All posts by Broken_Birdie

Brett Newski Album Review

Brett Newski Album Review – Land Air Sea Garage

Brett Newski Album Review“Not all who wander are lost” reads the tire cover on the jeep in front of me that’s as red as the light we’re stuck at.  To me it seems a superfluous statement but to others it could be a revelation.  Some people find discontentment and stagnation when they stay in the same place for too long, like every idle minute is a wasted minute.  There is simply too much beyond the driveway to risk missing.  I took this assignment after reading the brief description because it immediately felt relatable despite not hearing a single note.

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Coheed and Cambria – Gainesville

Coheed Cambria Review
Gainesville, FL

The first time I ever got to see the mighty Coheed and Cambria they were touring with Thursday and Thrice. They played a sold-out show at the House of Blues in Orlando circa 2002. The second time they were opening for The Used at the now defunct Club 5 in Jacksonville, then again at the now defunct Freebird Live in Jacksonville Beach, that time as headliners. There are not many bands that I would go way out of my way to see live and review over and over again, but if I even sense that they will be coming within a hundred mile radius of me it would feel wrong not to be in attendance.
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le Butcherettes – Cry Is For The Flies – Album Review

le Butcherettes Album Review

I think that it’s fair to say that I have never been less prepared to experience new sounds as I was the day Cretin sent me Le Butcherettes.

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Cry Is For The Flies starts out sounding like an even more sinister boat ride through Willy Wonka’s tunnel of terror on “Burn The Scab”. It causes anxiety, aggression, and for the uninitiated, a certain amount of confusion. It is not for the weak of heart, nor the sensitive. I very nearly sent the album back to Rara’s in defeat as I thought “there is simply no way to describe this without hearing it for yourself.” While this still holds true to a certain extent, it is not nearly as inaccessible as I originally thought. The further you dive into the album, the more human Teri Gender Bender (born Teresa Suarez) becomes. The more you listen, the more it grows on you.

The track that finally caught my attention while I was having my writing meltdown regarding this record was “Your Weakness Gives Me Life”. I could hear a comparison deep in my brain trying to get to the surface but it was buried somewhere in the 90s. Then after a few more listens it came. Veruca Salt was very good at doing the same thing as Le Butcherettes: driving crunchy guitars through the verses before letting it all go in a big, wide open chorus.

Do away with the sugary sweet melodies that Veruca Salt would often fall back on, and replace them with some of the darker moments in Tim Kasher’s brain while writing Cursive’s The Ugly Organ, and I think that’s a pretty accurate description of Cry Is For The Flies.

Henry Rollins makes a spoken-word guest appearance on “Moment of Guilt”, and Shirley Manson (of Garbage fame) guests on “Shame, You’re All I’ve Got”. The tempo on “Shame…” takes a nose-dive but it’s a refreshing change of pace and though I was never a fan of Garbage it is one of my favorite tracks.

“Poet From Nowhere” comes racing out of the gates sounding like a drug-induced hallucination in a toy factory. The guitar is absent, replaced by the quirky keyboard, and outside of the context of the record would sound absolutely absurd. However, by the time the song comes you already feel like you’ve been through such a journey that you’re really willing to accept just about anything at that point. Break your conventions down or it can be done for you in ten songs, maybe less.

“Crying Out To The Flies” rounds out the album in stunning fashion. There is plenty more to say about the music and the band as well (The Omar connection? The Colorado/Guadalajara correlation?) but I think it’s best to let this album speak for itself.
It has been a long time since an album caught me off guard like this one. First, I was genuinely disgusted. Then, I was intrigued. Then, I was elated and now I’m in love.

It’s not for everyone but it is definitely within reach for most people if you simply have the fortitude to keep listening. A+ and I’m really looking forward to Le Butcherettes cruising through town so that I can catch what I can only imagine is a fantastic live show as well.

Broken Birdie

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The Sheens – 163EP Album Review

NYC’s The Sheens 163 EP Review

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The first time I saw New York, I had to spend most of the time in a 14th floor hotel room watching Freakazoid! for three days, and the only view out the window was the biggest multi-lane highway I’ve ever seen.   My second trip to the area was more fun, but not exactly a bulls-eye.  I was still relatively young and reckless, so what was supposed to be a relaxing, fun-filled trip turned into four fun, drunken days at the Chelsea Star Hotel (a hostel) with a raucous group of the friendliest Canadians (are there other types of Canadians?).  I pick up accents easily and merely being in such close contact with them for those few days caused me to carry a Canadian accent for several weeks after we left.  My regards to Nova Scotia.

