Firework Show's energetic, unpredictable rock gets a workout on their new mini album — from spaced-out sonic explorations that meander into the ether (as on the transitions and bridges of opening song "Mountain Man") to tight, precise acid-fried funk grooves (as on the Allmans-esque "Whaddayaknow?" and the N'awlin's funk-inflicted "Not So Blue").
Far from reserved, Firework Show drummer Brandon Gallagher's loose and muscular style propels much of the music. He avoids the metronome-perfect and robotic delivery some bands go for in formal studio settings, giving the performances a much livelier edge. Lead singer/guitarist Zach Bodtorf's almost flat-toned vocals — nasally at times, drowsy-dreamy at times — consistently soar and weave odd and eerie melodies over the music. On the more prog-rock end of things, "Echoes" hops in and out of crazy verses, solos, and weird rhythmic patterns.
The piano-driven, anthemic "Pocket Change" takes an unexpectedly waltzy detour, showcasing some of Braxton Brown's more delicate key work. "Driving Underwater" simmers effortlessly in an odd time signature of 5/4, with bassist Casey Atwater nicely locking into Gallagher's crisp drumming.
Glee Noise shifts away from the darker, more chaotic sound of the band's early years, signalling strange new accessibility and confidence. There's a stronger melodic pop sense to the band, although the wonderful and frightening noisiness remains intact. (myspace.com/fireworkshow)
Dangermuffin's mesmerizing Moonscapes — the trio's third independently produced album in three years — stands as a revelation. The band strikes a new balance and embraces a more complex dynamic across these 12 songs. Stripped down and uncluttered, yet with a full spectrum of tone and color, they create an awful lot of sound out of only a set of drums and two stringed instruments.
Lead singer and acoustic guitarist Dan Lotti belts it out more convincingly than ever (with less growl and more croon), from the lilting, swingin' title track and the country toe-tapper "Walk into the Wind" to the acoustic ballad "Ancient Wind." Hotshot guitarist Mike Sivilli's licks and embellishments (on electric guitar and banjo) seem more subtle and effective than on previous recordings. Drummer Steven Sandifer's tasteful timekeeping and accents come from unusual sources from time to time. His tambourine skills deserve high praise — and his surprise drum solo in a hidden track attached to the beautiful closing ballad "Coffin Island" deserves a trophy.
Altogether, the three Muffins collaborate more intricately and effectively than ever on the collection —from the cool funk and rock-reggae through the breezier folk stylings. Moonscapes packs more emotional heft and thematic imagery than anything they've ever done. (dangermuffinmusic.com)
Catch the Fury
Local band Motormouth Mabel's fired-up, dressed-down, fuzz-laden punk rock resembles some of the best and shoutiest American punk of the early '80s — much more than any contemporary band's reinterpretation. Think of the raw, lo-fi West Coast stuff, like The Germs, The Weirdos, X, and early Black Flag.
On their new nine-song album — a cassette release on Tick Tock — Motormouth Mabel sounds tipsy, but ready to rock the fuck out.
Three of the songs here previously saw the light of day on a split EP (with Steve Hit Mike): the anxious and frightening "Liquor Store Lurker," the comparatively epic "Why Won't That Girl That I've Been Staring at All Night Look Back at Me," and the kid tantrum gem "County Fair."
Lead singer CJ occasionally swaps the high-pitched screeches and raspy rants for whistle solos, harmonica blasts (as on the surprisingly swingin' "Dance Pollution"), and demented soliloquies.
CJ tags A.C.'s as a downtown haven in the Stooges-y "Human Playground." The false start in the lumbering "PBR Be My Valentine" finds the singer back in typical form ("Fuckin' up ... I dunno what happened ... fuckin' drunk, dude"). Through side two, CJ throws the late GG Allin's hat into a presidential race and groans about his mommy and daddy having lousy days in "Mabel Hates Police." It's all great fun. (ticktockrecords.com)