Friday, June 28, 2024

Cerebral Inquiries Into New Full Album Releases

Full-length Album Reviews are the DaveCromwellWrites focus this go round, as the Summer has now officially begun. Extensive track-by-track analysis is delivered on new releases from artists whose earlier work have been previously featured here on this site. Glam-fronted punky pop rockers share space with a brilliant recreation/tribute to one of the original glam-rocker’s finest works. Rounding out the feature is a new full album release from creative alternative pop rockers.

It’s been far too long since DCW had the opportunity to review new music from enduring Queens, NY rockers GIFTSHOP.  Fortunately that wait is over as the band has just released their latest 9 track album “A Bunch Of Singles.”  Comprised of some previously released (and reviewed here) singles, five new entries complete the collection, giving us a broader spectrum of rock to dig into. Additionally, a music video accompanies the song that represents their hometown neighborhood and the people who inhabit it.

An unexpected piano-driven power ballad is the first new (to this site) song “There’s You.” With slow moving open arpeggio piano chords and rim-clack percussion, Meghan Taylor’s intimate vocals express a longing nature in lyrics shared. “Oh, so lonely - and oh, it shows - and though I'm broken -you know, no one knows.” Out of this sadness, an uplifting moment arrives with the beautifully harmonized, simple four word chorus “and then, there’s you.” Distinctive guitar figures are placed at just the right moments here, adding necessary accents. The second verse has the piano dropping out, leaving a low bass hum as an even more personal sonic field for Meghan’s heartfelt delivery.  Fuller drums kick in behind the subsequent chorus, which adds a pivotal change “and then, it’s true.”

A re-visitation of early era favorite “Spooky Halloween Christmas” adds a “Too” now, while injecting Ska/Rockabilly horns into this macabre delight. Meghan’s vocals are less Debbie Harry (as on the original) and more her own, with fuller emphatic delivery.  The walking bassline is still dominant, while appropriate sleigh-bells accompany monster-mash “ghoulish ride” aside voices. The accents are crisp and tight with the head-bopping, catchy chorus “It's Hallows' Eve with Christmas Trees! Skulls are hanging from the evergreens.”

Built on a deep, chugging, stoner-rock groove, “The Breakthrough” contemplates on the things you’ve needed to do in becoming the person you now are. Giftshop never wastes anyone’s time in getting to the hook, however and it’s a singalong beauty with the lyrics “nothing can stop us now – Are you with me?” Lyrical insight and introspection point out how “glittering gold” is “too good to be true,” and “the journey of lies turned into the truth.” A mid-point breakdown shifts the rhythm while providing a bit of uplift and hope after all the “compromises.” Delivered in call-and-response fashion, “you make a living by when you get” is followed by “you make a life by what you give.” The addition of a rising slide-guitar here provides musical gravity to this ultimate realization “breakthrough.”  Repeated vocal “wow” at the end drive home this necessary point.

Arriving with a cameo-filled video of local friends and followers, the already live show favorite sing-along “Astoria” delivers on it’s promise. Opening the footage with quick shots of their favorite hometown places, the bass guitar driven intro meets buzzing-bee axe for the musical throwdown. With copious amounts of live show footage from local favorite bar “Dominie’s” 2023 annual celebration event, the camera follows glamorous lead vocalist Meghan into the venue. The essential riff is sharp and precise, with drums and guitar accenting the changes. Long time fans are visible in front of the band as much of the footage is shot from behind. Quick cuts of the band members are of course necessary and included, as views from both inside and out of the space dance across the screen. Lyrically the song is as instantly classic as “New York, New York” or “I Love LA.” This time, however it is a love tome to a prominent NYC borough. “Drop me off at the Broadway stop NO! Not in Manhattan - This is my happy place - Join the Queens bandwagon.” The brilliant simplicity of the songs single title word chorus is all you need for fist pumping fans to leap on that bandwagon in that joyous moment of camaraderie.

Check out this wonderful video here:

The band also includes a cover of the groundbreaking classic 90’s Radiohead song “Creep.” While the band charges through it’s progression with thunderous glee, Meghan let’s loose with a powerful voice that hits every note. And who hasn’t at some point in their lives related to the lyrics “what the hell am I doing here? I don't belong here." Tacked on the end is a 41 second punk rock short that joyously concludes with the chanted lines “loaded diaper.”

Earlier released singles from this album are reviewed here: “More Than That” / “Kewl With Me” and “Stylish Junkie

Check out the full album on their Bandcamp (including how to acquire it).

Previous Reviews Featuring Giftshop can be found on this site here, here, here and here.