By day three, we were all threatened with eviction from the hostel when the cleaning lady saw that the only dresser in the 8 person room was completely covered with empty liquor and beer bottles. We had intended to see a band from upstate New York called Merit at Arlene’s Grocery. However, someone decided that mixing the Rum that was left with the Tequila that was left was a good idea. My point is I got on the train, as usual, but instead of making my way to the venue, I found myself at Strawberry Fields trying desperately to figure out how to get to the Ghostbuster’s fire station.  I made up for this stupidity by going to see Neko Case at the Nokia theater on my last night in the city.

The reason for that little jaunt down memory lane is because The Sheens actually remind me of the band that I had intended to see on that trip. And, The Sheens play Arlene’s Grocery pretty frequently, it seems. So, maybe it’s not a total coincidence.

163EP starts off perfectly with a song called “Dynamite”. It rises with a little bit of rattling guitar, a quirky, bouncy bassline, and what sounds like a very subtle use of the bassier end of a piano. Once the vocals kick in it’s almost too obvious that this song would be infinitely more fun in person, in a dark, dingy, sweaty club. Dance-ability is high, but not in a totally obvious way. You could stand there, fold your arms, scowl and have a perfectly decent time watching the band play this song. You could also take off your jacket, double check your laces, and hit the dance floor just as easily and you’d be almost guaranteed an amazing time.

Continuing on, “Do You Love Me” achieves more of the same, but with a slightly more punk rock feel. The lyrics are basic and don’t offer anything particularly impressive, but they are sung with heart and sincerity and that’s really all that I’m after, anyway. It’s rock and roll without an agenda.  It doesn’t care who you are, what you make, or how you dress. If you like to kick back, let loose and shake your hips, The Sheens are on your side. They just sound…friendly. The vibe is unpretentious, humble, and most of all, genuine, and it is very refreshing and appreciated to hear.

The most defining aspect of their sound is the way that they are able to slide into every song like it’s a favorite sweater.  The guitar jangles and rattles, the bass follows in with a grin on it’s face, the cymbals shiver  a little before Cat starts singing.  “Hey Little Something” is an upbeat, sing-along that hums at a steady pace before giving way to “Dark Side”.  Her voice, as well as the music, seems to take a slightly melancholy detour, but along with the opener this track is a favorite.  “Every Night, Every Day” gets back on track with more up-tempo romping before unceremoniously ending the EP.

This record hit me with some happy, albeit fuzzy, memories that I hadn’t visited in a while. I got visions of seeing stranger after stranger go past, never to see the same face twice.  The bright lights of Time Square at night.  The sex museum on 5th Ave and a fantastic gypsy musical off-broadway. I can’t really compare The Sheens to anyone, aside from the aforementioned Merit, because I haven’t heard anything quite like them. The city breathes the sound into the music and to experience one without the other is really like reading half a book or watching half of a movie. Most of their shows seem to be in the NYC area but hopefully they will tour soon. In the event that they don’t, just writing this has made me nostalgic and I think it’s time to start planning a new trip back to the big city. This time I will be able to navigate the subways and make it to the venue. Who else is in? I’m serious.

Broken_Birdie

Melanie Martinez – Dollhouse EP – Music Review

Melanie Martinez – Dollhouse Review

I don’t want to bore you by numerating the reasons why I dragged my feet so much with this e.p. Suffice it to say that Broken Birdie is a lazy bum who spends too much time under bridges.

I downloaded the music and let it play through, and then did it again, and again. The only thought that came to my mind that first day was “Melanie Martinez owes either Lorde or Lana Del Rey, or both, some serious royalties. Somebody call an ambulance, Melanie bit the shit out of Lana’s style!” After more thought, though, that’s hardly fair. Beginning that line of thinking is taking the exit to old-age where I start becoming a person that “just doesn’t get it”. It’s already happened to hip-hop. I don’t understand rap anymore, but that’s another article altogether. Music like Ms. Martinez has put together on the Dollhouse e.p. might borrow, it might lift, it may be shamelessly influenced by the aforementioned artists, but can you blame her? Being that this web-site is called Rock and Roll Animals, some of you may not have a clue what i’m babbling about. This isn’t rock and roll. It’s not even close, but lest we fall into the trap of becoming old before our time, we must allow “rock and roll” to transcend it’s traditional sounds and antics.

