Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Urges Review

The Urges
Psych Ward

Throwback rock and roll seems to be pretty popular these days. Like most folks who enjoy rock and roll the way it used to be, I am sucker for a good band that sounds as though they could have been around back in the 1960's and 70's. In the case of The Urges, I am still trying to figure out if they really are a modern band, and not some long-lost Nugget from the 60's garage era. Both the band's look, sound, and production quality looks and sounds absolutely nothing like anything that has been around in the past 40 years. Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, The Urges are Little Steven Van Zant's newest endorsement and are very deserving of his praise.

The Urges' Psych Ward is what it is: a great rock and roll record in its purest form. These young Dubliners aren't trying to be ground-breaking and innovative with this release and thus makes it an even stronger album. With twelve tracks, Psych Ward clocks in at 35 minutes, with most songs under the three and four minute marks. The one exception is "The 13th Floor", a slower, more psychedelic song that tips the hat to the 13th Floor Elevators, which almost reaches five minutes. The album opens up with with a bonus track, a raucous version of "Jenny Jenny" which would make the Sonics mighty proud. Another highlight is "The Urges Theme", which adds some surf-rock to the mix.

For those who want a great, consistent garage rock album that could have easily been released in the mid-sixties, The Urges are a safe bet. Loud and rowdy garage punk at its finest. -AB

Black Diamond Heavies Review

Black Diamond Heavies
A Touch of Someone Else's Class
There is something about the Black Diamond Heavies that commands attention. This two-piece monster, hailing from Chattanooga, TN/Louisville, KY, brings with it one of the biggest sounds out there, mixing together a concoction that is equal-parts blues, soul, punk, gospel, and gritty rock and roll. Together, John Myers and Van Campbell as the Heavies meld their musical influences into something that sounds like Tom Waits and Middy Waters presiding over a junkyard revival with a communion of corn liquor and razor blades. Their second album, A Touch of Someone Else's Class, tones things down just a smidgen bringing a more "Memphis meets Detroit" record. The music will still make your heart pound and the sweat pour, but will make the ass shake a bit more than their previous album. Not taking anything away from either, both are very unique and offer a different side of the Heavies, yet still maintaining their highly distinctive sound.

Released on Alive Records and produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, A Touch of Someone Else's Class, finds the Black Diamond Heavies embracing the soul end of the spectrum, with an album that grooves more and is not as bombastic as the previous. However, as with all of the Heavies' material, the sound is loud and overdriven and the music seems like it could break loose and get out-of-control at any moment. With the opening track, a rawkus version of Tina Turner's "Nutbush City", kicks the album into high gear. The Heavies also pay homage to several of their other influences with covers of T-Model Ford's "Take a Ride" and Nina Simone's "Oh, Sinnerman" which is one of the strongest points of the album, a very sparse track with an infectious eighth-note pulsation from John's keys. His voice is as gritty as ever on this album and his keyboard work includes more B-3 and upright piano along with his trusty old Fender Rhodes. Campbell's drums sound huge and thunderous as always and provide the perfect grooves and pallets for the songs to build upon. Other highlights include "Bidin' My Time", a slower reminiscent song in which Myers' voice melds into that of a heart-felt crooner and "Happy Hour", a piano-bar boogie that is the perfect end to the album that makes you want to raise your glass, hoot, and holler.

Alive records and the Black Diamond Heavies have done it again with some of the best material to date in 2008. The music is raw and the sound is bigger than most bands with twice as members as the Heavies. Anyone who is in awe of two-piece bands such as The White Stripes and The Black Keys need to give a listen to anything the Black Diamond Heavies have to offer.-Andrew Bryant

Friday, February 20, 2009


we've got them back in stock sour cream & onion, bacon & salt 'n vinegar flavors

Monday, February 16, 2009

Elder Album Review

Album Review
Anyone who knows me well enough will tell you that I am indeed a sucker for heavy, throwback music. If its sounds like something that would have been blasted through a Laney or Orange stack in the 1970's amidst a thick, smoky haze, I will more than likely enjoy it. Most recently, I discovered Elder, a three-piece from Fairhaven, Massachusetts, whose self-titled debut was just released on Meteor City Records, the official in-house label of Unlike many new found gems of late, this album does not sound note-for-note like something from the founding fathers of heavy metal that blasted the ears of the late 60's and early 70's. Instead, Elder adopts the tones and basic riff structure of these behemoths of yesterday, gives their own spin on the music, and makes it much, much heavier. This album breathes more early Sleep than Sabbath and is your quintessential stoner/sludge/doom metal hybrid along the lines of Electric Wizard. However, if you are looking for a new take on the whole stoner rock sound, don't expect to get that out of Elder. They do what they do and do it well I might add, sticking to everything that is attributed to this sound from almost any band in the subgenre. Each song clocks in above the seven-minute mark, with the entire album flowing together as a whole much stronger than if you looked at each song individually. Thus, it is extremely hard to pick out a favorite or highlight track from the five song album that weighs in at over 40 minutes of music.

