All Around Records

Thursday, May 16, 2024

 Jim Basnight

What I Wouldn’t Do/I’ll be There (Single)

Power Popaholic Productions


This double A-side single finds Jim playing acoustic, and very well. In both songs the main character promises unlimited love and devotion, even as one is “a jealous man” and the other has to wait for their lover to come around. This is the folk side of power pop, which is always nice and fun to hear. It's gentle, sweet, tough, with a lilt in the guitars. Well worth a listen.


Andrea Weiss

Saturday, May 4, 2024

 Rich Arithmetic

Pushbutton Romance

Self-released


The second album from him is a dandy--chiming Byrds-y guitars, dynamic backing, and his slightly sour voice, which isn’t a slam, as I like the way it bends all around the lyrics.


The relationship songs are smart and sensible, with a “whatever” attitude in “You Are Always Right.” “Thema Toh Selah (Zambian Zombie Samba)” is fun to hear and to dance to, and the surf instrumental “Saving Sunset” is, well, good to hear at summer sunset times.


The three-part “A Teenage Hymn” is not just about growing up, but being old and looking back, bittersweet, at those years. It’s also a wry “this is the way it was for me” recollection.


The two political songs ring out the way the Byrds adapted “Pete Seeger’s “Turn Turn Turn.” “Moral Blight,” about getting away from it, could also be about standing against apathy. “Bend the Arc” of justice quotes Martin Luther King Jr.’s statement: “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” In this election year, this song couldn’t be more important; democracy hangs by a thread. Where are the protesters, say the ones right now in college, standing up for it en mass? Someone should tell them that if we lose democracy, we lose the right to protest, to dissent when governments take the wrong positions.


Not that this is a lecture. This album has too light a touch and is too mature for that. It’s just a great album, a needed one, so if you care about good music, and yes, democracy, get this. It’s wonderful, and more than worth your time.

Andrea Weiss


Tuesday, April 30, 2024

 The Armoires

We Absolutely Mean It

Big Stir Records


The second single from the band’s upcoming album, Octoberland, slated for Autumn 2024 release, is an anthemic statement of purpose, where they pound the table and say it. With urgent, uproarious viola playing from Larysa Bulbenko anchoring the song, it is gently angry, but also the kind of song you’d play at a protest to get your point across in a happy, but firm way. It's another smash from this band, to go along with their single from last last year, ”Music And Animals.” If this is what the new album is going to sound like, it’s more than worth the wait. Grab this, dance, demonstrate, just have a good time with a great song.


Andrea Weiss

Saturday, April 20, 2024

 The new Cynz album, Little Miss Lost, is a reminder of what’s lost when rock’s forced underground as the only way it can thrive. And it shouldn’t have to be this way. Get this album as that reminder, and to realize that rock is made with loud, noisy guitars, not synths, dance beats, and autotune.


Cyndi Dawson, leader of The Cynz, was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.


Andrea Weiss: For all who know your history, there are still those who don’t. Could you give a short history of the band?


Cyndi Dawson: Henry Seiz and myself formed the band in 2010 mostly to do poetry pieces. It morphed into a songwriting project and we found other musicians to play with. When it started taking off we just went with the flow.



AW: Who were you listening to while recording the album?


CD: No one in particular. My musical tastes are in many genres. I love The Distillers, Patti Smith, Jim Carroll as easily as I love Joni Mitchell, Garbage, and a whole lot of punk bands. Social Distortion, Tom Petty…! 



AW: You quote “Eight Miles High” in “Break Me.” Are the Byrds an influence?


CD: That would be Henry’s influence. That’s a part he put in as a nod to them. He’s also widely varied in his tastes in music, but I’d say the 60’s-70’s bands were reasons he became a guitar player!



AW: I hear so few out-and-out rockers on albums these days. Everything seems a lot more mellow. What made you decide to buck the trend?


CD: We have always bucked the trends. Listen to any of our five albums and every one of them has all out rockers. Because we like to rock! But we also appreciate a good pop rock song or ballad so long as it has some rock mixed in. We don’t follow trends. We follow our own sense of what we’d listen to ourselves. What we like.



AW: Your melodies are great. Do you strive to make all your songs melodic?


CD: I think so. We want verses and choruses that are memorable. I always say a song is good if you find yourself singing it while driving or taking a shower!!



AW: Many of these songs are about heartbreak and frustration. Is that the theme of the album, or is the album about something else?