Dollhouse starts off with “Bittersweet Tragedy” which is anthemic in it’s presentation. It’s large, it’s fluid, it’s like standing on a deserted beach with your feet sinking into the sand and staring at the water. You can see the wave building that will ultimately smash you into the ground, but you can’t take your eyes off of it, can’t even think of moving to safety. You are drawn to the thing that will destroy you, and it’s one of the most common, irrational human actions that I can think of right now. In short, this is one of the most venomous love songs I have heard in quite some time and I love it.

Track two, “Carousel”, certainly pushes the circus/carnival analogy with it’s funky pipe-organ sound at the beginning. The song is catchy, but some of the word-play is a little bit corny, and I don’t foresee this track having very much replay value at all.  Unless you work for a carnival, of course.

Following that the e.p. takes a rather unexpected, dark turn. After several listens “Dead To Me” begins to sound like an extremely thinly veiled death threat. More likely, however, it’s simply dramatics that I can not relate to. It’s a very catchy song, but to avoid the risk of sounding like an obnoxious ass I think that I’ll just move on.

Rounding out the e.p. is the title track “Dollhouse.” It’s an angsty song about how a seemingly perfect family is, in reality, flawed and tragic. It’s simple, it’s dark, and, again, it’s catchy as hell. It’s certainly the most radio-friendly track on here.  As a side note, I love it when people refer to weed as “cannabis”.  There’s something very haughty about it, and it’s also quite charming in a strange way.

Ernest Hemingway said “In order to write about life first you must live it.” Melanie Martinez has heaps of potential to become a serious force in music, but at the tender age of 19 I don’t think she’s been dragged through enough dirt, yet. As of now she is a young girl singing songs for young girls, but hopefully with experience she will blossom into a uniquely talented artist that will establish an identity of her own. “Bittersweet Tragedy” is the gem of this e.p. and I hope to hear more from her in the future.

Broken Birdie

STRNGRS – Magic Boy – Music Review

STRNGRS EP Review

Magic Boy  is a four song EP from NYC three-piece STRNGRS and they managed to cram more attitude and rock & roll into those four songs than most do in a full-length album.

Tell-tale twanginess introduces us on “Runnin’ Dry” before the vocals kick in, the singer sounding like a solid blend of Jack White and Robert Plant.  It’s hard to, in my brain at least, hear the song and not picture some poor, hungover bastard literally dying of thirst in the desert.  How did he get there?  What did he do last night?  Why are his ears ringing like that?  Easy, because STRNGRS were playing the chicken-wired stage at Patrick Swayze’s Roadhouse last night and this unfortunate soul was lucky to escape with his life.

“17 Letters” picks up the tempo and carries a solid rhythm for most of the song.  The guitar sounds like it’s strung with high-voltage power lines, however danceability remains low due to the fantastic, dirt breakdowns into which the band frequently devolves.

Following that, “Never Can Tell” is the part of the movie where the first cue stick is broken in half and beer bottle bottle thrown.  More rawness, more bluesy brilliance.  This track is probably my favorite on the EP.

Rounding out the EP, “Outta My Mind” is no sort of resolution to a good story.  This is right where the music feels like it has finally achieved full speed and intensity and you no longer want the next song as much as you need it.  This is clearly the part where all the bad guys are suddenly realizing that they may have tangled with the wrong dude and that killing Sam Elliott was probably a bad idea.  Just as the ass-kicking commences you’re left with silence and you’re a  little upset to be left in what feels like slide-guitar limbo.  Sure, you could go listen to something else, but why would you right now?

Magic Boy was an unexpected, pleasant surprise to hear and I hope it’s indicative of what’s going on in certain music scenes in New York and elsewhere.  The next time, however, that you leave me hanging with only four songs I’m busting skulls.  Fantastic work and I’m looking forward to hearing anything else STRNGRS have to offer.

You Me At Six – Cavalier Youth – Album Review

You Me At Six Album Review

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Typically, unless an album jumps out at me and screams ideas and feelings I have to sit on it for a while to absorb everything. The sound, the artist’s intentions, their execution, whether or not they put their heart into their work.

