper Tigers With Teeth,” is your standard “Hey ho.” Track 8, “Flat Black” reminds one of speeding down the highway in the summertime with Tom Petty blasting out of the open sunroof. Track 9, “Jinxproof” is a pretty little sendup to childhood. Track 10, “Marked Men” is a boppy little bit as the album rushes toward its conclusion. Self-Titled Track 11 would definitely be the radio hit, if only radio still existed.

Rounding out the album is the energetic closing Track 12, “Across State Lines” - definitely leaving the listener wanting more.

This thing is flawless – you definitely don’t want to miss out.


Mindless Self Indulgence –
How I Learned To Stop Giving A Shit And Love Mindless Self-Indulgence (mindlessselfindulgence.com)

by Deborah J. Draisin

One thing that Mindless Self Indulgence cannot be accused of (and they get accused of it quite a lot) is not remaining loyal to their signature sound. This is a band that knows how to expand while still retaining their unique, rock-heavy electronic stop-start sound.

“How I Learned To Stop Giving A Shit and Love Mindless Self Indulgence” should feel worth the wait to their fans. Little Jimmy Urine is indeed still dropping sarcastic references and in-your-face social complaints while layering it all with melodic backing vocals which draw you into the song.

“Hey Tomorrow Fuck You and Your Friend Yesterday” in particular, encapsulates the band’s varying influences; hip-hop, new wave, punk, classic rock, all in one and I have would pegged it as the early standout of the album were it not for the “Logical Song” cover at the end. Supertramp is a band which, like Mindless, was ahead of their time, and it’s only fitting that they would find themselves here together. A fun foray for sure.

The album is extremely catchy, likely to grip even those not as enamored with the band’s music as their devoted fanbase of almost a decade and a half. The second most successful Kickstarter campaign in the company’s early history launched a quality product which will be fun to see live.

My toe didn’t stop tapping all the way through, reminiscent of the band’s “Frankenstein Girls Will Seem Strangely Sexy” days.

“Stalkers (Slit My Wrists)” is an interesting departure, as well, featuring childlike harmonies and tackling a rather sensitive subject as only MSI can, with black humor and a unique comprehension of the mind of a disturbed individual.

“Jack You Up” and “Ass Backward” are also there to highlight MSI’s modern rap sound for those who enjoy that aspect of the band the most.



 

 

 


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