Local CD Reviews – February 2011

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Invisible Empire
Nueve Music
Street: 12.09.10
DulceSky  = [Joy Division + (U2 – Bono)] x Catherine Wheel
Locals DulceSky pack a “doubleplusgood” punch with these nine songs. Although they’ve played the Dark Arts Festival and the packaging is reminiscent of ‘90s industrial, this is straightforward indie rock with a dark, intelligent, politicized edge. Oliver Valenzuela’s guitars occasionally recall early U2, but his vocals are far darker, and at times almost Joy Division-morose. Moreover, this isn’t just a collection of songs, but an exploration of and meditation on the imperial impulse in the post-colonial world, perhaps fueled by Oliver and his bother Daniel’s journey from Chile to the US, or maybe just too many readings of 1984. With heavy samples and layered keyboards by Mitchell Razon and Brett Kocherhans, “Shades of an Empire” is the standout track, along with the gorgeous “Ministry of Truth” and the militant tattoo that is “The Gathering Darkness.” While the actual politics of this sad, beautiful album are opaque, it is a perfect soundtrack for our brave, scared, disordered new world. –Madelyn Boudreaux

The Fucktards
Christ Punchen Fun!
Street: 11.08.10
The Fucktards = Dead Milkmen + The Germs
Congratulations, Fucktards: As I play this EP while my vulgar 17-year-old brother drives me to our parents’ house to steal food, he states, “This is foul.” Christ Punchen Fun! delivers boorish punk rock that sounds like it was recorded in a toilet littered with used condoms and week-old pizza crusts. The fact that the EP does not indicate song titles demonstrates The Fucktards’ sloppy style. “Track 02” stands out as the flagship song with an uncouth sing-along line: “Up your butt and ‘round the corner! Where I’m gonna stick my boner!” “Track 05” adequately transposes the shit-show that is a Fucktards show onto a recording—It invokes an image of drunk twenty-somethings rekindling their teenage romance with fucking shit up and finding a place to take a shit in a public park. Ah, memories. Grab this EP after you chuck an empty beer can at Mike Brown. –Arexander Oltega

The Hung Ups
Street: 07.15.10
The Hung Ups = The Descendents + Guttermouth
(First and foremost, I need to apologize to The Hung Ups for not getting to this album in time: I’ve played with these guys and they’re fucking awesome. Hands down, they deliver pissy-yet-poppy punk rock that’s in your face with no compromises. All these members have been in the Salt Lake/Utah scene for years now, and they really know how to fuck shit up. Sorry guys, have a round on me. On to the review.) The Hung Ups’ self-titled release hearkens back to the simple pop punk stylings of The Descendents with songs dealing with skating, girls and all-American pizza pies. Whether it’s atop the slower tempo of “Ritchie Valens” or the three-chord progressions in “Fucked Up Future,” vocalist Josh Recker belts out scratchy melodies that seem neither overly-sentimental nor coarse beyond the point of general listen-ability. Somehow, Recker remains punk as fuck with lines like “She never answers when I call” in “She’s Stupid,” even as he maintains a sincere approach to punk rock with classic themes: “Wanna bomb that big-ass hill/I wanna grind that perfect rail.” Drummer Chris Farnworth kicks out solid beats while guitarists Chuck Roberts and Tyler Sisson construct catchy melodies and rhythms that provide an upbeat feel for the release. The Hung Ups end the album solidly with the fast and pist “Crisis at the Pizza Store,” which raises the mundane trauma of everyday work-life to a reason to circle pit. –Alexander Ortega

Max Pain & The Groovies
Five To Groove EP
Street: 11.19.10
MP&TG = The Doors + Cream + Violent Femmes
Channeling the late ‘60s/early ‘70s groove that once fueled the Human Be-In and the Summer Of Love, Pain and company find a niche between the psychedelic and heavy rock for their own modern movement. The heavy guitar riffs echo out of every track like a continuous wave of reverb, bending and weaving without a break and are accompanied by a cool bass and drumbeat that keep pace throughout. Even the solos sound like they’re perfectly synced with the band instead of a squealing standout. Although they’ve only been playing together for roughly two years, on Five to Groove it sounds like they’ve been playing together for a decade. Pain’s vocals, while passionate and almost remorseful at times, invoke the traditional frontman role and do a masterful job of setting the mood. Coming in at 32 minutes, double that of an average EP, Five to Groove seals the deal by giving listeners a full experience, instead of just a slight taste. (SLUG’s 22nd Anniversay Party: 2/18 @ Urban) –Gavin Sheehan

Spell Talk
Electricloud EP
Street: 11.18.10
Spell Talk = King Crimson + Black Lips + New Riders Of The Purple Sage
Spell Talk’s past year has essentially been a tidal wave of promotion and exposure. Any album following such a hectic year needed to push in one of two directions: more of the same for fan appreciation or experimentation for personal growth. Somehow, Spell Talk found a comparative balance between the two. Shades of prior albums shine through in tracks like “Causey” with hallucinatory riffs and wailing vocals, while tracks like “Valintino” are slower-paced and gritty, harkening to deep southern rock with lyrics climbing out of their bellies. Longstanding live favorites like “Boom Boom” and “High Water” finally receive polished versions on Electricloud, capturing the in-studio concert experience that used to dominate late ‘70s radio. Electricloud serves as a great follow up to Ghost Rider, but also stands alone as an impressive EP. Now if only they’d put out a full-length that sounds like this. –Gavin Sheehan

The Trappers
Ten Records
Street: 11.13.10
The Trappers = Creedence Clearwater Revival – Jon Fogerty
Chances are that had I not come across this album for review, many of you wouldn’t have ever known it existed. This five-piece ensemble aimed for Americana with a twist of country, and they got it... in the blandest fucking possible manifestation they could have created. They perform better than many Americana bands, but they could still do much better. The talent is there, but it’s squandered on a sound as generic as their band name. It’s like they grabbed a copy of the CCR classic Cosmo’s Factory and stripped it of everything musically challenging. The unoriginality continues on the track “Cut Loose” which features lyrics torn straight from Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose.” Ironically, The Trappers live performances far surpass the album, which makes it a shame the recording is so bland. –Gavin Sheehan