Last updated by at .

Mar 292010

The Whigs_In the Dark_Album review_john prinzo_kisses and noiseThe little college town of Athens, Georgia has a rich and varied history of progressive rock music – from The B-52′s and R.E.M to the musical collective responsible for the likes of Neutral Milk Hotel and Elf Power. Danger Mouse is also an Athens transplant who began his stellar career in the humble little city. This rock pedigree is alive and well in Athens natives The Whigs.

The Whigs are back with their third official release in In the Dark. This album continues to refine and expand the approach of the little 3-piece outfit with a huge sound. They embrace the indie, low-fi, garage rock approach, but amp it up to arena volume. The Whigs create an aural aesthetic reminiscent of The Replacements or Camper van Beethoven with a slight southern twist, but played through the Smashing Pumpkins sound rig with powerful, competent drumming and a thick, comfy sonic snuggie of guitar.

In the Dark tears through 11 songs with power and energy. The record starts with a hum rising from the din giving way to a circular drum pattern and the heavy, effects-laden bass guitar crunch of the hook-y “Hundred/ Million” and doesn’t relent through the screeching and stuttering effects at the end of “In the Dark” to the moody ambient intro of the closer “Naked.” The straight-forward garage sound is dressed up and made that much more alluring by doses of shoegaze bombast. Songs like “Black Lotus” are so raw and catchy, but the piling of guitar effects and overdubs elevate the delivery and overall appeal. This is an outstanding effort from a demure bunch of guys that let the music do the talking. The power of the music will keep Abraham Lincoln and Henry Clay from rolling in their graves and may be enough to get them to rock out.

Written for REAX Online March 25, 2010

Mar 262010

Chali 2na_get focused_coolest song ever right now_kisses and noise_john prinzoChali 2na is the bad-ass baritone from Jurassic 5 – the best hip hop outfit around right now. The first time I heard the “verbal Herman Munsta” was with Ozomatli way back and I’ve been a fan since.¬†The deep voice is something I thought would irritate me. but it works so well. Despite the short run time of “Get Focused” it still slams. [media id=37]

Mar 262010

She & Him - Volume Two - kisses and noise - john prinzo - album review

She & Him return with their spectral (or Spector-al) 70′s AM pop rock radio sound in Volume Two. While the “singles” don’t carry the same weight as the first album, the record, in its entirety, is a stronger, more well-defined effort. They resurrect this vintage sound and ambience not for retro kitsch, but because it works so well for them and feels so good in the modern pop landscape. We need it and it comes naturally to them. Zooey Deschanel is as sweet and seductive as ever and slowly climbing my secret dream girlfriend list. Look out Jennifer Connelly, Chloe Sevigny, and that hot redhead from True Blood we got a double-threat pushing her way up!

Zooey’s gorgeous voice pines with angelic yearning right out of the gate on “Thieves” set to Brill Building musical backing a la The Crystals. It is followed by the upbeat, sing-along fun of “In the Sun” with a simple and infectious piano progression set to a shuffle beat. The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson creep in with idealistic California sentiment in “Ridin’ in my Car.” Zooey’s beautiful songs and M. Ward’s musical touches and production style shine, bringing elegance and poise to their sophomore entry.

Written for REAX Online March 25, 2010

Mar 232010

Lusk_Free Mars_kisses and noiseLusk’s one and only album, Free Mars, was released in 1997. They are described as a “highly experimental psychedelic pop band.” Tool’s original bass player, Paul D’Amour left the band after Undertow to pursue something “more experimental” and Lusk is just that. “Backworlds” is the first song on the album and maybe the most listenable. It is actually reminiscent of current, progressive indie rock – along the lines of MEW. The song creates the clever parallel of sounding light and poppy while the lyrics and feel lend themselves to something darker. The video for “Backworlds” is similar; innocuous yet disconcerting.

