Greetings and Salutations!
2014 marks ELEVEN YEARS OF MIDNIGHT CALLING EZINE!
I took a hiatus for a while, but we’re up and running again. My apologies to the bands and readers. Everything was put on hold after the sudden death of my sweet, beloved cat Yorick. Plus a few other situations that required an uncommon level of attention.
Check out the new reviews of Strand of Oaks, Ira Wolf, Brahma Bull, and The Exploding Boy. More reviews are in the works. and with more in the works. Next up will be Sweet Soubrette, Jonathan Parker’s fine “Long Gone” and a few more.
And don’t forget the usual inflammatory article, coming soon, so don’t forget the blood pressure medicine!
Take at look at some of the bad videos filmed by yours truly at:
It’s all about the music! Screw the ‘scene’.
The Exploding Boy from Sweden is one of my favorite bands of the millennium. Their album “Four”, released last year is, obviously, their fourth release, a fine follow up to “The Black Album” from 2011. Heavily influenced by Post-punk, Goth, and Punk, The Exploding Boy’s “Four” has music that is fully contemporary and accessible with Pop sensibilities, yet still fully within the edgy tradition of ’80s underground.
“Cracked- Reasons” has some great post-punk guitar and rhythmic percussion. The song thunders along with a freight train, while the vocals are typical Exploding Boy: direct and forceful. Clearly guitar driven, there is a fine layer of synth that adds depth. The cadence reminds me a but of The Cure, with a catchy chorus. At about 2:27 is my favorite part of the song: riveting guitars and compelling vocals.
“Street Cliche” starts out with a very synth ’80s feel ala Deprech Mode, but then the guitars explode with a roar. Percussion is hard and driving, while the vocals have a slightly distant feel that is juxtaposed with insistent layering.
“Going to Hell” is smoother and more synth driven, with a base line that expertly hovers just beneath the percussion and vocals. The guitar is crisp and adds a sense of lucidity, to the brooding synth. Lyrics are somber and vehement “You look at me and you are lying/it’s so obvious to see..anyone can tell/you’re going to hell.”
“Dark City, Pt II” is hard-driving and dynamic. This is a great song for the dancefloor. I am reminded a bit of the Sisters of Mercy. “I’ve been alone far too long/lie down next to me…” The chord changes are somehow particularly gripping, and the chorus is riveting. The rapid guitar at about 4:00 is masterful.
“Runaways” is brilliant, just brilliant, with shades of The Church. Synth is sweeping and gives a monumental foundation to the dramatic, visceral vocals. “It’s all right here in the moment….”. From the turbulent guitars and dirge-like percussion to the “western” flourishes of synth, “Runaways” rises and falls like a grand musical epic.
“Awful” changes the pace a bit, with a New Wave feel. Staccato percussion and ponderous, yet forceful bass lead the way. Some of the flourishes remind me of harpsichord. “I don’t know what you want/do you want to kill me?” Layers of sound in the background fill the spaces admirably, then saw-edged guitar ups the ante. A discordant chorus ends the song on a nice jangly note.
“Shadows” has Punk overtones that lie beneath a momentary darkwave facade. Blistering rock guitar blows the covers right off the speakers, as percussion runs riot alongside fervent vocals. “Leave me alone the damage is done/ just begun.” The song lowers with sparse keyboard before ramping up again and careening to a fuzz laden close.
“Always” features excellent fast-paced postpunk guitar and driven by inexorable percussion. Vocals are fast and incisive, buttressed by hairpin synth that is as sharp as Joe Jackson’s shoes. There is a some searing deathrock-ish guitar about halfway through that propels this great song to a finish.
“Get it Out” is slow and hypnotic with an opening reminiscent of Siousxie. Excellent basslines roam beneath catchy synth, while the vocals and tight percussion are somewhat reminiscent of Lush.
