Well now young faces grow sad and old/And hearts of fire grow cold/We swore blood brothers against the wind/I'm ready to grow young again/And hear your sister's voice calling us home/Across the open yard/Maybe we'll find someplace of our own/With these drums and these guitars
--Bruce Springsteen (1984)
I really do believe that the underground will save rock ‘n’ roll. When the merger wars are over and ever improving technology makes the major labels redundant and obsolete, there will be a utopia where indie bands will get rewarded for their efforts without hype or payola. You may say that I’m a dreamer but check out the deserving indie bands below and tell me that the future of rock ‘n’ roll isn’t bright.
Home Demons Volume 1 (Parasol)
What can I say? “Bastard?” Home demo(n)s should be seen not heard? I mean, this is the kind of music the man puts together in his leisure time and in the comfort of his home? Isn’t recording supposed to hard work – 99% perspiration and all that jazz? As much as I adored Tihista’s ‘official releases (thus far), I’ll be hard pressed not to confess that the music on Home Demons Volume 1 may be amongst his strongest material. Sure, it’s lo-fi (kinda) and its sound is not going to endear itself to audiophiles but when you get sublime songs like the heavenly “We Just Disagree,” the oddly Lennonesque “Stratford Upon Avon,” the spine-tingling “Can I Count On You” and the gorgeous “This Really Should Be A Duet (Really),” sound quality should not be a concern. And is Tishista being ironic when he states that “Track 11 kind of sucks, but who cares”? I beg to differ, Mr. Tihista as “15 Hundred Miles” (i.e. track 11) contains such a cool Glen Campbell/Jimmy Webb vibe that is just so irresistible. Maybe it’s because I’m a firm believer of ‘less is more’ in music production, maybe I’m a sucker for heart-tugging 70s soft-rock or maybe this is just such an astonishing collection of songs but whatever it is, Home Demons Volume 1 is going straight into my top ten albums for 2005. With a bullet.
The Well Wishers
Under the Arrows (Not Lame)
Californian Jeff Shelton has done his bit for the pop underground cause. Whether it is with the Who-channeling power trio The Spinning Jennies or his current incarnation, the slightly poppier Well Wishers, Shelton’s craft has never been too far from discerning power pop fan’s preferred listening habits. Now, the Well Wishers has blessed us with a sophomore effort, Under the Arrows. Essentially, if you enjoyed the fine debut release then, you will certainly thrill to Shelton’s concoction of melodic hooks, jaunty rhythms and power chords. There is also a higher level of poignant folky moments e.g. “Before the Race Was Run,” “Lost At Sea,” and “Lucky You” which provides a good change of pace. For me, it's Shelton’s healthy approximation of the Guided by Voices oeuvre with “In Search Of Alter Egos,” “Break It Up” and “Brain Trust Odyssey (now doesn’t that even sound like a Robert Pollard title?) that makes Under the Arrows a worthy investment.
Dum Dog Run
self titled (Self-released)
So can we take a band that calls themselves Dum Dog Run seriously? Do they even wanna be taken seriously? After all, their motto is "Keepin’ it real – keepin’ it simple." Which to their credit, they deliver – in spades! You may have heard of Rick Altizer, a first-rate singer-songwriter, but don’t expect the songs on Dum Dog Run to possess the same sophistication you might find on an Altizer album. No sir! With tracks like “Jennifer Aniston,” “Psycho Girlfriend,” “Rock the World” and the proverbial “Let’s Go,” there is little doubt about the agenda. Crunching guitars, pummelling drums, throbbing bass & girls, girls, girls dominate. It is obvious – fans of Cheap Trick, KISS, The Who and The Raspberries will lap this up. Totally.
Insomnia (33rd Street)
Over the course of this fourteen-track debut, this pop-rock quartet consistently delivers the hooks, chops and delights that a discerning rock listener would have no problems embracing. Encapsulating the sonic impact of the past fifteen years, MiGGs emulate the best of REM, Pearl Jam, U2 and Coldplay and still manage to sound consistently like themselves throughout, which is the mark of true artistes. With songs like the infectious “Perfect,” the slinky “Suddenly Wonderful,” the throbbing “St. Rita” and the funky “Superhero (I Fall Apart)” supplying the thrill and spills for casual and serious music enthusiasts alike, MiGGs certainly has what it takes to overcome the ephemeral nature of rock ‘n’ roll to make a significant impact.
Static Patterns And Souvenirs (Words On Music)
What pictures do the music of Lorna conjure and evoke? Well, I suppose it would be the perfect soundtrack for a travelogue of the lost highways of the world. Atmospheric, ethereal yet rustic, the soundscapes created by Sharon Cohen, James Allen, Mark Rolfe and Matt Harrison could be described as dream pop and betray an affinity for American Music Club and Damon & Naomi, amongst others. When Cohen takes lead vocals, there is sweetness embedded in the expansive core of Lorna’s performance. Whether it is the fanciful “The Last Mosquito Flight of Summer,” the gorgeous pedal steel wailing “Remarkable Things” or the morose “The Swimmer,” you will be moved.
The Bradbury Press
The Front (Self Released)
Hailing from Seattle, The Bradbury Press is distinguished by Darren Golden’s earnest vocal and an uncomplicated yet compelling acoustic-driven guitar rock. With its emphasis on emotional folk and lusty country rockers with a jazzy twist, inevitable comparisons with the Dave Mathews Band, Counting Crows and Hootie & the Blowfish can be expected. Which means there is every danger for the Press to be mistaken for popular middle-of-the-road college rockers but with songs like the soaring “Dive,” the inspiring “Better Days” and the poignant “Domino,” the chances are fairly remote. Thank goodness for that!
See what I mean? Still there’s more. God bless.