Cover Story: Holey Moley, They Pack a Punch

National exposure for local music tunes more ears to Greater Cincinnati's sounds

 
Geoff Raker


CEA 2005



It's been said many times that people in Greater Cincinnati pay attention to local musicians making original music only when the national press declares them "cool." Well, attention Cincy music fans: The outside world is indeed watching (and listening) once again.

Local music has been in the national spotlight sporadically over the years. Individual acts have broken through, putting Cincinnati's name in national music magazines from time to time, but there have also been periodic clusters of local artists bubbling through the surface simultaneously, making the spotlight shine a little brighter on our humble burg.

The volume of locally spawned musical acts garnering big-time attention outside of the city has reached another peak in the past few years, as the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards' 2005 "Artist of the Year" nominees dutifully prove. Cincinnati's ultra-conservative reputation precedes us, but as these (and other) artists continue to rack up the accolades and keep up their touring itineraries, more music lovers around the country and globe will start to understand that the Queen City has more to offer than weird chili, bungling sports franchises and arts-squelching neo-cons.

CityBeat has been ballyhooing Greater Cincinnati's music and arts scenes for more than 10 years now, and the rest of the world finally is catching on. As an export, Cincinnati music's stock is definitely on the rise.

Cathedrals
What we said:

"Cathedrals (is) yet another new band bursting out of Cincinnati's vibrant Indie scene. And though they might be new (they formed in the summer of 2003), they show incredible potential.

It could be argued they already possess all the requirements for Rock & Roll success: youthful energy and sexy, catchy songs, delivered with great musicianship." (Ericka McIntyre, issue of Jan. 21, 2004)

"The talk of the town when they came out of the gate rock-solid at the start of the year, Cathedrals specialize in an angular, impossibly tight Indie/Post Punk sound lifted by unique rhythms and intriguing, non-cliché guitar work." (Mike Breen, 2004 CEA Program)

What they're saying:

"Here come Cathedrals. Not so much a band crafting 'sonic cathedrals' as one employing chiming Interpol guitars and impassioned vocals. Their third song contains the Yorkish refrain, 'You don't belong here.' But Cathedrals are holding their own (at Lollapalooza). They definitely belong here." (gigwise.com)

"The really nice guys ... are devoting themselves to the guitar patterns and pained confessions of 1980s Mope-Rock. The Changes had insistent, tightly wound patterns behind a singer with a tender croon, like Morrissey of The Smiths. Cathedrals, whose patterns were more measured, leaned toward The Cure. Both bands are promising." (nytimes.com)

Czar*Nok
What we said:

"As Cincinnati's first Rap group ever signed to a major label, Capitol Records' duo Czar*Nok shares the Queen City's code of the street — 'That one way' — a vernacular that means 'by any means necessary.' The tunnel-visioned method of 'that one way' worked well for Hayczar and E-Nok. It's also the title of their anticipated debut album. Both inspired by the self-narrative, "hustlin'-in-these-streets" flow and Funk-inflected music of duos like UGK and Eightball & MJG ... That One Way reflects the multi-faceted Midwest sound. E-Nok says that like Twista, one of Chicago's most cross-genre artists, they plan to represent the Midwest and still appeal to listeners from coast to coast." (Mildred C. Fallen, issue of Aug. 17, 2005)

What they're saying:

"The Midwest has already made a national impact from select cities, such as Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis. The next to blow just might be Cincinnati. Well, that is if Capitol Records' rap duo Czar*Nok has anything to say about the matter." (SoundSlam.com)

"For the last decade, groups like Mood and Five Deez have given Cincinnati its place in Hip Hop history. But perhaps Hi-Tek's work with Snoop and G-Unit isn't the only thing that's gangsta about Southern Ohio. Czar*Nok is a duo 10 years in the making that aims to shed light on the Nati's underbelly, while still giving expressive messages to the youth." (

 
Geoff Raker


CEA 2005



It's been said many times that people in Greater Cincinnati pay attention to local musicians making original music only when the national press declares them "cool." Well, attention Cincy music fans: The outside world is indeed watching (and listening) once again.

Local music has been in the national spotlight sporadically over the years. Individual acts have broken through, putting Cincinnati's name in national music magazines from time to time, but there have also been periodic clusters of local artists bubbling through the surface simultaneously, making the spotlight shine a little brighter on our humble burg.

The volume of locally spawned musical acts garnering big-time attention outside of the city has reached another peak in the past few years, as the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards' 2005 "Artist of the Year" nominees dutifully prove. Cincinnati's ultra-conservative reputation precedes us, but as these (and other) artists continue to rack up the accolades and keep up their touring itineraries, more music lovers around the country and globe will start to understand that the Queen City has more to offer than weird chili, bungling sports franchises and arts-squelching neo-cons.