“Scared to Death” reminds me of Echo and the Bunnymen meets Catherine Wheel. Very evocative in the tradition of ’80s postpunk, there is also a sense of power as in the best of ’90s Indie. Orchestral synth accentuates powerhouse guitar and layered vocals that have a hint of echo. There is a strident, shouted “harmony” beneath the chorus. “Take a breath, hold on tight/there’s no need to be scared tonight” The song ends with the eerie beating of a Tell Tale heart.
I have probably missed a few things here, but hopefully I had hit the high points. The production on “Four” is outstanding. There is no filler here at all. One of the things I like most about The Exploding Boy is that that they incorporate Gothic elements without trying to imitate the typical swirling, doomy drone of the late ’80s into ’90s. Really, we’ve heard enough of that. The same with postpunk. If I want to hear Joy Division I’ll throw on a Joy Division CD. Time marches on. The Exploding Boy manages to evoke that unsettled feeling that brings a sense of nostalgia to Goths of a certain age, while at the same time being dynamic and relevant. It’s great driving music, and great headphone music too. Just as important, the guys in the band are friendly too. Give them a listen.
Originally from Montana, new folk singer/songwriter Ira Wolf moved to Nashville in 2013, and completed her second tour in the fall of 2014. Ira Wolf’s songs are based on her personal experiences. “Fickle Heart” was just released in September.
With infectious fiddle and banjo, “Can’t Say” is catchy and energetic. There is a touch of Irish Folk in here, balanced with very contemporary layered vocals on the moving chorus. The steel guitar lends a nice Country vibe.
“Poison in my Veins” is slower and poignant. Militaristic percussion meshes well with languid bass and moody guitar. The song rises and fills out at about 3:00, with synth in the background. Vocals are smooth, yet incisive.
“Give a Damn Danny” features understated, yet edgy banjo and firm, strident percussion. “You want it all, but you know that ain’t fair/I keep saying don’t you come back around. but you turn on the charm and my guard is down.” Vocals are sincere and personal, with the sudden swell of the chorus adding weight to the song before it closes.
“The Devil and Me” gallops along with choppy, foreboding guitar, sharp fiddle, and steady bass on this eminently danceable song. Percussion emerges and sets the pace, while the guitar evokes shades of the Eagles’ “Desperado” era. Ira’s vocals are wonderfully fatalistic yet defiant. “They told me that I was headed for the devil/I asked them what a life if you’re livin’ like you’re dead?” A bit of echo adds a dark touch. “I was born to be a sinner/I was born to be free/I was born to dance with two left feet.” This is a great song, perhaps my favorite on the album.
“Won’t Talk” is a soft chronicle of a rather complicated relationship. “I won’t talk and you won’t talk/and we’ll just walk away…” The song begins soft and mellow with a furtive air, but suddenly firm percussion and and expertly layered vocals heighten a sense of sincere regret that is not quite enough to change anything. The song will resonate with everyone who has faced conflicting emotions. Vocals are superb, and the subtle backing instruments are the perfect complement.
“In the Dark” is fast paced and flowing, percussion driven with hypnotic steel guitar. Vocals are again superbly layered, with an echo effect that gives the song an enigmatic feel. “There are monsters underneath my bed/keep me up and scared to death“ The “monsters” are ones of doubt and futility that we all face at one time or another.
“Fickle Heart” has a Celtic cadence with clear, precise guitar that is reminiscent of some of the artists on the Windham Hill label but quite a bit stronger. Vocals are simple, yet powerful. Backing guitar has some fine echo, which gives the song an otherworldly kind of vibe. This is the right song to end the Cd.
Ira Wolf takes new folk in a different and quite refreshing direction than most, with pleasing melodies and straightforward lyrics. There is more strength here than is first apparent. The production is excellent, and it is obvious that the vision behind “Fickle Heart” was a solid one. Fans of folk and rock alike will appreciate the clarity and intimacy of “Fickle Heart” as well as Ira Wolf’s fine vocals.
