· Freddy K — Stand by the Sea for Good Luck
It's a joyful dilemma, but I have no idea how to classify Freddy K's debut album. It's a deliciously schizophrenic mix of Post Rock extremes that transforms almost completely from song to song. The three opening tracks set the diverse tone. "Chewing Baskets" combines slightly squonky guitars, a jittery bass line and Perry Farrell-ish vocal layering to create a powerful, strobing rocker. Next up is "Sick Style," sounding like a lilting David Gilmore-inspired AltCountry ballad. Then, the aptly titled "Around the Corner" takes a left turn into jangly Talking-Blues territory. As the album progresses, the songs start to swirl these styles together and concentrate more on atmosphere, shifting from plodding and contemplative to bouncy and lighthearted and back again. Whatever the source of their extraordinary variety (whether it's intentional or just a by-product of having several strong songwriters with widely varying influences), each turn is convincing and entertaining.
For not supplying many hooks, the music is ceaselessly infectious, owing mainly to the earnest delivery and unpretentious writing. And as always, the sound plays a major part in conveying the essence of the artist.
Joe Burns recorded, mixed (with the band) and mastered the CD at Northern Kentucky's Commonwealth Audio. The mix keeps the foreground well lit, focusing heavily on a few instruments and filling the cracks with ear candy and otherworldly ambiance.
Freddy K also has a knack for ridding the tracks of all but the instruments that are required to get the point across. While they don't shy away from mixing up the instrumentation, adding synth and vibes where needed, they make equally bold statements by, say, leaving bass and drums off of some of the tracks. After many head-scratching spins, Freddy K will convince you that they have made a cohesive album, and one you won't be in a hurry to shelve. (Ezra Waller).
· The Not — The Not
The Not is the perfect name for this Cincinnati band, because just when you think you've pinned down its sound to a band reference or a particular genre they shift subtly to another place and time. The Not swaggers jaggedly from raging Garage Rock ("I Guess So") to Devo-flecked New Wave ("Runnin' from Midnite") to Strokes-via-Ramones-through-Emo-software Pop/Punk ("Outta Control," "One More Beer") to shrieking Surf Punk-meets-Gang-of-Four dissonance ("Dirty Connections"). Mike Swen's guitar and Amy Piscitelli's keyboards jangle and jar the senses, while bassist Taryn Piscitelli and drummer Chaz Howard provide the appropriate bottom to the chaos going on topside, which takes a breathtaking 17 minutes over the course of seven songs. And by the end of it, whatever you think they are they're Not. (Brian Baker)
· And Andy — And Andy
This self-titled EP paints a picture of a band on the cusp of discovering their strengths. While not groundbreaking, their playing is strong and expressive and their songwriting is enjoyable. Of the five songs on the disc, the first three are right out of the Top 40 Pop/Rock playbook. And Andy confidently navigates these waters, putting a bit of a personal stamp on the songs with sprinkles of "Regatta de Pop." The fourth song shows more personality, using a different time signature in the chorus and a nice long outro with peaks and valleys. Then the aforementioned Reggae feel dominates the six-minute, jammed-out closer. Think Long Beach Dub All Stars meets Three Doors Down.
Josh Purnell and Josh Duncan share guitar duties, building a nice distorted and melodic foundation and managing some interesting leads. They could, however, exploit the dual guitar lineup further. Most of the interesting six-string theatrics are saved for intros and breakdowns, leaving the verses and choruses a little pale. Deeper hooks are needed to really make a splash in this genre. Purnell also writes and sings, usually sounding good and smooth but occasionally finding his limits, as on the "What You Always Wanted" choruses.
Andy Crawford's drumming is very accurate and energetic, nailing fills with pinpoint accuracy. Cowriter Rob Warnick's bass grooves nicely where it can be heard but gets lost in the mix on the more rocking tunes. Overall, this five-song release is a solid effort, exhibiting potential more than prowess. (EW)
· Gerald's Rainbow — Ritual
The most recent album from area Hard Rock up-and-comers Gerald's Rainbow is the sound of a band trying to find itself. For a group that's actively seeking a major label record deal (I've not heard more "signing" rhetoric from any local band in my 15 years of covering local music), they're incredibly diverse. The hodge-podge of styles and sounds — from Godsmack-ian Primal Metal to Deftones-like ethereal Rock to things that bend towards the more experimental side — is intriguing and ambitious and could conceivably find a comfy home on some underground, cult label.
But GR, fronted by the obviously talented and creative (if not altogether focused), Tennis Mounts, claims to be showcasing for labels like Universal, Warner Bros. and Elektra. Maybe a streamlining producer is just what Gerald's Rainbow needs. The pieces of a solid band are apparent on Ritual. There are traces of sturdy melodies, swirling harmonies and interesting riffs, and there's a "mad genius" sense to some of the material, especially the aural collage that closes out the album ("As the Wind Blows"), which comes off like a stoner version of "Revolution No. 9." There are moments of incredible promise on Ritual — "Change Me" has an inspired, memorable hook and the tribal rhythmic pulse helps it rise above the fray, while "Social Mess" has some of the album's best riffage and serpentine guitar flourishes, nicely showcasing GR's chest-out bravado.
The "Big Rock" sound and the trippy, creative approach can indeed blend nicely, as everyone from Jane's Addiction to Alice In Chains has shown. But only rarely do all of the elements gel on Ritual, made even more difficult by Mounts' key-challenged vocals and the meandering song structures. Gerald's Rainbow perhaps has the talent to someday actually score a big-time record deal. But, as a calling card for bigwigs, Ritual comes up a little short. (Mike Breen)