Tag Archives: The Four Seasons

Under The Radar: The Oohs

Dig in.

Hanging out on Internet groups can be incredibly frustrating, for trolls abound everywhere; we’ve all encountered the uneducated idiot who lashes out at everyone and everything to get attention (when they really shouldn’t be skipping those remedial English classes). But the pearl in the oyster is accidentally discovering a band or a film or an artist that you overlooked or may never have found otherwise. Sometimes it’s because they are recommeneded to you. Sometimes they’re one of the fellow listmembers.

I came across The Oohs in such a way, as the listgroup in question was focused upon melodic pop music, from bubblegum to powerpop and beyond. Hooks and harmony required for admission, in other words. And when this band decided to name their first record Ear Candy…well, that’s a gauntlet, isn’t it?

Suffice it to say I was more than pleasantly surprised by the pop foursome, and The Oohs have gone on to release a couple more since then – Saturday Morning Daydream and Llamalamp – in addition to appearances on several tribute and compilation albums.  But I happened to pull this one out tonight, so I thought I’d share my words from the review I wrote many moons ago for Amplifier Magazine:

All four Oohs can handle lead vocals, but when they sing in unison (as they do most often), words like “Jellyfish” and “Queen” and “ELO” immediately jump to mind. But I hear roots much deeper than that in their songwriting. Remember when you looked back on singles from the 1960s and discovered how adroitly they balanced lust and innocence. Check out how the vocals explode along with the subject matter in “Baby’s Going Out Tonight.” Listen to the musical roots all the way back to the Bee Gees‘ “Spicks And Specks,” but the majestic arrangement and signature shifts prove that The Oohs are not going to settle for the easy (retro) way out.

Listen to the vocals s-l-i-d-e together in perfect harmony, the bells chiming in the background, the way the drums seem to carry the song, but then it’s the keyboard…no, wait, it’s the guitar line…as the song fades, you want more and you want it now. And, seconds later, you get what you need as it sweeps back in. “Summer Sun” even borrows the essence of The Four Seasons‘ street-corner savvy to accentuate the pitch-perfect vocals (the acoustic version proves that this is not done with mirrors, by the way). “Head Above Water,” dodging the logical chord progressions for something more inventive, firmly exposes the Rundgren influence the band enjoys, right down to that synth solo (where have you gone, Roger Powell?).

Calling this collection “Sing Along With The Oohs” would not be far from the mark, as you will find yourself doing just that. One more thing about all this name-dropping – the fact that the same band names will jump into your mind is testament to the small number of bands who have been able to pull these arrangements off live. Savor the experience.

The Oohs website.

The Oohs on MySpace

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Blast From The Past: Mike Ness

Was it really ten years ago that Cheating At Solitaire hit the street? Wow.

I’m a big fan of Social Distortion but was very pleased when Mike Ness stepped out to release a couple of solo efforts (Under The Influences would follow). I played the snot out of this at the time, and since Social Distortion announced that they’re working on a new album for release next year, I figured I’d dust this one off and hurt some eardrums. Join me?

Here’s the review I wrote for Consumable Online the first time around…

He's got Robert Mitchum Hands

He's got Robert Mitchum Hands

Although on the surface a fiery punk group, Mike Ness‘ band Social Distortion is melodic at the core; witness their success with roots rock riffs in songs like “I Was Wrong” and “Bad Luck”. Ness, who has been in the band more than half his life, grew up on a combination of early rock and roll and American country icons like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie. Cheating At Solitaire is a peek back at his influences through a few classic covers and a slew of originals written in a similar style.

The list of song titles cements the tone of the collection. “No Man’s Friend”, “Ballad Of A Lonely Man”, and “Crime Don’t Pay” all sound like they were ripped from the pages of a pulp novel, and indeed they’re a cross between a black hat western and a gangster movie epic. His vocal range is limited at best, but so are those of his heroes Cash and Dylan, whose “Don’t Think Twice” jump-starts the record with a rockabilly lurch – the antithesis of The Four Seasons’ cover under the guise of The Wonder Who. Mixing heartfelt guitar playing with emotional vocal performances, Ness shines on this gumbo of country, blues, hillbilly and rock.

Guests like Bruce Springsteen (vocals on “Misery Loves Company”) and Brian Setzer (as always, excellent stunt guitar on “Crime Don’t Pay”) will draw the attention, but it’s the lesser known Billy Zoom of X who steals the show with his contribution to “Dope Fiend Blues” (perhaps a tip of the cap to the late Johnny Thunders). Likewise, Chris Lawrence’s pedal steel work lights up the countrified songs like “You Win Again” and the autobiographical “Rest Of Our Lives”. The garage punk “I’m In Love With My Car” finds Ness bludgeoning three chord rock while his vocals sound like they were recorded through a megaphone, “Sweet Jane” turned inside out and upside down.

Although a departure from the heavier sound of his band, fans will not be too jarred by this temporary tangent. After all, musically speaking, Mike Ness has always worn his heart on his sleeve. Of course, with all his tattoos, it was just harder to spot. 

ness influences

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