Alt Pop

Alt Pop

Time: 
19:00
Band name: 
Strawberry Guy
FULL Artist Facebook address (http://...): 
https://www.instagram.com/strawberry_guy/?hl=en
Venue name: 
The Roxy Theatre
Band email: 
   

Alt Pop

Time: 
19:00
Band name: 
Strawberry Guy
FULL Artist Facebook address (http://...): 
https://www.instagram.com/strawberry_guy/?hl=en
Venue name: 
Le Poisson Rouge
Band email: 
   

2021 In Review: Spud Cannon showed us how Good Kids Make Bad Apples

At first glance Spud Cannon may come across as too wholesome to some of the miscreants among our regular readership. The rosy cheeks. The peppy demeanor. The preppy-ish fashion sense. All those things typically indicating “crazed serial killer” in our culture. Not to mention the band’s adherence to an all-white dress code like that creepy cult from The Leftovers.

But once you drop the needle on Good Kids Make Bad Apples (if you haven't done so already, that is, it was released in summer 2020) any such hesitancy will disappear the moment Spud Cannon squirt out the first of the record's many glucose-infused musical hooks (apples and potatoes are full of natural sugars) only about 19 seconds into opening track “Juno” (don’t worry, it’s not about teen pregnancy) a distilled hit of surf-rock-power-pop-girl-group-dance-rock that makes social anxiety sound downright intoxicating especially when the band shifts into overdrive and the notes start bouncing off each another like a bunch of brakeless bumper cars just be forewarned it's gonna make you wanna boogie down and bump bump bump your ass off but really why make yourself feel bad for having good clean fun this is perhaps something you should address with your therapist.

The song is quite well constructed too. Like how that first aforementioned hit of musical bliss is super short and leaves you wanting more—a technique known to every halfway competent drugdealer, and no wonder the vocals here describe "feeling like I'm never gonna get enough" in excitable double time—and then after the next verse you get a bigger hit of the hook plus it's followed by an "afterglow section" of aphsia-induced ‘ooh-ooh-ooh’s!’ and then the whole thing cycles around again but with some subtle guitar and keyboard counter-melodies thrown in for good measure building up and building up (this time around the "afterglow section" is slightly extended) before cresting with one last ecstatic climax all in under three minutes time. It's basically a master class in manipulating tension-and-release and hey maybe the fun on offer here isn't so "good and clean" after all...

Lyrically, “Juno” is a song about missing your ride home from a party but taking it all in stride, taking notes on every intriguing stranger and every missed connection along the way (e.g., the band’s too loud, your forgot your opening line, they’re not the right type, oops spilled your wine, etc.) but never giving up hope “I could meet someone” or more existentially “I could be someone” which establishes a recurring theme on an album full of stories by (and about) all those who “can’t get no satisfaction” (most of us, no?) but still sounding pretty damn buoyant about it because all the yearning and the hope and even the pain itself can be intoxicating--a happy-sad, upbeat-downbeat dynamic nicely captured in the song “You Got It All (NOT)" and hey it's right there in the title.

It’s also pretty cool how the songs on Good Kids Make Bad Apples appear to be in dialogue with one another. Like how on “Juno” the party-going protagonist declares “I won’t be wasting my time / on garbage highs / I can go all night” but the next song “Supersonic” starts with the lines “uh-oh you’re lost on a cheap high / wide eyes on the hunt for your next ride.” Talk about good kids calling out bad apples (!) even when looking in the mirror.

Or how the wordless “ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-boop-be-doop” refrain from “You Got It All (NOT!)” gets echoed later in the song “Na Na Na” which itself echoes the title and the “let the loser go” theme of the late ‘60s hit “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” crossed with the chiding “na na na na’s” of the J. Giles Band. Some may be tempted to call this “intertextuality” and maybe Spud Cannon too, because these kids-cum-young-adults met at Vassar College and who knows how many semiotics lectures they attended between the five of 'em.

Speaking of Vassar College, GDMBA was recorded on “Squash Court #1” (self-produced no less) which may sound like some hipster Brooklyn studio but no it’s an actual squash court on their college campus that the band possibly maybe surreptitiously occupied late at night to record the album and achieve its big vivid Wall of Sound sound which makes me think squash courts should be utilized for this purpose more often even if it's not the most rock 'n 'roll of sports. (ahhhhhh now the outfits make sense!) Anyway it worked out well apparently because squash courts have the perfect acoustics for the Spuds' big shiny hooks and party-rock ambiance and detailed arrangements (brass, glockenspiel, is that tubular bells?) and in the clip below you'll see the squash coach isn’t even mad at them for scuffing up the court with their glockenspiel.