CityBeat has been ballyhooing Greater Cincinnati's music and arts scenes for more than 10 years now, and the rest of the world finally is catching on. As an export, Cincinnati music's stock is definitely on the rise.

Cathedrals
What we said:

"Cathedrals (is) yet another new band bursting out of Cincinnati's vibrant Indie scene. And though they might be new (they formed in the summer of 2003), they show incredible potential.

It could be argued they already possess all the requirements for Rock & Roll success: youthful energy and sexy, catchy songs, delivered with great musicianship." (Ericka McIntyre, issue of Jan. 21, 2004)

"The talk of the town when they came out of the gate rock-solid at the start of the year, Cathedrals specialize in an angular, impossibly tight Indie/Post Punk sound lifted by unique rhythms and intriguing, non-cliché guitar work." (Mike Breen, 2004 CEA Program)

What they're saying:

"Here come Cathedrals. Not so much a band crafting 'sonic cathedrals' as one employing chiming Interpol guitars and impassioned vocals. Their third song contains the Yorkish refrain, 'You don't belong here.' But Cathedrals are holding their own (at Lollapalooza). They definitely belong here." (gigwise.com)

"The really nice guys ... are devoting themselves to the guitar patterns and pained confessions of 1980s Mope-Rock. The Changes had insistent, tightly wound patterns behind a singer with a tender croon, like Morrissey of The Smiths. Cathedrals, whose patterns were more measured, leaned toward The Cure. Both bands are promising." (nytimes.com)

Czar*Nok
What we said:

"As Cincinnati's first Rap group ever signed to a major label, Capitol Records' duo Czar*Nok shares the Queen City's code of the street — 'That one way' — a vernacular that means 'by any means necessary.' The tunnel-visioned method of 'that one way' worked well for Hayczar and E-Nok. It's also the title of their anticipated debut album. Both inspired by the self-narrative, "hustlin'-in-these-streets" flow and Funk-inflected music of duos like UGK and Eightball & MJG ... That One Way reflects the multi-faceted Midwest sound. E-Nok says that like Twista, one of Chicago's most cross-genre artists, they plan to represent the Midwest and still appeal to listeners from coast to coast." (Mildred C. Fallen, issue of Aug. 17, 2005)

What they're saying:

"The Midwest has already made a national impact from select cities, such as Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis. The next to blow just might be Cincinnati. Well, that is if Capitol Records' rap duo Czar*Nok has anything to say about the matter." (SoundSlam.com)

"For the last decade, groups like Mood and Five Deez have given Cincinnati its place in Hip Hop history. But perhaps Hi-Tek's work with Snoop and G-Unit isn't the only thing that's gangsta about Southern Ohio. Czar*Nok is a duo 10 years in the making that aims to shed light on the Nati's underbelly, while still giving expressive messages to the youth." (allhiphop.com)

The Greenhornes
What we said:

"With Gun For You, The Greenhornes surpass expectations and blissfully pillage the history of Rock and Soul to come up with a masterful album full of surprises." (Mike Breen, issue of June 17, 1999)

"They lost their keyboardist and a key singing/songwriting contributor, but The Greenhornes managed their best record yet on Dual Mono, a magnificent slab of retro-fied Garage Rock." (Mike Breen, issue of Dec. 26, 2002)

"When The Greenhornes burst onto the Cincinnati music scene a decade ago, the band was not pie-eyed about their prospects. Their ambitions were modest, at best. What a difference 10 years can make. The White Stripes tour The Greenhornes did four years ago was a considerably lower profile gig than the major circuit they're doing now. The band was signed to V2 Records and given their own label imprint, Prize Brigade, for their latest EP, East Grand Blues." (Brian Baker, issue of Aug. 31, 2005)

What they're saying:

"Though early albums such as Gun for You and Dual Mono established The Greenhornes' place in the modern Garage Rock movement, alongside pals like The Dirtbombs and The Mooney Suzuki, East Grand Blues finds the group refining its sound with hints of late-'60s psychedelia and Byrds-inspired harmonies." (MTV.com)

"The Greenhornes — a dynamic, soulful Garage Rock outfit from Cincinnati — have undoubtedly benefited from their long association with The White Stripes. But it's not like The Greenhornes haven't earned their own stripes; they've been touring incessantly since the late '90s (at one point, The White Stripes were opening for them), and they've put out a handful of terrific, Brit Invasion-inspired platters." (SF Weekly)

Heartless Bastards
What we said:

