Monthly Archives: September 2009

30 Songs in 30 Days

30 Days in the hole

30 Days in the hole

Ed Hamella/k/a Hamell On Trial – has blazed a phenomenal trail after a typical cover-band incubation period in sleepy Syracuse, New York. After assembling a dynamic rock/r&b band called The Works, he toured up and down the Eastern seaboard, baited pompous MTVeeJay Mark Goodman into a verbal fight (there’s no such thing as bad publicity, folks) and finally decided that as a solo act all the band members would show up at the same time and get along. Traveling from Albany to Austin to New York City, he’s gone from building a following from club residencies to walking away from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with it’s highest award.

I’ve waxed poetic on Ed before in the pages of Pop Culture Press and reviewed several his CDs over the years in various magazines. There’s no need for me to recant Ed’s history here because there’s enough ink about this one man dynamo all over Al Gore’s Internet. What I will tell you is that in any phase of his career, Ed has been all about perseverance and confidence. So it came as no surprise to me that Ed was challenging himself to write thirty songs in thirty days, and do it publicly, so you’d know he didn’t slack off like a wuss.

Therefore, my apologies to you for not posting this on Day One. Better late than never – how does Day Twenty sound? Songs with videos, very intimate, all over the map so far. I’m not sure if I like #19 best because it’s fresh in my mind, or because of the guest vocalist at the end of the song. But I’m sure you’ll have your own favorites!

Here are the first dozen.

And here are songs 11-20.

You can subscribe for the feed, or just check back daily if you’re a Luddite .

But either way, join in!

Hamell on Trial logo

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Music, Reviews

New Album! Everclear

I will buy me a new life

"Here comes the darkness again / I can see a light at the end of the tunnel"

Everclear’s Art Alexakis is many things – songwriter, producer, singer, musician – but perhaps his strongest attribute is survivor. As a child, he grew up in a single parent household in a tough neighborhood after his father abandoned the family (famously captured in song as “Father Of Mine”). He’s gone through the pit of drug abuse and come out the other side intact. Hell, he’s even been married and divorced three times.

And now he’s once again shedding his skin, but this time it’s his band members and catalogue getting a celebratory dance before he moves on to new challenges. In case you had any doubt, a picture’s worth a thousand words. On the inner photo of In A Different Light, a quintet of musicians walks a road together, laughing, smiling. The cover photo has Alexakis alone, guitar in hand, heading towards a bright light.

Then again, he’s pretty direct about what Everclear was and is. In his online blog he states: “without getting into specifics,……it had run it’s course….some guys left because i wanted them to,….some guys left because they wanted to,….it is what it is….you all know that this is and has always been my band….is was time to move on….i truly wish them all the best in everything they do”. Before the split, however, they were able to record this collection, predominantly revisions and reinterpretations of past classics with two new songs (“At The End of The Day” and “Here Comes The Darkness”). A new band and a brand new album are slated for 2010.

The last few years haven’t been prolific for new Everclear music; after dropping two successful albums in 2000 they released the underwhelming Slow Motion Daydream in 2003. Welcome To The Drama Club followed in 2006, recorded after splitting with Craig Montoya and Greg Eklund, the other members of the lineup that enjoyed the band’s critical and commercial success. Other than that, there were two greatest hits and a covers album keeping the fire lit; so upon first glance one might consider this another commercial placeholder. And while you’d be right, at least it’s an inventive one.

Culling nine of his favorites from over the years, these new recordings find Alexakis in deeper voice and organic mode, acoustic guitar and keyboards as the driving force in place of wall-of-sound electric, beats and cacophony. The results are mostly solid, as deeply personal songs like “I Will Buy You A New Life” and “Learning How To Smile” easily make the transition to a more organic version. It’s impossible to top the appeal and sonic wallop of “Santa Monica”, but this stripped down version is still enjoyable. And “Rock Star” sounds even better than the original.

The new tracks slide in seamlessly. The lyrical content of “Here Comes The Darkness” is again uber-personal, Alexakis ready to go through hell again knowing he has no one to blame but himself. Musically, I prefer the soul/gospel input of Liv Warfield on “At The End of the Day”.  But if these two tracks are indicative of what’s to come, he sounds rejuvenated.

So take a bow Davey French, Josh Crawley, Sam Hudson and Tommy Stewart – your final rodeo as Everclear was a good one. This 11-track CD will be available October 6th on 429 Records, who will also release the new Everclear project in 2010. 

