Quick Hits 2

Clear the Mechanism, Dead Celebrities, Sevenstar, Somnia, The Velvet Teen, Zoo Story

CLEAR THE MECHANISM: THE NORTHERN LIGHTS

It’s always nice to receive CDs in the mail by bands you haven’t heard of, and are therefore free to discover. Since we’re a St. Louis magazine, it’s nice when they’re local bands. Even nicer when they have a well-designed and professional-looking package; I cannot say enough about Clear the Mechanism’s CD insert.

But this is a CD review, and you want to hear about the music, right? Right. Clear the Mechamism is, according to the press info, an Edwardsville band formed in 2001. Though self-described as exploring the sounds between indie and progressive rock, I hear a bit more of a pared-down punk sound in their tunes. They’re solid, alternative rock songs, for the most part fast-paced, like “Tides” and “Aurora.” “Picture” is a pretty, slower number with vocal distortion and a lovely melody; the drums here seem too obvious, somehow. Another mellow track is “Leaving,” a thoughtful reflection on a breakup. “Father’s Ring,” finally, has that indie sound about it, and is a standout track with exquisite guitar work and Jamal R.S. McLaughlin’s tentative vocals. | Laura Hamlett

DEAD CELEBRITIES: CLEANUP ON AISLE 3

Sure, this local punk band may call themselves the Dead Celebrities, and they may have a picture of a dead body on the CD cover, but this band’s music couldn’t be any more lively. The 16-track release, Cleanup on Aisle 3, should leave any fan of energetic punk rock—complete with great guitar hooks—feeling swept away.

Lead singer Sid Sinatra is just as entertaining in his recordings as he is when he’s performing live. The man who often encourages male fans to go “talk to girls” during his live shows will no doubt leave listeners singing along to catchy tracks like “X-Ray Eyes” and “Dead Celebrities.” Despite the fact the band begs for “hate mail and insults” inside the CD cover and refers to their music as “crap core,” Cleanup on Aisle 3 is nothing to be thrown away.| Laura Hamlett

SEVENSTAR (Four-Song Demo)

Received a four-song sampler from Sevenstar including the tracks, “Wounded,” “These Days,” “Blue,” and “Break on Out.” This is a very pleasing sound from a band that bills itself as “acoustic.” Composed of Grant Essig (lead vocals, acoustic guitar, harmony), Dustin Keller (acoustic guitar), Jaclyn Mayer (bass guitar), and Jeremiah Miller (drums, percussion, backing vocals), Sevenstar formed last year in St. Louis. We’re looking forward to checking them out in person and hearing more of their songs. www.sevenstarmusic.com | Laura Hamlett

SOMNIA: ROCK EP

I was a little skeptical when I opened the package to Somnia’s new Rock EP. Press materials said they’d chosen to abandoned their former “alternative rock” sound and focus, instead, on good old rock ’n’ roll. Their press photo shows each of them—Mike Heeley (guitar), Mike Lowder (drums), and Aaron Popp (bass and vocals), and Jack Walker (guitar)—making the rock sign with their fingers. “You will be rocked,” they claim. But once I put the CD into my player, I was pleasantly surprised. Somnia do know how to rock, and they do it well—but it’s not a hard, unlistenable type of rock like I’d feared; it’s a more melodic type of rock, one that would be equally at home on KSHE-95 and 101.1 The River. Standout tracks include “Tease” (which sounds, oddly, kind of Just Add Water-ish) and the foot-tapping “Radiotherapy”; there’s also a fun remake of Greg Kihn’s “Breakup Song.” Available online at www.somniamusic.com | Laura Hamlett

THE VELVET TEEN: PLUS MINUS EQUALS (Slowdance)

I first heard The Velvet Teen on 3WK, the alternative Internet station that’s actually based out of St. Louis. The single was “Never Happy,” one which, I guarantee, will stick happily in your head after just a single listen. Plus Minus Equals is an album-length collection of the band’s previous two EPs, The Great Beast February and Comasynthesis, both out on Slowdance, as well. Taken as a whole, Plus Minus Equals is an aural treat of bouncy, jangly alt-pop, experimental soundscapes, and soaring vocals.

The first song, “Naked Girl,” is reminiscent of early Cure, with rapidfire drums and an energetic falsetto by frontman Judah Nagler. “Mother of Love” is a more Buckley-like number with gentle vocals and a carefully strummed guitar. “Your Cell” is swirling and a live, with a keyboard providing the song’s heartbeat. Even buried in the middle of disc, “Never Happy” is infectious and catchy, the perfect mix of odd sounds, playful vocals, choruses and solos, and a repetitious beat. “Penning the Penultimate” is a poppy love long, while “Reverie to Chanticleer” is slow, quiet, and straining, almost Radiohead-like in its seriousness. www.thevelvetteen.com | Laura Hamlett

ZOO STORY: LIMITED EDITION EP (3:33 Music Group)

Zoo Story remind me of James, when Tim Booth’s voice is soaring, not whining. The music’s solid, melodic alt-rock, very pleasing at first listen. This disc, available from the band’s Web site, features songsfrom their forthcoming full-length. I like it. A lot.

“Star,” the single, is soaring and wonderful. “Nothing Changes” is a bit more generic, but a feel-good song all the same. “If I Could Dream Like Francis” is haunting, explorative, dreamlike (not a bit unlike the music of Thom Yorke), evoking the magical guitar of U2’s Edge. The fact that this band took its name from my favorite one-act play by Edward Albee only endears them to me more. Thankfully, they do justice to the lofty comparison; this is one talented foursome. | Laura Hamlett

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply