Opening track “Dream Again” pairs a simple strummed guitar chord progression with layers of angelic church choir voices from Alex. What’s interesting here are the “flat” (or possibly 4th note) harmonies she sings (with her layered self) on the repeated lyrical pass “a way you were – the way we were.” Immediately following is an even more appealing vocal sequence with the lyrics “eats you up all the things you love” that serve as an audio representation of the psychedelic dreamlike state.
“Stare At The Sun” – Pairs a purposeful marching bass guitar pattern with industrial metallic clang percussion, as guitar static textures rise within the mix. Verses are delivered by Alex in a measured cadence that walks the line between sung and spoken. “Run - around - we need - to use it - let - it drip - but don't - abuse it - Ruff – enough - to make - it submit - run - around - you know - we can't quit - tear - it up - it does-n't matter - when - your mind - is a – disaster – hap-piness - can make - you sadder - when - you're stuck - inside - the pattern.” The chorus hits big with chiming guitars and percussive drum pattern reminiscent of early 90’s loops in songs like Chapterhouse’s “Mesmerize.” “Turn back to pieces when I saw you” becomes both a single line chorus and central vocal hook.
The sound becomes more stripped down on the second verse as the lines “Take – your car – and drive – it nowhere – turn – me off – you know – I don’t care” are sung in an even more clipped cadence. “Met - your friend - he's such - a cancer – touch - me when - you know - I'm not there.” Guitar textures behind that create a unique ambient progression with metallic scraping strings effects. The next lyrical sequence that goes “how - do you - know when - you're finished? - does - it feel - good to - diminish? - blow - it up - just to – replenish – dream-ers just - a stu-pid cynic” features a slightly warped audio texture underneath, in what has become something of a signature sound for this band. It’s not till deeper in does the song title come into focus, with the final statement – “your smile is a kind of torture - if you want something nice to look at - - stare at the sun and never turn back.”
Shimmering, flanged guitars introduce “Show Me The Truth Of Your Love.” Although primarily an Elliott vocal performance – with sincere romantic lines like “I want it all,” “I need to know,” “make me a vessel” and “I feel so special” – there is ample use of Alex’s softer, feminine counterpoint throughout. Overall the track gives off the feel of something The Cocteau Twins could have done. That is until a surprising and somewhat odd cinematic coda closes out the track, with an initial dreamlike buildup ultimately having some random Spanish music immersed within it.
The lyrically heavy “Big Bopper” serves as one of those songs where personal favorite pop culture, zeitgeist moments in both music and film are rapidly listed. Similar to R.E.M.’s "It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" and Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire” (although sounding nothing like either). Classic hybrid Alex-Elliott vocals with pitch-bend guitar support deliver the first verse: “Curtain with nothin behind it, Didn't lose a thing but I'm gonna find it, The tape is cued up but I'm tryna rewind it, Stuck outside but locked inside it, I've got a bad attitude, I'm tired of everyone in my crew, Waiting around for Hüsker Dü, To get back together and play some tunes” A centralized heavy chorus hook that goes “Bad trip - Someone tell her - Don't make deals with - the creep in the cellar” (played three times throughout the song) keeps the tracks overall wordiness sufficiently anchored. “You can't stop the cretins from hoppin” (first of two Ramones references).
“Died on a plane with the Big Bopper” (alluding to one of the worst airline tragedies in rock history, and obviously the song title. Was it just random to call the song this, or is there some deeper meaning?) The next lines “I saw your mom she's off her Rocker. I know a way to earn a dollar” seem simple throwaways that work out because they rhyme. However the following “I need a ride to the other side. Tripped on a sun beam, blew my mind. Close your eyes and try to drive blind” suggest self-discovery through the psychedelic experience. However, that segments closing line “feels like I'm going through an Eventide” is something only those familiar with sound effects processors would get.
The musicians, songs, films and actors specifically listed in the final segment crosses more than a few decades, yet reflect things that most-likely only a Generation Y/Millennial would combine. “Walk me home Joey Ramone, Andy Wood, Motherlovebone, My Girl, Good Son, Home Alone Jeremy, Daughter, Even Flow, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Heaven's Gate was really a bummer, Neve Campbell and Liv Tyler, Oasis, Tony Blair, and Blur”
One of the first tracks initially released from the album, “Guilt” combines high production values with a looser, jammy drum track. Alex’s vocals layer the lyrics “Guilty/ it seeps through the ceiling/ a sinking feeling/ I'm kneeling” in a floating, overlay sequence, while drummer Daniel rips snare rolls, roughing up the sweetness. “Don't you see the colors are bleeding?/ your touch is misleading/ I'm pleading” (more mad drum fills). “Have you ever felt the prying?/ when nothings exciting/ stop trying.” Like many of the songs on here, the chorus is a simple phrase – “dumb angel.” The guitars throttle in hard downward strokes as drum rolls bridge between. What follows is a particularly snakelike guitar solo that shares a measured, professional quality to it. Inside liner notes credit “special guitar” to Jeff Schroeder (appearing courtesy of Gene Simmons) – an inside joke for sure as Jeff is the current Smashing Pumpkins lead guitarist, and has been since 2007.
