Tuesday 25 October 2011

Chickenfoot Are Having The Time Of Their Life

The members of the super group Chickenfoot truly found each other. Drummer Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers) and former Van Halen members bass player Michael Anthony and singer Sammy Hagar were jamming together on a regular basis a few years ago. One thing lead to another and to record their first album they also got one of the best guitar players in the world to join, Joe Satriani. According to themselves, it's really a band the guys want to have fun with. This was already clear on the first record, but especially at the live shows. And now there's even a follow up named III as a joke.

Chickenfoot - III (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
And this time they had a lot of fun again, so much is clear. Like their début it turned into a typical classic rock album, which is not a surprise considering the musical background of the musicians. This doesn't result in memorable songs, in fact all rock clichés are used. But they are convincing and played with lots of enthusiasm. Once again it's refreshing to hear Satriani play normal rock riffs, without the endless fiddling. Which can be nice once and a while for the ones who are into that, but his playing is much more balanced this way. Now and then he's allowed to go wild, and he's doing that in a great way, like in the first single 'Big Foot'.

Of course the songs are full of Hagar's cries like "yeah!" and "ohw!". The song 'Up Next' is even overloaded with them. This is a bit too much sometimes and can turn into a nuisance. But 'Dubai Blues', a great rocker that is right on the spot, compensates completely for it. Everything is kept together skilfully by Smith and Anthony. There's also an attempt to dig deeper: in 'Something Going Wrong' about the environment, and in 'Three And A Half Letters' about an Iraq veteran looking for a job. It feels a bit awkward, because the lyrics are too simple for that. The band probably didn't want to make it too difficult and heavy.

Don't expect any new findings from Chickenfoot's second coming. These are a band and album that have fun written all over it. Straightforward rock songs, played by great musicians. And that can be damn fine now and then.

This review has been published on ROAR E-Zine in Dutch over here.

Listen to 'III' on Spotify.

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Thursday 20 October 2011

Felabration: Celeberating Fela Kuti

October 15 is Fela Kuti's birthday. He would have turned 73 this year. To celebrate that event and his music, Dutch afrobeat band Jungle by Night invited Seun Kuti, one of his sons, to celebrate his father. He brought Egypt 80 with him, one of his father's former bands, that he fronts nowadays. One thing was for sure: we were going to shake our booty!

Felabration: Seun Kuti & Egypt 80, Jungle By Night at Paradiso Amsterdam, October 15 2011

Sean Kuti & Egypt 80 (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
One of the members of Jungle By Night introduces Seun Kuti to open the night. Backed up by his father's old band he is wasting no time. They start playing a great set of afrobeat, the music his father created in the 70s. There's hardly a better genre to spark an African style birthday party. The swinging songs, enthusiastically played by the old and young musicians of Egypt 80, have everyone moving within no time.

Seun Kuti proves to be a skilled sax player and a charismatic front man. And no Kuti without politics, so Seun gives a little speech about Nigeria and Africa in general. Just the way his father would have liked it.

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Jungle By Night (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)

His father would have approved of the young band Jungle By Night as well. To see his music so alive a few generations later, surely would have pleased him. And once again they show why they are one of the most exciting live acts in the low lands at the moment. Every time I get to see them they look more confident and relaxed on stage. Their music is more on the jazzy side of afrobeat which is definitely the most appealing side for me.

After an hour there's a break after which they return for another set. I was expecting maybe a jam of some sort with Egypt 80 or at least a guest appearance by Sean Kuti but none of this. But nothing can spoil this great party.

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When I get home late at night I even get to see the Dutch baseball team win the 2011 World Cup. A night I will always remember.

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Monday 17 October 2011

The Drums Take It Beyond The Hype

From the moment The Drums release their EP Summertime! in 2010 the band is considered one of the hippest things coming out of Brooklyn. Their début album a few months later only added to that although there was also some criticism. The hype may be exaggerated and their live performances got mixed reviews. Maybe it wasn't all that great. Their second full length album Portamento has to prove that they are still a band that matters in 2011.

The Drums - Portamento (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
They first made a few changes to the band though. After guitar player Adam Kessler quit, drummer Connor Hanwick took on the guitar. Guitarist Jacob Graham switched to keys and they hired a new drummer and guitarist. It didn't change a lot to their sound. First single 'Money' showed that the catchy songs of the first album weren't a coincidence. The song has the same playful guitar riffs and the characteristic voice of Johnny Pierce. And Portamento is full of it. The seemingly simple songs are good compositions. The band sounds more relaxed than on their debut and it all sounds like it didn't any effort.

