Friday, June 16, 2006

review - The Hotshot Freight Train's We Are...

In every interview I’ve read with the HOTSHOT FREIGHT TRAIN, the band makes reference to the range of the members’ previous projects (including Knoxville stalwarts Atropos and Joey’s Loss) and then goes on to assert that the sound of HSFT is consciously separate from these earlier sensibilities; in fact, the rear sleeve of their debut EP We Are The Hotshot Freight Train dedicates an entire tongue-in-cheek paragraph-cum-press-release to mildly defensive soundbytes from each member concerning their professedly unclassifiable brand of rock. What’s so immediately striking about the band is that these claims are at once true and false, as The Hotshot Freight Train traffic in what can only be confidently classified as Modern Rock, simply because they draw from practically every sub-genre contained therein, very much including those paths well-worn by their previous groups. It follows, then, that their music is enjoyable but sadly undistinguished, and their wide musical vocabulary is occasionally overshadowed by cheesy songwriting choices (“Tonight”) and overly earnest (I’m consciously avoiding another “E” word here) vocals. But some of what HSFT throws at the wall sticks, particularly when they draw strongly on more creative influences like Trail Of Dead, Fugazi, and Hot Snakes, and especially in the final track, “Grace So Beautiful”, when vocalist Josh Tipton gives equal time to a terrifically effective throaty howl. The eight-song (!) EP, recorded by guitarist Greg Barker, gives the band a full sound while remaining as garagey as it needs to be, and is sure to be a well-received place marker as the band finds its own sound.

RIYL: listening to rock radio

MP3: "Grace So Beautiful" (4:29)

review - Scott Miller & The Commonwealth's Citation

SCOTT MILLER has long been Knoxville’s prodigal son du jour, from his stellar work with the still-missed V-Roys to his more recent solo outings with the Commonwealth, and the persistent accolades his twangy, grassy rock n’ roll has garnered are hard-earned and well-deserved; Miller’s knack for country-flavored guitar pop songwriting falls second only to his flawless East Tennessean croon, and his work remains peppered with unmistakable regional character even as he stands poised for continued national recognition. It’s unfortunate, then, that Citation (his third record with the ever-rotating Commonwealth) lacks the inspired verve of earlier records, scaring up diminishing returns on well-worn musical and lyrical themes. “Wild Things”, for instance, milks the last mileage out of a variation on a guitar melody that’s been hanging around since the days of the V-Roys, and “The Only Road” fumbles the sincere gravity of Miller’s historical song-stories, steering the sentiment towards the schmaltzy and the predictable. Luckily the Sam Houston bio-tune“Say Ho” fares better, drawing strength from its source material and Miller’s disappointment in a perceived betrayal by Tennessee of one of its greatest sons. Of the most interest here is an indistinct political dabbling, on the clumsy but well-intentioned satire of “8 Miles A Gallon” and the lively “Jodie”, in which a deployed solider chides a cuckolding friend. (Curiously, Neil Young cover “Hawks And Doves” has little but praise for the United States.) In the end the record is a well-recorded and intentioned minor work, and if nothing else it’s a credit to Miller that it’s surprising and a little disappointing that there aren’t twice as many whistling-two-days-later hooks.

RIYL: Steve Earle, Son Volt, Appalachian rock

MP3: "Only Everything" (3:07)

Article expanded from the KNOXVILLE VOICE, where I accidentally identified "Summons" as the song that sounds like Bryan Adams, when it's actually "Freedom's A Stranger."

Sunday, May 07, 2006

shameful self-promotion

Blue Cats, notorious among many for wasting their primo venue on awful heavy rock and 80s cover bands (and notorious among me for, last I checked, not having draft beer) is hosting four local pop bands on one night to prove to themselves and everyone else in the city that the reason they don't often support worthwhile music in Knoxville is because nobody else does either, and BILLS GOT BE PAID, PEOPLE.

So if you've nothing else to do, it's certainly worth your five dollars to come out to Blue Cats on Wednesday night and hopefully demonstrate that the tube top crowd aren't the only people they can make money off of.

More updates are pending, I promise, but I'll be out of town for a week or so starting Thursday, so...we'll see HOW pending.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

goings on - SATURDAY 4/29

I was going to prepare another Outsources entry, but over the past few weeks there hasn't really been any relevant music articles...just Metro Pulse using boring stereotypes to scare people away from the Pilot Light (and refusing to write about the Midnight Bomber), the News-Sentinel writing about ego-metal, and the Maryville Daily Times writing about a broad range of bands, none of which really fit here (besides possibly the Tim Lee band, and their recent article on this blog.) So instead I'll use this opportunity to welcome the arrival of the KNOXVILLE VOICE, a new progressive-minded alternative weekly that will hopefully find an audience and give us a less corporate-minded alternative to the Metro Pulse.

