Playing Against Expectations

It is rare to be able review an album, where one has access to such an intense stylistic, artistic range as Jarrod Compton. I first saw Jarrod, and honestly, have only seen Jarrod play live with The Real Fakes, where he wields that beautiful flame-orange Gretch like a wizard. But, as I was digging into Daydream the first album from Moons, Birds & Monsters, I found myself very excited to have so much different material to source. Because not only does Jarrod play guitar, mostly lead, and sing, backup/ second vocal, in those two bands, but he is also the creative mastermind behind Comptalo. All of this is to say nothing of the Kid Dynamite & the Blast era. Phoenix, this guy though!

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Now, lots of folks in town are in multiple bands. This is nothing new, in fact, it is quite common. However, in Jarrod’s case I found it immediately striking. For instance, let’s take Brenden McBride for example, the bass master from Wyves. He plays bass in not only Wyves, but Hyperbella and Treasurefruit as well, and there are certainly stylistic differences in the bands.

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Love ya Bass Man!

Both Killa Maus and Haley Green have side projects along with Scattered Melodies, Killa is also in The Hourglass Cats, but again I was not immediately blown away by the stylistic differences. Thomas, Scotty, and Curtis are all over the place between Pistoleros, Dead Hot Workshop and Ghetto Cowgirl, but again… I would say these bands are in a very close grouping.

This is simply not the case with Jarrod Compton. In fact, the first artist that jumped to mind with this degree of interest, talent, collaborative spirit, and range… was Trent Reznor.

BTW: I saw this tour. In Phoenix. It was amazing.

Now, that is a really huge statement, but look at some details. The amazingly talented genius behind Nine Inch Nails has as many musical degrees as David Bowie, played Saxophone with Bowie, has scored video games (Quake), has a very different side project with his wife (How to Destroy Angels), has scored films (Lost Highway), has one of his songs sampled in the all-time longest running number one hit in history (Old Town Road), and can play something like 15 different instruments. You do not have to be a fan of Nine Inch Nails to admit that Trent Reznor is one of the most talented creative musical minds in America. Jarrod has a long way to go to fill those shoes, but the range, the talent, and the high level of accomplishment across genres, is something to notice.

The reason that I bring this up is for one very specific reason. The first listen of a new record, and in this case a new band, always brings up comparisons. This song sounds a bit like…, or this band is like ……, but with a modern sensibility. And these comparisons, although true in many cases, are getting tired. They are becoming cliches. Now that said, every single time I try to share new bands with people at work, the first thing they ask is, “Who do they sound like?” So, cliche or not, the information is useful, but I am tired of it.

So it was awesome to be able to look at this huge variety of work, and compare Jarrod Compton, to himself… and his commitment to a style, instead of comparing him to other musicians.

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The Ghost Writer Review of Moons, Birds & Monsters : Daydream

Eulogy: The first single from Daydream lays it down like metal. But, even as I say that, nobody on the Interwebs can seem to agree on what “metal” even is.

Note: If I ask folks at work who I know like “metal” what good metal is I get Ghost, Mastodon, Gojilla, Five Finger Death Punch, Volbeat and Opeth most often. If I simply put that list on Facebook with #comments, it opens up a can of worms black hole. Metal, is a very odd genre. In fact, while talking to Soundphoria‘s Gavin Donnelly, we were talking about metal almost being seen negatively if it has melody, when Metallica gets melodic, metal heads stop head banging, and how the connection between the music and the vocal seems to be more about tempo. In that way, it is almost like rap. It is hard to hum along to either. Bands like Opeth have taken to weaving a melodic vocal and a death metal style vocal together. Metal, with its lack of mainstream cross genre radio rotation, is an interesting genre to discuss all around, if for nothing else that to start fights! Lol… speaking of expectations.

Eulogy does this, layering Zack’s more melodic vocal with sharp explanations of the deep darkness from Jarrod. But, again, what makes this really cool, is that instead of immediately leaping to the Opeth reference described above, my mind went to all of the other things I was digging into that Jarrod had done. Being able to add, Banshee to the Devil to that list – was kinda cool. Dude! I had no idea you could even do that! Kid Dynamite shows the roots of it. Eulogy, despite sharing a Tool song name, is definitely top 4 on the album. The scales, layers of guitars, and switch ups to acoustic asides and segways are simply everything we want in a hard rock song.

Nightmare: This song is top 3. But there are 4 songs that make the top 3 difficult, and on a 7 original song album, that is pretty solid. The track starts off haunting, with pristine guitar, synthesizer ambiance, and a blended vocal that sets up the story of the song. Don’t let them lie to you. We’ll do that on our own. The second verse takes the listeners there with you. It is a common theme in darker, harder music. Nightmares, dreams, the sandman, the loneliness of the dark, and this second verse takes the song sinister. Not only are we in the nightmare, but your light is fueling it, feeding it. And then the laughter starts and that metal raw, power rock speed that leads to scales and growling from that deep place, makes this a scathing anthem to the darkness of sleep that dare I say it, the sandman… never entered.
Lay That Bottle Down: Top 2. Hands down. And again, band comparisons do leap to mind, but – because of Jarrod Compton’s insane depth and range, I am much more inclined to see these comparisons as Jarrod’s playing with style rather than being inspired by a particular artist. IE, I don’t think the boys set down, and said, let’s come at em Blackstone Cherry.” I do see the artist in Jarrod saying, “I want to take southern rock and bring it some metal.” And this is such a superior comparison to make. I do this all of the time, thinking of a style of poetry, or an era of writing, and trying to bring my take on it. It is not a matter of trying to emulate an artist – it is about being inspired by an age. This song feels a lot like that. It has fantastic hooks, wonderful guitar tone changes, and a really classy use of Jarrod’s demon darkness voice. Here it is less of a voice and more of a sound-effect, adding exclamation points to “two gun shots to the chest”. Very likely my favorite track on the record, but damn Nightmare makes it hard.
Morningstar: Song comes out of waves and bird sound clips. Weaving the pristine clear guitar notes and the acoustic rhythm over them like winds, moonbeams, bird songs…. bringing music into that natural place…. not as an invader…. but a fellow maker of beauty and sound. This song is really beautiful, and the keys coming on at the chorus simply is sonically pleasing. Even when the rock comes hard, it does not seem like an invader. Like some jerk with a Bluetooth speaker in the wilds of Arizona where you went to find peace – no. It comes on like a Hurricane. Natural. Powerful. Godly. But not intrusive. Part. This song again…. makes a top 3 freaking hard. And calling it a top 5, on a 7 song album…. just says…. GO BUY THIS! Saturday.

