All Things Bob

23 07 2008

My centralized web presence is now at


I Should Have Said Something Sooner — CD Review By Mark H.

30 06 2008


Everything Could Turn Out Right This Time

Self Released (CD) Insubordination Records (Digital)

It’s ironic that while the North East and California have always flooded our basements with pop punk bands, the typically rainy North West is a veritable desert in the pure pop punk scene, with only an oasis here and there to wet our whistle. The four-piece Dateless, from Seatlle, WA offer us traditional simple-chord, harmony-soaked pop punk that’s a far cry from stepping over any creative boundary lines, but at the same time seem to draw from a multitude of influences within the genre, enough so that any hardcore fan will have fun picking up on them and rocking out to the tunes.

The Dateless sound falls within familiar bounds, that being the pop punk Neapolitan ice cream box of the Ramones, oldies, and Lookout-era Green Day. There’s also a hint of Dirt Bike Annie in here, partly due to song structure, and also the male/female vocal dynamic provided by Chris Crusher and Le-Vy. (Later on, my theory gets some solid evidence to stand on, as the band covers DBA’s “Capable Of Anything”). It’s possible that Sicko and other golden-era Mutant Pop bands have an influence on the group, but it’s also possible that my ears and brain are trying to connect the dots geographically rather than aurally.

“Worst Year” and “Mess” are great bouncy cuts, while “Janel” wins the award for most typical pop-punk lyrics, “i think you’re so hot / i want you to know girl / i like you a lot” – yikes! But, also typically, the chorus is really catchy, has awesome handclaps, and the pre-chorus part sounds deliciously like old school MTX! “Pointless Daydreams” starts acoustically and highlights Le-vy as a vocalist and along with other Le-vy heavy songs (“I Had To Quit” and “No More”) brings the Chubbies to mind.

“Body Heat” is just a great fast blast of poppy punk and one of the album highlights, and “Face The Facts” is another welcome sugar rush. Sprinkled amongst these tracks though are others that push past the 3 minute mark and take a the momentum down a notch. The songs are all decent, but I suppose my thoughts on the sequencing is that you have to eat your vegetables too if you want dessert.

more linkage: Dateless on Myspace

I Should Have Said Something Sooner — CD Review by Mark H.

25 05 2008

Never Enough Hope

The Gift Economy

Contraphonic Records

If I may digress right out of the gate – I think 20-piece ensemble Never Enough Hope should play a festival show with the Polyphonic Spree, Akron Family, and Dark Meat, in an attempt to create a well-attended show where the performers still outnumbered the audience. Improviser/composer Tobin Summerfield put together this group in Chicago as some sort of jazz/post-rock/freestyle/big band super group, and the result was The Gift Economy.

The sounds here loosely fall in the experimental jazz camp, and while mention of the genre usually evokes a sense of dread in me, this stuff is rather enjoyable. Lead cut “The Banner” gives us hypnotic rhythms, layers of strings and horns that poke their heads in and out, and near the end it rocks out well enough to push the idea of regular “modern jazz” out the window. “Des Moines” feels like it’s moving, but evidently it takes you nowhere – a musical traffic circle perhaps? “Two Ghosts At The Table” however rolls along pretty smoothly. The ghosts are seated doing their ghostly thing, and over the duration of the 7 minute song, the sounds flow from Casper to Poltergeist. The foundation of “Grant Park” starts off with a funky bassline, then juts into a horn workout, and then over to another trance-like guitar hook. It’s like a baton being passed at a relay race. “The Light Tilts Out” may very well be the most boisterous song here, almost overloaded with instrumental chaos, but oddly the disc ends with a wonderful traditional pop song (with vocals even!) that’s almost nail-biting the first time through, as the listener wonders “When is the music going to start freaking out? Now? …Now?” I held my breath at a few spots but it never came.

It’s interesting to note that there are at least two of everything in Never Enough Hope – violin, trumpet, sax, guitar, even two drum sets and vibraphones! The Noah’s Ark of free music! The Gift Economy sounds expertly orchestrated, but at the same time there’s always another trumpet near by to burst out freely, a sax bleat to punctuate the jam, or some extra percussion to bash away while the rhythm holds on tight. It’s this blend of calculated vs. pell mell that make the album unique. Elevator muzak this ain’t.

I Should Have Said Something Sooner — CD Review by Mark H.

8 05 2008


Pray For Scars

Don Giovanni Records

Some bands just make music, others create art. Whether either endeavor is successful or not I suppose depends on the listener, but myself having listened to ass upon ass upon assloads of albums, I can tell you there’s a lot of rock bands that make great music but suck at executing it as an art form, and there’s a lot of artists who make interesting pieces of audio-art but ultimately fail at making enjoyable music. Follow?

When Hunchback first melted my face off in some dude’s basement a few years ago I knew I was listening to something special. Spirits of loud, screamy, writhing noise from musical genres across the map channeled themselves through four punks from New jersey. It was creepy and weird, but not once did I feel uncomfortable. It was horror-surf-punk with a helping of Mudhoney and a heaping of Killdozer, but not once did I think it was as trite or as tacky as it now sounds on paper. The sound, content, and delivery of Pray For Scars offers a real, honest exploration into morbidity. Hunchback create an atmosphere that backs up the music – you don’t just hear it, you feel it.

The album overall doesn’t fit particularly well into any one peg hole, so while the eight-plus minute album opener “The Bells, The Bells” isn’t a proper introduction, it is indicative of the Hunchback “sound/art.” The bass rumbles, the synth alternates between old horror movie “dun dun dunnn!” riffs and being just plain eerie, the layers of guitar fuzz envelop you like fog, and possibly most impressive of all – the vocals sound like Mike Hunchback went into a cave, stuck his head in a garbage can, and sang into a mic covered with insects – and it works! I’m telling you it fucking works, man! Unbelievable!

“All That Fear Allows” puts you firmly amidst the chaos in fine fashion – some kind of bizzaro carnival music intro, manic singing, tempo shifts, and then pulling back, pulling the listener in… is he talking about blood dripping? Then the sledgehammer drops and the bell screams and the dreadful, joyful noise erupts once again. The title track is a full force bash and the “The Doctor” is a like a hardcore song, but twisted and turned by an angular post-punk guitar line, and then further demented by some sick sick lyrics.

The A-side ends with Miranda Hunchback bringing in some cool indie femme pop/rock and the B-side begins with this album’s creep-out sing-along, “A Year And Day.” This unique event first occurred on Hunchback’s previous album with the track “Last Man On Earth.” It’s all so very desolate and apocalyptic, but all the while so very damn catchy you can’t help but chime in on the chorus.

“The Ugliest Angel” brings in the acoustic guitars, but the sound is no less cavernous and the layers of echoes and whispers no less intriguing. “You Have A Light” can swim in Sonic Youth territory for lack of a better place to float, and the guitar work is odd and ear captivating enough to almost forgive the drowned vocals. “Worse Houses” fucks things up a notch, and since we’re near the end of the album, you better believe it’s a free-for-all of multi-screams, heaps of guitar scuzz, and a blanket of synth churning underneath a gut-upsetting story. The album closes with a cover of Linda Perry’s “Beautiful” featuring guest vocals by Killdozer’s Michael Gerald and some other weirdos. I’m debating whether or not to indulge in a digression of whether or not the inclusion of this song is meant to be ironic, post-ironic, or even pre-ironic, but in the end I’m just giving up. My tour through the catacombs was dark, enlightening, and altogether draining. I’ll probably spin this tomorrow though.

more linkage:
Hunchback on Myspace

You Said It Was A Good Size! — 7″ Review by Mark H.

12 04 2008

The Steinways

Unoriginal Recipe

It’s Alive Records


I’d say something like “The Steinways are back!” but the truth is they never left us. Lead singer/guitarist Grath Madden is so prolific we’re never short of new material, and thankfully the band does not sacrifice quality for quantity. Songs like the Dirt Bike Annie-esque “I Shit (You Not)” and the epic (read as: almost 2 minutes long!) “Main Street USA” continue the now familiar horny teenager spazzing out theme, but while the music used to be sock-hop-on-amphetamines the band has now added a bit more spike to the punch this time around, rocking out in a fashion that eschews the typical 3-chord pattern and transcends the bands previous work in oldiescore territory.

