“2nd Gun” – Volcano, I’m Still Excited!!

The excessively punctutated, impenetrably silly name may not even be the strangest thing about this group–I vote instead for the fact that the band is a trio featuring guitar, drum, and a $10 Casio keyboard. Now that’s strange. What emerges from the combination is a little strange too, but urgent and oddly compelling nonetheless. For a short song, “2nd Gun” covers a lot of ground, its twitchy intro and nervous chord progressions giving way to a cathartically catchy chorus. For me, this music recalls the effect Talking Heads:77 had, the way the songs were both over-the-top quirky and yet somehow, underneath it all, comforting and familiar. Time will tell if VISE has Talking Heads-like substance and innovation to offer us, but today’s diffuse and insular rock scene could sure use a strange-pure blast like that. The song comes from the band’s eponymous debut CD, released in January on Polyvinyl Records. There are 16 songs on the record, most between two and three minutes in length; the one I’m most curious about is the last one, which is called “Two Exclamation Points.” Perhaps the name is explained? At least a hint or two?

“Alone Again Or” – Calexico

This is all but irresistible–on the one hand because of the power of the original song but on the other hand for how giddily well this ’60s nugget works when run through Calexico’s Southwestern blender. “Alone Again Or” opened Forever Changes, the 1967 masterpiece from the West Coast band Love; here it is brilliantly re-conceived as a Mexican-style rave-up, from the precision of the acoustic rhythm and lead guitars to the hand-clap accompaniment and, best of all, the poignant, incisive trumpet solo. This is one of those songs that brings an involuntary smile to my face as I listen; music (as opposed to lyrics) that prompts smiling or laughing is often some of the best there is. The song comes from Convict Pool, a six-song EP–featuring three covers–released this month on Quarterstick Records. MP3 via Insound; the link does not show up in the media player here but it is still live, and will download when you click.

“When I Laugh” – the Glands

The Athens, Georgia-based Glands mix a lot of influences in their sonic stew, but it’s the Kinks in particular who haunt this chugging little number. Fading in on a distorted guitar riff, the song hits the ground running when singer/songwriter/guitarist Ross Shapiro gives us his best Ray Davies-ish drawl (listen in particular to his delivery of the words “laugh” or “everybody”) over a deceptively tight beat; the background “doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo”s drive home the Kinks homage, along with a Dave Davies-like guitar break two-thirds of the way through. Me, I like to champion the overlooked Kinks whenever I can, and particularly enjoy discovering younger musicians who have studied the monumental Davies songbook. “When I Laugh” can be found on the band’s second CD, simply called The Glands, released on Velocette Records in 2000; the MP3 comes courtesy of Epitonic.




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