CD: Oh, it very much is about those things. It’s autobiographical with artistic license. It begins with my life at 17, being thrown to the wolves but guarded by angels. I’ve had great love, I’ve had great loss. I think those two things are relatable to most people if you live long enough. When you’re young you handle it with immature choices, often. I sought comfort in ways that were not always good, but I had strong survivor skills. The album concludes in the present and putting "Fall Away" as the last track was apt. “Be free, let go, learn to fall away.”



AW: What do you hope to achieve with this album, besides commercial success? 


CD: Commercial Success - while a wonderful fantasy- it’s not realistic in a rock and roll world of today. If it happened I wouldn’t be disappointed. I buy lottery tickets knowing I probably won’t win, but wouldn’t it be nice? I make records because Henry and I write good songs and the process of turning an idea into a tangible, material manifestation is magical and beautiful. And costly. So we definitely love doing it but it’s the house you love that requires constant upkeep.



AW: Do you have any shows coming up?


CD: We are in Boston this weekend at The Square Root, Saturday night with Muck and The Mires, Mach Bell Experience, and The Hi End. Sunday at The Worthen Attic in Lowell. May 18th we play Live@Drew’s House in Ringwood, NJ, and May 19th we do The Joey Ramone Bday Bash fundraiser in NYC. We are booked solid to the end of 2024! It’s been a great year so far with Jem - Marty Scott and Maureen Daye Pietoso and Bootleg Dan Anklin behind us.

 The Cynz

Little Miss Lost

Jem Records


They don’t make them like this anymore, at least not above ground. It's an out and out rocker, punk rock, which used to be the gold standard for good rock, and now it’s underground and overlooked, and shouldn’t be. It’s too great for that.


These are songs of hard luck and hard times, sung matter-of-factly by Cyndi Dawson, who is a wonderful singer. It’s so lame that such singing is out of style. It shouldn’t be. This is singing for real, with no effects, with grit and soul.


The guitars are cranked up to eleven, by players who know their stuff, like the quote from “Eight Miles High” on the album opener, “Break Me,” or the sitar on “The Only One,” and on their glorious take on Holly And the Italians’ “Tell That Girl To Shut Up.” On “Narrow Hips” Cyndi reveals what she looks for in a guy.


In a better world these songs would be a smash hits, top of the charts, and it’s grating that it won’t be the case. This is one of the best albums this year and deserves every accolade thrown at it. Make this album an aboveground success and use it to kick the indie rock lamestream in the teeth. Show them what real punk rock sounds like and start a new punk rock revolution!


Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

 Paul Collins

In Another World (single)

Jem Records


The latest single from his new album Stand Back And Take A Good Look is a jangly rocker about finding a better world, on both a personal and political level. It’s one of the best songs on the album. You can shimmy around the room to it, or just sit and think about the lyrics. Either way, it’s wonderful, and one to put of repeat, as that’s how good it really is.


Andrea Weiss

Thursday, April 11, 2024

 I’m a bit late to the party as, while I liked Weezer, I’d never really heard their albums all the way through. So I dove in, and really liked what I heard. While my favorites on The Blue Album are “Undone – The Sweater Song” and “Say It Ain’t So,” Pinkerton, which got kicked to the curb by the press, features my two favorite Weezer songs, “El Scorcho” and “The Good Life.” It's a very good, underrated album. The Rentals’ “Friends Of P” is sweet, sincere, and fun, as is “Waiting.” That the Los Angeles Geek Rock scene combined these bands’ sound with Nirvana’s is cool. You might think so too.


S.W. Lauden, who played drums in Ridel High, one of the bands on the Generation Blue compilation, and curated and edited the accompanying oral history book, provided a window on a scene that I’m very glad to know about now. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.


Andrea Weiss: How did the Geek Rock scene start?


S.W. Lauden: “Geek Rock” is one of those terms that has been applied to a variety of artists over the decades, from Frank Zappa and Devo to Descendents and They Might Be Giants – but in the 90s it was most often used to describe Weezer and a slew of bands that took aesthetic and songwriting cues from their self-titled debut album (aka The Blue Album). In Los Angeles, where Weezer formed and got signed to DGC, they (along with The Rentals) inspired a whole scene of bands like Shufflepuck, Ridel High, Nerf Herder, Ozma, and many others throughout the 90s and into the early 2000s. That specific Hollywood Geek Rock scene is really the focus of Generation Blue.



AW: What did the scene get from Weezer?


