Extreme Essentials Volume 4
by Doug Driscoll
If you’ve been reading this publication for a while, you’re already pretty familiar with our opinion on the quality and quantity of the music being produced by Fort Wayne-area musicians. If you’re not personally familiar with much of the music, then you need to put this paper down, drive out to the nearest Wooden Nickel and pick up a copy of Extreme Essentials Vol. 4. You’ll not only be getting yourself hour upon hour of listening enjoyment for a very affordable $9.63, you’ll be persuaded that we here at whatzup actually know what we’re talking about.
Consider that several of the best local releases of the year 2000 aren’t even represented on this disc (James Bond Goes Surfing’s Pilot, Might As Well’s Still Live, Brand New Bag’s Fat Metaphysical Thing, Heavy Step’s The Longshot, Little Green Men’s Seven and Dave Todoran’s Under My Skin, just to name a few), and you’ll have a pretty good sense of just how far the Fort Wayne music scene has come in the past four years.
The Essentials discs are limited to songs that fit into The Extreme’s alternative rock format and represent merely a slice of the Fort Wayne music scene. Still, the breadth of music on Vol. 4 is pretty impressive. There’s no “Fort Wayne sound” as such, just an extraordinary number of diverse and talented bands following their own muse. Abraham, who open the disc with the poppy, radio-friendly “Cheating,” have absolutely nothing in common with Chaotica, who close the disc with a thumping, Ministry-like “Powerdrill” — nothing, that is, except talent. In between the first and sixteenth cuts are an array of songs that range from pure pop (Fawn Leibowitz’ “Jealousy”) to hillbilly punk (Blue Moon Boys’ “Broke Down”).
Abraham’s “Cheating,” which is getting the most airplay and drawing the most attention from record labels (see Newz & Notez) is actually one of the weaker cuts on the disc. It fails to capture the power of that band that comes across during live performances and includes lyrics best described as insipid (“Did you really sleep with that chick, man/ Yes, yes, yes”). Still the song has such catchy hooks that after a few listens you’ll never be able to get it out of your head.
The disc’s second cut, Buttonhead’s “Candy Bar Wrapper” (from their recent Sofa King Cool release), follows pretty much the same formula, although with a bit more emphasis on guitar. “Candy Bar Wrapper,” like much of Sofa King Cool, seems written specifically for radio.
From here, things start to go all over the map. The Chronics’ “Mouth Off,” from their 2000 EP Be-Bop, defies categorization of any kind yet illustrates why The Chronics are so highly regarded by their fellow musicians. Following is Strut Train’s funk/hip-hop influenced “So Far Gone,” off their highly regarded Aww Yeah release this past fall. Next up is Fawn Leibowitz’ “Jealousy,” a song which showcases Paul Stephen’s incredibly smooth vocals, some really cool backing vocals and a nifty cello coda by the Fort Wayne Philharmonic’s Brad Kuhns.
Rosemary Gates follows with “Free” (from the CD Shine), a song which more than any other on this compilation illustrates just how far the Fort Wayne music scene has come. Rosemary Gates is heavily influenced by Metallica, Creed and Pearl Jam, and “Free” sounds like it could have been made by any of them. In a perfect world, WXKE and WBYR would join The Extreme in putting “Free” into their song rotations. Rosemary Gates fans will be disappointed in this edited-for-radio cut, as it dispenses with all but about 15 seconds of the acoustic guitar solo that closes the song on the band’s album.
Following is another stellar cut, “Dopamine Angel,” by local music scene vets The Humanity and featuring Aaron Craig’s intelligent, if hard to decipher, lyrics and the band’s intricate musicianship and tight harmonies. The Humanity is followed by two of the area’s most popular acts, the Sunny Taylor Band (with “Don’t Know What You Got” off 1999’s Lux In Tenebris Lucet) and the Blue Moon Boys (with the heretofore unreleased “Broke Down,” a song which stretches both Nic Roulette’s voice and Kenny Taylor’s guitar strings to the max).
Next up is the Shelly Dixon Band’s “Life Is Good,” a preview of the band’s upcoming release. Dixon started attracting attention as a solo acoustic act and put together a four-piece last spring. In no time at all she’s become a force in the local music scene.
The jam band Gold Room follows with a very Dead-like “Fallen Down,” off their self-titled CD release last year. Another new band, Northern Kind, follows with the rocking romp “Party Relish.”
Next up is Jackie Fly, whose “Extra Something” was recorded just before frontman Chad Beck left the building and headed for Austin, Texas (followed shortly thereafter by guitarist Tad Daigle). Like the Abraham cut, “Extra Something” is pure pop, and it shows why Jackie Fly was one of the area’s most loved bands.
The final three cuts are among the CD’s most interesting. Basement What’s “My Beer” is just plain fun. There’s nothing about the band in the CD’s liner notes (band members are students in Muncie and did not respond to the Extreme’s request for bio materials). All we can tell you is that the band’s actually been around for several years and, if “My Beer” is any indication, ought to be a lot of fun live.
The heretofore unknown Blueberry Hurricane follows with a cut that will remind some of Onionhead’s “Super Sonic Rock and Roll Star,” the local hit off 1997’s Edge Essentials release. Blueberry Hurricane is a solo project of Big Red & Rojo’s Kevin Hambrick.
Finally, the previously mentioned Chaotica closes out the disc with a remix of “Drill” from their debut release Turbocharger. Even non-fans of hardcore rock (myself included) will have to appreciate the musicianship that went into this song.
It’s not easy reviewing a release featuring 16 disparate bands and styles. No one is going to like every cut on this disc. On the other hand, there’s at least something on this disc for very nearly everyone. More important, no objective listener can help but be impressed by the extraordinary talent that’s represented here. The Extreme, Soundmill Studios, the musicians and all of Fort Wayne should be very proud.
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