Saturday, October 2, 2010


Rock ‘n Roll Ghoul

7-inch/digital download

Asheville, North Carolina’s Mad Tea Party has found special ways of celebrating the holidays over the last few years. They’ve released either a split single of Christmas music or in celebration of their favorite holiday, Halloween, the uke-abilly duo went all out in 2009 with four spooky and fun garage pop rock songs pressed on vinyl with letter-pressed artwork. Following up on last year’s bonanza Zombie Boogie, Ami Worthen and Jason Krekel have recorded another batch of Halloween rock songs. Called Rock ‘n Roll Ghoul, this special recording is being released as another limited run of 7-inch vinyl with EC Comics inspired art by San Francisco artist Gus Cutty.

The title track is a fireball, rich in hot rod driving jangly guitar and fast-paced vocals. It shakes like a punk tune as if made in the fifties and laced with tambourine and screaming back-up vocals. “Possessed” is a 60’s flavored psychedelic number, think the B-52’s drinking specially laced party punch. Worthen’s vocals are sweet and wiry, the whole sounding like a girl group singing love songs in a cemetery. “Dr. Phibes” laments Vincent Price, part Hawaiian guitar, part Buddy Holly. Covering the Hollywood Flames’ “Frankenstein’s Den” is the real treat, a creepy-crawly throwback to the 1950’s whose doo-wop vocals (with Snake Oil Medicine Show’s Caroline Pond) make the song shine.

The Mad Tea Party has done it again with this release. Here’s hoping they take a shine to other holidays. The 7-inch Rock ‘n Roll Ghoul comes with a download code and can also be purchased solely as a digital download.

-Brian Tucker

Record release shows planned to date:

October 2 - The Pour House - Raleigh , NC (with the Straight 8's)

October 15 - Stella Blue - Asheville , NC (with Mark Sultan)

October 16 - Double Door - Charlotte , NC

October 16 - The Cave - Chapel Hill , NC (part of Blackbeard's Lost Weekend)

October 29 - Uketoberfest - Aberdeen , NC


Lights That Last Forever

Chicago's Darling have continued to evolve, re-shaping their sound with each album. On their new album, Lights That Last Forever, they've added a variety of styles - funk, garage rock and early nineties college rock. Throughout two EP's (2005's Ground is Sound, 2009's Burned by the Sun) Darling has shifted, as if wholly trying new things out, from blending moody and soft-assault ambiance to songs that are more catchy, more radio friendly, than before. There's sweet melancholy to Jeff Schneider's vocals, sounding like a teenage David Byrne. Lights That Last Forever shakes up the band's old ideas, giving them more heft, more color.

Lights really sounds like a '90's album, its strangely catchy, obtuse and more playful. The proof is the introspection of the songs, the album lending itself to the autumn season versus the rejuvenation of spring. "Move In Move On" makes no bones about getting down, the bass noticeably at the forefront. Bass notes noodle and swirl, the guitar jangly and rusty. "In the Ground" blisters like a Superchunk number, aggressive and fun. Lights doesn't stay settled, from the trippy bass on "Bad Dream" whose quick chorus and closing moments is rich with fractured guitar playing, first mimicking erratic rainfall then the world falling apart, to the travelling bounce of "Bicycle Ride" which gleefully sounds as if it should be sang with cast of The Muppet Show.

Darling sounds less romantic, slightly less idyllic about it in the music than before. The band now ebbs closer to an indie version of Matthew Sweet trying to be ELO. That's not meant as derision, Darling play songs simply that just happen to sound large.

-Brian Tucker



It's interesting to see a band years into to their career still making something new out of old material - be it live or on the typical "best of" album. Many artists find gold in reworking their songs, be it creative exercise or contract fulfillment. John Mellencamp did well with Rough Harvest, turning old songs into new ones. The Black Crowes have done something similar. Having already released a "greatest hits" album a few years back the band has released Croweology, a collection of largely acoustic and gently reworked versions of the band's staples.

Twenty years on in their career, The Black Crowes laid down enough tracks to support a double album - some expected and some surprises. Taking a cue from last year's ...Until the Freeze the band recorded these quick and live. The result puts forth a band, once derided as a throwback to the seventies, as a multifaceted and genre shifting one. Croweology is proof that the band's songs are like clothing that can be re-stitched and worn again and again. The songs here are generally remade with different dressings, a little harmonica here, the crunch of guitar removed there.

The real gems are "Morning Song" a Sunday church reworking of a song that was written that way in the first place, just heavier on guitar. It's the rave-up at the end, its blast of energy that gives the original version a run for its money, replacing bombast with spare playing that reaches the same ceiling. "Sister Luck" feels like a totally different song than on 1990's Shake Your Money Maker and 1992's "Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye" is wonderful, sounding like a ghost form the past. Some tracks that were born in acoustic beginnings ("Good Friday", "Downtown Money Waster") seem familiar yet still shine. "Girl from a Pawnshop" sounds more melancholic, more deliberate now, but loses the huge wall of sound. "Wiser Time," always a magical number, rolls on for nine minutes, still resonating as it did in 1995, paired with the equally lengthy "Ballad in Urgency."

The only real disappointment is that, as the band currently tours for the last time before taking a lengthy hiatus, is that they haven't released a collection of songs that's never seen the light of day. "She" and "Cold Blue Smile" are the only evidence here of it. The band apparently has a lot of original material stored, hopefully it will see release during the band's hiatus. Croweology doesn't sound like closure, more like a hint of what's could come down the road.

-Brian Tucker