Pumpkins friendships aside, the verses on this track shares a closer sonic lineage to female-voice-and-guitar-blend-wash 90’s UK band LUSH. Who coincidentally have reunited and are currently touring again after a 20 year hiatus. The concluding lyrics: “perfect/ a gift worth receiving/ now I'm believing/ I need it/ swallow/ your ideas are borrowed/ you fake all your sorrow/ you're hollow/ don't you love when everything's ending?/ and you're still pretending you're living?” You can listen to this song (where I first covered it back in November 2015) here:
Continuing the sugary-buzz female-male blend vocals is the curiously titled “California Car Collection.” Isn’t that something rich people like Jay Leno or Reggie Jackson are known for?
“I am waving goodbye” is the initial vocal refrain, supported by abundant synth and/or sample keyboard pads. Soon the mantra of “I waste away” takes over and is repeated over fuzzy guitar chords. Second pass through adds a bass guitar pattern providing unexpected circuitous motion. From the midway point until the end of the song’s three and a half minutes, it remains entirely instrumental.
Raw bass guitar notes introduce frequent live show favorite “Frisbee,” just before the full-on pitch-bend guitars and syncopated drumming arrive with force. “Free Your Head” is the alleged repeated lyrical refrain, although with so many of this bands repeated lines, they tend to float like amoebas. That is to say that with studio processing and layering, certain words or phrases take on an indefinite, changeable shape. However, the clearly enunciated Elliott vocals “Well I don't know if I'm wrong - I'd say I'm sorry but it's been too long - I don't feel it like I should - I guess it's bad that I think that's good,” leave little doubt as to the intended message.
The second verse (repeated as the third too) continues this theme with the words “I'm the same I've always been -But you still cling to my old skin -It's a feeling you can't shed - Don't expect to understand,” all while Daniel is free to cut loose with drum fills that make it all sound so lively. The subsequent guitar solo practically explodes out in an uplifting burst of elongated, sustained notes.
Heading into “deeper” tracks now, “Boys In Heat” has also been included in live shows over the last few months. Hyper-quick strummed bee-buzz guitars power over top of steady driving bass and drums. What distinguishes the track early (and repeated throughout) is the every 4 bar 1-2, 1-2 drum punctuation. “Having fuuuuuunnn – in the summer sun” give early indication as to which “heat” the song title refers to. Deep tom drum fills on the first change (and throughout) makes for a tasty headphone listening experience. So too for the bass guitar driven extended trippy instrumental break.
Also spotted on a written live show set list (a rarity in itself) is even deeper track “Never.” Emerging instantly at breakneck speed, the “deathstarr” is on full throttle until everything stops momentarily for quick, blended Elliott and Alex vocal statements. With the basic sentiment being “never should have let you in, and never let you screw me down again,” its lesson learned and not to be repeated. Another toms throttling, bass guitar rumbling change section delights as Elliott declares (with winking musical nod to a certain Scottish band who were an early influence) “I was on the chain – never had a brain.” The audio “argument” attached to the end is nothing short of hilarious. “You find yourself a place to work, girl!”
There’s a distinct “smooth soul” vibe to second-to-the-last-track “Old Again.” Opulent background vocals provide much of this sentiment, while a lively structured bass pattern anchors from within. Repeated lyrical refrain “feel old again” points out this sentiment can be experienced at any age. Verse two and three add shards of guitar driven “jet engine” sonics, keeping everything very much in the “noise rock” realm. A final tacked on coda of unadorned plunking guitar serves as a musical easter egg nugget for those who listened this far.
Final cut “Acid Tongue” closes out the album at breakneck pace with a nod to that classic Swervedriver sound. Speedy bassline and bendy-warped guitars power along under Elliott’s vocals. A hard heavy metal bridge segues into telling lyrics “don’t need a gun, but I got one – feeling dumb – like someone” with the final repeated phrase “and I was wrong.”
The album can be also gotten in the UK and the rest of Europe via their long time relationship with Club AC30, and in Japan via Vinyl Junkie.
Ringo Deathstarr headlined a triumphant return to New York performance at popular Brooklyn venue Baby's All Right on April 3rd. All of the band live shots here are from that show.
