Monday, August 29, 2011

Sick Of Sarah - Review & Exclusive Interview

It often feels like a relentless quest at times - to hunt down music of above-average quality. With every form of media and social networking outlet constantly presenting one thing after another (a good portion of it delivering only mediocre results) - finding a gem in the mix is always a cause for celebration.

Such is the case with the band Sick Of Sarah

Having been made aware of them by virture of a promotional photo and advertisement projected on a video monitor, the quest to hear what this band was all about began.

Procuring the album led to a wonderful discovery of some truly inspired songwriting. That coupled with a studio mastery of their album titled 2205 (the address of where they reside) - and in general the obvious command over their respected instruments and voices, led to a desire to discover more about who they were and what made them tick.

Discovering they were to play a show at New York's venerable Knitting Factory on August 18, 2011, set the wheels in motion.

The band consists of Abisha Uhl on lead vocals and occasional guitar, Katie Murphy on lead guitar and background vocals, Jessie Farmer on lead/rhythm guitar and background vocals, Jamie Holm on bass guitar and background vocals and Jessica Forsythe on drums and background vocals. Yes - they all sing. This is an important aspect of their sound.

Look and listen as they play one of the great songs off of their latest album 2205

El Paso Blue





Jamie on bass - her "newscaster" hair has a hypnotic effect on fans.

Catching up with the band prior to their performance,
an interview was conducted in the "green room."

Check out Part 1 right here:


Jessica's background vocals are as important to the band's overall sound
as is her solid, forceful drumming.

Listen further as the band rips through their kick ass song titled "Kick Back"


Sick Of Sarah continue that tradition of "girls in a rock band" that was made so appealing by Joan Jett and her first band The Runaways - right up through Sleater-Kinney and current acts like Wild Flag.

And like those bands, there is a level of androgony involved in both their image and fan base.

If boys in bands dressing in a way more often associated with what "girls" do has been going on for decades, then the flipside of that is women dressing in "mannish" ways. Of course, girls have more or less been doing this to various degrees for years. Look no further than the classic jeans, t-shirt and sneakers ensemble for evidence. Perhaps that look could be more accurately described as "androgynous" - having no distinct sex classification at all.


If Duff McKagan and Steven Adler (circa 1987) had female doppelganers,
you could make the case for these two.

Jessica throttles the toms and looks great in the process.

Katie and Jamie provide visual motion with their sonic attributes.


Tour manager and all around accomodating guy Corey attends to the business at hand.

Which, among other things, involved handling the band's merch.

Part 2 of the interview progresses further, to both amusing as well as informative results.


Never pass up an opportunity to take this kind of photo.

"That interview guy" makes the most of this encounter.

Jesse strikes an entertaining pose, much to this reviewers delight.


Rocking out like they mean it.

This quote below pretty much sums up what an encounter with these ladies is like:

“It was an absolute treat touring with SOS this year. They are fun loving, open- hearted girls who play irresistible punk infuse...d pop music with a passion that is truly contagious… The girls are hilarious and wild, and have a charisma and chemistry that I found to be utterly charming..... I think you will too!” -Susanna Hoffs (The Bangles)

Another respected rock legend has this to say:

“Sick of Sarah is the real deal. This is a true working band who sing write and play for real. They are also cute and funny. They are my friends and they rock.” -Nancy Wilson (Heart)

"charisma, chemistry and charming" - these are undeniable facts.

Because links are always useful:

Addtional videos from the Knitting Factory appearance can be found here:


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pop Threat / Dirt N' Dust 1999-2003 Album Review

It's often an enlightening journey to trace the roots of musicians you discovered at the point in time you did.

Such is the case with the band Pop Threat. Having become aware of the principal musicians involved during their second phase with The Manhattan Love Suicides - through their present incarnation with The Blanche Hudson Weekend - I was intrigued to hear they would finally be releasing a retrospective CD of their earlier bands works.

Now in possession of the recently released "Dirt N' Dust 1999-2003," nothing short of a full review of all 23 songs on it will do.

What saves previously unreleased album opener “One Track Mind” from the potentially monotonous experience that a “one chord” composition might suffer from is what’s moving around it. Specifically, the descending bass line and vocal “do – do, do do’s.” Then there is the power charged doubletime stomp section the song keeps going back to. Everything about this song suggests forward motion. You most-likely wouldn’t even be aware that it’s “only one chord” – if it hadn’t been spelled-out in the liner notes.

“So It Seemed” blends fuzzy Darren guitar with Caroline’s upfront, effects-free soft vocals and tickety-high-hat percussion.

The wonderfully titled “Sugar Fuck” comes at you with explosive guitar chords, whose bombast make listening to Caroline’s vocals not as easy as your typical pop song.

