Indie Rock

All posts tagged Indie Rock

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

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Artist: Third Class

Album: Virginia’s Playlist

Release Date: 1/1/17

Rating: 9.5/10

For nearly two decades, Northeast Ohio’s Third Class have dazzled audiences from across the region and beyond with a fierce passion. With an intimate and immediate delivery, Lee Echard Boyle and Co. consistently hit the mark with songs that boast as much dry wit as they do emotion. On their latest offering, Virginia’s Playlist, the Indie Rock mainstays craft a heartfelt, touching and often cynical story that takes the listeners across time and space, with all of the whirlwind emotions in between.

With Virginia’s Playlist, Third Class have taken their unique brand of quirky Indie Rock and Folk Pop and have sprinkled in subtle hints of Americana, Garage Pop and Baroque Pop for a 20-track massive opus. Not only is this perhaps their most ambitious record to date, but it serves as a refreshing reminder that the band is still searching, still hungry and still eager to push the limits of their songwriting one step further than the next.

Kicking off with the tongue-in-cheek “College Radio,” Third Class come out swinging in a charm all of their own. “We’re college radio but no one plays us, We never played a show where people paid us right, And in our pinky toe we’ve got more talent than you could ever know, Your bass rig towers high,” is a part cynical, part facetious, slightly-ambiguous look at either the local scene, or perhaps a parallel to the greater music scene in general.

A swarm of lush acoustic guitars and strings dominate “Radio to Cassette,” before the piano-driven “The World Sounds Like Poetry,” and the folky “Being and a Ball,” draw from personal reflection. From there, “Kiss You Until You Bleed,” “Lonely for You” and “Crying in the Dark” drive home the sincere melodramatic love songs that are trademark of Third Class. Somewhere between the brooding of Neil Young and the bluesy swagger of Springsteen, the songwriting carves its own niche of pure lyrical poetry.

The Neil Young-esque “Hardwood Sky” and the Baroque Pop of “Lonesome Dove” change the pace slightly, leading off the climatic second half of Virginia’s Playlist. “Colors of You” and “Better Mood Today” take a page right from White Album-era Beatles songwriting with a quirky baroque piano taking the lead on the former and a more subtle approach on the latter.

As the record draws to a close, tracks “Me and Wally” and “Witch Hunt” paint the melancholy picture of a summer sun setting of the reckless abandon of youth. Closing track “Sweet Potato” is a soaring glimmer of hope lead by a beautiful and frantic piano that fades off into the sunset.

Virginia’s Playlist is not a record you should put on at a party, and perhaps that is its most endearing quality! It is a record that demands your full attention. Best experienced by a few full uninterrupted listens. Third Class have crafted a record of continuity, a record that once heard in its entirety, it sticks with you. It is also evident on this record that the band have not hit their plateau in songwriting. Standout tracks include “Radio to Cassette,” “The World Sounds Like Poetry,” “Hardwood Sky,” “Grow Up in Portland,” and “Witch Hunt.” However, Virginia’s Playlist will leave the best impression if listened to from start to finish.

Virginia’s Playlist is available directly from the band at thirdclass.net.

By Rick Polo and Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Editor-in-Chief and Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)

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Artist: The Zou

Album: Love Kills Part Two

Release Date: 8/22/15

Rating: 9.7/10

Two long years have passed since The Zou released Kills Part One. The album was a real emotional rollercoaster of well-crafted pop love songs, dragged through barbed wire of sonic experimentation; a notable trademark of the band. The album literally left fans hanging on the edge of their seats, waiting for the follow-up. Now, with the release of Kills Part Two, fans can finally breathe as the Northeast Ohio Indie Rock staples have unleashed the masterpiece that was years in the making.

After a slew of lineup changes and delays, Zou mastermind Khaled Tabbara has teamed up with a plethora of noteworthy musicians to craft what could easily be his finest effort to date. Featuring the talents of Bernadette Lim, Katianne Timko, Billy LaGuardia and Tabbara’s brother Rached to name a few, the eclectic sound each musician brings to the table only adds more color to canvas. Producer Pete Drivere lends his signature polished-yet-somehow-gritty-rock-and-roll sound, for a record that transcends nearly every era of rock, yet still sounds vitally fresh.

Kicking off Kills Part Two is the simply-titled “Love.” A Baroque Pop tune with vocal harmonies reminiscent of Rubber Soul-era Beatles or Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys. The opening track is airy and tense, perfecting leading into “Drop A Dime,” a Ben Gibbard-esque sounding number, that could fall somewhere between his work with either Death Cab For Cutie or The Postal Service.