And so it begins…again.

Everclear website

Everclear wiki

429 Records

My review of one of their classics.



Filed under Music, Reviews

New Album! Mitch Ryder

It can't be a comeback if you've always been here.

It can't be a comeback if you've always been here.

 This isn’t the first time I’ve used that headline in 2009 – a live album recorded in the United States (Live in America) was released earlier this year. Hard to find, but extremely worthy.

Later this year – maybe even later this week – a new studio album recorded with Don Was at the controls will be released throughout the world. Originally titled The Promise, then later mis-titled You’re Nuts, Both of Them; it now appears that his first domestic studio release in nearly twenty-seven years will be called Detroit Ain’t Dead Yet. More here.

I’ve expounded on the legend and legacy that is Mitch Ryder before in these pages, so I won’t waste your time rehashing the same praises. I’m just thrilled that (1) the guy is still out there creating great music, and (2) his voice might be even better now. One listen to the recent You Deserve My Art or The Acquitted Idiot should prove that point.

So celebrate a true superstar of rock’n’roll. And if you’ve missed his post-60s career…boy, do you have a wealth of great music to catch up on.

Read my full review in PopMatters.

Leave a comment

Filed under Music, Reviews

Mott The Hoople: Live (vicariously!)

Mott reunion

For those fortunate  enough to be going to see the reunited Mott The Hoople (yeah, I’m jealous Rog!) I will be living vicariously through you. It’s on the wrong side of The Big Pond for me, and as much as I would love to be there, the timing is just…off.

But if there are others among you suffering the same fate as mine, this announcement from the Ian Hunter list should make your day:


October 1st sees the live return of one of the best loved Rock & Roll bands of all time: Mott The Hoople. It has been 40 years since this highly influential band formed in 1969, and over 35 years since the original line-up has played together. It is with great pleasure that Concert Live announces that they are recording the band at the Hammersmith Apollo on the 1st October to create an instant CD for fans to take home straight after the show.

This limited edition live CD is the ONLY recording of the Mott The Hoople reunion show. Presented in bespoke artwork, this is an exclusive 3 CD set featuring songs from their classic albums, Mott The Hoople, All The Young Dudes, Mott and many more. Concert Live will be recording the band’s show on the 1st October, selling this live CD directly at this show and at the following 4 dates the band are playing at the Hammersmith Apollo.

Pre-order this live CD for collection at concert or to be posted to you directly after the show. Order now to avoid disappointment!

Life just got a little sweeter this morning.

Best wishes go out to Dale Griffin (Buffin) who will be at all the shows, but health issues may prevent him from playing full sets. Fear notMott fan and Pretenders legend Martin Chambers will be on hand to pinch-hit as needed. October is really going to be Rocktober this year.

Official Mott The Hoople site

Fan-based Hunter/Mott site – great stuff!

My original Mott Reunion essay

Mott Reunion Blogspot – longtime fan living a dream.


Filed under Features and Interviews, Music, Reviews

American: The Bill Hicks Story

Still burning brightly, even from another dimension

Still burning brightly, even from another dimension

This is the kind of email that makes all the spam-wading worthwhile:


American: The Bill Hicks Story” is a groundbreaking new animated documentary that will be released worldwide in 2010. For the first time, Bill’s unique story is told by the people that knew him best, using a stunning new animation technique that fully reveals the worlds that shaped his character and featuring the rare archive footage from Bill’s own collection…

– “a deeply perceptive, fittingly honest tribute…” London Film Festival

– “inventive and daring…one of the few great docs for 2010 that has balls.” SheffDocFest

LONDON FILM FESTIVAL TICKETS – We are very excited that we have been invited to show the film at the London Film Festival…and Bill’s family are coming over to join us for the event. Tickets are on sale now! Call 020 7928 3232 or link to the page. There are two screenings, but Monday Oct 26th at 2pm is the SPECIAL FAN SCREENING, after which:

extended Q&A/meet and greet w Bill’s family.

exclusive memorabilia/gift for each attendee

– get first access to the ‘Bill champion’ initiative to help spread the word about Bill and the film in advance of the release next year.


Everything you need to know about the film – exclusive clips, video footage from the families archive, etc. – is at the website, so have at it, folks.

From beyond the Great Beyond.

From beyond the Great Beyond.

My previously published essay about one of my comedy heroes.

The IMDB link to the film.

