Local Yodels

A sampling of new sounds from around town.

The mountain of local releases that needs reviewing is slightly diminished after last week's column. But continuing the quest to cover all things local, here's another smattering.

Brethren Fast visits and revisits themes of gear revvin', truck lovin' and beer swillin' on 500 Laps of Beer Drinkin' Fun, the band's third CD. But that doesn't mean the music on this fourteen-song disc is limited to the roots or rockabilly sound often associated with the brothers Messina, guitarist/vocalist Don and bassist Mik. In fact, the styles here sample everything from jazz and subtle ska to good old-fashioned greaser rock; "Greaseball Creeper [225K aiff]," complete with a bass line that's bona fide funk, is a good example of the band's ability to fuse all of the above. "77 Toranado" finds Don mating a roving, Deadbolt-esque narrative with just enough wah-wah to keep things rocking, while the undeniably funky "Krazy Fingers [173K aiff]" is a jamming, jazzy instrumental featuring Jeremy "Krazy Fingers" Lawton deftly going to work on what sounds like a Hammond B-3 organ. A song Don apparently wrote about his favorite Harley, "Hammer Down," is another highlight track, with its pseudo-Southern-rock sound and lyrics that could easily be about a woman and not a bike: "She looks so beautiful...She's the finest little hightail that I've ever seen." "Hey Girl," a song with lyrics penned by the brother's mother, Avril, is a traditional country ditty complete with Lawton's saloon-style piano playing; the result is likely to make listeners want to vacate their bar stools and grab a two-step partner. Less interesting moments are found on "Hot Toddy," which, strangely, has a sentimental, almost Hootie-like chorus, and "Squash That Bug," which, though probably fun in a live setting, sounds formulaic when compared with the more creative, genre-hopping tunes on the recording. Generally, though, 500 Laps is a clean, full-sounding release that mirrors the band's general approach to its live shows. They may be caricatures of themselves in slicked-back hair and matching jumpsuits, and they may tell you it's all about having a good time, but they'll make sure the music sounds good in the meantime. (Available at area record stores or by writing P.O. Box 19922, Boulder, CO 80308-2922.)

Who's Bambi,the debut from Boulder-based Bambi's Apartment, contains the kind of music you might expect to hear on a CU admissions recruitment video. The band's harmonic, melodic songs would fit in perfectly amid images of snow-capped mountains, cute little squirrels and historic campus buildings. Throughout the ten tracks, Who's Bambi?has an unmistakable Colorado sound. This is quintessential high-elevation rock: nature-core, if you will. What's refreshing about this kind of music is its unabashed sincerity, its willingness to broach themes routinely eschewed by its more cynical, irony-driven local counterparts. Some bands do it well, others not so well. Bambi's Apartment, for the most part, succeeds. So when guitarist/vocalist Jonathan Tiersten asks in a strong, wide-open voice, "If the world is just a blue marble/Why am I trapped in the glass?" on "M.O.M. (My Old Man)," it sounds as if the young man is truly troubled by the question. Tiersten shares vocal duty with fellow guitarist Micah Stone -- whose voice is tinged with Cat Stevens affectations -- and the contrast between the two creates some interesting harmonic tapestries, particularly on the slow-tempo "Black Rain" and "Devil," where they repeatedly proclaim, chant-like, "I feel like a devil with a conscience." The music throughout brims with distinct Dave Matthews undertones (particularly in the guitar parts on "Dog," the opening track), partly because of bassist Darren Roebuck's occasional mandolin fills and Scott Perrie's sax and piano work. It's clear why this band is a staple of Boulder's live music scene: This is music fit for sippin' lattes, smokin' cloves (or other choice herbs) and doing that curious little spinning dance so familiar from Dead shows of days gone by. (Available at Boulder area music stores, by calling 1-888-563-7474, or via www.bambisapartment.com. Bambi's Apartment will perform at Nick's in Boulder on October 30 and 31.)

Befuddled, by Denver's Big Jim Slade, ain't even close to hippie music. The members of this three-piece are clearly more interested in straightforward rockin' -- from the bubbly blues guitar of "Confession" to "Quite So Lonely," which finds the band imitating Pearl Jam imitating Neil Young. Things take a turn for the heavy on "Homegrown," which, against a cushy bed of fat guitar riffs, actually sounds a bit like Soundgardenaping Black Sabbath. Despite its obvious derivations, though, the song is undeniably, darkly good. The band navigates more original ground on "Ragman," in which vocalist Slaus Brown-Paul broaches themes of homelessness and police abuse with lyrics like "Cops on the corner/Bring their own law...Have a brown paper breakfast/ Take a newspaper nap." Social topicalism continues on "Wrong," the final track, in which Brown-Paul mimics John Lennon's rant in "Give Peace a Chance" with the stream-of-consciousness lyric "Mass pollution evolution prostitution degradation masturbation copulation, there's so much wrong in your world." (As if there's something wrong with allof those things?) Big Jim Slade isn't smashing holes in any rock conventions on this release, but when the band does venture from too-familiar territory, its members show promise as both songwriters and performers. (3BI Records, P.O. Box 100783, Denver, CO 80250.)

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