Disc Reviews

by Max Ink Staff Writers


Vixen's Janet Gardner  - Vixen’s Janet Gardner

Vixen's Janet Gardner - Vixen’s Janet Gardner

Vixen's Janet Gardner

Album Title: Vixen’s Janet Gardner
By Tommy Rage
Posted: Oct 2017
Label: Pavement Entertainment
(2200) Page Views

What does a dental hygienist and 80’s rock icon do in her spare time?

Janet Gardner, the former lead singer and rhythm guitarist from the 80’s rock band Vixen, may have settled down, but she did not go away by any means.

Married to fellow guitarist Justin James, who has worked with members of Stained and Collective Soul, the two share a new venture which highlights both of their talents. After taking time away from the spotlight to go back to college and focus on a career in dentistry, the former glam-metal maven has compiled four decades of solo material on her 10-track self-titled album (). Reminiscent of Vixen’s 1988 hit singles “Edge Of A Broken Heart” and “Cryin’” Janet Gardner leads the first track “Rat Hole” with powerful vocals and clever lyrics, accompanied by a modern mix. Mandatory guitar riffs tucked halfway through “Hippycrite” shine from guitarist and producer Justin James. “Candle” showcases Janet’s strong vocals with a Halestorm-type grind, sharp grooves, and modern flare. 

As the leader of an 80’s glitter band which previously opened for Ozzy Osbourne and Bon Jovi, no release would be complete without a power ballad.  “Best Friend” brings a nostalgic tear of joy for MTV videos and acoustic guitars.  The ‘ripped-jeans/bandana’ song closes out this revival release.  “The Good Or The Bye”, will make you wonder how many times you can rewind your Walkman cassette player to hear it again & again.

You would assume that after stepping away from the limelight, that Janet Gardner might miss a beat. Nothing could be further from the truth. Having helped pave the way for current female-fronted rock bands such as In This Moment and The Pretty Reckless, Janet Gardner continues to shine with her solo project and remind us that there was time when female rock bands weren’t just a poster in your locker, but are now a permanent fixture on your iPod.  This is one of those albums. 
Check out Janet Gardner’s self-titled album on youtube: https://youtu.be/HCCZeUSODNA

Vixen's Janet Gardner Online
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Dan Kolesari - Since You’ve Been Around

Dan Kolesari - Since You’ve Been Around

Dan Kolesari

Album Title: Since You’ve Been Around
By Donny Stopiak
Posted: Oct 2017
Label: Self Released
(1429) Page Views

Becoming a parent for the first time changes one in insurmountable ways. For Milwaukee-based singer songwriter Dan Kolesari, he candidly put that experience to tune and verse with the creation of his sophomore release, aptly titled Since You’ve Been Around. The album, featuring ten stellar tracks of original lyrics and music, takes the listener on a journey following the poignant experience of his twins being born and the subsequent ways his life has been enriched for the better.  A worthy follow-up to his 2015 release, Waiting for You, this September 2017 release masterfully showcases Dan’s piano playing chops, passionate vocals, and innate songwriting ability.  A dynamic and impassioned performer, Dan will host an album release show at Biloba Brewing Company in Brookfield on Saturday, October 21st from 5-7pm.

Dan Kolesari Online
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Tori Amos - Native Invader

Tori Amos - Native Invader

Tori Amos

Album Title: Native Invader
By John Noyd
Posted: Sep 2017
Label: Decca
(1308) Page Views

Gracefully relaying the enchanted mantra, “get you back to you,” the opening track, “Reindeer King,” is a fitting beginning to Amos’ fifteenth album. Suspended between butterfly sighs and orchestrated roars, the entire album seeks a mentoring center, casting nature’s self-correcting resilience as spirit guide to a world caught between psychological extremes and ecological upheaval. Bravely rattling sabers, Amos carves marvelous labyrinths fusing classical piano talent with rich, contemporary sounds, livening divine rhymes with funky tribal grooves and churning flurries of edgy arpeggios into choreographed seductions. From conjuring heart-breaking dawns to nurturing twilight-guided musings, “Native,” paints glamorous panoramas through globe-trotting rhythms and operatic melodies; illuminating modern follies through gorgeous metaphorical choruses anointed in heavenly chemistry. A mesmerizing entertainer, Ms Amos plays Madison’s Orpheum Theater October 26th

Tori Amos Online
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Casket Robbery - The Ascension

Casket Robbery - The Ascension

Casket Robbery

Album Title: The Ascension
By Sal Serio
Posted: Aug 2017
Label: Casket Robbery
(1578) Page Views

Monroe, Wisconsin’s, horror metal outfit Casket Robbery is back with a relentless new 3-song E.P. and an all-new line-up of Megan Orvold on vocals, Troy Powell and Cory Scheider on guitars, Derek Silloway on bass, and drummer Derek Bonn.

‘The Ascension’ E.P. showcases a more classic death metal feel than before; as pulsating, pounding rhythms mesh with throbbing tempos, shrouded with tortured vocals and sheets of ethereal Hellspawn orchestral choir sounds, which accentuate the intense mood, and made me sneak a glance over my shoulder on more than a few occasions while absorbed in the listening experience. This cadaverous cacophony keeps with the Casket Robbery tradition of being the perfect movie soundtrack music for creepy slasher movies with a very sick sense of humor. Which, of course, is why I like this so much!

In a curious turn of events, Casket Robbery lists their influences as “The Evil Dead”, COLDCOCK Whiskey, Billy Squier, and Pro Wrestling, which make both perfect sense and no sense at all. Don’t think about it too much, just turn down the lights and turn up the stereo… and don’t be overly shocked or surprised if this music commences to raise the dead (although it’s all in your head).

The official CD Release Party for Casket Robbery’s ‘The Ascension’ E.P. is Saturday, September 16, at Hijynx in Fort Atkinson, for a free show with live music performed by VIA, Three Left, and Lever.

Casket Robbery Online
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Metz - Strange Peace

Metz - Strange Peace

Metz

Album Title: Strange Peace
By John Noyd
Posted: Aug 2017
Label: Sub Pop
(1343) Page Views

A deluge of bruising refusals seeking sanity inside anarchy, “Peace,” releases stark, cathartic coercions through fuel-injected conjecture. Gunning in blunt industrial rumbles riddled in prickly street-savvy literacy, METZ’s rogue Morse code mojo hammers out cast-iron sounds from a collective wreckage connected to fitful pit-bulls pitching willful punk thrills as breakneck metal-blues regrouped into locked-jaw cannonball fodder splatters spring-loaded foreboding over smoothly executed explosions. Giddy with irrefutable conclusions while plagued by unconquerable questions, the Toronto-based three-piece squeezes profound urban guerrilla bounce from slippery rhythmic triggers, winding timely existential potential around sizzling demolition to construct hum-buckling crunches from spit-fire ire, coating hard-core semaphore with ballistic conniptions sliced in decisive righteousness and roasted over social corrosion.  Witness the band’s powerful prowess firsthand, September 23rd at Madison’s Majestic Theater.

Metz Online
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Rainer Maria - S/T

Rainer Maria - S/T

Rainer Maria

Album Title: S/T
By John Noyd
Posted: Aug 2017
Label: Polyvinyl
(1630) Page Views

Older and bolder, Rainer Maria’s self-referencing album announces a reinvigorated version of a band true to its indie-emo roots. A mature reckoning of well-placed outrage, the trio’s first new music in eleven years vents invested aggressions with tumultuous impulses. Hypnotizing lines blasted in blazing persuasions and probing undertow, Rainer Maria’s brainier experiments unleash boundless power grounded in textured pressure, cobbling throbbing oppositions to kick-start whip-smart riffs and conjure exacting clashes stitched in rhythm-driven insistence. Half-collapsed in sticky bass snakes and twisted guitar manipulations, the fluid, brutal, casually agile tracks are practically tactile coupling prudent left-brain lyrics fueled by power-punched drums to viscous head-trips shifting elliptical dynamics of compressed intensity with suspenseful séance nuance.  The almighty Rainer Maria play Milwaukee’s Colectivo Coffee Back Room September 15th.

Rainer Maria Online
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Torn Between - Maintain Low Tones

Torn Between - Maintain Low Tones

Torn Between

Album Title: Maintain Low Tones
By Tommy Rage
Posted: Aug 2017
Label: Mirage M'Hal Records
(1611) Page Views

Debut albums can be difficult.  Especially if you are just long-time friends, musicians and Janesville residents. However, a polished first release can also lead you to open for national recording artist Shaman’s Harvest in front of 600 at the Majestic Theater on August 20th (http://majesticmadison.com/event/shamansharvest/).
That polished sound, mixed with a noticeable effort to take the current rock movement one step further, has led me to ask the question: “What took you guys so long?”  Formed in 2015, and previously playing in local Janesville bands such as Rev-21 and Modifier, the band members have enjoyed some local success but decided to join together to put out a brilliant first release. “Honestly, it came down to us missing playing together. We wanted to be in a good rock band with our friends”, shares lead vocalist Roland Bell.
The 5 track EP Maintain Low Tones (via Spotify ) bridges the gap between rebel metal and 90’s rock. The first track “For Your Treason”, starts with a steady and familiar rock beat. Torn Between then takes rock where it’s headed next. With strong underlying guitar work by Mike LeBay and vocals by Roland Bell, they unleash their angst with a modern and bold driving force.  “Cut The Cord” pushes Brad Ploof (drums) and Andy Glass (bass) to the front, as they pave the way for what your teenage self would listen to if rebellion-rock was invented today.  “Time Cut Short” tells a tragic tale using a sweet blend of upscale production and genuine story telling. This tune combines the best from all four band members and begs for radio play. 
For years bands have been trying to assemble hardcore metal with an up-beat ‘fun’ rock tempo. Torn Between does exactly that, while still giving metal a very modern feel. This small-town group will definitely make an impact in southern Wisconsin and perhaps even further as they continue to push current rock forward.
Check out Torn Between when they open for Shaman’s Harvest at the Majestic Theater on August 20th, and check out their website for future up-coming shows.

Torn Between Online
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Kevin Morby - City Music

Kevin Morby - City Music

Kevin Morby

Album Title: City Music
By John Noyd
Posted: Jul 2017
Label: Dead Oceans
(1310) Page Views

An immigrant’s parable dressed in home-grown poems depicting nocturnal journeys drizzled with hobo hindsight and punk busking, “City,” is one jumpin’ joint whose rootless characters are often running in place; rambling companions wrestling with loss, redemption, hope and reclamation. A lo-fi wayfarer, Morby’s heart-sleeve philosophy form folksy pearls perfectly suited for groovy soft-shoe troubadours and laconic road-house refugees. The casually savvy guitarist harvests beleaguered genius through world-weary lyrics detailing gentle half-dreamt memories dancing around stammering jams and bouncing counsel. Spotlit in after-hours solitude, the stories Morby tell are the calm eye in a dizzying storm, a temporary friendship and thankful anchor that nonetheless takes you on a ride you’ll treasure forever. A vibrant and intriguing performer, Kevin plays Spring Green’s The Shitty Barn August 31st.

Kevin Morby Online
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Greta Van Fleet - Greta Van Fleet’s  Black Smoke Rising

Greta Van Fleet - Greta Van Fleet’s Black Smoke Rising

Greta Van Fleet

Album Title: Greta Van Fleet’s Black Smoke Rising
By Tommy Rage
Posted: Jun 2017
Label: Lava Music/Republic Records
(7741) Page Views

The Hammer Gods have parted the sky to reveal the second coming.  Dramatic? Perhaps. Yet, one listen to Greta Van Fleet will, in every way possible, remind you that classic rock is alive and well. The similarities to such bands as Led Zeppelin and Heart is undeniable.  The release of the first studio EP Black Smoke Rising and the single “Highway Tune” makes you check your iPod twice to make sure that you have, indeed, found a band from Frankenmuth, Michigan. 