Four complete tracks from the album can be heard here:

“Ripen” has Caroline more prominently featured and sounds more like the wonderful pop music of Tracey Tracey’s Primitives and the lovely English pop of that era. Caroline’s voice is up close in your ear, creating a pleasantly intimate listening experience. The repeated vocal refrain of “I wanted to be somewhere else” is catchy and charming. Darren’s clean guitar sound hearkens back to prime era Cure. There is also a long single keyboard note (played by the band's drummer Mick) that provides additional texture. A spoken word section of the song is accentuated by Darren's guitar noise run through a fuzz pedal and placed further back in the mix.

“Monochrome” (8 track demo) is full on razorbuzz guitar, 4/4 thunder drums with Caroline’s unmistakable vocals, passionately delivering a lyric heavy story. It’s overall mood (and power) is not dissimilar to what A Place To Bury Strangers frequently do.

The amusingly titled “Sludgy” is actually not really as much of a sludge-fest as one might expect from this name. The vocals, guitar, bass and drums can all be heard rather clearly. “It’s easier just to shut my eyes, than to watch you slide” is Caroline’s repeated vocal hook.

“D 4th S” (demo version) finds the band dipping into the experimental waters first explored by The Velvet Underground in the late 1960’s – and then again by Brian Eno during his pop solo career in the 1970’s. The warbly guitar work is prime “Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy” era – specifically “The Great Pretender.”

is a sheer wall of buzzing, hissed-out guitars filling all the open spaces of the sonic spectrum, while clean bass and drums throttle the progression forward. On top of that is Caroline’s un-effected lyrical recitation. The occasional pause, then guitar driven restart points towards the bands self-admitted Sonic Youth influences.

“No Way Out” swings a bit more, with poppy vocal “wha, ah, whoah, oh, oh’s” and “whoah, whoah, whoah, yeah’s.” It also benefits from a multi-tracked, centrally located Caroline vocal segment.

“Vivia” takes the pop song progression and twists it in unsettling ways by way of the guitar sound choices. Alley cats howling late at night might be one way to describe it. Meanwhile the vocals trudge forward, oblivious to the sonic subversion going on all around this otherwise straightforward pop song.

“Towards An End” has an opening narration taken from the 1950's film "Yield To The Night" – something that has become a recurring occurrence on Darren’s music – that, if anything, is used even more today with his current project – The Blanche Hudson Weekend. The sampled vocal clip is from Diana Dors (who, I've been told was England's answer to Marilyn Monroe). The song itself is a beautiful piece of gentle pop, with Caroline’s soft vocals as the dominant focus. Keyboard synth strings are initially the strongest musical presence – ultimately giving way to guitar textures that slowly rise up in the mix.

“Hit it!” is a smile inducing shorty that encompasses the rawness of The Ramones, with a “do, do, do do” vocal passage that’s pure JAMC.

The added white noise textures of tv static finds its way onto “The Last Resort” (because the band felt everything else was a bit too sweet). This certainly roughs up what is an otherwise clean and straightforward pop song. The structure shows thought and care, however, as there are some interesting chord changes and tempo shifts involved.

“Cheap and Vulgar” is fast and furious, capturing the energy that only live-in-the-studio can produce. The raw, aggressive punk feel of Iggy & The Stooges (Raw Power era) is fully represented here (especially in the slashing guitar chords and shouted vocals).

“Cheri” shows Caroline presenting the kind of lyrical story about some lost waif that would also become a recurring theme through the songs of Manhattan Love Suicides and currently with Blanche Hudson Weekend.

“Falling Spike” brings back the anthemic and glorious, with those ever satisfying “do, do, do do’s.” Of note is Darren’s guitar tone, strumming and chord selection – which brings to mind the playing of John McKay on Siouxsie & The Banshees first studio album “The Scream.”

“Sludgy” returns, this time as an 8 track demo version. It’s even less “sludged out” than the earlier studio version and pretty clear to listen to. Caroline’s vocal hook refrain is catchy and tailor made to sing along with.

“Amarantal Meltdown" finds Caroline ’s vocals filtered through heavy effects. The first instrumental break kicks in with force and aggression. The guitar chords are strummed fast and furious, while other guitars are manipulated in unconventional ways, creating a myriad of whistling-like sounds. There’s also some Beatles/Hendrix-like backward tape looping against Sonic Youth-style chiming chords.

“Dark Black” comes at you with the lyric “there’s a fine line between hate and hate she said.” Surely this is a much finer line than the one between clever and stupid. Violins, violas and other plucked instruments appear on this delicate number, showing a depth and range within this band’s compositions that one might not expect, based on their other recorded works.