“I Was A Tyrant” follows with a more Americana-meets-Baroque Pop vibe, and painful lyrics hinting at a one-sided relationship. From there, the hard-rocking “Ooglie Booglie” takes flight, giving a post-punk angst, both sonically and lyrically, not unlike that of The Pixies or perhaps some of Black Francis’ solo endeavors. The track features a standout riff that takes the record off into a whole other direction before taking another left turn with the following tracks.

The Katianne Timko-produced “Holy Moses” can best be described as “holy drums!” The electronic drums pound underneath a well-crafted pop song. The modern, but certainly not gimmicky, production feels more like The Zou taking a sonic step forward rather than a trendy cash grab.

Finally, Kills Part Two concludes with the Doo-Wop vocal harmonies of “Mon Dieu” (an early acoustic version performed on The Raw Alternative can be viewed here) and the climatic rocker, “Gun Moll.” With a collage of sound that evokes Animal Collective, “Gun Moll” featuring soaring guitars and some of the album’s most intense lyrics, leaving the listener again, at the edge of their seat craving more.

All in all, Kills Part Two features, some of, if not the finest music The Zou has produced to date! Standout tracks include “Ooglie Booglie,” “Holy Moses,” “I Was A Tyrant” and “Gun Moll.” With various nods to his influences, Tabbara takes his band to new heights, while still retaining enough of the classic sound fans have come to know and love. Lyrically, the album examines all the various angles of love and the multiple feelings it can provoke, much in the way of Paul McCartney, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James or even Martin Gore. Sonically, Love Kills Part Two is widely spread, much in the way of Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper’s or even Dark Side of the Moon. It’s indicative of a band reaching a creative high, but certainly not peaking just yet.

The Zou will be giving a performing at Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts in downtown Youngstown on Saturday, Aug. 22 as band of the official release of Kills Part Two.

Black Francis of Pixies live in 2015.

Black Francis of Pixies live in 2015. Photo courtesy of facebook.com.

By Brandon Judeh (Music Reporter)

The auditorium was nearly pitch black as soon as college alt-rock heroes Pixies took the stage on Sunday evening.

Joey Santiago’s guitar let out an eerie whale as the music slowly crept in, the atmosphere almost like something out of a David Lynch film.

Fittingly, Black Francis begun to sing “In Heaven, everything is fine” from the song “In Heaven (Lady in the Radiator Song)” written by Peter Ivers for Lynch’s 1977 horror-head trip movie, Eraserhead

After the opener, things went hard and fast as the quartet smashed through 34 songs with quickness and reckless abandon.

“Andro Queen” and the classics “Wave of Mutilation (UK surf edition)” and “Ana” followed in frantic style.

David Lovering’s booming drums led the way on 2014’s Indy Cindy and 1989’s Crackity Jones, proving just how underrated his drumming skills is.

Pixies performing live in 2015.

Pixies performing live in 2015. Photo courtesy of rollingstone.com.

Though many long time Pixies fans were undoubtedly missing co-founder and bass player Kim Deal, touring bassist Paz Lenchantin did a fantastic job of taking her place.

The versatile musician, who has played in countless bands such as, A Perfect Circle and Zwan, has developed a great stage presence over the years.

Her laid back, summer-time fun personality counteracts Francis’s intense insanity perfectly and her sweet melodic vocals almost made hardcore fans forget about Deal.

Classics such as, “Gouge Away,” “Debaser” and “Bone Machine” sounded as fresh as ever and Lenchantin’s vocals on the later two were spot on.

The band noticeably left out a couple of songs that Deal had lead vocals on, most notably “Gigantic” off of 1988’s Surfer Rosa.

As the band chugged along during the humid Cleveland night, there was no crowd interaction at all, after one song ended the next quickly begun.

The crowd, with its mix of Gen-X’ers and young adults, had no quips, as they seemed transfixed on the rejuvenated rockers, particularly on the somewhat mysterious Francis.

“Hey, been trying to meet you/Hey, must be a devil between us or whores in my head,” Francis fittingly belted out during “Hey” with sweat pouring off his face.

When the quartet returned for an encore, they fired through a great performance of “Here Comes Your Man” and “La La Love You” much to the crowds delight, but soon vanished off into the night.

As almost mysterious as the show was, there was one thing certain.

This is a band, which not only influenced almost every grunge band, but also continues to influence a new generation today.

 

Cage the Elephant. Photo courtesy of the band's official Facebook page.

Cage the Elephant. Photo courtesy of the band’s official Facebook page.

By Brandon Judeh (Music Reporter)

When Bowling Green, Kentucky natives Cage the Elephant exploded onto the music scene and their debut record hit American shelves in early 2009, most could detect something particulrly special surrounding this band.

Though the album was released a full year prior in the UK, it begun to slowly build momentum in the US thanks in large part to the surprise success of “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” and “Back Against the Wall.”