Almost a month prior to that, they embarked on whirlwind European tour with shows nearly every night in different cities. A safe holding place for their US touring vehicle was needed.
T-shirts, CD's and Love - are really all you need.
"Good evening, Angels"
A gift from Piazzale Falcone E Borsellino Pesaro Italy
Fun times. The Best times.
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Just prior to that evening's headliners, ambient dreampop purveyors The Stargazer Lilies delivered their own exciting live performance.
Having perfected creating spacious, dreamy sonic landscapes. theirs is a sound that continues to grow and evolve.
Innovative forces John Cep and Kim Field present enhanced studio recordings via effects-heavy guitars and sugar sweet angelic vocals respectively.
Impressionistic colors blurred across a windswept sky.
. . . but the artistic emotions behind it all are why it actually matters.
Just a few weeks prior to this evenings performance saw them out in Austin, Texas for the SXSW festival with Cromwell coverage in The Deli Magazine Print Issue for that event.
First single “When With You” can be heard (and viewed) via the below video. Filmed and directed by LG from Dead Leaf Echo at Aloft photo studio in New York City, with editing by John Cep.
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Speaking of Dead Leaf Echo - they too played on this evening, opening the show with their own brilliant set.
Having last covered one of their shows here, the overall changing dynamic first noticed on that night seemed more clearly defined.
The current four piece until has been together for quite a while now (maybe longer than any of the prior lineups) and it shows in the confident execution of their material.
A full room at Baby's All Right drank in the waves of sound (with an emphasis on newer material) throughout their set.
Guitars now dominate what once was (at times) a keyboards heavy, electronic pulse driven sound.
The weeks following this show saw the band head out on their first European tour.
Their social networks kept a nightly stream of info and updates about those shows, indicating a rewarding experience and successful endeavor.
Brand new Dead Leaf Echo music has now been announced as a 7" split single "child.glass.heart" is set to be released May 13 on Moon Sound Records. On the flip side is the track "Dirty Minds" by complimentary darkwave act The Harrow. A full release party will be at Sunnyvale Brooklyn on May 14.
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thank you for this very thorough, very detailed review of Ringo Deathstarr's great album "Pure Mood!" this has to be the very best thing written about it so far. i can't believe that so-called "big" sites like Pitchfork didn't even bother to review it. ?!? anyway, your descriptions seem very accurate to the songs and are quite entertaining at times too! :-)
i also like that Stargazer Lillies song you included here too. very dreamy!
yes, I remember you writing about Dead Leaf Echo a number of times before. it looks like they continue to create wonderful new music. i like them a lot!
My pleasure to write, Misty. It does seem rather odd that particular site has no review of "Pure Mood" on it. But then again, it's been a very long time since I put any value in what is posted there. There are far more insightful reviews on artist done by diligent music bloggers. Those are the ones I enjoy reading the most. The sad truth is that far too often once a site becomes too well known it becomes commercialized to the point of lacking any credible reference point.
Glad to hear you like that Stargazer Lilies song. They are good people making gorgeous music.
The same can be said for Dead Leaf Echo, who always seems to have something new up their sleeves.
Like endless Star Wars movies... some of your best feature a Deathstarr!
Looking forward to checking it out sometime soon!
Although true that the "Deathstarr" (of the Ringo variety) is known to make frequent appearances here, no talking robots or androids are needed to move the narrative forward. It's all about the music, my friend!
A few random thoughts: A release is always a reason to celebrate, so L' chaim Deathstarr! I really appreciate a great label name and reading a new-to-me term: alterna-metal. I'm struck by the patience you had in doling out the line breaks of the "Stare At The Sun" lyrics. By doing this, Croms, a reader can really feel the cadences and imagine the possibilities of that type of musical creation. Upon reading this, my brain perambulated to the part of Rush's "Red Barchetta" that reads "wind- in my hair- shifting and drifting- mechanical music- adrenaline surge." Bravo to RD for the lyric "your smile is a kind of torture." A+ dudes/dudette. It's also interesting to have consecutive cultural threesomes juxtaposed in "Big Bopper," specifically three Pearl Jam songs subsequent to three Macaulay Culkin movie titles. Hmm...
I love that Rush song, VFSD! And I think that lyric you bravo is from the dudette Alex. One can only imagine who she is referring to there. Anyone who has ever cared about someone who might not care back as much (or even hardly at all) can deliver a smile that tortures.
Also - well spotted with the related symmetry of those 2 "consecutive cultural threesomes."
Quality insights revealed here from the Doghouse!
Dom Por (of Like Herding Cats) wrote:
Dave always covering the best stuff!
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Kim Field (of The Stargazer Lilies) wrote:
Pure Mood's been on heavy rotation here...