“Reverse Expectant" (8 track demo) is a straightforward rocker that employs the sound of glockenspiel plinks (currently in vogue again now, due to the popular band Cults use of them on their latest album). It’s true that this instrument adds an uplifting sonic texture. Other sounds emerge later on in the song – theremin-like squiggles for instance.

“It’s the Police” brings back the chaos via shredding guitars and shouted, obscured-thru-megaphone vocals (delivered this time by the bands bassist Juliet). It’s a trashy raveup with equal parts Sonic Youth and early Iggy & the Stooges spirit.

“Ingrained” comes at you with clean guitars and easily understandable vocals. “The best is over now,” Caroline sings. The more experimental guitar work returns for the chorus, however.

The albums final track – “Rediffusion” opens in anthemic fashion - with solo buzzing guitar, allowing Caroline ’s doubled vocals to tell the impassioned tale. “La, la, la, la” is the simple (yet oh so effective) central hook. Layered buzzsaw guitars create a textured sonic bed that builds successively, until everything rises to an emotionally charged triumphant conclusion.

With that, this wonderful collection of songs is over.

For anyone who has ever loved the bands I mention in this review (and quite frequently in general) – the Jesus & Mary Chain, Sonic Youth, Iggy & The Stooges – or the other incarnations of the principal members of this band I have written extensively about over the years – The Manhattan Love Suicides, Blanche Hudson Weekend and Ailsa Craig – you will absolutely love this album. You owe it to yourself to go out and pick up a copy of this.

Do it.

Do it now.


For further reference (including how to obtain this album) follow these links:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

On The Road with The Vandelles

On Saturday, August 6, 2011, a band I have great admiration and respect for - The Vandelles - played a show at Pa's Lounge in Boston - as part of the Deep Heaven Now IV music festival.

Having been invited to accompany the band for this road trip, I quickly whipped together my travel bag and hopped into the van that ace guitarist Christo Buffam was driving.

High tech equipment in hand, we were on the road to Boston.

Along the way, we acknowledged a personal fave town of mine.

Listen and watch - to the song that defines what the summer of 2011 is all about:

"Summer Fling" knows just where to put the "doo doo doo's." We all wanna have one, but it can be more if you want it too. The tone is dark and deep, with waves of Jas and Lu's voices cascading all over you. It's all anchored so solidly by Honey's tom tom thump. Christo's guitar atmospherics and melody lines over Jasno's wall-of-buzz complete the picture.

One of the festival locations was a club called "Precinct" (which not so coincidentally was below the police precinct there). There was another festival going on as well - complete with a huge mechanical dragon.

Its not something you expected to see!

People were allowed to sit on it and move its jaws via hand held wires.

Over at PA's lounge - the two Vandelles "diva's" showed up.
Charming, pretty, photogenic, talented - have I left anything out?
Oh, yeah - they are smart too.
And fun. They are fun to be around.

Notice in the lower left hand corner of this photo - drummer Honey Valentine brings her own cooling fan to shows. That one there is affectionately named "Fan Drescher"

Bassist/ super background vocalist Lulu Lapin revs it up, while Honey checks the tuning of her maraca and frontman Jasno Suarez gets show ready.

Road warrior and all around great guy (and super talented guitarist)
Christo Buffam riffs away!

The projections presented throughout the festival were visually stimulating and fully enhanced what the bands were doing.


This one created a "Terminator" like effect on Jas

The audience were totally receptive to what The Vandelles were bringing. Jas & Christo's twin-guitar attack is impressive, and the crowd lapped it up.

Lulu and Jas sing so wonderfully together. Its too bad the vocal mics were not at their best for this particular show.

Lulu captured at an essential moment.

Projected effects make for many interesting photos


Christo rocked - with or without shades

Honey V - hair a flyin'

Lu, Jas & Honey know what summer themes are all about.

Vic Firth sticks bring the ruckus

Christo takes his turn as featured vocalist

And the band plays on

How they sounded at this particular show:

Its a sound I crave.

Christo and his shadow vie for attention

Honey V - substance with style

Christo's pedal effects

More shadowplay

Color and light

Post-performance - we share a laugh

The girls and Crom - its a must do


Since it was a music festival - other bands of note who's sets I caught.

Endless Wave

Ghost Box Orchestra


Hi Tiger

Gospel Gossip
and the band that put on the whole event:

28 Degrees Taurus

Reuniting with the band was bassist/vocalist and songwriter Ana Karina DaCosta

Not only is Ana a talented musician, but she is a lovely person who's hospitality made the trip that much sweeter.

Ana let myself and a myriad of other band members crash at her house that night.

She has the cutest cat named Tigger

The view from my appointed couch

Tigger kept us all entertained

Furnishings as only a rocker would do.


Some links for those who like to click on things: