music reviews – The Cinematics

Music reviews, by Natalie Kardos

The Cinematics – A Strange Education

With their full-length debut album A Strange Education, The Cinematics throw their hat into the dance-rock ring. Their highly polished variation on this now-familiar theme includes glitzy guitar licks, glimmery chords, and cymbal-centric drumming. Many of the songs, including “Break,” give the listener the feeling of driving on darkened freeways at breakneck speeds, headlights flashing past you, as you search for a place not populated with your problems.

This Scottish band makes no attempt to hide their influences – “Race to the City” sounds like the Clash with a little bit of Bowie mixed in, and “Sunday Sun,” with it’s spacey background vocals, harkens back to the days when Blur was the king of Brit-rock. The last three tracks of the album (“Alright,” “Asleep at the Wheel,” and “Home”) find Scott Rinning (lead vocals) letting us in to his more vulnerable side, as he adds a quaver to his voice and makes fine use of his falsetto.

In fact, “Home,” the hidden bonus track, is one of the gems of the album. As a completely acoustic track, it sinks in with sharp contrast to the rest of the album – giving hope that, even if the dance rock phase peters out (as all phases tend to do), The Cinematics will stick around for a good long time. [http://www.thecinematics.com] – NK

Sharp Tooth Benny – Slinky Sounds for Reptilian Lovers

To put it the best way possible, it sounds like this CD was recorded in a garage, with all band members standing around a single microphone. The result is an incredible distorted mix, in which the vocals sound like they were sung through a tin can 50 yards away from said microphone. The sound quality is poor and the mixing is bad. And that’s only the production issues.

Musically speaking, this band is adequate. The guitar soloist knows what he’s doing at least half of the time, even if one does get the feeling that everything he learned about playing guitar came from hours spent playing the Guitar Hero video games. Their sound can best be described as metal-tinged rockabilly (although the metal may just be an artifact of the terrible production). The vocalist sounds like he’s fighting for a lower range (think Johnny Cash baritone) that he just doesn’t possess. And while he’s aiming for those low notes, he manages to miss the mark significantly.

Then there’s the song “(Truth/Lies) Hate/Love.” Or should I say the song “Cryin’” by Aerosmith with worse lyrics. It’s pretty much a note-for-note rip-off, even down to the guitar solos, and the second vocalist who actually sounds like Stephen Tyler (and who I actually wish was the lead vocalist on the other songs). C’mon guys – if you’re going to rip-off a song note-for-note, at least pick a better one!

About all I can say about this band is that I sincerely hope their sound is better live. And if you’re looking for a local band to satiate your rockabilly fix, check out The Infants instead. At least their vocalist knows how to really belt ‘em out. [http://www.myspace.com/sharptoothbennyband] – NK

Present Tense – Automatic Happy

The third release from the LA band Present Tense took a few listens to grow on me. The fault lies mostly on me, as trip-hop isn’t my usual cup of tea. However, this band churns out an album of well-produced trip-hop, with the occasional dashes of rock and pop thrown in for good measure. Fans of The Gossip’s last album should appreciate this band’s sound.

Amanda Rowse’s lead vocals are solid and sultry, although she gets into trouble in a few spots when she reaches for notes above her normal range and the results come out sounding strained. Overall, though, the mix of spacey electronic distortion surrounding her female vocals and emphasized by the funky trip-hop beats creates an atmosphere both melancholic and danceable. Key tracks include “Dangerous Places,” “5 yrs. Ago,” and “Let Me Be.” [http://www.myspace.com/presenttense] – NK

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