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4 Music Reviews

The Capitol Years, Let Them Drink (Burn and Shiver Records)

Retro rock has seemingly been attacked from all sides lately, making it increasingly difficult to find a fresh angle. Still, bands like The Capitol Years are out there in the smoky fray, fighting the good rock fight, fiercely reincarnating The Stones and The Byrds by way of modern day garage-popsters like Sloan. The sneering yet melodic vocals, bluesy riffs and lovelorn lyrics on Let Them Drink make a good case for The Capitol Years' brand of bouncy, slickly-produced rawk. And certainly, the well-blended variety of regional styles (Detroit blooz-rock, NYC proto-punk, sunny California pop) and clean, measured production and performances go a long way toward setting the band apart from the pack. It's hard to believe scorchers like "Mounds of Money" and the Who-reminiscent "Solid Gold" wouldn't get the troops riled up in a dive bar. But in the end, The Capitol Years sound more like a cover band than an originals outfit. Ripping off Keith Moon's spastic drumming style here, appropriating Ringo Starr's plodding beats there - it's all too familiar, especially when the guitars combine to sound like John Lennon and the bass winds and jumps a rubbery path like John Entwistle. But like that milkshake you've had a hundred times before, it's also quite satisfying, especially when you're craving something solid and undeniably sweet. -- john wenzel

The Channel, self-titled (C-Side Records)

The Channel are driving across the country in an RV, high on sunshine - are you ready for them? Like an Elephant 6 collective that's been hiding out in the desert, The Channel play bright, larger-than-life pop-rock songs flavored with hints of country and psychedelia. They're psychedelic in the "lingering over melodies with blissful smiles on their faces", not in the spaced-out and silent sort of way. On their self-titled second album, The Channel deliver melodies and harmonies galore, along with a certain ramshackle, circus-like feeling of freedom and joy. They sound at times quite like a bunch of different California dreamers: Beulah, Grandaddy, Irving, the Beach Boys. Yet as far as I can tell they're not from California, and they definitely establish their own identity. There's more weight in The Channel's songs than their cotton-candy tunes sometimes suggest, right down to a fine closing cover of Bonnie "Prince" Billy's "Black." - dave heaton

Math and Physics Club, Weekends Away (Matinee)

Math and Physics Club's debut EP, Weekends Away is not going to turn heads for innovation. They have a shuffle similar to the Lucksmiths', a singer whose voice occasionally brings the Smiths to mind, and a sound that's exactly what's likely to come to mind whenever the phrase "indie-pop" is uttered. No, Math and Physics Club is not going to get your attention by sounding brand-new...but they are going to get your attention. The four songs here are warm and welcoming. In their lyrics -- which tell of first kisses, weekend road-trips, and daydreaming of what it'd be like to be famous -- there's an honesty about people and their lives that's affecting. That genuine feeling alone makes the songs feel special, but what's equally important is how gifted these musicians are at writing and playing songs. The melodies and arrangements are involving and pretty, and there's moments when everything combines to make your heart leap - like the moment near the end of "Sixteen and Pretty" when the music drops out and we're left with Charles Bert singing in a perfectly sensitive way about youthful hopes, about memories that are filled with longing. Weekends Away might seem somewhat typical at first glance, but in the end it will sweep you off your feet. - dave heaton

Psychon, Apocalypse Has Been Dubbed the Weekend Pill (Narrowminded/Scarcelight)

"Why is it that the landscape is moving?", someone asks during the first track on Psychon's album Apocalypse Has Been Dubbed the Weekend Pill. It's a pertinent question. Psychon's music - "electronic music" by genre but more inclusive than that suggests - takes twenty different paths at once, but makes them all sound like one. Just that first track, "King Backwards," has piano, acoustic guitar, children singing, synthesizer waves, and a variety of ever-changing beats. It sounds wild and joyous but also stately and pretty at the same time, and offers a genuine feeling of having transcended our landscape for another one. The whole album is just as exciting, yet the specific sounds and instruments change track to track. "Zoom at the Professors" jumps from an underground dance club to a Hawaiian beach and then to some netherworld in between, and that's just in the song's introduction before it even gets going, before the unleashed drums and future-rock riffs. Psychon approaches music no-holds-barred; one gets the sense that everything and anything is possible. The music feels like a landscape in motion, where sounds you think of as separate are now together. Yet it doesn't feel schizophrenic or chaotic in a detrimental way, more like a new frontier to take in and explore. - dave heaton


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