Musically, the album is thick and meaty with heavy riffs that are well established throughout, often taking presidence over the lyrical and vocal elements within. The tempos range from slow to medium pace, often changing course several times during the album's extremely long tracks. Their rhythms are pretty simple and add to overall sludge feel of a great deal of the music, with a heavy emphasis on the crashed ride cymbal patterns and distorted bass lines that you almost feel more than hear a great deal of the time. Elder uses a production quality that is not over the top at all, keeping things loose and almost lo-fi at times, and seems to have recorded a great deal of this live in studio with minimal overdubs. Added layers of sparse keyboard work, acoustic/classical guitar, and fuzz harmonies add another dimension to the music and the sound of the album, broadening the horizons beyond your traditional three piece fare. Some of the sections in which the organ is featured brings to mind an almost Type O Negative feel, which might sound strange in this stoner arena, but honestly works quite well. Vocally, Elder pulls off a mid-range dirge, sounding similar to Al Cisneros of Sleep and, at times, Lemmy from Motorhead. The vocals are sparsely placed and take the backseat to the heavy riffs and massive weight of the music itself, as is the case in most stoner rock/metal endeavors.

Elder's self-titled debut is a great addition to the collection of anyone who enjoys great heavy music, whether it be rock or metal. They stay within the boundaries of what makes a great heavy, hazy release and are beginning to earn a place at the table with other greats in this circle. Again, no new territory is covered with this release, but who are we kidding? Those who try to stretch the boundaries too much are cast out and thrown to the curb for the Metal Gods to devour. -Andrew Bryant

Saturday, February 14, 2009

the Features

Start your evening out right
Come see the Features play tonight at 5 pm
2615 Chapman Hwy

What is your favorite romantic film?

Dirty Dancing
The Notebook
Notting Hill
When Harry Met Sally
An Affair to Remember
let us know what your favorite is!

Happy Valentine's Day

stop in for those last minute gifts. We have a great selection of romantic movies on DVD, music to set the mood and love rats everyone needs a love rat for Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Brimstone Howl Album Review

Brimstone Howl
We Came in Peace
Album Review
Lincoln, Nebraska four-piece, Brimstone Howl might just be "an ass scratch away from the truth." Their fuzz/reverb laden goulash of punk, garage rock, and blues just might be part of the answer to the lame state of affairs in the mainstream of American rock and roll today. Produced by Detroit's Jim Diamond and released on Alive Records, who seem to have the golden touch in my book, We Came in Peace is a Frankenstein album if you will, a mixture of several different and eclectic musical influences from the days when rock and roll still meant something and had a larger place in society. We could just have easily seen the Brimstone boys sharing the stage in the CBGB heyday with the Voidoids and Television, but no one is criticizing or complaining. Hell, better late than never.
With this high energy record, Brimstone Howl seems to be living by the Viv Savage mantra: "Have a good time, all the time." This album starts things out with a full throttle, keeping it wide open for the majority with up-tempo, out of control songs that flow together like a Ramones concert using quick transitions and similar chord progressions. You hardly get a chance to catch your breath as one track ends, when the next one comes barreling out of the gate, kicking you while you are down. Make no mistake however, this is not strictly a punk rock band or album. The sound is more of an amped up Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins on speed, with a hint of garage psychedelia and dirty blues. Vocalist John Ziegler reminds me of a mixture between Richard Hell, Tom Verlaine, and Lux Interior (R.I.P.) of the Cramps, with a bit more of a blues swagger at times. The guitars, along with vocals and everything else at one time or another, is drenched in reverb, keeping things echoing at every moment on the album and adding to overall vintage feel. The tones are fuzzy and dirty, with thick rhythms and soaring lead lines that whine and snake in and out of each verse and chorus. Rhythmically, drummer Calvin Retzlaff is the driving force throughout the entire album, with his four on the floor and fast eighth-note snare and floor-tom grooves. Apart from the music itself, the lyrics really caught my attention and are indeed in the spirit of great rock and roll. I mean, how can you go wrong with lines like, "Said the big red rooster to the mother hen- I'm back the shit again." Probably my favorite passage comes in "The World Will Never Know", a psychedelic narrative that sounds similar to the early work of the Electric Prunes, and states, "Her mother gave me a red glare of millennial loathing, so I gave her one arrogant finger. And I covered her porch in gravel. That made the correct impression." Come on now, how much more rock and roll can we get? For me, it is not the fast paced, make-you-sweat songs that stick out, though they are mighty fine indeed. Personally, I feel that the songs that stretch the influential boundaries take the cake and make the record much stronger indeed. These include the aforementioned "The World Will Never Know" and the psychedelic blues in "Easy to Dream" and "Obliterator." What comes to mind first with "Easy to Dream" is the Velvet Underground in the heroin years, complete with a hypnotic eighth-note feel among the sleigh bells, piano, and tom-toms and guitar lines that fall in and out of tune and tempo. "Obliterator" seems to channel a big Canned Heat influence with mainly spoken, sometimes howled lyrics that could easily be a personal take on Conrad's Heart of Darkness. No shit, this track is like John Lee Hooker speaking of his own "blood rituals of the Congo land" and is just the kind of color and spice that gives this album its cherry on top.
Bravo to Brimstone Howl for doing something different and giving us more of the rock that we all once loved. Do yourself a favor, if you love old rock and roll, garage, punk, and the blues, lend this band your ear and definitely check out anything that Alive Records has to offer. They do things right in the way it used to sound back when rock and roll was much stronger. One can only hope that bands like Brimstone Howl and entities like the good folks at Alive will keep it going to hopefully see things come full circle. It is about damned time. -AB