In conclusion, despite being released last summer, Good Kids Make Bad Apples is perhaps even better suited to this The January Of Our Discontent being an album that radiates warmth and vitality despite the underlying dissatisfaction. Plus a starchy musical diet is good for getting through the winter months. (Jason Lee)

   

Seasonal record roundup: The Heart Attack-Acks drop a "Love Bomb" and an Xmas banger

On “Love Bomb,” the debut single by The Heart Attack-Acks, the Queens-based duo of Candice and Cody bring an energy and dynamism to the disco-new-wave number that the world hasn't witnessed since Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley danced around awkwardly in front of a car repair shop circa 1983a car repair shop that just happened to employ a small crew of line-dancing mechanics plus a couple crop-top-wearing-popping-and-locking breakdancers—and by the way this is the second song called “Love Bomb” to be reviewed on this blog in the past several months so please no confused letters to the editor!

And if this seems like a pretty random comparison to draw just check out the Heart Attack-Acks press photo above and tell me there's not a downtown-guy-uptown-girl dynamic at work there–except since they’re from Queens it means Cody must live in Glendale, or maybe Ridgewood, whereas Candice must live up in fancy-pants Astoria Heights. And oh yeah there’s the matter of the band’s name too.

As far as “Love Bomb” goes, well, it doesn’t sound a whole heckuva lot like “Movin’ Out” that's true. But it’s clearly indebted to the music Billy J. was likely vibing to that same year (1977) on nights when he’d put on the ol' Groucho Marx disguise and drive from Long Island to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn to hit the 2001 Odyssey discotheque with Tony and the boys. And also on nights when he’d drive into Manhattan to hear some next phase new wave down on the Bowery. Which is all just a way of saying that “Love Bomb” is a twitchily danceable mutant punky-disco-party-tune. And since there’s nothing more inherently New Yawk in musical terms than a twitchily danceable mutant punky-disco-party-tune it’s really quite a smart career on the part of T.H.A.A. to pay homage to their hometown musical heritage right out of the gate. 

Not to mention “Love Bomb” is a great kiss off song and that's very NYC toobut one that’s not so much about “creeps in the street” (see above) as it's about the creeps we all carry around in our pocket these days, like pick-up-artist wannabees who bombard potential victims with digital bum crumbs of approval and affection until suddenly withdrawing if-and-when the conquest is achieved (“first off, you blow up my phone / but in a month, you’ll leave me all alone”).

But the song’s narrator is clearly too astute to fall for such cheap tactics (unlike over at @thedelimag where we gladly accept transactional praise!) and instead turns the tables on her love bomber (“so in the meantime, I’ll take what you can give / train you like you’d do me, if I gave in”) which is clever (love bomber, bomb thyself!) and also clever because the majestically-adenoidal NYC-accented call-and-response overdubs make for a nice callback to classic empowered ‘60s girl group anthems except updated for the iPhone Generation. 



And speaking of updating, the Heart Attack-Acks also have a new Christmas single out called “No Sleigh Bells Tonight” and yes I know I know Christmas is over already but hey you’re well within your rights to play Christmas music up 'til New Year’s Day at least just like people keep their trees for that long so why not. And the song itself will get you back in that Santa spirit from the moment it hits you with a Motown-style bass line and some sleigh bells too in the intro (see what they did there!) soon going on to evoke a Phil Spector Christmas Album kinda vibe (peep that “Be My Baby” beat!) while lyrically dispensing with all this “Birth of the Messiah” business and instead rightfully focusing on the true meaning of Christmas just as God intended, which involves a mixture of devastating bone-chilling loneliness, forlorn romantic pining, and, quite possibly, murder (ok I’m inferring the latter, but Phil Spector!) all set to a jaunty sleigh-worthy beat. (Jason Lee)

   

Moon Kissed have something important to tell you and right now may be a good time to listen

Released earlier this Fall (shades of Milton’s Paradise Lost entirely intentional given recent trends) the second full-length by Moon Kissed, called I’d Like To Tell You Something Important (its title a callback to their first record) is a deeply human fusion of contradictory yet complimentary impulses—ranging from its chew-you-up-and-spit-you-out opener “Bubblegum” (“chew you up you're just like bubble gum / I’ll spit you out when I’m done”) to its chew-me-up-and-spit-me-out closer “Chameleon” (“Chameleon, I’ll change for you / I’ll do what you want me to / until I don’t know who I am”) a dialectical lyricism mirrored by Emily, Khaya and Leah's impressively wide-ranging musical palette—skipping like a stone across songs featuring sweet poptimistic flirtation, grinding electro trepidation, epic party-anthem-ification, hushed diary-entry introspection, operatic power-ballad salvation, stripped-down spoken-word elucidation. and last-call-for-alcohol piano-bar romantic resignation.

But no matter how varied the emotional and sonic landscape, it all comes across as a coherent statement—to the extent that raw, urgent passion can be considered “coherent" but let's not get off track here—with the full tapestry of the LP woven together by the consistently ultra-vivid, ultra-visceral nature of the songwriting and arrangements. Indeed, it seems Moon Kissed have got something important to tell us after all. 

