"Borders" b/w "O' the Night"
The four young men who comprise Reubens Accomplice have, over the course of time, developed into high-caliber pop musicians with an immense talent for precocious, intricately constructed pop songs seething with charm and innocence. A glance at the sleeve of this seven-inch conveys this charisma; lyrics printed in a small scribble--"If there were no borders we'd still live in the same state."
Reubens' most virtuous assets, the band's grinning musical wit, the vocal interplay between guitarists Jeff Bufano and Chris Corak, its blithe originality and overall cohesiveness, shine through brightly on "Borders" and "O' the Night." Lest the aforementioned lead you to assume that Reubens Accomplice does not rock, be assured that both songs do certainly also rock with authority. Reubens Accomplice belongs to that special breed of sensitive-boy indie rockers who are bringing new dimensions to pop music. All suckers for songs with falsetto "ooh-ooh"s in the background should own this record.
Zack Phillips Band
No one can ever accuse this band of lacking conviction. The fact is that bandleader Zack Phillips has a tendency to sing every note as if his eternal salvation depends on it, and as far as he's concerned, it just might.
This album is flecked with cryptic spiritual references which suggest that for Phillips, doubt and fear are as much a part of the equation as joy and peace of mind. The uncertainty at the heart of the album might be its most interesting quality, as Phillips confesses, "I'm sure glad I'm not Christ/Live half the live with twice the pain and half the glory."
Phillips has a powerful voice, highly reminiscent of that of Live front man Ed Kowalczyk, but like that highly earnest singer, he's somewhat short of good tunes to wrap those bronze pipes around. As a result, his deeply felt sermonizing comes off as ponderous and self-righteous, even if it wasn't meant that way. The band's capable but basically generic musicianship isn't much help, either.
There are moments on Unstained, like on the restrained, R&B-inflected "Words at All," or in the falsetto leaps of the album-closing "Isabelle," when Phillips shows what an affecting vocalist he can be. But, for now, he and his band are caught in a musical dilemma that's stymied far greater artists: how to convey deep passion while accommodating a sense of humor, and how to exorcise dread while making it an enjoyable listening experience.
(Buy London Records)
Listening to this CD, the question is begged: Do other cities this size suffer from the same excess of cult-like, weed-smokin', quasi-psychedelic, bass-heavy funk-rock outfits?
Within the melange of our bands that fit that description, all the individual identities have become blurred; were one not to know that this is the Plaidstone CD, there would be a long list of viable possibilities.
Which is to say that most of those bands languish in an anonymity borne of a terminal lack of distinction. The Plaidstone album is no exception. Plaidstone is neither the worst nor the best of the unholy alliances between funk and grunge, but it is most certainly boring (examples: song titles like "Damn" and "Floating"; lyrics like "No time to work for the man/We're trying to make it in a rock 'n' roll band" or "Damn!/Turn the volume up/Let's get a jam"; music that is absolutely unexceptional).
The well-worn business principle applies here. In a flooded market, one's product must be head and shoulders above the crowd, or the product is virtually worthless. At present, Plaidstone is indistinguishable.
7 in One Smoker . . . With 38% More Action
"Forget About It," the opening track of Solely Duncan's CD, isn't especially profound, but it has one of those big, dumb hooks that's hard to resist. Opening with a three-chord sequence that's a reggae-fied ringer for Neil Young's "Ohio," the song could get by on audacity and attitude alone.
The Peoria quintet obviously thinks quite a bit of this track, too, 'cause it's included not once, but twice on this disc. It reappears under the title "Forget About '97," but it's exactly the same song, albeit recorded in a cruder, earlier form.
This disc is schizophrenic by nature, not simply because this band, like many in the Valley, juggles rhythms like they're hot potatoes. The CD is a combination of seven demo-like tracks cut at Glendale Community College between December '96 and March '97 and three sturdier tracks recorded late last year. The newer batch of recordings easily outshines the flat GCC sessions, with "Prepaid Freak Vacation" actually stirring up a cool Starsky and Hutch car-chase groove, and tossing in some Herb Alpert-esque trumpet for strange measure.
Of course, nothing here matches up to "Forget About It," and there are more than a few times when you long for a moment of genuine melodicism amid the frantic rhythmic calisthenics. But I can't help but have a bit of affection for a band that's so bad at percentages (the three-song addition to its original set of recordings constitutes "43 percent more action," not 38 percent). In the end, it doesn't matter. However you calculate it, 7 In One Smoker is an EP disguised as a full-length.