Monday, January 31, 2011

The Bystanders - Self Titled Ep

So there are many great talents in our city of Regina. One of the best is none other than pop/folk sensation the Bystanders. The Bystanders just celebrated their one year anniversary but I don’t know if they should be more proud of their year playing endless amounts of acclaimed shows or the product they have put out in the form of their 3 song ep this past November. It’s long overdue I write about it but their self titled ep but the ep itself is just getting started.

The Bystanders self titled ep is in high rotation at my place and for good reason. It’s one of the most well written ep’s I have ever heard. It’s produced my local songwriter JJ Voss. The Bystanders and Voss worked hard to put out a near perfect product.

I once cringed when Davin told me there was going to be trumpets on their ep’s first track ‘Listen Between Breaths’ during their cd release show. I told him I hated horns in music. That’s typically correct in most situations but Davin just chuckled and said he was interested to hear what I had to say once I’d heard it. I was pleasantly surprised when Cheney Lambert joined them on stage with his trumpet as it was a perfect accent to an already amazing song. Judd’s sincere vocals talk of the classic boy/girl push-pull situation. Who hasn’t had these lyrics run through their head even before hearing this song?

“If you ever choose, if you ever do decide, I’ll be waiting here in your rearview for your gaze to meet my eyes.”

The Bystanders join you in that feeling and we join them in the nicely added gang vocals at the end of the song.

Producer JJ Voss really does have a wonderful ear. He knows how to take something substantial a band has brought to the table and really bring out it's potential. He told me once over drinks that an instrument should always have it’s place and that an instrument should never get buried in the mix. This is apparent when Laura Roddick lends a hand on the piano in ‘Listen Between Breaths’ or with the according part in ‘Last One To Go’. Accordions are often overpowering and nauseating, let alone out of tune. How many family polka things have you been to when this apparent? The accordion on ‘Last One to Go’ done stunningly. Corey Rhiendel (bass) and Nathan Streiful (drums) are a smooth and eloquent rhythm section that keeps the song flowing while they almost hypnotize you.

On the last track of the record ‘Broken Highway’ Davin Stachoski takes over as lead vocalist with his calm cool vocal style in this fun jaunt paced song. Nathan steps up again and he punches in the drums with a march type feel. This song captivates me each time and leaves me day dreaming as it has very film drama kind feel. The kind of song that makes you think about life as Davin’s vocals draw pictures in your mind. It’s a fantastic ending a phenomenally done record on all accounts.

My only problem with it is that it leaves me wanting more. Damn you Bystanders, get on that full length record!

Cheers Rockers!


Be sure to listen below so you yourself can hear what I am talking about.!/thebystanders

Buy it here:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Social Distortion - Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes

A week after its release date of January 18, 2011 I received my vinyl and cd copy of the Social Distortion record ‘Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes’. I have never been this antsy to get my hands on a record. After twenty five plus years in the music business putting out records, Mike Ness and crew still know how to make a great rock’n’roll record. They may not be the punk band that exploded into hardcore in ‘83 anymore but now a classic-roots/folk punkabilly band. It’s been a sound Mike has been crafting for years. This record should not come as a surprise to anyone that’s followed the last couple records by Social Distortion as well as Mike Ness’ solo career. This date in 1983 the radio was ruled by Men At Work’s ‘Down Under’. Mike Ness didn’t really follow the rules then and he still doesn’t now.

It’s been almost 7 years since 2004’s ‘Sex Love and Rock’n’Roll’ and as different as it is from the previous record and really all are their own records, ‘Sex Love and Rock’n’Roll’ was Mike’s way of dealing with the death of long time friend Dennis Danell. Danell who passed away of a brain aneurysm in ’01 was the last original Social D member. ‘Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes’ is more storyteller kind of record that still manages to keep the around the block honesty of the other records.

‘Road Zombie’ is an instrumental that opens the record with signature licks and solos start the record on a rocking note. ‘California (Hustle and Flow)’ is a southern rockified almost Springsteen-esque song with gospel singers that really bring the song in. ‘Gimme the Sweet and Lowdown’ is a goodtime head bobber. While ‘Diamond In The Rough’ almost has a ‘Sometimes I Do’ steady lament quality about it. Even if it’s a little cheesy lyrically, ‘Machine Gun Blues’ is a fun instant sing-a-long that proves it in the chorus. One of my favorites is a song I have been waiting to hear since I heard the boys play it in August of ’09 called ‘Bakersfield’. ‘Bakersfield’ is loaded with tasty licks and warm grooves. It’s a chill out kind of a song. Continuing on are songs ‘Far Side of Nowhere’ and ‘Writing on the Wall’ that are solidly crafted songs leaning on the more relaxed side of things. A country cover should not be a surprise at this point in the bands career when the band shows up and delivers Hank Sr’s ‘Alone and Forsaken’. It’s an excellent interpretation in the same way that ‘Ring of Fire’ was years earlier. Nearing the end of the record is a foot tapping number that is reminiscent of 90’s era Social D ‘Can’t Take It With You’. ‘Still Alive’ closes the record with a summer type song that keeps your attention with the buzzing guitars. Worth downloading are bonus tracks ‘Take Care of Yourself’, ‘I Won’t Run No More’ and a rootsy acoustic version of ’96’s of White Light, White Heat, White Trash’s ‘Down Here With The Rest Of Us’.

Mike Ness has etched his place in troubadour coolness while still able to rock out. Mike Ness is still the real deal. He’s not the modern punk he was in ’83 but really who really is the person they were in ’83. Even approaching 49 he’s still cool as !@#$. He's still the honest songwriter with longevity and grit to back up the roads he’s been down and lived to tell us all about.

‘Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes’ forty seven minutes running time before bonus tracks time seems to rip by. It’s not ‘Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell’ to me and it’s a far cry from my favourite Social D record ‘White Light, White Heat, White Trash’ … hell it’s not held even as high as ‘Sex Love and Rock’n’Roll’ in my eyes but that being said it’s still a four star fantastic record that’s going to be getting a lot of play from this guy. ‘Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes’ is another great addition to a test of time catalogue.

Highlights: 'California (Hustle and Flow)', 'Gimme the Sweet and Lowdown' and 'Bakersfield'


Cheers Rockers,