I’ve been following England’s Death Threat Cassette for about a decade now. Death Threat Cassette rose from the ashes of Jack Endino produced grunge influenced band Solanoid – singer Lee Pecqueur gone solo. A one-man band, this is truly bedroom rock. And yet – the quality of these Death Threat Cassette albums is nothing to sneer at. The albums still feel imbued to a bit of the Seattle sound whilst adding in elements of country, hip hop, and whatever else comes to mind for Lee. Each album provides an exhilarating listen and demand repeat spins from the listener. After a brief period of inactivity, Death Threat Cassette released their 3rd album, Use Your Delusion in early 2021. The 4th album was just released a few weeks ago – barely a year later. Infinite Trick Pony delivers the goods in spades, with a few unexpected diversions.
The most exciting new indie bands conjure up visions of acoustic guitar, singing with friends around a fire, and an authentic approach to the music and lyrics. We are living in the golden age of up-and-coming bands that need to have their music heard. In my opinion, indie music at its best can incorporate country, folk, and rock n roll along with a healthy dose of psychedelia. When you combine all of those disparate elements you end up with a band like Friends of Our Youth, who will soon be releasing their debut album, That Was Then.
The genesis of John Mellencamp’s career is one of the more unique stories in rock n roll history. Forced to change his name to John Cougar in the 70’s before eventually moving back to his given name (with a middle phase as John Cougar Mellencamp), he’s long since overcome the accusations of being a Midwest Bruce Springsteen. His hit making days of the 80’s and 90’s gave way to restless experimentation (Chuck D of Public Enemy on a Mellencamp album? See 2001’s Cuttin’ Heads) which gave way to stripping it all back to the roots of rock. The last 15 years or so have seen Mellencamp develop a cigarette influenced vocal approach that reminds me of Tom Waits. It’s also proved to be a rewarding time to be a John Mellencamp. His 1st album of the 20’s – Strictly A One-Eyed Jack was released just a few weeks ago and it might be his strongest album since 2008’s Life, Death, Love and Freedom. Those Bruce Springsteen comparisons? Not applicable – but Springsteen guests on 3 songs and adds a warmth to these songs that is welcome.
Some of my favorite bands are the ones that avoid easy characterization. Indie band Oh Man Wow have just released their debut album, and this fits that description perfectly. The band is made up of Bryan Ray on vocals / guitar, Joy Maydak on bass / guitars / keyboards, Fred Jeske on guitars, Sam Schauer on guitars, Jerry Pellizzer on drums, David Ziegler on guitars, and Roy and Rich Randall on guitars. A collaborative project, the album varies in sound with a wide array of influences. For me, it finds that sweet spot most commonly heard in the 70’s – where hard rock, metal, prog, and power pop melt into one. The album was produced by Joe Maydak and mixed / mastered by Jordon Zadorozny (of Blinker the Star fame). It’s an impressive debut that is more than the sum of its parts.
Andrew Steck is a composer based out of Athens, GA – yes, the home of R.E.M. His instrumental work is classical inspired infused with a modern pop sensibility. He’s been putting out albums at an aggressive rate, each with numerous highlights. Like so many others, my 2020 went a bit sideways so I did not get to review the album he released late in the year. Inner Loop / Outer Loop is a complex orchestral ballet – but it is so much more. As chance would have it, I ended up with a few vinyl copies and turned my Dad into a fan. One of the pleasures of moving home to Philadelphia after 18 years in the Pacific Northwest. But I digress – that’s last year’s news. Andrew’s new album is called Theater and is the equal to – if not better than – last year’s album. Conceived as a set of one act plays, each piece stands alone and also contributes to the overall vibe. Having seen my first Broadway show in New York City in over 20 years a few weeks ago (The Book of Mormon, thanks for asking), this record really spoke to me on a visceral level.