“Safari Song” brings Josh Kiszka (vocals) to the front of the classic rock sound with Jake Kiszka (lead guitar) laying down a gritty riff.  “Flower Power” echoes this nostalgic rock sound with Sam Kiszka (bass) and Danny Wagner (drums) paving the way with a Moog synthesizer bed which will keep you entranced.  The four song EP, produced by Al Sutton (Kid Rock & Hank Williams Jr) never loses sight of who they are; and where their influences come from.  The young bothers: Josh, Sam and Jake Kiszka along with childhood friend Danny Wagner have only one release from Lava Music, available through iTunes & www.gretavanfleet.com, yet it’s safe to say that these young rockers were raised by parents who had record players stacked with British Invasion bands.  The title track “Black Smoke Rising”, and last song on the EP, infuses harmonies with blues and a psychedelic mix to showcase sample jams by each band member. This foursome is on their way to ensuring that classic rock blended with new rock will never die. I’m not cheating on you Robert and Jimmy, I’m just in love with a great new rock band.  Dramatic? Yes, but Greta Van Fleet are that good. 

Greta Van Fleet plays Shake The Lake Saturday June 24th at 5:45 on the Isthmus West Stage

Greta Van Fleet Online
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Rahul Mukerji - Ma De Re Sha

Rahul Mukerji - Ma De Re Sha

Rahul Mukerji

Album Title: Ma De Re Sha
By Sal Serio
Posted: Jun 2017
Label: Rahul Mukerji
(1940) Page Views

Rahul Mukerji is an Indian-born guitarist, composer, and visual artist living in Maryland, and ‘Ma De Re Sha’ is his debut recording. Mukerji plays all guitars, synth guitar, E-bow, tabla, sampling, and drum programming. Bruce Ng provides additional drum and percussion sampling, and Ruben Rubio plays bass. This album is a collection of 12 instrumental songs, with a widely eclectic and multi-cultural musical approach. The title track “Ma De Re Sha” got it’s title from a word, or phrase, that a 2-year old daughter of one of Mukerji’s friends would robustly exclaim for a variety of occasions. The origin of this exclamation is unknown, but the spirit and conviction of it provided inspiration to the recording of the album.

Mukerji’s guitar style and various tones alone could make for a page-long exposé. The compositional themes jump from eastern rhythms to hard rock and jazzy progressive fusion-rock, with the guitar work front-and-center throughout. Sometimes clean and crystalline in it’s tone (especially on the acoustic tracks) but also tastefully processed electric sounds, which can inspire a dreamy ethereal introspective mood, as well as kick out a hard rock jam with the best of them.

The ‘Ma De Re Sha’ album was five years in the making, and created with the assistance of musicians and engineers from four different countries. The ultimate takeaway, for Mujerji, was (in his own words), “the importance of forging and nurturing bonds despite any geographic and cultural distances. We may not have always been able to completely break through the language barrier, yet in music we found our common language. It was unity from diversity”.

Rahul Mukerji Online
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Plasmatics - Live! Rod Swenson’s Lost Tapes 1978-81

Plasmatics - Live! Rod Swenson’s Lost Tapes 1978-81

Plasmatics

Album Title: Live! Rod Swenson’s Lost Tapes 1978-81
By Sal Serio
Posted: Jun 2017
Label: MVD Entertainment Group
(1602) Page Views

What if you took the cartoonish rock spectacle of KISS, and mixed it with carnival sideshow freak show visuals, a juggernaut of pulsating barre chords, and the primal pornographic sex appeal of Marilyn Chambers? You’d have the Plasmatics, of course. Rod Swenson, singer Wendy O. Williams’ longtime domestic partner and manager, dug deep in to his archives to reveal about 64 minutes of rare, raw, and early Plasmatics concert footage (16 songs total).

The first video, “Want You Baby”, from July 26, 1978 at CBGB in New York City, erupts like a Ramones rapid-fire pogo-stick head banger, even though the visual physical manifestation of the band was still a work-in-progress. Thankfully, merely two songs in to this video compilation (“Tight Black Pants”, 1979, also from CBGB), lead guitarist Wes Beech already sports his infamous blue Mohawk and black satin French maid’s outfit.

