Music Review: AMERICAN MADE – Against The Flow

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Music Review_ AMERICAN MADE - Against The FlowAMERICAN MADE
Against The Flow
KMG Records
1999

The thing is, I know for certain I’ve already listened to and reviewed this particular album years ago. One could say, over a decade ago. Back when I was maintaining a LiveJournal (before the site decided to make us all sit through a pointless ad before allowing us to make our posts, which is one of the reasons why you’re not reading this on LiveJournal now), I remember picking up a cheap copy of Against The Flow from the late and lamented RadRockers store I would frequent back in the day, along with its follow-up Red (the review of which I managed to retain, for some reason), listening to them both a couple of times, then popped out a review for each and called it a day on American Made. But now, here we are, having the archives of my reviews over the decade been moved over to this biggity-blog for now, I seem to have misplaced the original review for Against The Flow. And since my odd bit of OCD won’t allow that oversight to continue on, I found myself having to once again listen to that album and write a new review, as the original has been lost forever. And let me tell you, that was something I was not looking forward to.

This time around, though, in the interest of providing a bit of back story to the item I’m about to, for lack of a better word, review, American Made has its roots in that tried and true way that many a band have come to be: the key members all met at a Christian summer camp. Two brothers who were into hardcore punk and a hip-hop enthusiast, for whatever reason, decided to start jamming together and blending the two styles, essentially throwing genres together at a wall and seeing what sticks. They found they gelled together enough to begin performing together (along with a bass player) under the name Against The Flow, but then changed their name to American Made, and recorded their first album which they titled Against The Flow (see what they did, there?), which was released as the first original recording on the KMG Records label.

You may have detected a less-than-enthusiastic vibe with my review so far. That’s because I’m still rather sore at spending $2 for a copy of Against The Flow, money that could have gone to a couple of tacos from Taco Bell. And in case you’re wondering, no. I am not letting the fact that I had to re-listen to the album color my review of it. I am nothing if not professional in my amateur pursuits as an online pseudo-journalist, after all.

The music on Against The Flow can be described as 2/3rds Pop Punk, and 1/3rd Miscellaneous. Keeping in mind that the popularity of Pop Punk (or “Mall Punk”, whatever you wanna call it) was beginning to wane a bit by the time Against The Flow was released, this is nevertheless full of the that style of music, with the tracks. However, when it comes to the “Miscellaneous” part of the songs, that’s where I found the band actually sounding rather decent. Not that I have anything against Pop Punk in general; it’s just that the band here has demonstrated a versatility that went beyond just the sum of their genre pigeonholing. Like on “Kick It”, they have a classic Suicidal Tendencies vibe which I rather enjoyed. “Against The Flow” has a 311/Sublime style, heavy melded with a hip-hop rhythm which is decent. The one titled “Rap Interlude” is just that, featuring an acoustic guitar and rhyming that I rather dug. “Nate” is a good heavy rap/rock song, and “How We Roll” was atmospheric with a nice Middle Eastern vibe with some more rap/rock styling. I should point out that “Enough Is Enough”, while falling into the Pop Punk style, has a darker feel than the other happy-go-peppy stuff that’s standard, so that one is a definite stand-out itself.

Overall, having given this another listen after all of these years, I do admit that there are more bright spots on here than initially back when I originally did the first review. It does have some good production, and as I mentioned their best bits were when they were going beyond the regular Pop Punk style. However, there’s more Pop Punk here than otherwise. And the Otherwise stuff isn’t really my style overall. But, I’m just a grizzled old \,,/METALHEAD\,,/ who happens to dabble a bit with other genres. I like what I like, I’m saying. And I’m still “meh” about Against The Flow, but not as vehemently as I was over 15 years ago when I first listened to it.

