Chavez “Ride The Fader” It’s a miasma of noise, distorted pop melodies and incredibly loud guitars. It swirls and thrashes like a tornado or funnel, twisting and winding between melodies and traditional pop song structures to step beyond the confines of three-minute pop songs and venturing into more experimental territory.
Chavez’s first album, “Gone Glimmering,” was a decent effort, but with its second record, the band ferociously separates itself from its contemporaries, creating a sound that virtually defies comparison. It’s a guitar-driven sound that evokes images of panoramic, hallucinatory views nothing but color and shapes and a vague feeling that occasionally creeps in. Sometimes it’s more unsettling and claustrophobic witness the angular rhythms and melodies contained within the confining chords of “Tight Around the Jaws.” At other times, these songs are positively transcendent, blending rock power riffs and melodies that act like a slow burn of endorphins through the nervous system, killing pain and sending chills straight up your spine witness “Top Pocket Man,” “Unreal Is Here” and “New Room.” While vocalist/guitarist Matt Sweeney’s crooning may not be “good” per se, it’s incredibly expressive and affecting, reaching out to deeply held emotions and tugging at them with varying degrees of delicacy. Sometimes it’s like a master puppeteer is pulling; others, an insistent young child demanding to be heard.
“Ride the Fader” may not be the mind-blowing album Chavez is capable of, but as it veers between raging guitar power and tender balladic songs like “Memorize This Face,” it clearly shows the band’s potential. It’s hard to tell what may be ahead, but if Chavez continues progressing in this musical vein, one thing is blindingly apparent this band has the power to transform music into an opiate and erase the various trials and hurts of the day in a mess of gorgeous noise. Naturally, we should thank them.
Thompson Owen “There’s Always Someday” Where did Thompson Owen find the time to create and record 34 songs for “There’s Always Someday”? Maybe he simply has too much time on his hands, since most of the songs are about his feelings of alienation and insecurity sung in his soft, tiny, lost-little-boy voice accompanied by his acoustic guitar.
Most of the titles such as “I’m an Alien,” “I’d Like To Go To a Party,” “Little Tiny Tears” and “My Big Problem” catch this feeling but have surprisingly catchy melodies. By far the best song is “You Make Me Feel Creepy,” featuring lyrics like “I’m so sick and I guess it shows/ I’m so gross, I should go away/ I’m so stupid, I thought you called/ Because you make me feel creepy, you make me feel creepy.”
“There’s Always Someday” is definitely no musical breakthrough, but it makes a welcome addition to a CD collection. Kind of like a stray puppy, you can’t turn Thompson Owen away.
Tuscadero “The Pink Album” Trendy is as trendy does on Tuscadero’s “The Pink Album.” The two guys and two gals making up Tuscadero must have taken classes in pop culture, nostalgia trend. Boy, are they cute.
Think Go-Gos, Altered Image and No Doubt mixed with a generous helping of cutesy cleverness and you’ve got Tuscadero. Their hard-edged pop songs cover such topics as model horses, candy-coated boys, a latex dominatrix and realizing your parents trashed your Nancy Drew books.
“Dime a Dozen” is a simple, fun, toe-tapping song with lines like “When I first met you I thought you were tops/ Nothing but sweet sweet sugar pops/ But then you flip-flopped on me from night to day/ And I’ve only got one thing to say/ … You know your daddy must’ve married his first cousin/ And guys like you are a dime a dozen.”
“The Pink Album” would be acceptable if it was out of the ’80s. In fact, this CD would have made an excellent soundtrack to a John Hughes film, but this candy-coated music is hard to stomach in 1996.
Frente “Shape” They dropped the exclamation point, but Frente’s sound is still exciting. After three years of touring, Frente released their sophomore album, “Shape,” with a huge sigh of relief. With the same sweet vocals and moody guitar as “Marvin: The Album,” tracks like “Sit on My Hands” and “Goodbye Goodguy,” while stylistically similar to the material on “Marvin,” are lyrically more mature.
In “The Destroyer,” Angie Hart belts out lines like, “A million men have fought to keep the light that will go out in the future,” a dark departure from the bouncy sounds of “Labour of Love” and other previous material. In addition to confronting heavier issues, “The Destroyer” is harder and faster than the softness these Aussies are known for.
Recorded in the sweltering hills of El Cortijo in southern Spain, “Shape” jumps around with the old and the new. The melodic vocals and simple guitar found in “Jungle” stick to the original allure of Frente, but the following tracks, like “So Mad,” introduce an older, wiser Frente. “Shape” is indicative of the maturation the band members have undergone lead singer Angie Hart was a ripe 18 when “Marvin” was released in 1994. So pop in the older, wiser Frente and let it take shape.