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Space Monkey – The Blackest Hole

Space Money - The Blackest Hole

The guys in Space Monkey will gladly tell you that they’re just a bunch of fun-loving, hard-rocking jackasses who like to have a good time and jam out – damn the results.  The guys in Space Monkey are full of shit.  They may love what they do and the music that they’re making, but something like “The Blackest Hole” isn’t something a group of drunks belch up after one too many bong hits – it’s crafted.

“Dark in Continents” sets the stage with a pounding, driving, gradually swelling build toward…what?  At its core, it’s a quasi-hardcore shredder that bleeds perfectly into “My Life, My Curse” with an unending stream of manic rage.  That’s when it starts becoming impossible to classify these guys, though, as in the midst of that brutal track comes a very non-hardcore breakdown that would sound completely out of place if it weren’t so completely perfect.  “Twisted Visions” is much the same, with that same mishmash of emotions (all dark, pissed off, and somehow beautiful).  Were those some old-school black metal influences in “Woeful Medina” and “Odessa”?

Just as you’re starting to grapple with the sound, “Infested Waters” comes along and really sets the stage, with a crazed mix of old-school black metal, hardcore, stoner rock, and thrash.  If you’re convinced that all of those sounds couldn’t work at the same time, check out “The Internal Flame”.  “Manic” stands alone, completely flipping the script with a sludgy stoner rock sound that the guys call back on “Smoke” – but “Manic” may be the standalone single.

There aren’t many bands anymore who still embrace the instrumental, but the guys in Space Monkey have never been shy about kicking your ass with straight up musicianship in their other bands, so they offer up “Gemini” here.  That said, it flows so seamlessly into “Odessa” and “The Internal Flame” that it doesn’t seem like an instrumental so much as it does the opening act to a sprawling epic that pulls the whole thing together and finishes in a way that really makes you wish it wasn’t finished.

Space Monkey – The Blackest Hole

Rating by Larry McCloskey: 4.5 stars
****1/2

The big things are what will make you listen: the blistering riffs, epic breakdowns, animal rage, and just straight up rocking that’s taking place.  But it’s the little things: the mixing, the arrangement of the tracks on the disc and the way they all feed into each other, and the way each transition moves from one segment of a track to the next that will stop you in your tracks and make you keep listening over and over again.  “The Blackest Hole” is many things to many people: it’s power, passion, and promise.  In short, it’s Cleveland metal.

CrashDollz – self-titled

CrashDollz CD cover

Remember when rocking out meant having fun? CrashDollz does.

“Dumpster Punk” sets the pace and tracks like “Sugar Rocket” (albeit a bit unfocused at times), “I Will Not Be Ignored” (even if the open does get a bit repetitive) and “Wrecking Ball” follow suit. This is funtime rock in the vein of those classic bands like Jackyl. You sort of knew you weren’t going to get sweeping epics and that some of the songs may have some warts, but that was sort of the point. This is music to drink to a scream along with at the bar. “Female Anarchy” has more of a throwback sound to it, a la The Sweet. That irreverent approach comes out as well through some underlying punk sensibilities in tracks like “27 Tulip Pass” and “Bad Taste Barbie”. Again, though, this is fun. Less Sex Pistols, more The Offspring.

That’s not to say that these gals (and guys) are a one trick pony. “Dollhouse” is a moody atmospheric mon ster that would stick out like a sore thumb if the song wasn’t so damn good on its own. It veers off into uncharted territory, but you don’t even mind because of the ride.

Does it all work? No. “Novocaine” is too smart for its own good, changing pace in the middle and coming across as forced, and “U.S. Punk Bombs” mistakes being under-produced for being raw. But that same rawness makes even the bad tracks work on some level because they play with a sort of garage band vibe.

CrashDollz

Rating by Larry McCloskey: 3.5 stars
***1/2

At its best, this album is raw and untamed, at its worst its unpolished and unfocused – throughout it is fun and visceral. Rock and roll used to be about fun and in the heyday of the 80s glam and sleaze scenes, it was one big party. These dollz are here to crash that party.