[media id=36]

Mar 212010

Little Dragon_Yukimi NaganoI went to this show at the urging of a good friend in San Francisco – “Oh-mi-God, you will love this band. They are sooo good and you will totally walk out of the show with a crush on their singer, Yukimi Nagano.” She was right. They are from Sweden (though Yukimi speaks fluent, accent-free English) and they put on a hell of a show. Despite having around 70 people show-up, the music, the performance, the attendee’s good spirits, and more importantly, Nagano’s charm, exuberance, powerful voice, and Karen-O-ish antics made it feel like 250 people were there. They ran through an hour and 20 minutes worth of their future-indie-electro-proto-soul (I just made that up) with energy and charisma. It is like Morcheeba meets the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, then swallows Sade. They started quiet and worked the crowd into a frenzy. Part of this was due to the audience – we made Orlando look good. The scant few that showed up were grateful that LD was here. The crowd chanted, clapped in time, and even danced (poorly) on stage. The awkward smiles on the band’s faces showed they were giddy with the overwhelming response from our city.

“My Step”


“A New”

Mar 212010

AIR is from France. They don’t come here much. That was enough reason for me to go. Being Frenchy’s and all, you would think they would be the fashionably late type, but doors were at 8 PM and AIR was on by 9PM. Needless to say I missed the beginning. It was mostly predictable – really loud ambient electro-pop. They brought a pretty good drummer along to flush out the songs for a live setting. Their finale was the peak – “La Femme d’Argent” the soft, spacey intro on Moon Safari was where AIR showed dynamic, live capability. The song had drum solos, a few climactic build and release moments, and shifted from trippy to heavy and back again with competent improvisation …. and condescending French laugh – now: haw haw haw haw!

“Kelly Watch the Stars” – I’m not really “free” to record at Hard Rock, hence the shitty perspective, but it sounds good and there’s a great shot of the giant Pong game on the screen.

“La Femme d’Argent” (end) – Best song of the night. Too bad I wasn’t paying attention and didn’t get the whole thing.

Mar 172010

local-natives-wide eyes-coolest song ever right now-kisses and noise“Wide Eyes” is this first song I heard from California band Local Natives. Their debut full-length album, Gorilla Manor, was released in England in 2009, then February of 2010 here in the States. This song mixes the vocal feelings of Fleet Foxes with the frenetic passion of Modest Mouse. Despite my annoying capacity to compare one band’s sound to another band’s sound, this song from Local Natives feels fresh. The vocal arrangements, solid drumming, and cool guitar work make it stand-out in the ever widening sea of indie-pop faces.

[media id=35]

Mar 162010

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club might change their name to Black Conformist Motorcycle Club because of the slavish attention they pay toBRMC_Beat the Devils Tattoo_kisses and noise_john prinzo their genre. Beat the Devil’s Tattoo stays comfortably inside the fuzzy, retro garage that BRMC has painstakingly built and the album champions the same gritty, slinky, almost dark, sound they’ve always had. So what’s wrong with that? Nothing, I guess, if you’re good at it.

Though they cling to the conventions that got them where they are, songs like “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo” and “Mama Taught Me Better” epitomize their bluesy shoegazer comparison to The Jesus and Mary Chain. The songs are hazy, but straightforward with an anthemic presentation that keeps them from sounding like boring retreads.

“Shadow Keeper” and “Evol” remind me of Oasis – in a good way, by harnessing the retro rawness of 60′s rock and peppering it with modern nuances to keep it from being completely derivative. When I say Oasis, I mean Definitely, Maybe Oasis. The band that came out with a Beatles inspired Brit-rock album in the middle of the grunge era. This is before Oasis took the low road to Shitsville in their follow-up efforts.

“Bad Blood” separates itself from the formulaic script of the rest of the album by giving a glimpse at a slightly more dynamic version of BRMC. The standard groove rock is dressed up with sing-along hooks and interesting tonal guitar melodies woven throughout.¬† The Sabbath-like plodding of “Aya” also is another slight deviation from BRMC’s chosen path with the aggression of loose, growling power riffs. The album closes with another garage antithesis, “Half-State.” The track is an attempt at an epic rocker and although it maintains interest throughout its 10 minutes, it lacks the energy and fluidity to warrant its length.

