More Local Color
This week, Backbeat writers clear out their N-Z files and assess a batch of new releases from area artists. See the August 8 "Local Color" for reviews of acts in the A-M group.
O'er the Ramparts
Waves of Static
The Ramparts should have cleaned a bit of lint out of the 23 tracks on Waves of Static -- uneven in spots, it's effectively raw in others. Still, the album does capture the band at its noise-rocking best (particularly on "Find It, Keep It" and "Kick Outta You"), as the players gamely dispense their fair share of punk fury with rare regard for melody or subtlety. (Contact Simian Press, firstname.lastname@example.org.) -- Eric Peterson
Introducing the Simian Sounds of...
The de facto local soundtrack for a Pabst-drenched toga party, this debut from the 'Tones offers up mostly original frat rock, interspersing the retro-new with underplayed gems by the Isley Brothers and other pre-British Invasion artists. The disc proves that you don't need a wall of noise to rock, and, with no fewer than five monkey-themed tunes, it'll rouse the party primate in even the evolutionary upper crust. (Released by Wormtone Records; contact 3837 King Street, Denver, CO 80211, www.theorangu-tones.com.) -- Peterson
Naysayers and Yesmen
Sometimes there's not much to say about an album other than that it rocks -- which, sometimes, is the only thing that really matters. Sure, the pop/punk constructions and three-chord progressions are as familiar as the faux-British snarl in lead singer Brent Loveday's voice. The lyrics are basic and sometimes banal. Who cares? Reno Divorce wants its audience to have a good time, not a revelation. Recorded at 8 Houses Down and mixed at the Blasting Room, Naysayers and Yesmen was handled by people who know how to give punk its punch. As a result, these little monsters recall Social Distortion's sass and Bad Religion's ballsier days. (Contact P.O. Box 181236, Denver, CO 80218, www.renodivorceonline.com.) -- Laura Bond
Reverend Leon's Revival
Reverend Leon's Revival
Shunning rock and roll in favor of gospel and soul, the Revival's hair-raising hymns and redemptive raveups of sin and salvation are a godsend to a Denver roots scene in need of a shakeup. The fire-in-the-belly inspiration on this six-song EP comes from real-life pulpit-pounder Paul Ramsey -- who founded the band, wrote most of the songs and, recently, split. The remaining members are now sorting through a unique version of a church scandal. -- Patrick Casey
River opens with guitarist/vocalist Joel Van Horne's hippie scatting, a nonsensical journey up and down the scale that pretty much sets the tone for the entire album. This jammy, bass-heavy, ten-song collection is full of quick-time funkatribes designed to get the Heads dancing and shaking their fists at the Man. Led by the confident, competent Van Horne, the four-piece band is well-equipped to do just that; these fine, well-trained players like to strut their stuff. Wailing saxes, stop-start percussion and lively arrangements on songs like "Rina Gina" recall Maceo, Karl and, of course, Jerry's many illegitimate kids. But the influences are overwhelming, and there's little to indicate which way this particular River is flowing. (Write 9180 West 7th Place, Lakewood, CO 80215.) -- Bond
Pieces of a Man
Although the music made by Spanish Kid -- a Latino MC from Colorado Springs -- is about the farthest thing imaginable from church fare, the young rapper does share some common ground with his Focus on the Family neighbors. Pieces of a Man is an imaginatively produced, fifteen-song homage to the big homie in the sky. (The opening track, "Adrenaline," features the straightforward refrain "I cannot help it/the Lord makes me happy.") Yet this isn't sugarcoated, feel-good stuff: Spanish Kid's hip-hop leans toward the East, with Philly-style neo-soul vocal refrains and dark, urban grooves that bump throughout. Funky and fierce, Pieces of a Man might boost your faith in regional rap. (Released by Divine Flava Records, 605 Bunting Street, Fountain, CO 80817, email@example.com.) -- Bond
Maybe you've seen Orlando Terrell around town, strolling down Colfax with his kids in hand and an enormous Casio on his shoulder. Terrell's grainy, murky, homemade R&B compositions truly defy logic, concurrently calling to mind Prince's synthetic slow jams, Can's cut-and-paste dadaism and the unwitting genius and purity of the Shaggs. This is not novelty. It's a funky and confounding document of a true auto-surrealist auteur. (Available at Wax Trax.) -- Heller
Three Degrees of Freedom
Three Degrees of Freedom
Although Three Degrees of Freedom is often characterized as a jam band, there's a clarity in its songwriting that belies the aimless associations of that tag. This seven-song effort would be more aptly grouped with releases by Blues Traveler and the Dave Matthews Band, which combine a freeform spirit and heavy instrumentation to create the fullest sound possible. Three Degrees pulls off that approach pretty well: There's a wide-open quality to this music that makes some of the melodies soar while others merely wander. Vocalist/guitarist Paul Cox is a strong presence and an emotional guy, even if he's a little too emotional at times and lacks Matthews's effortlessness and originality. And tunes like "Subway Song" and the breezy "Mexican Blanket" suggest that this band will get better, by degrees. (Contact PG Productions, 2685 South University Boulevard, Denver, CO 80210, www.threedegreesoffreedom.com.) -- Bond
Imposters: A Warlock Pinchers Tribute