Maybe you’re thinking how could I possibly know the artist’s intentions or whether or not their heart was in it… and my response would be, you just can. You can hear it in their voice when passion and intensity begins to make the stanza lines quiver and distort. You can feel it when the guitarist spent the time to find unusual notes and phrasings to make you feel something unexpected and profound. I’ve said this before in the review of the amazing Holly Maher; you can’t fake sincerity. You can’t manufacture soul. You can’t fib and lie your way into the hearts of your fans. Not discerning music fans, anyway. Maybe that’s why it’s taken me longer than expected to write this review. You Me At Six are legitimate musicians, with solid songs and the more I listen to them the more that I like them. My only gripe with this album is it’s production.

Starting off with a short, sweet little song called “Be Who You Are” the singer, Josh Franceschi earns brownie points for name-dropping Joy Division right off the bat. It’s pretty clear by the end of this short song that this album has been pored over in a studio so that every note is precisely placed and polished. While this isn’t the worst thing ever, and I honestly don’t know how much input the member’s had in the recording process, I can’t help but feel that the record loses something due to it’s luster.

For example, take one of my favorite albums of the last five years; The Golden Age of Nowhere by the criminally over-looked Los Angeles outfit, Funeral Party. The album is 12 or 13 tracks of well written, catchy as hell rock and roll. It’s polished but not perfect. His voice blows out, there are a few notes that make you say “wtf?”, and there’s even one song in particular that I feel could have been left off of that record without really losing anything of tremendous value. The reason The Golden Age of Nowhere shines the way it does is because it’s dripping with emotion and skin-and-bones sincerity. His voice is blowing out because he’s feeling what he’s singing about. That’s what we want to hear. Your art, as a musician, is going back to that place you found the inspiration for the song for the 3 or 4 minutes the song lasts. Your job as a musical artist is to be highly skilled in self-empathy, and to show us exactly how you felt when this song was created. The source, the light (or darkness), the primordial incarnation of something severe…I want to hear it! So much of Funeral Party’s sound is defined by their singer, and I feel the same way about You Me At Six.

Franceschi is a decent singer, and while I didn’t hear anything in the instrumentation to blow my mind, that’s not the kind of band You Me At Six are. The band is greater as a unit than as the sum of their parts. Franceschi feels like he’s holding something back, something raw that would add greater dimension and contrast to the sometimes wall of distorted guitars. They have so much potential and are so close to realizing it that I would hate for them to fall into repeated commercial radio airplay next to Seether, Shinedown, and blah blah who’s-his-face-what’s-it-matter. In the event that this does become a reality, track 9 “Room To Breathe” will almost certainly be the culprit. Like I said, I don’t know how much input these guys had in the studio. They are a pretty young band (Franceschi being 23), and hopefully they will continue to grow and expand their musical horizons into something truly special.

Cavalier Youth, while a cool title for an album, does not feel accurate. Too much time and care has been taken with this record. What could have been a great record breaks down in mediocre land, but don’t discount this group of musicians. Whether misdirected, misinformed, naive, or inexperienced, all those things can be shaken off with time. Long story short, this is a solid effort, but not really my cup of tea. Keep an eye out for future offerings from these lads as I think they have the potential to do something really important, or at least wildly popular.

Standout tracks are “Wild Ones”, and “Too Young To Feel This Old”. (Check out the album below on iTunes)

Broken Birdie

Against Me! – Concert Review

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Against Me!  – Concert Review
01/22/2014 Freebird Live, Jacksonville Beach, FL

I have had the opportunity to see Against Me! a few times over the years.  Never have I seen them in such an intimate setting or on such a cold night.  I took A1A from St. Augustine to Jacksonville Beach and got delayed by what I first thought was a police checkpoint, but would later learn was actually a crime scene.

The county was doing controlled burns and afterwards found human remains among the now black, burned seaside.  Foul-play in such an affluent community?  It’s hard to believe, which only reinforces my assertion that everyone has their own crap to deal with; some are just better at hiding it.  I honestly don’t think that the internet needs another article about the strange, crazy stuff that happens in Florida.  Suffice it to say that the St. John’s County Sherriff’s department is “hot” on the case.  Too soon?

