Tag Archives: Gene Loves Jezebel

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“. ..you’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.

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Under The Radar: The Strays

 

I...am a little thin soldier...

I...am a little thin soldier...

There are a million bands called “The (Somethings)” so the odds that an appropriate name would still be available after all this time should be slim. But here’s a trio of guys assembled from afar – a Brit, a Yank and a Greek – so the moniker kind of fits. And when you consider that the singers dad is on anyone’s shortlist of greatest white soul singers ever, well…alrighty then. And there was always something of the street urchin stray dog in Steve Marriott, wasn’t there?

Toby Marriott has the legendary name but is wisely cutting his own path; The Strays are far more reminiscent of bands like The Clash, The Jam and Jamaican reggae, where dad Steve mined pop, music hall and blues for his amazing run. I even heard someone call them “The Killers, but with bigger balls“, and that’s not half bad either. Their excellent 2006 debut on TVT Records really got me excited; I started to think that this DNA/genetics thing might have some merit after all.

But I always figured a young band faced with relentless touring would almost have to kick out another album by now, right? Umm…you didn’t implode on me, did ya lads? Is this it? Is the future…noir?

 
How's yer Bert's lumbego?

How's yer Bert's lumbego?

 

The Strays: Le Futur Noir

Although Toby Marriott’s dad is arguably the finest rock voice the UK has ever spawned, The Strays owe a far bigger debt to The Clash than The Small Faces or Humble Pie. As lead vocalist and guitarist, Marriott leads a trio that is rhythmic and urgent, a rougher sounding Oasis whose music bleeds Jamaican ska alongside classic rock and 1977 punk, an engaging and consistently satisfying mix. Make no mistake, The Strays rock; “Servant Of The Gun” turns Nirvana on its ear.

Yet right alongside political anthems like “Block Alarm” and “Start A Riot”, The Strays will slide in a pitch-perfect pop single like “This Is Forever”, somehow blending The Jam and Gene Loves Jezebel into one song. (Not a lark – the hidden bonus track is a Lords of the New Church cover!) The album graphics and song titles will probably scare the beejezus out of most people, but underneath it all is the genesis of a band wise beyond their years. Steve would approve, lad.

(this review originally ran in Pop Culture Press)

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