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You know me, dear readers, and I am not one to shy away from hard questions or controversial subjects. I have interviewed very few metal, hard rock, bands in Phoenix thus far. There have been two reasons for this: one a simple reality, and the other a perception. First, the reality: I live in the southeast corner of Mesa. Apache Junction is closer. Our music scene here in the Valley is varied, and is deep, and it is HUGE. Every band in town will tell you one of their largest obstacles is distance. So, GPS to Joe’s Grotto, and other venues on the North and West side, which seem to cater more to harder music, from my place is 52 minutes from my house. At 2:30 PM on a Tuesday. That is a two hour commitment, just in drive time, often on a night I have to work at 4 o’ clock in the morning. I do it. But it is hard to commit to that in light of the second reason.

Second, the perception. Politics in America right now, are ugly. We are divided in ways we have not been, at least not openly and angrily, for a long time. And the rhetoric, hate, and hostility of those divisions have costs. I am not politically quiet. I have toned it way down, and I do very little of it on social media in comparison to the past. To make a long story short, it was easy to see a divide in terms of acceptance, in terms of politics, and in terms of ideology between myself and the “scene”. Now, let be very clear. I had done very little, next to nothing in that scene, just a few shows at Club Red, here in Mesa.https://keepthegreasysidedown.com/2017/07/19/the-sound-the-fury-the-rebirth-of-heavy-metal/ But I only went to Sturgis once too, and the only thing I had in common with 99.9% of them is that we rode two wheels. I write for myself, and for you, and I like what I like. Truth. A two hour commitment to hang with, and possibly get in Alt Right fights, did not appeal. Not at all.

So I asked Jarrod Compton and Zach O’Meara to prove me wrong.

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Jarrod: To be 100% honest I don’t see that at all. But then again I don’t really ask about or speak on any political views with any one on any scene. Politics separate people, does not bring them together. It’s never been a subject that’s been brought up and I don’t ask. Speaking on your political views in a band setting can bring in negative energy and responses from your fans. I’m here to play and make music not talk about what bill I think should be passed or who should be president or whatever.

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Zach: I can only speak from my own experience. I believe that the local metal scene has been very welcoming to Moons, Birds & Monsters, and they have let us have a chance to show our art. That attitude helped give us the opportunity to put on this show. In the future, it will be up to other bands, including us, to continue to open the door for new artists to test their mettle, so to speak. That will lead to a new renaissance of our scene.
Jarrod: The metal scene has been more accepting of me without even hearing my band or knowing who I am more so than the other pop rock scene I guess. The metal scene is a definite brotherhood of people who just want to support each other and still keep metal alive in the local scene. And that’s something I respect because it’s almost like a dying genre at this point. I worked so fucking hard for years to get in with different crowds, and The Real Fakes is a huge testament to that effort; however, I didn’t experience that kind of hesitation with Moons, Birds & Monsters getting into the metal scene. They loved us from the get go. And now I am playing with what I think are the best metal bands in Phoenix, and I have never even shared the stage with them!

Color me convinced! But, this entire exchange proves an awful lot. It proves something about Perception. It proves something about Judgement. It proves something about being an Asshole. I am beyond excited to head north to the Grotto this Saturday night, and Amigos, I am sorry that it has taken me this long. Serve the Crow with a Cold One!

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Matter of Time: This is the dark horse on the album. These final four are not my top three…. but it really hard to rank them after four. And this is why I find this album so easy to just listen to over and over again. You go from one song that is like, yeah, I like Metal, this song rocks, to a song that adds melody and a bit of thematic history, and you go, yeah, I really dig that, and then they take you to southern rock land, and if that is your jam you are changing your number one, and then they hit you with this just all around fantastic, fun, radio friendly, rockin tune. This is great. It bangs. It rocks. It has “Ohhhh….. silence” pauses. It growls. It purrs. It has driving lics. And does it all while making us wonder if we are really in 2019 or if someone just gave us a taste of something older laced with something totally new.
Bitch: Ok. This is probably not my favorite song. In fact, it is probably at the bottom of my list…. and it fucking rocks! I love it. It is exactly what you want an angry, break up, hard rocking metal song to sound like so you can pound your beer, bang your head, rub shoulders in a dance, and feel better. It is exactly that song. So, if this is the bottom…. what does that freaking say?????

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Black Snow: And again…. this album ends on Hard Rock. It ends on heavy layers of Gretch and Flying V and woven lyrical styles. It is going to make your neck hurt in the morning.

That this album does for me above and beyond everything is showcase a range of talent from some musicians that makes me question……

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Did I really understand what metal was…. or could be? Do you?

Question….. Everything.

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See you at the Grotto Amigos. Keep the Greasy Side Down

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The Witchdoctor at Thirty

I have felt like a stranger in a strange land for most of my life.  It was more than fantasy.  I think every kid, or adult for that matter, dreams of living at another time or in another place: Sherwood, Camelot, the American West, a galaxy far, far, away.  But for me, it was more than that.  It started early and only became more pronounced the older I got.  I first became aware of it while examining the subject of music.

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Everything that I liked was older than me, something that was effecting teens two and three years my senior.  I didn’t like anything that was trendy or popular among my peers, in fact, most of them had no idea how to even pronounce most of what I liked.  Long story short, over a lifetime of that, growing into someone who pursued live and local music over national touring acts, and developing relationships (might I even say friendships – sorry Cameron Crowe) with some of my idols – I have often felt that if I had just been a few years older – I wouldn’t have missed anything.

Nowhere has this been more keenly obvious that on really re-immersing myself into The Sidewinders / Sand Rubies body of work.  Not only does this band have direct connections to many of the artists whom I have mentioned on the Arizona music family tree articles (The Rise of the Arizona New School – Parts One and Two).  But somehow, it feels more poignant than that, more personal.  Why? Perhaps because The Sidewinders / Sand Rubies are from my home town of Tucson, Arizona.  Perhaps because they were playing The Sail Inn while I was attending the U of A, and playing late night role playing games, and not paying attention to live music at all.  I was underage.  The college rock scene was not even on my Goth Geek radar back then.

Fast forward to 1994 – 1999, and everything I love and am enjoying musically in Tempe is somehow connected to this band that I somehow completely missed from my hometown.  I felt like I had once again…. just been a man out of time, and missed something profoundly important to everything that I was currently devouring.  The Sidewinders had gone on hiatus after some rejects from North Carolina sued them to change their name, the Gin Blossoms had exploded beyond Tempe, the Chimeras had become Pistoleros, and The Refreshments were launching.

Fast forward again, this time it is August 23, 2019 and Pistoleros are playing with The Sidewinders to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their record Witchdoctor.  I have been invited as Ryan King’s assistant to have a special view of the show, and access to the musicians.  It was like being able to have my dream fantasy of being a roadie fulfilled, in some beautiful, small way!  I had a blast, and am looking forward to working with the tech genius again soon.  Seriously… Ryan Squared???? How do you beat that!!!