Not to knock their first record at all (2019’s I Met My Band At A New Years Eve Party and I stand by my earlier statement that  “Runaway” should by rights be widely known as one of the top bops from the past several years) but in the interim Moon Kissed have taken things to the next level when it comes to making even their more synth-heavy numbers feel entirely organic to the point where practically every song feels like it’s about to crawl out of its own skin, whether due to anticipation or anxiety, dread or desire, morphing and mutating from one moment to the next, a quality that applies equally to Khaya’s vocalizing and also to the production work on ILTTYSI (and even to more lo-fi numbers like how on "Chameleon" the audibly squeaky piano sustain pedal makes you feel like you're sitting there in the same room where it's being performed) a sonic elasticity that helps account for how all the synthetic and organic textures blend together so seamlessly on the record (including the stark cowbell part on "Saturday Night" that nearly rescues the instrument from sketch comedy hell).

What’s more, I’d Like To Tell You Something Important coheres not just musically but also thematically, organized around a central theme of pleasure and its (dis)contents. Or, as Moon Kissed themselves put it on the penultimate track “Bender,” “Let me try to make this better / Let me evaluate my pleasures,” which is a song that both Lady Gaga and Lin Manuel-Miranda must desperately wish they’d written. Except they'd each probably choose to repeat the final rousing chorus a couple more times (at least) so kudos to Moon Kissed for displaying the restraint and self-confidence to leave us wanting more. 

Anyway, safe to say, many permutations of pleasure appear across the album’s 35-minute run time, not only in terms of the most simple-minded mission to “have a good time, all the time” but also in terms of the oft-overlooked complexities of pleasure--whether pleasure as politics (gender politics in particular), pleasure as escapism, pleasure as transcendence, pleasure as power, pleasure as surrender, pleasure as spiritual and/or psychological and/or physical salvation. In a word, pleasure! 

And Moon Kissed don’t limit their pleasure explorations only to making records either. Because their live shows bring an even bigger dose of pleasure to audiences with fearless heart-on-sleeve, inhibitions-stripped-away abandon and a determination to have a good time all the time. On this note, over the past several weeks Moon Kissed have undertaken a three-week residency at the Ridgewood, Queens D.I.Y. spot known as Trans-Pecos with each of the three shows organized around the theme of “Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice” with each ingredient engaged sequentially. (first show “Sugar,” second show “Spice,” etc.)



Except that the triptych-concluding “Everything Nice” event scheduled for tonight was cancelled/postponed out of an abundance of Omicron caution. And to think that tonight's opener Kate Davis should’ve been taking the stage right about now if not for that pesky mutating virus. But on the plus side at least it gives you more time to work on putting together a truly impactful outfit for Everything Nice, whenever it happens to happen, with potential inspirations including (quoting directly from the party flyer here) "poodle skirts, kitten heels, 50s fantasy housewife with a beard, 50s working husband but with a thong, sexism as an outfit, strap ons, breast plate, drag make up, curlers" and I’m gonna go ahead and add "cha-cha heels" to the list cuz I doubt they'd mind and I'm secretly hoping to receive a pair for Christmas.

Which brings us to one last newly-relevant-yet-again-selling-point for ILTTYSI which is that it’s a great lockdown listen, an album conceived and recorded in part during lockdown numero uno or are we still keeping count—meet the new year, same as the old year—that's chock full of the frustrated pent-up passion that's highly familiar to the socially-distanced set by now, besieged as we are by “lonel[iness] and heavy memories [that] linger like a gymnast on a beam that isn’t steady” prone to “walking off cliffs in [our] dreams / wak[ing] up in sweat and it’s hard to breath” counterbalanced by coping skills such as “buying…ice cream to see if it gets better / but nothing’s getting better at all” and finally resigned to the fact that “if the world is about to blow / [we] may as well lose control” to loosely paraphrase various lines from the album. 

And yeah I’m probably making it sound like a pretty despairing set of tunes but it’s really not—there’s plenty of life-affirming lyrics as well (“we should run around the city / everybody kissing everyone / cuz we all know what we all want”) not to mention the overall inspiring live-wire intensity of the music. In fact it’s one of the most life-affirming albums this writer has heard in a while.



So maybe just settle in for the evening, change into your best club duds and put on I’d Like To Tell You Something Important and then dance around your bedroom like it’s Your Own Private Idaho for the rest of the night (and the next night, and the next night) and when you get tired of ILTTYSI you can put on Moon Kissed’s single from earlier this year called “Clubbing In Your Bedroom” and its crowd-sourced, quarantine-themed music video and rave on for the rest of the night or the rest of your life. (Jason Lee)