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  • Disc Reviews

    by Max Ink Staff Writers


    The Raptor Trail - Devil On An Indian

    The Raptor Trail - Devil On An Indian

    The Raptor Trail

    Album title: Devil On An Indian
    By Sal Serio
    Posted: Jan 2017
    Label: MBM Entertainment
    (2749) Page Views

    The third release from North Carolina’s melodic prog rock trio The Raptor Trail is a full-on concept album written by multi-instrumentalist Matt Mayes, which details an internal clash between Native American spirituality and 21st century white Christian morality, and inevitably results in an apocalyptic conclusion.

    While the theme is intense and demands a certain amount of rapt attention, the music is an overall uplifting and diversely varied experience, featuring instrumentation ranging from the conventional guitar/bass/drums, to the more esoteric guijo, banjo, and various keyboards/effects/percussion. Combining the fascinating storyline with this creative and extremely high level of musicianship results in a special mixture that brings to mind the best works of rockers like Rush or Max Webster, along with the roots music and poetic activism of Bruce Cockburn and John Trudell. The vocals of Matt Mayes, John Meyer, and special guest Edwin McCain keep the proceedings enjoyable and accessible to fans of a multitude of rock music genres.

    While the ‘Devil On An Indian’ concept is best taken in as a whole, there are also several tracks that stand on their own strength. My recommendations are “Quaker Pets”, “Froth Squelch”, “The Vanishing Point”, and “Red Giant”.

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    Foxygen - Hang

    Foxygen - Hang

    Foxygen

    Album title: Hang
    By John Noyd
    Posted: Dec 2016
    Label: Jagjaguwar
    (2527) Page Views

    Recorded and mixed entirely on two-inch tape without a computer in sight, “Hang,” retro-wrangles singular pinnacles from the shoulders of old-school giants with bold homage bathed in brass, back-up singers and Bowie-disposed burlesque. Employing a forty-plus piece orchestra on every track as well as recruiting fellow extroverts from The Lemon Twigs and Flaming Lips, the proverbial kids in the candy store produced tightly-wrapped bombast that’s a total gas. Mixing solid gold seventies chemistry alongside heartfelt soul explosions, Foxygen’s starry-eyed carnies boast Lugosi-toasted vocals exalting a pole-vaulted vaudeville whose giddy symphonies by melodramatic patsies attach unabashed razzmatazz to theatrical malice and cavalier sneers to guileless choirs. Don’t miss out when the electric circus comes to town for some cool tomfoolery April 1st at Madison’s Majestic Theater.

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    The Transgressions - Fucked Up

    The Transgressions - Fucked Up

    The Transgressions

    Album title: Fucked Up
    By Brian McKay
    Posted: Dec 2016
    Label: It's Alive Records
    (2484) Page Views

    The new Transgressions album, Fucked Up, is a great coming of age pop punk record.  Channeling The Ramones with short and sweet songs that will hook you after a single listen of the album.  It takes a more positive outlook with songs where the loser gets the girl but compliments and contrasts with themes of just wanting to get high and leave everything behind.  Each song catches the listener immediately with Ben’s sneering vocal hooks.  This record definitely shows growth not just in songwriting, but in life.  It shows how punks of a generation removed have become disillusioned yet somehow regain a sense of positivity.  Most songs clock within the 1 to 2 minute range and are just the short burst of energy we’ve come to expect from The Transgressions.  “Holey Fuck” is a catchy anthem about worn out clothes and the apathy that it comes with.  “You’re the One” is the quintessential pop punk love song, combining a love for The Ramones with a love for opiates into a perfect match in this catchy tune.  “Fucked Up” tells the tale of punk rock growing up but not giving up.

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    Harvey Mandel - Snake Pit

    Harvey Mandel - Snake Pit

    Harvey Mandel

    Album title: Snake Pit
    By Sal Serio
    Posted: Dec 2016
    Label: Tompkins Square
    (2145) Page Views

    Musician Harvey “The Snake” Mandel has always been a hard one to categorize, but one can never deny his unparalleled level of excellence on the guitar. Detroit-born, Chicago-raised, and San Francisco-influenced, Mandel consistently seemed to be a couple steps ahead of the trends, being an early innovator of two-handed fretboard tapping, and distinguishing his sound with a mastery of syncopated phrasing, razor-edged sustain, and a genius touch when it comes to command of his effects pedals, as well as such natural phenomena as volume/feedback control.

    Mandel, who has been battling illness in recent years, is back with his first studio album in ten years, the aptly titled ‘Snake Pit’, and it is a gross understatement to say it was merely worth the wait. These 10 instrumentals span blues to jazz, hard rock to jammy improv, and show enough chops, licks, and Snake’s unique signature style, to make any lover of the guitar stand up and take notice. ‘Snake Pit’ rivals any of the classic 1970s Mandel releases, and proves unequivocally why “The Snake” is one of rock’s most revered and formidable axe masters. It’s impossible to pick any individual track to study on ‘Snake Pit’, as they are all intense and inspirational in their own way, which truly illustrates what an amazing body of work this is.