S.W. Lauden: Quite a lot, actually. You have to remember that Hollywood was still experiencing a Sunset Strip/Hair Metal hangover in the early 90s, so you had a lot of talented musicians trying to figure out what was next. At the same time, funk/punk/hard rock bands like Fishbone, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane’s Addiction were taking off from the local scene. That was also the same moment when college rock/alternative/grunge/pop punk were all breaking into the mainstream. Wild times.


Weezer combined musical elements from everything that was current at the time (quiet/loud song structure, crunchy guitars, etc.), but mixed it with a classic Beach Boys-y pop songwriting approach and a sort of metal precision. On top of that, they abandoned any classic ideas of what a rock band was supposed to look like (wearing soccer jerseys and glasses on stage, etc.) and wrote lyrics about loving KISS and playing Dungeons & Dragons. A lot of Hollywood musicians found that really freeing and gravitated toward it to make something of their own.



AW: I hear Nirvana in these bands too, which is a great combination. Were the bands listening to them as well?


S.W. Lauden: We were all listening to Nirvana back then, and Rivers Cuomo has often cited them as an inspiration for the direction Weezer took. So, Nirvana’s influence on all of the Generation Blue bands, either directly or indirectly, is pretty undeniable. That said, I always assumed that Nirvana’s quiet/loud dynamics on Nevermind (and specifically “Teen Spirit”) were at least partially inspired by Pixies. And Pixies was the band that Weezer most reminded me of when I first heard The Blue Album – Pixies meets The Beach Boys.



AW: The lyrics for a lot of the bands here deal with heartbreak and frustration. Were they outlining fictional situations or drawing from their own lives?


S.W. Lauden: I honestly have no idea, but in general I assume that most pop songs are works of fiction brought to life by some kernel of personal experience or perspective. We were all in our 20s, playing in bands, and spending most of our free time in beer-soaked rock clubs. Given those conditions, you’d have to assume that at least a few hearts got broken along the way.



AW: Supersport 2000's “Mooks” is a great song about surfing fun. Were they surfers?


S.W. Lauden: It was a long time ago, but if memory serves I think at least one of them did surf. Thematically, though, I like how that track offers a more indie reflection of Weezer’s “Surf Wax America.” On top of that, Supersport 2000 is pivotal in the 90s Hollywood scene, because they were there (at first as Magpie) when Weezer formed and started playing clubs; and most of Supersport 2000 later became Matt Sharp’s band during the Return of the Rentals/ “Friends With P.” era.



AW: “We Opened for Weezer” by Nerf Herder is a wonderful tribute. I'd read in the companion book to the comp Generation Blue that Weezer, especially Rivers, gave a lot back to the scene. Could you say something about that?


S.W. Lauden: I’m glad you pointed that out because it was one of my favorite threads that emerged as I did interviews for the Generation Blue oral history. Many of the musicians I spoke with had a story or two to tell about how members of Weezer helped them out early on.


There’s no doubt that Rivers Cuomo and Matt Sharp helped their close friends Adam Orth and Justin Fisher in Shufflepuck, introducing them to club bookers and adding them to a couple of high-profile shows. Adam Marsland gives Rivers a lot of credit for helping him conceptualize a direction for his band Cockeyed Ghost. Weezer had my band Ridel High open a handful of West Coast shows during the Pinkerton era when A&M Records was thinking about signing us, and I’m pretty sure that helped seal the deal. The Nerf Herder-Weezer connection is perfectly (and hilariously!) chronicled in “We Opened For Weezer,” and I already mentioned the Supersport 2000-Rentals connection.


Ozma is probably the band that most directly benefited from Weezer’s support. They were still teens when their guitarist handed Rivers a copy of their first album at Warped Tour. That led to them opening for their idols on two California shows, later followed by a couple of full-blown national tours. That early support gave them a platform to become the phenomenal band they are. Ozma’s entire catalog is well worth exploration.


As Rod Cervera of Supersport 2000/The Rentals says toward the end of the Generation Blue oral history: “The Weezer story is kind of a unique story for the LA music scene. It’s a small camp of people...it’s always been a pretty tight-knit thing."



AW: What do you hope people take away from the comp and book?


S.W. Lauden: If they were there or were aware of this Hollywood scene back then, I hope it brings back some great memories and fills in a few blanks. If they weren’t there and this is all new to them, I hope they enjoy these stories and music as much as we did putting it all together. It really was an incredible scene.

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