· PIKE — THE SOUND OF POWER TOOLS
Pike has been around in various forms for 10 years, since guitarist/vocalist Kelley Kombrinck and drummer Holly Knepfle joined forces in high school. The recent addition of Cleveland native Kelly Jarvis on guitar and vox has imbued the band with a more definitive persona, albeit a split one. Their new EP, The Sound of Power Tools, is a joyride exploring several variations on their raw, upbeat AltPop. Pike is consistently dynamic and radiant, harnessing Punk riffs and varying song structures. Each member of the quartet (which also includes Wade Weber on bass) sings, creating some fabulously blended four-part harmonies, but the co-lead vocalists, Jarvis and Kombrinck, have very different styles. Jarvis has a powerful, New Wave sneer and Kombrinck possesses a quirky, slightly nasal and hyper quality. Interestingly, both work perfectly when paired with the band's playful Rock foundation. Their contrast would equate to a lack of cohesion if they didn't back one another so ably, reminiscent of the B-52s or The Cramps. The latter group's musical and lyrical debauchery are ever present as Jarvis sings sarcastically about being the object of the park pervert's attention ("Joe") and eschewing her day job for marijuana and masturbation ("Go"). The EP package and production are simple but effective.
The triggered drums take away from the vintage sound in spots, but Pike more than makes up for any sonic transgressions by putting the vocals way up in the mix where they belong. (Ezra Waller) Grade: B-
· PICTURESHOW — RAGS IN KEROSENE
"Whoa." This is a gang-vocal hook from "18 Miles of Sound," one of the best tracks on the debut from spectacular newcomers pictureshow. It was also my first reaction when I cued up Rags in Kerosene on the ol' CD spinner. One of the most impressive local band debuts in recent memory, Rags is deep, dramatic Indie Pop unafraid of epic structuring and drenched in the kind of catchiness that enfolds the listener with soulful insistence rather than simply beating them over the head with rote blatancy. There's little rigidity or pandering in pitureshow's sound; the songs have a pouring fluidity that entrances and doesn't leave you waiting for a cookie-cutter chorus hook to repeat. The guitars sway from snaking chimes to jerky stabs to slanted rawness, creating a six-string swell that feels like an updated meshing of The Edge, Pavement and early Police, while the warm piano additives add to the darkly vibrant, visceral splendor. Urgently melodic and lyrically compelling, the album has some great songs that can easily stand alone, but Rags in Kerosene is best experienced as one sinuous whole. Pictureshow seems to understand the art of creating a cohesive "album," something regrettably dissipating in our singles-happy, quick-fix, iPod culture. Pressed for concrete comparisons, I'd go with the recent, less murky work of My Morning Jacket, a less stoned Built To Spill or a less cacophonic ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead. But one of the best things about pictureshow is that, while the sound rings with familiarity, they don't sound like any one predecessor. Instead, they take the best elements of some of Indie's finest purveyors and instinctively churn out an album on par with most of them. Pictureshow performs Thursday at The Mad Frog. (Mike Breen) Grade: A
· LIQUID FIRE — OPEN ROAD
Country and Rock music have plenty of intersections marked by familiar genres; Rockabilly, Honky Tonk, Southern Rock and Americana are venerable examples. But Open Road, the debut EP from Liquid Fire, is truly unique, mixing the metallic chugga-chugga of Hard Rock with traditional "Young Country" vocals, adding some fiddle and twangy Telecaster solos for good measure. The combination is actually jarring at first, but after a few spins the album proves itself to be more than just a collision of clichés. Liquid Fire is full of experienced, talented players, and they fully demonstrate their ability to write radio-ready hooks. Vocalist Josh Reed really sells it, with a smooth and powerful voice rich with reverence for his cowboy-hatted forebears. Sadly, most of the lyrics don't have much depth, but admittedly they're about on par with most chart-toppers. The real culprit holding this disc back from reaching its full potential is mixing issues in the production, the most prominent being guitar volume. When the riffing goes to 11, the vocals take a back seat. Add to that the synthetic-sounding violin and soaking wet drum sounds that muffle very crisp performances, and the sum is not a particularly impressive calling card. As a primer for what could become a successful crossover, however, Open Road would likely be welcome in any record collection that already has New Country alongside Nü Metal. (EW) Grade: C+