Burden Brothers, Mercy
The Burden Brothers are the creation of one of modern rock's great voices – Toadies' Vaden Todd Lewis – and drummer Taz Bentley, formerly of the Reverend Horton Heat. With a supporting cast of guitar-slingers, they've put out a nearly hour long CD that, unlike many such productions, doesn't get tired halfway through.
Opening with the spooky, Beatle-esque "It's Time," the CD charges ahead with the Foo Fighters-style screamer "Shine" and the infectious, almost old-fashioned melodiousness of "Still." The angst-laden "Everybody Is Easy" is superior, catchy rock despite its vague lyrics.
The polyrhythmic "Trick of Logic," the ballad "Life Between," the Nirvana-inspired "Good Night From Chicago," and the grim "Daughter of Science" all further the story – each song has its own flavor, so the ear never gets tired. The titanic "I Am a Cancer" plunges into heavy metal gloom, and when, in "In My Sky," Lewis grammarlessly screams, "You and me can slip away at last tonight/I can see your stars are shining in my sky," the combination of primal yell with romantic words lays bare the heart of the album. "On Our Own" then tells the other side: "Just wave as you roll past my cloud/We’re all on our own now." But our hero is still wishing on a star. The song has an elegiac quality to it, and seems a natural end to the CD – but two of the best tracks remain.
The thrumming, roiling love song "Oh, Cecilia" couches sentiments of longing in alternately warbling and harsh guitars. "Liberated," a memorable declaration of freedom (with a caveat about high gas prices), is a near-perfect midtempo rock song, earning its full six minutes with a muscled vocal/instrumental hook.
Every track on the CD is worth hearing. Stellar songwriting, crisp but heavy production, and Lewis's roadkill vocals make this one of the year's top rock albums. Its fifteen tracks make a major statement: rock can still rock.
Caddle, Raise 'Em High
Alt.country? Dixie fried roots-rock? Southern boogie-rock skullabilly? Whatever you call Caddle, the Birmingham, Alabama band's debut CD is spring-loaded with southern-rock energy. Think back to the Georgia Satellites, or even Lynyrd Skynyrd, but add a bit of punk crunch and a touch of Big-and-Rich buffoonery.
A chinkling banjo enlivens the humor in the hard-rocking "Better Bad." ("She's got a wiggle and walks with a grin/Where she stops I begin…When she's good she's really bad but when she's bad she's better.") The openers, "Mississippi Doublewide" and "Work," are raucous, defiantly high-spirited blue-collar anthems whose minimalist choruses represent the bleakness of the working man's life. "Stay With Me" shows that the band is handy with a sad love song, too.
But Caddle's overriding theme is much more serious: drinking in bars. The narrator of "Afternoon Lies" is a bar owner, in fact: "The sun never shines on the inside of this bar of mine/The beer is cold and the stories told are sure to blow your mind." The title track says it best: "Money's leavin' but I'm staying/Sling another drink to me/Party till it's morning/Baby what's your sign?/Daddy's got a brand new bag/Livin' on a dime."
The CD is a very enjoyable ride. It might have one power ballad too many, although "Give Me A Dollar" is a fine one – guess what he needs the dollar for? (Hint: it has flashing lights, it's often found in a bar, and it plays music.) So, in spite of a slight sag in the center, Caddle's debut – unlike the protagonists in most of the songs – comes up a big winner.
Extended clips can be heard here.
D'Haene, Brother Man
D'Haene merges soulful, lived-in vocals with funky guitar and hard rock riffs. In spite of a '70s classic rock influence, the mixing of genres and the wry, intelligent lyrics make the disc sound modern.
One minute you'll be reminded of Randy Newman, the next of Blue Oyster Cult, then you're grooving to some funk-jam band at a hygiene-deficient festival in upstate New York. Sometimes these shifts occur within a single song. "Feelin' Human," which, at just over five minutes, is of average length for this CD, is a mini-sonata, something like the early Who or Elton John might have done.
Bob D'Haene's voice isn't always up to the ambitions of his music, but the CD has a number of strong points. Extended clips can be heard here.
NEWS ABOUT NOTES: Copeland, a band Blogcritics has been all over (here, here, and here, at least), has signed with Columbia Records. The band's new CD, Eat, Sleep, Repeat, entered the Billboard Top 200 best-selling albums chart at #90. The band is currently on tour with The Appleseed Cast.
When a band we've covered here at the Indie Round-Up jumps to a major label, we have to stop talking about them. So let's listen to some Caddle while we break open a six-pack and send Copeland off into the world of, we hope, bigger and bigger success.