Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Yoleus
Nightmare Circle Vision

9 song CD

The frantic and bass-heavy instrumental music of The Yoleus sounds like it could be the mute love child of Geddy Lee and Les Claypool. It's a quirky blend of intelligent math rock that collided with dissonant indie guitar rock somewhere along the way, all hyped up on speed and driving recklessly down the freeway.

The band tears mercilessly through these nine tracks with more notes than your brain can possibly fathom -- it's wearing me out just now as I listen. Yet, somehow they manage to put enough punch into their noodling to turn this into a real rock record, and not just a lot of histrionic hubbub. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go lay down.

MISH MASH Mandate: Fuzzy Math
The Yoleus Website

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Cold Dead Hands

5 song CD

This Toronto-based power trio reminds me of the full-tilt power pop of Urge Overkill, filled with big guitar riffs and plenty of smart-aleck attitude. Cold Dead Hands rip through these five songs like a band on fire, hellbent on just rocking out with a smirk locked firmly in place.

The EP format is just perfect for an introduction for the band, as they are able to bash out a few smart and focused tracks without overstaying their welcome. It goes by in a flash, and before you know it, you're pressing play again because you have it hear it just one more time. A little bit louder.

MISH MASH Mandate: National Kato
Cold Dead Hands Website

Friday, December 21, 2007

Various Artists
Cambodian Rocks

Parallel World
22 Track Download

Here's a little treasure to brighten up your holidays. WFMU has posted 22 tracks from a legendary underground album called Cambodian Rocks, a collection of forgotten, pre-Khmer Rouge pop music from Cambodia. Apparently, a tourist by the name of Paul Wheeler brought a collection of cassettes to the States, and this compilation is the result.

About half artists featured on the compilation are unknown, as are the names of the majority of the songs. Unfortunately, this will probably never change, as the artists were most likely victims of the Khmer Rouge. Thankfully, a few of the groups have been identified, and WFMU has labeled the ones they are aware of.

The tracks have a definite late 60s - early 70s Western rock influence, ranging from pop, psychedelic rock, to Stax-inspired soul. While the sound quality is expectedly low-fi, having come from cassette tapes, the quality of the music itself makes up for the shortcomings in sound. There was obviously a lot of pop talent in Cambodia during this time, and it's good that we at least have this document of it to keep their music alive.

(There is a documentary being produced about the Cambodia music scene of this era, and all the tragedy that came with the Khmer Rouge, and a trailer can be viewed right here. Hopefully we'll have more on this in the near future.)

MISH MASH Mandate: Phnom Pehn Pop
WFMU Download Page

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


8 song CD/2LP

Odyssea is an apt title for this album, as epic hard rock is surely the name of the game. Tomydeepestego is an Italian quartet that centers squarely on long, drawn out, heavy rock instrumentals, each one a chapter in this ever-winding tale.

Huge guitar riffs are the main focus, while the pounding rhythm section plods along with big dinosaur steps. The mood is dark and mysterious, with the slow pacing and building dynamics used to draw the listener in gradually over time. There's not much in the way of guitar histrionics, as the power chord dominates the landscape at almost every turn. It's a wall of sound that overpowers with sheer musical force, destroying everything in its path.

MISH MASH Mandate: Shock And Awe
Subsound Records Website
KNVBI Records Website

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Duran Duran
Red Carpet Massacre

Epic Records
12 song CD

While 2004's Astronaut had the original Duran Duran lineup basking in their newfound pop brotherhood, Red Carpet Massacre is the official breakup album. If you listen closely, you can hear guitarist Andy Taylor walking away from this record. His influence is definitely not to be found.

Believe it or not, that's not necessarily a bad thing. With all the mixed reviews out there, I was expecting this one to be questionable at best. However, it is surprisingly good, even with the well publicized connections to Timbaland and Timberlake. The double-Durans are right at home with their newly discovered modern pop sounds, it seems all they needed was a push in that direction. Of course, that pushed Andy right out the door. I can only wonder what it could have sounded like with his harder-edged guitar work. Oh well.

My favorite track is Box Full O'Honey, a song that fully incorporates the band's classic summery pop sound without forcing too many contemporary compromises. It's a good reminder of why this band is still around after a quarter century, and still making headlines.