If you’ve never been to Freebird Live at Jacksonville Beach, it’s nestled right across the street from the pavilion and a couple of blocks down from everyone’s favorite Irish pub, Lynch’s.  It has always been a favorite venue of mine for the simple fact that during the summer you can spend a couple hours at the beach prior to the show, and when you hear the sound-checks begin, that’s your cue to change clothes and get in line.  That must be a happy memory from weekends long ago, because this was a Wednesday and it was frigid.  I got there as soon as I could after work, but I’m going to blame the St. Augustine tourists and the A1A crime scene for delaying me to the point where I missed the first band, The Shonds.  Sorry guys, I heard you were great.

When we arrived The Sidekicks were just beginning their set and I don’t think I can say enough good things about these guys.  Hailing from Ohio, The Sidekicks are equal parts My Morning Jacket and Jawbreaker.  The singer/lead guitarist had a stage presence of someone of much more advanced years and his sense of melody left me in awe.  The drummer cracked my friend up with how happy he looked as he banged away at his drums, and she also noticed that the other guitarist had a very far-away look in his eyes as he was playing.  We discussed this after the show for quite a while.  We have never been in touring bands ourselves, but both agreed that sometimes you just can’t help but have stuff on your mind.  A thousand miles from home in a nearly  frozen Florida he could have been cursing the weather, thinking about people back home, or wondering if he locked the door before he left for the tour.   As a side note, I was looking through their Tumblr page and I got all nostalgic for the glory days of the D.I.Y. work ethic in punk rock, which seems to have changed with the rise of social media.  I used to love the collecting show flyers because of the artwork, and it’s something I hope makes a big comeback once it finally gets to the point where it’s cool again.

The evening had a very “school night” vibe to it, and it wasn’t just because of the large number of high school kids in the crowd.  It could have been the 7 o’clock doors, or the 12 and over age designation on the tickets.  Once The Sidekicks finished their set, Against Me! didn’t waste any time coming to the stage.  Thunderous applause came when Laura Jane Grace took the stage, and with very little fanfare, they launched into roughly a fifty minute set.  The set-list was varied and seemed to cover their entire discography.  In the review I did for their new album Transgender Dysphoria Blues, (read the review here) I lamented the fact that I would never see Tom Gabel singing “Walking Is Still Honest” again.  I don’t think that I have ever written down a more inconsequential idea in my life.  Laura sang it with all of the intensity and power that the song deserves.  She was all smiles, a mountainous weight lifted from her shoulders, and she seemed to be reveling in the fact that they were back in Florida, just down the road from the city she calls home.

Someone brought a State of Florida flag, which she graciously accepted, and proceeded to drape over the shoulders of guitarist James Bowman.  “Pints of Guinness Make You Strong”, “Sink, Florida, Sink”, “Miami”, “Don’t Lose Touch”, “I Was A Teenage Anarchist”, and so forth and so on, were all covered.  Even if, like me, you thought that New Wave and White Crosses had left something to be desired, the set-list was designed to please.  They played 3-4 songs from Transgender Dysphoria Blues, including “Black Me Out”, “Dead Friend”, and “True Trans Soul Rebel”.  I believe it was during “Drinking With the Jocks” that someone half-heartedly tried to start a mosh pit.  Content not to join in, I set my focus on not getting kicked in the head by crowd surfers, or crushing the 90 lb. 9th graders in the front row.  It was at this point that I noticed that Laura switched guitars due to a broken string.  She handed her roadie her black Rickenbacker to take care of and he handed her an identical guitar right back.  So, yes, she has at least two.  Another side note before I wrap this up.  Against Me! has one of the hardest working roadies I’ve ever seen.  He sound-checks, he tunes, he changes strings, he sets up filming equipment, he shows drunken crowd surfers off the stage (either to the side, or off the way they came), he picks up knocked-over half-stacks, and occasionally he takes a microphone to the face, and he does it with a smile.  I think for having such a relatively thankless assignment, he should receive some recognition.  Thank you, sir.

The band left the stage after saying goodbye, and in typical fashion the crowd didn’t move an inch.  Laura, James, Atom, and Inge came back to the stage and gave us three more songs before calling it a night.  The boys left the stage, but Laura stuck around to shake hands with the crowd and then bid us farewell.  Soaked in sweat, ears ringing, and adrenaline levels still soaring, we were sent back to the cold street, and we walked back to my friend’s apartment.  We looked at pictures, and video, that she had taken for this article, and I fell asleep already thinking ahead to the next time I would get to see Against Me!

A very special thank you to the incomparable Bailey.

Broken Birdie