I made brief reference (and extensive judgment!) above to what doesn't "fit" on this site, and I say with some authority that ska(core) is one of those things, but for some reason every year in the run-up to SKA WEEKEND I'm overcome with respect for what promoter Ben Altom has done with it. The largest ska festival in the country, it will host 27 bands this year in Knoxville's Old City on Saturday. The best part is that the cost is only $15 plus five cans of food to be donated to America's Second Harvest Food Bank. That's DIY with style and bravado, and even if I'll be avoiding the Old City like the plague that day, I tip my hat to Ben.

Later that night the SWEET SOUTHERN PIXELS women's media art collective will be having their Cotillion party at the Electric Ballroom, and it should be the party of the month, if not the year. DJs, dancers, contests, prizes, libations, videos, photos, and more. Proceeds will facilitate future SSP art shows. This would be your best option for the night's entertainment even if the Old City weren't clogged with ska kids.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

live - Diacon Panthers

Saturday evening, the DIACON PANTHERS took the stage at Old City Java for their fourth show ever, a not-quite-sparsely attended EP release (to secure one for yourself, I'd check their myspace page).

After a shambley, confused soundcheck ("Maybe I should just use one mic."/"What's that buzzing sound?"), the Panthers disappeared behind Java's newish Little Rascals-esque curtain and soon re-entered, marching, from the back entrance, one operating a trumpet, one pounding some marching-band issue toms, soon stepping aside to welcome "Captain Yarn and the Musical Apricot" to the mic for a PSA (essentially the Panthers' drummer, Nikki Nair, strumming out an acoustic hortatory message about manners. It was actually pretty hilarious.) The tune was lovingly dedicated to the infamous missing sugar glider (currently adorning "lost" flyers on various poles in the Old City). It was all a little Royal Bangs Junior until the Panthers got on to the main event...

Following a couple of vastly differing opening numbers (one pop-punkish, short and intense with a smart guitar line, the other Durutti Column-esque dreampop), the Panthers frontman abstained from guitarist duties to simply sing. Sparse instrumentation (a slide guitar, simple bass, quiet drums) highlighted his unique, pleasant singing voice for the first time in the set, his pitch staying perfect in a situation (long notes, little instrumental backup) in which lesser singers would certainly go tuney at least once. Natan Diacon-Furtado (who handles/has handled vocals, guitar, and a million-odd instruments in this and various other local bands) possesses an authority over the Panthers project that manifested itself slowly but absolutely, from his apparent spokesmanship for the band earlier in the set to his constant (but polite) signalling to the others, sometimes leaning over to speak directly with each member about a single change. This band is fairly obviously about one guy, and that guy is the frontman -- his duties here extending even into typical drummer territory, counting off each new song with affable authority.

The Panthers played through genre after genre, including a Cabaret Voltaire-ish quietquietquietLOUD piece and a Steve Earle/Merle Haggardesque country rocker coated in viscous slide guitar, before (expressing doubt that anyone in the audience could diagnose it) beginning a countried-up (and excellent) cover of New Order's "Age Of Consent", admittedly difficult to recognize robbed of its signature bassline. For the final song, "When It Comes To The Night", bassist Jeremy Given picked up a melodica, Greg (Jeremy's brother, I take it) Given continued on intermittent slide guitar, and Natan changed his electric guitar for an acoustic, which he stated was not worth plugging in because "we won't make much noise".

Away from the din of the technical difficulties and rhythm problems (nothing practice and experience won't erase), the people left inside could even hear the buzzing of the amplifers left on. You could hear the exhalation from a drag on a neighboring audience member's cigarette. From outside, you could hear the Java punks' intermittent oblivious cacophony, alternately intruding and retreating as the door opened and closed. And you could hear everything great about the band -- songwriting, good ideas, good voice. Taste. Promise. Someone, sometime had switched off the lights during the performance, and in the dark, you could see it, in the quiet, you could hear it: the excitement of seeing a band in its infancy, knowing that all it will take is time.

RIYL: The Royal Bangs, Built To Spill, Merle Haggard.