"(Erika) Wennerstrom has a distinctive wail and growl that a lot of Rock singers aspire to, and most never attain, probably because she has what a lot of performers lack — true sincerity. When you listen to her, you can feel the conviction behind her music, and you can't help but be affected by it." (Ericka McIntyre, issue of Nov. 12, 2003)

"Singer/songwriter/guitarist Erika Wennerstrom leads the trio with her slashing, fuzz-buoyed guitar work and the kind of old-soul voice that transfixes immediately. Wennerstrom's songs are deceptively primitive and simple, but she delivers them as if wringing the last few drops from a nearly bone-dry washcloth." (Mike Breen, issue of March 2, 2005)

What they're saying:

"Channeling Janis' wail, Erika Wennerstrom rises above the distorted sway with a soulful toughness." (Entertainment Weekly)

"Built around the distinctive talents of the singer-songwriter Erika Wennerstrom, Heartless Bastards are a Blues-tinged Rock trio from Cincinnati. The primary source of (Stairs and Elevators') haunting quality is Wennerstrom's strange, androgynous singing voice, which has a high, bruised tone that sounds utterly unlike anyone else." (The Independent [U.K.])

"(Wennerstrom's) sad and angry vocals (channel) all the swagger and spit of a young Robert Plant, with none of the Blues histrionics. The Heartless Bastards are a small-town band who are ready to show the big city no mercy." (Rolling Stone)

MOTH
What we said:

"Provisions, Fiction and Gear is a dynamic album, split between spacious ballads and adrenalized rockers, with melody and singer Brad Stenz's raw, almost wounded vocals being the main consistency factor. With all of the horror stories you hear about major labels, the chance that Provisions would come out sounding like Smash Mouth or Sugar Ray is always there. Thankfully, the album sounds like MOTH, using all of the resources they deserve. Provisions is a stellar first step forward." (Mike Breen, issue of March 21, 2002)

"(Drop Deaf) is a taut 31-minute collection of corrosive, churning rockers whose flames might be fanned by disappointment and loss but are tempered with a well-worn sense of humor and Stenz's sly self-deprecation." (Sean Rhiney, issue of Jan. 7, 2004)

"MOTH's Immune to Gravity rides a perfect balance of energy and finesse. The nervous energy is impeccably matched with New Wave flourishes, from the syncopated guitar riffage to the quirky, danceable beats." (Mike Breen, issue of Oct. 19, 2005)

What they're saying:

"A solid, expertly realized slice of Alternative Rock ... informed by Punk but with an adolescent kind of lust for Heavy Metal riffs." (Rolling Stone)

"Unlike Mother Nature's airborne annoyances, these garage heroes from Cincinnati will make your heart flutter. Serving up an infectious set ideal for cranking on the car stereo, the ensemble might join the geek-chic ranks of Weezer and the Foo Fighters. This MOTH infestation is welcome in any house." (Wired)

"While often considered a cultural wasteland by urban hipsters, Ohio has given birth to more than its fair share of important recording artists: The Breeders, Nine Inch Nails, Pere Ubu and Devo to name just a few. Now it's MOTH's turn to add to the Buckeye State's musical rep." (CMJ)

Thee Shams
What we said:

"Take Off is a thoroughly well put-together album, full of blazing stompers, soulful asides and psychedelic energy. While much of the album is highly energized, the record shows off some of the band's diversity. The band does an expert job of translating the Nuggets-era sound and infusing it with a healthy dose of their own personality." (Mike Breen, issue of Aug. 30, 2001)

"Thee Shams have noticeably grown with each new release, and Sign the Line is their biggest leap forward yet. Though lumped in under the 'Garage Rock' banner, Sign the Line is quite simply an excellent Rock & Roll album, shaded with the expected tinges of vintage Blues and Psych Rock but showing a more distinct songwriting prowess this time around." (Mike Breen, issue of Aug. 10, 2005)

What they're saying:

"Cincinnati garage-rockers Thee Shams capture the exhilarating edge of Warhol protégés the Velvet Underground and early Stones, to whose big-lipped frontman singer Zach Gabbard's sexy, heavy-lidded slurs bare an uncanny resemblance." (San Francisco Examiner)

"While it's impossible to ignore Thee Shams' primal influence on Sign the Line, this Cincinnati five-piece has the smarts to take the Blues-shot framework of the Stones' approach and use it as a starting point rather than a finish line." (allmusic.com)

"This Animals/Mitch Ryder-rooted hard Cincinnati Soul Punk band, already quite funky at the Mercury soon after their fine 2001 debut Take Off, are heavying up toward late '60s biker-rock on Sign the Line, their third album on three labels, and, holy moley, does it pack a punch." (Village Voice) ©

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