Now, the rockers have three albums and countless hits under their belt and are embarking on a tour opening up for their friends, and Akron natives, the Black Keys.

Guitarist Brad Shultz recently spoke to The Raw Alternative and said the band has grown close with Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach since doing several shows with the band a few years ago.

“We have great memories with those guys as well as the other bands we have toured with and grown close with. We have developed great relationships with various musicians and it’s been a crazy ride and I’m blessed to be a part of it,” Shultz said.

Cage the elephant

One could see why it’s been a wild ride for Cage the Elephant, as members Matt Shultz (Vocals), Daniel Tichenor (Bass) and Jared Champion (Drums) have played alongside bands such as Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters and Stone Temple Pilots.

This would be a fantasy for most.

Dave Grohl even filled in on drums for the band for a couple of weeks in 2011 and is a self-proclaimed fan of Cage.

Currently the band is playing a lot of new material on the tour and mixing in old numbers throughout their set.

This is something Shultz said is a pretty neat experience.

“It’s good to get out there and play the new songs and even rework some of the older songs,” added Shultz. “It’s interesting to see how much we have progressed from the older stuff, to the stuff on Thank You, Happy Birthday! and now with the songs on Melophobia.

“What’s funny is, we will play like 17 songs and still get off stage in an hour because all of our songs are so short (Laughs).”

All joking aside, the band is now considered as one of Rock’s hardest working and most exciting bands, as they seem to tour non-stop.

“Playing shows is what we love to do, it’s a big part of our band and we put forth a strong effort to tour as much as possible to give fans more opportunities to see us,” Shultz said.

He also added that the crazier the crowd is, the crazier the show is. This is because the band feeds off of the crowd’s energy.

“That all kind of started when we use to play shows back in our home town at a place called Tidballs, it was this bar and fans would get so crazy in there and we would feed off of that.”

Playing big shows has also become a part of the band as they have now played Lollapalooza four times.

Shultz indicated that two of those shows are his all-time favorites and both sets were eerily similar.

“What a great feeling it is to play Lollapalooza, my two favorite shows we have ever played have been this year’s Lollapalooza and also 2011’s. Both times, ironically when we played, it was raining so hard and at points it was a downpour, it was awesome,” Shultz added.

Things were a little different this year at Lollapalooza for Cage the Elephant as long time guitarist Lincoln Parish was not onstage with his former band mates.

Parish decided to leave the band in late 2013 to pursue other interests.

Unlike most departures, this one ended on good terms as Parish, who joined the band when he was just 15-years-old, decided he wanted to focus on producing records.

“He joined the band at such a young age so he never really got to experience life,” Shultz said. “I think that now he is ready for some normalcy in his life, like wake up in the morning, have a cup of coffee and read the newspaper. He also has taken an interest in producing some records so as long as Lincoln is happy then we are happy for him and wish him the best.”

Replacing Parish is Nick Bockrath, who has also played alongside fellow Bowling Green natives Morning Teleportation, and Shultz says the transition has been a smooth one.

“Nick is an amazing guitar player, he is classically trained in jazz and fits in well with our band. We also added Matthan Minister on keys,” said the rhythm guitarist.

Though Cage the Elephant continues to enjoy the success that Melophobia has brought them with singles “Come a little Closer” and “Take it or Leave it” it will soon be time to make new music.

So far in the bands young career, each album has sounded different from one another, when asked what the new material may sound like, in typical Shultz brother humor (Matt is his younger brother), he gave this response.

“The next album is going to sound like Psychedelic Cowboy music, kind of like if John Wayne ate some shrooms and made a record.”

Kaiser Chiefs. Photo courtesy of www.theguardian.com/

Kaiser Chiefs. Photo courtesy of www.theguardian.com/

By Brandon Judeh (Music Reporter)

 For well over a decade England’s Kaiser Chiefs have quietly laid the groundwork for what is turning into a rich history of top UK singles. Such hits as “Ruby” and “Never Miss a Beat” has helped catapult the group into one of the UK’s top bands.

Now with a new album under their belt, Education, Education, Education and War, their fifth album to date, the Kaiser Chiefs are invading America this summer with a slew of tour dates, including a stop at the House of Blues in Cleveland on June 17.

Recently bassist Simon Rix spoke with The Raw Alternative about the new album, tour and the Kaiser Chiefs brief appearance at the 2012 London Olympics.

“Curlywand,” as his friends affectionately call him for his curly hair, also talked about new drummer Vijay Mistry and what lays ahead for he and his band mates.

Q: How’s the tour going so far? I see you have played a few promo shows.

A: Everything is going good so far. We have only played some promo shows in Europe, so we are really looking forward to doing a proper tour in America.

Q: What can we expect during the US tour? Any Surprises?