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But as I was listening to the Sold Out performances, I was swept away in waves of nostalgia.  Wishing, just like I had a million times when I was a kid, that I had been born at some other time, or in some other place. This feeling did nothing but intensify when David Rhodes (Big Finish) came in, and called The Sand Rubies the soundtrack of his teens.  That and something about skateboarding down Mill Avenue and bumping into Curtis Grippe.

David and I graduated from high school the same year.  And that feeling of just being Out of Time came surging back.  Here I was watching one of the coolest shows in recent memory, as a guest of an Arizona Hall of Fame band, and writing music reviews for the local music that has been the core of my adult life.  But back then?  Back then I was gyrating like a spider every night of the weekend at Tucson’s all-ages dance-club The Fineline, and 100 miles north David Rhodes was bumping into Curtis Grippe in front of Long Wong’s, and right up the street at The Sail Inn, The Sidewinders were writing the history that in a few decades I would be researching and digging through with a near Biblical attention to detail.

Of the trio of bands really making a name for themselves and trail blazing that rock/ punk/ country fusion that would become known as southwestern rock, Live Nudes, Dead Hot Workshop and The Sidewinders (this is right before Gin Blossoms, and long before Jimmie Eat World), the one I knew the least about was from my hometown.  And their genre defining album Witchdoctor is 30 years old.  It is a bit late for a review.  Towards the end of the set, because David Slutes’ only set list was the actual vinyl Witchdoctor album.  He kicks off casting us into the pit of memories with the title track, laments about not letting more time to slip away on Cigarette, and when they got to Side B – he flipped his setlist.  But two songs of that live side B are about Time:  Before Our Time,  I think we are growing old before our time;  and World’s Apart, dreaming about the future and the children we’d have.

I got thinking about teaching poetry.  I have told you all before, I was a high school and community college English teacher for a bit.  But one of the things I have always said is that the best song lyrics were modern day poetry, and ought one day be anthologized as such.  As literature.  I mean Bob Dylan!  Tupac!  Brent Babb!  But as I thought about poetry, about its resonance over time, its impact that through years is proven universal and timeless, I realized that perhaps…. it was not too late to write a review of Witchdoctor.

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I just needed a Delorean.

A 30 Year Perspective of Witchdoctor:

The groundbreaking album from Tucson rockers, The Sidewinders.

The late 1980s.  Glam.  Duran DuranDepeche ModeThe CureWhitney HoustonMadonnaMotley CrueGuns n Roses. Van Halen.  But something else was happening back then under the new genre of College Radio, and college radio stations across the country were embracing something different.  Something jangly.  Something more raw, less produced, more vivid.  And the kings of college radio: REM.  To take it a step further, one could argue REM took the roots of Punk and infused it with the Southern Rock / Southern Gothic Georgia roots – and bands like The Sidewinders/ Gin Blossoms/ Dead Hot Workshop and Roger Clyne did the same: infusing that punk rock spirit they loved with the country and wild Arizona western rhythms of their homes in Arizona.  As the 90s peaked, bands from the pacific northwest had taken over the mainstream with Nirvana and the labeling of “Alternative” music.  And somehow, with the exception of Gin Blossoms New Miserable Experience, that iconic Tempe Sound stayed in college.

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I found myself listening to the album like a time machine.  Thinking of how the songs had aged, and hadn’t, and how they were effecting me, right now, as if they were new and in real time.  And how even if true, that is okay.  That is the beautiful thing about art.  It doesn’t matter how old it is, when you first find it, it is new again to you.

Allow me an illustration to try to explain.  Many bands right now are touring on anniversary tours.  Gin Blossoms just completed a sweeping tour on New Miserable Experience, bands like OMD, Berlin and The B-52s were just in town, and UB40 and Crash Test Dummies were just here this week.  The nostalgia of it makes complete sense.  25 and 30 years ago all of these bands had huge followings of young people.  Those young people are now stepping back out, leaving empty nests, and discovering life after 40.  But as one of these forty-somethings, not only seeing my long time favorite acts, but also seeing countless performances of new and emerging artists – it becomes more than that.  It becomes generational, about defining the voice of an age, and daring to look at it with a historical perspective.

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I am reminded of my favorite part of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire.  Louis is frustrated, angry, he is at odds with everything in his world and struggling to find a sense of place.  Armand on the other hand is trying to re-emerge into a world that has long moved on without him and which he does not understand.

And, again, indulge me, are we this metaphor?  Holding on to some sort of memory of a better time, or a more fun time, and reveling in a night to be able to relive it.  It is harmless.  But every single one of us knows the difference in watching an old show on Netflix that has not aged well at all.  It almost has no place beyond to wait to be rediscovered for an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.  Then, there are others, that almost play better now.  Like nothing of their message has lost a sense of relevance.  Some of these acts from our youth…. never transcend that nostalgia.  That is their value.  Others – open a sense to something deeper, like the time since its release has done nothing but enrich it.  Like wine.

I am reminded of sitting on the living room floor as a kid.  My parents had several bookshelves of old vinyl records, and I used to go through them, open them up, devour their pictures and liner notes.  Most of the albums were old country & western albums.  Meryl Haggard.  Johnny Cash.  Marty Robbins.  Crystal Gail.  George Strait.  George Jones.  Hank Williams.  Waylon Jennings.  There were also a few early Beatles, maybe a Who album or two, I remember looking at Doobie Brothers and not knowing what a doobie was.  Anyway, the reason I bring these up?  I hated it.  I hated all of it.  Country made me want to straight up puke and run screaming for years.  Then life happened.  Pain happened.  Blue collar, hard knocks, California breakdowns, financial crisis’, divorce, child support, heart break – life happened.  I love Meryl, Johnny, Hank and Waylon now.  It is like life’s bruises allow you into a club.  But these artists almost seem like they are defining the poetry of human experience, not of an age.  These songs feel like they could apply to anyone, regardless of environment.

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When I was a high school teacher, teaching The Great Gatsby, I would spend a lot of time talking about The Lost Generation.  The writers that defined that era.  That moment in time. Whether we are looking at the poetry of T.S. Eliot or Ezra Pound or the fiction of F. Scott Fitzgerald, those artists did not so much define a personal experience out of time, as much as they define the entire era itself.  IE…. The Spirit of an Age, to bring it all the way back to my Interview example.

