Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s: Buzzard


RIYL: Aqualung, Nada Surf, Rogue Wave

It’s interesting to note or see when a band loses its record deal or exits from a major label on its own, and what happens afterward. Many times the band breaks up and goes their separate ways, but these days that’s just the beginning for some artists; with Chicago-based band Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s being one such act. Their previous albums – The Dust of Retreat (Artemis, 2005) and Animal (as well as Not Animal – Epic, 2008) – were similarly lush and brooding with lots of orchestration. But now back to being fully indie, singer/songwriter/guitarist Richard Edwards took six months off before gathering the rest of the band to record again, and the result is the beautifully haunting Buzzard. These songs can maybe best be described as raunchy Halloween-inspired stoner rock, with melodies. The strings are gone and the crunching Fender guitar sound is prominent. There are moments, of course, when Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s reaches back a couple of years and delivers some similar material, particularly on “Tiny Vampire Robot” and the beautifully acoustic “I Do.” But the raunch is in full bloom on “Let’s Paint Our Teeth Green” and “New York City Hotel Blues,” as well as the album’s best track, “Freak Flight Speed.” Oh, and there is also “Your Lower Back,” a somewhat playful nod to a young stripper. Not only does Buzzard have the type of music you might hear in the hip indie record store, it’s maybe Margot’s best album yet – and perhaps the one they’ve wanted to make all along. (Mariel/Redeye 2010)

Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s MySpace page

  

Hey Champ: Star


RIYL: Daft Punk’s “Aerodynamic,” The Buggles, Bourgeois Tagg

There aren’t many bands that can speak to fans of Alphaville, Yes, Bourgeois Tagg and Tangerine Dream, yet there but for the grace of God go Chicago trio Hey Champ. Armed with only a guitar, a drum set and a couple of vintage keyboards, Hey Champ’s debut album Star is a strange blend of synth pop, rock and jazzy prog, and while that might sound like a band in the midst of an identity crisis, Hey Champ combines these elements quite meticulously.

Hey_Champ_01

The beauty of melding such disparate influences is that it yields a variety of sounds. “Word=War” channels Death Cab for Cutie at their most anthemic (much of that due to singer Saam Hagshenas’ uncanny impression of Ben Gibbard, thankfully relegated to this one song), while “Shake” blends New Order guitar lines with keyboard riffs that could have come from a Saga record. Some of their chord sequences are of the borrowed variety – the chorus to “So American” is not far removed from “Comfortably Numb,” and the end of the great “Steampunk Camelot” bears resemblance to Europe’s “The Final Countdown,” minus the pomposity – but these guys aren’t thieves; they’re musicologists, and Star is the work of one wildly diverse record collection. One of the smarter synth pop records you’ll hear this year, or any other. (Townie Records 2010)

Hey Champ MySpace page
Click to buy Star from Amazon

  

Company of Thieves: Ordinary Riches

If Edie Brickell was a little more of a rocker – and had a strong literary fetish – she might sound like Genevieve Schatz, lead singer of Chicago’s Company of Thieves. By dint of steady touring and strong Windy City support, the band managed to turn its 2007 debut, Ordinary Riches, into a DIY success – one which Wind-Up is now seeking to take national with its licensing deal for the record, a deal that includes heavy promotion on iTunes and the talk show circuit, as well as a string of dates opening for labelmates Thriving Ivory. Whether the big push is a result of the label’s belief in the band or simply a function of a typically weak first-quarter release schedule, it’s still a remarkably lucky break for Company of Thieves; the band’s music is enjoyable enough, but nowhere near as colorful as you might expect, given their penchant for quoting Oscar Wilde. Ordinary Riches contains elements of rock, blues, and folk, but major chunks of the record sound like nothing so much as a band marking time until a musical identity drops in its lap. Given enough opportunities, they may actually find one – songs like the closer, “Under the Umbrella,” hint at a sound that could rebuild the bridge between old-school AOR and Top 40 – but in the meantime, this is a fairly Ordinary debut. (Wind-Up 2009)

Company of Thieves MySpace page

  

I love you so much, I hate myself: Songs that bare their souls…and freak us out

Songs that bare their souls and freak us out

Most men hate Valentine’s Day, but we at Bullz-Eye actually love it, though for different reasons than you might suspect. The majority of us are either happily married or in long-term relationships (except for our fearless, terminally single leader), so Valentine’s Day is a sweet reminder of how happy we are that we’re no longer playing the dating game. (It’s fun when you’re young, guys, but trust us, you won’t miss it.) But the real reason we love Valentine’s Day is because it gives us an opportunity to make fun of songs that pretend to be heartfelt, but are really just sad. And we don’t mean “Brian’s Song” sad. We mean Milhouse Van Houten sad.

It all started with a Coldplay song. As we’re tapping along with the drums, we put the lyrics under a microscope and thought, “Did he really just say that? That’s pathetic!” From there, we began analyzing other songs that appeared to be sweet, honest confessions of love on the surface, but were just sorry cries for help in disguise or, worse, disturbing preludes to what a defense attorney would call “crimes of passion.”

We have broken our subjects down into three categories: stalker anthems, love songs for the spineless, and murder ballads, the last of which are mostly minus the ballad. Our research uncovered dozens upon dozens of songs that fit one bill or another, but for the sake of time and space, we’re whittling the list down to our favorites (all apologies to Elton John’s “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word”). And, as a public service, we have provided musical antidotes for every song we dissect, in case anyone is overwhelmed with a case of the willies. Perhaps the most disturbing thing we uncovered is that one of the more sinister repeat offenders was…Barenaked Ladies? You better believe it.

Now I’m following you: Songs that profess a more “dedicated” kind of love
There are certain songs that love you. Like, really, really love you. Wait for you at the elevator love you. Watch through your window as you sleep love you. Whether you love them back is irrelevant – you were made for them, and it’s only a matter of time before you accept this to be true.

Song/Artist: “It’s No Good,” Depeche Mode
Incriminating Lyric: “The gods decree, you’ll be right here by my side / Right next to me / You can run but you cannot hide.”
Creep Factor: Low. Dave Gahan ranks just behind Jarvis Cocker on the list of least intimidating rock stars.
Musical Antidote: “You’re No Good,” Linda Ronstadt

Song/Artist: “Number One Crush,” Garbage
Incriminating Lyric: “You will believe in me / And I will never be ignored.”
Creep Factor: Admittedly, the lyric sheet reads like a diary entry written by Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction,” but if you have a thing for sulky redheads in raccoon eye makeup – as many of us clearly did in the ’90s – the song is really sort of adorable.
Musical Antidote: “Puppy Love,” Paul Anka

Song/Artist: “Obsession,” Animotion
Incriminating Lyric: “I will have you, yes I will have you / I will find a way, and I will have you / Like a butterfly, a wild butterfly / I will collect you and capture you.”
Creep Factor: Too turned on to be creeped out. Keep in mind that one of the next lines is “Who do you want me to be to make you sleep with me?” so if we’re just talking about casual sex, wouldn’t you rather it be with someone who’s a little nuts and willing to role play? You bet your ass you would.
Musical Antidote: “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off,” Jermaine Stewart

Song/Artist: “I Will Possess Your Heart,” Death Cab for Cutie
Incriminating Lyric: “You reject my advances and desperate pleas / I won’t let you let me down so easily.”
Creep Factor: Holy shit. Most of the time, Ben Gibbard sounds like a harmless nerd, but with this song, he let us know that he’s just as capable of making us wonder if we should call the cops.
Musical Antidote: “Let’s Be Friends,” New Edition

To read the rest of Songs That Bare Their Souls and Freak Us Out, click here.

  

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