MP3: China (3:41)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

review - The High Score's We Showed Up To Leave

knoxville loves scrappy bar rock, and no one produces it quite like THE HIGH SCORE. they're fun and loose, but far from inept. they're funny and exciting, especially live, but in a very natural, unforced way. they take obvious cues from their progenitors, but without resorting to hack re-treading or hollow parody. and where lesser acts may drape themselves in (and hide their incompetence beneath) the flag of obnoxious, excessive drunkenness, the high score seem to have mastered the art of sounding like a perpetual 4-beer buzz. but how well does that somewhat tenuous vibe translate to record?

exceptionally. we showed up to leave, the follow-up to 2003's debut sexy losers, is a damn good indication of what the high score are all about. first and foremost, it pretty much rocks; it's got producer don coffey jr's trademark big, pounding drums and full guitar tones. the rhythm section - dave walker on bass and brad henderson (and, occasionally, original member jason peters) on drums - is tight and compelling. the songs are sturdy and utterly unpretentious, replete with snarls and screams and fist-pumping hooks and searing, grin-prompting leads (the chris cook / robbie trosper dual guitar work in "roky erickson" never fails to get my little fingers a-fretting the air). and between the chunkers and the twangers, there's enough variety in the material to keep you listening the whole way through.

it's not flawless. there are a lot of parts throughout the record, both vocally and instrumentally, that are undercooked or never quite manage the intensity they're due. even so, there's an endearing underachiever quality about that aspect, a kind of "fuck it" attitude that's wholly appropriate. all things considered, it's another in a recent string of soon-to-be-classic knoxville rock records. tap the keg, empty the ashtray, lay out the cheetos, pop this on the hi-fi and you're ready to go. let the stupidness begin.

RIYL: the replacements, thin lizzy, beer

MP3: Back Tonight (3:00)

Monday, March 27, 2006

profile - Cold Hands

Henry Gibson has been a tireless presence in local music over the last few years, running the gamut from the Invocation's fiery emo to his own Elliott Smith-esque solo material, but his latest group COLD HANDS, with Jason Bowman and former Chelsea Horror bandmate Zach Land, finds his efforts uniquely focused towards the dancy, airily dark pop music of post-punk revivalists like Interpol. This is admittedly a pervasive trend in popular music, but Cold Hands carries itself with a certain soul where so many bands in the genre opt for jagged detachment, and it pays off. Emotion, not indifference, pushes the music to unexpected places, and Gibson's songwriting is as distinctive as ever, complimented greatly by Bowman and Land's aesthetic contributions. (One only hopes that the ever-humble Henry will soon regain his Chelsea Horror-era confidence behind the microphone.) Cold Hands are currently on a short tour of the south, and will begin work on a debut full length over the coming summer.

RIYL: Echo & The Bunnymen, The Cure, Interpol

MP3: "Life Through A Window" (3:22)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

review - Stewart Pack's That Is That

stewart pack is as indie as it gets.

he gets some buddies together, writes a bunch of songs, and then records, mixes, and masters flushed-out full-lengths of buzzy guitar rock in his basement. then he puts the entire albums, including the cover art, online. for free. he makes music, and then he makes the music available. isn't it funny that a concept so simple can still be so remarkable these days?

of course, it wouldn't be half as remarkable if the music weren't any good. but the secret is out: pack makes records on par with any "signed" or "legitimate" act, and better than most. easy example? his latest, that is that.

like all of pack's free albums, that is that is a study in the economy of song. from the breathy vocals and quick, sharp joey santiago-esque leads to... well, hell, to the length of the album (the whole 10 song cycle clocks in at around 32 minutes), that is that is about restraint. not a hemmed-in, stifling kind of restraint, but rather the kind practiced by the ramones or buddy holly. get in, get out, leave 'em wanting more. indie guitar rock thrives on this kind of immediacy.

and make no mistake, this is quintessential indie guitar rock. it is efficient and muscular, and rarely self-indulgent. opener "about your illness" stomps on the fuzz pedal, and it is seldom clicked back off. "last day of the year" could have been culled from dave grohl's poppier repertoire. the feedback bombast of "pass the light" is nothing that hasn't been done a thousand times in the last 20 years, yet pack and crew (usual suspects include paul turpin, shayne ivy, greg dunn, and phil fuson) sell it beautifully and unapologetically. this is not about pushing the rock envelope, it is about distilling and refining the contents.

while there are no clunkers on that is that, and each song contains at least one or two really cool passages, it is a little short on hooks. nothing here really gets irrevocably lodged in your head. and that's not necessarily a bad thing; it might even extend the shelf-life, making every listen almost seem like the first or second time. for a record that costs nothing but the time it takes to download, that is that is a steal. and you won't even have to dodge the riaa shock troops to get it.

