Radio play used to be the main arbiter of who went where on the charts. While some people would spin the dial constantly in the car searching for the perfect tune, I tended to stick to one station, loyal to Raccoon Carney’s afternoon drive show on LG73. I like to think that the Raccoon would dig some of these brand new should be hits. I like to think that …
They’re the Kansas City band that’s not from Kansas. And that’s not the limit to the confusion as Eggs on Mars actually sound more like they’re from Glasgow than Missouri. Here I’m alluding to the band’s sonic affinity with such lofi jangle wonders like U.S. Highball and Dropkick. So, Glasgow Scotland, not Glasgow Kentucky. It’s all there on the opening cut and obvious single, “Fingers and Lips,” with its engaging rhythm guitar work, re-invented Brydsian vocals, and inspired lead guitar solos. Brighter Now contains seven songs but running at just 16 minutes it’s more like an EP than a full-on long-player. But what a delightful seven-pack! Most of the songs have an uplifting feel, driven by some creative lead guitar adornments on tracks like “More” and “All That I See” and some subtle yet catchy 1960s organ work on “Hand Tools.” The guitar on some tracks even gives off a slight Smiths-ian feel, e.g. “Oil Spill Rainbow.” Things do mellow on tracks like “Feels Like Always” but, on the whole, Brighter Now is a chipper, aptly-named collection.
San Francisco band pseudonym come by their psychedelia honestly, given that town’s 1960s musical heritage. But the purple haze on this record is cut with a serious dose of dream pop and the combo is both luxurious and captivating. Case in point, title track “Before the Monsters.” Just check out the amazing bass line on this song, how it just keeps reeling you in long enough to land a load of guitar hooks, a seductive vocal melody, and some exquisite horn shots. I feel like there’s a bit of The Primitives on this song and the next, the more minimalist “Anonymous Sources.” Despite the overall psych pop vibe, there’s plenty of variety on this record. Sometimes thing go enjoyably shoe-gazey, like on “As You Well Know” and “Stare Down.” But at other points a punchy poprock sound comes to the fore (as on “Photograph”) or even a more urgently rocky demeanor (e.g. “Tell Me”). My personal fave is “Astronaut” with its rollicking bass and lead guitar interplay threading through the song supporting a very Lolas-style vocal and tune. “Maybe” is another winner, alternating a low-key build up in the verses with a strong chorus. And so on. Before the Monsters is eleven quality psych-pop tunes. It’s a trip man, and you can enjoy it without leaving the house.
After teasing us earlier this year with their killer Britpop-reminiscent “Rattlesnakes” Chicago’s The Embryos now return with a full album of surprises on National Absurdatory. Oh there’s plenty here that rings familiar, from the Byrdsian country rock of “You Can Be a Mystery” to the distinctive jangle of “Rolling Wheels.” But there’s also a live rock and roll party vibe on a host of tunes that conjure of a very rooftop Let It Be vibe. Here’s I’m thinking of “Spend Tonight” particularly. Or check out the Philly soul undercurrent carrying album opener “Morning Birds.” Love those strings and cloud-light background vocals. The soul train continues on “Someone to Hold Me.” Of course, The Church influences get a look in on the country-ish “Catching Fire” and “Twisted in my Game.” There’s even folk rock here on “Smoldering Remains” with just a touch of 10cc in the chorus. With so much variety, National Absurdatory has captured a band that can seemingly take on any style with no loss of substance.
Still in Chicago, Pet Symmetry don their Future Suits for their latest release, a creative riffing on pop punk tradition and more straight up FOW-infused poprock. Forget Robert Palmer, “Simply Irresponsible” kicks things off with a performance right out of the punk-influenced rock and roll playbook. More again on “Objective Objectives.” But things start to change with the more sonically sophisticated “Cat and Mouse” with its alternation of rhythm guitar shots and hooky lead guitar work. This is pop punk perfection with a melodic sensibility akin to a latter day Green Day. And then things get even more interesting. “Pet Sympathy” has a latin flavor and some knock out background singing. With “2021: A Personal Space Odyssey” the band really start to lean on some impressive melodic counterpoint in the background vocals. It’s there again in “Portland to Portland,” a song that strikes a more FOW feel, songwriting-wise. “Bootlicker” changes things up again with its easygoing, almost languid pacing and subtle hooks. “Awesome Kingdom” ends things on pretty solid poprock footing with a Sugar Ray swing and ambience. On Future Suits, first impressions of this band can be deceiving. So get the full album, just to be sure. Actual Future Suits apparel sold separately.
If the Raccoon were here no doubt it would be time for news and weather by now. As we cut to other programming, don’t waste time on commercials, check out these fine artists directly and cut out the middle man.