The Bill Hicks website.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Features and Interviews, Film/TV

T.G.I.F. – Ten Impressions of Fall TV

Network Russian Roulette

Network Russian Roulette

Another season, another crapshoot. But if you’re going to find the pearl, you gotta shuck the oysters. Here’s my first impressions on five shows making their debut this fall, as well as five shows trying to avoid that sophomore slump:

 And yes, there might be spoilers below.

The freshmen

CommunityJoel McHale, like the hosts of The Soup that preceded him, has charisma. Hard to tell where this one is going with so many characters getting introduced so quickly, but McHale plays his selfish user somewhere between Sgt. Bilko and a young Chevy Chase. Problem is, the old Chevy Chase is in the cast, and in the first week he already dropped the name-fumbling gag from Caddyshack and the awkward food pantomime John Belushi used in Animal House. If Chase is used sparingly, and they let McHale spar more with the hilarious John Oliver (who I hope will be a recurring character), this could work. LINK

EastwickThey don’t know Jack. if they did, they would have realized that most remakes suck, and remakes of Jack Nicholson vehicles really suck. It was a stupid movie with Jack; imagine how abysmal it is dumbed down for network television sans Sir Satan. This should be dead by Christmas. LINK

Flash Forward…Hands-down the most ambitious and amazing looking pilot; the debut episode looked like a feature film. The central concept is a good one, and the strong performances of a solid cast already have me invested in a few of them. It’s odd that despite a global catastrophe most of the characters seem to have wrapped their head around this global mystery, accepting the chaos with a little better demeanor than I would have, but an hour of people screaming “what the hell??” probably doesn’t make good television. Conspiracy theory, science fiction, time travel, dreams and alternate reality. I’m down. LINK.

Glee…Yes, every character is a stereotype (jock, nerd, bully, brainiac chick, earnest teacher, dysfunctional athletic director, etc.). I don’t care. This is laugh-out-loud funny, the songs are phenomenal, and even though Jane Lynch is playing the same character she usually does – here a cross between her oddballs from The 40 Year Old Virgin and Role Models – she still steals every scene she’s in. Hopefully they don’t try to make it melodramatic as well. Either way, I cannot believe this is from the same guy who created Nip/Tuck – that’s like Barbara Walters doing porn. In your face, High School Musical! LINK

Modern Family…This is like watching a nervous juggler; if he can keep all those balls in the air it will be an amazing feat and perhaps even something worth talking about. But he might have tossed too many up at once, and it’s possible he’s going to collapse under a hail of projectiles. I love Ed O’Neill, and Ty Burrell shows promise as a cringeworthy “cool Dad”, but they were already going for the cheap, broad laughs in the pilot. Must admit I laughed at a couple of them, but with so many characters, the writing will have to be very strong or this is toast.   LINK

The sophomores

Castle…Looks like it’s picking up right where it left off, and if Bones continues to waste its time on romantic subplots between the secondary characters, this will be the go-to show for people who want a little light banter and sizzle with their crime drama. The leads have killer chemistry, the cases are plausible and  interesting enough to hold their own, the daughter might be the most realistic teenager on television, and Nathan Fillion is a star. LINK

Dollhouse…If any other team was behind this show, I think the network would have deep-sixed it after the first season. But Joss Whedon not only has proven himself, even the shows of his that have been cancelled have continued to mesmerize large fanbases. Regardless, it doesn’t look like a concept with a master plan at this point, it seems as if they’re trying things out to see what sticks. He’s got to focus this one better or only the fanboys will be left, because Friday night is a tough sell. LINK

FringeMindblower of a final episode last season, the kind of cliff-hanger that people talk about all summer. Solid cast, complex but not difficult plot (if you pay attention), and if you can accept the premise, you can be richly rewarded. Great chemistry between the leads and main supporting characters with some fascinating oddballs in the mix. If you liked The X-Files for either the linear mysteries or the Mulder/Scully relationship, you’ll love Fringe. LINK

Parks and Recreation…I’m really pulling for this one, although I can understand if people’s patience wears thin. The cast is amiable and there’s good situational dialogue, but the amount of people who can identify with this workplace – as opposed to The Office, which it’s modeled after – might not be enough to make this water-cooler material. Amy Poehler’s character is a dolt with heart and she nails it, and the supporting cast is good, with Aziz Ansari a standout. Hiring Louis CK as the small town cop was a stroke of genius; he might just save the show. LINK

Sons of Anarchy…Obviously not for everybody, but this biker drama is yet another reason FX has become the best channel on television. Somehow they pepper in a little humor among the violence and criminal activity, and the performances are so universally excellent (Kim Coates is absolutely twisted, and Katey Sagal was robbed of an Emmy) that even the guest stars need to bring their A-game. This season’s first episode brought Henry Rollins and a quietly demonic Adam Arkin to the table and proved the show already took it up a notch. LINK

There's always this option...

