The Invisible Rays @ The Rosebud Bar 7.27.2011

Counting, creativity, projections, synchronization, pop culture, musicality and a touch of humanity.

As it turns out, The Invisible Rays were actually visible. It was just really dark.

Space Balloons – Welcome To Balloononia (2011)

Space Balloons
Welcome To Balloononia

“Hey buddy, want to hear a song about mustaches?”


If you want a mustache you gotta take care of it…

That’s how it started. My five year old thought a song about feeding and reading to your mustache was funny. He liked it so much he made me play it over and over and over. I couldn’t even play the rest of the Space Balloons EP, Welcome To Balloononia, for him. He just wanted to listen to the song about the mustache.

Then he started singing it around the house.

I did eventually convince him to listen to “Grapes”. He liked it.

I had made it clear that we were going to listen to the whole record (all three songs clocking in at just over four minutes), so “The Tale Of The Space Balloons” came on next. Oh boy. This intergalactic tale of balloons, lagoons and monsoons captivated him. I can’t even tell you how many times we listened to this song.* I have video of him singing this song in the car. If my son was a member of The Recording Academy, “The Tale Of The Space Balloons” would win the 2011 Grammy for Record Of The Year.**

Michael J. Epstein and Sophia Cacciola, who also happen to be Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling (who sound nothing like Space Balloons) and integral parts of about a billion other projects (which vary in their degrees of Space Balloons similarity), seem to be onto something here. The kids dig it.

Where to get it:

* Well, actually, thanks to the wonders of the iTunes play count, I could tell you. Truth be told, I’m afraid to look.

** I predict “The Tale Of The Space Balloons” is a better song that whatever wins the actual award.

Miskatonic @ The Rosebud Bar 7.27.2011

It’s been some time since Miskatonic last played a show. They came back with a fistful of new songs to debut for an enthusiastic crowd at The Rosebud.

The Modifiers – Show And Tell (1998)

The Modifiers
Show And Tell

If there was a club for bands that carry on the spirit of The Replacements in Boston, The Modifiers would be card carrying members (along with The Dirty Tuckers and *AM Stereo). Their rock is loud, loose and noisy. There are melodies and stories to be told.

The Modifiers may have some Westerberg hero worship happening, but they never go quite so far to make you think they should be sending the guy royalty checks. The songs are solid indie rock affairs. “Favorite Waitress,” “Glowing” and “Passage Through” are all fine examples of The Modifiers sound. “Outbound” is an ode to Mary Lou Lord a-buskin’ on the Red Line.

There’s not a lot of variety on Show And Tell. For the most part The Modifiers do one thing and do it well. The band does mix it up a bit on the bass driven “Tonight.” “Possession” is an all out basher. “Rough Draft” breaks things down to just guitar and vocals, showing once again that underneath all the noise it’s the song that matters most.

Where to get it:

Helicopter Helicopter – Analog & Electrical Fields (1999)

Helicopter Helicopter
Analog & Electrical Fields

Analog & Electrical Fields picks up where Helicopter Helicopter’s debut album, Squids And Other Fishes, left off. The songs are still dark, still noisy, and still beautiful.

The album opens with the blistering “Ghost Face”, which is reminiscent of the aggressive rockers of their debut. In fact, “Ever Since The Buzzards Moan”, “Scarab In A Hole” and “Sinking Light” all share the same ethos as those early songs.

The band begins to expand their sound a bit on this record. “Please Take Me To Mars” sounds like it would be at home on The Flaming Lips’ Transmissions from the Satellite Heart album. “Firefly Mechanical” lays back a bit and really lets the vocal take center stage. The triumphant closing chorus of “Map” could be on infinite repeat for a very long time before wearing out its welcome.

Helicopter Helicopter have created a classic album by balancing their emerging pop sensibility with their knack for dark imagery. The band proves once again that there’s beauty in the shadows.

Where to get it:

The Great Bandini – The Great Bandini (2008)

The Great Bandini
The Great Bandini

On their one and only album, The Great Bandini just couldn’t seem to get enough of crunchy guitars and sweet vocal harmonies. We should all take a moment to thank them.

The barrage of catchy melodies is relentless. If the world was just and true this record would have spawned more hit singles than Def Leppard’s Hysteria. The songs are concise and well arranged. Solos are melodic and purposeful.

The Great Bandini managed to find the perfect ratio of rock-to-roll for their songs. “Maintain Relaxation,” “Rubber Knives,” and “Testa Mia” are raucous numbers with strong melodic sense. “Are You In Love With Him?” is a bittersweet pop song turned up to 11 that calls Teenage Fanclub to mind. “No Reply” has a magical British invasion guitar outro. “Sleep Through The Summer” sounds like a lost track from Superdrag’s Headtrip In Every Key.

This record makes me happy to be alive.

Where to get it:

Quintaine Americana – Dark Thirty (2003)

Quintaine Americana
Dark Thirty

Bad Motherfuckers. That’s what Dark Thirty should have been called. It should have been a self titled album. Bad Motherfuckers by Bad Motherfuckers. Then people would know exactly what they’re getting.

There’s nothing nice about the music Quintaine Americana makes. They are a rabid dog snarling at anyone who gets too close. The bass provides the growl. The guitars provide the bite. The music is dark, heavy and earthy. They lyrics are cinematic, moving pictures of backwoods characters that prowl the night. The band shines a light on the things you don’t want to see. You can’t look away.

The hooks are as big as the riffs on Dark Thirty. “Hitchhiker in Black” sets the tone. The sequence of “Then One More”, “Set Me On Fire” and “Hogs” absolutely kills. On second thought, add “The Sky” and “Blast Away” to that sequence as well. “She Lets Me Ride” tears along a dirt road at full throttle. For the most part their attack is focused. Get in. Take your shot. Get out in well under four minutes. Move on to the next victim.

With Dark Thirty, Quintaine Americana sets the bar for heavy rock n’ roll almost impossibly high. A gritty document of some dudes doing what they do best. Bad motherfuckers being bad motherfuckers.

Where to get it:

The Kickbacks – Motel Stars (2006)

The Kickbacks
Motel Stars

Motel Stars is full of roots based rock n’ roll polished to a high sheen. These personal tales of everyday life are the handiwork of Tad Overbaugh and his former band, The Kickbacks. The subject matter of the songs may be melancholic (“Fixed To Be Broken”) or raw (“Tip My Girl”), but the band delivered them with a ray of hope and refined pop hooks. While they certainly had a knack for writing compelling ballads, The Kickbacks were at their best when they let things rip a little. “Lazy Eye” and “Collect Calling For You” should be all the proof you need of that.

Where to get it: