Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Front Fell Off

Dear Waveriders,

This isn't necessarily our standard music post, but this is without a doubt the funniest thing we've ever seen. Politicians are the same everywhere, and here's the proof.

Don't know for a fact that this is real, but it's too spot on to be a parody. Only Monty Python could've come up with better. If it's parody, it's genius.

Thoughts?


Monday, September 29, 2008

Rumors Heard in MySpace: Episode 8


I can smell it. Can you smell it? It’s a good smell. Well kept sod being upturned by the cleated foot of the North American football player. The anxiety of children and parents as schools begin the tedious grind towards summer. The exhaust from the Zamboni as it prepares for the Ripple Effect’s favorite sport of them all. The smell of autumn. Strain those nostrils, my friends, and you may catch a whiff of a turkey dinner in the near future. Contrary to what that silly song, this is the most wonderful time of the year! And to keep us company as the temperatures start to decline, there are news and notes aplenty regarding the bands that we keep finding on MySpace. Let’s get started, shall we?


A bunch of bands have new albums coming out or are in the process of compiling their work for release. The first group are no strangers to the pages of the Ripple Effect. Sweden’s Trettioariga Kriget are preparing to release a double live CD package on October 24th and is called War Years. In fact, it’s the bands very first live album from the band. Disc one is a collection of performances between 1971 and 1981 and covers a bunch of tunes from the first three albums. The second disc captured the band in 2004 during their all too brief stop in the U.S. for the Progday Festival in North Carolina. There’s also some tracks from their latest album, I Borjan Och Slutet. If, for some reason, you prog fanatics haven’t picked this album up, stop reading this now, go to the bands web page (trettioarigakriget.com), order the album, wait patiently for it to arrive in your mailbox, and then enjoy one of the best albums out there. Also, while you’re on the bands page, pre-order War Years and the band will include a free disc with 5 bonus tracks. Being that I have more Trettioariga Kriget in my collection than I do The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Doors, and even the mighty Zep combined, you know I’ll be first in line for all of that stuff. Word that I also received from some key sources is that Olle Thornvall, lyricist for the band, has shelved the project of writing a book on the bands history and instead has included an extremely in depth piece for the CD’s booklet. Racer . . . how are the preparations for the move to Stockholm going? And, do you think Stefan Fredin will adopt me once we get there? www.myspace.com/trettioarigakriget


There’s a band lurking in French underground called Hollow Corp. You may have read my review of their latest album, Cloister of Radiance, in these very Ripple pages. If they peaked your interest like they did mine, then the news that they’re working on the follow up as I feverishly type these words, should increase your heart rate about, oh I don’t know . . . twenty? Twenty-five beats per minute? The word from the band is that it’s going be “heavy as hell.” As long as it’s not, “Hot, hot. Hotter than Hell,” we should be in good shape for an outstanding set of music from one of the more intriguing extreme metal bands out there. www.myspace.com/hollowcorp


Ever hear of Hectic Watermelon? If the answer is no, then you’re not reading enough of The Ripple Effect. I stumbled on these guys a few weeks back as they opened for King’s X and found that everything that I ever believed true in music was now being questioned. Now, that’s some kind of power to have someone questioning their beliefs after a half hour burst of “post-Zappa-commando-fusion,” but I swear. I’m a convert to the jazz fusion thing. These guys blew apart the wall that I had built to oppose this type of music like they were being led by an ex-Navy Seal. Oh wait . . . they are being led by an ex-Navy Seal. Anyway, in all seriousness, lead HWM commando and guitarist John Czajkowski has informed me that he’s putting the wraps on a project with drum extraordinaire, Marco Minnemann. After listening to a bit of Marco’s drum work, I can see where Czajkowski’s excitement is stemming from. The project is called Normalizer 2 and should be ready for everybody’s ears in the coming months. And, as if that wasn’t enough, Czajkowski and HWM have begun writing and recording for a new Hectic Watermelon album. I’ll do what I can to keep y’all up to speed on this front. www.myspace.com/hecticwatermelon


The lads of Seattle’s Gunshen have passed word that they’ve almost completed work on their new disc entitles, SuperBuffet. If this new disc is half as good as Stew, then it’s still going to be better than the majority of the music being pushed across the airwaves. Gumshen have found the magic formula to creating dynamic and interesting music in short and concise alternative punk pop tunes. You can swing by their page and it looks like they’re even allowing you to download four of the five tunes from Stew for free. I mean, c’mon! It doesn’t get much better than that. We also have a commitment from Gumshen to swing by the radio show on October 15th and throw out some tunes that they think the world needs to hear about. Make sure you tune in for that! I will certainly be there! www.myspace.com/gumshen


Hair metal fans unite and rejoice. Live and unfettered, Saints of the Underground are here to remind you why you loved '80's metal in the first place. Featuring rock veterans and multi-platinum artists Jani Lane (Warrant), Bobby Blotzer (Ratt), Keri Kelli (Alice Cooper), and Robby Crane on bass, the newly released debut CD is already causing a buzz around the industry. What originally started off as a jam session turned into a fully formed band that just begs for you to dust off those old leather pants, do up the hair and get back to rocking. Released by Warrior Records, Love the Sin, Hate the Sinner features enough old school groove with enough modern rock to capture fans new and old. Check them out at www.myspace.com/saintsoftheunderground.


Braintoy are back in the news, and for good reason. A little bird told me that there are a couple of major labels taking a long, hard look at our boys from north of the border. The only question that I have is, why do they need to take a long, hard look at these guys? They’re working too hard, if you ask me. In an effort to not jinx the work of the band and potential labels, I’ll leave the labels names out of this, but I am free to tell you that they are BIG labels with lots of money behind them. So, if I can put my two cents out there (like I’d stop if you said no,) sign Braintoy and support the hell out of them because they’re one of those special bands that are doing something unbelievable. They write strong songs with great lasting melodies and their tunes come across with that much needed conviction that tells the listener that these guys are in the business to create beautiful, heartfelt, and honest music. Hell . . . I’d put a suit and tie on right now if it gave me the power to sign these guys! www.myspace.com/braintoy


In concert news, the Roadburn Festival is coming up. Sure, it’s a ways out still, but it’s taking place in Tilburg, Holland from the 23rd to 26th of April, 2009. I’m uncertain who all will be performing at this gig, but I do know that the legendary Oakland, California based Neurosis is headlining the thing. Now . . . I know very little to nothing about Neurosis. I think I saw them open for Rollins back in . . . ’90 – ’91? That’s really it. Well, I went by the Roadburn page and heard the lead Neurosis track that they have posted and, dare I say it? I think I Rippled myself. I’ve found a love for this band and I’m a stone’s throw from hopping over to Amazon and one click purchasing their entire catalog. Just thought I’d mention it. www.myspace.com/roadburnfestival


On the bummer side of things, two events have recently occurred that have put a damper on the normally cheery confines of the Ripple office. First and foremost, we wish Andrew with Attic of Love a full and speedy recovery. He, apparently, was hit by a car while riding his bicycle home from work and sustained some pretty bad injuries to himself. Fortunately, the outcome wasn’t worse. Andrew suffered from a cracked vertebrae and a slipped disc, but there was no paralysis. Be a pal, stop by the band’s page and wish Andrew the best. www.myspace.com/atticoflove


The other piece of crummy news comes from our friends across the Atlantic in Norway. Obscure’s rehearsal space was destroyed by fire a few weeks back, and along with about fifty other bands, lost all of their gear. I’m uncertain to all of the details because the report was in Norwegian, and much like my Swedish, I’m very spotty with my translations. From what I gathered, the bands are hoping for some government assistance with the purchase of new equipment. Mates, we wish we could help further, but all we have is our good intentions and heartfelt concerns. Fortunately, no one was injured in the blaze, which means that they all have the means of picking up the pieces and doing it all over again. www.myspace.com/obscurebergen


In retaliation towards the police violence that arose during the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the socially conscious punk rock trio Ted Leo and The Pharmacists released an EP entitled Rapid Response. All proceeds from the release are going to the legal defense fund for those arrested during the fracus. Ted has some things to say about the whole situation, and I can't help but feel that this whole thing is going to hell in a hand basket real quick. The "freedom" of speech is a very limited freedom, my friends. Please, think before you vote. <http://www.touchandgorecords.com/bands/album.php?id=478>


Finally, I want give a shout out to one of the music sites on MySpace, All About The Music (www.myspace.com/allaboutthemusicblogspot) . One time Prosthetic Records intern, Alex Gilbert has stepped out on his own and is, like the title of the page reads, all about the music. He did a great interview with one of my favorite up and comers, Skeletonwitch, and I’m sure there are more goodies in store for us soon. Alex has been a great supporter of the Ripple and, likewise, we’re trying to be a great supporter of his work. Stop by, check him out, and if you’re a band reading this, you may want to get in touch with him. He knows people who know people, if you know what I mean. I’m outta’ here . . . y’all be good to one another. Peace! - Pope JTE





Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Sunday Conversation With Mountain Mirrors

Jeff Sanders is the mastermind behind the acoustic based heavy mountain music so lovingly known as Mountain Mirrors. To date, he's written, recorded, and self produced three albums, and still was kind enough to make some time to answer a few questions. So, we pulled up the couch, fired away, and this is what Jeff had to say.


When we were kids, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever hear Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphanies since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.What have been your musical epiphany moments?


My biggest epiphany came in high school the first time I heard Metallica's "Ride the Lightning" (especially "Call of Ktulu"). I remember reading a review for Ride the Lightning (I'm pretty sure it was in Maximum Rock and Roll zine), and the writer explained it as the most brutal, electrifying music imaginable...but with a vibe that, compared to other metal bands, was almost like classical music. I was on a mission from god to find that album immediately. The sound just freaking paralyzed me. The title was exactly the way the music sounded to me at that time - there was nothing like it ever before. I was completely entranced. And for the first time, I had a band that was all mine. Like I had a secret that could melt peoples' minds.And their next two releases were the same for me. Life-changing events. The effect wore off when the Black album came out and suddenly everyone dug them...and to me it wasn't as great as their earlier stuff...I have to say though; "Death Magnetic" freaking slays me. I am so happy to hear them playing like this again.
My other major epiphany came from D.R.I.'s "Dealing With It"...I had never heard a CD before that I related to, lyric-wise so much. The music is awesome, but those lyrics are as honest, real and poetic as anything by Dylan or John Lennon. What a classic disc..."


Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?


Sometimes a song can take two months to write. I need one good riff or one good melody. Even one beautiful chord. Then I'll try to get lost in that chord. Sleep on it...the brain is always working on it subconsciously, I think - once you are committed to that riff or beautiful chord or evil chord change. One day it just busts open like a flood gate. The hard part for me is the lyric. The concept has to really resonate in me in order to feel compelled to finish it, and I go about it the same way. The minute I stop trying and start reading, watch a movie. Letting go and living life...hiking, walking the dog, visiting family, it's almost like "the spirits" reward me with a lyric idea. When they think I'm ready. If that makes sense.



When you write a piece of music, do you consciously write from the mind set of being different than what's out there now?


Not really. I will say that it takes some discipline to play everything on the acoustic guitar and not come crashing in with the heavy, chunky electric guitar "wall of sound" here and there... I try to create dynamics by just hitting the guitar harder and shaking the notes more urgently to create heavier sections in my songs. Right or wrong, that's what I've done so far. I want to see how far I can push the sound of the acoustic guitar. I love the way it sounds played softly, and I love the way it sounds when you bash it. At first, it felt like a limit I set for myself. But it opens a ton of doors, and hopefully sounds unique. I've been jamming a lot more electric guitar lately. Picked up this sweet Agile 3100 natural spalted top Les Paul copy that just has the most beautiful tone - clean or distorted, and it inspires me...


In songwriting, how do you bring the song together? What do you look for in terms of complexity? Simplicity? Time changes?


I have always loved songs that change up and go on an epic journey - like old Iron Maiden and Judas Priest stuff...I also love a song that has a vibe, stirs up your head and is done in under three minutes and lingers in your thoughts - like Nick Drake and some of Beck's acoustic songs...I try to keep that balance depending on what the song does for me.



What is you musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?


I just write about what I'm into...I'm into dark, psychotic stuff as well as sort of new age spiritual ideas. Ghosts, UFO's, crime scene shows, survival stories...love that shit. I always felt like an outsider, and I get fired up inside by shady, evil crap going on in the world. We're all raised to be paranoid and keyed up. So it's all that shit that creates angst in me. And at the same time, it's important to me to try to rise above it and embrace some beauty. If I'm lucky enough for someone to listen to my music, I want to show some of that beauty to them...I want them to escape from the world with me and give some love with the sounds...even if it's the dark imagery that sparks my poetry or riffs...ultimately there's got to be that faith, hope and love.


What piece of your music are you particularly proud of?

It depends what mood I'm in, but I can't deny "The Demon's Eye" is responsible for a ton of people getting into Mountain Mirrors through MySpace. I dig that one... it's pretty dynamic and melodic. I'm really proud of all the lyrics on the self-titled disc... Other favorites have to be "Stay Evil," "Karmic Dogs," "A Spell to Block the Sun," "Field of Grass," "Afterlife," and "Birds in a Rat Race."


Where do you see you and your music going in ten years?


Hopefully by then I'll have at least a couple hundred fans.

Describe to us the ideal (realistic) record label and how you'd work with them, and they with you.


The ideal record label would worship their customers and the fans of their artists. They would have a deep trust in karma...and would work like dogs to get songs licensed in film and television.



Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?

99% of my listening these days is digital. I have a Rhapsody subscription, so that's how I listen to new music. When something hits me hard enough, I buy the CD. I'd like to pick up a record player. Back in the day, it seemed like an inconvenient way to listen to music...nowadays a lot of people swear by it. I'd love to check it out again...probably end up buying a bunch of my favorite albums all over again. lol


What's the best record store in your town?


Newbury Comics is da balls. :-) And so is CD Baby...and Rhapsody.


Jeff, thanks for the insight on your music. We appreciate your time and effort!


All three Mountain Mirrors albums can be found at http://www.magnatune.com/ . . . check 'em out!






Friday, September 26, 2008

The Ripple Seasonal Listening Guide - Summer into Fall - An Amazing Alliteration of Attractive Alterna-Pop

As the heat and sunshine of summer is finally gives way to cooler mornings, cloudy skies and that stiff breeze blowing in from the Pacific, we here at The Ripple thought that now would be a good time to update our smorgasbord of a seasonal listening guide. For those of you who recall, during the dog days of July we published a listening guide to those joyous, backyard Bar-B-Q slices of sunshine pop, like Dave Dill, music designed to lend a light vibe to your summer fun. Now, with the weather change, it's time to rotate the discs in your CD player and bring on a slightly more complicated, more challenging vibe to hearken the oncoming of the complexities of autumn. It's time to put away the margaritas and delve into something with slightly more substance while you're trying to remember where you stored the leaf blower. So without further ado. . .


31Knots - Worried Well

Near brilliant angular indy pop from our fine friends at Polyvinyl Records, 31Knots creates music that demands you stop buying Halloween decorations and plastic centerpiece turkeys and pay attention and listen. Kicking off with an accapella/handclap stab of alt-indy funk, the shimmering guitars of "Certificate," bubble up from underneath, launching us into a dub-esque, acute alterna-pop gem. Hints of early Gang of Four flow in the nasal vocals, stabbing guitar lines and the rolling bass fills. This is adventurous rock, colored with a broad brush stroke of post-punk, rousing and invigorating, just like the first sting of that coming autumn wind.

As varied and multicolored as the leaves you'll soon be raking, 31Knots isn't content to explore one hue, one shade of their muse. They refuse to be pigeonholed into one sound. "The Breaks," attacks with a raw energy brimming through it's near dub bass line. Even within this one song, the boys aren't content to follow one vein, shifting gears to the bombastic chorus with stuttering drum rolls and escalating vocals, before dropping the bottom end right back into their edgy version of dub. These two tracks alone should give you enough to explore as your days end earlier, but if you got that adventuresome bone in your bod, the boys are here to comply. Experimenting with tribal rhythms, jazzy undercurrents, tinkling keyboards, sheets of guitar noise and obtuse structures, each song sounds like it's own moment of inspired creation. With so much esoteric variety thrown into the mix, some songs come off better than others, but none can be condemned for lack of effort. And have no fear, if a particular song isn't starting off to your liking, stick around a bit, it's certain to change to a whole new vibe at sometime before completion. A hectic, at times near-schizophrenic listen, like the change of the seasons, and all the better because of it.


The iOs - In Sunday Songs

Not a new one, but one that might have gotten away on first release. The iOs craft delicate, jaunty alterna-pop that, at its best, makes your head bob up and down as quickly as as if your neck had just turned you into a Barry Bonds bobble-head doll. Released in 2006, In Sunday Songs features the dual vocal interplay of male and female leads, blending together over shimmering, yet muscular guitars. A perfect combination when you still want something on the lighter-side, but shaded for the upcoming winter. Just check out the album cover, it's time to get your slickers and boots out!

"Neverright," was the just missed hit from this disc, a rolling, swirling wash of organ-textured keyboards and charging guitar, rocking in a not too vicious indy way. The closest comparison I can come up with is The Mysteries of Life, with that same intensely melodic, slightly mournful vibe. Definitely an ipod keeper. And the rest of the disc follows suit, expanding from the vaguely Green Day-esque, but better, "Resident Alien," to the smoldering, retro-sixties pop of "Every Waking Moment," to the sheer magnificence of "Come True." All great to set your morning's soundtrack as you grab your scarf, wrap it around your neck and watch the breath plume from your mouth.


The Ms - Real Close Ones

Bringing on a Beatles-inspired a-la-the-garage brand of alterna-pop, The Ms blend a touch of T-Rex and a smattering of psychedelia into their third full-length record, and second for the ever reliable Polyvinyl. Adding a touch of fuzz to their retro rock, and at times ("Breakfast Score") sounding like they borrowed a page from the Kinks songbook, this is mostly energetic, down-home feeling romp through a maze of their influences and hints at their future direction.

"Big Sound," is just that, a big, swaggering opener, guitars crashing through the fuzz and the undeniable melodies. "Pigs Fly," is a delicate, introspective slice of pop heaven, T-Rex brought back to life in the new millennium, with the bands best vocal performance. "Get Your Shit Together," brings on traces of "Get Back"-era Beatles. "Impossible View," and "Bros in Arms," bring the rock back, with the second track being one of my favorites, a grooving, undulating number played over of throbbing bass line. Subtle moments of beauty like, "Trying to Keep," and "Don't Be Late," abound. Don't think we're all retro here. Touches of experimentation can be found, such as the synth tone in "Ultraviloent Men." With it's own touch of melancholy and a dusting of Americana brushed over its British Invasion roots, this is a great one to play by the fire, as the wood crackles, the sparks ascend and the hot cocoa goes down wet and warm.



Joan of Arc - Boo Human

Alternatingly haunting and mesmerizing, or raucous and dissonant, Joan of Arc is the creation of indy rock pariah Tim Kinsella, and those who've heard his prior works know what to expect with his latest offering, Boo Human; expect the unexpected. Brandishing a vocal delivery that begs you to either love it or leave it, a fine acoustic guitar and the firm tattoo of experimentation blazoned across his frontal lobe, Joan of Arc is a languishing, mesmerizing listen. "Shown and Told," highlighted by a delicate solo acoustic guitar, a fine melody and a strong Kinsella vocal performance is a stunningly beautiful track, certainly the soundtrack for wandering thoughts as you stare through the mist on your window, watching the leaves slowly change from green to yellow to red. As fragile as a whisper, floating as if gossamer, this may be one of the most chilling, gorgeous songs of the season.

"Laughter Reflected Back," kicks in with a jazz fusion feel, pushed forward by a gentle polyrhythm. "Just Pack or Unpack," drifts through moments of dissonance to bring on a groovy, finger-snapping ode to love in trouble. I have no problem with Kinsella's voice through out. Here the vocals are mostly subdued and mellow, at times intentionally reaching beyond his limits sounding like Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes. "Vine on a Wire," sets the tone for most of the album, a folksy, alterna-Americana, a vague, more languid R.E.M.-tone, dancing over delicately picked guitars and subtle washes of experimental synths and effects. Certainly, Kinsella is a serious guy, and some of the lyrics gravitate towards melodrama, but who cares? Isnt' that what autumn is all about? A time for melodrama, for reflection? Don't pass this one up. The music throughout is gorgeous, experimental without being overly challenging, melancholy without being maudlin. And besides, it takes a special talent to make a song titled, " A Tell-Tale Penis," (see video) sound this beautiful.

Buy here: Real Close Ones

Boo Human

In Sunday Songs

Worried Well

www.polyvinylrecords.com
www.kaninerecords.com

31 Knots




The M's



Joan of Arc

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ernie Halter - Starting Over


Smooth.

As glass. Like a clean shaven pate. A new born baby’s butt.

You can call me a cynical bastard if you want, but I expected this album to be a poor man’s version of Jack Johnson or Ryan Adams. Not sure where that impression came from, but it was my initial vibe. Fortunately for all parties, Ernie Halter has more in common with Jonny Lang or AJ Croce. He brings soulful vocals with a bit of a funky vibe, a passionate voice that can turn the mood somber and then turn around in the next breath to give the soul a lift to greater heights. He bounces around the various musical genres like Pooh Bear's Tigger bounces from one mishap to another. One moment, I’m listening to R&B, the next, I’m listening to funk. Before I’ve realized I’ve shifted genres, I’m listening to blues, calypso, and gospel. This dude doesn’t seemed satisfied with being lumped into one category, and for that, he’s a perfect addition to The Ripple Effect family! After wallowing around in the morose world of death metal for the past week or so, slipping in a copy of Ernie Halter’s Starting Over was the ray of light that I needed to pull me out of the darkness.

Starting Over opens with “Different Lives,” and with Ernie’s voice hitting all of the right marks. Through the verses, there’s a somewhat plaintive tone going on as Ernie tells the tale of how everything went wrong during a relationship, and then shifts to a more uplifting and hopeful tone as he reaches the chorus and has found some acceptance that the two went their separate ways. “Different Lives” is a well written bluesy, R&B type track that tells a captivating story. I particularly liked the lyrics about taking down the pictures from the house, removing the reminders of the pain. The breakdown towards the end of the track where we’re left with just Ernie’s voice and a muted acoustic guitar hammering away is a wonderful production touch.

Things get downright funky with “Blue Dress.” The bass work from Zachary Rudulph adds the vibe that makes this tune a true funk burner. Ernie takes the vocals to a new level of sultry suave, pining for that hot chick in the blue dress. In my mind’s eye, I see her too, and I see what the big deal is! That dress is driving me just as crazy! It’s a true talent for a musician to so vividly create an image that the listener can key into.

“My Heart Is With You” has that jazzy blues based piano layin’ down the foundation of the tune, but it’s Ernie’s voice and lyrics that are in the spotlight. It’s another great tale of love, and about missing that special girl who happens to be miles away. It’s filled with all of that heartfelt sentiment that you’re looking for to tug on the heart strings. The tune is followed up with the David Ryan Harris (Follow For Now) penned ditty, “Pretty Girl,” which walks in hand with “My Heart Is With You.” Heartfelt and sentimental, stripped down to its roots, the song is just fun. Performed with just an acoustic guitar, it’s one of those tunes that you can’t help but smile while listening to.

Ernie flirts with a bit of the Caribbean vibe and shows his musical versatility with the calypso drenched tune, “Crazy Love.” Again, listen to the bass groove. Well performed, all over the place without getting scattered. Nice work all around on this tune!

“Cyclone” is one of the more intriguing tunes on the disc as Ernie embraces a completely different type of tune in that this one was originally written and recorded for the dance club circuit. Written by Babybash and apparently a club hit, Ernie took the tune and stripped the techno beats and electronica from it, and broke the song down to its foundation. Just a cool, groovin’ rhythm played on an acoustic guitar, Ernie half rapping, half crooning. Man! Hell of job! Again, the man is showing some mad versatility going from R&B, blues, jazz, then into calypso and hip hop, for lack of a better term. But, his crowning achievement and most heartfelt moment was saved for the very last track in “Lighthouse.”

I can’t express enough how incredible this tune is. You simply need to hear it for yourselves. Rather than completely leave y’all hangin’, here are a few thoughts on the tune. “Lighthouse” draws more from gospel than any of the other genres mentioned and has that “Lean On Me” or “Bridge Over Troubled Water” spirit, inspiration, and power. I hear this tune, and I reminiscence on when music was a vehicle of power rather than a cash machine. Finding the strength to be that savior for someone who’s lost is heady stuff, and Ernie’s performance on this track is as captivating as the two aforementioned classics.

I’ve heard the old adage my entire life, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Blah, blah, blah. I know. I’m a creature of habit. I'm working on it. But fortunately, Ernie Halter is one of the key components to my breaking this nasty habit of casually casting stuff aside before I’ve given it a fair chance. Starting Over is a phenomenal album! I speak from the heart here folks. There’s not a bad track on this thing, and the tracks that I’ve mentioned are my attempt to key your initial focus on the highlights. Once you’ve gone through the album and recognized these highlights, the rest of the albums subtle beauty will unfold for you and you’ll be transfixed by sounds that were created by the heavens. Seriously. I’m not saying that Ernie is God, just that he’s potentially a vessel for heavenly works. ‘nuff said . . . great album, pick it up, embrace its warmth and beauty, and be a better person for it.

-- Pope JTE

Buy here: Starting Over




Monday, September 22, 2008

Bigelf - Cheat the Gallows


Sometimes, perseverance pays off.

That certainly sums up my experience with the rock and roll carnival of doom known as Bigelf.

I've never quite had this strong of a reaction to an album before. Upon my first listen to Cheat the Gallows, I didn't like it. On second listen, I just didn't get it. On third listen, I became interested. On fourth listen, I was fascinated. By the fifth listen, I was addicted and now I can't imagine you ever prying it out of my stiff little black fingernail painted hands.

In order to make sense of all that, you have to understand a few things. One, I'd never heard of Bigelf before or their prior works of mad macabre magnificent metal mayhem (don't you love alliteration?). Second, I'm just not a huge fan of pomp rock, I tend to like things cleaner, more straight forward with bigger riffs and less filler. And if Bigelf is anything, trust me, it's pomp. This is a rolling carnival of bombastic, theatrical rock brought to you courtesy of a circus freakshow of musicians.
Imagine if you dare, a perfect blending of Welcome to my Nightmare-era Alice Cooper with the big melodies and production of Sgt Pepper-era Beatles, throw in a mighty helping of a mean-spirited ELO and a smattering of the glam of Sweet, add a sprinkling of Bowie and even a pinch of Pink Floyd and you'll begin to get the picture.


This is rock like very little else you've heard recently, big and loud and proud to be blowing the shit up your skirt. And when I say big, I mean big. This is huge rock and roll, big enough to fill the whole center tent in this bizarre circus of madness. Coming at you like a soundtrack of some surreal Fellini carnival movie, where all the clowns are evil and wear too much make-up and rather than make you laugh, they laugh at you, in some sneering, sickening way that makes your sphincter tighten until you actually suck your underwear up your butt. Yeah, descriptive, I know. But that's Bigelf. Evil and doomy and big and glorious and more fun than a kid's party in a cyanide-laced cotton candy factory.

"Gravest Show on Earth," is this disc's call to action (notice the very descriptive twist on the more commo
n, "Greatest Show on Earth," that gives you all the hint you need as to where this beast is heading.) An MC's barking, wide-armed introduction to the twisted Big Top, the bizarre trip down the rabbit hole you're about to make. But this isn't Wonderland you're going to land into. This is a swirling maelstrom of frightening sights. Remember the scene from the movie Poltergeist, where the child is scared that the nasty looking harlequin doll in his room may come to life and kill him in the middle of the night? Yeah, he's here. And he's got a cleaver in his hand. This intro is similar to Alice Cooper's call to horror as Nightmare began or his descent into hades during Goes to Hell. Big guitars, big horns, big drums and big chills. Swirling and undulating, complete with the sinister voice hearkening that he's sure "you'll have a grand old time." Only you know you won't.

"Blackball," is an amazing explosion of sound as the curtain opens on the funhouse. Riding a chugging riff, this is blasting, bombastic rock with swirls of keyboards and Damon Fox's sneering vocals. At times his voice sounds so sinister, he'd give kids the chills reading them Dr. Seuss. Yeah, he'd make that darn Horton and his Who's seem mentally disturbed. Then, just as the song is smashing in it's repetitive, one-two punch, the whole thing changes on a dime, dropping down into a fantastic jazzy organ and sax breakdown, riding across a streaming Golden Earring bass line. Suddenly, you realize that there's more than just madness afloat here. There's genius. Insane genius, no doubt, but genius nonetheless.

"Money, It's Pure Evil," may be the albums main single, in all it's Flyod-isms, but my money's on the tear-it up glam rock of "The Evils of Rock and Roll." Starting with a swirling organ and picked guitar, the bombast pours in with all the grandeur of the gates of hell opening before you, reminding you that you're still lost somewhere in the twisted horror that these guys call a funhouse. Keyboards of unexpected beauty lead the song until the minute-forty mark, when everything drops out but the most perfect charging Purple-esque guitar-riff that you've heard since "Speed King." From there on the songs a full-on charger, a masterwork of glam rock, leading to the big chorus and brilliant lead guitar break. Any fan of classic rock would tip their hat to this one.

"No Parachute," reminds me of Alice's plea of "Didn't We Meet," as he realizes he's in hell, a gentle, morbid number played over a strummed guitar. "The Game," features some excellent lead guitar as it rides more time changes than can be found in a Swiss clockmaker's studio right into the unabashed fury that is "Superstar," another scorching skewer of T-Rex/Bowie inspired glam metal. Your mad Master of Ceremonies jumps back in, charging you through a "Race With Time," before the maniacal madness of "Hydra," featuring as many changing riffs, time switches and melodies as that mythical multi-headed snake. An absolutely fierce freak-out of frenzied fictional fury (too much alliteration there?).

"Counting Sheep," acts as the show closer, a near operatic, theatrical epic eleven-minute journey through our MC's mental instability. The harlequins are closing in with damning eyes, charging amidst a flurry of carnival organs, searing guitars and synths.
Terrifying things pop out at you from unexpected corners. Your world swirls in and out of chaos. Whew! At this point, as the tent door finally flaps open, allowing the sunlight back into your world of darkness, you can only thank whatever God you pray to that you survived and made it safely back home.

Or at least, you think you did. Last I checked, the CD was still sitting in your player, waiting to be spun again. And while the journey terrified you, somehow, you can't stop yourself from reaching once again for that play button as if it holds some demonic power over you. The harlequins are spinning around your head. The clowns are laughing.

It's time for the carnival to start once again.

--Racer

www.bigelf.com

Buy here: Cheat the Gallows




Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Sunday Conversation with Poobah

Long known around the underground, Poobah, or more directly, Jim Gustafson, has been pumping out psychedelic acid blues rock since the early seventies. While he's never quite bubbled up to the mainstream, in his long career he's opened shows for everyone from ZZ Top to Judas Priest and played in more shows at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame than any other recording artist. He's the ultimate musicians musician, appearing in Guitar World Magazine, well known and respected by the industry as a whole. Still pumping out the crazy heavy psych, we pulled up a couch with the grand Poobah and asked him some Sunday morning questions.


Seem like you've been going it for years. When did Poobah first get together?


1972 was the year we formed and somehow, someway, put out that first Poobah record. We still play 4 of the songs from that album live. "Mr.Destroyer," "Bowleen," "Live to work," and "Enjoy.")

I love those songs.



And after all those years, you've still got the fire. I hear you're back in the studio, recording a new album. What is that, your 11th?

The 12th. And that Poobah CD is again full of wild and crazy guitar work. The working title is Salad. My songwriting, I believe is getting better all the time. The songs feature some complex guitar parts, yet still appeal to those who love guitar rock music. There is some wild vocal stuff on this new work, too. More guitar fueled blues rock, also. I have been a big blues fan since my teens, and own many cool recordings in that genre.

Your last disc was Underground. Is there a special meaning behind that name?

Yes, the title Underground was relating to the fact that Poobah, though widely known in guitar rock circles, is still below the radar, compared to major label artists (regardless of talent) who have the radio to support them. That still is the big companies grip on the music industry, the radio waves. The internet has helped many unknown artists gain popularity, but to sell millions of plastic discs, you usually need radio play. That's the monopoly in the music world.

I first released the Underground CD in late 2005, or early 2006 (I forget). It has sold well on our site and at shows. I really love this CD, and think it is gonna be remembered as a classic (at least to me, ha ha). It is some of the best rock guitar and vocals I think, ever recorded. I think any fans of Zep, Sabbath, Purple, etc., are going to love this slab of powerful guitar noise.


What keeps you motivated? What inspires you?