This was the place I was visiting, and stayed in, for days while listening to Witchdoctor, and then also familiarizing myself with the rest of The Sand Rubies discography.  As I listened to these songs, I found myself not slipping down the lane to The Love Shack or Taking my Breath Away and dreaming of the Danger Zone.  I found myself connecting to the desert.  I found myself connecting to my city.  I found myself connecting to the same voice that has been speaking to my soul for the entirety of my adult life.  I found another artist speaking of my beloved Sonoran Hope and Madness.  I found another view from The White House.  I found myself Hanging on to Nothing and realizing that this New Miserable Experience was not a bunch of angsty 90s kids with crunchy guitars, flannel shirts and ripped up jeans in the desert.  Or angsty 90s kids with crunchy guitars, flannel shirts and ripped up jeans in the pacific northwest.  Perhaps…. even in our forty-somethings, and beyond, this Karma Covered Apple is exactly….

The Spirit of Our Age.

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And it was beautiful to me, in an old English teacher, poetry lover kind of way, to experience The Sidewinders/ Sand Rubies almost like the prequel to a movie that I have very much loved all of my life.  And it was awesome to hear those songs, and not feel nostalgia…. but connection, understanding, and belonging.  Not as a party you have fun at, get your Just Can’t Get Enough on and go home from, but as a lost and beloved member of a family that somehow just made the photograph perfect and full of a million Mixed Realities.  And I am pulled full circle back to Phillip Seymour Hoffman, “Their art never lasts.”  Sure, he is talking about coolness, uncoolness, beauty, and the beautiful people – but the idea resonates.  What makes art last?  Is it that it defines a moment of time in the human experience?  Is it that it transcends time?  Is it that it defines something collectively about ourselves that perhaps we can’t even individually describe.

Yes.  And The Sidewinders / Sand Rubies are all of the above.

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Keep the Greasy Side Down, Amigos

 

What Exactly is Ghost Songs?

This is what it means to be indie.  You have zero help.  You have zero representation.

What you do have is a dream.  You have a belief that is so deep that it empowers everything you do.  The goal…. is to get other people to dream it too.

In 2017 my younger brother committed murder.  My life kinda had gone sideways a decade earlier, but this event… made The Shawshank Redemption resonate in my mind like a time bomb.

Because folks…. “That’s Goddamn right.”

Life is too short.  Here’s to life.  The memories we make.  The visions we see.  The dreams we inspire.

So, I wrote a book.  It is called Spirits of Jerome.  It is for sale at the Jerome Historical Mine Museum & Gift Shop, my own Facebook Store… SOON…. and Amazon.  My intention was to write a book inspired by my favorite town in Arizona, write ghost stories, and offer my own spin on Jerome, Arizona’s legends.  My wonderful mentor Stephen Ashbrook believed in me enough to write the forward.  He thanked me for the opportunity to “write himself into the history of that town” – and that, Amigos, is priceless.

My next venture was going to be a book called Echoes of the Ancients, where I wrote one ghost story inspired by and dedicated to 10 different Indigenous Tribes in Arizona.  Their culture is awe inspiring, fascinating, and deeply personal.  It has moved me in my life in ways that I cannot describe.  I love the People.

But.  As I was involved more and more with Ken Lamberton’s Writer’s Workshop at the University of Arizona, I began to realize that the depth of cultural reverence, the absolute dedication to respect over Cultural Appropriation, and a pure spiritual connection to the source material may be beyond my skill – at the moment.  However, my blog about music in Arizona, my connections, and my reach was exploding.  I had always planned my Speculative Books about Arizona to be a trilogy.

All I did was switch the places of books 2 and 3.

Spirits of Jerome is dedicated to a magical place.

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Ghost Songs is dedicated to magical local music.

Echoes of the Ancients is dedicated to the First People of Arizona.

Folks……

Welcome to the Boneyard.

Ghost Songs is a book of 15 (16 with epilogue) loosely connected short stories.  Each was inspired by a moment of inspiration while listening to a song of a beloved Arizona artist.  I basically had a thought while listening, and said to myself… “Yeah, but Twilight Zone,  X Files.”  And Ghost Songs was born!

The Eleventh Hour

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Paper Foxes are dance-able guitar riffs, primitive, disco-esque bass lines, digital keys, and vocal deliveries that would make David Byrne proud. Formed in 2014, the band pulls from a well of new-wave, 70s disco, and indie pop. Fans of Interpol, Joy Division, and Bloc Party will have a field day with Paper Foxes at www.paperfoxesband.com

The Drowned Banshee

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Jane ‘n the Jungle is an alternative rock band from Phoenix, Arizona. They create a unique sound mixing 90s alternative and modern rock. Jane ‘n the Jungle released a full length record entitled Concrete Jungle in the summer of 2019. Check them out at www.janenthejungle.com

Crimes of the Dead

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Pinnacles of the Tempe, Arizona music scene of legend, and hailed as one of the most exciting live acts still on the road today, Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers are musical beacons of the Southwest fueled by witty and insightful lyrics, crunching guitar riffs, a dynamic rhythm section and tequila. Dubbed the “Springsteen of the Southwest” by the Asury Park Press, Roger Clyne and his guitar have toured around the world over his 20 year career. Be a Peacemaker and follow the band at www.rogerclyneandthepeacemakers.com

The Rock Pig of Apache Lake

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Ghetto Cowgirl is a powerhouse Tempe, Arizona band comprised of members of Satellite, Dead Hot Workshop, Pistoleros, all fronted by the wild-man antics of future Tempe Town Councilman (Marc Norman 2020). A drop down and dirty old school alternative rock band with solid licks, Ghetto Cowgirl provides their music at no charge at www.reverbnation.com/ghettocowgirl !

The Addict

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The Woodworks, formed in 2011, are based out of Phoenix, Arizona. Their music is continually evolving. It’s not rock, but it rocks! It’s not folk, but doing a jig feels natural! It’s not blues, but we occasionally pour our souls into repeated twelve-bar phrases! It’s not alternative, but we’ll drink a PBR with you! Come check them out at www.thewoodworksaz.com

Ouija with Nietzche

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Fairy Bones is the drama you’re missing in your life. Blending pop sensibilities with the reckless abandon of soap operas, this ‘alt/rock/pop’ quartet hailing from Phoenix, Arizona has been asking audiences everywhere to not notice the strikingly scary similarities between their personal lives and Fleetwood Mac. With a new album expected in the fall of 2019, pay attention to Fairy Bones at www.fairybones.com

180 Gram Blue Vinyl

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Since forming in 2015, Wyves has developed a memorable sound and unmistakable edge that you will gravitate towards. Filtering inspirations from The Rolling Stones, Prince, Thin Lizzy, and more; the Arizona-based band manages to make you feel nostalgic for all the great rock bands while having fresh, distinct sound a the same time. Follow their antics at www.ilovemywyves.com