(note: mr. pack has informed me that the record is still in the final tweaking stages, so consider the link graciously provided by pack and co-conspirator shayne ivy a sneak peak at a mostly finished product.)

riyl: bob mould, gillard-era guided by voices, mid-fi

MP3s: download the as yet untweaked record here
MP3s: download stewart's past 4 albums and artwork for free here

Saturday, March 18, 2006

outsources 3.18

A weekly roundup of what's happening in the local music articles people actually read:

Wil Wright & Skeleton Coast / Tenderhooks / The High Score / RobinElla

The High Score / a spotlight on this blog / Stewart Pack & The Royal Treatment

The High Score / The Westside Daredevils / Fistful Of Crows / RobinElla

The Westside Daredevils perform on Live At Five

Thank you to Steve Wildsmith of the Maryville Daily Times for suggesting this feature. Visit their website to browse back articles of the Knoxville area's most extensive music coverage.

If I've left anything out, post it in the comments.

Friday, March 10, 2006

in rememberance - The Shape

Before mallratcore took over as the annoying sound du jour, you couldn't throw a rock in any given music community without hitting a few teenagers in tight t-shirts misappropriating the word "emo" to describe their new wave of cloyingly earnest, post-hardcore influenced pop-punk. On the surface, Sevierville's THE SHAPE seemed to be a casualty of this unfortunate trend, but their indomitable work ethic (they toured the country several times, playing 300+ shows in three years) and surplus of talent quickly set them apart from those who would aspire to be their peers, leaving them one of the area's premiere live and recorded acts. Their listenability also owed much to superior influences, sidestepping the pervasive Vagrant/Drive-Thru sound in favor of the more mannered tones of Polyvinyl's early emo acts, particularly the bands of Bob Nanna, whom vocalist/guitarist Steve Gaskell seems to channel at times. The band moved between Johnson City, Sevierville, and (very briefly) Iowa in search of wider success and signed with Missing Words Records out of California, who released their Breakin' In The Schoolhouse LP in 2003. A self-released 3 song EP followed in 2005 shortly before the band called it quits. (Three of the four members reunited in late 2005 with Mouth Movements, casting the same enthusiasm towards slightly matured musical goals.) The Shape's music has always been a bit of a guilty pleasure for a music fan who feels like he ought to know better, but it's a pleasure nonetheless.

Discography: a self-titled demo; Breakin' In The Schoolhouse LP; 3 EP.

RIYL: Braid, Hey Mercedes, American Football

MP3: "Hang Myself With The Good Towels (Demo)" (4:24)
MP3: "Clever Disguise" (5:22)
MP3: "Brain Busted" (3:13)

review - Fistful Of Crows' Cabezas Fritas

It's at this point in the project that I must admit to being woefully behind the curve pertaining to the two-fifths mysterious, three-fifths just-plain-drunken phenomenon that is WHISK-HUTZEL, a collective/record label presided over by the Honorable Senator Will Fist and a merry band of the area's finest ne'er-do-wells. I'm doing my best to catch up, though, and banner act FISTFUL OF CROWS' newest LP Cabezas Fritas (Whisk-Hutzel's, if the spine number is to be believed, 133rd release) is as ingratiating an introduction to their world as I could imagine. Equal parts stagger and swagger, the Crows stomp with sloppy presence of mind through eleven rollicking tracks, all occupying a curiously boorish middle ground between lo-fi and early American punk rock. Singer/guitarist Dirty Old Crow is the primary force here, shouting, strumming and picking with an endearing imprecision that occasionally turns corners into disarming lucidity; he is backed by the necessarily able rhythm section of The Hussla and Our Man Fist, who keep things tight even through the five-plus minutes of album climax "Song Of Frustration", as DOC meanders purposefully through all the sonic territory visible between his six strings and whatever eight-track they recorded to. Indeed, the fidelity is decidedly Lo, but these circumstances more than serve the band's rowdy, seemingly careless aesthetic, and even draw some surprising pop sensibilities out of some of the songs, particularly on standouts "I Forgot A Good Idea" and "I Need A Stretcher".

RIYL: Fear, Kyuss, and Sebadoh locked in a brewery

MP3: "I Forgot A Good Idea" (2:34)

Tuesday, February 28, 2006


I wanted to take a moment to thank the wonderful Mike Allred from the wonderful CITY OF TRAITORS for gifting me the webspace to post music here. They'll be playing at the Pilot Light this saturday night (3.04) with Maxi & The Pads and The Spores, so go support them if you care to.