A: We are playing in a lot of new venues that we have never played in before and we will be playing a lot of new songs off the latest record. That’s what we are most excited about, is playing the new songs and putting on a great show for all the fans.

Q: Tell me about the new album ‘Education, Education, Education and War,’ it seems to be doing well.

A: We are very happy with how it turned out; we feel that with this record we got better as a band. We kind of felt like we hit a plateau a few years back, but now with this album we feel like we are soaring upward again. It has us all very excited about what’s next for the band and to keep working hard on improving and getting better as a whole. The record is currently doing well in the UK and getting a lot of radio play.

Q: I have to ask you about the title of the album, where did it come from? I would imagine it has a lot to do with the lyrics?

A: Yes the Album is about personal education and personal war. All of us kind of felt we were fighting for the band and with ourselves. Throughout the songs a recurring theme of education and war comes up in the lyrics and we captured a bit of a new sound.

Q: This is the first album without founding member and drummer Nick Hodgson and first with new drummer Vijay Mistry. What new dynamic does he bring to the band?

A: He’s a great new member and everything feels kind of fresh again and exciting. We get to see things through his eyes and that helps us see some things differently. He’s a very enthusiastic and exciting person, which is great because we are all from Northern England, which means we are never happy (laughs).

Q: Lets backtrack to the 2012 Olympics in England, what was it like playing “Pinball Wizard” at the Olympics in your home country?

A: It was great, a good day, but also an insane day. We kind of waited around and were very nervous because we were going to play for millions of people watching the event on television plus the ones in attendance. It was a little hard to get into a groove because we were only playing for about three minutes and then it was time to get off the stage, but we still enjoyed it. Being a part of the Olympics in our homeland was very special.

Q: What will the rest of 2014 and beyond bring for the Kaiser Chiefs?

A: We will continue to promote the album, do some festivals and probably come back to America for another tour as well. We are looking to get back into the studio fairly soon to maybe record another single, or even do an EP so stay tuned!

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

It has been over two decades since the world last heard from Cleveland alternative rock pioneers, Death of Samanatha. The band became one of the key players of the 80’s college rock movement, craving out a unique niche in the scene. But by the later part of the decade, at what seemed as the height of the group’s success, they disbanded and have remained relatively quiet for more than 20 years. Now they’re poised for a comeback with a long-awaited reunion disc spanning their short-lived but highly influential career.

Formed in 1983 by singer and guitarist John Petkovic, guitarist Doug Gillard, bassist David James and drummer Steven Eierdam, Death of Samantha took the scene by storm, becoming one of the first notable alternative/indie rock frontrunners in Cleveland. The infamous first gig at a Ground Round family restaurant has become that of legend. With bizarre stage antics, puck rock ethos and sound primed and ready for college radio, the band quickly rose to recognition, and caught the eye of Homestead Records in 1986.

At the time, Homestead Records, based out of New York, was home to some the biggest names underground rock had to offer at the time, including Sonic Youth, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Dinosaur Jr. The full length debut for the label, Strungout on Jargon, brought the band on the national underground scene. They continued to tour the latter half of the 80’s alongside big names such as The Replacements, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Sonic Youth, Nirvana and the Smashing Pumpkins.

Death of Samantha supporting Sonic Youth in the mid-80's.

Death of Samantha supporting Sonic Youth in the mid-80’s.

Sadly, as their aforementioned touring partners caught major label deals and broke out onto the early 90’s MTV scene, they never stuck it out long enough to ee their break. Following the release of Where the Women Wear the Glory and the Men Wear the Pants in 1988 and Come All Ye Faithless in 1990, Death of Samantha called it quits. A small reunion was attempted in 92, but never got off the ground. The band, whose influence can still likely be heard on rock radio via post-grunge/post-alternative acts (think Bush, Everclear, and perhaps Green Day).

In recent years, the original lineup of Death of Samantha have remained active musically, playing a handful off one-off reunions such as at the Beachwood Ballroom in Cleveland and 4th and 4th Fest in Columbus, Ohio. As of late last year, the have recorded an 18-track double album titled If Memory Serves to be released on Feb. 11 via the band’s St. Valentine Records. It will be their first release in 24 years.

If Memory Serves is comprised of re-recordings of old material. In an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Petkovek said that the two-disc retrospective has gotten the band’s creative juices flowing, as they are planning more endeavors for the coming months.

“…a lead-in to a tour and a record of all-new material in 2015,” said Petkovek.

With a wealth of 80s indie rock acts such as My Bloody Valentine, The Replacements and the Pixies reuniting and releasing new music, there is no doubt that the time is right for Death of Samanatha to return to the scene and pick up where they have left off. Perhaps nostalgia for some, and a new chapter, new era or even a new beginning for many others.