PHILLY MUSIC REVIEW: The Workhorse III (DRP Records)

In the genres of punk, metal, hardcore and other forms of loud rock, bands with a female in front of the microphone have always sort of either been overlooked or taken as a joke. This stereotype lives on thanks to prettied up bubble-gum acts like The Donnas, and No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani; train wrecks waiting to happen like Courtney Love, and novelty punk acts like L7 and The Luna Chicks.

This stigma makes it difficult for the female fronted hard rock to get the respect they deserve.  Don’t tell that to Philadelphia’s THE WORKHORSE THREE whose self-titled twelve song EP, rips through some of the fastest heaviest, sleaziest rock n roll there is to offer.

If you’re at all familiar with the members of this group though, that shouldn’t be a surprise at all. Guitarist and front woman Lisa Lyne Flynn once cut her teeth as Lisa Christ Superstar where she played stages with some of the biggest acts in metal and punk rock. Flynn ranks up there with The Great Kat, Ruyter Suys of Nashville Pussy, Joan Jett,  & Lita Ford, as one of the most talented and aggressive female guitarists in rock and roll.

In The Workhorse III Flynn is joined by her Lisa Christ Superstar band member Brian Bunker on bass, and Eric Perfect formerly of the influential Philly punk rock band Limecell on drums.

Together the Workhorse III rocket through 12 fast paced songs with the intensity of Black Flag. Under blankets of distortion Prefect’s drums and Blunker’s bass, lay down a pounding rhythm delivered at machine gun fast pace while Flynn does her best The Great Kat style big riff shredding. The Workhorse III’s are not your safe rock n roll, they are pure attitude delivered  in songs that are all hard driven three to five minute bursts of intensity. Flynn’s’ vocal growl sounds oddly like the throaty growl of Mudhoney’s Mark Arm. Unlike some female vocalist whose lyrics seem to hold back, Lynn’s Workhorse III lyrics can be as raw, raunchy, and rock n roll fun as any metal lovin’ male singer could have pulled off.  Some of the Workhorse III’s songs are pretty intense, with lyrics that could almost be called vulgar by some. This music isn’t for everyone. But for those with an open ear, an appreciation of fast pace heavy music, this is about as much good as it gets. It’s not always very polished, they’re songs might not be pretty, but The Workhorse III sure is a ton of fun.

CHECK THEM OUT: http://www.drprecords.com/workhorse3/

STAND OUT TRACKS: #9 “Slipping Away”, #2 “Revolution Blood Machine”, #3 “Down So Long”, #4 “Die Tonight”

RATING: 3 ½ of 5

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New Philly Music Review: TON- TAUN – “ Circus Court”

TON-TAUN is a Reading, PA based band made up of four college-aged multi –instrumentally talented musicians. Their sound varies at times. Some songs build on multi-layered sleepy sounds with moments that are reminiscent of Modest Mouse, or Wilco. Other tracks are sad, dark, and experimental, sounding like something between Interpol and The Talking Heads’ quirky but gloomy approach melted into the modern anthems of The Arcade Fire.

Songs like “Blood (Animal II)”, have guitar riffs that whirl through jazzy piano, funky organs, and flighty keyboard driven sound textures, while others like “Body (Animal III)” sound more like a heart broken ballads of anguish in the vein of Counting Crows and self driven destruction and despair of Trent Reznor’s rip your heart out of your throat classic “Hurt”.

The band is also capable of crafting classic “whoa oh oh” hooky rock songs like “Throwing John To The Wolves” which almost has a modern Brit-rock / indie vibe to it, and sounds something of cross of the Libertines, and The Hold Steady.

The inconsistency of styles between songs somehow seems to work for Ton-Tuan.  It’s probably just a few young musicians creating the music that they have the most fun playing, yet somehow it works and flows like the chapters of a story book, each song a chapter written different than one before; a piece that tells a tale on its own yet when placed in the proper sequence tells the theme of an overall story. This is the story of a young band called Ton-Taun that are creating artful music for themselves, and doing it their own way without compromise.

CHECK THEM OUT: http://www.myspace.com/tontaun

STANDOUT TRACKS: 1. “Blood (Animal I)”,  9. “ Bones (Animal II)”,”#6 Throwing John To The Wolves”,

RATING: 4 ½ of 5

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Back at it…

Hello Philly music enthusiasts. I’ve been out of commission for a while. Sorry about that. I went a few days without getting any new music to review.

Then I had the great luck of losing the Internet connection at my home for a few days. These are some of the things I’ve learned I have to take into concern since I started this music blog.  Well, I never claimed to be an expert; I’m sort of just learning how and what to do with this thing as I go.

So far though it’s been great. I’m amazed at the reaction I’ve gotten from this thing without really doing much to promote it. So to all of you following along, thank you.

I’ve gotten some really important feedback from doing this. Some very positive and some not so positive, but a blog is about having an opinion, and I’m open to hearing any opinions on what I’ve been writing.

To the bands/fans that do not agree with what I have to say, I just have to say this; I’m just one guy with an opinion. I’m not a journalist; I am not the final word.

Relax, this is a blog dude, it is not The New York Times.

I am a music fan with a blog and a radio show that is simply trying to showcase the music of the city that I love and call home. So if you didn’t get the gold star with this reviewer, keep trying. Some people may love, it some may hate it. If you love what you do, does it really matter?  Everyone is a critic.

On the other hand, I do pride myself on the knowledge and enthusiasm that I have towards the local music scene. I think in some of what I’ve done in the past has legitimized my opinion to state which bands/artists are most deserving to be heard by the Philadelphia region.

So with that said. Yes, I do have much left to learn. I am not yet the experienced writer that can make words flow across the screen and weave opinions through words, which describe a band, song or record in such detail that you can imagine hearing it in your head. I may never get there, but I will keep trying.

