The Way Live Should Be

Your source for show and CD reviews, festival previews, and interviews with your favorite artists playing around New England and beyond!

Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Running Gags’ new album Yeah, No; Review # 3 from our list of 5 2012 Albums by Maine Artists You Must Own!

5 2012 Albums by Maine Artists you should own:

Sandbag; Sloppy Jays (read our album review here!)

Line of Force; Symbiotic (read our album review here!)

Running Gags; Yeah, No

Ill By Instinct; Second Wind

Restless Groove; Self-Title EP

There has been a lot written about the Running Gags’ new album Yeah, No already, so we will try to keep our review short and to the point. The album has been called genre-hopping and generally seems to be regarded by reviewers as having musical split personalities. Dispatch writers have gone so far as to say,

“I’m not saying that The Running Gags have to find a box and stay within the boundaries of it, but it would be nice if they knew which box fit them best and in what general vicinity that box was located.”

… but then followed that up with;

“There is overwhelming potential on display but it is clouded by genre hopping and I think, on some level, a lack of nailing down what the band is supposed to be.”

While it is true that each song on the album tends to differ in its influences and style references; it is not to say there is no cohesion to the album. A personal need for a band to figure out what they are “supposed to be” is just that; one individual’s personal, media influenced need (music wasn’t so rigorously placed within specific genres until record companies needed to define a language to make marketing easier). What the Gags are offering is original and unique for its intense musical excellence regardless of what style of music they play. Yeah, No will not appease a music listener who wants a continuous and similar song to song feel. Rather, the music listener who will appreciate and enjoy the Running Gags, and this album specifically, is that individual with a wide array of musical preferences and whose main requirement is technical skill and creativity. The Gags have that aplenty. If you appreciate a musical group that can offer you several different facets of themselves with each facet as honed and fulfilled as the last, then the Yeah, No is the album for you.

With that little rant aside, Yeah, No has clear punk, pop, and rock influences with some ska and reggae references mixed in. I do feel this album was meant to be an introduction for listeners to the full range and potential of the Gags; a sort of declaration of their abilities. I found the album energizing and exciting; the first time I ever heard the Running Gags I thought they had a lot of classier 90’s influences (we first wrote about them in 2010! Check it out here). Over the years they have grown significantly and left some of that 90’s style behind for a more full and heavier overall sound. Yeah, No features this perfectly; on the album the band offers the listener an extremely well crafted snapshot of their current stage in their life as the Running Gags. Yet one can tell they don’t take themselves too seriously; the music communicates a level of fun, creativity, humor, and potential that leaves me without a doubt that they will continue to evolve and always be offering their audience some totally new part of themselves. One of the Gag’s greatest qualities is that there is so much technical skill, difference in musical inspiration, and drive behind each member of the group and yet simultaneously so much cohesion in the band as a single functioning unit. These guys are going to continue to offer excellent and unique material throughout their career; so buy the ticket and take the ride!

Buy the album here!

The Running Gags have shows lined up in Portland, Waterville, Naples, and even Manchester, NH! Check out their schedule here! Make sure to catch them when they open for the Rustic Overtones in September at Titcomb Mountain in Farmington, ME!!

Favorite Songs:

Mr. Invincible; has some of the most rocking bass and guitar lines, also very catchy.

Too Loud; this song is a Rager, has some awesome layering of vocals  and really features the tight skills of the drummer throughout.

OMKAJ; this song, along with Just A Tree, features some excellent saxophone. This song is an a rollercoaster jam session and just overall fantastic.

Neat Fact about the Gags: If you have never seen them before; we have always been impressed by the fact that the “guitarist” and “bassist” switch rolls constantly depending on which song they are playing!

For a more song by song assessment of Yeah, No check out the Maine Campus’ review here.

Also, Dispatch’s review is here.

-Heather

Line of Force’s new album Symbiotic; Review # 2 from our list of 5 2012 Albums by Maine Artists You Must Own!

5 2012 Albums by Maine Artists you should own:

Sandbag; Sloppy Jays (read our album review here!)

Line of Force; Symbiotic

Running Gags; Yeah, No

Ill By Instinct; Second Wind

Restless Groove; Self-Title EP

Line of Force’s new album Symbiotic is a celebration of life, pure and simple. The main reason you should own this album is for the good feelings it will bring minus the fluff and poppy sounds so typical of the “feel good genre”. Symbiotic really brings a level of positivity, thankfulness, and awareness that left me feeling uplifted. This album is loaded with instrumentality that evokes good feelings and good times. Yet it is not simplistic or overly lighthearted; the music has a definitive mature, serious sound that balances the positivity that is inherent in Line of Force’s style. Although this group is not one that cycles through extended, face melting solos; still I found myself shaking my head at various points throughout the album at the level and quality of musicianship. Placing this group in a genre is difficult; there are jamband, soul, funk, blues and jazz influences spread throughout. One of my favorite aspects is the clear Tom Waits influence to the vocal style; especially noticeable in Track 6; Us Against Them.

It is hard to isolate what separates Line of Force from other bands I have heard. Certain riffs and tracks definitely remind me of your average festival band; the upbeat tempo and light hearted guitar contribute a lot to that association. However, I think the intelligent lyrics,  instrumental skill, elevated horn/sax and the tendency throughout for multiple simultaneous and back up vocalists give the album a spiritual cast that conveys a lot of forethought and craftsmanship. Themes of gratitude, love, and coming together strongly support my initial impressions. Take the song Just Be; the song is simultaneously high energy, uplifted, and rough at the edges (in a good way… its in the lead vocals).

I have to take a second and share the band’s description from their facebook page, it really helps capture what I am trying to share with you:

“We were born of the notion that much of what you hear on the radio is utter crap, distracting you from the notion that you are composed of radiant beams of light and the creators of untold alternate realities. We have come to listen and unfold new and better realities with you…”

This is exactly what Line of Force is; they convey their passion for the true potential in each one of us through their music as clear as if they were yelling it at you. Instead, they turn it into sweet, sweet music and communicate directly to your soul.

The album starts very upbeat, but gradually gets more serious and slightly heavier (in theme) the deeper you get in; peaking with Us Against Them, the most Tom Waits influenced of all the tracks in vocals and tempo. The final four songs are quite a bit slower, yet the decrease in tempo and the prettiness of these songs really works for the album as a well developed composition. My only complaint about Symbiotic is the final song (All My Life); it leaves the listener with a slight sense of discord and lack of balance,  a feeling that seems out of place compared to the rest of the album despite the song’s relative strength as an individual composition. However, Symbiotic is a fantastic album that will really appeal to individuals who normally may not get into that jam-soul style.

Buy Symbiotic from Bull Moose Music here or at your nearest store!! Keep your eye out for our next review of a Maine made album you should own; Yeah, No from the Running Gags!

 Symbiotic Track Listing

Come On: Strong jamband and funk influences, this song is a perfect intro song. Come On is very fun and uplifting.

Troopin’: Similar to Come On in overall feel, but more intricate and featuring some extra elevated musicianship.

Gratitude: One of my favorites; fantastic saxophone and backup vocals really make this song stand out. The theme of thankfulness and inner strength is very compelling.

Just Be: Featuring some higher energy rock and funk influences, this song is very high energy and also polished.

Jefferson’s Blues: As the name implies, this track is a bit bluesy and features some great gruff vocals and fantastic brass.

Us Against Them: My top favorite for its obvious Tom Waits influence, but still keeping in with that unique Line of Force style. Additionally, the subject matter is really interesting (see below)

Ostrich: A really gorgeous song about “pulling my head out of the sand”; strong themes of maturing and overcoming personal struggles.

The Key: A slow tempo, pretty song discussing unity and oneness.

Symbiotic: This song starts off slow, but builds in intensity and is a strong title track. I feel as if this would have made a good final song.

All My Life: A very slow track, not my favorite, but still a strong composition.

Us Against Them lyrics:

I’m not too broken up no more
bout guns or drugs or games
or the man’s tired old and feeble lies
bout from where and from whence they came
I can see right through the blares and glares
of a media long lost in the static in the air
and I don’t want none of the circling cycle
repeating the same verse again
yet I write and I blather and sit on my ass
until the sword is mightier than the pen
i’m more interested in retribution a grand redistribution
of the billions of stolen moments of lovers that have
gone to the angry maw of the machine
I’m more interested in the sanctity of a kiss

I’m not too broken up about all the broken families
who’ve been bloodied for generations
by a perpetually funded and preconceived notion
that it’s a pertinent game of ‘us against them’
and even now I’m on the hunt for the next stolen moment
from the work/tax/kill situation
in a superfluous attempt to escape the onslaught
of information over time and exponential increases in ‘us against them’
i will sit by my window and listen
listen
listen
to the cycle the circle the undivide
the beginning the middle the ride

i’m not too tired to respect
what is given and taken away
or to forgive the man and his lies
for breaking the family and robbing the grave
i’m done with the mediocrity of the mediocracy
that celebrates the divine in the cheap
I’m done with it eating me up from behind
as my protest becomes the method of enslavement
and I’m done bustin my hump just to finance the pump
and bigger and shittier pavement

I’m more interested in gardens and grapes and joy
not yet gone to the angry maw of the machine
I’m more interested in the sanctity of forgiveness
I’m more into devising an inaction uprising
that chooses not to participate in the game
to take down the notion of mindless devotion
to a ’cause’ that is ‘us against them’
right now let us prowl look around you now
and find somebody to love
in a last ditch attempt to forget our bodies exist
and eradicate ‘us against them’

-Heather

Sandbag’s New Album Sloppy Jays; the first in our list of 5 2012 Albums by Maine Artists You Must Own!

5 2012 Albums by Maine Artists you should own:

Sandbag; Sloppy Jays

Line of Force; Symbiotic

Running Gags; Yeah, No

Ill By Instinct; Second Wind

Restless Groove; Self-Title EP

The first album in our 2012 “Albums from Maine Artists You Should Own” list is Sandbag’s Sloppy Jays. It is named for the two producers that worked on the album; Slop and Jay Caron. Additionally, the album features the vocals of Kristina Kentigian on the track Mundane Lives.

Of the two prior albums I have heard from Sandbag (Rappers Are Emotional and the mix tape, Pay Attention; available for free download here) this album really demonstrates the potential and skill of the group; not just as a Maine hip-hop group, but as eclectic and intellectual musicians. The best bands lead you to discover other talented artists and Sandbag does not fail to offer that key element.

Sloppy Jays, more than their two prior releases, sounds truly complete. It stands on its own as a creation, to some extent, separate from the band. Sloppy Jays is essentially greater than the sum of its parts. If you are a Sandbag veteran, familiar with Rappers Are Emotional and Pay Attention like we are, then perhaps you will at first be taken aback by the raw emotionality that is more evident on this album than in the past.. One could argue that the ratio of emotional and relationship commentary to political, social, and philosophical analysis is higher on this album than on the prior two. Although at first I wasn’t sure how I felt about the increased emotional element, the more I listen to the album the more I love it exactly as it is. I think it is important, as a music fan, to recognize when our passion for a specific aspect of a musical group keeps us from evolving with the artist in question; inhibiting us from recognizing the strengths in their change and growth.

Growth is definitely a key aspect of Sloppy Jays. This likely is in part due to the influence of the two producers. The song to song flow is spot on, and far surpasses that of either of the former albums. Additionally, each individual song sounds perfectly composed down to the artful, instrumental beats, the choruses, the secession and synchronism of the four emcees, and even the vocals seem better matched to the beats themselves. A phenomenal example of this is the song M.Y.O.B.

This is not to argue that each prior album is not absolutely awesome. We are huge Sandbag fans, the intellectual and enlightened lyrics are like old friends; blunt, honest, challenging our preconceptions, and still oddly comforting.  If one only listens, they could easily find several common themes many of us could identify with; struggling with the status quo, struggling to “succeed”, societal oppression, and the role of people power. Specifically though, Sloppy Jays brings the best overall sound experience of any of the Sandbag albums so far.

Sloppy Jays is available at Bull Moose Music and should soon by downloadable via Itunes. Keep your eye on the Sandbag facebook page for more information! Also, keep an eye out for our reviews of the other 4 albums on our list; coming soon!

Track Listing:

Intro

Well Laid Plan: “We wrote this so you would take notice” a sort of treatise on the power inherent in the Sandbag crew.

That Was Then: A short history of the individual members, an introduction to their love of hip-hop and the history of the band as a whole.

Book of Verse: One of our favorites; lots of heavy lyrics addressing the questionable integrity of popular music and questioning the potential for more legitimate artists.

Playmate: An interesting perspective into what it may feel like to be in the public eye, primarily about females… or a specific female.

M. Y. O. B. : Mind Your Own Business… one of our favorite tracks for its overall perfection. A track that delves deeper into the idea of constantly being in the public eye and encouraging people to, well, MYOB.

Forgive (Forget): Another more emotional song regarding relationships.

Mudane Lives ft. Kristina Kentigian: We really enjoy Kentigian’s vocals in this song, they make it really full and complete; the song is important to the success of the album as a whole. A definite favorite for its subject matter; themes that most creative or intellectual individuals trying to make their way through human society can identify with.

Downward Spiral: A perfect concluding track discussing judgment, deeper meanings of life, and final reckonings. Where can this crazy human existence be headed?

Flat Trumpets: This song is harder to summarize; some themes include inner strength, insanity of human society, and personal struggles.

Some of our favorite excerpts:

We write rhymes to right wrongs, bygones are bygones, but I’m gone with no retrieval, medieval dark ages, contagious thoughts breaking,  restraints at the round table, sound save you, play for the imaginations make for a new breakthrough, disdainful cause painful regret and false label, Strip the page through for the faithful like sacred songs of angles that we play you.

Got that inner focus so it isn’t hopeless, doing my thing to little or no notice, I’m less concerned with the outcome than the motives.

Small world still so many suffer, earth’s mother
Must we heed these sins, and take back our land?
Stand firm demand answers of the faculties of man?
3 bodies of the government, souless husks
Of a ponzi-scheme heirarchy going bust

Yea I’m in this rat race, I’m praying that I’m at least a tortoise, I’m at my poorest just to live in a house owned by corporate bank investor lobbyists with an American dream portrait, but as I gripe I think of the less fortunate, from the hungry to our soldiers being sent to wars for shit , pretending I know what horror is but I could never understand the mental baggage of shooting some armed foreign kid.

I just brave what I hate and I see what life has to offer.

Isaac Newton I’m assuming, is natural law defined by the guy that proves it?, that cycle stifles movement, we can fly but they got us staring at the sky asking (why) asking.., I work 28 hours a day, 9 days a week, 40 days a month and evade sleep, remain skeptical to western medicine, guess I’m just more Tesla than Edison….. Fascinated by the synchronicities, and the sick twisted histories of those who live in this city, get busy, make amends, sing with me break bread while we face the end.

-Heather