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    KidsonFire - KidsonFire

    KidsonFire - KidsonFire

    KidsonFire

    Album title: KidsonFire
    By Sal Serio
    Posted: Dec 2016
    Label: 616050 Records DK
    (2543) Page Views

    Press play, and the first thing you hear is a hellion youngster saying “We’re going to fuck this motherfucker UP!”, and that pretty much sets the tone for these four ruckus compositions that bristle with attitude, confidence, and immediacy. KidsonFire is a new project by bass player Danny Smash (of The Last Vegas) and claims Grand Rapids, Michigan, as it’s home base, although lead singer Karina Zephyr is from Chicago. Their two guitar / pummeling drum assault makes their debut E.P. leap screaming from the stereo speakers. This CD E.P. was released in mid-to-late 2016 as a follow-up to their 2015 single “Coup D’etat”.

    You’ll experience an in-your-face heaviness with KidsonFire, but there’s also a tunefulness, a pop sensibility mixed in to their aggressive rock structure, that owes it’s presence to the engaging vocals courtesy of Karina. Songs like “Mother’s Little Monster” and “Anymore” will remain in your head for days. The centerpiece though (included here as both explicit and radio-friendly) is the anthem song “Kids On Fire” with it’s rebellious messages of “No more books and no more bells, I pledge allegiance to myself”, and “We’ll always disagree with you”.

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    Popa Chubby - The Catfish

    Popa Chubby - The Catfish

    Popa Chubby

    Album title: The Catfish
    By Sal Serio
    Posted: Dec 2016
    Label: Popa Chubby Productions
    (2285) Page Views

    By my count, ‘The Catfish’ is the 19th studio album by Bronx blues man Ted Horowitz, aka Popa Chubby. That in and of itself is damn impressive, but consider that this is also one of his finest recorded efforts. From the get-go, on the songs “Going Downtown See My Old Gal Sue” and “Good Thing”, the modus operandi is boogie woogie hip shakin’ with dive bomber wah-wah drenched lead solos. Chubby’s grunt and grind vocals coax the listener through the grooves straight to the trippy downtown honky tonks.

    I adore this album’s three instrumentals. Chubby assigns “Bye Bye Love” a reggae persona, flavored by Dave Keyes’ organ fills on the off-beat, which drives the Caribbean calypso rhythm. “Wes Is More” showcases the Wes Montgomery/Chet Atkins/Les Paul finger picking technique, and “Blues For Charlie” is true-blue blues, with chorus-clean singing/stinging guitar notes: crisp, clean, and mean.

    “Slow Down Sugar” is the street smart urban blues number, akin to Los Lobos, punctuated by Tipitina Horowitz’ trumpet and Chubby’s gravely Tom Waits-like spoken rap that keep the beat down on the street. The rocker of the album is “Motörhead Saved My Life”, clocking in at 2:41. “Too damn ugly for the limelight. Who wants Ace of Spades? Who wants to get laid? Who wants to get high? Live fast ‘til you die”.

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    Sad13 - Slugger

    Sad13 - Slugger

    Sad13

    Album title: Slugger
    By John Noyd
    Posted: Nov 2016
    Label: Carpark Records
    (2028) Page Views

    In the aftermath of a year fraught with personal loss and challenges, Sadie Dupuis took a break from fronting Speedy Ortiz, moved to Philly and mapped a path into trippy, bedroom-pop that harks back to her pre-band days when she found her bliss in upbeat demos where her rambunctious imagination could run wild. Sounding like a playground princess taking schoolyard bullies down a notch while throwing a Mad Hatter’s tea party for all her friends, Sad13 piles crunchy alt-rock waltzes atop frothy Jenga benders, dovetailing rubber-bullet hooks with frittering synths synched to giddy, gritty double-dutch funk. Fueled by full-throttled optimism spliced inside squishy riffs, “Slugger,” scores and floors, rocketing posh tolerance in frilly thrills spun from subtly bubbly pajama-party caroling and happily scrappy seesaw gloss.

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    Testament - Brotherhood Of The Snake

    Testament - Brotherhood Of The Snake

    Testament

    Album title: Brotherhood Of The Snake
    By Sal Serio
    Posted: Nov 2016
    Label: Nuclear Blast
    (2192) Page Views

    Some bands are just reliable. Like strong coffee on a dark, cold morning; you just KNOW it’s going to provide the jolt that you desperately need. Chuck Billy and Testament are like that, and a new Testament record is similar to a visit from the oldest and truest of friends. Familiarity, yes, but always with a couple new tricks up their sleeves as well.

    ‘Brotherhood Of The Snake’ marks 11 studio albums in to Testament’s molten metal legacy, and emits a sound as fresh, vital, relevant, and incendiary as ever. Perhaps even more so, as these ten new songs have a sense of urgency about them that is relentless and inescapable. The staccato tempos (Gene Hoglan) and jackhammer riffs (Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson) make pretty much anything the “Big 4” bands have done this past decade seem bleached and sanitized by comparison. Yet, as brutal as this soundscape terrain is, there is still an embraceable and engaging vibe. Meaning that the heaviness does not push the listener away. Rather, these five brothers of the snake weave a sinewy, slithering, snakepit vortex that pulls all into it’s teeming viper’s nest. But don’t be afraid of this beast’s bite. This time it’s brotherly venom.

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    Glenn Hughes - Resonate

    Glenn Hughes - Resonate

    Glenn Hughes

    Album title: Resonate
    By Sal Serio
    Posted: Nov 2016
    Label: Frontiers Music
    (2974) Page Views

    Considering the harrowing accounts of Glenn Hughes’ “lost years” to drugs (as documented in obscene detail in his recent autobiography), it is amazing that Hughes is still writing, recording, and performing, let alone hitting new heights of artistic achievement some 45+ years in to his career. The “Voice of Rock” moniker is no false crown. There are precious few with the range, emotion, and intensity of Hughes’ uncanny vocal prowess.

    Never one to shy away from new collaborations or genre-defying free spirited musical excursions, the beauty of the new ‘Resonate’ album is an unabashed attitude of “let’s rock the fuck out”, and the presence of one of the most cohesive and talented backing bands ever showcased on a Glenn Hughes record. The powerhouse drumming of Pontus Engborg is the perfect companion to Hughes’ lyrical bass lines, and the lead flourishes by guitarist Soren Andersen and organist Lachlan Doley take these 11 solid rock compositions to the dizzying altitude of the highest musical mountain. Indeed, these songs and performances rival even the mid-1970s work that Hughes did with Deep Purple to earn his recent induction in to the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. Feel the groove, experience the volume, and let it RESONATE.

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    Thompson Springs - Artifacts

    Thompson Springs - Artifacts

    Thompson Springs

    Album title: Artifacts
    By John Noyd
    Posted: Oct 2016
    Label: self-release
    (2160) Page Views

    A collaborative side-project from The Sharrows’ Matt Smith, Thompson Springs became an outlet for a backlog of songs Smith gathered over the years. Named after a ghost town in Utah Smith encountered early in his song-writing career, the band consists of a rotating crew who shaped his tunes into folk-rock gems whose casual valor, languid language and modest polish convey an everyman’s candor that rocks gently and goes down easy.  Produced by Rob Laakso of Kurt Vile and the Violators, the mini-collection of rambling self-reflection simmers in sing-along homilies and hitch-hiker’s poetry for a laid-back and breezy treatise that makes for a fine traveling companion on the winding road of life. As a taste of things to come, “Artifacts,” packs promising calm for uncertain journeys.

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    Joey Broyles - Lucky Superstar

    Joey Broyles - Lucky Superstar

    Joey Broyles

    Album title: Lucky Superstar
    By John Noyd
    Posted: Oct 2016
    Label: self-release
    (2251) Page Views

    Washed in lavish passions, brave crusades and militant synths, “Lucky,” holds court against a world enslaved to gray conventions, cradled in ill-fitting labels and wedded to uncontested repression. Dystopian overtures rope social injustice and personal freedom into glitter-bombed romps and diva-teasing power-ballads as Broyles uncoils a conceptual conundrum where self-aware fairy-tales filled with sci-fi pariahs champion non-conformists everywhere in an enthralling call to arms suitable for mass consumption. Bold showmanship has always been the glam-pop auteur’s calling card and his latest do or die diatribes straddle pedantic fantasies and defiant non-compliance with exquisite commiseration, raging rock assaults and damning examinations. Principled sympathy and unequivocal civil disobedience go hand in hand with exorbitant portions and delectable spectacle making, “Lucky,” a fortunate collusion of art and ideas.

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    The Mascot Theory - Trust and Bones

    The Mascot Theory - Trust and Bones

    The Mascot Theory

    Album title: Trust and Bones
    By John Noyd
    Posted: Sep 2016
    Label: self-release
    (2580) Page Views

    Despite releasing a solid EP late last year, the latest full-length album from Wisconsin’s The Mascot Theory took over a year and half to complete. It was not time wasted as, “Trust and Bones,” shines in polished gems whose proven grooves swing in crystal-clear lyrics honed from diamond-hard truths. Fancy hootenannies buck against beguiling revivals as sawdust two-steps with carnival-barker sparkle call boot-scootin’ moon-dances with devilish glee. Recording and mixing between Madison and Nashville, the country-rock quartet drew talented cameos from both places to supplement an already robust sound with titillating fiddle and night-train pedal-steel. Join the CD Release Party October 8th at Middleton’s Capitol Brewing or join a good cause when the band plays Flannel Fest 2016 November 5th with Beth Kille and American Aquarium.

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