Tag Archives: album review

The Congress, “The Game” Album Review

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The Congress, “The Game” Album Review

Published in the September 2016 Issue of Appalachian Jamwich

The Congress is a soulful, southern blues-rock band now based in Richmond, VA, after their move home from Colorado. The relocation, now nearly a year past, makes the lead track all the more significant- “Home Again” is a poignant, stripped down melody that showcases the vocal prowess of the band before anything else. Throughout the rest of the album, there are noticeable differences between Jonathan Meadows’ and Scott Lane’s signing, but on this track they are flawlessly one. “New Amsterdam” follows and is the first introduction to what the band can really do. They bust into a danceable verse almost instantly, but, quick not to give away too much, dial it back for stellar balance. The high-energy chorus is impossible not to move to, and the drum driven bridge takes listeners almost to another world. The third track takes a far more honky-tonk approach than when played live; “When I’ve Got The Time” features a slide guitar, broken-down music, slower and simpler than their rock ‘n’ roll take, and lead vocals that crackle and scoop like country singers are so known to do. “The Poison and the Antidote” is the newest (to this writer) song on the album; an epic ballad on love and loss, this song is most reflective of their lyrical ability to reach right into the soul of their listeners. The album’s title track is sixth, a staple of their live performance and perfect summary of who the band is; fun-loving southern boys just trying to make music that people will love. Besides Meadows and Lane, The Congress also features Chris Speasmaker on keys and Raph Katchinoff on drums (however the album was recorded with former drummer Mark Levy). Three other equally as quintessential “Congress” songs close the record, reinforcing their technical skill, outstanding talent, and classic song writing. The Congress will be touring the west coast before a run in Spain in November. Check their website for other upcoming dates near you.

Primus, Green Naugahyde Review

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The 80’s and 90’s produced some of our times’ most interesting music, but nothing is as quirky and fascinating as Primus. The power trio is currently made up of Larry LaLonde, a student of guitar guru Joe Satriani, Jay Lane, and leader of the project, Les Claypool. Their most recent release, Green Naugahyde, is the first with this line-up and while Claypool has had a hard time keeping members in the band, it could be his incredibly advanced way of thinking about music that causes them to leave. Lane’s prowess, as one of the most talented drummers playing right now, combined with LaLonde’s technical ability and Claypool’s wildy creative and exciting style makes Primus one of the most accessible and remarkable live acts touring right now. Primus will be playing this album in its entirety during the second set of shows on this tour.

In a most creepy opening stunt, the first track of Primus’ new album, “Prelude to a Crawler,” is without the man himself, just LaLonde’s eerie, wandering, reverbed-out melody, but on the drop of the next track, “Hennepin Crawler,” we finally hear from Claypool. Pumping a bass that could shatter your rib cage, you almost miss his wild lyrics that serve more as a rhythm section than anything.

The third selection brings us the lighter side of Primus, which is certainly not light by any definition of the word. “Last Salmon Man” chronicles the life of a young farmer and brings us the first great guitar solo of the album. LaLonde also takes back-up vocals on this track, supporting Claypools quirky sound with his own somewhat melodic voice. And finally, we get to joke-y but dead ass serious Primus. The lyrics give the best picture of the feel of this song: “I like it, I really really like it, I think I’m gonna buy it, cuz I really really like it. Eternal consumption engine, here in the USA, eternal consumption engine, we really do like to spend our pay, eternal consumption engine… slingin’ down the slices of American Pie, eternal consumption engine, every time I get a little bit bored, eternal consumption engine, head to the wally-mart store.” Haunting, daunting, and true, with the repeated chorus “Everything’s made in China,” this song is probably the most lyrically stimulating while being musically fascinating at the same time.

Green Naugahyde Album Cover

“Tragedy’s a Comin’” (stream here) was the selected single off the album, and for obvious reasons. It’s radio friendly, not too overwhelmingly heavy, with classic Claypool riffs and enough guitar to make any arena go crazy. The lyrics also make some sense, but they don’t make so much of a statement that they could eliminate listeners.

Taking tempo down a notch, “Eyes of the Squirrel” sounds like a typical Primus song, making a small statement lyrically about American culture and reality TV. They fade into a gargly, drawn out ending that blends with the next track’s synthesized introduction, which builds to a cliff before dropping into LaLonde’s spiky guitar pit and being swallowed by Jay Lane’s erratic, but totally controlled drumming. “Jilly’s on Smack” is the first track that we don’t hear Claypool’s distinct vocals, and rather the focus is on his stand-up bass sound that smoothly undertones the wildness of the drums, until the bridge, when they start what sounds like jamming.

“Lee Van Cleef” delivers the classic dirty bass we all crave when listening to Primus and has the first and only mention of the album title. Similarly, “Moron TV” also best serves as a chance for Les to get muddy on his bass, and for him to attack (again) the lazy and lush American culture, especially with regards to watching TV.

“Green Ranger” is a wild and ghostly little jaunty asking, “Who wants to ride with the Green Ranger,” and again bringing back Claypools powerfully deep stand-up techniques. “HOINFODAMAN” is a skipable track, another critique on culture- this time, advertising, but together these two make a quirky interlude before the explosive closing number, appropriately titled “Extinction Burst.” Dense with sound, technically exciting and exploratory, this second-to-last track is creepy-crawly-funk-rock-metal song that you crave from Les Claypool and Primus.