BRAIN CYCLES - Radio Moscow (Alive)
If the opening squall of Parker Griggs' paint-stripper lead guitar on opening cut "I Just Don't Know" doesn't tell you something significant about the shit that passes for high-rotation-programmed-within-a-centimetre-of-its-sad-existence commercial radio these days, go to the back of the class. You were off playing ABBA records in the home economics kitchen when the teacher broke out the sacrament and gave the rest of the class the lesson in Hendrix 101. Major Fail.
To be accurate, Griggs doesn't slavishly replicate Jimi's distinctive overdriven tone and wah-wah wonderment across these 10 bluesy tunes, but he's batting in the same ballpark and hitting home run after home run for the six string team regardless. Except for the "Voodo Chile" rip in "Hold On Me", it's actually his vocal that sounds most like Hendrix (cock an ear to "No Jane" for a dose of "Electric Loudland") but who's going to split (Afro) hairs about which guitar lick, lead-run and trill most resembles the output of which '70s guitar hero when it all sounds this excessively good? It's like "461 Ocean Boulevard" never existed.
This is not the music (term used under advisement) that you'll hear leaking out of ill-fitting iPod earbuds on the peak-hour train. Take that as a recommendation. Sanity can only stand so much tinny breaks or arrant rap crap on the 7.42am to Dull City. The eight-minute-plus "No Good Woman" even dares to trade in that most outdated of currencies, The Drum Solo. Far from being The Death Of Us All, the indulgence slots right in.
It's a statement of the obvious that Griggs' quicksilver fretwork and frenetic, stuttering drums are all over "Brain Cycles." Bassist Zach Anderson goes along for the ride and pours hot asphalt into all the right potholes. Two people haven't made this much noise together since Pamela and Tommy made their home movie. At least you can play this in front of the kids.
The thunderous, acid-drenched blare of the title track might be a bigger downer than an early start on a Tuesday morning after a massive long weekend of partying, but it tastes much better than antacid and Red Bull for breakfast.
Only "Black Boot" manages to interrupt the barrage of raw and righteous '70s rawk - and that's to dip the toe in the water of bluegrass - but the follow-up of "City Lights" gets us back on track. Sure beats "That '70s Show" for rear vision entertainment.
One of the best trips I've taken in 1969, sorry, 2009. - The Barman
RADIO MOSCOW - Radio Moscow (Alive)
Whether by design or accident, Cream is written all over this debut album by Iowa duo (read: 20-something-year-old guitarist Parker Griggs and a string of musical partner/s) Radio Moscow. Be it in the extended solos, inventive basslines or mellow yet soulful vocal, this stuff doesn't so much imitate the Brit power trio but recall it with its own updated spin. Make mine psych blues with a wah wah twist.
There 10 tracks here and most clock in at around four-and-a-half minutes or thereabouts. Guitarist and vocalist Griggs and bassist Luke McDuff recorded the tracks with multi-tracked drums from the former.
The story goes that the pair relocated to Colorado in search of drummers McDuff without a lot of success, had their demo's noticed by Alive talent scout Dan Auerbach and laid down the album proper before McDuff bailed to go back to college. Griggs recruited a replacement (and a drummer for live work) and the beat goes on.
On to the album. Chunky, psych rock blues. It's not innovative but it is the stuff that should be blazing out of radios all over the developed world. "Radio Moscow" is not the tour de force that was "Disraeli Gears" and nor is it as beholden to the blues masters as E.C. and Co were in their heyday, but in a world where 99 percent of these jams take some beating.
At times, Griggs' favourite words in the world appear to be "wah" and "wah" so if you're not into expansive soloing on almost every track, look elsewhere. On the other hand, if you're happy with expressive guitarwork that sometimes makes Neil Young sound economical, you'll be as happy as a pig in poo.
Melody? Hooks don't exactly hang heavy in the air and a cut like "Deep Blue Sea" is as standard a blues work-out as anything you're likely to hear on a contemporary record but sometimes both those shortcomings can be strengths. Exhibit A is right here. "Ordovician Fauna" is the exception to the rule with its finger-plucked Eastern modalities. Ravi Shankir, anyone?
Did I mention Auerbach's production is clear and crisp? I will now.
Bluesheads will lap it up. Guitar psych fans too. Word is a second album is in the pipeline. It'll be interesting to see where that one goes. - The Barman
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