Faces in Mirrors

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Banana Gun’s sound is described as bluesy, jammy, eclectic, and jazzy. But, we all know that “jazzy” is a catch-all musical term too many music critics use when they don’t know how to describe a band that incorporates so many influences. Banana Gun actually has never approached writing or playing music with the intent of fitting into a comfy description. Banana Gun is one of those bands that lay everything on the line for each other. Writing, recording, or playing live, they do it for each other and hopefully you’re lucky enough to be there to see it. Check it at www.bananagunband.com

Ghosts of the Borderlands

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When Ivan Denis released his first EP Slowburn, I interviewed him and in that interview I defined his sound as authentic Americana, and I defined Americana as the triangular field that would be created between Johnny Cash, James Taylor, and Bob Dylan. If you are in that field…. you are Americana. Perhaps it isn’t a perfect definition, but it holds up. Check out Ivan Denis at www.ivandenis.com

The House of Dead Children

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Emerging from Phoenix, New Chums are hot off their second EP See it for Myself, and preparing another from Mesa, Arizona based music producer Flying Blanket Records. With a bright, sunny California vibe that has been liked to The Strokes, Neon Trees, and Jimmy Eat World, expect the Chums to keep making waves well into the future. Follow them at www.facebook.com/newchumsband

The Astrological Tomb

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Harper and the Moths are hot of their second album release this last July 2019, and they are definitely a band you need to be paying attention to. Harper and the Moths is a dance-pop band from Phoenix, Arizona. A group akin to bands like The Killers, Neon Trees, Duran Duran and New Order, the band produces funky pop and rock with a new wave twist that scratches the itch for another time. Check em out at www.facebook.com/harperandthemoths

The Old Gods & the New

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The boys over at Sunset Voodoo really just don’t beat around the bush. They lay down great vibes, and allow you to deal with them. So, in their no frills style… this is how they describe themselves. Bands we sound like: Something like Seduction, Bob Rabbit, Haze the Saxy Rapper, Barefoot, PAO, Panic Baby, Katastro, Japhy’s Descent, Wyves, Fayuca, Mergence, Future Loves Past Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead and Incubus, just to name a few. What we are into: jamming, writing, traveling, skating, surfing, beer, women, whiskey, coffee, an chorizo burritos. Nuff Said. Follow Sunset Voodoo at www.facebook.com/soundofthewaves

Guardian Devil

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In July of 2019, Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers, Dead Hot Workshop, and Pistoleros were all inducted into the Arizona Arts and Entertainment Hall and Fame. In a 1999 Phoenix New Times article, Roger Clyne said, “Music people in this city in general get as excited about what Brent Babb does as people did about what Dylan was doing in the 60s.” Seriously, you are late to the bandwagon… but you best jump on it. www.facebook.com/deadhotworkshop

Ghost Songs

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Bear Ghost is a rock band from Phoenix, Arizona that fuses intricate musicianship, melodies and song structure to deliver a one of a kind sound, but one might compare them to a fantastic reincarnation of Oingo Boingo. With the release of their first full length album, Blasterpiece, attaining Phoenix New Times Album of the Year in 2016. Be sure to keep up with what’s new with the phantasmal grizzlies at www.bearghost.com

Bo’oches’an: the Hacienda Boogeyman

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The Black Moods play raw, amplified rock & roll. Born in the Arizona desert and reared on stages across North America, the band delivers a modern update of a timeless sound, breathing fresh life into a familiar mix of electric guitars, anthemic hooks, and percussive stomp. Their last two singles, Bella Donna and Bad News have charted on the Billboard Rock charts in the US. The Black Moods are not looking to reinvent the wheel, instead, they’re piling into a vehicle that’s existed for decades, souping up the engine to suit the contemporary needs, and steering those wheels toward their own rock n roll horizon. Follow that journey at www.theblackmoods.com

Epilogue: Guardian Angel

 

 

Pistoleros are a Tempe, Arizona staple. Dead Hot Workshop. Gin Blossoms. Roger Clyne. Pistoleros. Legends. Educate yourself at

http://fervor-records.com/artist/pistoleros

Folks, prepare to have your minds blown.

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Ghost Songs Book Release Phantasmagoria Extravaganza at Last Exit Live Sep 27th 7 PM

I really can not wait to share this with you.  By the way…. I am giving away 20 BOOKS AT THIS THING…. and a bunch of amazing music.  10 BUCKS.

 

 

You best get on it.

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Keep the Greasy Side Down Amigos

 

The Rise of the AZ New School: Part II – featuring Big Finish

Sometime over the last three decades, with bands like Sand Rubies, Dead Hot Workshop, Sidewinders, Gin Blossoms, Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers, Pistoleros, Satellite, The Refreshments, Tramps & Thieves…. the world started to take notice of this little genre called Southwestern Rock.  In his most recent interview with Roger Clyne, Ed Masely touches on this when he and Roger discuss the fusion of punk and country with The Refreshments and what I would add is the fusion of country and punk with The Peacemakers.  It is a sound.  It’s just enough country for your significant other, and just enough rock for you. That sound… is the heart & soul of Arizona music.

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Photo Credit: Scott Shore

This pulse… is continued… fanned back into a flame… and that sound…. that defining sound.. rises like a Phoenix with such a nod to those days on Mill, at Nita’s, at the Electric Ballroom, but with something new… something modern with Big Finish‘s fantastic debut album Everything I Need.  That’s quite a build up, right!  But, I promise you…. come to The Release Show at Last Exit Live THIS SATURDAY and you will not be disappointed!

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So let’s get to it!

The Ghost Writer Review of Everything I Need

by Phoenix artist, Big Finish

David Rhodes is a hell of a songwriter.  Let’s just get that right out front.  The songs on this record are tight, sometimes a bit tongue-in-cheek with wit, and other times poignant.  But what makes it a great record, you know… one of those albums you can just listen to, all day…. is that it never gets tired, or bogged down.  It is not overly thematic, overly analytical, or inciting of outcry.  But it feels real, and it feels close.  Like your own inner dialog, or a great conversation with a good friend over a beer.  In short, as far as just a great, kicking, listen to it because you-love-music-wanna-sing-along-tap-your-foot-and-maybe-do-a-lic-or-two-on-the-air-guitar record… it is everything {you} need.

Everything I Need:  Getting back to Southwestern Rock, you pop in the CD and the title track starts off, and the first question that pops into mind is, “Is this a country band?”  Then all of a sudden it isn’t.  All it takes is everything that you need/ there is no book with the knowledge that you seek / After 38 years I worked against the grain / Only to find myself questioning if I’m insane.  But as I am led down that mental slope that takes me to Dead Hot, Babb, and everything I love about him, the drums are popping, the lead guitar is surging, and I am realizing, that once again I am dancing on someone’s pain.