I also want to officially extend an invitation to others in our music community to contribute to the content of this blog. I've lived in Knoxville a relatively short time, and as such am sadly unable to share in the collective memories of shows and bands by now long gone...not to mention the fact that I don't get out to shows half as often as I'd like to, and may be totally unaware of some particularly killer musical goings-on. So if you think you've got something to contribute, please please please drop me a line.

And finally, if you're in a local band and would like to see your stuff up me. We'll see about it.

the City Of Thousands comps

The IT TAKES A CITY OF THOUSANDS TO HOLD US BACK project started as a series of two DIY compilations to which a total of 42 Knoxville bands contributed. The idea was that they would be made available to download, art and all, so that anyone who wanted to do so could make copies and distribute them on CD-Rs, at a cost of no more than one dollar. The first one was mildly successful, the second one less so, as my enthusiasm for the project regrettably waned. As far as the music goes, anyone who wanted a spot had one for the taking, so some of the tracks here are brilliant, some dreadful; some of these bands will be revisited on this site in the near future, and some are better left unremembered. But all of the songs were made by people who believe in the independence of music, and love it enough to spend a lot of their time at it.

Volume One (released in January of 2004) features Atropos, Redwinterdying, Mr. Self-Reliant, PastMistakes, Cadre, Kamuy, Rise From Ruin, the Royal Bangs, the Bloodiest Night of my Life, Beware: The Gentlemen, Arrison Kirby And The Bubble Orchestra, the Vanity Complex, the Shape, Blackgrass, Tenderhooks, the Sense, Tear Myself Down, Vestle, Perfect Orange, the High Score, and Twinkiebots. DOWNLOAD (split between three zip files) 1 / 2 / 3

Volume Two (released the following October) features Capulet, Cats With Cute Faces, the Chelsea Horror, fortysevenronin, Joey's Loss, Attaboy, Bigger Than Dallas, Obadiah, Destruction Overdrive, Ibrahim, the comedy of Jazz-E, the American Plauge, Straight Line Stitch, Pawn To King, Senryu, Your Favorite Hero, Westside Daredevils, Huffstetler, Oh Muse!, Henry Gibson, and a hidden track by PIANO RECITAL. DOWNLOAD 1 / 2 / 3

Sorry for the self promotion. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Monday, February 27, 2006

live - The Royal Bangs

Hail, hail the ROYAL BANGS, who made a well-received return at the Pilot Light last night after the loss of two members and months of inactivity. What didn't kill them made them stronger, apparently, as the tangible loss of Joseph Gillenwater as a foil to lead singer/guitarist Ryan Schaefer has obviously had little effect on the formidable creative momentum with which the indie rock band has made a name for itself. The Bangs charged ecstatically through an extended set, debuting several new songs and putting on a characteristically wild, unpredictable show as the entire band migrated from instrument to instrument and gracefully sidestepped a mid-set technical snafu leaving their MIDI triggers and laptop accompaniment out of commission. It's a testament to the songwriting that frustration and the disruption of the band's deceptively careful arrangements did nothing to hinder the songs or performance; but, then, Schaefer's songwriting has always been the cake under the icing of the band's gleeful aesthetic experimentation and infectious performance ethic. The band continues to work on a follow-up to 2005's stellar Julius Vampire Breath (their first record as the Royal Bangs after two as the Suburban Urchins), and Knoxville holds its breath for the ensuing boom. The Royal Bangs were the first band to really get me excited about Knoxville's music, and they just keep getting better and better. It's almost unfair.

RIYL: Broken Social Scene, Pavement, Radiohead vs fifteen bottles of Southern Comfort

MP3: "Lucas Newman Vacation Log" (3:59)

Friday, February 24, 2006

no excuse - 10 Years

New York, NY- Republic/ Universal Records recording artists, 10 YEARS, scored another major coup this week with their first single, “Wasteland”, becoming the number #1 song at Alternative Radio according to Mediabase and BDS. Later this week “Wasteland” will be the #1 song on Billboard’s Alternative chart as well. The song is from 10 Years debut album, The Autumn Effect, released last August which has sold over 175,000 copies.

Jesus, how embarrassing.

Getting signed to Universal Records only ever meant someone felt they could easily sell 10 Years' music to angsty teenagers, and hitting #1 on the Modern Rock charts will only ever mean that they were right. 10 Years are a decently talented band making awful, awful music.

At least now that they're touring all over the country we don't have to put up with them anymore.