If you want that kind of talent, go read a book or column by Philadelphia area music journalist Tom Moon. (P.S. This is not sarcasm, really if you are a music fan you should read Tom Moon. In the world of music journalism, he is the best.) In the mean time, I’m going to keep doing what I do, and continue giving an opinion on the music that I think deserves to be heard.

-Jake

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So long to a legend: The Khyber is silenced

In many ways The Khyber formally known as The Khyber Pass Pub was to Philly what CBGB was to NYC.

The dirty bar, the stage floor where you couldn’t see anything except the heads in front of you, the sound system that some nights barely works and some nights rumbled with the blasting of countless numbers of great bands.

I was lucky enough to see some amazing shows there. Great doom rockers like Halfway To Gone, crazy shows like Nick Oliveri and the Mondo Generator, and saw the farewell show of one of my favorite local bands BRASS.

For me like many others The Khyber held many memories.

But like many others I am guilty of forgetting about what was once Phillys first home of indie rocks. As 2nd street changed over the years and became filled with the popped collar and designer shoes crowd, the old standby that was The Khyber was forgotten.

Northern Liberties became the popping scene for Philly rock fans as places like Johnny Brendas, The Fire, The M Room, and others came to be. Rock N Roll in Philly was alive on Girard Ave., but nobody went to 2nd street any more

So times changes and the staple of 2nd street has been silenced. Upon viewing the Khyber website there is a mysterious message of “Please note there will be no shows at the Khyber in the month of August.” However signs point that there will be no shows at the Khyber ever again.

So like J.C. Dobbs before it, another legendary Philly venue shuts its doors.

The absences will most likely go unnoticed by the current 2nd street scene, but those who were part of it will remember .

Here’s an interesting look back on one of Philly’s most storied venues that appeared in City Paper.

http://citypaper.net/articles/2010/07/29/khyber-philadelphia

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PHILLY MUSIC REVIEW: The New Motels – “Tilbury Sweat”

Jenkintown, PA’s THE NEW MOTELS have been on the Philly music scene since 2003. In that time they have developed a sound and an a following that  puts them at equals with such local stars as Dr. Dog, Hoots & Hellmouth, and The War On Drugs.  THE NEW MOTELS  like these contemporaries capture the Philly sound to perfection blending elements of folk, rock and pop, in jangly pop that are as catchy as they are great. The most recent work from this band is “Tilbury Sweat” which was recorded with the man quickly becoming Philly’s most know super producer Bill Moriarty (Man Man, Dr. Dog, Hoots & Hellmouth, Drink Up Buttercup, etc.) Like their contemporaries in groups like Dr. Dog, and The War On Drugs, THE NEW MOTELS blend the fluttering drums whirling guitar sounds of classic indie/alternative bands like Pavement, or  Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, blended with the twangy solos and fills of modern alt-rockers like My Morning Jacket and Wilco. Yet though The New Motels have  similarities to all these acts what makes them stand out is their pop sensibilities. To put it simply the songs are just fun, simple, and catchy. Enough so that know matter what type of genre or label that I try to put the New Motels under, their sound will stand out at the top of the pack. To truly understand this band you just need to hear them yourself.

Check them out: http://www.myspace.com/thenewmotels

STAND OUT TRACKS:  #9 Miss Jaunita, # 3 Raised By Riot, #2 (My) My Radio,  #5 Sienna (got it right), # 7 Days of Wine And Roses.

RATING: 4 1/2 of 5

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PHILLY MUSIC REVIEW: Red Letter Life – self titled ep

Red Letter Life is a pop/ party rock band   from Philly that has been making a name for them selves on the Manyunk scene. The RLL boys first demo is obviously that a demo, but it is interesting in that it often sounds like two different bands. Tracks like “Cannibal”, “River”, “Hollywood”, & “Everyone Knows It”, are flat out cock rock that resemble Creed *uhh shiver*. These less than mediocre anthems might go over well with the popped collars, designer jeans, and $9 beer scene that is Manyunk but if the Red Letter Life wants to ever have life outside of the never ending frat party that is Manyunk, they’ll have to do it with something other than this.

The problem is, even though these songs were AWFUL this band is talented, so I kept listening, and wait… what’s that it’s another aspect of Red Letter Life. Who would have thought these bloated rockers with songs filled with “Whoas” and “Yeahs” would be capable of crafting a pop tune. But “River Of Roses” sounds like it could have come straight from the Phil Collins era of Genesis that soccer mom’s driving mini-vans would love.

Then out of nowhere to gems. The tracks “Abby” and “Ashes In The Sun” are perfectly crafted George Harrison-esque Beatles  style pop gems with steady 4/4 beat, 3 chord changes, and harmonized vocals that are recorded perfectly to here the pluck of every guitar strum. The lyrics are simple but heartfelt and done with just enough emotion of heartbreak geekery to make them sound Ben Folds style, so nerdy it is cool.

The problem with Red Letter Life, is they are at an interesting fork in the road with this demo. RLL is a band that has several sounds. One style the overblown party rock anthems for meatheads and mall girls, a style that might get them more gigs on the Manayunk scene but won’t let them be taken seriously.  The other is that of the quiet alt rock pop crooner, i.e. like Ben Folds or Snow Patrol, writing quirky pop tunes that are as much fun as they can be heartfelt.

Who knows where the future will take Red Letter Life, they may redeem themselves yet, or they could be the new generations Octane, having their music blasted at Northeast Philly and Manyunk divebars for the next 10 years playing bloated rock songs wondering why things never quite worked out.

Standout Tracks: # 2 Abby, # 4 Ashes In The Snow

Rating: 2 of 5

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GANG Tonight

Going to check out the show by GANG! tonight at Johnny Briendas

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