MISH MASH Mandate: Sing Blue Silver
Duran Duran Website

Monday, December 17, 2007

Rebel Beat:
The Story Of L.A. Rockabilly


DVD Documentary

Rebel Beat is a labor of love for documentary filmmaker Elizabeth Blozan, as it is easy to see her heart and soul poured into this fabulous showcase of the Los Angeles rockabilly underground. If you thought that the rockabilly revival began and ended with The Stray Cats, you're in for a big, pleasant surprise, as it is alive and well in the L.A. music scene.

The film begins with a look at rockabilly's long and sometimes troubled history, with its roots in the early stages of 50s rock-n-roll. Elvis, Gene Vincent, and Carl Perkins were the pioneers, passing the flame on to underground heroes over the decades who have kept the music form from passing away into history. According to Rebel Beat, rockabilly owes its life to an unlikely patron saint, an Italian-born Jew by the name of Rockin' Ronny Weiser. In the 70s, Weiser single-handedly brought rockabilly back from oblivion with his small independent label, Rollin' Rock Records. His efforts helped create a cult following in Europe that eventually brought the genre back to the US, where a thriving rockabilly scene survives to this day.

Blozan explores the state of present day rockabilly by showing the surprising diversity of its fan base, one that includes tattooed hot rod greasers and cowboy hat wearing country music lovers, along with unexpectedly strong historical ties with the L.A. Latino community. Young bands and fans mix with old-timers from the 50s heyday, showing that the draw of rockabilly stretches across the generations.

The documentary is exceptional in that Blozan lets us get to know the artists and fans by approaching them at a personal level. We get to know them one on one, the most striking example being a young couple who invites the filmmaker into their home. Later we see their engagement at a rockabilly show as it is caught on tape. The subjects are given a face and a heart, and in turn, we feel like we are part of the scene because we've been there and gotten to know the people involved.

When you consider that many trends in music have come and gone over the decades, it is refreshing to see a small slice of pop music has managed to survive without making compromises. The forefather of rock-n-roll still lives, and best of all, on its own terms. In a fitting way, the proclamation on the front of the DVD case says it all: They tried to kill our music, but they just can't kill our soul. Well said.

MISH MASH Mandate: We Got The Beat
Rebel Beat Website

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hanoi Rocks
Street Poetry

Backstage Alliance/Wolfgang Records

13 song CD

After reuniting after almost 20 years in 2002, singer Michael Monroe and guitarist Andy McCoy have been making some of the best and hard-hitting music in their careers. All set to become the kings of hard glam rock in the early 80s, Hanoi Rocks split up after the untimely death of drummer Razzle in late 1984. They left the hard rock scene only to see their disciples Guns-N-Roses rocket to the top, using the Hanoi bag of tricks to do it. Fast forward to the present day, and original members Monroe and McCoy have pulled it all back together with their third full-length album since reuniting, an album that proves they've never lost their knack for blues-based bar rock. Throw in a solid backing band that revives the spirit of the original group, and you've got one powerful combination.

The album starts of with Hypermobile, a track that gets right down to business. It's loud and aggressive, driving with a youthful force that belies the fact that Monroe and McCoy have been doing this for almost three decades. Next comes the title track, which is an ode to a street poet in London. It's a song that reminds me of classic Hanoi Rocks, with its story-telling structure and punk-inspired chorus. As the disc progresses, Monroe brings out his sax for the bar bloozy Worth Your Weight In Gold, and he does his best hard-rock glam-boy strutting in Transcendental Groove and Tootin' Star.

It's amazing how they are able to use much of the same formula from 20+ years ago, yet still make it all sound fresh and exciting like it was still the early 80s. Will it work for them now? Hard to tell, mainly because their exposure in the US is as limited as it ever was; this particular disc is only available right now as in import, for example. Their record company is thankfully utilizing the Internet to get the word out. Hopefully they can get some well deserved attention and put a shot into the arm of Stateside contemporary rock-n-roll, because it sure as heck needs it.

