A+ Releases | Cameron McGill & What Army, Joie De Vivre, Lizard Skynard, Staasuhnator Rex, Crankupmadonna

{NOTE: Review Excerpts included from Sock Monkey Sounds 2010 Halfway Reviews}



Joie De Vivre
The North End

Young, intelligent, college kids playing off of punk emotion, setting the pace slow, early and exploding;  midwestern mood rock a decade later.  Spring love, Summer arguments, Fall heartbreak, Winter recovery,  The midwest for many of our youth growing up here.  That is The North End.”  Joie is completely out of step with today’s youth rock, they’re too smart for any scene anywhere— and all for the better.  Sit through one listen and you’ll know right away that seeing them live will be no different than putting on their record.  No pretending.  The North End” secretly implies they have no aspirations to entertain you with a light show or fancy new outfits from Hot Topic—  just empty cans of beer.   Honest brooding, rock n’ roll high on emotion and slow, steady delivery.  The North End” owes as much respect to other regional indie acts that inspired their teen listening years, The Braves, as it does to other regional & national acts that has defined the midwest underground, Mike Kinsella projects (Joan of Arc/American Football/Owen).   ‘North End’ serves as a soundtrack for trying to live through your early 20s in the midwest with limited opportunities and personal heartbreak.  It’s a solid declaration from a young band that is only going to get louder, funnier, darker, softer and wiser with each new letdown & recording to follow.  Here’s hoping they keep it together long enough before becoming sick of each other.



Lizard Skynard

Lizard Skynard, despite having a perfect frontman (Lizardman) for the kids are a monstrous rock band.  Imagine part Rollins/ part Deftones / meets Kevin Shields with the boys from Kyuss in a train station to make space metal.  The Skynard boys (Chicago/Austin/Vancouver) feed off of lead guitarist, Jason Mossy” Vaughn’s wall of guitar nob turning and pedal shifting theatrics.  Vaughn’s playing is mesmerizing, turning speed metal riffs into reverb, delays, morphing into small, well-intended melodies— no different than a Shostakovich film production gone wild, chaos amidst the darkness and then drifting into melody.  With or without Lizardman reciting monologues on top of the band, this is the sound of life on earth coming to a loud, water-washed, horrific & beautiful end.

Produced by Greg Norman @ Electrical Audio in Chicago over the course of 1 week this past winter, this self-titled debut by a band that started as a ‘what-if’ idea in the back of a Jägermeister bus between Mossy & Lizardman is anything but a ‘what-if’ idea.  Every member plays as if their lives, and that of  Planet Earth’s, depends on these 30 minutes put to record for a listener’s lifetime.



Staasuhnator Rex
62 (V1: Tracks 1-8 E.P.)

taasuhnator Rex 62 is the brilliant, brainchild debut E.P. / song project by Zach Staas (Joie De Vivre, Donkey Boy (USA)); a young songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, engineer. 62 songs are planned for release non-ironically;  8 at a time (yes, he knows there’s a math problem, it’s been discussed and nothing is changing the count from 62 to 64).  All songs are planned to be recorded under a minute and a half if possible. Each song featured here is an appetizer for bizarro pop perfection— genius.

Staas manages most of the instruments himself mixing in domestic observations that are beautifully sung, tongue in cheek and still managing to be awfully heartbreaking & brilliant— in a span of seconds.  Pound that pussy good, just like you should, sticks out as a key line on the 56 second long song, Meownepaws.  When lines just appear to be lewd, Staas’s delivery reminds you they’re anything but.  The cats in the alley are keeping him awake as he imagines what he wishes he could do to end their midnight whining.  It’s the way the line is sung at the :31 to :36 mark that seals the deal on short moments that will make you laugh, cry and come back to for repeated listenings.

Staas’s vocal inflections rise when they need to perfectly to remind you he is dead serious.  Songs end when you think there’s going to be more.  Nope;  just a few seconds of what could be, cut, next.  Please Pay By  is the peak of this, the first 8 songs of an amazing song project he’s started.  Starting with electric guitar and slowly introducing various keys on top of a subtle amp buzzing while singing about his bills to pay.  The most complete song of the 8 hints slightly at what Rex could be live.  Imagine Jason Lytle or Neil Young jumping off the cliff of creativity looking for something else, John Cale leading the way- and you got Staasuhnator Rex.  A monster of a miniature 1st e.p. from one of Rockford, IL’s most promising young songwriter / multi-instrumentalist & composer.  I await the next 54 songs with excitement.  Download the 1st E.P. of 62 containing tracks 1-8 for FREE, here, limited time only.



Hit The Sound
Shawn Ross, singer-songwriter/guitarist, has spent most of his life playing bass for local area band, The Braves- a very respected, midwestern, indie 4-piece.  After years of supporting Joe Reina & Kevin Schwitter’s songs, Ross takes the helm on his own project bringing along with him 2 former Braves (Jesse Carmona & Phil Goudreau) plus newbie, Christoper Johnson, to take over on bass duties for him.  Hit the Sound was recorded by veteran Chicago engineer, Mike Hagler (Wilco, Neko Case, The Redwalls, Mekons, Jon Langford) who helped tap Ross’s manic pop-punk song style into a personal sound oweing tribute to the likes of great 90s bands like Dinosaur Jr., Tommy Stinson’s ‘Perfect’ phase and the Foo Fighter’s first 2 records.  Every song is perfectly crafted and performed by the band, owing as much respect to Ross’s musical roots but also to the road traveled to get to this point, running his own ship.  Not This Town wails and splashes between vocals, drums and guitar feedback. Anyone Can Die and Burn this Scene fist the air for attention;  awesome pop-punk meets classic rock choruses are scattered throughout the record.  Key track defining Ross’s new direction with this band in tow happens on Golden Hands;  the guitar build outro, bass, drums, all kick in for a band in the studio moment that pays dues to everything that has made 90s American indie rock so influential.  It also defines Ross as a writer now, guitarist and band leader.   A defining midwestern debut record by 4 guys from Rockford who sound like they’re from anywhere else but here;  full of life and miles to burn.



Cameron McGill & What Army
Derserters. EP
Let’s keep this one short:  Billy Ocean wrote a tune and in that tune he said, Simply awesome.  He was talking about McGill’s Army preview for 2011’s Is A Beast which is a 5-song teaser properly titled, Deserters.  Two new songs from ‘Beast’ start off Deserters, giving ya that awful feeling you gotta hear more and you can’t wait.  Dead Rose is nasty;  bassline so nasty, guitar tones so nasty, McGill’s voice unlike previous recorded outputs, nasty awesome not simply awesome.  I Don’t Believe in Magic (But All My Friends Just Disappeared is as simply awesome as the title implies.  Billy Ocean would be proud too.  Pop perfection, Chicago intuitions, guests and all Army.  Standout performances by Rockford, IL’s own, Daniel J. McMahon, all over the E.P.  Garvey & Palma (Drums/Bass) form one nasty backbone on record and Justin Perkins’ production hints greatly at what’s to come.  The last 3 tracks are b-sides but should not be ignored- especially Loose Tooth.  Deserters E.P. is a nasty, awesome, 5-song teaser hinting at what may become 2011’s finest midwestern offering to a majority of undeserving & misunderstanding humans who tend to crave crap in this day and age.  Here’s hoping otherwise.

dD  | aW

A+ Releases | Cameron McGill & What Army, Joie De Vivre, Lizard Skynard, Staasuhnator Rex, CrankupmadonnaAndy Whorehall

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