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CD Reviews – April 2014

THE SEMI-SUPERVILLAINS – TRICKS (no label) Formed at Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University in 2010, the Semi-Supervillains deliver a vigorous, garage-rocking wallop on their first full-length CD, Tricks. The band’s nucleus of founder, singer, guitarist and keyboardist Vinnie Longhi and bassist Ron Rekowski team with several drummers and noted producer/multi-instrumentalist Rick Witkowski to lay down a raucous, guitar-fueled garage rock sound. The group’s style displays the go-for-broke demeanor of Jet or White Stripes, but also captures the spirit of classic ‘60s-era garage rockers like the Kingsmen, Kinks and early Who. The disc’s 11 songs are compact, with catchy hooks and to-the-point melodies; providing the backdrops for Longhi’s lyrical odes to boy-meets-girl ups and downs. The Semi-Supervillains offer four quality textbook crash-bang-wallop guitar-rock exercises to launch the album; the disc-opening title track “Tricks,” “Magic Touch,” “Black Letter” and “Learned My Lesson”; and stomp hard on the crunchy “Trolls.” They accelerate to punk-like velocity on “Come On Pain Give Me Sympathy” and the disc-finisher “Start the Show,” and provide infectious ska chops on “Right for All.” The group crafts a catchy R&B-like pop melody on “Fool for You,” taps a McCoys “Hang On Sloopy” vibe with the playful “She Put a Spell on Me,” and belts out a convincing doo-wop ballad on “Say the Word.” The Semi-Supersonics deliver all of it with a caution-to-the-wind velocity and abundant enthusiasm; yet the execution is airtight and dead-on. Longhi’s vocals are playful and tuneful, yet capable of going off the deep end at any moment. Witkowski’s studio finish enables The Semi-Supervillains to sound sharp and edgy, yet polished and radio-ready. No trickery involved, Tricks delivers a refreshing, awakening garage-rocking slap to the cranium, and The Semi-Supervillains provide a stripped-down, fun and raucous listen. (The CD can be obtained through the group’s Reverbnation website, www.reverbnation.com/semisupervillains.)

 

WE CAME FROM SPACE – HOW TO BE HUMAN (no label) We Came From Space arrived on Earth last year, channeling the talents of four seasoned veterans of the west-central PA music scene: Ten Till Destiny/ApologetiX guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Bill Hubauer, former Ask A Stranger guitarist Dave Buzard, bassist Mike Kurtz and drummer Bret Talbert. We Came From Space bears a gift to mankind, their 12-song debut album, How to Be Human. The group brews up a varied stew of sounds through the album’s course; the primary flavor is melodic, progressive-minded ‘70s and ‘80s-era rock of the Yes, Kansas and Styx variety, but elements of worldbeat, jazz, techno, punk, dark modern rock and other ingredients mix in as well. Each song is distinctive, with the group’s thread of inventive, rocking musicianship tying the set into a unified whole. Using clever wordplays and touches of sarcastic humor, the group’s song themes largely involve surviving and coping with humanity and the modern world. Setting a hopeful and futuristic tone in the opening seconds, “Solar Powered Sun” uses a jumpy ‘80s new wave vibe to kickstart the album with a message of unity for mankind. Riding a futuristic techno-rock arrangement, the title song “How to Be Human” establishes its infectious groove quickly, before professing a lyrical blueprint for living life. Credit advice is somewhat offered on the harder-rocking “Cat Caught Rat,” and with its hints of Steely Dan jazz-rock fusion, “The Grand Pantaloon” gives hope to the societal buffoon. “Here on the Outside” channels worldbeat flourishes, the post-split taunt “Wish This on You” evolves into a jam-laden homestretch, and the abrupt “The Pledge” dabbles in Iggy Stooge-toned punk rock. “Reality Dissolved” merges dark modern rock tones with a Middle-Eastern vibe, and the introspective “Waterline (Change Within)” sounds like a missing Tommy Shaw outtake from Styx’s Equinox/The Grand Illusion period. We Came From Space’s melodies are catchy and clever, and often detailed and elaborate. The vocals are clean and on target, and the group’s chorus harmonies often recall classic Styx and early ‘80s-era Yes. Their musicianship is dazzling; the arrangements are colorful and varied, and each band member’s contributions comfortably fit, serve and supplement the melodies. The mix is clean, tight, and given enough polish to sound smooth without dulling the group’s adventurous edge. How to Be Human offers a stellar set of intelligent, innovative songcraft; We Came From Space’s first sonic alien invasion is a welcome treat for human ears everywhere. (The album can be obtained through iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/how-to-be-human/id762523990.)

 

MODERN COLOUR – MODERN COLOUR (no label) Philadelphia’s Modern Colour first surfaced in 2011, offering their own variation on classic-flavored blues rock. Their self-titled sophomore recording introduces listeners to seven boisterous, blues-infused rockers with some interesting variations along the way. The group’s base sound recalls the hard-rocking soulful edge of classic Robin Trower, the funkier side of Black Crowes, and the heavy blues thunder of Kenny Wayne Shepherd. The battery of drummer Tom Weir and bassist Chris Boyle anchors Modern Colour’s sound with powerful, erupting rhythms; while guitarist/frontman Stephan Sirochman delivers crashing chords, stinging solos and soaring, soulful vocals. The songs each demonstrate sharp, catchy hooks and melodies, with the band’s abundant firepower driving them forward full force. The disc-opener “Can’t Hide,” “Love to Hate” and the disc-closer “The Setback” rock full-tilt with almost reckless abandon. “Come Down” filters a Motown-like beat into a driving, rowdy rhythm. “Mercury” rides along Boyle’s particularly beefy bass riff and Weir’s drum thunder. “J.B. Walkin’” and “Shoot from the Hip” both suggest Victim of the Fury-era Robin Trower with their distillation of soulful swagger and blues-rooted crunch. The performances are vibrant and enthusiastic, and Sirochman’s voice rises to the challenge of each song, often pushing to the emotional brink. Ron DiSilvestro’s production and mix gives Modern Colour’s presentation a deep fullness that makes listeners almost forget that this is a trio; yet all three musicians individually shine while serving the songs’ tight arrangements. Blues-rock connoisseurs should take note of Modern Colour; this EP serves notice that this group has the goods to command some attention. (The CD can be obtained from CDBaby.com, or through the group’s website, www.moderncolourmusic.com.)

 

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