I usually don’t review singles, but there is a first time for everything. “Leader of the Pack” is the first solo and video by Jeff McCool, AKA Brahma Bull, founder of Moccasin Creek. I first discovered Moccasin Creek as few months ago and was blown away. They have some truly great stuff that is on my permanent playlist. “The South Never Died” is one of the most outstanding songs ever written! I was deeply disappointing to have missed their local shows in my area, but that’s the breaks. They are growing more popular by the day, and I was very pleased to see Brahma Bull’s first single, which was released on may 30th. I’m a little late, but I’ll do what I can to rep it here.
The first time I heard “Leader of the Pack”, the lyrics jumped right out at me. Anyone who has read any of my other reviews knows that I consider lyrics to be just as important as the music in a song. If the lyrics don’t move me, the song doesn’t move me. This ain’t no disco. And Brahma Bull ain’t fooling around. He hits the mark from the very start:
“They said it couldn’t be done man that makes me laugh/ you can’t mix country, metal, southern rock, and rap / they were right, you can’t, I can, I will/you tried, you failed, I win, for real”
This echoed a topic that I had been thinking about for a while. My girlfriend and I had quite a few discussions about this very thing, so it was very cool to hear someone else write a song about it. There seems to be a lot of elitism in music these days, and this has increased exponentially with the fragmenting of music into many niches and enclaves. But it seems to have taken on a tone of meanness, where people are trying to exclude and ridicule others. This has never been what music was about. Sure, there should be some standards and definitions, but this should be in the spirit of community, not snobbery. In the end, all music is subjective. It is all about how it makes you feel. No one can say that their opinions are better than anyone else’s. No one has to justify or explain why they like any particular music.
Anyway, a couple of months ago, C-Hubb of Redneck Souljers made a comment on Facebook that hit the heart of the matter. He said something to the effect that when he grew up listening to Classic Country and Rap too, and he didn’t think anything about it. I know what he means, when I was growing up I listened to all different types of music. The radio was more eclectic that today. I listened to everything from Johnny Cash to Led Zep, and I didn’t think much about it either. People liked what they liked. “Nuff said. Nobody sat around and insulted folks because of the music they listened to.
“Leader of the Pack” features a foundation of hard-hitting metal riffs, while Brahma Bull delivers fervent rhymes commemorating Country, Rap, and metal. References to Ozzy, Motorhead, Slayer, Black Sabbath, Kiss on one hand, and then LeeAnne Rimes, Willie, David Allan Coe, Billy Ray Cyrus ,and all three Hanks on the other hand show that that Brahma Bull is not just whistlin’ Dixie. He has listened to music prolifically and his inspiration comes from many different sources. He celebrates MUSIC. Music is like your hometown. You might not like where you grew up, but it will always be a part of you.
I love the references that shoot through this song like a 30-06 in deer season, so fast that you’ll miss them if you’re not paying attention. “Half drunk and hollow eyed….” And “I go hard you’re soft, you’re limp, you biscuit” . And my favorite: a little Stephen King, with “…Riddle me this….” He gets deadly serious with “This stuff they call country makes me sick/all they sing about are big trucks and chicks/tell a story/write your own damn hits/Merle Waylon Johnny George and Coe would hate that shit.” This is exactly what some of the Country elitists who snubb Hick Hop are saying. They need to realize that folks like Brahma Bull are on the same side as they are. Everybody who loves Country doesn’t have to sound like the Possum or only listen to Classic Country.
Musically “Leader of the Pack” is tight and concise. There is no “fashionable” sloppiness that characterizes a lot of music these days. From the heavy guitar riffs to the piano that evokes a glimmer of Skynyrd, its the perfect platform for Brahma Bull’s vocals. Most important of all, this song is from the heart. Love it or hate it, it is straight up and genuine.
“Welcome to my jungle where the moonshine grows”. Hell yeah! Check out Brahma Bull (and Moccasin Creek, too.)
