To paraphrase Navin R. Johnson, “The new Essentials CD is here!” This year listeners get two CDs of local goodness to ingest. Due to a medical condition my doctor recommends that I only ingest one CD at a time, so I decided to enlist fellow critic RatMonkey to review the second set. But due to time limitations, legal restrictions, and chronic flatulence, RatMonkey wasn’t available. So let’s just pretend that I’m having a conversation between RatMonkey and myself, and let’s just pretend (big stretch here) that he’s been drinking, thus rendering him quite belligerent.
Jason Hoffman: Hey, RatMonkey. Thanks for agreeing to review half of the nearly two hours of material on the latest X102 Essentials Volume 7 release.
Imaginary Belligerent RatMonkey: Go screw yourself.
JH: As in past years I really enjoyed hearing the variety of local talent ...
IBRM: If I hear one more formulaic song that’s soft in the verse and loud in the chorus I’m going to cut my own head off with a turkey baster. Listening to this compilation made me miss WXKE. And drink.
JH: My favorite track was “Hovercraft Now” by Vandolah. It’s fun, poppy rock with one foot in the best music of the past, amazingly executed, and very catchy.
IBRM: “Bad Girls” by Hoochie Mama Get Down. No question! The song puts everything else to shame, and I just love those dirty, dirty girls. Do you think Rose would give me a soul kiss at the Whammies?
JH: If you ask politely. The quality of the songs is varied, from obvious home studio efforts to glossy studio productions.
IBRM: Shaddup about “production.” Everything’s “production” with you ... what do you even mean with that word? For my money, give me pure metal, which makes me giddy. “No Future” by Yellow Dead Bettys has evil-sounding Judas Priest double metal guitars and an extended guitar solo at the end, and The Migraines played a nice 80s knock-yer-boots-off punk metal tune with “I Hate Evil.” The Naked Banshees are obviously very influenced by Black Sabbath in “Intolerable” which has the groaning guitars that rev up to a musical romp at the end. Another obvious influence is the bouncy “Missing Person” by Blame It On Rio, but Green Day this time for the punkish ska guitars. Fast and energetic, like a stand mixer. I also liked the wicked metal guitar melody of The Pwince song, “The Vest Has Sleeves.”
JH: I was partial to “Cyanide” by Northern Kind, which opens the first CD. This tight trio has more energy than a daycare and better chops, too. I was also surprised by the number of humorous songs, despite my own “Lobster Boy” not being among them. Leeko channels the spirit of Weezer at a Green Day concert in the playful good-times “Marsha,” and Definitely Gary nods to Presidents of the U.S.A. with the thunderous groove of “Dejanu.” “I’m Going To The X-Treme” by Bair-anaics is extremely clever, opening and closing with acoustic guitar and filling the gooey center with breakneck metal guitar, station wagon loads of double kick drums and a Metallica guitar solo. And then there’s “Afternoon In Jonestown” by Burnt By Victor that is comparable to Queens of the Stone Age in the amount of rock clichÈs but without all that pesky irony. The bass runs the show on “Ten Foot Small” by CookiePuss with a fun, jumpy beat that careens along like a ...
IBRM: Like a freaking freight train. Why don’t you come up with some new similes now and then? Give me the heavier, darker songs like Sirface’s melodically industrial “Back For You,” the grinding, growling “By The Way” by Shunned or “Pissed” by Serum, where the vocalist tries to invoke the angst and anger of Rage Against the Machine. Of course, “More or Less” by Downbreed, withits massive wall of guitars and layers of vocal effects, is an angst-o-rama that obliterates all competition.
JH: Isn’t “angst-o-rama” my catch phrase? For the more rock-oriented fans there’s Sfumato’s “From Me To You,” the booty-shaking “All That Lonely” by Go Dog Go, Basement What?’s textbook ballad “Stay Till Tuesday” and the great vocal harmonies and 70s rock sound of Loose Change in “Off My Mind.” Sunny Taylor eschews her acoustic guitar to rock down the house with “Falls Around Me,” one of only two tracks with female vocalists. And to close the set, the young veterans Jettingham hit hard with their great pop/punk/rock sound in “A Wick And Some Dynamite.”
IBRM: Everything else is crap, like a clogged garbage disposal.
JH: There’s plenty of good stuff I havenÇt mentioned yet. And what is it with you and kitchen gadgets?
IBRM: You’re too damn nice in your reviews ... grow a pair. “High Among This” by my band Hot Voodoo Lovin’ is better than most of these songs, and yes I’m going to continue to bitch and moan until one of my songs finally gets added to the crappy, worthless compilation. They didn’t even let people vote for us on their damned web site poll. But what should I expect? I mean, it’s not like they called and solicited a song from me like they did some bands I know!
JH: Imaginary Belligerent RatMonkey, look! Free beer! [IBRM trundles off aimlessly]. Ahem. “Anymore” by Proximity Grey is quite explosive, and “Queen of Rage” by Static Fly has a nice groove and an actual guitar solo, a rarity in these modern rock times. I’m not sure if Vamada is trying to be progressive or just compressing beats with “Lost Desire,” but the hoarse screaming and flanged guitars definitely get your attention. Both the synth-poppy “While You Were Gone” by Curtis Bard and Tested on Animals’ radio rock “Regenerate” are fine songs, but they follow Downbreed, and anything that follows Downbreed ends up sounding, well, anemic. “Four Years Past” by Take Sides is the mutant spawn of ska and punk, born ragged and raw with machine-gun vocal delivery and a lone horn pushing enough wind to power Holland. And lastly, but not leastly, is “Again, Again” by Buttonhead which has some magical vocal harmonies in the exploding chorus and a metal guitar solo in the instrumental outro.
IBRM: [returning in an irritable state.] There was no free beer.
JH: It was just a joke.
IBRM: Never joke about free beer. You’ll pay for that ... [IBRM raises a bass guitar over his head, menacingly, I might add.]
JH: Hey, isn’t that my Carvin five string bass with the active humbucker pickups, string-through-body design, oxblood dye stain and black hardware?
IBRM:Die, name dropper!
[The bass comes down again and again, covering the room in more than oxblood. Fade to black.]
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