Tag Archives: Experimental

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: Electric Six – Human Zoo

Electric Six - Human ZooI remember the very first time Electric Six (E6) hit my ears.

I was working at a Borders Books, Music & Cafe in some fancy Cleveland suburb one night just minding my own business.  One of my co-workers was unpacking all of the promotional CDs for the listening booths and asked me to help him out.

Flashback Memory: As I am sure many of your remember, there was a time when CDs were the staple of the music industry and at Borders, we literally had to manually input CDs into the CD players that were locked below the CD shelves.  This was done so all you consumers could come in and check out an album prior to its release.  Duh.

Anyways, I remember seeing a copy of E6’s debut release Fire sitting out on the counter.  For whatever reason, I picked up the CD to see what it was all about and soon flipped it over to see the track titles.  I decided to sneak in a listen after I put the CD into the listening station.  I have been a fan ever since.  I just sat there on the floor of the music department loving every song on that title.  Needless to say, I snagged that CD the day it officially released and have had it in rotation for years.

I can’t say every release since Fire had as huge of an impact on me, but I have always appreciated what Dick Valentine and crew have done for 10+ years now.  Last years Mustang left a pretty good impression on me, but I just was not blown away completely.

The Detroit garage/rock/funk/disco/jam/electronica/jack-of-all-trades genre-bending act just dropped an all new album titled Human Zoo.  I am happy to say I mostly enjoyed the living hell out of it and I am pretty confident any E6 fan out there will too.

“Karate Lips” opened with an enthusiastic chant of “Electric Six” that quickly changed to “karate lips”.   The song, clearly about some tough-ass women, was heavy on the funk with an electric indie rock style that closely resembled stuff you might hear from the The Faint.

“It’s Horseshit!” was almost too much for my brain to compute yet I loved it.  It was like listening to a late 80s boy baElectric Sixnd infused with Daft Punk.  Definitely a track that people can get weird to.  The music and just overall feel of this song really resembled that vibe I first felt on Fire.

Valentine swooned beyond senselessly in “Alone With Your Body”.  I listened to this track a couple of times over because I liked it so much.  This was like the working man’s love jam.  Valentine sang as a simple man with plenty of Detroit soul backing him up.  I adored the back up singing as well as candid lyrics like “I’ll be there in a jiffy with a stiffy”.

“Satanic Wheels” grew on me after listening to it a couple of times.  I loved the synth throughout.  I felt like I was listening to typical E6 but with keyboard playing taking queues from 80s arena rock bands.  It was psychedelic yet indie if that makes sense.  I guess what I am trying to say is that this song ruled and was one of my favorites on the album.

“Gun Rights” was bizarre and unexpected.  I thought I was listening to Ween mashed with Mike Patton.  “Don’t take away my rights, my gun rights” repeated over and over with a fun Mexican folk melody.  The quick spoken-word of Valentine in the middle just kept things even more interesting.

“I Need A Restaurant” just did not do it for me.  The song seemed to just downgrade from all the craziness I previously was engulfed in.  Sadly, I skipped this track halfway into and barely made it through “Worst Movie Ever”.

“I’m the Devil” sounded more like something Tenacious D would have done one of their albums.  It was not terrible by any means but seemed more of a skit than a song.  I almost wish Dave Grohl would have jumped in on this track dressed as the devil.  I did like the Young Guns-like guitar playing style.  The best part of this track was at the very end when apparently Jesus Christ had a speaking roll.  Who knew he was such a burnout?

“The Afterlife” ended with a synth-pop tune that thankfully did not let the album end on a bad note for this listener.  I wish it were a little more sped up but for what it is worth, it was not a terrible listen by any means.

Human Zoo overall was a blast.  E6 continues to entertain but I will admit the latter portion of the album kind of fell short.   Regardless, most of the release got me all sorts of excited just like their debut did over 10 years ago.  This band in my opinion still entertains on a higher level.

Friday Night At The Gurley House

Once again, the Gurley House in Akron, OH, has proved for a great evening of music.  There is nothing quite like seeing a show in the basement of a house that just makes it that much more personal.

Tonight I got to see four bands, some of which I have heard of and some who I have been wanting to check out after hearing about them through friends.  The result was four performances by different genre bands all of which caught my attention in various ways.

My resident pal Roscoe started off the night with an electric acoustic solo performance.  He played some of his material, some of which I really think needs to be recorded.  Seriously, it was good shit and even though he hardly plays solo shows anymore, he had no problem jamming out a few tunes.

The Ohioans followed with an acoustic set.  The last time I saw them is when they opened for Jeff Rowe in the very same basement a few weeks back.  I was really impressed by their initial set and really enjoyed the acoustic session.  If you like folky rock you need to check out this up and coming local act.  Head on over to their BandCamp page and download their  self-titled album for free and see why I dig these guys so.  Check out the track  “512”, one of my favs off the album.

Michigan’s Protected Left were supposed to be the headliners of the night, but one of the bands was running late due to a previous commitment.  The threesome had no problem shifting slots and just rocked out hard to the gathering of music loving people.  This band seriously rocked.  Mixing punk, metal, and thrash (sweet sweet thrash…), the band got all technical at times when playing reminding me of shit Strung Out likes to pull yet kept a melodic pop-punk feel throughout.   I loved this band’s sound and really hope to see them push out a full length one day.  Until then, head on over to their BandCamp page and download their 3-song EP titled Songs Of The Doomed for free.  Check out “At Least I Didn’t Cut My Ear Off” and tell me it is not catchy and just bad ass to listen to.  Not only do they play good tunes, but they are also a bunch of cool peoples to hang out with.  Really stoked I had the opportunity to meet them and see them play.  Can’t wait thill them come back to Ohio again.