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Photo Credit: Scott Shore

Circle’s End:  Again, the song starts out like country, but this time it is an old style ballad, almost Marty Robbins-eque old school, and then again, it isn’t.

“As an aside, let’s talk Big Finish guitars.  There are some great guitar players in town.  Of the old school, just to name a few, you have guys like Jim Dalton, Brian Blush, and Steve Larson.  Of the New School you have guys like Travis Prillaman (Ali A & the Agency), Nick Sterling (Wyves), and Matt Lloyd (New Chums).  This album quickly puts Tony Burns on a scale with a guy like Yod Paul (Sara Robinson Band) in terms of bridging the gap.  Soaring leads, skilled playing, combines with the great songwriting to give each song depth and breadth.”

I’ll hurt you one more time if you let me / I’ll shower you with lies in the backseat/ I’ll take em all back with a tear/ And then I’ll turn around and do it all over again.  And as guilty as my sentimentality might make me, all I really wanna do is get my boots on the dance floor!

Leech:  Then you aren’t in country vibe anymore.  The simple start to this song almost bleeds Nirvana maybe a bit of Green Day…. and then this sonic guitar-string grind and those drums!  Speaking of drums – they pop on this record more than any other locally produced record I have heard outside of Flying Blanket Recording.  (Bob Hoag knows drums and the tones he gets in that house….. are insane.  But these drums, make me feel that throbing kick, that smashing snare in almost Flying Blanket kinda way.  Great Drum tracking on this album!  Kudos Curtis Grippe !)

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Photo Credit: Scott Shore

Anywhere But Here:  This song is rockin country.  Straight up.  But onlike everything on KNIX FM or KMLE Country it isn’t pop with a twang.  That is the beauty of this thing called Southwestern Rock.  It is blues and rock infused country with some punk roots.  Modern radio country is pop with a twang trying to get cool pictures with lead guitar players.  Everything from our neck of the Independent Woods….. rings with more authenticity than that shit right out of the damn box!

The conversation about pain birthing art is everywhere.  One does not need to search the interwebs for long to find any number of pieces that talk about the creative inspiration of negative events.  This too is a theme that has come up quite often in my writing and interviews.  Both Fairy Bones and Charles Ellsworth (who incidentally was one of my high school English students) have inspired articles dealing with this exact same Broken phenomenon.  Why not take a piece of me/ And watch it fall apart/ Watch it fall apart.  I am reminded of something David told me while he was describing the writing of this record.

“It was not easy to get to this point, personally.  Family death, job loss, it was a hard earned result.  It was a sad realization in the recording of this record, that I could have done it years prior… one song at a time.  However, I do believe the collection of songs had more consistency because they were tracked together.”

In just this short statement, David hit on a few topics that have been at the forefront of my mind lately.  First, the dialog about the business of releasing music.  Corey Gloden and I discussed it, and I referenced again when looking at Jane ‘n the Jungle‘s body of work over the last two years.  It is very interesting to look at what bands (read: small businesses) are doing in this changing environment of streaming, album sales, and music revenue.  Second, the idea of turning personal pain, tragedy, and heartbreak into music that we find ourselves unashamedly dancing to, tapping our feet, and loving to listen to.  This exact same idea came up in my recent review of Harper & the Moths new record, Dark Enough to Dance.

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Photo Credit: Scott Shore

Tramp:  I have a really hard time choosing my favorite track on this record, but this one is in top three.  It is the anthem to every broken-hearted, romantic dude who fell for the wrong girl.  It is Robert Redford losing his baseball career to The Lady in Black in The Natural.

It hurts.  And in the end, all you can really do, when you are one of those left behind good guys, is hope the bullet doesn’t stop you from knocking it out of the park later and say, But you’ll throw them away / What you are gonna want someday / Nothing left to say / You’re just the tramp that got away.

David and I were messaging back and forth as I was listening, taking notes, and preparing to write this review.  We were talking about this town, this scene, and the old days.  The guy has been around this town, playing music, haunting the bars, playing the scene since his first band circa 1995, The Codependents.  By 1998, he had changed things up and was playing as American Standard.  Then…. my friends, the reason the history of this town is SO DAMN IMPORTANT if you wanna write about its music….. this happened.

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Photo Credit: Scott Shore

David:  The fact that we never completed a record before haunts me.  I took some time off at about 2002 for a family.  This Big Finish record is my first album.

Ryan:  You know, that brings up part of my conversation with Brent Babb in our interview, and he was talking about his advice to every single band was to be sure to record.  Leave it for history.  He has so many wonderful memories of bands that he saw, that he experienced….. but will never hear again.  Nothing is recorded.

David:  I love that guy.  Brent played our renewing of vows for my wife and my 15th anniversary, and Dead Hot Workshop played her surprise 25th birthday party.  Satellite and Gloritone were two of the few bands that gave American Standard a chance, then Stephen Ashbrook had us open at Bash on Ash for the B-sides tour with Sherman.

Ryan: Oh My God!  I was at that show!

And folks…. that.  That is the secret to everything that I have going on, why I write, and why I am having such a killer time.  You cannot learn your way into the fabric of a town.  You can get close.  You can taste it.  You can lick at it with your tongue and try to grasp its flavor.  But…. I was there.  And I remember.  And the music of this town has been the through-line in my life.

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Photo Credit: Scott Shore

No Home:  As I was listening to No Home, the whimsy in my brain kept hearing another song, from a Tempe great, that told a similar story.  But Robin is telling the story of leaving Tempe, and going to California in Mega Pawn King, and David is not leaving, but realizing that Mill Avenue of yesteryear is gone, and what replaced it, is not home.  The place that is just Not home anymore / When all it’s soul has been sold.  And the pain of the past, the wooden cross on the door that protects the home but not you anymore, tarnishes what was once beautiful.  It’s pretty pictures, naked lots, and all I can see is stuck behind the concrete lines of greed and industry.  And so you walk away.  And Don’t regret it / Don’t resist it / Don’t forget it / But don’t relieve it.  By the way, this is a great tune, easy top 3.

Interesting side note…. sometimes I surprise myself with the simple little things that I don’t know.  I have all this depth of Arizona Music soaked into my world, and then David Rhodes says something about half of the drumming on Everything I Need, which I was already raving about, being done by him brother Phillip.