The rest of this DVD is from the Plasmatics heyday of 1980-1981, when the stage antics were fully realized: Wendy, with breasts covered only by two small strips of electrical tape, inciting young male hysteria when she would lay down on the edge of the stage and reach in to the audience (“Sometimes I Feel It”), mock “Police” men chasing her about the stage, cutting a Les Paul guitar in half with a chainsaw, smashing television sets and a Cadillac with a sledgehammer, and other playful acts of destruction. On “Nothing” (Pasadena 1981) Williams runs straight in to the audience and directly confronts the fans, alá early 1970s Iggy Pop. By 1981 the automobile on the stage was being outright detonated into gigantic, belching, balls of flame.

A Plasmatics concert was not as chaotic as it may have initially appeared to concert goers, in fact it was very tightly choreographed. Ultimately, the fact that the Plasmatics were decades ahead of their time is glaringly, painfully obvious, like a sharp slap across the face. Their influence can be seen across a wide spectrum of musical acts, from the stripped-down Southern raunch of Nashville Pussy, to the sci-fi Neanderthal horror shock-rock of GWAR.

Generally speaking, the audio on this compilation is very good, even if video quality is occasionally a tad lacking. The band, and Wendy, give outstanding performances. The music is tighter and more diverse than one might think, and in the early days Wendy “sang” more than her later “shouty” metal style. Beech’s guitar playing in particular is extremely competent. The end result of this viewing is a renewed appreciation of a truly original American rock ‘n roll band, with a fearless and powerful front-woman, and provides a glimpse in to why the world should always remember and respect Wendy O. Williams and the Plasmatics.

Plasmatics Online
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The Smells - Manure Spreader

The Smells - Manure Spreader

The Smells

Album Title: Manure Spreader
By Sal Serio
Posted: Jun 2017
Label: Rare Plant
(1659) Page Views

The Smells are a new-ish four-piece band from Madison, and they call their music “grain belt rock n’ roll”. They have two singers who also play guitar. Their names are Leith and James. Leslie plays bass guitar and sings. Josh provides the drumbeats. The Smells released an 8-song cassette tape called ‘Manure Spreader’. This is what I have to say about that.

The opening song is titled “1965”, and it has a fuzzy guitar sound and a catchy chorus. I liked the year 1965, because that’s when some of my earliest memories come from, like sitting on my Dad’s lap and gumming the lip on his beer bottle. But if any of you readers ever try to gum my beer bottle, I may get upset with you.

“Vitamin World” is a little more frantic, and the words are harder to understand. But often it’s a good thing when listeners can’t decipher the words. For one, it prevents them from singing along in their car like a fool. This song is under 2:00 long, and that would make Pete Townshend proud.

Things get wooden on the alt-folky “Winter Song”, which does feature lyrics that can both be understood, and probably sung along to as well. Or hummed, at the very least. I imagined hearing Jay Farrar sing this one, except Jay Farrar always sounds like his big toe hurts. I don’t think The Smells have any toes that are giving them pain.

“Cherry Bomb” is the fourth song. It is not a cover by The Runaways.

Side B starts with the song “Another Hit (In A Car)”, which, as a title, also brought back memories of my youth. But I’d bet lots of teenagers from rural areas of Wisconsin have decadent car stories to tell.

Next up is “Blow-Up Baby”, and I suppose you think that title also brings back memories for me, but you’re wrong! Besides, I’m pretty sure the lyrics are talking about a flesh-and-blood lover. This song has a decidedly “Madison rock” feel to me, and I’m not 100% certain what gives it that quality, but I feel like I am in a dingy near-east-side Madison bar when I listen to it. “Barkeep! PBR, por favor.”

Track 7 is titled “Fish”. Thank goodness it is not titled “Phish”.

The last song is “GFG”, and at first I thought this was a term that I read about in Dan Savage’s newspaper column. Which of course, led to lots of speculation what the “F” substitution could be in the phrase “good, giving, and game”. I’ll let your imagination run wild with that one. And, no, I don’t actually think this has anything to do with the song at all, except that both the tune and my speculations were fun and enjoyable.

The Smells Online
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