Category Archives: Cleveland

Album Review: Brain Cave – Stuck In The Mud

I got to see one of my all time favorite bands play Cleveland last year. Worried I would not have a good spot to see said band, I arrived early to claim my area.

I’m glad I showed up early that night because, little did I know, I was about to be introduced to my soon to be favorite local band.

The band I speak of is Brain Cave.  The three-piece noise-rock / post-hardcore locals blew me away that night and turned me into a fan.

Fast-forward 6+ months and I just so happen to see that the band is taking preorders for Stuck In The Mud, the band’s first full-length album released by Tiny God Inc. (the drummer’s label).  They had a couple of songs to check out and after hearing them both, I immediately preordered the release on cassette. I cannot even tell you the last time I did something like that.

So I guess I take this time now to talk about why I’m so enthusiastic about these guys.

“Erosion” started off the album with a self-preservation method many of us could use right about now with “reset” being repeated throughout along with other words of encouragement.

“Night Work” continued with aggression and force.  This tune accompanied with restless thoughts was full of breakdowns, riffs, and just insane drumming.  Technical as hell, as much as I hate to say this, it was almost Mastodon-y sans that wizard shit and whiney vocals.

“Assigned Seat” brought me back to the years when I would see hardcore and post hardcore shows what seemed like daily.  Loved this track a ton musically as well as the message presented about not giving up ever.

“Sideline To Rot” was equally technical as was it just untamed.  This was one of those tracks where I asked myself how the hell a three-piece pulled this out.

“Bar Seat No. 1” are on me a lot since this album dropped.  Maybe it was the hint of punk embedded within the post-hardcore track.  It was most likely because this song filled me up with rage in the best way.

Precise like a Cave In track, “Ahead Thought” sucked me in.  Just when I thought I liked it, things shifted down and I became even more consumed.  The ending of this track was dead-on amazing.

“Moved Obstacle” finished up the album with the bad just not letting up at all.  This was the kind of song introduced to a young me that held the capability to open up my thought process.  I am trying to think of best how to explain this.  Think about the message and hose it was received.  That is the feeling that hit me when this song played.

The sound that Brain Cave delivered brought me back to the 90s in the best way possible.  All I could keep thinking about while listening is how they related to Helmet, Handsome, and Quicksand.  The year is half gone and Stuck In The Mud will be sitting high on my best of list for this pretty screwed up year.

Perhaps once this COVID crap is tame and venues start allowing shows to play Brain Cave will play again.  I honestly would love to check this band out again, especially now.

With that said, if you need a solid distraction due to these current events, check out the Brain Cave debut already.  I cannot get enough of it.  In fact, I listened to it two times earlier today and once more this evening as I wrapped up this review.  It’s that damn good.

Album Review: Harvey Pekar – Paris Green

The fact that Cleveland’s hardcore homies Harvey Pekar titled their recent release Paris Green solidifies their genus and complexity.

Paris green is a highly toxic insecticide and also entertains the masses as it is an ingredient used in fireworks.  Was there hidden meaning in their selection of words for the album’s title?  I would like to think so.

I should disclose I have been a fan of Harvey Pekar since 2011 when they dropped the impressive Thirty Ghosts.  I remember seeing them at a hole-in-the-wall Akron bar and becoming instantly down with their tunes.

Fast forward 8 years with a couple of changeups, Elliott Frank, Ian Douglas, Nick Kratsas, and Nick Schmitt still kick severe ass.  They are also all some of the best dudes I have ever have the privilege of getting to know over the years

Enough of the chemistry lesson and personal memoir, it’s time to talk about Paris Green, Harvey Pekar’s third full-length release that recently was put out by Steadfast Records.

Produced and engineered by the one and only Ryan Foltz at Cleveland Audio (Dropkick Murphys, Rancid), Paris Green was everything I was hoping for in new Harvey Pekar material and a whole lot more.

The album started off with the ripper “Predation in Shadow Position” with Kratsas talking helm with his poetic lyricism while the rest of the band supported him in full-force.

“Drag Hesitations” was brutal as all hell and I loved everything about it.  That breakdown though is what did it for me.  I felt a little tougher than normal while listening to this one.

“Glow Aplomb” carried on a with little more melodic approach than I would have expected, but it worked so well.  It’s full of gruff and force, but was carried with a toned down sound at times that really just was proof how far this band has come along and how they do their own thing without worry.  In fact, this was one of the tracks I have gone back to a few times now.

I am fairly sure “Slash Centre Unison” has got to be insane live.  I can just envision everyone losing their shit while the band blasts this on stage.  I adored the shift midway that just involuntary asked for everyone’s participation to sing along.

“Forever the Follow” finished things up on this release with memorable bass playing and furious drumming.  Best part about the track was the ultimate buildup halfway in with Frank playing away that had me nodding my head in all sorts of approval only to have the band collectively lose it with Kratsas almost sounding like fired off ammunition screaming to his heart’s content.

