The Waking Eyes
Combing The Clouds CD
It telegraphs a band’s intentions pretty well when they include multicolored cartoon mushrooms on their CD cover: what more universal symbol is there for ‘lightweight pop psychedelic’? So you know what’s inside is going to be heavily late-period Beatles-influenced –Christ, this song that just came on, track 6, “Definitely Elwood” sounds exactly like they took “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” and changed two chords. Not bad but very predictable, which is the one thing that psych music can not afford to be. This completely fails at being mind-expanding, but it’s well-crafted and all that good shit. Just not that interesting. (Endearing Records, PO Box 69009, 2025 Corydon Ave, Winnipeg MB R3P 2G9 Canada) – Aaron J. Poehler
Walk On Water
Solvent Based Melodies CD (Walk On Water Independent)
Like the press kit says: "Walk On Water is psychedelic rock." More specifically, they blend Brit-psych influences from Hawkwind to T.Rex to Spiritualized (the CD title recalls the latter's Lazer Guided Melodies) with their native, hometown Detroit grunge à la the MC5. Including a cover of "Armenia City In the Sky" was probably a mistake, as it points up the deficiencies in the band's own songs and sounds tentative and puny next to Sugar's cover of the song--plus, since Solvent Based Melodies weighs in at under a half-hour with a total of six songs, a few more solid originals might convince the listener of the future viability of the band better than a lame rendition of a sixties-era song. Nevertheless the CD makes a good case for Walk On Water taking their place among modern psychedelic acts; though they're breaking no new ground, they regurgitate all the hallmarks of the genre with authority, familiarity, and affection--and it's, like, trippy, man. Drop some acid and check 'em out if they're playing near you. --Aaron J. Poehler
WASHBURN, JOHN: Stumbling Still Warm: CD
Sub-Tom Petty singer-songwriter stuff. Nothing too special—for this kind of music you’ve got to have a real knack for words and I just don’t hear that here. Poor choices and cliches abound, such as the endlessly repeated chorus of “Fool For You”: “She’s a Fool For You/And you don’t love her like I do”. Hear that sung ten times or so and you’re done with it forever. (Also, why capitalize the song titles where they appear in the lyrics?) Far too ephemeral, no real substance audible on this album, only the semblance of thought and lots of following in the footsteps of others who have done this exact same thing many, many times and far, far better. –Aaron J. Poehler (Wayward Records)
"Static"/"Sitzkrieg" 7" (American Punk Records)
Whiny, melodic, pop-punk with harmonies. The only thing that differentiates this record from your local whiny, melodic, pop-punk group with harmonies is that this band's called 'Webster' and most likely doesn't live near you, unless you live in Baltimore. "Static" will go okay on the eventual "Back From The Grave--Pop-punk Relics of the '90s" collections I imagine Crypt will be putting out in 2015, slotted alongside the hundreds of others of its ilk, but by itself there's little to make it stand out. The B-side isn't as good as the A and seems to end prematurely. For what it's worth, the record is exceptionally well-recorded, nice and clean with lots of punch, but it might have been better with the singer's voice buried because he annoyed me no end--he sounds like he's auditioning to be the next singer in All or something. --Aaron J. Poehler
The Wellwater Conspiracy
Declaration Of Conformity--Third Gear Records
The Wellwater Conspiracy mainman John Paul McBain originally played guitar in Monster Magnet and his accomplices 'Ted Dameron' and 'Zeb' are better known as Matt Cameron and Ben Shepard, formerly the rhythm section for Soundgarden, so going on pedigree alone one might tend to suspect that their alliance would result in a towering slab of grunge-metal. Declaration Of Conformity, the debut Wellwater Conspiracy disc, is actually as earnest homage to 60's garage psychedelia, including covers of tunes by the Carnabeats, Syd Barrett, and the Spiders (in the original Japanese), recorded in full basement-tape fidelity (actually fairly clear despite the fuzz) and with lots of indecipherable gibberish and clip art on the sleeve for that real retro-psychedelic feel. Hell, it's even available on vinyl--how much more retro can you get? Wellwater has previously issued two 7" singles, both of which are included here, but in the always incestuous Seattle scene it's difficult to say whether the group will be any kind of continuing concern or simply another in the long list of tween-band interim side projects that typify that area. The self-conscious retro-homage nature of the project has me leaning towards the latter (the same three participants plus Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard previously comprised Hater, another late unlamented side project) but it's also easy to see how the music on Declaration Of Conformity could easily gain a toehold with neo-retro-psych record collectors and make it worth the participants' while to make the Wellwater Conspiracy at least a periodic diversion, if not a full-time concern.