“Good Morning Sunshine” starts off with an average pop punk riff, but the chorus opens a window and the song flies up and away into pure pop territory; a guitar lead bounces us to a bridge, and in the end we’re all chanting “wake the fuck up!” like the stifled beginning of the song never happened. The layered vocals on “Twenty Year Old Virgin” are terrific – the band does indeed have 3 singers – it would be wise to use them all (or at least bring them up in the mix) more often. The slab ends with a stab at Portuguese pop punk with “Voce Tem Labios De Uma Galinha.” All seems well and good until you discover the band wanted even the Portuguese words to rhyme, which gives us some interesting translations in the lyrics – “I had sex with the neighbor / you have lips like a chicken.” See? A song doesn’t have to be short to be funny!

More linkage – The Steinways on Myspace

Song for the day.

1 04 2008

 Quiet ep

In my effort to once again become somewhat of a contributing factor to the dying Hip Displeasure, I have decided to introduce and play one song a day (groundbreaking territory, I know).

First up, Jim Ward’s “On My Way Back Home Again”.

Download or stream here.

I Should Have Said Something Sooner — CD Review By Mark

23 02 2008


Get Better

Asian Man Records


When I listen to music with a critical ear, my mind always wanders away from who and what, drifting to the subject of when. How can I connect the dots from what I’ve heard before to what I’m hearing now? An album may have a 2008 release date, but from what era does the sound originate? Is it 60s pop? ’77 punk? 80s metal? For some unknown, illogical reason my brain equates chronology with credit. If it’s been done before, then bam – instant demerit. Lemuria has me rethinking my mindset. While many bands are followers, it is possible for a band to simply approach the musical time line on its own terms. This trio of friends from Buffalo, NY aren’t behind the times, they just took their time.

The sound of Get Better is firmly planted in the 90s alt-pop/rock section of the history books. Those were good times back then, when the lines of indie rock and power pop and punk roamed freely across the landscape, and bands with brains and talent found the intersection of those lines, usually for the better. Myself being a fan of said era, I’ve got the sudden urge to gush forth a zillion references. Aside from possibly being a soundtrack for My So Called Life (I’m sure the group wouldn’t mind sharing that credit with Madder Rose, Buffalo Tom, and the Lemonheads), my ears pluck other tidbits from the “alternative” decade: A riff here reminds me of the indie pop group Verbana, a riff there brings to mind Superchunk, the smart-punk tone reminds me of Jawbreaker and/or Discount. On some notes, drummer/singer Alex Kearns reminds me of a less croaky Brad Roberts (c’mon now, when is the last time you’ve heard the vocalist for the Crash Test Dummies mentioned in a review?!). Perhaps more impressive is the peg-dodging vocals of guitarist/singer Sheena Ozzella, whose voice ranges from sweet to powerful, but not once treads into twee or riot grrl territory.

The album leads off with the crowd favorite “Pants”, whose chorus comes at you as if running up a hill, measured and purposeful, if only just to traipse back down again. This even, tempered approach is maintained throughout Get Better, and makes for the unique case of being one of those rare albums that’s good at any volume. The guitar and bass are clean and exact, but never betray the album’s dim, introspective mood. The drums are driving but always staying within the speed limit. Even the songs finish in a “hold it!” fashion, stopping abruptly so as not to get carried away in a crescendo or fade away into irrelevance. “Lipstick” and “Hawaiian T-Shirt” have ridiculously slow but immaculately presented payoff (or more accurately, jackpot) choruses, the value of which increases exponentially depending on how many people are singing along. Another highlight is the double shot of “Length Away” and “Dog”, the latter of which showcases the band in a punkier setting, but also gives us Ozzella’s best vocal performance on record, maybe even one of the best I’ve heard from a femme-rocker in a great while (er, possibly not since the 1990s?!).

The album clocks in at 28 minutes, but with no duds in the bunch and plenty of repeatable hits, it’s a worthy investment. We’ve got a bona fide early contender here, folks.

More linkage: Lemuria on Myspace