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Yes.  That Phillip.  Mind Blown!  Well done David.  It does not happen often!  LOL

Don’t Wanna Wait:  This is the part of the article where I go out on a limb, but this song kind of channels The Cars for me.  Just a bit, say a song like Just What I Needed.  It is poppy.  It has this very specific cadence to the lyrics.  It has a simple drum intro to set the beat, and changes it all up on the chorus.  It feels like that kind of 80s rock, that era, not hairband, still alternative, not synthy at all…. but it kind of lays down that vibe, and I like it!

Stand or Crawl:  The journey that Big Finish has been taking you on, dancing, singing, and not realizing where you are going…. starts to come full circle here in these last few songs.  We have come through the heart break.  We have come through the isolation.  But now comes the questioning of ourselves…. Walking the line you’re bound to stumble / Finding the words you’re bound to mumble / Talking the walk / Make it the high road / Holding on with such a strong hold / Failed to believe that it’s / All wrong / Too strong.  Fear is part of this journey.  And it is something intrinsic to being human… and feeling.  That fear… of being hurt, is part of the journey.  But there is Nothing left to do but choose / Stand or crawl.

Big Finish is one of those bands that showcases a second generation rising out of Phoenix who were very much influenced and molded by the first wave of the Tempe Explosion.  The second wave is happening right now, all over Phoenix!  But when you start tracing the genealogy in our musical family the connections start to come out VERY quickly.  As I showcased in my article The Rise of the AZ New School, and will continue here: observe.

The Black Moods / Gin Blossoms  Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers

Big Finish / Dead Hot Workshop  Gin Blossoms

Ghetto Cowgirl / Pistoleros  Dead Hot Workshop  Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers

Jim Bachmann & the Day Drinkers /  Greyhound Soul (Joe Pena)  Pistoleros  (Mark Zubia)

The Real Fakes / Chalmer’s Green  The Black Moods

Murphy’s Outlaw / The Refreshments”

See what I mean?  The family tree is quite impressive.

From My Knees:  Then…. from that place…. broken and down…. on your knees and waiting for another kick in the face… with a Southwestern Rock beat and a country rockin vibe…. David sings a song about learning how to keep falling, seeing the world from your knees, but being ready to keep getting up to do it all over again.  Which paves the way…. to listening to music…. and eyes…. again.

Dance With Me:  The final song of the Top 3, but like I said…. It’s damn hard to choose!  In two of my most recent articles, I have explored the idea of a concept album.  With Schizophrenic Zen (The Bellwethers) I find a complete concept album, one that tells a story of a character that is larger than each of its individual parts.  This is different than a thematic album, or one that has a cohesiveness, but is telling more of a personal journey or story, rather than a metaphorical one.  In my review of Concrete Jungle (Jane ‘n the Jungle), my daughter and I examine the difference.

Speaking of cohesiveness.  Remember David saying that he regretted not releasing singles along the way, but he felt it lent a solid cohesiveness to Everything I Need?  This is 100% true.  This is not a concept album.  You could pretend / You don’t care what I’m saying / Your eyes, eyes speak the truth / Come over this way / I promise I won’t mess around/ When you’re my girl / So come Dance with Me / I know you like this song/ The night is young so don’t spend it alone.  It is a journey… from Darkness and Pain… to being ready, willing, and excited to Dance Again.  And it does it while keeping us moving, keeping us smiling, and coming back for more!

GET TO THIS SHOW.

BUY THIS ALBUM.  I loved it.  Get It.

SUPPORT LIVE MUSIC.

EXPERIENCE WHAT IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW IN PHOENIX, ARIZONA.

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Keep the Greasy Side Down, my friends.

 

A Teen’s Exploration of The Concrete Jungle

One of the things that I was excited to do with the new album from Jane n the Jungle, Concrete Jungle, was be able to sit and listen to it with my step-daughter when she came for one of her summer visits. It just worked out, that she and my step-son, were at our place for the All Ages Release Show at Crescent Ballroom. We were pretty excited, as it was almost exactly two years from the first time I had taken my kids to see JntJ, also at Crescent. My kids are squarely ‘still in the jungle’.

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So we bought the CD and rocked out to the stellar performances at the live show. We had a really great time: the crowd was alive, the music was great, the bands chosen were great assets to the night, and we had a great night out as a family.

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The following Friday afternoon, Jillian, who is a fourteen-year-old Sophomore, and I sat down to listen to Concrete Jungle. Here is what she had to say in…purple.

Little Blue: Unquestionable rock song with distinguishable lyrics (not a fan of Scream-o). Even when Jordan White gets emotional, and at times screams, it is always focused and controlled in a way that can be understood. The story of the song makes the imagery very vibrant, even though it is hard to actually know exactly what is going on. I absolutely love the guitar in this song, and it is a great rocking song to start the record.

(Incidentally, in my newest book of fiction stories, Ghost Songs, I have chosen moments of inspiration from 16 songs from local artists. This song, with its intense imagery and seemingly hurt character, mixed really nicely with a nod to the old movie Eddie & the Cruisers, and once I took it to the supernatural level…. Little Blue inspired a really cool story that goes a completely different direction.)

Unicorn: The drums come to the forefront of this song. It seems to me that the song has two different takes on the word Unicorn…. 1) seems to be an unattainable dream, or something that is not possible to find, and 2) seems to be a story of isolation… oneness. Loneliness. The song going back and fourth in tempo from being almost quiet and understated to faster and more upbeat seems to draw attention to these two meanings.

(One of the things that I was really digging about listening to an album and taking notes with my daughter, is that we picked up on a lot of the same things. With lines in the chorus like, We’re not red/ We’re not blue, it is hard to not see a political spin on the song, but the video (amazingly acted by Shadow Mountain High School Drama) pushes the narrative of teen isolation and bullying. Daughter-of-step is a smart cookie.)

Tonight: This is another song that utilizes the range of Jordan’s voice over her very thoughtful lyrics. She goes from soft to scream often on this record, and there are quite a few songs that feel slower in tempo, so it adds this sharp contrast. This one has a really calm beginning, and the guitar never changes, but there are parts where the lyrics get faster and almost gain a harsh tone. Even when the guitar surges up beneath Jordan as she builds to the scream, it never over takes her as the most powerful voice in the song.

(For me, I love that the first ‘post-Idol’ release from JntJ is a pronounced celebration of who they are, not who Idol may have wanted them to be. This is important, and unique. Look at past contestants on the show. Look at who they were previous, and the somewhat tonal shift of who they are after. It is obvious, if you look. And it not the case with JntJ. Instead, you get a pronounced proclamation of their own personality, and who they are is beautiful.)

Island: For me, the first thing I love about Jordan White is her incredibly insightful lyrics. She is deep. She is not about fluff and silliness. (I love this kid, btw!) One of the real cool changes from their first record is that she has really played with the song constructions. They are not straight forward verse/ chorus and sometimes, the lyrics are very complicated in their delivery. The other thing I really liked about this song was how clear and distinct all of the different instruments are in the mix. You can pick out everybody’s parts.

