Reviews

No Joy: Wait To Pleasure

No Joy Wait To Pleasure

Mexican Summer

Ok, there’s a little more joy this time around. Still sounds unmistakably the work of NJ’s ladies Jasamine White-Gluz and Laura Lloyd. Formerly firmly filed under shoegazing, this is the sound of No Joy looking to come a little ways out from under and buff up the brand.

They smartly build on the elements of 2010 debut Ghost Blonde to rock out a little harder and in the process, sounding more like a band.

The message is sent right from the start by opener ‘E’, five minutes plus of riff-rich rock and underlined by the blazing speed of “Lizard Kids” and the hook-happy “Ignored Pets”. They aren’t just another shoegaze band, see. They’re one that’s not afraid to fuzz out and get all distorto.

The playing’s matched by an increase in vocal intensity from the ladies with more major key hooks. That they’re buried way deep in the mix is an irritant when it comes to decoding the lyrics.

Given that they’ve always penned allusive and slippery lyrics it would be nice to get to the core of such as  “Blue Neck Riviera” and “Lunar Phobia”.

There are a few missteps, “Wrack Attack” among them but No Joy have crafted a soph album that does with one is supposed to. Namely, build on the sound of the debut to keep the fan base and show enough forward movement to hook fresh ears.

Lenny Stoute

Young Galaxy: Ultramarine

Young Galaxy Ultramarine

Paper Bag Records

Still not standing still, Vantown’s Young Galaxy’s fourth album, Ultramarine is a giant step from the guitar-driven indie rock of their f9rst albums into a total immersion in synth-pop and electronica.

The signposts appeared on the Shapeshifting album and reflected the influence of Swedish electronic producer Dan Lissvik. For this one, the boys put away the guitars and pedals and flew to Sweden to work with Lissvik on his home turf.

The result is not as cold as it may sound. Opener “Pretty Boy,” lives up to the ‘pretty’ part with lightly pattering beats and defining synths making gorgeous backdrop for Catherine McCandless’ warm vocals. On that front, the lady elevates her game on the majestically melodic “New Summer”, with lyrics like. “It never would have been as good if built to last. We never would have stood a chance if it didn’t move fast”, coming soon from an open car window near you.

Individual appreciation of this album will come down to your tolerance for Eighties dance music. Given that musically Sweden is in a time warp, Lissvik brings every Eighties trad touch to the party without a trace of irony.

Everyone involved sounds like they’re having a fun time. The sound is bright and sharp-edged, the ensemble playing tight, McCandless has never sounded better. But still this nostalgia trip could have used some edge to help it stand out from the rest of the Eighties recyclers.

James Lizzard

China Crisis Live!

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Submitted by Michael Williams
Photo Credit Cyndi Ingle Photography
Photo at right: Eddie Lundon and Michael Williams

Hailing from Liverpool, the home of the Beatles, Gary Daly and Eddie Lundon started China Crisis in 1979 and released their first single in 1982. “African and White” was picked up by Virgin Records. It charted on UK radio leading the way for their second single “Christian” (#12 on the charts). Virgin’s expansion to Canada aided the band in their success here.  With such outstanding initial success they continued to turn out perfect pop songs with a soulful depth rarely heard back in the day of Wham. They used Walter Becker of Steely Dan as producer, and guitarist, for two albums - “Flaunt the Imperfection” and Diary of a Hollow Horse”. “Flaunt the Imperfection” was a massive hit and achieved critical acclaim.

As the record business changed, bands with members over a certain age were set adrift in the changing digital music distribution landscape. Littered with independent labels and specialty labels, what does a band do while waiting for the dust to clear?  Play live.

Recently, I saw the best China Crisis live shows ever in Toronto and Hamilton. This trio, featuring Brian McNeil on keyboards, were great fun. Fans made their way from all over eastern Canada to see them and it was well worth the trip. I had an opportunity to interview Gary and Eddie just before they went on stage for their Hamilton show.