Boss Soul: The Genius of Barry White CD (Del-Fi)
This disc compiles an underexposed chapter in the history of bedroom soul auteur Barry White (you probably know him best for singing "Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe" in the 'Whacking Day' episode of The Simpsons): for a brief period (less than a year) between mid-1966 and 1967, he headed up a Motown-wannabe division of Bob Keane's Del-Fi Records called Bronco. He'd previously recorded as a member of vocal groups The Upfronts, The Majestics, and The Atlantics and cut a solo single under the name Lee Barry ("A Man Ain't Nothin" b/w "I Don't Need It", issued on Downey Records in 1965, and also included on Boss Soul), but as White said in the booklet accompanying his box set Just For You, "I never wanted to be a singer. Wanted to be a creator, a producer, an arranger." Keane gave him the opportunity to do just that for Bronco, as well as writing and playing on most of the songs and acting as an A&R man, recruiting the vocal talent and musicians. Boss Soul: The Genius of Barry White contains nearly everything released on Bronco, lacking only a couple of B-sides; its music is clearly ersatz Motown built around the vocal talents of singers Viola Wills, Felice Taylor, and Johnny Wyatt, especially derivative of the tunes produced by the partnership of Holland-Dozier-Holland with the Supremes. White was so enthralled, in fact, he had himself smuggled into the H-D-H/Supremes sessions for "Forever Came Today" so he could observe them at work. The final single released on Bronco (or any Del-Fi subsidiary) was Barry's first as a solo artist under his own name, but unfortunately Keane went broke and Barry got screwed. "I wanted to put [Keane's] ass through a plate-glass window," was White's feeling about the situation at the time. The real value in this CD is in illuminating the process that led to White creating his mid-70's masterpieces. The recordings on Boss Soul hint at the later sound in their Motown cops: the insistent danceable drums, the melodic bass lines, the strings coupled with funky guitar riffs would all become elements of his inimitable style; the best analogy is that Barry White got Motown teeny-bopper pop-soul stoned on some good weed to mellow it out and took it into the bedroom to show it what was up. Highly recommended for Motown freaks and anyone already familiar with Barry's later (superior) work. --Aaron J. Poehler
The Wicked Farleys
Ken Theory 7" (Big Top Records)
The word that immediately springs to mind regarding The Wicked Farleys and their 7" Ken Theory is 'arty'. Fractured melodies that wander around never quite resolving, random synthesizer noise, time and tempo changes, and crooning, slightly off-key vocals characterize the music; the cover (printed on nice thick cardstock) is adorned with murky, posed, moody-looking pictures of somebody's girlfriend; the liner notes are incomprehensible gibberish masquerading as technical information à la the Fall (i.e.: rather than list the instruments the musicians are credited with 'low', 'moxie', 'pace', 'ding' and so forth). I'd wager an enrollment in a BFA program is in the future for at least one member of The Wicked Farleys. Unfortunately 'arty' + 'arty' + 'arty' doesn't add up to 'art', it adds up to 'pretentious as all get out' and 'willfully obscure'. Not terrible despite itself but layers and layers of meaninglessness need to be stripped away if anyone's ever going to figure out what good aspects there are to this music--I mean, this makes Slint sound like Foreigner. --Aaron J. Poehler
Date With The Devil's Daughter--Tone Casualties (1258 North Highland Ave., Hollywood, CA 90038)
This is not the Robert Williams who is famous for his lurid day-glo paintings such as the banned cover for Guns 'N Roses Appetite For Destruction--this is the Robert Williams who played drums on such latter-day Captain Beefheart platters as Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) and Doc at the Radar Station. Date With The Devil's Daughter features cameo appearances by fellow ex-Beefheart's Magic Band compatriots Jeff Morris Tepper and Bruce Fowler as well as Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh and several others, but most of its nearly seventy minutes of content comes from Williams and his array of synthesizers, drums, guitar, bass, percussion, samples, and answering machine messages all multitracked together and overlaid to create a beat-centered, electronically constructed music with some vocal tracks occasionally rising to the top of the mix. Williams seems to have a problem with John Lydon; "John Liar" is apparently an excoriation of the ex-Sex Pistols/P.i.L. leader, claiming "I always accept the credit for the things I don't do/But I won't accept the blame so it must be true...I'm a liar!/I built my career with a rotten composition/I'm Dishonest John with a bad disposition" and sung in a fairly hilarious imitation of John's singing style (with exaggerated rolling R's and swooping vocal ascensions) by Williams. Unfortunately, Williams doesn't explain the source of his beef with John, which is funny because although Lydon was the center and only reason anyone was buying P.i.L. albums (not that the other guys didn't contribute, but come on) he always insisted in splitting the publishing (where the money comes from) between all the band members. A quick check of the liner notes to Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) and Doc at the Radar Station. reveals that all compositions are credited to the good Captain. Surely Robert doesn't think anyone was buying those albums for his drumming? In any case, Date With The Devil's Daughter is skillfully arranged but doesn't make for particularly compelling listening; its elements never really resolve into a coherent song or impressive track, leaving it an intriguing grab-bag of sounds--albeit a somewhat more rhythmically interesting one than most electronically assembled albums, due to Williams' skill and background.
