All right, so here’s the pitch to anyone who was tuned in to modern rock when the scene first started coming together (that would be the late ’80s, in case you weren’t sure): “Cassette 2012,” the new single by Finnish quartet Delay Trees, is the best song the Ocean Blue never wrote.
And now, lets put that into context for anyone who was born after 1982.
The Ocean Blue were a alt-pop band out of Hershey, Penn. They released their debut album in late 1989 on Sire Records — back when, you know, the label you signed to made a very clear statement about what kind of band you were — and they quickly became darlings of MTV’s late-night modern rock show “120 Minutes.” Their songs were dreamy, jangly, and melodic beyond words. Singer David Schelzel’s low tenor was quite airy (possibly a precursor to the breathy Manchester bands a year or so later), and the musicianship was tight. Their self-titled first record remains a late ’80s alt-rock gem.
And “Cassette 2012” sounds just like that album.
The rest of their self-titled debut isn’t quite the dead ringer for the Ocean Blue, but it’s in the ballpark. Atmospheric arrangements, songs steeped in melody…it’s damn good. It doesn’t stand a chance of storming the charts on this side of the pond, but ten bucks says this will make a few soundtrack supervisors very, very happy.
God love the Republic Tigers. Their insanely melodic, mid-tempo pop is delightfully out of time, but not in a ‘let’s cash in on this retro thing’ kind of way. Think of them as a moder-day equivalent of a band like Bourgeois Tagg – thinking man’s pop for teenagers. Is that the next niche market?
Sadly, probably not, which is why we love the Tigers for doing it anyway. Their 2008 album Keep Color still receives steady airplay on the iPod, and their new EP, No Man’s Land, is more of the same, including a revved-up version of Keep Color track “The Nerve.” Check out this new song, “Merrymake It with Me,” which we’re convinced is a tip of the hat to Swedish power popsters the Merrymakers. Well, the title is. The song, not so much.
New album coming out later this year. Hopefully this will tide you over until then.
This Irish dance-rock trio is fast climbing our list of favorite bands. The song “How Your Heart Is Wired,” from their 2009 album Blue Lights on the Runway, was in power rotation at BE headquarters, so when their new album Bloodless Coup arrived in the mail, we popped that puppy right in the player. Before “Sugar High” was even over, it was our favorite song on the album.
Man, is it nice to hear two chords used so effectively. Brevity is indeed the soul of wit, and this song keeps it simple in all the best ways. Well done, lads.
When a lone member of a band continues to tour under the name that made him famous, it’s usually a sad sight. Infighting has led to acrimony, lawsuits and injunctions are filed, and worst of all, the last person standing, most likely the lead singer, is too proud to admit that maybe their songs and their singing or playing ability have just not held up well, and it’s time to pack it in.
Then there’s Dave Wakeling.
Wakeling is the leader of ska pop giants the English Beat, and rather than get into legal dust-ups with his former band mates, he and fellow singer Ranking Roger have worked out a deal where Wakeling tours as the Beat in the United States, while Roger, along with original Beat drummer Everett Morton, tours as the Beat in the band’s native England. Everybody makes money, everybody’s happy. How refreshing. Even better, Wakeling is not content to waltz into the sunset – the band he hired to round out the US version of the English beat are smoking hot, and the two-hour show they unleashed on the ecstatic audience at Skully’s Music Diner was a textbook lesson on how to do a so-called nostalgia show.
We use that word ‘nostalgia’ reluctantly, but it must be said. Wakeling loathes the recording studio – his direct quote to us, when we interviewed Wakeling in 2009, was “I think the process of recording 12 songs in a row, at the same time, I used to find it interminably boring. I hated it. You know, you just listen to your own songs for three months, good God” – and hasn’t released anything new under any name since 1995. Not surprisingly, the evening’s set list contained the lion’s share of the Beat’s debut album, I Just Can’t Stop It, with a few songs from Special Beat Service and Wakeling’s spinoff band General Public mixed in (“Never You Done That” was a most welcome surprise), and by sticking with their best-known songs, Wakeling and crew had a mostly 40+ crowd dancing nonstop for two straight hours, which is no small feat. Wakeling’s between-song banter is lightning quick and often hilarious, and his band, anchored by terrific drummer Rhythmm Epkins, were super-tight, with several songs stretched well past their album running times.
There are only eight dates left on the English Beat’s current US tour. If they’re playing in your town, or even within 50 miles of your town, go. The live show is sensational and the tickets are cheap, plus they still have the coolest t-shirts of any band alive.
Forgive the decision to use first person for this one, but the editorial ‘we’ just doesn’t apply here.
I am not one for acoustic shows. Whenever I see a guy with an acoustic guitar anymore, I want to pull a Bluto and smash it to bits. This from a guy who did an acoustic gig with his brother the weekend of his wedding. I blame Jack Johnson, really. That whole surfer/hippie scratcha scratcha scratcha thing just bores me. Long story short, when I saw that my beloved Trashcan Sinatras were coming to Dayton to play the Canal Street Tavern, I was in. When I saw it was an acoustic show, I was slightly less in.
Boy, did they show me. Breaking the evening into two sets, and playing requests submitted in advance online by their fans, the Trashcans positively soared. The harmony vocals by the Douglas brothers (Jon on guitar, Stephen on drums) stood out much better in the acoustic setting, and the band shrewdly mixed in a few electric instruments to give the overall sound a little more thump. Smart move, that.
The set list was divine, showcasing each of the band’s five albums relatively equally. From what my friends who saw them in Cleveland said, though, they’re shaking up the set list drastically each night, so you might hear six of the songs they played here. The main focus, of course, was on In the Music, the band’s newest album, from which they played six of the album’s 10 tracks. Guitarist Paul Livingston sat in the back on a chair, staring at his (electric) guitar as if there wasn’t anyone else in the room (think Johnny Greenwood, without the floppy hair), while drummer Stephen Douglas had the coolest “acoustic” drum setup you’ve ever seen. The kick drum was digital, just a pedal with a pre-amp that gave extra impact to the various shakers, bongos, triangles and snare hits (brushes, of course) that he mixed in. Also, he had a tambourine on his left foot. Very cute.
The star of the show, though, was lead singer Frank Reader, whose voice sounds just as pure as it did when the band dropped their debut Cake in 1990. And speaking of Cake, what a nice surprise to hear the band break out not just “Obscurity Knocks” and “Only Tongue Can Tell,” the album’s two singles, but also “Drunken Chorus,” A B-side from the Cake years. The most pleasant surprise, however, was the inclusion of three songs from the band’s rare 1996 album A Happy Pocket (which goes for upwards of 50 bucks on Amazon), finishing the evening with a rousing version of “The Therapist.”
You have to hand it to bands like the Trashcans. The new album isn’t selling because no one buys records anymore (though I saw them sell a few copies at the show), and the tickets were cheap ($12, holler), so they’re probably not making much on those. I hope they’re shifting a lot of merchandise – they were selling flash drives containing the evening’s performance shortly after the show – because it would be a shame to see a band like this pack it in due to financial constraints, especially when they have proven time and again that they still have so much to offer. There are only a few dates left on the tour, so if you live in any of the following cities, go. You shannae regret it.
March 24 St. Louis, Mo Firebird (acoustic)
March 26 Minneapolis, Mn Cedar Cultural Center
March 27 Kansas City, Mo Knuckleheads (acoustic)
March 28 Denver, Co The Walnut Room (acoustic)
March 29 Salt Lake City, Ut The State Room (acoustic)
March 31 Los Angeles, Ca The Bootleg Theater (acoustic)