The vocals are right on the spot as well, although they are simple lyrics about things that young people in their twenties are involved with. He does push it a lot which can make it a bit whining now and then. There are nice harmonies and his falsetto is used sparingly. But in a song like 'Searching For Heaven' he's overdoing it. This song isn't good and the singing is more like moaning. This is the only time where the band goes wrong though. They make up for it with plenty of nice songs like 'Days' and 'I Don't Know How To Love' which have good hooks and make you hum along within no time.

The Drums are proving that they are more than a temporary hype. Last month they alreay played a convincing showcase in Paradiso that showed they have grown live too. The band have adopted to their sound even more and when they continue down this road we can expect more from them in the future.

This review has been published on ROAR E-Zine in Dutch over here.

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Tuesday 11 October 2011

ASIWYFA Take Venue By Storm

After seeing the band from Belfast And So I Watch You From Afar at the Lowlands festival in 2010 I was sold. Their energy and testosterone loaded progressive rock songs blew me away and I couldn't wait to see them perform live again. Unfortunately every time they were playing in the neighbourhood, I couldn't make it to their gigs. Nijmegen isn't exactly around the corner either but since I have family living near that place I decided to combine it with a family visit.

And So I Watch You From Afar at Doornroosje Nijmegen, October 7 2011 (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
We make it early to the venue and only a handful of people have showed up by then. We get to watch another band with a long name Do Not Run We Are Your Friends to warm us up. It doesn't sound bad but it proves too much for me. The singer of the band doesn't have a bad voice but her way of singing is definitely not working for me and becomes annoying by the end. Also they try to use many rare percussion instruments but it sounds too forced. For me it's a long half hour.

But then the main act take the stage and it's clear from the start why I was so impressed the first time. They fly into it with great energy. Their instrumental songs are so powerful and the band members are bouncing around the stage. It is that combination of power and energy that really appeals to me. Their last album Gangs is full of those songs and they work perfectly well on stage too. Tracks of that new album, their self titled debut album and EP Letters are balanced around the set. The band is tight and they play their complicated compositions seemingly effortlessly.

The crowd looks a bit hesitant in the beginning but with a band that is putting so much into it it's impossible not to give in. So by the end every song is rewarded with a well deserved big round of applause and loud cheers. They look like a nice bunch of guys and guitar player Rory Friers is the one that is mostly chatting to the crowd. He's thankful when people are applauding and is praising the energy of the crowd. After the gig when I'm getting my CDs signed they take the time chatting to everyone and are thanking people for showing up. In the end everyone is leaving with a huge smile on their faces.

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2.Gang (Starting Never Stopping)
4.A Little Bit Of Solidarity Goes A Long Way
5.7 Billion People All Alive At Once
6.D Is For Django The Bastard
7.S Is For Salamander
8.Don't Waste Time Doing Things You Hate
9.Set Guitars To Kill
10.The Voiceless
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Monday 3 October 2011

The Seventh One Of Ladybug Transistor

The Ladybug Transistor are a group around Gary Olson who are making indie pop music. In general they are inconspicuous, easy listening songs and many won't ever have heard of this band. Yet they already have released six albums since 1995, but never managed to break through. In 2007 disaster struck with the death of drummer San Fadyl. Eventually they found a replacement and the band was reinforced with some new members. Now here's album number seven Clutching Stems.

The Ladybug Transistor - Clutching Stems (Ronald Says 5 out of 10)
And again they are relaxed pop tunes that are easily digested. The instruments and vocals are clear and the production is perfectly fine. Olson's vocals are sometimes vaguely reminding of Morrissey of The Smiths. The music however lacks courage and sharpness. It never gets exciting or are they trying something new. All tracks are complete songs, with a clear head and tail. But they are all written following the same recipe. With so many musicians in a band, you would expect more variation. But the arrangements and compositions are too easy and hardly noteworthy instead.

It does have some nice songs. 'Caught Don't Walk' has a pleasant horns part that makes it a bit different. 'Hey Jack I'm On Fire' has a change in tempo compared to most of the songs. But there are hardly any songs that stick out. And this makes the record quite weary and even boring after a few plays. Maybe nice to play in the supermarket, so no one will get annoyed, but hardly an album to put on at home to enjoy.

The seventh one of The Ladybug Transistor didn't turn into a new start. It's just the one of many volumes in a bouquet series. It's easy listening but with little to enjoy. It looks pretty tasteful on your plate, but in your mouth it turns out to be a tasteless bite. Maybe the band just hasn't anything more to offer. I don't think a break through will happen any time soon.

This review has been published on ROAR E-Zine in Dutch over here.

Listen to 'Cluthching Stems' on Spotify

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