RIYL: the sickeningly protracted death rattle of Nü-Metal

RealVideo (because you have to see this to believe it): "Wasteland" (4:13)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

profile - Matgo Primo

It's not unfair to say that most of the more prominent bands in Knoxville lack self-conscious theatricality, but it's not unkind, either. The determinedly inimitable MATGO PRIMO fill the hole pretty nicely, what with their makeup paint & wacky outfits, but it's a dubious distinction, considering the affectations mostly come off as just that. The music, though, is strong, and for what it's worth the visual and musical aesthetics do work together, so long as you're interpreting their images as New Wave carnies playing circa-1980s indie pop. Frontman Tim Eisinger has a knack for catchy, oddly endearing tunes, but seems to lack confidence as a vocalist, hiding behind mumbles, yelps, and vocal tics; the rest of the band is solid, and they serve the music well as it jumps from Bungle-y circus organs to the jittery, delicate stomp of the Talking Heads. All of this obviously works well for Matgo Primo, as their refreshing openmindedness in gigging has gained them a surprisingly diverse audience, and their offering of something different yet distinctly striking and palatable has earned them the top spot in two "Battle Of The Bands" competitions over the past year. For all their significant strengths, though, Matgo Primo is a good band held down by the gimmickry of a pretentiousness only half as rooted in innocent silliness as they think it is.

RIYL: Talking Heads, Oingo Boingo, Pink Floyd

MP3: "Big Stepper" (2:35)

Saturday, February 04, 2006

in rememberance - The V-Roys

While Superdrag flirted with mainstream success in the late 1990s and became erstwhile ambassadors of Knoxville guitar pop, THE V-ROYS less flashily established a more-deserved following around the southeast and beyond, and transcended twangy barroom rock to become our city personified in song. Scott Miller's indelible melodies and smooth Southern croon put the V-Roys at the creative forefront of the "alt country" scene of the time while the band's unaffected rowdiness of spirit set them apart from most of their generic counterparts. Their first LP Just Add Ice (highlighted by the plaintive "Lie I Believe" and the bawdy, brilliant ode "Cold Beer, Hello") is a fine piece of work, particularly in its second half, but introduces a relative weakness in the tracks penned and sung by guitarist Mic Harrison, which take up a good portion of the album but suffer in competition with Miller's catchier, more memorable tunes. Their second LP, All About Town, is even stronger; Harrison hits big with "Miss Operator", one of his three contributions, but it's very much Miller's show by this time, as literally any of the nine songs he wrote/co-wrote (a few are collaborations with country firebrand Steve Earle, who released their albums on his E-Squared imprint) are single material, and many of them would be as at home on country music radio as on college rock. Sadly, their career together ended with the millenium, as they disbanded after a final New Year's Eve show at the Tennessee Theatre. (They posthumously released a live album, Are You Through Yet? in 2000.) Miller now spends his time and talents fronting The Commonwealth and leading the Blue Collar TV house band, while Harrison went on to play with Superdrag and now concentrates on his solo efforts. Drummer Jeff Bills runs Lynn Point records, which has released albums by Dixie Dirt, the Westside Daredevils, and The Faults, which reunited Harrison and Bills with V-Roys bassist Paxton Sellers for a short time.

Discography: "Johnny Too Bad" single; Just Add Ice LP; All About Town LP; Are You Through Yet? live LP; contributions to American Songbook, Cowpunks and Jimmie Rogers Tribute comps and the soundtrack to the film You Can Count On Me.

RIYL: Steve Earle, Roger Miller, Uncle Tupelo

MP3: "Cold Beer Hello" (3:32)
MP3: "Mary" (1:59)
MP3: "Fade Away" (5:37)

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

review - Generation Of Vipers' Grace

It seems, to me at least, that metal has hit a wall in the past few years. Popular taste has seen fit to champion shameful hybrids (I'm not so sure "metalcore" is any less appalling than "rap-metal"), and even beyond those shallow trends mediocrity holds sway. It could be, of course, that I'm simply finally growing out of my metal phase; my tastes have mellowed over the years, and Seasons In The Abyss doesn't find itself riding shotgun in my car as often as it used to. This can't be the problem, though, because I still get pretty enthusiastic about excellence in metal, and at no time is my genuine affection clearer than when I'm listening to the drony, epic soundscapes of bands like Isis and Pelican. These bands sacrifice the precision and speed of typical metal for hypnotic rhythms and expansive song structures, and the result is all the more blistering for the beauty and depth of vision that find themselves caught up in the sonic brutality of it all.

If Knoxville's own GENERATION OF VIPERS don't deviate significantly from the blueprint laid by those and other bands, it's because it serves them well, and they it: their debut LP Grace is a strong, remarkably excellent opening statement from a band that's obviously already at the top of its game. The record opens with ominous feedback swirling vulturously around forlorn acoustic guitar, and the tension builds dizzyingly with restrained drumming and gained-out screams of guitarist/vocalist Joshua Holt, finally finding release in a diabolically fuzzed bass. And then... the onslaught. An album like this can live and die by its production, and despite humble origins (it was recorded at home by the Vipers and Travis Kammeyer of Ocoai, then mixed by MiAH at the Sound Lair) the sound here is absolutely stunning. The guitars aren't at the forefront to the extent you'd expect, but every possible sonic inch is accounted for; the drums are particularly mighty, and seem to surround the listener hopelessly. The metal proceeds relentlessly through the rest of the seamless four track, 41 minute LP, offering only brief patches of respite, and the result is exhilirating, hypnotic, and absolutely epic.

RIYL: Neurosis, Isis, Jesu

MP3: head to their myspace site for a taste of Grace

Friday, January 27, 2006

review - Westside Daredevils' Twilight Children

It's said that Knoxville is known for its power pop; though I would argue that if Knoxville is known for anything it involves a toppled Sunsphere full of wigs, there is indeed a long tradition of sugary rock music in the area, and few active bands embody this legacy the way the WESTSIDE DAREDEVILS do. Though the spectre of Superdrag looms heavy in spots on their (for now) self-released sophomore LP Twilight Children (particularly in initial standout "Chicks In Time Machines"), the Daredevils crack the power pop mold in a few notable places: their busy, acrobatic melodies and harmonies dazzle throughout, and their song structures are peppered with abrupt (but expertly handled) shifts and stops. These strengths, however, occasionally double as liabilities; some of the melodies are so intricate as to be almost inaccessible, and the stuttering rhythms have a way of disrupting a song's flow. Familiarity solves these problems, though, and by the third or fourth listen the album reveals itself as an accomplished slice of light power pop, and an eminently qualified addition to Knoxville's grand canon.

RIYL: The Wrens, Superdrag, Big Star

MP3: "Sea Of Chrome" (2:58)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

live - The Midnight Bomber What Bombs At Midnight

THE MIDNIGHT BOMBER WHAT BOMBS AT MIDNIGHT played their second show tonight at the Pilot Light and it's clear that they're quickly becoming a creative force to be reckoned with; their first show's appallingly entertaining synthesis of thrash metal, free jazz, noise and prog-for-prog's-sake now counts 60s surf and middle eastern music among its ranks, and the goofy aggressivity of the music carries through to the onstage behavior of its four members, whose technical prowess and bullyish candor meet at right angles and cause the music to evoke nothing less than a million little explosions. This is some of the most interesting and entertaining live music I've ever seen.

RIYL: Naked City, Estradasphere, The Ventures

NEXT: 2/17 @ Pilot Light with ORTHRELM

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

review - Tenderhooks EP

I spend a lot of time talking about how the TENDERHOOKS are the best band in Knoxville, and was relieved last fall when they finally finished their debut EP (available from the Local arm of ex-drummer Robbi Koons' New Beat Records), as I now spend less time telling and more time proving. The Tenderhooks play twangy guitar pop, drawing on southern rock, Britpop, and 70s AOR to produce a refined (if not particularly revolutionary) aesthetic showcasing the kinetic, often brilliant songwriting of Jake Winstrom and Ben Oyler. Recorded by Koons a little under a year ago, this self-titled EP highlights the band's greatest assets in Winstrom's delicate, soaring voice (the lovely "Starlight") and Oyler's virtuosic guitar work (particularly in the introduction to "Long Time Sunshine" and on standout "Reconcile These Things") but doesn't entriely hint at how far they've come in the last year due to constant gigging and the continued contributions of bassist Emily Robinson and new drummer Travis Schappel. Still, at least half of the material represented here is among their strongest, and it's certainly an impressive appetizer to the full length they're planning for 2006.

RIYL: The Kinks, The Zombies, Wilco

MP3: "Reconcile These Things" (4:01)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

in rememberance - The Chelsea Horror

Though short-lived (2003-2004), THE CHELSEA HORROR cemented a certain legacy before the final chord of their first live show, as singer Henry Gibson flailed, naked as the day he was born and covered in significantly more maple syrup, through the crowd of the Pilot Light's annual Halloween extravaganza. Though that night's set consisted entirely of Stooges covers, that infamous theatricality emerged a few months later in the form of the band's own intensely dramatic music, a dark and hard-edged crossbreed of indie rock and glam. The band burned brightly, managing to build a solid reputation and record an enormously accessible (and largely stellar) EP before the onstage departure of guitarist Brandon Biondo triggered an untimely demise. Gibson and guitarist Zach Land eventually carried on the CH torch with the more stripped-down sounds of Cold Hands, while Mat resumed work with the now-defunct Redwinterdying, Courtney helped form the doom metal outfit Generation Of Vipers, and Brandon continued his Twinkiebots output.

