Tuesday, March 24, 2009
The Living Sound
Tuen, roughly translated into “Love” in Vietnamese consists of John Holden Forrest on vocals, guitars, keyboards and percussions, Ben Belin on drums and percussions, and Kacy Ray on bass. The Living Sound released in 2005 is the first full length CD for the Austin alternative rockers.
The first track entitled, “Trying to Achieve,” begins a rhythmic guitar riff which is promptly interrupted by a whistle and joined by Forrest’s almost forced raspy vocals. Sounding like a dryer more alternative version of progressive rockers Umphrey's Mcgee, Tuen’s tracks encompass a funky jam element. The fourth track, “Friends,” is about Forrest’s kindergarten friendship with best friend Simon as depicted by the linear notes. A bass heavy song, the track is suggestive of a carefree juvenile experience---“I don’t care about tomorrow; I just want to stay with you and dance away all my troubles.” The track, “Beautiful Things She Said,” is a rollercoaster of down-tempo and upbeat progressions that range in both instrumental levels and vocals. Commencing in almost a whisper, Forrest’s vocal range reaches a plateau midway but quickly alters to fit the tempo of the song. The album features two bonus tracks which are not listed on the album’s track list and un-named due to a failure in my iTunes inability to connect to the internet. The funky alt album is great for a hang out at home with friends slinging beers soiree.
The album cover features vintage black and white stamps from all over the world varying in values; some of the stamps have been post-marked. Images of horses, athletes, flowers, old-fashioned buggies, multi-sail boats and Wright brother-esque airplanes make up the stamp designs. Most of the stamps include the name San Marino, the world’s oldest republic. The band’s name is displayed in small, red digital font on the lower right side. A picture of the band mates clad in long sleeve collared shirts graces the backside of the CD. Inside the insert is a black and white photo of the trio among two art pieces on the other pages done by Cray, a single name that listed on the outer left of the Thank yous. Song symbolism and meanings are included on the back of the second and front of the last page. A color photo of Forrest and Belin rocking out graces the posterior of the insert.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Robbie and the Robots
Jacket Weather Records
Released in 2005, Todaysterday is the first and only full-length album (so far) for pop-punk alternative rockers Robbie and the Robots which consists of Robbie Doyen on guitar and lead vocals, Aphyr St. James on djembe and backup vocals, Levi Cory on bass and backup vocals, Jesse Hodges on lead guitar and backup, and J.R. “Mojo” Juica on drums. The 10-track album which centralizes mostly on relationships and partying encompasses a splash of genres from pop to punk to rockabilly to rock throughout. Incredibly witty, Doyen’s lyrics are clever, well-written and rhyme.
The album’s first track entitled, “Symbiosis,” is a soft ballad with a repetitive “na na na na na na na,” chorus. Commencing with a psychobilly guitar intro “Drug Free Sabbath,” is an album anthem which evidently gets its name from Doyen’s professed lyrics- - “I don’t smoke crack on the day of the Lord, I don’t smoke crack on the day of the Lord.” The track is a dancey number which is likely a crowd sing-along favorite with its upbeat tempo and easy lyrics. “Naked,” focuses on the joys of being young, dumb, and driving “naked with the top down.” There’s a notable rockabilly feel and Chuck Barry-esque guitar amidst the lyrics “drugs are better than people. Take a pill, take a hit, take a puff, take a sip, yeah, drugs are better than people.”
The album art, which appears to be a drain of some sort with the album title trailing in a downward spiral motion, was created and designed by Doyen. Created on a grayscale, the design is bland and simple. A female robot caricature also created by Doyen is featured in the insert. A picture of the band taken by Sarah Grace Lanz graces the back of the insert.
If Robbie and The Robots are as delightful and fun as their album suggests, the results are undeniably a rockin’ good time.
SMTX 78666 is a 19-song compilation featuring original songs from local bands The Jared Francis Band, Scott Biram, Robbie and the Robots, Eleven Fingered Charlie, The Cari Hutson Band, Kallisti Gold, The Jocks, The Subtle Creeps, The Word Association, The Wailing Walls, The Hatchets, Grant Ewing, Bernie Calcote Blackwater Gospel, Rockus Circus, The AK47’s, Chancla, Fambly and Apse Affinity.
Intended as a charitable cause and the brainchild of Robbie Doyen, lead singer of Robbie and the Robots, SMTX 78666 includes a variety of genres, including bluegrass, rock ‘n roll, hip hop, ska, punk, metal and blues. Partial proceeds of the CD go to AFFTER (Advocates for Fibromyalgia Funding Treatment Education and Research) in an attempt to fight the disease that afflicts Doyen’s father. Fibromyalgia is thought to be second most common rheumatic condition in the United States, affecting two percent Americans, according to John Hopkins University research.
The first track “Texas Beer” by Jared Francis Band, recalls the greatness of living in Texas - the best part being Texas beer. Comparable to American rock band O.A.R, the Jared Francis Band reminisce about their time in Texas and refute the experience of moving to Oklahoma - “Gray skies, Texas Rain - ain’t nothing better to ease my pain. Oklahoma is fading fast. San Marcos, Texas, you’re right on track.” The upbeat guitar and funky bass make the track one of the more jammy tracks of the album.
The foot tapping track entitled “Whitehouse Blues” by Scott Biram characterized by fast riffs and Biram’s rye soaked vocals is a banjo-picked yodeling good time. “Up in the Scene,” the Hip Hop Remix by Robbie and the Robots begins with emcee Omari Kamua laying down rhyme atop funky electric guitar and pounding bass. After a minute, Doyen begins with the lyrics “my favorite band is playing up in Austin and I’m going to go.” The poppy garage Texas country band’s lyrics are simple but clever.
Another standout track is “Snake Eyes” by the hip hop group The Word Association. The down tempo groove contains some profanity but keeps a perpetual harmony in its looped bars and numerous singers dropping rhymes. The track begins with a sole member rapping the lyrics “if you take a young man, put a microphone in his hand and push him as hard as you can - you have an artistic weapon. We have ten,” and concludes with several of the members chiming in “no surprise, you rolling dice with snake eyes. No surprise, you rolling dice with snake eyes.”
“All Night Ramblin” by Grant Ewing is a notable blues track featuring soft cymbal tapping, rolling guitar riffs, and the theme of drowning the blues with a night of alcohol “slamming.”
“Misguided Confidence” by the AK47s begins with ravage raucous screaming and Hot Topic-esque metal rock guitar riffs and drumming. While most of the lyrics in the song are difficult to understand, the track further proves that there’s something for everyone on the compilation. “Chancla” by Chancla which translates into flip-flop depicts the story of a boy disciplined by “number one tool of Latina mothers for discipline.” Featuring a few words in Spanish, the comedic song tells the story of a young boy being asked to make a chicken pot pie and throwing out the “basura” and getting lost in playing “Pacman” instead of doing his chorus.
The album artwork done by local artist Bonner Fowles depicts a laid back river floating experience on the San Marcos River which folds out into three part gatefold. The inner sleeve is simpler with tree leaves adorning the upper outer corners encircling the artist names, song titles and band website. The inner back tray features a girl tubing with a beer and cigarette in hand encompassing the overall theme of the album - river floating and house parties.