30 Reviews in Five Days, Pt. 4

by John M. Borack

Kaufman – “Scratch” (No label listed)
David Kaufman is a talented guitarist from the Los Angeles area whom I know strictly as a sideman, so I was a bit surprised when this solo CD arrived in the post. A little internet research provided the following info: “From the chaos of a moving train to the intimacy of a nursing home, David Kaufman is experienced and comfortable performing in an unusually wide range of venues. Restaurants, mobile home parks, bar mitzvahs, family reunions, even funerals. He’s done ’em!” Kaufman is also comfortable producing and performing his own earnest, highly listenable compositions, and 11 of ‘em (plus a brief, unlisted bonus track) are presented on Scratch. It’s mainly semi-acoustic, heartfelt, adult contemporary tunes with the emphasis on “adult,” and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. Some of the songs feature a Dylan-esque turn of a phrase, and my favorite (and my favorite title here) is “I Made God Laugh.” Grade: B

Mod Hippie – “Tomorrow Then” (Karma Frog)
Recorded with Adam Marsland (Cockeyed Ghost, Adam Marsland’s Chaos Band) at the helm as producer – and including instrumental and vocal assistance from Marsland and his AMCB cohort Teresa Cowles – Mod Hippie’s debut effort is an authentic slab of melodic, slightly psych-dipped garage rock. Everything from the CD cover and the booklet artwork to the song titles (“My Far Out Town,” “Shimmering Sound”) and the songs themselves screams “’60s, maaaan,” but Marsland’s first-rate, modern-sounding production prevents this from simply ending up as another retro trip in the wayback machine. Doug McGuire’s lead vocals are appropriately snotty without being over the top, and songs such as “Your Heart, New Heart” (co-written by pop journalist Stephen “Spaz” Schnee and his brother Mike, who also adds guitar to some of the songs) and “Captain Invincible” – a not-too-distant-musical relative of “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” – are quite groovy. Other happening tunes are the “Little Black Egg”-inspired “Reality Place” and the disc-closing “Shimmering Sound,” featuring Probyn Gregory’s wild theremin freakout. Grade: B+

jimmyhaber2 Jimmy Haber – “Joy Acid Pact” (Bad Sun Records)
Australian pop guru Michael Carpenter produced, engineered and served as a multi-instrumentalist on this 10-song winner, which is certain to earn a well-deserved spot on many a year-end best-of list. It’s an all-too-rare example of a current pop record that not only manages to sidestep those pesky aural clichés, but one that does so with verve, imagination and vocal and instrumental sass. Oh, and it rocks like mad, too. This is Haber’s second go-round with Carpenter at the controls (2013’s just-as-cool New Bondi Hippies being the first), and they play off each other’s strengths quite well. The disc-opening “Lilac” – also included on the recent International Pop Overthrow Volume 18 comp – storms out of the gate with a slightly distorted-sounding guitar riff mingling with horns and flowery lyrics; it’s followed by the sold gold sonic action of “Otherwise Occupied on Wall Street,” which successfully melds the Beatles and the Byrds without aping either one. Elsewhere, there are echoes of Matthew Sweet, Tom Petty and Oasis, but ultimately, Joy Acid Pact sounds like a Jimmy Haber record. Oh, and did I mention that Michael Carpenter is one hell of a drummer? Grade: A

The Affections – “Prolonged Adolescence” (No label listed)
An apt title for this one, considering the Affections were a late ‘70s/early ‘80s Aussie teen power pop combo who never released an album during their lifespan, but reunited a few years back to record 13 of their original songs from back in the day. Featuring Rob Smith (who was a member of the Innocents and has also released some fine solo stuff), the quintet packs Prolonged Adolescence with some nifty tunes (right now I’m partial to “She Makes Me Wonder” and “She Was on My Mind”), proving that it’s never too late to rock and roll. Or pop. Or something like that. Grade: A-

Hurricane #1 – “Find What You Love and Let it Kill You” (Tapete Records)
Reunion album from this Britpop band who called it quits in 1999 but who are now back in the game, albeit without original member Andy Bell (ex-Ride guitarist) and adding drummer Paul Quinn (Teenage Fanclub). Now led by vocalist/guitarist Alex Lowe, Hurricane #1 dresses up Find What You Love… with some gorgeous, plaintive melodies, but they can also toughen up their sound when need be (“Where to Begin,” “Crash”). The keyboard and guitar interplay on “Feel Me Now Again” is quite lovely, while “Think of the Sunshine” is fueled by one of those insidious guitar riffs that many of us live for. Due out in late November on German-based Tapete Records, this is another unexpected treat. Grade: A

The Shondikes – “Psychotic Make Out Music” (No label listed)
Not sure quite what to make of this one: it features the dulcet tones of the lovely Lisa Mychols on many of the 16 tracks, which sport titles such as “Greasy Sex Disco,” “Psychotic Frug A Go-Go,” “Cocaine Slave Glamour Party” and “White Vampire Speed.” Yep, not exactly Air Supply territory, is it? I suppose if you stirred up a little Zappa and some Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie, added the drugged-out, skanky musings of Kim Fowley and a little slice of Olivia Newton-John, you’d have…this. It’s certainly ear-catching, and it’s all the brainchild of one Mick Modell, who gives the world lyrics like “Got a manicured bunny and evil step mama/can take a flying suck off a toadstool, yeah” (from the trash-rockin’ “Society Girl,” my personal pick to click). Not sure if this is meant to be taken seriously or if it’s an elaborate put-on, but it’s still somewhat fun in a completely unhinged way. Grade: B-

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