You know it, Dom! And not just because I covered your band LHC both here:
And on The Deli Mag as well:
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Not surprised you have “Pure Mood” in frequent play mode, Kim. The Stargazer Lilies and Ringo Deathstarr are truly complimentary acts. Which makes complete sense that you’ve done tours together.
Emily Taggart wrote:
Ooooh – I’ll have to check all these bands out!
By all means please DO give all the artists featured here a listen, Emily.
Both Ringo Deathstarr and The Stargazer Lilies played live in your hometown of Toronto not too long ago, at a venue I know you are familiar with – the Horseshoe Tavern.
All accounts from that show indicate they've won over a new crop of Canadian fans.
Ray Kimura wrote:
Your review on Ringo Deathstarr's latest album, yes, I totally agree with your thoughts here.
Especially about the influence of Cocteau Twins, Chapterhouse, Smashing Pumpkins etc.
As for “Heavy Metal Suicide”, in my personal opinion, it's not the product of subliminal influence but the one of an intentional acknowledging homage.
I thought "Gods Dream" was the best as ever when it was released, though, I think "Pure Mood" is filled with the quite different atmosphere, so, now I can say the latter one is their best stuff.
As for The Stargazer Lilies, their sound reminded me of Echo Lake, the dream pop band from London. I love this typed band! Angelic female vocal style is my taste as you know.
Dead Leaf Echo always sounds so cool. In addition, their images/looks are cool as well. I like their style. However, it seems it might be a bit difficult for them to get fans in Japan.
Unless some 'wise' promoter/label owner in Japan strongly supports them, it will be difficult maybe. Coz in Japan, MBV is big but Slowdive has few fans! The Brian Jonestown Massacre is brilliant, though, very few people know them here in Japan. Even though Blonde Redhead has a Japanese vocalist, they are more popular in the US rather than in Japan. Sigh...
I can't explain the reason about this precisely in English though, maybe many of Japanese music audience tend to hesitate to accept the 'edgy' bands...
Anyway, thanks for your kind sharing as always here.
Thanks to you, I can dig out the cool sounds from the US all the time x
Thanks For Sharing I Like Your Post
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Well I DO love chocolate chip cookies (the first thing that came up when I checked out that "Get Be Learn" site - a recipe for them) - but getting back to the music here . . .
As always, I love your commentary here, Ray. Since you are a connoisseur (Mekiki in Japanese) of Ringo Deathstarr's music as much as anyone, I can truly appreciate your thoughts and analysis of my own ruminations about this album.
I like that you have a definitive opinion as to the band’s intentions on their song "Heavy Metal Suicide." Duly noted, and there is no public record otherwise (as of this writing) that disputes this.
Also happy to know you are now a fan of The Stargazer Lilies. They really are wonderful.
As are Dead Leaf Echo. Regarding what you have to say about them - I think they have already made some initial contacts with Japan, with an eye on touring there.
I think with the right connections they will be able to find an eager and attentive audience there – just as they’ve recently done with Europe.
Daniel Coborn of Ringo Deathstarr wrote:
Thanks for the write up!
appreciate it very much!
Can't wait to be back on the road having fun every night and playing gigs.
Thanks for the kind words!
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Elliott Frazier of Ringo Deathstarr wrote:
Ringo Deathstarr (@RingoDeathstarr) retweeted + liked:
davecromwellwrites.blogspot.com/2016/04/ringo-… @RingoDeathstarr #davecromwellwrites #reason #ToLOVEる #sounddesign #thoughts #societyus2016 twitter.com/WockenfussWins…
To 5868 followers.
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Detailed track-by-track #review of @RingoDeathstarr #PureMood here http://tinyurl.com/gmadx4s via #davecromwellwrites #dreampop #nugaze #love
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astronautaseusamigos Retweeted and Liked:
9m: Detailed track-by-track #review of @RingoDeathstarr #PureMood here http://tinyurl.com/gmadx4s via #davecromwellwrites #dreampop #nugaze #love
Dave Cromwell Retweeted Wockenfuss
http://davecromwellwrites.blogspot.com/2016/04/ringo-deathstarr-pure-mood-album-review.html … @RingoDeathstarr #davecromwellwrites #reason #ToLOVEる #sounddesign #thoughts #societyus2016 Dave Cromwell added
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Much appreciation to Daniel, Elliott and especially Alex for providing lyrics to most of the songs. Also to Daniel and Alex for the thoughtful Social Media support.
But most importantly for the great recorded and live show music. Not only this album and tour, but for each time Ringo Deathstarr puts out a new record and comes through this way.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and knowledge on this topic. This is really helpful and informative. I would love to see more updates from you.
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