I am always listening to new and old music, of many genres, and I am sure lots of it invades my brain, and influences my songwriting. I have always loved rock guitar best, and have tried really hard to improve my playing, tone, and make the best audio experience for fans of this type of guitar rock. I practice a lot, and many times that's where I come up with more songs. I have recorded about 300 songs in pro studios. I have a basement studio, too, but I prefer to drive to a pro studio with great engineers, and expensive equipment, for Poobah releases.

Your music is a guitar effect lover's dream. You must own every effect pedal on this planet. For the budding guitar techie, what are your favorites?


I love guitar effects, pedals, rackmounts, etc. Some people say they only play right into an amp, but I say versatility and changing tones on a recording makes for more interesting listening. I don't want all my songs to sound the same. Experimenting with pedals, is really fun for me, and has sparked some song ideas. I am an endorser for Morley pedals in Chicago. They have sent me 5 Wah, and Volume pedals, and I love 'em! I also use a Dunlop tremolo, a Boss Octaver, a Line 6 echo DL-4, a Tech 21 Compressor/distortion, a Digitech Flanger, a Rat distortion rack and many more. I have a nice collection.

You have a few great straight up, but guitar-frenzied, blues numbers on Underground.

I have been a blues fan since I played in Biggy Rat , right before Poobah was formed. My old female singer in that band had all these old blues albums, and we used to play songs from them. Now, I record blues songs (usually originals) and play several in Poobah shows. I dig the feel and groove of this blues vibe, and add the power of rock to the sound.



When it's all said and done, how would you like Poobah to be remembered?

I would love for Poobah to be remembered as a good band that made cool songs, with hot guitar playing. I don't expect everyone to like Poobah, as I hear some people say they don't like Hendrix or Cream, or (insert name here). I never expect people who only like one kind of music or one artist, to want to listen to me. Some folks are narrow minded, so, since you can't please everyone, might as well please yourself !


Hey, I see that Poobah has their own music video. How'd that come about?

The video of "Underground" came about through a television station that wanted to use the song "Underground" in a commercial. Lucky for me, the song was used, and in a trade, they made me the video. It was a very cool deal, and I thank producer Jon Defibaugh for that opportunity. The commercial was for a TV show on NBC that ran on Saturday nights, after Saturday Night Live.



If you had to choose one, what's the prototypical Poobah song?

The prototypical Poobah song... Hmmm, maybe "Bowleen." I try hard to make many different types of songs, and I hope I have achieved this. It bores me to have songs sound too much alike. I have never enjoyed an album where one song sounds just like the rest. I love it when an artist gives you some variety in their work. I feel that gives the music a longer life, with repeat listens.

On the CD Underground, there are several songs that stand out to me. They would be "Underground," "Better," "Mushroom Man," "Souls,"and "Secret." I must admit, though, I feel there are no weak songs on the disc.


I couldn't agree more. Thanks for joining us, Jim, it was great talking with you. Best of success always.

Thanks for your questions, Racer. I am going back in the studio this week for more new Poobah. I will have a new CD for you soon! And it is blazing hot!

Check out Poobah at:

www.poobahband.com



Friday, September 19, 2008

Heir to Madness - The Citadel

In recent months, heck for the better part of 2008, Racer and I have noticed a bevy of individuals who have released full length albums under a band heading. Earlier in the year, we focused on Jeff Sanders and Mountain Mirrors. Just last month, we touched on Dave Lanciani and Dimaension X. And today, we have, yet another, one man project headed by Jay (just Jay), and as I’m sure you guessed, he heads thing up with Heir to Madness. What all three of these musicians have in common is that they are uber-creative, uber-ambitious, and uber-talented. It’s one thing to write a song. It’s something all together different to write one that sounds good. Now, take that idea of writing one good song and repeat the feat seven times, then eight, then nine. Holy crap . . . that’s enough material for an album! That’s basically what we have here with The Citadel. It’s one man’s burning ambition and ceaseless creative drive to express himself through sound. Song after song, refined until a consistent sound was developed to create an albums worth of music.

Take a piece of Deadwing era Porcupine Tree and you have the makings of the lead track, “Citadel of Self.” Sprawling in its complexity, but rooted in the simplicity of heavy rock, the song takes the listener on a journey. The tune opens with the wah’ed out sound of a distorted guitar throbbing away with the rest of the instruments, intermingled keyboards providing texture and nuance. The vocals, low in the mix, narrate the tune until it comes to the chorus where Jay opens up the wind pipes and his voice becomes readily apparent to all. The voice has a bit of a Maynard Keenan quality to it, maybe not as soaring with range, but the tone is there . . . especially in later tunes. “Citadel of Self” is the most consistent in heaviness, in that the verses hit you with a muted riff throughout and then erupts with opened distortion through the choruses. Even the tone of the solo has a distinct heaviness to it. Note the acoustic guitars laying down a succulent passage in the background. Sweet work!

On “Wondrous Wrath,” Jay builds the guitars, layer after layer, on top of each other until the speakers vibrate from the monstrous wall of sound. Check out the clean, jazzy tone that Jay utilizes around the 4:30 mark. Nice lilting touches that perk my ears every time I hear it. I love the transition from the mellowed portion of the tune and into the more distorted, chaotic guitar solo and subsequent heavy riff. On top of the amazing guitar work littering this tune, Jay works the vocal harmonies real well. This is a truly prog moment. Over eight minutes of swirling and shifting moods, time changes, and tones create an epic tale for the listeners to lose themselves in. This is the kind of stuff that I marvel at, as it’s only one guy sitting back and putting this together. There’s that ambition I mentioned! I’m just sitting here shaking my head in awe.

“Arbiter of Somnolence” features some more of that nifty guitar work. Acoustic guitars accompany a pulsing bass line, all the while, guitar and keyboard flourishes explode in brilliance around the passage. In his typical dynamic fashion, Jay opens the volume at the chorus and feeds us a meaty triple layered sandwich of distorted guitars. The crunch of the guitars are made all that much heavier by the barrage of drum work, which acts like some incendiary devise going off all around the riff. Jay brings the punishment with a healthy dose of riff happy aggression at the 4:40 mark and effortlessly blends back into the chorus. “Arbiter of Somnolence” perfectly displays Jay’s aggressive and passive tones within one tune. The momentary aggressive intro, the beautiful ambient acoustic passages, the melodic chorus, and the aggressive instrumental portion, all weaving together like the yarn of my crocheted afghan (the blanket, not the person . . . coz’ that would simply be weird.) This tune, like my blanket, is an artistic display of different times and different places, and the loving work of the artist’s hands. It may even keep you warm on the odd winter nights.