NECRO SHOCK RADIO – Session 3.24

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NSR LOGO

SESSION 3.24

featuring cuts from: ABDIJAH, ADVOCATE, CRASHDOG, CRIMSON THORN, FINAL VORTEX, GRAND LUX, GRAVE ROBBER, GROMS, HORDE, JAGGED DOCTRINE, LUST CONTROL, MAUGRIM, The MOSHKETEERS, POEMS OF SHADOWS, PROJECT 86, and SCATERD-FEW…

::END TRANSMISSION::

Music Review: WISH FOR EDEN – Pet The Fish

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wish for eden - pet the fish
WISH FOR EDEN
Pet The Fish
Tooth & Nail
1993

Wish For Eden’s Pet The Fish was the first release the fledgling Seattle label Tooth & Nail released in 1993. a fairly solid release, but I admit I have a bit of trouble trying to label the sound (or was that the point?). Too heavy to be considered alternative, not chaotic enough to be considered hardcore, and not whiny enough to be considered emo. Whatever you call it, the CD’s full of basic three-chord guitar power riffing and plodding rhythms, with virtually nothing in the way of soloing. The same formula is used on almost every song, so much so that after the second or third track I started getting bored with the sheer repetition of the music. Lyrically, Wish For Eden does a little soul searching, a more reflective approach on songs like “Questions”, “Don’t Know”, “Fly” and “Blood”. In the end, I’ll refer to Wish For Eden as hardcore-lite. You get all the intensity with only half of the headache (and none of the talent). With the afore-mentioned repetition of the music on Pet The Fish, I only listen to this but once in a great while…

Music Review: LSU – Live At Cornerstone vol. 1

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LSU - Live At Cornerstone Volume 1

L. S. U.
Live At Cornerstone volume 1
Millennium Eight
2000

I was in grade school during the first part of the 1980s, and whenever my class put on a recital, my parents would always record the audio of our performances on a portable mono cassette recorder–probably with the word Radio Shack proudly emblazoned somewhere on there–with one of those budget quality recordable cassettes they had back then. On the drive back home, they would play it back on that portable cassette player, and the playback was…well, passable. They captured their progeny‚Äôs performance–usually indistinguishable with all the other kids singing whatever Top 40 song we were butchering at the time–and that was all that mattered. Not the quality of the recording. Which may or may not have contributed to me being the audiophile that I am.

And the point of that little trip down Live-Or-Memorex Lane having to do with this particular review is thus: The sound quality on the Live At Cornerstone Volume 1 release by Millennium Eight is maybe slightly better than those recordings my parents made back then. It may have to do with the quality of the cassette used in what I can only presume was a Talkboy or something similar that recorded these shows at the Cornerstone festivals in 1991 and 1993. Cassette recording tape quality had advanced pretty far then, as I was heavily into the whole tape mixing hobby at the time. I really do think that Millennium Eight just took a couple of bootleg tapes of LSU shows at Cornerstone and slapped them together on a CD to sell. And considering the quality of their re-releases in the past, I have doubts that anyone did any kind of mastering of the tracks.

Which is a pity, because those shows, for all intents and purposes, sounded like they were awesome to behold. I obviously didn’t discover LSU, Mike Knott or any of his other projects until much later in the 1990s, which meant I missed out on LSU’s heyday. These shows cobbled together unique performances of songs culling from their catalogue leading up to The Grape Prophet. Live At Cornerstone Volume 1 could have been a great presentation of a moment caught in time, a beautifully unique and raw performance of a band that will never be experienced in that situation again…but due to the sound quality being tolerable at best, it falls flat right out of the gate. Yet another example of M8’s track record of great ideas with little follow-through. Pass.

Music Review: DANIEL AMOS – Motorcycle

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daniel amos - motorcycle
DANIEL AMOS
MotorCycle
BAI
1993

Daniel Amos is one of the more legendary names in Christian alternative rock. They’ve been around since the 1970s, and have released some very influential albums in the 1980s and into the 1990s, being on the forefront of the Christian Alternative music scenes, pushing and challenging boundaries with their well-produced and diverse musical compositions and cerebrally well-crafted lyrics.

MotorCycle (I can’t tell if it’s supposed to be “Motorcycle” or “Motor Cycle”; there’s different claims, and so I just decided to go with MotorCycle, seems like a nice middle ground) was released in 1993, on the Brainstorm Artists, Intl’ label. It was their twelfth studio album, and marked the return of longtime guitarist Jerry Chamberlain, who departed in 1983. The release itself is a lush-sounding retro-psychedelic alternative pop rock recording that essentially sounds like you’re lying on a grassy hill, watching the sky melt into a surreal landscape. MotorCycle is very haunting, both in the instrumentation and the lyrics of the music, and the only apt comparison I can find is with the Beatles in their later part of their career. Admittedly, I found this rather appealing as late-night chill-out music, when I’m in that kind of mood.