There's always this option...

Leave a comment

Filed under Features and Interviews, Film/TV, Reviews

Under The Radar – The Melloncollies

Jack and Milk. Who knew?

Jack and Milk. Who knew?

Onomatopoeia [on‐ŏ‐mat‐ŏ‐pee‐ă], noun: he use of words that seem to imitate the sounds they refer to (whack, fizz, crackle, hiss); or any combination of words in which the sound gives the impression of echoing the sense.

Musically, The Melloncollies are anything but that. This debut is an exciting, emotional, explosive pop album that is as spirit-lifting as it is well-crafted. Musically, I said.

Lyrically, however…well, that’s another story entirely. “I’d do anything for you / get my ass kicked for you / what the hell did you ever do for me?” Simon Erani wails in “You You Yeah Yeah”, and that’s one of the more docile song titles. “Loneliest Boy”, “Misery”, “So Unhappy”, “Bullet in my Sunday”…these are not your classic love songs. I guess I should have been tipped off by the album’s title (Goodbye Cruel World) but I admit I was caught off-guard.

The Smiths could make despair sound almost ambivalent, but The Melloncollies want to rip their hearts out in full view and wave their sorrow flag under a floodlight. As Jeffrey Braha’s kick drum counts off the album opener “Misery” in Springsteen-arena fashion,  we’re momentarily fooled by the promise of “I’ll be good to you” in the chorus, because the hook is huge and Erani’s vocal so…positive. But that’s before we get to the second verse and realize the poor sap is on his knees and for the wrong reason. The second track (“Bullet In My Sunday”) is equally catchy with an 80s-ish intro reminiscent of Gene Loves Jezebel, so maybe there’s some hope here….except now the guy has seen the girl with someone else and it’s starting to look hopeless. Great – now  what?

Is this the great artistic statement about the angst of unrequited love? Of course not. Nor is it delicate adult poetry about the frailty of the human heart. But it is an infectious, bombastic joyride about getting your heart broken, getting depressed and then scraping every emotion out in overblown, dramatic fashion. If you’re drinking off a break-up, this could be your soundtrack. If you’re angry about a break-up…well, this could be your soundtrack, too.

Some will say it’s sophomoric, pedestrian and adolescent. Sure, it’s over the top (“whore” seems to be a favorite lyrical term) and there’s a wee bit of whining and pity going on. So?  Was “Beat On The Brat” mature? In other words, don’t take it so seriously, because The Melloncollies aren’t. They’re peppering the album with pop-punk DNA lifted from the last three decades; sometimes subtly, sometimes overtly. Enjoy the ride.

Ballads  like “Maybe Someday”, “All I Want” and “So Unhappy” could easily stand on their own outside the context of the album, but when every track in the song cycle is so overtly dramatic they tend to get lost in the shuffle. Instead, attention will likely lean more towards the infectious pop chestnuts like “Why Oh Why” and  “Simple Naive Someone”, where Erani’s pleading vocals – well above average for the genre – will appeal to any power-pop fan.

Besides “You You Yeah Yeah”, the real asskicker is “Money Money Money” which sounds like Wreckless Eric mocking Bob Dylan (“could you bee-leeeve the aud-a-ci-teeeee“), a huge guitar and organ driven rave-up with a sing-along chorus…well, about that bitch who only wants your money. And although it took fifteen years, bonus points for someone finally reclaiming “melloncollies” from that overrated concept album that clogged the airwaves for an entire year – “Let It Rain” takes the  Smashing Pumpkins formula and rips it a new one. (Even more bonus points for “Spin The Tail On The Donkey“.’re going to have to pick up the CD for that one, folks).

With great production by Erani and guitarist Peter Claro, it’s an album that will justifiably get more than several spins at high volume. I count on this one resurfacing when I compile my favorites from 2009. Now excuse me while I overreact to something…and take that, Billy Corgan.

The Melloncollies on MySpace.

Listen/buy at Amazon or CD Baby.

Leave a comment

Filed under Features and Interviews, Music, Reviews