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Antony & The Johnsons

performing live at the Big Ears Festival this weekend in Knoxville
Live at the Bijou on Saturday February 7th enter to win tickets here

Serpent Throne

It seems almost cliche to attribute a band as sounding like Black Sabbath, especially if you listen to half of the bands that I do. However, it is nearly impossible to critique the sounds of new doom/stoner rock and metal bands such as Witchcraft, Electric Wizard, Blood Ceremony, and Graveyard without drawing some sort of comparison to Sabbath and other pioneers in the field including Pentagram, Coven, and Black Widow. What first grabbed my attention with this small new release of last week (1/27/09) was the large sticker on the front of the album reading, "For fans of Black Sabbath and early Scorpions." Hmm, sounded just like my cup of tea. The name Serpent Throne didn't hurt matters either, so I decided to give it a listen. What I found with Serpent Throne was one of the most authentic sounds and approaches to the whole 1970's revival with no vocals whatsoever and some of the best guitar work that would give founding fathers among the likes of Tony Iommi and Richie Blackmore a run for their money.
The tones on this record are what first hit me like a ton of bricks. This Philadelphia four piece has done their homework, kept things simple, and might really be on to something. I don't miss vocals at all and feel that this instrumental format really gives the listener the freedom to draw their own conclusion with the album. Unlike many other similar bands today, I hear more than just heavy drones and slow tempos on this record. With this album, much like their debut soundtrack to Ride Satan Ride, Serpent Throne focuses as much on the 70's boogie element as they do the heavy blues riffs. I hear much more than just Sabbath on this record, though there is no denying the strong influence that they have on the sound, especially in the guitar work. Both Demian Fenton and Don Argott, are monster players and have honed their guitar tones to complement each other in the all instrumental format here. Neither overplays and each gives exactly what is needed to make things sound big and thick, at the same time making the lead lines harmonize well and soar over top of the songs' main riffs. Apart from the obvious love of Black Sabbath, I also hear a great deal of Deep Purple, Leafhound, and Cactus coming through especially in the rhythm section. Drummer Sean-Paul Fenton and bassist Colin Smith keep things loose on the low end and keep the record moving throughout with a great pocket feel that is never rushed or forced. Unlike most records, it is nearly impossible to pick a favorite track and, to be honest with you, it is hard to notice when one track ends and the other begins. Not a bad thing per say, but I find myself getting lost in the record and not looking up until the album has concluded. The whole thing flows together near perfectly, with a great attention to dynamics and tempos.
Like their first album, this record would make a great soundtrack to a 70's biker/outlaw film and would be the a perfect companion to riding a motorcycle across the desert in the middle of the night. So let your hair down, crank your chopper, and load your bongs. All in all, this record sounds like stepping back into 1973. -AB