I first heard of Stand of Oaks while drifting through SiriusXM one day, when I chanced to linger on The Loft. The music there was not as bad as I feared, it was actually decent stuff. When “Shut In” was played, it was so good that I immediately hit the button for track information. At home I checked out the entire album and purchased it.
Strand of Oaks have released four albums since 2009. Founder Timothy Showalter and his wife Sue were in a severe traffic accident on Christmas Day, 2013. This near death experience was the impetus behind “Heal”.
“Goshen’97″ is an autobiographical song with a strong Indie vibe. Nicely layered vocals are backed with blasting rock guitar and furious percussion.
“Heal” has fast paced vocals, buttressed with edgy synth, orchestral backing effects, and syncopated percussion. The energetic arrangements bring New Order to mind, while the rapid-fire vocals have a gritty sincerity, but flow smoothly at the same time.
“Same Emotions” has a great chorus that invokes shades of ’70′s R&B, brilliantly laid over industrial-paced synth and percussion. There is a great synth interlude about half way through the song, while the guitar creeps surreptitiously in. The song finishes with a fine flourish of galloping percussion.
“Shut In” is simply a great song. Vocals have a sort of ’90s feel, and manages to be introspective and energetic at the same time. Percussion is nice and strong, resonating with an almost postpunk roll. Edgy guitar emerges from the background, buttressed by synth that rises like a tide at the perfect moment. There are also very cool echo effects that add a fine sense of depth. The song ends with feedback and a rumble of percussion that fades into a moving piano and vocal finish.
“Woke Up to the Light” is somewhat reminiscent of The Search. The slow, measured percussion and moody synth remind me of a military dirge. Vocals are introspective, nearly a lament, with great layers of contrasting moods juxtaposed on each other. Synth drops low and heavy, adding a depth to the song that is visceral and dramatic.
“JM” reminds me strongly of Neil Young Crazy Horse on songs like Cortez the Killer Poignant piano joins plaintive vocals, and suddenly a wall of sound falls. Percussion is heavy and sort of syncopated, never wavering behind the epic guitar, which lowers to a sombre roar before rising to a crescendo. The song clocks in at over seven minutes. I am usually no big fan of songs this long, but “JM” fully keeps my interest. There is some excellent sonic layering here. The song slows to a bit of quiet piano before subtly closing.
“Plymouth” changes pace a bit. Vocals are moving and heartfelt, especially the chorus, which has a nice bit of discordant harmony. Sharp, clear percussion sets the pace for the song along side keyboards. Electro background effects provide a wonderfully spacey and dark soundscape and add a perfect sense of balance. Comfort doesn’t mean you’re better off…” This is definitely a song for headphones.
“Mirage Year” continues in the same vein. Profoundly regretful, yet with a sense of lingering nostalgia, this song also evokes shades of Neil Young, particularly the falsetto phrase “Ohhh, love can bring you down“. Halfway through, the listener is deluged in a heavy sonic wave of feedback and cacophony that somehow remains under control. Suddenly it ends, dropping to a slow, echoed piano finale.
“For Me” rocks out. Gripping fuzz laden guitar rolls alongside incisive percussion, with rattling effects in the background. Vocals are pensive yet decisive. “and the sun fell right out of the sky“. Suddenly everything falls together in a towering anthem that ends like a fitful dream.
“Wait for Love” closes out the album in a grand fashion. Evocative, almost prim piano, accompanies fervent vocals that have a hint of otherworldly distortion. Percussion turns frantic, while feedback pervades the senses. A sense of longing turns to madness or joy or just release, and then fades into the ether.
“Heal” is suffused with emotion, but this does not weigh it down like has been the case with too many other bands. This is no mean feat. The compositions are strong, and effectively meld together disparate musical threads. The result is wholly satisfying and memorable. There is not a weak song here. There have been some complaints about the mastering, but I see no issues at all. “Heal” is a masterful album that resonates deeply. Check it out.