Drake Jensen: OUTlaw

Drake Jensen - OUTlaw

Soaring Eagle Productions


Awright buckaroos and buckarettes, Drake Jensen’s back with some sweetass music so y’all better be watching. On account of the gay thing, dude’s debut disc was a well-behaved calling card, designed to at least get his boots inside the door. That one dropped in ’11 and since then Drake’s not only put himself way inside the room, he’s looking at redesigning the sucker.


So this time around, the big guy can unlax and have fun and it shows large. Backed by his OUTlaw band, itself anchored by the amazing chops of producer/multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Edwards, Jensen is in full on beltin’n’croonin’ modes, where appropriate.


The interpretations, the attention and expression of nuance is coming easy here as is the song craft displayed on the Jensen-written or co-written tracks on the album.


Opener and deserved first single, “When It Hurst Like That” is trad country all the way, leaving it up to the vocals to elevate the tune and dude does great in that regard. “Fast Enough For Me” follows with Jensen dropping into a gravely growl atop a Texas swing rhythm with this snappy self-penned ode to life in the love lane. Another Jensen-written (co-write with Tia McGraff and Tommy Parnham) “Checotah Oklahoma” follows, leaning more on the baritone end of his range and with stark lyrics and an ominous drum pattern reminiscent of a Johnny Cash number.

Cinemascope Bill King

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Submitted by Sandy Graham

This multi-talented musician has done it again. He has managed to capture a feeling by his sincere and beautiful offering of music through his heart and soul of his piano. After the release of his last CD, “Gloryland”, this new CD takes a different direction in the mosaic of musical interests that capture Bill King’s creative inspiration. He is a very visual soul, and his photo postings with his camera show that side of his nature.

Screening great cinema is a matter of practice in his house. King has a great passion for foraging through specialty bins in off centre video outlets looking for that special gem. He also recently started posting rare vintage photographs of Hollywood and specifically the starlets of that era on his Facebook.

“My new CD “Cinemascope” arrives as my response to the world around me, much of it is shaped by film. The twelve compositions orchestrated for piano occur for various regions of the mind and soul, channeled through persons, places and celluloid time.”

KEN mode: Entrench

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Season of Mist

Ok crucifixion season is over but Entrench qualifies as a genuine resurrection. If you’ve never heard of this headbangin’ Winnipeg quintet, it’s easy to assume they’re a new thing you’ve missed. At once fiercely classic and stylishly modern, this collection doesn’t sound at all like a fifth album, which it is.

Something good happened between album #four and Entrench to Jesse Matthewson (guitars, vocals, bass, piano, microkorg), Shane Matthewson (drums) and Andrew LaCour (bass, vocals). In the decade since KEN mode’s been in the rock’n’roll game, they’ve made music that may have been a little too hemmed in by the Henry Rollins’ infamous “Kill Everyone Now” aesthetic. Dabbling as it does in prog rock, hardcore and sludge rock, Entrench is the sound of this band breaking free of its past.

Frontman Jesse Matthewson sounds restless and pissed off, tearing through rants against religion, middle-aged authority, staying wih the ideals and time’s erosion of the teen spirit. They’ve covered similar ground before but this time around the playing is on fire; sharp, searing guitar solos and a bruising rhythm section demand that hold your attention.

The Pope Knows – Carole Pope Live

Rough Trade.png

Submitted to Cashbox Canada

The Canadian icon, best known for her work with long time musical partner, Kevan Staples, in the band, Rough Trade during the late 70’s and into the mid 80’s, performed April 13 at The Brass Monkey in Ottawa, Ontario.

Carole was noted to be one of the first openly lesbian entertainers in the world to achieve mainstream fame.

Thirty some years later, Carole Pope who has maintained a lower profile career, still has the voice and charisma as she had back then. Opening up her set with the “All Touch/No Contact”, the type of song that brings you right back to her rockin’ concerts in the 80’s.

“High School Confidential” with its long lived popularity quickly brought people on to the dance floor. At the time of its release, “High School Confidential” was one of the most sexually explicit songs ever to reach the Canadian pop charts, and despite the sexual ambiguity, the first with such strong lesbian overtones. Other notable songs that were performed from the Rough Trade era were “Crimes of Passion” and “Weapons”.

Charles Bradley: Victim of Love

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Daptones

Two years ago, few had heard of Charles Bradley. In 2011, the veteran soul shouter made his presence known with the rousing breakout album No Time For Dreaming. That one was about getting Bradley’s considerable rep known. This one is more like the big man laying out the teaches of soul, touching all the classic soul and R&B compass points.

While there’s no denying his retro stylings, Charles being staunchly a man of his time, Bradley’s stepping off a little from the traditional crossroads. Getting with psychedelic funk on the muchly layered "Confusion", barbing the soul pop of “You Put the Flame on It” with vocal and guitar hooks, the latter echoing the stellar work of soul great Teenie Hodges, referencing Curtis Mayfield’s “Freddy’s Dead” in the enviromentally concerned “Hurricane”, Bradely is never less than totally in love with the material.

Not every song here is top-flight. While the music’s solid throughout, at times the lyrics don’t make the best fit and he suffers through a couple of awkward arrangements and a mix which tends to lean too much on the ‘screaming eagle of soul’ thang.

Given that, Bradley is that rare singer worth a listen no matter what he’s singing, we’ll take "Victim of Love" as is and say thank you Screaming Eagle.

Lenny Stoute

The Bicycles: Stop Thinking So Much

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Fuzzy Logic

This is the kiss and make up album we never thought we’d hear from The Bicycles. In 2009, the sunny side up pop band caused a stir when it abruptly called a time out and gave no sense of when, if ever, they would be back.

This one cranks up the emo factor by being not only a comeback album but also a reunion of the original five-piece lineup with the return of Randy Lee. As comeback albums go, it’s like they never left, mostly sticking to the give ‘em what they already like formula. What that is, is bright, upbeat, brisk positive pop. As such, it’s the first “summery” album so far.

More grown up and less precocious with the vocals, this is after all the work of a band which called its 2006 album The Good the Bad and the Cuddly, and such as “Bandana Cat”, “Nap Trap,” and “Goldeneye” don’t stray too far from that place.

With four members taking on songwriting and singing roles, there’s a fair amount of variety within The Bicycles self-imposed parameters. The trio of  “Bouncin’ Off the Bay,” “The Sun Don’t Wanna Shine” and  album opener “Appalachian Mountain Station” put interesting tweaks on the feel good endless summer vibe.

In keeeping with their stated aesthetic, The Bicycles roll through 12 songs in just a shade over 30 minutes, leaving big goofy grins in their wake.

Lenny Stoute

The Matinee: We Swore We’d See the Sunrise

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Light Organ

Album number three from this Vancouver roots-rockin’ quintet offers up more of the same and better. It bears the stamp of a ‘breakout’ album, utilising loads of studio time and two producers to showcase what the dudes do best; guitar powered, harmony heavy, very accessible no-frills roots-rock, with the requisite dashes of Americana.

The song narratives hold up for the most part, being as they’re essentially tales of the road life. The album title references a line in the song “L’Absinthe.”, a true life account of one night of surreal craziness in Quebec, as is the claim for first single “Young & Lazy.” That one’s interesting in that it’s the most pop inflected tune here but not the only one. Not surprising as pop will still get ya more radio time than rootsy stuff.

Another signifier of the group’s commercial ambition is roots Americana icon Steve Berlin, who knows how to get acts as diverse as REM and Los Lobos airtime. The seven Berlin-produced soings layout sparkling guitar passes against swampy backbeats courtesy of bassist Mike Young, who shines like a Southern fried diamond on “Sweetwater” and “Let Her Go”. The lilting ballad “December Slumber” packs textural heft courtesy of tasty pedal steel passages.

The fretwork feaks get theirs via sparkling and inventive work from axeman Matt Rose, especially on “Long Way Home”, “This Town.” and the house shaking “The Road” Ditto for admirers of vocalist/lyricist Matt Layzell , here tempering the barroom yowl with melodic warmth and a willingness to step outside the lines.

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