-Late

 

Dominique Persi of Stolen Babies

It’s rare to find a truly unique band these days, but Stolen Babies is one of them. LarryMac had the chance to meet with singer/accordion player Dominique Persi, to discuss the band, their history, their approach and their future.

LarryMac: Thanks for taking a moment from your preparations for us. For anybody who hasn’t had the chance to check you guys out yet, tell me about Stolen Babies.

Dominique Persi: We’re just an experimental rock band. We’ve had kind of a very long off and on band relationship with each other. We were in a theatrical band, we went our separate ways, got back together to make kind of a rock, metal band, went our separate ways again, came back together and then like 2002, we reformed again. I would say around 2005 is when it really gelled – everything came together. Did some touring in 2007-2008, went on a hiatus. And for the past year, we’ve just been touring. No parting of ways to be seen. I think we just needed to mature and realize how much we love doing it.

 

LM: Yeah, after three or four times you figure it was just meant to be and you should stop screwing around.

DP: That’s how you know it’s a good relationship, right?

 

LM: Tell me about Naught, which came out last year

DP: That was our second full-length album. That was the album coming back from the hiatus, so it’s pretty dark. It’s really a great representation of where we were at, at the time.

 

LM: You seem to have fun with your music. Do you find that, especially early on, people see you as a fun sort of joke band? Or that with a female singer and an accordion, you’re just a “gimmick” band?

DP: I’ve been playing accordion since high school. In one of those formations that I described earlier, when it was more like a rock/metal band, I didn’t want to play accordion, in that band, for that reason. I was playing accordion in other bands, I was in a New Wave polka band, and I liked having two separate identities: like “alright, I’m gonna play accordion in this band in these shitty dive bars and then Stolen Babies is gonna be this band that plays like the Roxy. Then one day I was like “I wanna be a serious writer, I really want to put all of myself into it and I just need to get over all of that shit and I just have to be myself”. I got over all of that and, it’s weird, I can’t really think like that anymore. The fact is that I know a lot of accordion players and they’re all amazing and I’m pretty shitty compared to most of them and we’re not necessarily the kind of music that I see, the friends that I know, the people I know, the bands that do a lot of more acoustic, gypsy, bluegrass, bluesy – this is a different accordion context and it’s not overkill…hopefully not…and it’s just the only instrument that I could contribute to the band.

 

LM: You’ve played with Lacuna Coil and Otep now. Who would you like to hit the road with? Who’s on your bucket list?

DP: I think, by now, I probably should have mastered this question. And I think my way of mastering it is saying “I don’t know, I can’t say”. First and foremost, I would just say cool people, bands that we like, people that we like and that obviously have some type of draw. People that we like, not douchebags.

 

LM: You’re one of the more “innovative” bands out there, what’s your advice to other bands starting out that don’t fit into a genre?

DP: It’s hard, when you don’t fit into a genre. But if you’re doing it because you NEED to do it, because you’ll go crazy if you don’t, then do it and just don’t give a shit. It’s always going to be hard, but if you’re doing it for yourself then no matter what anyone says, it’s not going to matter. Because the truth hurts, but when people are wrong, it’s laughable.

 

LM: I saw you in another interview and you noted that, with “Push Button”, you set the bar kind of high for your videos. “Second Sleep” didn’t disappoint at all, that was a cool video, too. Do you feel like there’s pressure on you to keep “upping the ante” each time?

DP: Pressure from ourselves. I don’t know what other people expect, but there is a pressure on yourself in the truest way that you can, within your means and beyond. So, yeah, there’s pressure because you just want to keep improving, moving forward, you don’t want to be stagnant. You don’t want to fall into a cliché like “oh, that’s what I expected them to do – there’s a dancing hamster, I knew that was coming”.

 

LM: Speaking of moving forward, what’s next for Stolen Babies?

DP: Well, this tour still has like a month left. So, in the near future, it’s doing this tour. After that, we’re talking about releasing an EP, before the next album, just to get something out there because it’s been a year. But no plans that have been booked, but we do plan on touring, we want to tour, it’s something that we feel is very important because a lot of people won’t necessarily get us until they see us live.