I was left wanting so much more after this album ended.  My blood was boiling, heart was pounding, and thoughts were scattered all over the place.  It was a nice distraction, that is for certain.

After a few listens, I am convinced this is the best material they have put together to date.  In keeping with their hardcore/punk ethos, the band stretched things out some making for a likable change in style I personally saw as maturing and evolving.  Think about that Gallows sound right before Frank Carter jumped ship and went completely rock and roll or when Cave In slowed it down because they felt like it.  That is what stuck in my head the most but please do not see either as a direct comparison.

I can’t help to think what’s to come by these guys down the road based on what I heard.  All I know is that you really should make yourself privy to them so you can share the excitement I hold.

Album Review: Johnathan Richman – SA

Sometimes you forget about things because you’re  just so preoccupied with life.

That normal routine, if you’re like me, starts with coffee and ends with exhaustion.  What I’m basically trying to get at is that I forgot to do something.  It was an honest mistake though.

I forgot to take a few moments to myself and write about the latest release by Johnathan Richman titled SA.

SA is Richman’s 17th album as a solo singer/songwriter.  Once again on Blue Arrow Records, Richman has recorded an eccentric yet honest, poetic album where he sings about everything from love, dancing, and even a creative point of view from a dog.  It’s simply art put to music.

According to Blue Arrow Records on their Bandcamp site, “SA, the root note in Indian ragas, was what Ramakrishna,
the much beloved mystic, told his spiritual students to search for underneath all things of this world.”  Chances are if you are reading this, you know Richman and why he would reference such.

Album title track “SA” opened up with a relaxed, island-y feel and had Richman singing of focus and love without hesitation.  The sitar, at least that is what it sounded like to me, complimented Richman’s strumming.

Subtle quirks were heard in Richman’s pitch throughout “The Fading Of An Old World”.  This track really had a lot going on musically when you sit back and listen.  On top of it, Richman did what he does best in flowing ample and intense lyrics throughout.

“O Mind! Let Us Go Home” held as an eccentric tune that had some likable psychedelic qualities.  The jazzy drumming behind the tambura playing kept things beyond mysterious.

Richman sounded so youthful in “O Mind! Just Dance”, a track that seemingly was a continuation of the previous ‘O Mind’ track.  This experimental track became one of my favorites the moment Richman just started opening up and going on a positive tangent about not worrying.  I loved how he seemingly turned his attention and spoke to the audience halfway through asking everyone to forget and dance.

“¡Alegre Soy!” was just amazing as it was a peppy, cheerful song.  Sung mostly in Spanish, the song really just built up so well.  I instantly adored the track the moment Richman just started doing a spoken word about how happiness surrounded his life.  I could hear him smiling as he spoke about always being happy in his life for the most part.  Once the track ended, I was just left with such a good feeling in my heart.

“Yes, Take Me Home” was easily my favorite track off this release.  As someone who has rescued a dog more than once, I because almost a little emotional listening to Richman speak as a sheltered canine with an undisclosed past.  I loved the harmonium playing accompanying Richman’s guitar, but I just wish I knew if the dog was taken home.

“And Do No Other Thing” was an instant classic for me.  Songs like this one were what turned me into a Richman fan in the first place.  It was romantic yet blunt with completeness especially when everyone came together at the end.

This album, in my opinion, was far more entertaining and good-spirited than the last making for a great listen.  Richmond, at times, sounded as if he got lost in the moment more than once and did not once chance his approach at what he was born to do: Entertain.

I should note that Richman and Tommy Larkins currently are on tour in support of SA.  I was lucky enough to catch them a few weeks back at the Grog Shop in Cleveland  and I will tell you, it was probably one of my favorite intimate performances that I have ever seen.

I went to that show purely as a fan and not to review it and left with a happy vibe that lasted well past the car ride home and the next work day.  It was my first time seeing him live even though I have been a fan for longer than half my life.  He was everything I had hoped for.

With that said, if Johnathan and Tommy made it to your neck of the woods during this tour or even the next, just go.  You will not be disappointed.  Even if you are not terribly familiar with his material, I can honestly say you will be entertained by one of the best.

SA is available on CD and for download on Bandcamp.  Look for a cassette and LP release in early 2019.

Album Review: Johnny La Rock – Gold Codes

I hate to break it to you, but summer is almost over.  Soon it’s going to be cold and miserable out.  

No need to get depressed just yet though as there is still plenty of time to get rad.  Luckily Johnny La Rock is here to add fuel to that fire with his debut, dance-your-pants-off release titled Gold Codes.

Cleveland native La Rock, aka Eddie Fleisher, once showcased his talent in hip-hop duo Johnny La Rock & Mushmouth as well as Presque Vu, but has taken an entirely new approach that surely will appeal to all those looking for a good time. 

Gold Codes is La Rock’s solo debut album that is more or less a “life can’t get any worse, let’s party like those people did in Independence Day on top of that skyscraper before the aliens blew that shit up” album.  Yeah, I just said that.  It’s pop, it’s soul, it’s electronic, and most importantly, it’s good.

