The Waxwings, "Low to the Ground" (Bobsled Records) - Like Athena springing full-grown from the head of Zeus, Detroit's Waxwings arrive with a debut sporting a sound so fully realized and sophisticated you have to ask, "How the heck did they do it?"
"Low to the Ground" sounds like the work of a band with years under its belt. Resembling the Beatles by way of The Records with bits of Nazz, XTC and the Small Faces thrown in, it also injects life into power pop, a moribund style that seems to have been relegated to rock's ash heap.
But don't think these guys can't rock. On "While You Spiral" and "Ten O'Clock Your Time," the band churns out crunchy guitars over a fat rhythm section that'll give any woofers a workout.
The opener, "Keeping the Sparks," pretty much sums up the disc. It's delicious ear candy sweetened with layers of harmonies, psychedelic dreaminess and muscular rhythms. The rest of the recording follows suit with songs so melodic, you'd swear you once heard them during the British Invasion.
What will they do for an encore?
Eric Feber, The Virginian-Pilot
Zrazy, "Private Wars" (ALFI) Zrazy's third CD takes this Irish duo away from its Celtic-techno-dance bag to the world of accessible light jazz, and it's a sonic delight for the ear. There's nothing complicated here, but Maria Walsh's quiet vocals and Carole Nelson's melodious sax fire a mellow flame in the soul. Augmented by understated piano, drums and bass, the duo languidly moves through a set of originals and covers that brings on memories of dim lights, good loves and broken hearts. "I Just Like to Drink Alone" is one highlight. With all the denial she can muster, Walsh tells her former lover that "It isn't because you just slammed/Down the phone I just like to drink alone." There are a couple of upbeat tunes on the project but the duo manages to keep a steady low-key, candlelight groove going that never overreaches. Fans of moody fireside vocals and quiet instrumental arrangements will find much here to like.
Kenny Butterill, "No One You Know" (NBS) This 12-cut singer-songwriter effort by Canadian Kenny Butterill won't rock your world. But despite its shortcomings, "Know" ultimately succeeds as an honest package of easy-rolling tunes that soothe the soul. Filled out with sparse acoustic and electric guitars, drums and bass, Butterill's songs aren't poetic or particularly deep. In fact, some of his subject matter is embarrassing. Do we really need another song about Princess Di even if it was written before she died? But aside from this and other mediocre lyrical content, it's clear by his delivery that Butterill is serious, and he ultimately sells this group of uneven tunes with his low-key, unpretentious vocal style. If you like J.J. Cale's "I-just-rolled-out-of-bed," laid-back vibe, chances are you'll find something here. I don't foresee any gold records in this Nashville-based singer's future, but his simple tunes about his love for life have an undeniable warmth.
The Forgotten, "Veni Vidi Vici" (TKO Records) One of the nation's best labels for street punk, the San Francisco-based TKO Records, serves up another winner in the form of The Forgotten's "Veni Vidi Vici." With its debut album The Forgotten came, saw and conquered indeed. The music is straight-up 1977-era English punk rock, a la The Clash, with the occasional bass fill and quickened tempo reminiscent of Rancid. A few of the tracks that appear on the album are newer versions of songs previously available from The Forgotten's first vinyl 7" and the "Good Luck With Those Bad Habits" compilation. It's great to have these songs on one CD considering the early releases are increasingly hard to come by.
"Veni Vidi Vici" also acts as a document of songs from the band's early set lists. All of the crowd favorites are here: the angry "Another Shot," the less than apathetic "Fists Up" and, my personal favorite, the nihilistic "Shot Down." The Forgotten has all of its anti-establishment bases covered with this record, and the band's dynamite live performances only add to its mystique. While I wish the band luck with its fight against the established order, I hope its music continues to rock first and foremost.
The Forgotten play Twisters on Friday, Aug. 25, with Blanks 77, Sixer and The Krays.
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