Follow GIFTSHOP on their Social Media: Official Website - Facebook - Instagram

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Julian Shah-Tayler is one of those multi-disciplinary musicians who appear to be always busy. In addition to writing, recording and touring his own music as The Singularity, he still finds the time to play live shows as a key member of very popular Depeche Mode tribute band Strangelove. Not content with all of that, he also does an impressive David Bowie show, encompassing the thin white duke’s beloved catalog. In that regard he has released a “50th Anniversary of Diamond Dogs full cover album.” DCW digs down now into this ambitious project, listening for a new interpretation of a treasured classic.

Putting his immediate unique personal stamp on opening track “Future Legend,” bold synthesizers provide an ominous background for the spoken word apocalyptic vision. Julian’s proper English accent and voice is deeper than Bowie’s reedier tone, and today’s modern production qualities add a richness that the DB self-produced original couldn’t accomplish in 1974. The lyrics still strike hard as when first heard by this writer back then: “Fleas the size of rats sucked on rats the size of cats And ten thousand peoploids split into small tribes.” A dystopian world is all that’s left, and will end “any day now."

One more spoken word phrase sets up the title track, as Julian delivers the pivotal line “This ain't Rock'n'Roll - This is – Genocide!” Having performed, produced, mixed and mastered everything by himself, Julian stays true to the originals chunky guitar riffing and cowbell percussion. Lifting his voice back up into more familiar Bowie register (the steady #bowietribute shows he does surely solidifies and hones this skill) the initially (and still) amusing lyrics “As they pulled you out of the oxygen tent - You asked for the latest party.” The younger, more reckless version of myself could almost relate to this. The next line “with your silicone hump and your ten inch stump,” however was far more of a head-scratcher. Other catch phrases like “mannequins with kill appeal” always stuck and are delivered here by Julian with aplomb. The chugging Rolling Stone-like chorus turns the mood a bit more rock and roll party, singing “come out of the garden, baby - you'll catch your death in the fog. Young girl, they call them the Diamond Dogs.” Julian adds new touches to certain lines, like the “Halloween Jack” verse where sonic echoes enhance the lyrics “so he slides down a rope.” Special mention to the bass playing here, which playfully adds wonderful counter rhythms.


Julian drops his voice down into a lower register for the introductory sequence on the piano-driven 8 minute opus “Sweet Thing.” That quickly shifts to the more Bowie-esque tenor on the line “and isn't it me, putting pain in a stranger?” before going full also on "Boys, Boys, its a sweet thing.” This vocal flex shows Julian’s ability to reinterpret the original croon while simultaneously putting his own stamp on it. Thematically depicting sex-for-sale as transactional commodity, it gets woven into “hope” being a “cheap thing.” Wonderful buzzy guitar lines ride over top of the primary piano chords, leading into the “Candidate” midsection. Notable high harmonies grace the lines “some make you sing and some make you scream - one makes you wish that you'd never been seen” while making pop culture references to Charlie Manson and Cassius Clay. Rattle tambourine quickens the pace behind desperation lines “Anyone out there? Any time?" and “When it's good, it's really good, and when it's bad I go to pieces." The resigned nihilistic partners agree to “buy some drugs and watch a band - then jump in the river holding hands.” Julian masterfully handles the “Reprise” section, going full falsetto on final powerful lines “then let it be, it's all I ever wanted. It's a street with a deal, and a taste. It's got claws, it's got me, it's got youuuuu.”

Not content to simply re-hash Bowie's most covered track, Julian turns the signature opening riff of "Rebel Rebel" on it’s head with a bass and drums intro, followed by keyboards in place of that recognizable hook. It’s as if Alan Wilder-era Depeche Mode is responsible for this delightful 80-90’s (decades after the original) recreation. Not to sit on one musical statement too long, buzzy guitar does make it’s appearance in that riff spot on the second pass through. The pure joy of these rock and roll lyrics still remain with us all, so many years later. “You like me, and I like it all - We like dancing and we look divine - You love bands when they're playing hard - You want more and you want it fast.” Additional musical interludes like the extended “bongo” production on the “Don’t ya?” segment is curiously inventive.

Julian returns to his dead-on Bowie croon for the Geoff MacCormack co-written power ballad “Rock and Roll With Me.” Noteworthy as being Bowie's first co-writing credit on one of his own albums, the song made the album having been salvaged from a planned but never-completed “Ziggy Stardust musical.” Julian gives it a proper rock and roll treatment, building it around guitars, bass and drums. Memorable lyrics from those formative and impressionable days like “lizards lay crying in the heat” and “I would take a foxy kind of stand - While tens of thousands found me in demand” are still a delight from this 50 years after perspective.

Electric piano serves as the primary musical force behind the William Burroughs/George Orwell inspired “We Are The Dead.” Believed to have been lyrically constructed via Burroughs's famous "cut-up" technique, Julian puts his all in the vocals during big production sections. Still enamored by the line “but I love you in your fuck-me pumps” (stylish teenage lust is hard to shake, even at this advanced age) it’s still a grim resolution “Because of all we've seen, because of all we've said - We are the dead.