Getting Past The Static--WIN Records (PO Box 26811, L.A., CA 90026-0811)
Jen Wood got started early in the music biz, forming the acoustic duo Tattle Tale at age 15 and pursuing it from late '92 through mid-1995. Getting Past The Static marks Wood's debut as a solo artist (excepting one self-released cassette), and it's an accomplished albeit frustrating one--the melodies are often fairly striking and Wood's guitar playing puts them across effectively, but just when she's got you hooked with one she'll repeat it or part of it over and over again until you don't want to hear it any more. She goes it almost entirely alone on this recording with only a few percussion overdubs and some violin and mandolin parts from pal Petra Haden of the band that dog, but the arrangements are probably the most appealing feature of this disc, enticing in their simplicity and suiting the tone of the songs well. The overall effect is strikingly similar to Fontaine Toups' work with Versus and even more close to Toups' two-girls-plus-a-few-percussion-parts-from-a-guy side project Containe; a better-known comparison might be with a less strident Indigo Girls. Things get a bit samey over the course of Getting Past The Static's twelve tracks, but on the whole it's a good start. With the weak spots of this album patched over for the next, maybe interspersing more fully-arranged songs with the sparser ones, Jen Wood's next album might be the one to watch for.
Out 4 Blood--Bloody Daggre Records (7336 Santa Monica Blvd. #705, West Hollywood, CA 90046)
Wound's Out 4 Blood is the kind of CD that you feel like you've heard it and digested it thoroughly just by looking at the cover: the 'O' in 'Wound' is fashioned to resemble a vagina dripping menstrual blood onto a cleaver, the back sports titles like "Woman", "Naked Greek Men", "Looks Like the Wedding's Off", and "You're All the Same", and the personnel listing reveals mostly female names (with the usual exceptions made for rhythm section members)--so even before popping the CD into the player one knows this band is angling for a spot in the next Angry Women In Rock book. As it turns out, Wound is a lot more 4 Non Blondes than L7 or even Hole, sporting lots of breastbeating and processed guitar solos that surprisingly recall no band more directly than Pearl Jam. The dearth of screeching and screaming was a pleasant surprise but the radio-ready commercialisms that appear instead were less welcome; it's a bit disturbing to find a band that affects such political activist stylistic affiliations turn out to be another in the long line hoping to get on the major-label gravy train. Should Wound ever pop up in the 'Angry Women' series of Medusa-head covered books, it would appear appropriate for the snake head corresponding to Wound to be defanged.
Bill Wyman & The Rhythm Kings
Struttin' Our Stuff--Velvel Records
Former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman (reportedly the most-laid Stone--at least according to his own autobiography) is finally back in action with a new band, the Rhythm Kings, and as you'd expect he's brought a few of his superstar buddies along for the ride as well. Struttin' Our Stuff features twelve straight-ahead British-style R&B numbers, among them standards like "Green River" and "Tobacco Road" as well as original-but-familiar-sounding new ones, and contains contributions from Eric Clapton and Peter Frampton (one lead guitar slot each), Albert Lee (four songs), Georgie Fame (three songs), and Paul Carrack (one lead vocal). All the crotchety old fogies who complain that they don't make music like they used to might want to lend an ear to Wyman's combo; he's devoted it to the old ways, old styles, and old music, but this stuff still walks and breathes. There's more on the way, too, if you're the type who really likes this sort of thing: Wyman reportedly has two more Rhythm Kings albums in the can, including tracks with guest appearances by Jeff Beck (who once turned the Stones down when offered membership), fellow former Stone Mick Taylor, and Chris Rea (never offered Stones membership as far as I know).