Local recycled-percussion-powered singer/songwriter Billy Jonas' album What Kind of Cat Are You?! recently received the Association for Independent Music's Indie award. (The CD, released locally last December, also took home the Parent's Choice Gold Award for fall 2002.) For more information on Jonas, visit www.billyjonas.com.
Under the radar (demo reviews)
One of the best parts of reviewing music is running across stuff that's far below the radar. Some amazing gems are often released on albums carrying little more information than the band name and -- if you're really lucky -- the track listings.
This week, Random Acts brings you a duo of demo recordings from a couple of groups you've almost certainly never heard of. In the event one (or both) of the albums piques your interest, I ran across them on the local-music shelves of Green Eggs & Jam (82-A N. Lexington Ave).
• Lone Gunman, inept
As titles go, I can't think of a more inaccurate one for this recording.
Bronson Tew, the sole performer in this incarnation of Lone Gunman, chose songs for inept from his never-released album Black Coffee Convent. Maybe he saw this album as a bit of a failure, believing the recording quality to be too inconsistent, or the songs not quite ready for a full release. Whatever the reason for its name, here's the bottom line: This demo is a testament to what a single person can do with a little recording equipment and a little free time -- and a bunch of talent.
inept is powerful, containing both richly layered pop and extremely melodic acoustic-rock. Though constant nods to the disharmonic, drone-prone alt-rock of the mid-'90s exist throughout, Tew's music still stands on its own.
The demo's first two tracks, though somewhat inspired by more pop-oriented groups like Soul Collective and Foo Fighters, have a post-Seattle quality. But the album's best tracks are the simple acoustic ones, like the near-lullaby "Insomnia Song," its chords played quietly, almost reluctantly, its vocals a near-whisper.
The demo's most effective selection, however, is "Poetic Gin," an angst-ridden culmination of all Tew's influences. Here his voice is searching, soulful, dark and raw.
"One part sadness, and two parts loss," sings Tew, backing himself with thick, dark power-grunge chords. "Two fingers of alcohol, a pinch of stinging life regret and Phenobarbital."
Without dredging up overwhelming angst, the song catches you with one particularly visceral line, the hauntingly detached chorus: "Is morphine-induced sleeping really sleeping at all?"
Were it not for the sound quality -- the jagged edges on the recording-and-production side -- this demo could easily have been called Flawless.
You can hear more recent recordings by Lone Gunman, now a three-piece, at www.mp3.com/lonegunman.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
• Reserrectum, Reserrectum
I've been waiting for some time for a local group like Reserrectum to form. Their music isn't particularly unusual; it's fairly standard hard-core/thrash death metal. It is strangely rewarding, however, to hear a local band actually playing this brand of dark, evil, highly melodramatic blood-and-gore stuff. Even local headliners Monsters Of Japan are a bit too glam to really fit this category of metal.
Reserrectum's demo is pure, gut-level demonic thrash, and -- believe it or not -- it's pretty good.
Playing fast metal that still has some sense of melody isn't exactly the easiest thing in the world. Reserrectum's members succeed at it, hitting strings and skins with surprising alacrity while managing to work in tempo changes and nicely developed sections, however brief.
And then there's Louise, the raspy vocalist with the guttural howl, and the owner of some of the most entertaining lyrics I've heard this year. With such fire-eyed gems as "Dead bodies sell/ In a buyer's market" and "Ruptured eyes/ Swollen limbs/ Severed ears/ Thrash your head in," there isn't much room to misinterpret Reserrectum.
Sure, there are the obligatory calls for human sacrifice and the plethora of fire imagery and Satanic references, but how can you not crack a good-natured, fang-toothed grin at such dedicated wickedness?
And really, what's more needed to level out this area's love-happy jam bands and sing-songy folk groups?
Reserrectum's not pretty, but if you'll pardon the pun, it's fun as hell.
Rating: 4 of 5.