Once a week I bring you a fresh review of an Arizona Indie Record. Be sure to SUBSCRIBE and SUPPORT THE BANDS ! This Week: I Think They’re After Me – CHROME RHINO
When I reviewed the debut album from Chrome Rhino, it had not even been named yet. And I fell in love with it immediately. When I wrote my original review, I played heavily into using movie clips to highlight my take on each of the songs. What Chrome Rhino is able to do is weave themes and motifs like: Love, Sex, Drugs and Strange Occurrences…. And then mash those themes up like a Monster Mash. You can do the mash…… The Monster Mash….. and that feeling, with that voice over I know you just heard in your head, is the madness that will dream and whip into reality at a Chrome Rhino Show.
Folks, I know, I am a horror guy, and this album is a sure-fire-win for the guy who weaves music into a new literary genre. However, this record is a lot of fun. I can imagine Bob Hoag just smiling away over there at Flying Blanket Studios dreaming of all of the awesome old school horror movie soundtracks he has on vinyl. Yeah…. this record kinda makes you feel like a kid again, running down the street right before sundown with your plastic pumpkin and your vinyl costume from the variety store. Laughing, jumping, staying up way too late and watching old creepy movies, and eating way too much candy with the Ghouls and the Goblins. Thank you Chrome Rhino, thank you for taking me there.
Stand Out Tracks: I Love You, But I Know You’re a Robot, Zombie Vision (BANGER !!!) The Butterfly, Potions, Soma Holiday (LOVE IT), and Phlebotomy… and folks, that is not to say that Love and Bigfoot and Swamp Daddy are not awesome. I mean seriously…. If you liked Oingo Boingo at all, this one should be in your collection. Think Oingo Boingo… by way of Bowie. Yeah… seriously.
I like to consider myself pretty well rounded as to the Arizona Indie Music Scene, but honestly, I do not think I have really even scratched the surface. By the time Hookworm Records was looking at Shovel, I had never even heard their music, and I still have not seen them live (August !!!). But what I lacked in personal experience I made up for with well positioned network connections. You see, Dusty Rose, front woman extraordinaire of the power trio, filled in for Meliza, the guitarist for The Darts – US, when the band toured Europe and Meliza was unable to make the trip. That is a pretty awesome resume addition, so wanting to know a little more, I reached out to Nicole Laurenne and asked her why.
“I have always loved Dusty’s raw abandon on stage,” the charismatic, but reserved (when not on stage) leader of The Darts began, “her dusky, gravelly vocals, and her true appreciation for fuzz guitars and big sound. She really, really gets it.”Nicole Laurenne
And that, kids, is how you get your band signed to a contract for an original song when the guy signing the paper has never heard you before. Sometimes, the people you impress really matter. Since that time I have doven completely into Shovel’s full length EP It’s Fun to be a Nothing: a twelve song sonic assault that is nothing at all About a Girl but raw, emotive, garage fuzz that somehow surfs this crazy Wave of Mutilation like a Titanium Expose. And yes, this band screams a little Pixies blurred through a whole lotta Sonic Youth Goo and somehow ends just a shade south of Nirvana. Pretty stellar. Can’t wait to see em live! Stand out songs on this record: Space Heater, Monty, Ooze Ooze, Satan’s Inside, With You, Clouds are Fun and S/Y. A solid, grungy, slug to the face, if you like your punk edgy, check out SHOVEL!