The Citadel is a well put together collection of eight songs that encompass all that is prog. Dramatic shifts in mood mixed with complex time changes fill the fifty-two plus minutes of music on this disc. Though it’s filled to the brim with instrumental and musical chaos, The Citadel also breathes and gives us the space we need to complete our thoughts. There isn’t any of that nonsensical noodling that drives me crazy, rather dynamic ambience that lifts the spirits and give me pause for reflection. It’s a self produced, picturesque album that inspires me to pick up my guitar again. I’ve found that the best way to listen to this bad boy is through headphones. This way, you can hear every nuance with so much more clarity. Those subtle musical textures shouldn’t be ignored. They help add color to the story. They help give the story life. They give the life purpose.

You’ve gone and done yerself some solid work here, Jay. You should pat yourself on the back. We certainly are. - Pope JTE

Buy here: Buy the CD



Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Vanessa Kafka - Into Place

Now that we’re approaching the anniversary of our first full year of Ripple service, The Pope and I have been around long enough to anticipate new releases from some of our earlier discovered Ripple favorites. Already, bands like Mountain Mirrors, Heavy Water Experiments, Braintoy and Dream Aria have followed up early releases with newer, grander albums. And now, perched poetically on the edge of my desk here at the Ripple office, sits the long-awaited, brand new release from one of our favorite singer-songwriters, Vanessa Kafka.

It was way back in June that we first heard the dreamy tones of Vanessa’s musical creation, alerted by her friend Kristen at Aberrant Sound/Brewhouse Records and it didn’t take more than a few listens to her myspace offerings for me and the Pope to recognize that we were tuning in to something special. Three months later, with the release of her debut full-length CD, Into Place, Vanessa just went ahead and surpassed our grandest expectations.

A singer gifted with a voice of uncommon beauty, Vanessa has crafted a dreamy, atmospheric yet rootsy, heart-felt collection of telling and poignant songs. Early Ripple favorites “Silhouette,” “If He Stays,” and “Tell Me So,” sit comfortably with new songs like “Better,” creating a CD full of power, romance and touching splendor. The impeccably clean production never loses its warmth or intimacy, drawing you into the vastness of Vanessa's heart, fully exposed on this album. Like a fire crackling on a cold winter's night, Vanessa beckons to you, drawing you in, wrapping around you in a cocoon of dreamy melodies. Like the fire, her music is naked and slightly dangerous, yet comforting and mesmerizing. Raw, yet refined. It is the music of emotion, hers and ours, shared and individual, personal and universal.

Blessed with a voice that fits somewhere between Suzanne Vega, and Natalie Merchant, with traces of the mournful intonations of Sarah McLachlan, Vanessa has no difficulty carrying the heart-wrenching emotion of her songs. Accompanied by a top-notch group of musicians, including her producer and guitarist, Brian Sargent, the music comes to life effortlessly around her, like a field of clouds carrying her in its wispy path through tales of broken hearts, shattered dreams, and ultimate hope.

“Speak in Words,” starts us off on our journey through Vanessa’s heart, delicate and fragile, riding on the muted notes of a single guitar. As the band kicks in, so does the power of Vanessa’s voice. Sounding strongly reminiscent of Natalie Merchant on this track, the verses build in intensity, the band growing in fervor, Vanessa’s voice rising in power as she searches for a lost connection with her lover. A dynamite opening track, revealing the full intention of where Vanessa plans to take us with this disc.

“Better,” packs solid hooks into its dramatic guitar playing, hinting at Jewel without the coy preciousness. Then “Silhouette,” picks up the pace, riding a toe-tapping beat, jaunty guitar strumming and a melody as sweet as cotton candy. As “Sink,” slows things down a bit, listen for the absolutely perfect transition from that track to the slightly, down-home funky “Forgery.” I had to replay my CD player 3 or 4 times to fully absorb the subtle beauty of that mood change. Dig the loosely-strung guitar playing and Vanessa’s voice as she gets just a little bit mean and nasty. No two ways about it, that track is a winner and will be undulating from the Ripple speakers for a long time to come. The vaguely Suzanne Vega-esque vocal phrasing of “If He Stays,” follows, a shimmering piece of rootsy pop perfection.

Into Place isn’t a rocking album, not something to accompany your nights shooting pool with the boys or watching NASCAR with your friend the plumber, but it’ll be a damn fine listen the morning after. An album to listen to, to mediate over, to use as your own catharsis, discovering emotions that perhaps you never took the time to express yourself. I could go on about each song, but that may dampen your own thrill of discovery, so I’ll call it here. Just know that a new voice is in town that just demands to be heard. So grab a hot cup of tea, sit with your dog on the back deck, scratching him behind the ears in time to the drums, watch the hummingbird flutter back and forth in your flower garden and sit a while with this one. Let it enter you. Let it fill you.

You just might find out something about yourself in the process.

--Racer

Buy here: Into Place

Download Vanessa for free.

http://www.brewhouserecords.com/03_silhouette.mp3



Buy here: Into Place

Download Vanessa for free.

http://www.brewhouserecords.com/03_silhouette.mp3



Monday, September 15, 2008

Hollow Corp. - Cloister of Radiance


Somewhere between the next generation of metal mongers, Mastodon, and the drony deftness of Isis, Hollow Corp. lie . . . washing themselves in the dirt and grime of human existence, poised to carry the mantle of the undergrounds next big thing.

Hailing from France, the music reflects the polar opposite of all that we, as Americans, know or think we know about the country. This isn’t music that depicts the Eiffel Tower, the picturesque countryside with rows upon rows of vineyards, or the dreamy seaside resorts of the Riviera. Basically, there’s nothing Nice about it (sorry, I couldn’t resist a little pun.) This is music that depicts the gritty nastiness of humanity, the darkest times of despair, and the blackness of an eternity wallowing in self misery. I’m curious how hard France’s Minister of Tourism fought to keep Cloister of Radiance from seeing the light of day. This is a snapshot of the France that you won’t see in any of the tour guides.


My first thoughts as I pushed play on my CD player and got a face full of “Elevation” were, ‘Dear God. I’m gonna’ hurt after this’ and, ‘I wonder if my insurance will cover this.’ Fortunately for me, I didn’t need to resort to an insurance claim, but I was pretty damn sore. The waves of distorted and feedback drenched guitars bathed me as I tried to focus my eyes on the weaving road to the freeway. Once those waves dissipated, a tsunami of palm muted guitar riffage took its place. Initially, I expected Hollow Corp. to take this tune down the path of the discordant and drony ways of Isis, and though there are those moments, Hollow Corp. refrain from being so dense that the songs lose all musicality. There’s enough mid range in the tunes to allow the songs to breath, and the added textures make Cloister of Radiance a music fans wet dream. And there, my friends, is what makes this band interesting. Taking the doom fueled dirge ditties and adding some groove and musical flourishes to keep things fresh.