The last band to play the night was a local act I had heard of through friends but had never seen (or heard) before.  The band, Cherry Cola Champions, not only has a great name for their two man act, but also pretty much blew me away with their set.  Just download the Cherry Cola Champions EP for free and see what I mean (check out “Fievel Goes Midwest”).  I honestly did not think I was going to be able to get into them after their first song, but suddenly I was hooked.  It was experimental at times and very post-hardcore.  I look forward to seeing these guys again.

So that was my Friday night.  What did you do?  Never mind telling me, I’m too tired now…  Just do me a favor and check out the bands I just talked about.  They are all free downloads and worth listening to.

Polysics @ Musica – Akron, OH – 02/12/2010 – Concert Review

Culture was shocked in Akron last night thanks to Tokyo, Japan’s Polysics making a special appearance at Musica.  The orange jumpsuit wearing foursome traveled half way around the world to perform their Devo inspired music to a packed club on what normally would have been just another regular Friday evening.  Scenesters as well as a couple punk rockers and plenty of proud geeks piled into the quaint club in downtown Akron with perfect knowledge of what would soon progress.

Polysics is best defined as a pop power punk electronica experimental new wave outfit or “technicolor pogo punk” as they dub themselves.  Think heavy synthesizers and guitar matched over insane voice altering vocals as well as a very energetic male lead vocalist Hiroyuki Hayashi (Hiro – and yes, he sounds like Hiro from the TV show Heros) who blasts out English, Japanese, and gibberish lyrics.  Formed in 1997 out of the pure love for Devo as well as The Tubes the band is an underground sensation thanks to their extremely energetic live shows and of course their orange jumpsuits and straight bar-style sunglasses.

Opening the evening was a band called Stiletto hailing from Kent, OH.  The band reminded me of Bedlight For Blue Eyes and Roses Are Red with their slight heavy rock sound.  The lead singer had a good voice and when the band had it together they sounded fine.  They sadly kept having issues starting their songs and it became apparent that they needed some more practice as it became downright annoying to some of the crowd.  Still, they did well and get props from me when the lead signer quoted Tupac but really did not match up to the headliner at all.

Armed with my trusty camera I really thought upon entering Musica that I was going to grab some photos during Polysics’ set but while inside the venue I saw this:

That really was something I did not want to see.  I respected the artist though and did not shoot anything until the very end of the show because who am I kidding…I need at least one shot.

Good thing I did not take photos as there was a dual braided memory card deleting bandit who was part of the Polysics crew.  I understand the premise of his doings but you should have seen this guy.  He stood upon a stool and the moment a flash went off he was bolting over to that non-sign reading schmo and erasing any Polysics related photo from their camera.  Seeing what this guy was all about I really did not want him touching my gear so I parked the camera to my side and just enjoyed the show.

Hands were about the entire evening.  It was a party.
Hands were about the entire evening. It was a party.

You know a crowd is excited to see a band when they cheer insanely as the band is setting up their gear on stage.  Things just got better when the band actually took the stage and just started hammering out songs.  The songs they played ranged from almost industrial heavy pieces to absolute insanity jump-all-over-the-place songs.

Still a novice to this band I just started with amazement throughout their set not having any idea what was going on other than a damn good time. The couple songs I did recognized were “Young OH! OH!”, “Fire Bison”, and just amazing “Shout Aloud!”

As entertaining as Hiro was throughout the night (especially when he screamed “you gruys awre awresoooooome!!!”) I absolutely adored the straight faced Kayo on the synthesizer and vocoder.  I could not help but envision the scene in Revenge Of The Nerds II when the nerds played the concert at Hotel Coral Essex.

According the band’s MySpace page Kayo will be parting ways with the band after the tour so I am pretty psyched I was able to the original line-up.  The whole night was a party with Polysics controlling it.  Fans danced and tossed their hands about to the music.  It was indeed a interesting and fun evening.  If I had to describe the evening I would have to say just imagine Daft Punk, Devo, and the Teen Titans humanized and in orange jumpsuits and you might have some idea what happened.  It was amazing.


Polysics – Young OH! OH!

POLYSICS | MySpace Music Videos


Pretty Good

POLYSICS | MySpace Music Videos


Polysics – Moog Is Love

POLYSICS | MySpace Music Videos

I had to throw this in too…

The Awesome: Japan’s Polysics

I am sitting here trying to think of something clever to say about the experimental pop act Polysics but my mind is blank.

It would be all too easy to say they are the modern day Japanese version of Devo…just look at their outfits.  Truth is they are Devo but mixed with some Daft Punk and even some of the more experimental Kraftwerk.

The Japanese new wave, electronic, punk rock act has actually been around since 1997 and started “in the spirit of Devo” according to Hyroyuki Hayashi, the band’s vocalist / guitarist.  They even wear Devo-like jump suits with the letter “P” on them.  The foursome recently released their tenth album entitled Absolute Polysics on MySpace Records (US Release).

I have only heard a sample of songs but I can tell you that they are a ton of fun and an absolute riot to listen to even if I can not understand all of their lyrics. For you people who like your music weird and of the wall, this is the band for you. To support my statement, both Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips and Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo have raved about Absolute Polysics.  That right there proves there is something special about this band.

Next month (Feb 12th) Polysics are making a stop at Musica in Akron, OH and I think it is safe to say that it will be a show not to miss.  I myself plan on being there and you should too!

Polysics – Young OH! OH!

POLYSICS | MySpace Music Videos