POP & ROCK
Fast Motions (Coalition/Warner)
IF you look back at the short career of Ottawa trio the Balconies, you will notice something of a low-level progression, if progression is the right word, from a somewhat nerdy-looking, new wave-styled indie-pop band to what they are right now. In today’s image-obsessed world, we can see by the longer hair and tighter trousers that the Balconies are now a full-bore rock band of the brand that wants you believe they kick arse and take names before they jet off to plunder the hearts and ears of the next city on their two-year world tour.
Listening to the band’s latest, the high-energy Fast Motions, one definitely feels the dirty, hot breath of the generic. Led by wailer Jacquie Neville on lead vocal and no-doubt-vintage Gibson SG guitar, the band trots through some pretty obvious ’80s hair-metal postures, but it does retain a dollop of its own style here and there. Not everyone can hit the notes that Neville does and make it work, although on a tracks like the heavily arranged The Slo she gets so overwrought in her attempt to reach the highest heavens that she falls a little flat — both figuratively and literally.
This isn’t music for the faint of heart and the band’s commitment to pumping up the volume is credible, yet after more than a few listens there are diminishing returns.
Once Heart finally gives up touring, the Balconies can rush in and take up the bansheewailin’, classicrock vacuum, but they will have to move fast. There is another band like this right around the corner. ★★ ½
-- Jeff Monk
Half Machine From the Sun — The Lost Tracks from ’70-’80 (King of Spades)
AMERICAN proto-industrial punk outfit Chrome doesn’t fit neatly into the contemporary rock musical map of the late 1970s. The band was basically a two-piece endeavour formed by the pairing of Damon Edge and Helios Creed, and because the band was too punk for electronic music heads and too electronic and dark for punk rockers, its main body of independent, self-released work was left for curious collectors to discover.
Half Machine From the Sun compiles rarities and leftovers that were created during the duo’s arguably most creative and "commercial" period in the late 1970s. Edge and Creed can be credited for creating, in North America at least, what would later become industrial music and these 18 alien soundtracks are a testament to what these San Franciscans did very well. With Creed skewering his guitar atop Edge’s metronomic drumbeats, synthesizer squalls and resonant, Iggy Pop-informed vocals, this music could be as perplexing as it is enlightening.
The best parts drill deep into your psyche with repetitive licks and hooks that take creative leaps from out of nowhere.
When these guys were at their best they were able to characterize a musical style that had not been created in quite this way before. Some of the longer tracks here ( Looking For Your Door) suffer from their very length and the indulgence of an idea. Autobahn Brazil, The Rain and Something Rhythmic are definitive Chrome tracks if there ever were such things.
Worth checking out for those ready to find something new. ★★★ ½
DOWNLOAD THIS: Sugar Moog Pops
— Jeff Monk
The Outsiders (Capitol/Universal)
WITH every album since his 2006 debut, Sinners Like Me , Eric Church has made a conscious effort to go beyond where he’s been before. His fourth disc The Outsiders is no exception... except for the fact that it’s exceptional.
Charging out of the gate like a stallion on steroids with the progressive heavy metal outlaw thunder of the stellar title track, you know this is not your grandpa’s country music. But in a way it is. Like the outlaws before him, Waylon, Willie, Merle and Hank, Church is not one to play by the rules.
However the disc isn’t shy of radiofriendly tracks like the quirky Cold One or funky Broken Record and the earnest Give Me Back My Hometown, the current single. One of the most intriguing numbers is the eight-minute spoken word of Devil Devil, a reference to the dark underbelly of Nashville.
Church says, "I got to a point where I just didn’t care about what everybody thinks, and it was just, ‘OK, now we’re gonna go have some fun" and if "everybody hates it and says we’ve lost our minds, well, that’s kind of cool too." He need not worry. ★★★★
DOWNLOAD THIS: The Outsiders
— Bruce Leperre
Twelve (Plus Loin Music)
SAXOPHONIST Eli Degibri (seen here back in November with Omer Avital) leads a quartet with a couple of teenagers in it on his followup to Israeli Song. Degibri is among a group of Israeli-born musicians who have studied in the United States and are making names for themselves internationally.
The title track and Roaming Fantasy are a couple of standouts on a very good recording of nine tunes — seven composed and one co-composed by Degibri, who plays tenor and soprano saxes and mandolin.
The band is tight behind Degibri, who found two gems in pianist Gadi Lehavi, 16, and Ofri Nehemya, 18, to join him and bassist Barak Mori.
As good as Degibri is on his own compositions, his playing on Vernon Duke’s Autumn in New York is simply excellent, with sensitive comping by the rhythm section. It’s hard to beat a great saxophonist on a ballad. Pianist Lehavi and bassist Mori shine with well-played solos.
He is a melodic improviser who lets loose a bit on Old Seven before closing out the album with The Cave, a meditative piece with a vocal chorus. ★★★★
DOWNLOAD THIS: Old Seven
— Chris Smith
THIS WEEK’S SINGLES
Invisible (Universal/Island) Officially billed as a charity single for (RED), the organization Bono co-founded to help fight AIDS, this is also a glimpse into what their upcoming Danger Mouseproduced 13th album will sound like when it’s allegedly released later this year. A driving, yet mild-mannered rocker with electronic undertones, it’s one part Walk On, one part Zooropa. ★★★ 1/2
AFROJACK FEAT. WRABEL
Ten Feet Tall (Universal) Very much using the same formula as previous single The Spark, Dutch producer Afrojack delivers another energetic pop-dance track full of sunny synths and uplifting lyrics. Seems a bit like it was tailor-made for a Pepsi Max commercial. ★★★
Little Me (Sony) The latest from the British girl group that was born on the X Factor back in 2011 is an encouraging and empowering pop-R&B outing that sound like something we might have heard from All Saints back in the late ’90s.
Although, if you’re really into this song, you may not be old enough to remember All Saints back in the late ’90s. ★★★
— reviewed by Steve Adams