June CD Review

June CD Review
Disco Ensemble, The Sound and Crossing The Rubicon


Why are all the good bands nowadays from other countries?  Maximo Park, Mew, the Sounds, and Disco Ensemble (…and Sonata Arctica) have been in regular rotation in my car and at home for months.  I don’t think I’ve listened to a single recent release by a “local” band, aside from Swashbuckle but that’s for merely camp value.  Disco Ensemble has really been the forerunner lately, their mix of spastic rock, punk, electro (well, only as electro as a band like Elastica was electric) creates a powerful wave of sound that engulfs you in its awesomeness.  Having received 3 releases from the group – their Magic Recoveries LP, Back on the MF Streets, and Video Vortex, and since none of you have heard of them, I’ll focus on the EP since it’s hitting our shores on May 26th and beg you to check the other releases.  Then I’ll totally switch gears and talk about another group, The Sounds, that has also been playing quite a bit in the ol’ stereo.

Already having played some of the worlds biggest rock festivals such as Roskilde and Glastonbury and toured clubs all over Europe with bands like Gogol Bordello and Linkin Park, Disco Ensemble played the Warped Tour as the first Finnish band ever.  Shortly after, the group was awarded with gold records for their breakthrough sophomore album First Aid Kit (2006).  Compare that with America’s biggest indie band right now…who would that be?  Devil Wears Prada?  3OH3!?  F**k those bands.  Disco Ensemble has raw energy that puts them light-years ahead of any of our offerings.  Back on the MF Streets gives a very small example of the bands raw prowess, unfortunately, because it has 2 remixes and the rest are previously unreleased songs.  If you really want to be introduced properly to the band, get Magic Recoveries.  If you already know of this band’s amazing ability and are a fan, get this EP!  Back on the MF Streets’ 4 main songs provide a dancy, raunchy, pop-driven spastic force that makes you bounce in your seat (and confuse the other people on the train while you’re writhing in your seat, trying to avoid singing along).  Of course, the hit of the EP is “Back on the MF Streets”.  It’s disco beat, raw guitars, and SM57 vocals screaming that they’re “back on the mother f**kin’ streets, on the mother f**kin’ streets” makes you want to shake your fist at your elderly neighbors…and then realize that you have to mow their lawn this weekend and retract your decretory gesture.  It doesn’t let up with “Golden Years” nor the keyboard-thick ballad “The Alps”.  The EP ends off the group’s studio portion with “Abandoned” – another “clip heavy” straight ahead rock song.  Seriously, it sounds like the producer was thinking “How high can I put these faders” and then went one notch further.  This shit is LOUD!  So you had best play it LOUD!  The remixes are pretty good, but you really need to hear the original version of “Bad Luck Charm” on Magic Recoveries to understand why these remixes were done in the first place.  It’s an awesome, powerful song.

Now let’s talk about The Sounds.  The bands third release, Crossing the Rubicon, will be released on June 2nd via Original Signal Recordings.  Crossing the Rubicon was recorded in Sweden, Los Angeles and New York City and was produced by the band, along with respected producers Adam Schlesinger, James “Mother Fucking Pumpkin Smashing” Iha, Matt Mahaffey, Jeff Turzo, Mark Saunders and Tim Anderson.  On first listen, you really wonder if their singer, Maja Ivarsson, is the offspring of Dale Bozzio.  This group is certainly influenced by new wave groups such as Missing Persons and Blondie, but they don’t let the influence dominate their sound.  The Sounds are able to capture the spirit of the new wave era, but songs like “My Lover” and “Crossing the Rubicon” show a maturity and musical sophistication that simply wasn’t present in their predecessors.  The album’s eponymous track is actually quite haunting and a very stanch (albeit SHORT) venture into textural, ambient layering.  I really love the track “Midnight Sun”, the chorus really grabs me.  The track, again a successful attempt by the group to expand their sound, is a beautifully mixed track that highlights each of the member’s personal ability and not just keyboard-driven lines accentuating vocal melody as many female fronted bands favor.  As I’m listening to this song for the third time in a row I get goose-bumps when they hit the chorus, thinking “God Damn, that’s a good song”.  I have to end this off talking about “Beatbox”.  I really hope it’s a joke and I’m sure it is, but holy crap did you have to rip off “Rapture” so obviously?  If you’re in the same genre, you really need to pick and choose your battles.  It’s a good song in its own right…just should’ve been a b-side.  The Sounds are a great import and this third time ‘round they really shine and show a great maturity that will not only help achieve more fans and a better status for the group, but (and more importantly) doesn’t alienate their die-hard stalwarts. 

Mark Johnston, a native Californian, has travelled the world with various circuses, sideshows, and arena rock tours. As a musical monkey he has delighted fans the world over. Upon his return, he has since founded the Atomsmashers Publishing Company, written 2 books in the company's Warm Horchata series, created a weekly comic strip based around LA's more "colorful" characters, written reviews, articles, and rantings under various pseudonyms; this has since culminated in Johnston being named Captain Fabulous by the Superhero Association of America.