Reviewers in the modern age are at a distinct disadvantage. Rock and roll is a spectator sport and some bands were just meant to be seen live. In other words, their music is difficult to translate to a digital download or even a CD for that matter. Jaggermouth is a five piece band from Charlotte, NC who I wish I could see live before I write this review. In listening to their sophomore release “Synthetic Me” I hear flashes of true brilliance in a sea of monotony. Many of the songs on the album sound eerily familiar and are not distinguished enough to be truly innovative. I am sure that played live, the songs have infinitely more personality and greater interest. As I said, however, I hear flashes of brilliance even in these tedious compositions.
The bio of the band talks about how they pulled themselves out of the slums of Charlotte to create “catchy melodies, witty lyrics, driving rhythms, and survival of the fittest attitude”. Great verbiage for a band bio but how much of that story is true and how much is designed to put a context to their music? Jaggermouth does bring together a group of talented musicians who truly do rock the house down. Nic Pugh and Nick Martinez front the band with dual guitars who play very well off each other and keep the band focused. T.J. Banks and Jake Porter form the rhythm section that keeps the band anchored and Matt Wheeler’s vocals, though sometimes homogeneous, do provide an interesting counterpoint to the wailing guitars and driving rhythms.
I hear a lot of influences in this band ranging from Ted Nugent to The Black Keys. What I don’t hear is a truly original take on the songs they have written. I get the angry young man aspect of their “out of the slums” story but I would rather hear an honest and authentic composition born from this upbringing rather than a forced representation of who they think they ought to be.
I will state right off the top, I am not a huge fan of heavy metal. I can tolerate it if it is good but there is too much of it that is derivative and just bad. The heavy metal scene is huge in Europe and there are smaller pockets of it in bigger cities in the US. An interesting thing has happened to heavy metal music here in the states in the past decade or so. Many of these so called heavy metal bands have been influenced by the grunge movement of the 90’s and something interesting has emerged. A heavy metal hybrid that is a little more controlled and more melodic that one would expect. Yes, the guitars are still loud and the beat is pounding but the tempo is a bit more reserved and more emphasis is placed on the vocal arrangement and the lyrics in general.
Houston, TX is one such US city that has an active and vibrant music scene that incubates a certain brand of this heavy metal/ grunge hybrid. One particular band emerging from this sprawling metropolis is Daylight Down. The nucleus of the band was formed in 2012 but was not fully fleshed out until 2014. According to their bio, because of the health issues with their lead vocalist, David Crain, the band almost didn’t happen at all. Crain has overcome his health problems and Daylight Down lives again. If I had to make comparisons, I guess their sound is somewhere between Seether and Audioslave. Certainly in that vein.
The material Daylight Down has released thus far shows promise for a band that has had fits and starts but according to their website, they are currently in the studio working on a full length album for release in the near future and we hope for a continuation of their progress.
Agnieszka Olszewska - Kaczmarek, a mouthful I grant you, is a singer songwriter not from Peoria, IL. Actually Agnieszka is from Warsaw Poland and for the US audience in Peoria, goes by the band name, Back to the Ocean. Make no mistake, Agnieszka is the heart and soul of the band and is as talented as her name is difficult to pronounce. I find it refreshing that the rock and roll traditions of the past half century that were born in the UK and the US have now filtered to other parts of the world and those countries are now creating rock traditions of their own. I have recently heard some great bands from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Russia, Greece and Poland and just can't help but think that one of these bands might really break through and breath new life into the faltering rock establishment.
Back to the Ocean released their debut CD in 2010 and based on the strength of that release, Agnieszka was able to continue to write songs and has been nominated numerous times for her songwriting excellence. Her voice is haunting and captivating with a quality somewhere between Tracy Chapman and Melissa Etheridge . The tunes on her most recent EP "Rain" fit squarely in the folk or electric folk genre but her newest song 'OMG' is more of a departure. The song which she says is dedicated to Jodie Foster, complete with a video referencing Silence of the Lambs imagery is more of a punk rock anthem with rapid fire guitar parts and a driving punk rock beat.
The band is currently touring all over the world in support of their recent release. Back to the Ocean is poised to invade the US airwaves and for that matter, the world's airwaves and hopefully with gather enough momentum to keep this talented band busy for many years to come.
I am not sure why the phenomenon exists but certain areas of the country give birth to bands with a similar sound. Many bands from LA for example are typified by an underground funky sound that relies heavily on the interplay of bass and drums. Bands from Austin have a similar personality rooted in the Texas twang of the past and bands from the industrial northeast are often times easily recognizable. The bands from the northeast are identified by gritty guitars and commonly use horns to great effect in their music. Bands like Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band and artists like Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes and Bon Jovi are easily grouped into this clique.
The music tradition of this region is deep and I suppose heavily influenced by shared experiences. The Dave Goddess group rises from this rich tradition and carries the mantel into the 21st century. Their debut release in 2010 set the stage and they are back with a four song EP released in late 2014. The EP is called "Blown Away" and the title track immediately identifies them with their better known counterparts. The tune starts off with a gritty guitar riff and a bass line that is unmistakable. Right after the bridge, the wailing sax solo leaves no doubt that this band is here to party. The song employs familiar themes "the devil is in the details", and invokes "the promised land" and the band is clearly comfortable channeling Bruce and his disciples.
Dave Goddess has the chops, the voice, the riffs and the forebears are undeniable. Unfortunately, we've been there and done that. Not to say that The Dave Goddess Group isn't a kick ass party band that can keep you rocking until the wee hours of the morning but in terms of wide national appeal, the band emerged 20 years too late.
My first introduction to the band Indytronics was a cover of the 2005 Mattafix hit "Big City Life". I'll be honest, even though the song was a number 1 hit in Germany, Italy, Austria and several other countries it never made a dent here in the US and I was unfamiliar with the tune. What I will say is that song was a great introduction to the band. Indytronics is a four piece unit hailing from the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. As late as October of 2014, this group of musicians from the Ukraine performed and released music as the band Bonehouse but have been re-christened as Indytronics for their April 2015 release "Scintilla Wave"
The band is billed as a post punk revival indie band and the music is heavy industrial in nature. Songs are well constructed and the production is actually very good but nothing I heard on the new record rivaled the cover tune that was my point of entry. Being of curious nature, I went back and listened to some of the previous offerings under the Bonehouse moniker and I hate to say that the new identity has not necessarily had the positive effect that the band I'm sure had anticipated. A couple of tracks on "Scintilla Wave" do seem to capture the earlier magic most notably 'Mark Your Ships' and 'Public Eye'.
Kiev, for those of us who are unfamiliar is a city roughly the size of Chicago or Houston so the band's influences are big city in nature and that is partly evident in the music itself. It has a certain sophistication and a certain dystopian quality. I have no doubt about the band's talent and eagerly await more offerings from them. I will be interested to see the progress they make with their new identity and hope they can recapture some of the magic they brought to the cover tune that so captivated me initially.
Uncle Duke; a.k.a. Rob Penland is the producer and host of "The Mad Music Asylum" a 4 hour weekly syndicated radio show and now a 24 hour streaming internet station.