There’s a subtle trap-hop element to the percussion on Julian’s adaptation of the Orwell inspired “1984.” While acoustic tone guitars initially move around the edges, an unexpected fiddle-sound saws away through center. Funk-guitar is introduced on the second verse as the narrator once again ultimately warns “Beware the savage jaw – of 1984.” Chunkier power chords move in to augment the “come see, come see, remember me?” change section. Things move deeper into a soul direction for the third “I’m looking for a vehicle” section, especially via bass guitar propulsion and funk strummed chords.

The final entry “Big Brother/Chant of The Ever Circling Skeletal Family” finds Julian keeping true-to-the-original reading of the initial rock portion. Tandem bass and drum propulsion with slithering buzz guitar notes around those memorable lyrics. Referencing “dust and roses,” the fey aside “or should we powder our noses?” ultimately give way to “give me steel, give me steel, give me pulses unreal.” The hook always delivers “Someone to claim us, someone to follow - Someone to shame us, some brave Apollo - Someone to fool us, someone like you - We want you Big Brother.” The songs original concept was meant for an adaptation of Orwell’s totalitarian future society 1984. When that project could not be made, at least we got this song here. Julian captures those delightful mid-track melody lines via unique synth tones. Similarly, the reinterpretation of the final chant (which is meant to echo Winston’s “two minutes of hate” depicted in Orwell’s book) benefits from modern production qualities here, and brings the album to it’s conclusion.

Check out this amazing album in full here:

Connect with Julian Shah-Tayler/The Singularity via his Social Media: Facebook - Instagram

Previous Features on Julian and his music can be found on this site here and here.

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Last summer DCW reviewed the first single and opening track “Superflower” from The Crushing Violets forthcoming full length album “Filaments of Creation.” That album is now here in it’s entirely, and naturally curiosity has been peaked about what the other tracks sound like. With Antanina (vocals) and BP Brooks (guitars, vocals) writing all the songs, Mick Hargreaves mixed, engineered, played some additional instruments and co-produced with the band. It was recorded at Lantern Sound Recording Rig, in Manorville, NY.

Taking a sequential approach through the album, first new (to this site) track “Hollywood” emerges out of a rat-a-tat drum intro. The progression moves forward at a power ballad pacing and vocals come in tandem, with BP’s male tones out front. Those vocals are further enhanced by guitar lines echoing it’s melody. Not really about California’s movie making capital, the title word’s singular reference comes in the lyrical sequence “now the house is gray - here's a ghost inside these walls today - Hollywood seems so far away.” The following cut “It’s 2am” is an acoustic guitar (only) powered folk song ruminating on introspective thoughts had in those early morning hours. Where “your ghosts will haunt you,” “can’t find what you lost,” and “can’t hide from who you are.” Even though “you got lost among the stars” it’s important to “remember who you are,” and that you belong there.

A chugging Rolling Stones style guitar progression followed by solid drums and bass kick off “Then You Shine.” It’s laid back “Exile On Main Street” vibe echoes that watershed album’s soulful voices with Antanina’s contributions on each verse title line resolution. While BP’s vocals (and all the backing vocal production overall) deliver the poetic lyrics clearly, his guitar solo near the 2 minute mark really sings. Bigger rock production and well placed minor/seventh chords in the songs progression enhance the Antanina voiced “When We Dream.” It all comes together gloriously on the lyrical hook “We’re going where the summer’s waiting - I’m dreaming of enchanted places - We’ll be” and the powerful guitar-bass-drums instrumental section that follows. A return to introspection runs through the acoustic guitar only, predominant BP vocal on “Anyway.” Antanina adds tender harmonies to lyrical content that emphasizes “darkest dream,” “the end of time” and how ultimately “the world is a stage.”

A curious backward motion guitar effect introduces the full bass and drums accompanied, BP lead voiced “Lost in Space.” Reaching the catchy chorus hook in under a minutes, both voices harmonize on the lovely sentiment “if you just hold my hand, we could walk in the sand - Lost in Space.” A wonderfully tasty Dickey Betts style guitar solo graces the song’s midpoint, adding musical sensitivity, sweetness and light. A surprising tempo change commences at the two and a half minute mark, lifting the overall progression to a higher level. Album closer “Back to Neptune” has Antanina weaving a tale of “two lover churning deep beneath the waves” on that giant blue planet. An interesting mix of mellotron-style flutes serve up an instrumental interlude between vivid imagery of “flashing cosmic rays” with “200 billion stars to light the way.”

A full review of the albums opening track and first single “Superflower” can be found here.

Dig in to the whole album, including how to acquire it here:

Follow The Crushing Violets on their Social Media - Official Website - Facebook - InstagramBandcamp

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