[Sidebar] April 26 - May 3, 2001
[Music Reviews]
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Random notes

Seratonin, Frown, and Ellyn Fleming

by Bob Gulla


OK, here are more of the reviews, as promised. But there's quite a bit going on around town -- which is good, right? -- so it was difficult to dedicate the entire space to reviews, which means I'll be squeezing them in here and there as space becomes available.

Seratonin: Uptake (Cosmodemonic Telegraph)

Let's face it: the Stonington-Mystic-New London axis in nearby Connecticut isn't exactly a hotbed of rock and roll (though we sorely miss the sweaty Reducers shows at the El 'n' Gee!).

So it comes with pleasure and some surprise to announce the arrival of a rather accomplished disc by area indie rockers Seratonin. Comprised of Rich Martin on bass, Mat Tarbox on vox, CJ Stankewich on guitar and Shawn Fake on drums, the band sounds at ease, like it hails from a rather understated, very un-rock place. Their songs are quiet but effective, without the obvious bluster of power chords or the aggressive qualities of so many of today's hard rock bands. In fact, you can tell they've spent a lot of time listening to bands like Luna, Yo La Tengo, and Spiritualized (a band they mention in the liner notes). They don't get too mopey like the former, and they don't quite delve into psychedelia like the latter, but they do enjoy an effervescently melodic middle ground, especially on songs like the disc-closing "Relapse" and the hushed but impacting "Cleopatra." Tarbox's voice complements the understatement nicely as does Stankewich's guitar playing. The arrangements and performances are minimal, tasteful, never overdone. A promising debut bold enough to be firmly indie rock. (hozomeen.org/ seratonin/audio.htm)

Frown: Wallghost (Stateless Records)

When (or if) you pick up the new Frown disc, don't discard the packaging. It's the only thing with any info on it. Once you rip off the plastic wrapper, you've got yourself a white cardboard digipack, blank on both sides. Open it up and you've got more white space on the left, and the disc, all silvery and such but with no wording or graphics, on the right. Empty. Strange. Which makes a reviewer feel just a little inadequate as he sets out to describe what's inside.

But then you spin the record and begin to realize why there's no information. It's a single 19-minute track, presumably called "Wallghost," a ripping monstrosity of feedback and tribal rhythms, squalling guitars and screaming aftertones, that could reflect the creativity of one or maybe a hundred different people. It sounds like the Melvins on a cranky day, the soundtrack to a snuff film as composed by Caspar Brotzmann, the accompaniment to a wilding spree headed by Melt Banana. Because I don't know more about it -- the Dr. Frankenstein behind the scree -- all I can do is provide you with impressions. And there you have them.

Ellyn Fleming: Naked and Alone (Part 1 & 2)

Over the years, local hero Ellyn Fleming has proven there isn't much she can't do when it comes to music. From hard rock to blues to contemplative folk, Fleming's tried her hand at it and, in more cases than not, excelled. Live, she's a firebomb, explosive, the kind of person who thrives and flourishes in front of an attentive audience. On Naked and Alone, Fleming tackles the more reflective side of her personality with a two-disc compendium of her acoustic music. Recorded at Joe Moody's Danger Studio, Naked and Alone features Fleming . . . err, alone with her songs, a tough place to be when the songs don't measure up. But then, as a singer and lyricist, Fleming has the confidence to pull off just about anything. Realistically, she could have whittled this beast down to a single disc and included only her best tracks, but no matter. Fans will eat it up. Songs like "Gettin' By" and "Face to Face" have the kind of universal appeal that make her a relatable and effective performer. In fact, that's why this project works as well as it does. Not only can she sing in key in almost all cases, her major key melodies and easily understood lyrics make her ultra-accessible. Whether she's torching the stage with hard rock or laying>

WANDERING EYE. The Becky Chace Band is performing for the benefit of the 1 of 52 Artist Hunger Network on Friday at the Call. A portion of the proceeds go to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, and folks get $1 off the cover if they bring non-perishable food donations to benefit the St. Francis Food Pantry. The Web-footed among you can check find details on 1 of 52 at members.aol.com/hungerzero.

Crazy Dame, a production company run by women for women headed by local crazy dame Spyce, will be serving up a women's music event also on Friday at the Safari Lounge, beginning at 9 p.m. Various genres of music will be presented, all men-less -- onstage, that is. The hairy ones can attend, certainly. The bill features Spyce, Serena Andrews, Allysen Callery, Amy Zimmitti, Sayaka Starlite, Christine Hajjar, and other special guests. As you know, entry to the Safari is free.

Occasional Purple Ivy Shadow Chris Daltry informs us of a 'Mericans show on Friday at the Green Room. Playing with them will be locals the Liverpool and a new Boston band called the Skating Club, featuring former local indie rocker Colin (Fly Seville, Godrays) Rhinesmith. No cover, good music.

Good news -- great news, in fact -- for Dropdead heads. On Saturday at the Living Room, the band is playing their 10th anniversary show! Yes, indeed, 10 long, bludgeoning, punk rock years. And with only one lineup change! Anyway, the show features a monster bill with a slew of bands, including Think I Care, Straight to Hell, Lightning Bolt, Arab On Radar, Rambo, Disassociate, and the Olneyville Sound System. Have a blast.

THIS JUST IN. Manny Silva of Holy Cow reports his band has signed a worldwide distribution deal with Neue Ästhetik Multimedia. N.A.M, a successful independent label that deals mostly with dark-wave and gothic bands, will be the exclusive distributor of Holy Cow's new disc, Purge (HC Records), as well as their back catalog. Congrats.

TO CATCH A THIEF. Bastards in suburban Philadelphia stole as much as $75,000 worth of guitars, musical equipment, and other items from Frank Black, forcing he and his Catholics to cancel two shows. The band's trailer and most of its musical equipment were stolen from a hotel parking lot. Fortunately, Black had insurance, but some of the vintage items are, of course, irreplaceable, including four '60s Telecasters. Folks with any information on the equipment theft can contact the Philly Police department or Black's label, What Are Records?, at (888) 281-1289.

And lastly, Pete Walsh of Meat Depressed provides us with a fitting tribute to rocker Joey Ramone, who died last week. "When I was in high school, I met the Ramones, and for some reason I've yet to understand, they decided they liked me and would put me on as many guest lists as I wanted. I went to see them so often I lost count. They are the only reason I (and every other punk rocker) play in a band. I've seen most of the punk bands past and present and there isn't one of them (us included) that on their best night could beat the Ramones at their worst."

Walsh is assembling a Ramones tribute show in Providence. Interested bands can contact him at goodcop_badcoppr@hotmail.com. Before doing so, include a list of five or six Ramones songs you'd like to play.

Bob Gulla can be reached at b_gulla@yahoo.com.

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