The Contingency Plan
Self-titled demo (2002)
The Contingency Plan = Drive-Thru Records + sincerity
Oops … this is what happens when you lose a band’s press kit in your car’s trunk for two years. This four-song demo is a neat, tight conglomeration of polished emo pop-punk with sharp production (Boho Digitalia), tight performance and grounded songwriting. The Contingency Plan have the youthful, earnest angst of local rockers Nimh (R.I.P.), but with the mainstream appealability of say, The Used, without sounding exactly like them. Rosy-cheek’d love-lost forlorn hasn’t yet been overtaken by later probable song topics like ennui, anger at the government and liver disease.
Two and a Half White Guys
Two and a Half White Guys = The Good, The Bad and The Ugly soundtrack + Aquabats + Bob Marley
Jazz-inflected ska calypso reggae jam bands aren’t really my thing, but Two and a Half White Guys are good at what they do, and they probably sound better if you’re high and in a grassy field at a huge stadium. They have a unique mixture going on, and are at their best when they stick to slow burners like “This is the Last Time” and not party-down numbers, as in “Shot Down” and “The Thing.” The Spanish-inflected “El Baile del Sluggo Loco” is one of the more bearable tracks.
As Dark As Light
Deadvolt = Maynard + (early) Korn
Deadvolt takes early, aggressive Flea bass, Tool moodiness, A Perfect Circle melodicism and just a tiny smudge of nu-metal to paint a canvas with a thick, brilliant whirlpool of midnight blue, royal purple, indigo, ebony and cobalt—i.e., blue, purple and black, like shallow bruises under all-too-mortal skin. All the members of Deadvolt are highly accomplished musicians live; they’ve obviously been playing (and practicing) their instruments for years. The pristinely in-pitch, lucid, powerful vocals of Erik Gordon are phenomenal, best showcased in “In the Snow,” capable of going from delicate emotional introspection to shrieking agony in five seconds flat. www.deadvolt.net
An Introduction to Sex Rock
Drew Danburry = Catcher in the Rye + Parker Sisters
One could swear that Drew Danburry’s been having tea with local musician Paul Compton, swapping synth and cricket tips while demurely brushing crumpet crumbs from his lips. The outstanding An Introduction to Sex Rock, mastered by Jeremy Smith, mixes eccentric indie electronica with piano, violin, recorder and sweetly self-deprecating lyrics about Her, recalling bits and pieces of Atom and His Package and I Am the World Trade Center. Song titles include “Closeminded is as Closeminded Does You Femi-Nazi Hypocrite” and “I Hope This Song is So Good It Reminds You of Wizards.” www.drewdanburry.com
Gina French = Emmylou Harris + Robert Johnson + Dead Can Dance
Gina French has more soul than Al Green french-kissing Tina Turner. She is the only folk artist I know that takes the sexiest, dirtiest parts of the blues, rock and alt-country and mixes it with Middle Eastern scale progressions. She then lathers everything over with hedonistic amounts of Bill Frost slide guitar, growly, yowly vocals that wail and zing like the whine of cupid’s deadly arrows, transcendent chord changes and heart-of-darkness acoustic strumming. Zithery Indian sounds color up “Of Rapture” and “Rings True,” and old-time country flavors give “Spring’s Angel” a nostalgically bittersweet edge. www.ginafrench.net
Attack of the Red Dinosaurs
Jupassa = Edward Scissorhands + Ray Bradbury
If Mogwai were approached about concocting the soundtrack for The Nightmare Before Christmas Part II: Jack Gets Funky Fresh with Kwanzaa, this is what they might come up with. Trip-hoppy electronica skips rope with quirky guitar breaks and odd futuristic rumblings, mutterings, creakings and croakings. Even Spiders-era Bowie appears from time to time in the spacey chord changes, intermittent guitar strumming and especially in the haunting, otherwordly vocals (note “Late Trips”). The suicide counsel of “Mash” is chillingly funny. Jupassa boasts members of Deliccato, so their sophistication, obliqueness and advanced songwriting should come as no surprise to the converted.
Timeless Towns and Haunted Places
NSPS = They Might be Giants + Barenaked Ladies
NSPS might not be too bad of a band, if it weren’t for the vocals. They’re gruff, tongue-in-cheek and strained, not unlike Van Morrisson’s, but unlike Van Morrisson’s, they’re painfully out of tune, making portions of this CD almost unlistenable. It’s a shame, because as Ms. Angela Brown has pointed out to me countless times, with only a bit of training, most singers could learn how to sing almost flawlessly on pitch. The lyrics themselves are funny though, coating over eccentric pop songs in a very They Might Be Giants-type way. www.nsps.net