MISH MASH Mandate: Boulevard Of Broken Dreams
Hanoi Rocks Website

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Flying Lotus
Reset EP

Warp Records

6 song CD

The first thing that struck me about this release was the jet black CD with black print, all wrapped up in black and white packaging, with the exception of the little gold sticker in the top left corner of the cover. It's a good summation of the actual music inside, dark and mysterious hip-hop based electronica, with a small ray of colorful light peering out of the shadows.

The opening track, Tea Leaf Dancers, has a disconcerting and off-kilter beat, a droning background oscillating underneath the guest vocalist Andreya Triana. The song immediately sets the EP down the unbeaten path, only to reel us back to the dance floor with the harsh rhythmic noise of Vegas Collie. From there, Flying Lotus expands on his sounds, yet always revolving around the droning darkness. At the same time, there's a slight and underlying positive vibe that surfaces from time-to-time throughout the disc, bringing another facet to an already intriguing EP.

MISH MASH Mandate: Back In Black
Flying Lotus Website

Friday, December 07, 2007

Darlene Love
It's Christmas Of Course

Shout Factory

12 song CD

Darlene Love is probably best known for her 1963 Phil Spector-produced Christmas hit Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), which she sings every year on the Late Show With David Letterman. Now Love is taking another ride on the holiday circuit with her new album of Christmas "neoclassics" from the 70s and 80s.

Love's album is unusual in that she avoids going over the same old tired Christmas song fare, and roots out some of the better holiday tracks from the past 30 years that have been overlooked. She chooses to cover a wide range of artists from James Brown to Billy Squier, and XTC, among others --- and hardly any of the tunes are on the top of anyone's most familiar lists, perhaps other than The Eagle's Please Come Home For Christmas and John Lennon's Happy Xmas (War Is Over). It's a risk, for sure, but it pays off royally. Love's soulful voice brings these tunes back from oblivion and gives them new life, and thankfully their relative obscurity makes them even more fresh and new.

MISH MASH Mandate: Santa Soul
Darlene Love @ Shout Factory

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Born Ruffians

Warp Records

3 song CD

Just when you thought that indie rock couldn't be fun anymore, along comes the Born Ruffians. This Toronto-based trio has a quirky and offbeat sound that isn't afraid to be happy and humorous.

This three song EP provides a little taste of their smirking style, with herky-jerky rhythms, lots of meandering guitar noodling, and jumpy vocals that seem to bounce around aimlessly like a rubber ball. It has a lo-fi appeal without the low fidelity production, and displays a knack for catchy indie-pop songwriting. With a full-length promised in the near future, this is a band to keep on your radar.

MISH MASH Mandate: Roughing It
Born Ruffians Website

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Various Artists
VUF Empire*
Compilation #2

VUF Records
15 song download

As promised, Denmark-based label VUF has released their second electronica compilation of the year, just in time for your holiday listening. Best of all, it's free. It's every bit as good as the first one, which we featured a few weeks ago in case you missed it.

The standout track for me is Simon Brenting's X-Wing Echoes, a driving dance floor burner that features throbbing noise-beats over thickly layered synth orchestration. Also noteworthy is Sunglasses2007 by tlbmS, a track that has that classic Kraftwerk feel.

MISH MASH Mandate: The Empire Strikes Back
VUF Records Website

Monday, December 03, 2007

Frank Lee Sprague
Merry Christmas: Traditional Carols Arranged As Traditional Rock Songs!


15 song CD

Imagine your favorite Christmas carols as played by your favorite 60s British Invasion bands, and you'll have a good idea of what this latest holiday release from Frank Lee Sprague sounds like. Sprague calls himself the Master Of Merseybeat, and it's easy to see why. He goes for a purely authentic retro-sound, and he does a great and creative job of translating the carols into the rock styles of that era.

My favorite track is a Pipeline-inspired instrumental surf version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. It starts off with the familiar reverb-heavy intro and glides into a twangy guitar interpretation of the Christmas classic. And would you believe a surf version of The Messiah? No kidding. Throw in a Beatlesque version of Silent Night, and you've got an instant soundtrack for your all your Christmas festivities.

As far as holiday albums go, this one is as much fun as you're going to have this season. Grab a few to put under the tree, because all your friends and family will want a copy of this one.

MISH MASH Mandate: Mersey Christmas
Frank Lee Sprague Website