The band was listening to the mix. We were all sitting in The Flying Blanket Control Room listening to and discussing the ending of their song, Triangle Sky. “You know, “ Bob Hoag said, “this song is just so epic, what if it were to end the record and we just turned you guys loose all the way till the needle hit the label?” And that is really the story of recording an original new song with The Psychedelephants. Their last EP, The Abyss, saw the band take an interesting curve from some of the more blues inspired sounds of their previous release, Sun Drunk. Submerged in Water : A short song that acts as an introduction to the EP, (and bookends it when the themes return in the final track) it comes off like an intro to the Metallica Black Album, if Pink Floyd wrote it. Whoah. But if you thought you were in for a straight up rock album, that fuzz and grind that says something of the 70s landed in the 90s tells you differently. Like the great progressive bands King Crimson, Pink Floyd, or Rush, this band brings that jam, those thoughtful lyrics, those layers, and those time changes. Late is one of my favorite songs in the band’s catalog. If there is one that challenges it as my favorite song on this album, it is Fall in Line. You wanna write a song about conformity, Stepford people colliding into each other, and wrap it in a Progressive roll? Okay! Twist my Arm! But with A Whole New Low those guitars weep like a late Beatles song, until all of a sudden you are ready to head to the mosh pit. Timing Changes. Tempo flips. Progressive Gold. Recording with Paul Balazs (AKA Danger Paul), singer and frontman for the band, it was obvious that not only is he incredibly skilled at musical arrangement, but he is a hell of a poet. So, I am not saying he is Morrison, but… doors could open. The Psyched Guys are great musicians, weaving layers of Spenser’s jazzy drums, the crushing dynamics of Miles on bass, Colin layering the sound of different strings over the ensemble, and now, Paul has a Rhodes. So enter the labyrinth of time, philosophy, and beautiful mayhem with a herd of thundering elephants rampaging through The Abyss. For an Ep, a 4 full song album with an intro, you will not want to skip any tunes, curiosity will keep you locked in, and then you will repeat it. That is Solid.
Why Flying Blanket Recording? For every positive review or accolade I bring up to Bob Hoag, he finds two where someone is calling him out. Whether it is just his access to vintage toys, or his accumulation of film paraphernalia that creates the vibe, or it is just that console – anybody can do what Bob Hoag can do if they have all that candy. Sure. That is what they say. And Bob is as humble as cherry pie. But the criticism raises a valid point. What is it? Is it tangible, this quality that makes carpets magic? I submit – Pop Confessions by Paper Foxes. When you dig into the Paper Foxes discography, you find a collection of singles and EPs dating back to 2015 (when, oddly enough they looked vaguely similar to their current lineup). All of these songs show a four year progression from punk infused garage postmodern pop with Chopsticks & Merlot to their more and more focused songwriting and arrangements with the Dance of the Dead EP. But what you get with the first full length Paper Foxes record, is only three new songs. Every other song on the record has been on one of those previous singles or EPs. So what is new? Bob Hoag. And that album made it onto Ed Masely’s coveted the best unsigned band in Arizona spot. By listening to the older versions, and the Flying Blanket versions, back and forth you are really able to develop a sense of what Bob brings to arrangement and separate/ distinct mic recording. He gets sounds that just do not seem possible. But perhaps, it takes working closely with Bob, lurking in the shadows and the electronic hum of that control room, watching the djinn hard at work, listening to him hear notes that are not there, and explaining what he is hearing to a band with the capability of playing it. And in that a magic dance of creativity – you will see blankets fly. And that blanket flies neon bright on Pop Confessions! Now that you have heard a taste of what is coming next with the darkly dancilicious Crystal Ball, go back and revisit the first full length album from this rising Phoenix band!
As The Woodworks began their session for Hookworm Records with Bob Hoag (Flying Blanket Recording) , he turned to me and said, “Wow, I didn’t know The Woodworks were this rockin’!” My answer, “Yeah, their creative range is amazing.” Want proof? It is this record. I have been a fan of The Woodworks for about four years now. They blew me away from the very first time I saw them at Crescent Ballroom. That opinion has done nothing but grow in glow. When Solo is at her best, it is when she is able to completely capture her voice AS AN INSTRUMENT. It is quite amazing, and this album showcases the powerhouse of a vocalist that she can be. In the studio, after about two takes with Konstantin, Bob said, “Wow, Stan is a helluva drummer!” Again I nodded with a huge grin, “Yup.” Down by the Ol’ Pig Canal is an eight song extravaganza of range and fun. The standouts to me: In the Cell, what a rocking alternative rock anthem! Once upon a time I taught English Literature. When teaching the scene in Hamlet where Laertes is leaving for college, and his father gives him a list of advice, I would use Will Smith’s Just the Two of Us to engage with students. If I was still teaching, I would use Letters. How can you resist poetic life advice from a guy named Beer who wears a kilt? You cannot. Choices is just a swoony, melodic masterpiece. It shows the amazing range of this band in one solid single. Error is a fun, B-52s-esque, trippy, psychedelic throwback to Biz Markie. Yes. I wrote that. And I stand by it. Freaking genius. The fun mayhem just gets even more chaotic and atmospheric with Just Beat the Devil Out of It. 5 Standouts out of 8. That is solid.
Keep the Greasy Side Down