Very well-produced, very well-played, overall a quality album to be sure. Not exactly a style I listen to a whole lot, but this would definitely be something fans of Oasis and The Choir would get into.

Music Review: CHAGALL GUEVARA – Chagall Guevara

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chagall guevara
CHAGALL GUEVARA
Chagall Guevara
MCA Records
1991

In the late 80s, early 90s thereabouts, there were some CCM artists of note that got together and formed something of an alternative rock group. Two of those noted artists were guitarist singer/songwriter Dave Perkins, and singer/lyrical genius Steve Taylor. They dubbed themselves Chagall Guevara, taken from the names of a noted artist and a revolutionary; the connotation, perhaps, to indicate that the band meant to make revolutionary art with their music. Or something. Anyhoo, they got signed to the MCA label, contributed a song to the Pump Up The Volume soundtrack, and released their debut CD to much critical acclaim. Sales were poor, however, and as quickly as they ‘sploded on the alt rock scene, they called it quits. And thus ends this brief history lesson…

This CD was an interesting find. I’m a big Steve Taylor fan, and after learning about this band he was involved in (and liking a couple of their songs featured on Taylor’s boxed set) I set out to find the disc. Trouble was, even only four years after the initial release, the disc was out of print, and I only knew of one person who had a copy. Remember, this was the time before the advent of eBay. Or affordable internet. Yeah, hard to believe there was a time. I did manage to finagle a CD-R copy from another friend about 10 years later, as I didn’t really want to pay the upwards of $30-$50 a lot of sites were asking for used copies. But I digress…

I would say, if you’re a fan of well-played, imaginative, well-produced and versatile alternative rock with intelligent lyrics and a sense of ironic whimsical satire, then you owe yourself to pick up a copy of this disc. The music gels really well, making you want to chew on it for days. Chagall Guevara truly is a group effort, and not just Steve Taylor and a bunch of guys. My favorite cuts here are “Murder In The Big House”, “Violent Blue”, “Monkey Grinder” and “Play God”, but the entire disc is solid straight through. Pity this gem was overshadowed by Nirvana and Pearl Jam at the time…

Music Review: STEVE TAYLOR – Liver

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Steve Taylor - Liver
STEVE TAYLOR
Liver
Warner Bros.
1995

Steve Taylor’s final release (thus far; I still hold onto empty hope that he’ll do at least one more) was this live-in-concert album recorded during his Squinternational tour. This, I lament, is the only way I can experience a live Steve Taylor show. Well, there’s also Limelight, but that’s New Wave Taylor, whereas Liver is alternative retro rock Steve Taylor.

After a collage of cities mentioned on the tour stops (listen closely – Kearney, NE is mentioned), the CD kicks into a veritable Greatest Hits Live, starting with “Jim Morrison’s Grave”. After one of my favorite cuts from the Squint album, “The Lament Of Desmond R. G. Underwood-Fredrick IV”, a cover of Dig Hay Zoose’s cover of his classic “I Want To Be A Clone” follows, along with the Chagall Guevara tune “Escher’s World”, probably my least favorite song on the list.

What makes Liver a great live CD is that, not only does it have a good production while not coming off as “touched up”, is that the favorites aren’t just reproduced exactly like on the album versions. Most of that does have to do with the different music style Steve was doing at the time, but the modern take on songs like “On The Fritz”, “Hero” and the afore-mentioned “I Want To Be A Clone” are great, guitar-driven modern rock versions of New Wave classics. Of course, the Squint songs are cool as well, and I like the juxtaposition of preforming both “Jesus Is For Losers” and “The Finish Line” together, like on the studio album. They compliment each other perfectly. And then the whole thing ends on “Violent Blue” and then a fire drill. Seriously.

Personally, this thing is too short. Only ten tracks? I can’t be the only fanboy who thinks he could have released a double album chock full of his songs performed live, with more of his classics given that modern rock makeover, and perhaps more cuts from Squint (why he didn’t lead off with “The Moshing Floor” is confounding, but that’s just me), and none of us would have batted an eye. As it stands, Liver is a very good live CD, capturing Steve Taylor at his best methinks. Got this when it came out, but like his other releases, it’s been out of print for a while. I believe I caught wind that his catalog is available on iTunes; but, since I avoid getting my music from that site, I still scope out other outlets online. Eh, if you can find this, I highly recommend buying this.

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