Paul Den Heyer deserves to be more widely known. He made his first splash with Fishmonkeyman in the 90’s – who’s If I’ve Told You Once was a memorable Britpop hit in the early 90’s. From there he’s played with and produced many memorable bands – two of them very dear to my heart. I’m talking about the summer drenched tunes of Sunstack Jones and John Lever’s project The Red-Sided Garter Snakes – whose two albums showcased several artists influenced and inspired by John and his work with The Chameleons and The Sun and the Moon. It was a last influx of creativity before John passed away and it left me wondering what would come next from these artists, chief among them Paul Den Heyer. I didn’t have to wait long, as Paul’s been in touch with me letting me know about his solo work and sharing snippets over the “world wide web”. And now that it is here, how does it stack up? Does it live up to everything I had hoped?
Silver Screams are a punk band hailing from Boston, MA that offer up no frills, 70’s style punk rock. Their latest offering is a 3 song EP that clocks in at about 6 1/2 minutes. It hits hard, fast, and leaves the listener wanting for more. The band is comprised of Niff on guitar & vox, Earthdog on bass, and Pete on drums. At least two of those names may be stage names. The sound of the EP is raw – this could have been recorded anytime within the last 40 years or so. And I absolutely fucking love that – this is a masterful EP. Alive In The Afterlife kicks things off in high gear. Sung / shout vocals with an incessant guitar riff that leads into a classic punk rock chorus. Stitches Up has a killer intro bass line that is quickly overwhelmed by the full band instrumentation. It doesn’t quite quite have the pop appeal of the opener, but it is a worthy cut. Understand is a Government Issue cover and ends things on a high note. D.C. punk by way of Boston suits Silver Screams just fine. Overall, this is a short EP that is worthy of your time and attention. You can pick it up here and check out their updates on The Social Network.
Verdict: Punk Classic
For Fans of: The Clash, Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, Warsaw, The Jam
Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.
2006 saw the release of Sean Lennon’s 2nd album, Friendly Fire – a full 8 years after his debut, Into the Sun. On this sophomore release the genre exercises were gone. Instead, listeners were treated to a song cycle detailing his relationship with Bijou Phillips and the loss of his friendship with Max LeRoy (who was killed in a motorcycle accident before they could reconcile). It took a long, long time for this album to connect with me – it seemed redundant to me for Sean Lennon to put out a John Lennon type album. Silly me. Every song is stunning, but the 3rd track Parachute is probably my favorite. Pain spills from Lennon’s voice, the piano and instrumentation swells around him, all leading to a heartbreaking chorus. It is simply perfection. “Cause if I have to die tonight / I’d rather be with you / Cut the parachute before you die / Baby don’t you cry / You had to bring me down / We had some fun before we hit the ground”.
New York City’s The Electric Mess return with their 4th album chock full of blistering rock ‘n roll, punk anthems, and garage rock freak outs. The band’s been at it for over a decade and this familiarity with each other bears stunning fruit on The Beast is You. The band is led by frontwoman Esther Crow with Dan Crow (guitar), Oweinama Biu (keyboards, vocals), Derek Davidson (bass) and Alan J. Camlet (drums). That lineup is mostly the same as it was on their last record, with a change on drums. Alan J. Camlet fits within the band’s framework nicely, providing a propulsive, steady backbeat. Hard to believe it has been over 4 years since I’ve reviewed this band (and this review is long overdue) – but holy hell, it was worth the wait. The Beast is You is my favorite album by the band to date.
The Cure were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019. It’s been a while since they’ve released an album – 11 years, to be exact. The band’s output from 1996 on has been sporadic and hasn’t quite hit the sweet spot for me (sometimes a matter of how the songs are sequenced, truthfully). 2004’s self titled album had multiple track listings for different regions, adding & deleting songs randomly. This Morning was a vinyl only song that was also used as a b-side to the single The End Of The World. It is a shame that it was relegated to an afterthought – it is my favorite song by The Cure of the last 25 years. Simon Gallup’s bass recalls the “original trilogy” era of 17 Seconds, Faith, and Pornography from 1980 to 1982. Robert Smith’s vocals on this a song are a reminder of why he is such an iconic figure in music – regrets, melancholy thoughts and sadness co-exist here. There is a spoken word interlude, Robert barely audible whispering his laments: “I couldn’t understand too much of what was being said, in a matter of minutes, peacefully so slow, I had to think to breath, my heart burst, we moved in silence really slowly away from the world, as we drove a strange silence, that moment, nothing will ever be the same, nothing will ever be the same, nothing”. The bass plods along, a soundtrack to broken hearts, the synths swell, the band is in sync – this is perfection. The chorus? “Nothing left to feel / Nothing more to do” An encapsulation of the darker side of The Cure.
Ian and Phil Jackson are the father / son duo that ARE the post punk band Nutopians. Not afraid to wear their influences on their sleeves, they’ve become one of my go to bands over the last few years. Indebted to The Chameleons (that’s The Chameleons UK to us in the US), Echo & the Bunnymen, and the Buzzcocks (among others), the band has a way of writing post punk gems for the modern era. Over the last few releases, Ian’s vocals have become more confident, Phil’s instrumentation more articulate. The band’s latest full length – their 3rd – is their strongest offering to date. Indeed, Civilisation is an early contender for album of the year.
Victory Season is the new project from Randy Cooper, the guitarist who was a founding member of the Texas Hippie Coalition – a band who specialized in their own brutal “red dirt metal” sound. Victory Season continues that path, their sound described as a southern hybrid mix of Mötley Crüe meets Pantera. I don’t know about you, but that description pulled me immediately – that’s a perfect mix. The band features Randy Cooper on guitars, Aaron “Ash” Starr on vocals, and a father / son duo on bass and drums – Duane Connaughton on bass and Tor Connaughton on drums. The band’s debut EP is an absolute killer statement of intent.
The EP kicks off with Light it Up – which has a brutal thrash vibe and doom-laden vocals that call to mind what a bastard child of the Seattle scene and Pantera would sound like. Absolutely brilliant, in other words. Be Kind recalls those halcyon days of the late 80’s metal scene. In fact, I can just envision this tune being played on MTV (remember when they played videos??). This song features Gary Jefferies helping the band out and it is an exercise in perfection. Strong melodies, laid back lyrics hinting at the good old days, and just has that “it” quality. A killer guitar solo caps the whole thing off. The acoustic workout Burn Tonight segues into the closer, Ghost Dance. This last song really encapsulates everything that the band excels at – uncompromising riffs, strong melodies, and impassioned vocals. A perfect way to close things out.
You can follow the band here. Keep an eye on their tour schedule to see if they are playing in a town near you – I know I’m hoping they make their way up to the Pacific Northwest.
Verdict: Stunning Debut
For Fans of: Pantera, Skid Row, Ozzy Osbourne, Mötley Crüe, Hellyeah
- Light it Up
- Cumin’ Home
- Be Kind (featuring Gary Jefferies)
- Burn Tonight
- Ghost Dance