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Three more new CDs that will rock your world!

New Concept
Stomp!
www.new-concept.net
Esox Music
www.esoxpop.com
Reviewed by Kent Manthie

There’s a new band in town, just off the Lufthansa jetliner from Germany: New Concept sound like they just stepped out of a time warp from a club in what was then West Berlin, circa 1982. Maybe the members were catching a show by Ultravox, Cabaret Voltaire or Spandau Ballet. That’s because when listening to their new CD, Stomp!, memories of glorious, carefree nights and sunny days that were the early 1980s are evoked.
The label that ostensibly puts out their CDs is Esox Pop, which means that, essentially, they self-released it. New Concept is, I guess, such a new concept that they don’t even (as of this writing, anyway) have their own website. They do, however, have a MySpace page, where one can learn everything they wanted to know about the band but were afraid to ask, with pictures too! There, on the band’s MySpace page, one is exposed to all things New Concept: you get a bio, their discography, a play list with about 4 or 5 songs; a smattering of singles that can be heard, no strings attached, before making any commitments. With Stomp!, New Concept’s discography is up to two full-length CDs, two EPs, as well as a couple “digi-singles”.
Catchy, hook-laden riffs abound here; there’s a certain je ne sais quois about it that keeps one listening on and on, like a snake to a charmer. Examples of this include the title track, which is the opening cut as well. The third song, “Drowning” is a downshifted, smart pop ballad, smoothly concocted, the result being a laconic, dead man’s love song. “Slow Motion” keeps the slow pace steady, but with twangy guitar noodling throughout, a sort of musical arabesque that adds some soul amidst icy layers of synthesizers and the like.
Without sounding too dated or stale, the band – consciously or unconsciously – has a decidedly “retro” vibe to it. By “retro”, I mean the early 1980s (in the 80s, “retro” referred to all things 1960s, in the 90s it was widened to include the 70s and so on). It’s hard to tell whether they are deliberately reliving that rollercoaster of a decade by emulating the bands they listened to, growing up or if the style comes unconsciously, having been so conditioned in them that they don’t even realize whence their music comes. The answer, I think, lies somewhere in that gray middle area. One thing is definite, though: while the “concept” may not be so “new”, the music they play is, like the best stuff their musical heroes put out, filled with élan and verve, a willful joyride through fields of Mars.
What else can I say? They are neither iconoclasts, breaking ground on a new archetype, dragging in a new paradigm, et cetera, nor do they flat out suck, a vague term, so let me explain: they aren’t overly derivative, not overly pompous and narcissistic (remember the Stone Roses?) and they seem sincere enough to be taken seriously. Time will tell what’s in store for New Concept. The ultimate test, of course, is “how do they sound live? Playing live will show whether they are self-sufficient or if the “brilliance” of their music was only due to studio enhancements. –KM

Rivulets
d e m o s
Silber Records, 2010
www.silbermedia.com
Reviewed by Kent Manthie

This Rivulets, with their new debut, d e m o s is an example of what’s being bandied about as “slow-core”, which really translates into a brash attitude through the complex lyrics accompanied by a hushed, sparse background, which consists of an acoustic guitar.
Among fans of Nick Drake, Alex Chilton, Tim Buckley or the late Elliott Smith (Neil Young too, but that goes without saying), Rivulets will find a sympathetic ear. The music has the same laconic, laid back acoustic picking overlaid by cynical, sometimes bitter but always brilliant, honest and a de coeur lyrics.
Songs on d e m o s are introspective. Sometimes it happens that one looking inward doesn’t like what he sees, such are the laments on this CD. It’s this little slice of existential dread that is an important ingredient in songs such as these.
The quiet, sparse tone on d e m o s is one of things that makes it stand out. One can absorb the angst, the hopelessness and depression that’s evident on d e m o s, a good catharsis for said feelings, because we don’t need another “rock & roll suicide” – at least not from someone with great talent and erudition (why is it that only the best die young, while the worst of the worst keep on churning and burning – more and more garbage, that is – literally refuse that should be flushed into the sewer, no-talents like Britney Spears and all the unforgettable drones that have totally ruined pop music in the mainstream, making it so that one has to go underground to find the most sincere, best written (that’s not an opinion, either, it’s just obvious) music.
I’d trade those phony Jonas Brothers’ lives to get Bill Hicks’s and Elliot Smith’s lives back in a hot minute.
And don’t get me started on the freak show that surrounded Michael Jackson’s death – boy, that family sure milked the death for every penny they could get out of it. How pathetic.
Anyway, getting back to serious music, Rivulets are a band that deserve careful listen. Even the quiet, acoustic melodies accompanying the voice have a verve that doesn’t bore, but enhances the mood of the lyrics.
Picking out which songs to promote is an impossibility here, when they’re all equally poignant. But, just to give you a little bite to nibble on, if you go to their MySpace page or whatever website they have now, you should take a listen to “Swans”, “Sick Love”, “Four Weeks” and “Tugboat”, in which the singer decries all the extraneous crap that he doesn’t want to do; he just wants to be with you. “Happy New Year” is a jaded note to whomever that this new year will be just as bad as last year, no doubt, like in real life.
This is one that will definitely be an underground classic, appealing to sensitive souls. –KM

Lindsey Buckingham
Under the Skin
Reprise Records
Reviewed by Kent Manthie
Well, look who’s back; the old L.A. wunderkind who, with his ex-girlfriend, Glenda the Good Witch, took over Fleetwood Mac in the 70s after they had already begun a shift from a hard-core English blues band into a lazy, So-Cal pop band after LSD-addled Peter Green went off and joined the Children of God (now known as “the Family”), soon to be followed by co-guitarist Jeremy Spencer. The L.A. incarnation of Fleetwood Mac was only good when ex-Paris vocalist Bob Welch was in the band starting in 1973, e.g., on albums like Bare Trees, Heroes Are Hard To Find and Mystery To Me, which has on it one of the coolest songs ever: “Hypnotized”. But Bob had better things to do and by 1975 Fleetwood Mac was the backup band for a So-Cal duo called Buckingham/Nicks.
Anyway, life goes on; nothing ever stands still, not for aging pop stars or anyone else. Under the Skin is the first solo album that Mr. Buckingham has put out in some time. I think there was an effort about four or five years ago, if I’m not mistaken, but it didn’t really take off. To tell you the truth, though, I don’t think Lindsey-baby really gives a good goddamn if it took off or not. He just wants to make music and get back to what really matters after all the craziness, the booze, the coke, the chicks, the dudes and the ‘ludes. Nowadays, Lindsey just wants to keep his mind busy and not let it atrophy and go to waste, so he gets cleaned up, talks to the label and works this thing out to whip up some bitchin’ tunes, such as “Not Too Late”, “Shut U Down”, a cover of an old Stones song, “I Am Waiting” as well as the title track. As soon as the insurance folks OK’d everything, the deal was set and the next thing you know, the L-dude is shaved, showered and ready to go to work. For you freaky celebrity geeks, information hounds and bored people, the websites are: http://www.lindseybuckingham.com -KM

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