With all the hype and nostalgia surrounding this release, one detail may have been overlooked: The CD stands alone as a kickass album. Disaffected Colorado youth will undoubtedly still be buying hooded Warlock Pinchers sweatshirts well into the 22nd century, and the band itself has already cemented its position as a true Denver legend. These cover versions of Pinchers' classics -- performed by everyone from the Melvins to Nerdtallica and Scott Baio Army -- operate on two levels, as cultlike worship and schizoid deconstruction. Which is kind of what the Pinchers were all about in the first place. (Released on BraceFace, www.warlockpinchers.com.) -- Heller
Noise Tent 2002 Spring Sampler
Fusing urban flash with therapeutic brain damage, the third and best compilation from Denver's Mike Jourgensen boasts 21 solid cuts from the area's best metal-happy acts -- everything from the blistering Dumbass Brothers and the Speeks to the maniacally harsh Crimson Haybailer and Los Luchadores. Power, velocity and blazing guitars flood this longplayer, which also includes solid contributions from the Geds, the Speedholes, Jet Black Joy, IZ, Abdomen, DeNunzio, Cockfight, Derailed, Wisteria, the LaDonnas, Otterpops, the Maybellines and more. Hook 'em horns! (Contact P.O. Box 18677 Denver, CO 80218, www.noisetent.com.) -- John La Briola
Though not an album proper, this video serves as a great compilation of Colorado punk bands, past and present: Deadlock Frequency, Pinhead Circus, Crestfallen, the Gamits, Stupid Humin Tricks and Qualm. Between all the beer-and-sweat-soaked performances are truly retarded clips of drunken partygoers puking, getting naked and riding bikes inside K-Mart while dressed in chipmunk suits. Don't miss the film's world premiere at the Ogden on Saturday, August 24. (See www.qualmonline.com.) -- Heller
Slated for early-September release on Ohio's Action Driver Records, Electric Birds is an absolute stunner of an EP from VU, aka Voices Underwater. It's a quick blast of electronic entropy and traditionally instrumented ass-blowing -- a trippy, apocalyptic, lovely exploration of the territory between electro-looping bossa nova and low-frequency light radiation. Recalling Braniac, the Flaming Lips and even the original owners of the V.U. tag -- Lou, et al -- this Denver trio invites you to feast on its richly textured collection. Go get your headphones and enjoy the VU. (Action Driver Records; contact 1249 Grape Street, Denver, CO 80220; www.voicesunderwater.com.) -- Bond
Pete Wernick's Live Five
Up All Night
As banjoist for the late, great Hot Rize, Pete Wernick -- "Dr. Banjo" -- successfully straddled the fine line between traditional bluegrass and contemporary newgrass. That same tension is evident on Up All Night, the third effort from Pete Wernick's Live Five, an eclectic combo that answers the question, "What if Benny Goodman and Earl Scruggs had produced a love-child?" The answer is jazzy bluegrass, or bluegrassy jazz, depending on your point of view. By combining banjo, clarinet, vibes, drums and bass, and playing an eclectic mix of tunes like "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" and "Sweet Georgia Brown," Live Five proves that musical rules exist solely to be broken. (Contact www.drbanjo.com.) -- David Hill
The Wind-Up Merchants
The Wind-Up Merchants peddle an eclectic bill of goods on Sprain Pkwy, their debut full-length. The trio moves from bombastic, '60s-era blasts ("I Won't Go") to jazzy ballads ("Better Fuel") and plain old oddities: The opening song is a quizzical tribute to Rick James ("Every day I fight demon stuff/Gotta keep my hands uncuffed"). Wind-Up Merchants are at their most intriguing when they chuck a lot of things into the fire -- trumpets, violins -- and fuse elements that don't normally wind up together. "Unfulfilled," for example, features a psychedelic guitar alongside a bubbly banjo and a from-the-other-room-sounding piano noise. Elsewhere, simplicity suits the band just fine: "Let It Fall" is a pretty, straightforward, strummy number that most recalls guitarist/vocalist Josh Schachterle's semi-acoustic solo side project. This ambitious and creative attempt often hits its mark. (Released on Spirit of 1848 Records; contact firstname.lastname@example.org, www.windupmerchants.net.) -- Bond
Color Me In
A former ski instructor turned self-taught guitarist, Lisa Witty has a lot working in her favor: She writes coherent lyrics, she knows her way around a hook and -- as a blonde beauty in a cowboy hat -- she looks the part of the fashionably rugged female songsmith. On her first CD, an impressively produced ten-song collection recorded in Los Angeles, Witty sometimes steers down the same gravelly road traversed by Lucinda Williams and other twang-tinged women artists. More often, though, her melodic music and athletic, baby-doll voice dwell in pleasant, contemplative pop territory. Color is a bright beginning. (See www.lisawitty.com.) -- Bond
If his solo debut as Woven Hand is any indication, David Eugene Edwards is an environmentalist. The 16 Horsepower frontman is one musician who clearly believes in recycling. Granted, greatness bears repeating. Haunting minor-chord melancholy and the lyrical exorcisms of a spiritually tortured soul have served Edwards's band well, but what was once fascinating is slowly becoming formulaic. With Woven Hand, one of Uncle Sam's most riveting songwriters sounds like a horse that has been to the creative well one too many times, transforming a Thoroughbred into a pony in need of a new trick. -- Patrick Casey
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