“Code” is masterpiece in groundbreaking technicality while remaining dark and menacing throughout. Drum rolls introduce the song for a lot longer than one would typically anticipate, and then the band kick in with an all out aural attack. The vocals, though gruff and aggressive, aren’t of the death metal variety and convey the perfect amount of gut fire menace. The key to this song sticking in my brain is the psychedelic jazzy break just about three minutes in. I mean . . . where the hell did this passage come from? Absolutely amazing and thrilling to hear the band take such a left turn rather than go down the same road others have gone before. The bass line is great as it weaves and wanders amidst the meandering of the guitars. Before you know it, the whole band is back in together and riffing away. And, it only gets better the more I listen to it! That’s some hot shit, guys!


The beginning build up of “Peripherals” makes me think back to Panopticon from Isis, with its droning, dense wall of sound effect. The distorted bass rumblings add such an incredible amount of weight to this tune while the vocals of Stephane Azam add the airiness that the song needs to keep from being buried under the weight of the instruments. Suddenly, as if a whole new band magically appeared, Hollow Corp. kick into a riff for the ages. Simplistic in structure, which makes it all the more intense, the band bring a world of torment to every note pulled screaming from their amplifiers. The vocals shed all of that earlier airiness and spit venom into the ears of all brave enough to listen. Tortured and full of misery, Hollow Corp. have an epic tune in “Peripherals.”


“Sabbat” is a straight forward thrash about. Great opening riff that somewhat melts away at the verse. The vocals fill the voids that the sustained guitars have created. This is a more “standard” or formulaic approach to the bands songwriting, but no less intense. Towards the end of the tune, Hollow Corp. throw out one of the most fantastic and dynamic riffs that I’ve heard since the glory days of the thrashing late 80’s. Holy crap . . . what a riff! The bass completely drops out of the mix while the guitar in the left speaker carries the riff along. The guitar coming in from the right speaker has one of the grittiest tones I’ve heard and acts a great compliment to the cleaner toned left side instrument. The key point of this break, though, is when the drums abruptly disappear and we’re left listening to this tandem of six strings riffing away. Brilliantly executed! Hang on . . . I gotta’ go back and play that again.


Yeah. That rocks.


Cloister of Radiance is about as unexpected a find as I’ve had in my music collecting life. This album is technically brilliant and emotionally brutal. Though there are those wonderful musical passages mixed throughout the album, Cloister of Radiance is an extreme metal album and shouldn’t be approached as anything but that. But, it’s an extreme metal album that has so much damn character to it. So many nuances. So much flavor. So different than the tired extreme metal that follows the same path as those who came before. Hollow Corp. is a visionary band in that they’ve approached their music from a different place and show no fear in pushing the boundaries of the creativeness. They’ve stared into the dark places and took the right amount of what they needed from the abyss to convey their fears and frustrations. I’ve never had any interest in visiting France before, but I may be changing my thoughts on that real soon. Viva la France!

-- Pope JTE

Buy here: Cloister of Radiance












Sunday, September 14, 2008

Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here

How do you follow up one of the biggest selling albums of all time?


That’s the situation Pink Floyd found themselves in after the unexpected, “overnight” success of Dark Side of the Moon. Although they’d notched a couple of British top 20 singles off their 1967 Syd Barrett created psychedelic debut, Pink Floyd toiled in and out of obscurity over on American shores. That all ended instantly in 1973 with the release of Dark Side, which entered the charts at #95, quickly rose to #1 and established Pink Floyd as world-wide superstars. Amongst it’s themes of fear, alienation and the coldness of modern living, Pink Floyd and primary songwriter Roger Waters managed to scale down the meandering scope of their prior works, like More, into sharper, more consistent songs. Adding to that the top 20 hit, “Money,” there was no stopping the boys on their runaway train of success.

So how do you follow that up? In Pink Floyd’s case the response two years in the making was to create an album arguably even better, more stunning in musicianship and more aggressive in content than Dark Side. Without the benefit of an instantly infectious bass line like the lead in to “Money,” Wish You Were Here still rose to #1 on the charts, revealing David Gilmour to be a guitarist of amazing power and fury, and Waters to be a songwriter of biting wit and sarcasm.


Starting off with the tribute to their rock and roll tragedy leader, Syd Barrett, “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” is a liquid-rock, sprawling, rolling epic. A slow burner, never in a hurry to get to an imaginary finish line, the song tells the story of Barrett’s brush with insanity (“Threatened by shadows in the night”) told through the alternating slow jazz and searing lead guitar lines of Gilmour. A slow burning sax solo, an ambient keyboard scape, a gentle pulsing bass. This is jazz, classical in its composition, rock in its intensity.


Then, without pausing, the dull, ominous keyboard of “Welcome to the Machine,” rises from the underground. Threatening and haunting, the keyboards build amongst a random cacophony of sound effects, a strummed acoustic guitar, finally breaking into a humanly distant vocal. Water’s cynicism is on full display in this mechanized, dehumanizing song. This theme runs throughout the album, a loose concept about the cruelty and greediness of the music industry and its effects on the delicate psych of Syd, leading him deep into his own world of insanity. Understated, Gilmour’s guitar ticks through his notes while Rick Wright’s keyboards lay on the heavy industrially sterile vibe.


“Have a Cigar,” bubbles out next, funky and meaty, Gilmour’s guitar work shines on this epic tale of the greed and duplicity of the music industry, leading us to the classic lyric, “Oh, by the way, which one’s Pink.” To highlight their point, the band turns the vocal over to Roy Harper, a semi-obscure folk/progster for whom the industry machine had always failed. This is the closets thing Wish You Were Here had to “Money,” plying a similar funky vibe, and would eventually become an FM radio staple. “Wish You Were Here,” is a simpler, touching acoustic ode to Barrett before the band launches back into the extended space jazz/rock jam of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” parts 6-9.


Rumor has it that Barrett made a surprise appearance in the studio during the final mixing of “Diamond,” buried in a trenchcoat, overweight, shorn of hair and eyebrows, totally oblivious to the fact that the song playing was an ode to himself.


Recorded at Abbey Road studio, Wish You Were Here employs the same multi-layered production of sound effects, spacey synth washes and instruments as Dark Side. Yet, it seems that Wish You Were Here is often overlooked in the Pink Floyd cannon. People often think of Dark Side or The Wall, instead, drifting over this platter. We're here at the Ripple to change that. Although not as groundbreaking as Dark Side, and lacking in the quantity of songs, Wish You Were Here quite possibly holds up better than Dark Side, more impressive in its execution, grander in scope, cracking the window open on the ambitiousness and musical vision of an essential band performing at their peak.


--Racer

Buy here: Wish You Were Here

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