Discography: an untitled, unreleased EP (available at DMusic); "Sirens" on El Deth's Sunspheric Sounds comp

RIYL: Bloc Party? i don't know.

MP3: "Too Late" (2:28)
MP3: "Ghost Of A Girl" (3:16)

Monday, January 23, 2006

in rememberance - The Sense

I've never been a fan of poppy punk, despite (still) owning the Green Day and Offspring tapes requisite to any seventh grader circa 1993. It'd be fair, in fact, to say I just about hate it, and that's why my appreciation for Jamestown's THE SENSE always seemed so profound. Led by singer Steve Delk, who sounds a good deal like Bad Religion's Greg Graffin and has among the finest live singing voices in the city, The Sense played impassioned pop-punkish rock that didn't limit itself aesthetically; towards the end of the band, in fact, you could very clearly hear elements of new influences creeping into the music, but never betraying the songs or sounding anything like a logical progression, which highlights just how good they were to begin with. The best of their songs are phenomenal; the players compliment each other well, and meet in the service of a damn good song. It was different musical directions, though, that seemed to have gotten the best of The Sense in the end; they split up in the spring of 2005 after briefly renaming themselves City Of Traitors for a final EP. Joey, Kirk and Mike kept the City Of Traitors moniker for their doomish slowcore project, while Doug and Steve founded Diesel And Dust.

Discography: The Sense EP; City Of Traitors EP (both available via the City Of Traitors site); "Wish You Well" on El Deth's Sunspheric Sounds comp

RIYL: Texas Is The Reason, Bad Religion, Hot Water Music

MP3: "Bloodlust Discotheque" (3:33)
MP3: "The Problem With Perspective" (3:18)

profile - Sadville

Around my 10th grade year, a group calling themselves the Johnson City Collective started putting on DIY hardcore & punk shows in my hometown. Some of the most memorable shows I've ever seen took place in that grubby space downtown (now a karate studio, if memory serves), and accordingly my personal ideal of hardcore was shaped by the gripping, brutal, intensely emotional music I witnessed there in the late 1990s, as was my appreciation for the virtues of DIY culture. As the Collective dissipated a couple of years later (replaced for a short time by a place called The Office, which sullied the Collective's torch by throwing high school jock metal bands onto decent bills and slowly faded away) and I went off to school, my tastes drifted away from hardcore, but my appreciation has always lingered, dormant in the face of isolation from the subculture I'd once treasured.

Cookeville's SADVILLE have been my salvation. They play hardcore in the Gravity/Ebullition mode, nurturing brutality, chaos, and beauty in equal measure. The sweating, spitting and shouting of their devastating live show (they effortlessly upstaged No Idea's The Holy Mountain at the Longbranch this summer) take me right back to the tenth grade, and their DIY ethic is (sadly) unrivaled in these parts. "Forbidden Dance Of Decay", reliable show-closer and Sadville mission statement, is everything emotional hardcore ought to be, and one of my favorite songs. (A rerecorded version is due out soon on a split 7" from Akathis Records.) Thank you, Sadville, for putting so many of my records back into regular rotation.

RIYL: Man Is The Bastard, His Hero Is Gone, Bread & Circuits

MP3: "Forbidden Dance Of Decay" (8:36)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

a new beginning

this music blog will be an extension of the It Takes A City Of Thousands To Hold Us Back project i embarked upon a few years ago to promote local music and DIY culture in and around Knoxville, Tennessee.

i was happy with the results for the most part, but i can't say i didn't hope for more, and don't feel motivated to put out a third issue of the compilation, so instead i am launching this, a place where i can post and promote music from Knoxville area bands who are doing quality work, and reflect on past bands whose music might have fallen by the wayside for one reason or another.

hopefully time will see a remanifestation of the compilation, though probably (and regretfully, i promise) in a less submission-oriented format. because there's a lot of good music around, and even more shitty music. you know how that goes.

there'll be five sorts of posts: PROFILES of active bands, highlighting a representative track; REVIEWS of current/new releases; LIVE reviews of bands; IN REMEMBERANCE profiles of defunct bands, presenting two or more tracks; and PEOPLE/PLACES profiles, featuring interviews/FAQs/etc of notable people, locations, etc.

also, fellow curmudgeon emily robinson will be joining me in this celebration. huzzah.