“Dance to the Rhythm (Party Time)” started things off just right with a body-moving jam complete with a little 90s inspired hip hop enthusiasm.  This was a sincere as hell track that really will make you want to get down.

The inspirational “210 and Mustache” more or less punched negativity in the throat and walked away proud with your head up high.  If you do not know what 210 refers to, go ahead and just Google that along with Urban Dictionary.  

“Swipe Left” is a honest yet candid track about the norm that is called online dating.  I loved the line “you seem cool on the internet, in real life you’re insane.”  I loved the vintage video dating samples, it accompanied perfectly.

“Keep On Keepin’ On” was a fun instrumental jam as was the 80s thriller sounding “Phantasm”.  It was cool to have both songs just change things up for a moment without losing momentum.  Least I not forget about “Lumin8”, that was solid too.

“Blue Away” was an uplifting alternative to shake off any funk currently holding anyone back.  No lie, this song cheered me up.  I think a music video is in order for this one (hint, hint).

“Gold Codes” stuck on me for some reason.  I think it was more or less because I’ve felt what La Rock sung about on a few occasions over the past 20 years.  This was the fight jam I needed to remind me that retaliation happens in many forms as long as you don’t give up.

I’ve seen La Rock live a few times when he focused on rap and most recently with programmer Furface and I have to admit, I am a bigger fan of his solo stuff than I thought I would be.  At first I was set back because I was expecting the hip hop, but when the soul-pop dropped, I was an instant fan.

I have to note that this album fueled my recent trip to Vegas and if I had it my way, I would have played it for everyone around me at all hours.  The release has jumped up high as one of my favorites of 2018 and I’m not sure any music quite like this will be topping it.  I speak high praises because I thoroughly enjoyed almost this entire album from start to finish many times over.

La Rock is the Har Mar Superstar of Cleveland and even manages to keep his clothes on during live sets.  

Interpersonal ,humorous party vibes a al Electric Six, La Rock knows how to deliver a good time to all his fans.  

Check out what La Rock has to offer below and hopefully you’ll agree that it does not disappoint at all.

Album Review: Curtail – All Your Luck

I’ve known Jesse Sloan for a while now thanks to places like The Gurley House and It’s a Kling Thing.

I was a big fan of his two-piece Cherry Cola Champions and remember when he pulled me aside at some local show telling me he had something new he was working on and could not wait to share it with me.

Mind you that was a year or two ago, but I was intrigued the moment he told me of what he was working on.  My curiosity was finally satisfied when he told me about Curtail, a new band featuring some other familiar names in acts I adore including Eric Sandt (The Ground is Lava), Dan Corby (Bethesda), and Ben Hendricks (Annabel).

Cleveland’s Curtail dropped their debut All Your Luck at the end of May on Skeletal Lightning Records.  A supergroup of sorts with all angles of talent combined resulted in a hell of a listen.  I hate that I am just getting around to talking about it when it has been on regular rotation since it dropped over a month ago.  Still, it needs to be noted.

“Rush Hour” started the album off a bit reserved but with good measure.  Half way in, the song kicked it up a notch and made for a great listen overall.  “Smile” continued with the trend and the group vocals mad it so much more fun to nod my head to.  I especially loved Sloan’s erupted singing style throughout.

“The Lesson” is the track that completely won me over.  Taking queues from 90s alt- rock past, this song ruled in so many ways. This  is what New Radicals would have sounded like if they were an emo band.  Please note that I adore the 90s one hit wonder Gregg Alexander band so this is not a diss at all.  This song was catchy, emotional and perfect for summer listening.

I loved hearing “Good Year” as I felt I really related pertaining to the ups and downs throughout life.  This emo jam intermittently erupted into a grudge track  this former flannel wearing teenager approved of.

“Come Around” was an uppity, fuzzy jam that reminded me some of The Promise Ring.  Clearly the content was about overcoming, but brought forth in a positive way – at least musically.  This was one of my other favorite tracks on the album.

“Sleight of Hand” was another favorable song for me.  You could just head the fun Sloan was having singing this song.  I loved the many references only Northeast Ohioans would appreciate.

“Glow” completely moved into more of a chilled out that probably would have faired well to a crowd in a smoky, cramped venue in the 90s full of thrift store cardigans and Doc Martins.

“Skyscraper” easily could have been a Sense Field track that never was released.  This post-hardcore closing track was good on so many levels from the singing, the drumming, and of course the guitar playing that eventually faded out in a fuzzy departure.

For someone like me who grew up in the 90s and was obsessed with indie and alternative rock, All Your Luck really brought me back some.  Sloan and crew really dropped something special that deserves all of the attention of music fans.  Give it a listen, I highly doubt you will be disappointed if you still think music from the 90s was the best.

Check Curtail out on BandCamp and support the living daylights out of them by downloading All Your Luck.  I hope I can check them out live so I can give them all hi-fives for dropping one of my favorite releases of 2018.