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(Later in this review we are going to talk about how this record almost becomes two possible roads through the jungle, if you take the previous singles into account. Changing just one song on this record would change the tone, that path, considerably. Keep that in mind, as both Jillian and I centered on this song being the fork in the road.)

Spanish Lullaby/ Beach on Fire: On the record this is listed as two separate tracks, but Spanish Lullaby is really the Spanish guitar intro to Beach on Fire. It seems like they are one song, and they perform it that way also. This song is just so pretty! It blends different styles and genres, and comes off feeling both authentic and fresh. I again just love Jordan’s poetic lyrics.

(Jillian has talked about lyrics and delivery a lot here. Allow me to offer an example. We all know I am a huge fan of Roger Clyne, and one of the things that he does really well is pack A LOT of words and ideas into a song. And he can sing them, clearly! Have you ever really tried to sing along to a few of those…. he has some speed in those chops! Jordan reminds me of that, not only in delivery, but her ability to write incredibly poignant lyrical songs that come across more as prose poetry than standard rhyming couplets set into verses.)

Lion: A solid story telling, narrative rock song. This is the most rocking song on the album after Little Blue, but this one is not as simple. There is more going on underneath the layers of this song. The drums and guitar are just fantastic in this song as well, could totally imagine hearing it on the radio.

(Two things I really liked about this song: first, its very polished and clear verse structure over a complicated chorus. This is opposite of most pop/ rock songs. Second, on the recording of Concrete Jungle several tracks use backing vocals, which I really like. It is different that JntJ’s live sound, but it does not detract from the power of Jordan’s vocal. If anything, it strengthens it.)

Concrete Jungle: Super complicated lyrics. But again they are clear, and invite multiple listens. This song gains a lot of power by the end, but it seems to start a bit slow. And the idea of Jordan fighting her way in this Concrete Jungle is the most clear in this song.

Ryan: On that note, do you think that this record is a concept album… does it tell a story above and beyond itself?

Jillian: Yes, but it is more about her. It is like Jordan is the character and these are her stories of scrapping through the life of a performing artist. It is not the same as Rush’s Clockwork Angels that tells a separate and interweaving story. I think it is more of a thematic record than a concept record.

(Have I mentioned I love this kid!)

One Spark: This is another slow song, and it is beautiful. Clear and very emotional. I like it, and it is obviously very personal. But there are a lot of slow songs on this record. I like this one though…. Brian was right to get her to keep it on the record.

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(As you listen your way through the record, making your way through the Concrete Jungle, you start to see two paths. There is almost a path of pain, or remorse, and a path of anger, or determination. Both of those paths are strong, and well mapped out, but in the end, you feel that overall, the path of pain was where you were taken. We talk about this again at the end of this review.)

Enough: I really liked the personal connection and story about Jordan’s sister who is getting married and how this was Jordan’s song to her. It is a great song about sisterhood, and it is beautiful. But again… it is slower in tempo.

(Many of the songs on this record have this range in both vocal and tempo… they go from being slower songs to having faster bridges or faster double endings at the end of the song. Individually, that is awesome, and live, I love it! But listening to it as an album, at one listen, it becomes at times repetitive. The mix of that tempo change, on this particular song, I found a bit distracting.)

Love You’re Getting Old: By the end of the record, I was ready for the song to start off slower and speed up at parts especially by the end. I also thought the marching band quality of the drums was distracting. It was not one of my favorites on the album.

(For me, it was another pretty song. Another complicated song with intricate parts, even if those parts were starting to get a bit predictable.)

Note: One of the things that is constantly on my mind while writing about, interviewing, and experiencing these bands and their music is the business of making art. I talk about that a lot, because it applies to so many more of us than just musicians. These lessons can inspire and inform the entire community of independent artists. That said, in my recent interview with Corey Gloden (of Wyves) and Kevin Loyd (of Banana Gun), we talked about the model of producing music. The idea of releasing singles, digitally, on a very consistent basis (similar to the release of 45s in the Golden Age of Radio). While touring and promoting these new singles, you are working on the album that will follow. So in effect, you create a steady steam of music that completely amplifies your catalog by the time that album is released. This is exactly what Jane ‘n the Jungle have done. Since their release of their debut EP, they have spent two years releasing music, taking their message of independence to American Idol, and writing a song of vindication to Katy Perry. But in that time…. they were laying the ground work to explode from a band with one EP and a few singles, to a band that could hold court at Crescent Ballroom for over an hour, and only play one cover all night, Zombie: an an encore. That is pretty stellar.

Singles / B-Sides

Killed Someone: Similar to Unicorn. It is a solid song. Has a great beat, but it seems like it would be the B-Side to that song. In terms of theme.

Wild Side: Fast and fun. I can totally see this song being attached to Lion or Little Blue.

One Time: Very slow. I love Jordan’s lyrics, but a lot of the slower songs can lag a bit. I like the faster rock songs better overall.

Open Road: I bet you love this song!

(She is right. But i also think that it fits very nicely into the Concrete Jungle theme.)

Fire Away: Another solid rock n roll song. I can see this one being attached to the other one of Little Blue or Lion.

As we completed our listen of all 16(15) New Songs since the release of the Jane ‘n the Jungle EP, our take away was that Concrete Jungle was almost like a pathway, a road, diverging in a wood, but instead of a wood, it was the city. The city with its looming walls, its seething heart, its attitude, and its weaving webs of intrigue and motivation. And in that Concrete Jungle, this road converges, one side could be harder edged, rockier, and hit with more of a solid rock punch. The other was softer, more intimate, more from the gut and open. Either road would lead to a great rock album. Knowing this, and knowing the journey the band took in creating this record, and the process of cutting through that jungle to get to the beating heart beneath, I would almost say that this could be seen as a double album. And if listen to as such, a much fuller, and more comprehensive vision of the band Jane ‘n the Jungle has evolved into…. becomes vibrantly apparent.

In the end, we both really liked Concrete Jungle. It is a stellar album, incredibly detailed in its production, solidly mixed, and it showcases the awesome talents of each member of the band. That said, both Jillian and I felt that the entire path through the jungle would have been altered with perhaps including one of the faster B-Sides over one of the slower ballads. We both agreed that Open Road had a place on this album, but, we also agreed… that taken as a double album…. the paths were vibrant, clear, and equally represented.

Either way, the arrival of Concrete Jungle establishes Jane ‘n the Jungle as one of the premier acts in the Valley with a solid library of music and the talent to perform a headlining show. Very impressive.

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Keep the Greasy Side Down, my Friends.