BRMC didn’t record anything new or groundbreaking here, but they are really good at what they do. Beat the Devil’s Tattoo is a strong collection of tunes defining a band that stands as a pillar in their genre.

Written for REAX Online 3.16.2010

Mar 152010

Avi Buffalo was a band I was interested in checking out because of one song really. I wasn’t sure if I’d like any of the other stuff from them. It sounded sort of juvenile at first, but when I settled in to watch the show it was really good. Their last two songs showed a more mature stage presence with a solid delivery of their single “What’s In It For?” and the last song which let Avi (Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg) flex a little guitar muscle while the band expanded the song in a slightly psychedelic jam out. The show ended with Avi going ba-nanas with feedback and manipulating his effects board Jonny Greenwood style in wall of screeching sound. That’s a great exit in my book.

“What’s In It For?”

Rogue Wave was excellent. They relied heavy on the new album, but played a handful of the best songs in their catalog. “Chicago x 12″ didn’t make it on the setlist but RW played a killer, full band re-working of “Eyes” complete with a building and melodic free-form intro. They also delivered a climactic version of “Lake Michigan” with drummer, Pat Spurgeon, working the crowd up to a frenzy with a clap-along drum intro. Rogue Wave was exactly what I thought; a talented band with a bigger sound playing an intimate, small venue.

“We Will Make A Song Destroy” This is one of the stand-out tracks on the new Permalight.


“Good Morning (The Future)”


“Permalight” allowed some O-town fans to dance drunkenly on stage. I think someone disconnected Zach Rogue’s mic while dancing …

Mar 092010

Modest MouseAh, Modest Mouse and their penchant for clever song titles and even cheekier album names released the EP, No One’s First and You’re Next, a few months back. Another well-crafted notch in their belt No One captures all that is great about their sound – then and now and continues Isaac Brock’s witty, humanistic, if not nihilistic view of life through his lyrics. “Guilty Cocker Spaniels” could be overlooked with the catchy “Satellite Skin” and the Heath Ledger directed video for “King Rat” sucking up the oxygen, but it shouldn’t be. It starts with that loose and jangly sound that they coined – chaotic at first glance, but beautiful with further listens – then slows and builds to a grand soaring feel somewhere past the halfway mark. Modest Mouse is one of those bands where you get so much more from the song when you listen while reading the lyrics.

Guilty Cocker Spaniels:

Listen to Guilty Cocker Spaniels

Well I took off running at the greatest speed
I didn’t bother looking to either side of me
Well I didn’t see, I just didn’t see
What was really going on
The truth had stopped and the skyline rose
Exchanging comfort for more fashionable clothes
I’d left the hills at this point in time
To run on treadmills in a perfect line
Salad days add up to daily shit
Sparked imagination until the sparks just quit
And if this is fun, why am I so bored with it?
Well I’ll probably never know

Guilty Cocker Spaniels eating table scraps
Well we rolled over, how our masters clapped
It felt so good we wanted more than that
But when the program failed they defensively laughed
We did things just how you asked
Don’t try taking us to task
Didn’t buy a face, no just a mask
So happy Halloween!

I drew a blank, we put it in a frame
Wait what you’re winning, you didn’t say this was a game
Well I guess I’ll just have to play and play
Until I’m out of cash

Before I could spit it out
I guess the words had burnt my mouth, what can I say?
There’s the thought I laid it down
So you could take it out of context either way

We said all along we deserve every bit
And mostly we knew that the supply would quit
But we got going, going just away with it
Until everybody lost their mind

Directly behind me and ahead of the time
But don’t you worry he’ll fall right in line
Yep, everything just might fly by
No one’s getting blamed this time

Blame me so blameless
Can we find a way to blame our way out?
Well I postdated the eulogy
For every blameless body, nah nah
We are blamelessly teething
On much more than we need, nah nah nah
Blamelessly teething
Well we’re all getting blamed
While everyone, everyone knew
Well everybody, everybody knew