10.11.2013: Something Involving A Monkey, Lydia Can’t Breathe, New Years Day, Stolen Babies & Otep @ Peabody’s

Stolen Babies live group shot

As one of Cleveland’s premiere concert venues winds down its run, Peabody’s has decided to go out with a bang – a solid month of great shows for the Cleveland faithful. Friday’s show was certainly no exception.

The place was packed pretty much as soon as the door opened on this night. A quick conga line later, Something Involving A Monkey was working their magic in the Pirate’s Cove. If you’ve been living under a rock, SIAM is Cleveland’s latest (and arguably greatest) experimental rock outfit. With an eccentric mix of rock, roll and insanity, this a three-man outfit that knows how to get the bang out of their buck. One need look no further than their cover of “Mexican Radio”, which they make all their own with the addition of the kazoo. For fans of bands like Mr. Bungle and Primus, Something Involving A Monkey is something that you NEED to check out – preferably live, as they put on a hell of a show.

A quick move back over to the main stage caught Lydia Can’t Breathe in the middle of their set. At first listen, these guys seemed like a pretty wild power metal outfit – until their next song started. In fact, Lydia Can’t Breathe is all over the metal map and is probably best described as “fun metal”. They rock out along the lines of Between The Buried & Me and they have fun doing it. Irreverent and at times caustic, they mixed up their set with a mix of borderline power ballads, punk, power rock and an inflatable whale – while discussing the merits of a diet of peanut butte & jelly sandwiches. Playing a bit more “straight” than SIAM, LCB is cut from the same sort of cloth nonetheless and is definitely a band to check out if you like your metal a little less depressing and serious than most.

New Years Day was next and started off the “girl power” portion of the evening with some female-fronted rock. They’re clearly gothic, but without the melancholy – they make it fun, like a late night rave in a cemetery. I’ll admit, at first glance, I was set to dismiss them as another Marilyn Manson wannabe band, but with the possible exception of their look, they’ve got nothing to do with that whole scene. They take the gothic look and infuse it with an L.A. sleeze mentality making them one of the better “party bands” I’ve seen in a while because they do it with style instead of the same tired choruses of boozing and partying. They take that high energy and juxtapose it with macabre lyrics and somehow make the two work together.

I’m not going to lie: I’ve seen Something Involving A Monkey a lot of times over the last couple years and I had never heard of Lydia Can’t Breathe – I was there to see Stolen Babies. Stolen Babies are a three-piece that has taken the experimental rock scene by storm. With one of the more accomplished (and underrated) drummers out there, a solid (if sadly overlooked) guitarist and an accordion-playing chantreuse, what’s not to like? Stolen Babies are easy to dismiss as a gimmick band, but doing so would be unfortunate. They take a pretty solid rock foundation and infuse it with influences ranging from punk to prog to dare I say folk music. The results are nothing short of spectacular. They’ve existed off and on in various forms for years but that on-again, off-again lineage has only helped them evolve into what they are now. They have a little something to offer to just about everybody. They can rock as hard as anybody but can tone it down and enchant you just as easily. There aren’t a lot of bands out there today like Stolen Babies – they’re unique – and in today’s music scene, I can’t think of higher praise.

The place was rocking all night long and this was a show where everybody really seemed to like just about every band that played. Then Otep took the stage and it was clear who the people had come to see. Otep has been all over the musical map lately – Hydra and Atavist are a far cry from Ascension, for instance – but somehow is able to streamline the sound and make it all work together. Loud, proud and in-your-face, Otep stormed the stage and tore through a set of mostly the newer material, full of seething rage and power. Little of the gothic-era stuff seems to remain, but somehow there’s that underlying nu-metal current even while hammering away with some of the most brutal beats this side of Sepultura. Otep has said that Hydra will be the last album, but we’ll see – on this night, at least, there didn’t seem to be any signs of letting up.

-Late

 

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