While the partnerships that were Donny & Marie and The Captain & Tennille proved that the duo could be a disastrous concept, Dean & Britta traces back to more soulful pairings like Otis Redding & Carla Thomas or Serge Gainsbourg & Brigitte Bardot. The pairing itself may seem odd, two veteran indie rock pugilists battling it out against many of today’s pairings of hipsters and popsters. We can take notice to the fact that most collaborations witnessed in this day and age are the result of some bastardization of previous work or the consequence of celebrity ‘A’ needing a career boost from hot celebrity ‘B.’
Neither Wareham nor Phillips are “celebrities” per say (although Phillips once shared screen time with Julia Roberts; albeit in 1988), they are however, two individuals who continue to align themselves with projects of panache and certain refinement. Wareham is a veteran musician, spending much of the late 80’s in the independently acclaimed Galaxie 500 before departing the group in 1991. It was during his time in pop rock outfit Luna that the connection to Phillips was made. She had been involved with Ultrababyfat and earlier shared time with indie group The Belltower. While Luna struggled to find a home in the major market, they found success on smaller fronts – in 2002, Jetset released the praised Romantica. However, the resulting success of the pair is perhaps best measured in their work away from the group; namely L’Avventura.
He is a voice booming with distinction, while Phillips, like a graceful songbird shimmies with gentle class and splendor. The mishmash of contrasting vocal tones shines brilliantly, both complimenting each other in an array of sparse echo, sullen detachment and the beauty of a night’s whisper. The original compositions range from breezy and bouncy (the light disco tinge of “Ginger Snaps”) to the delicately serene (“Night Nurse”), while their interpretations of others bode, on most occasions, fairly well. The Buffy Sainte-Marie song “Moonshot” is a wonder of a tune and Madonna’s “I Deserve It” comes across as lonesome; pained by the forlornness of Wareham’s expression. Only a cover of the Doors’ “Indian Summer” comes off as slightly difficult. In “Out Walking” (one of two compositions penned by Phillips), the air of smoky room confession is fitting of its rather chic makeup. Brooding like a red dressed lounge singer at her tearful best, it is as poignant as the album is sophisticated.
With the exorbitant amount of duos peddling kitschy trends and fashion, the deduction is that maybe the Donnys and Maries of yesteryear would do alright today. The reason for their failure was the absence of certain quality that tends to surround projects tried for marketing ploys, cheesy television shows and the quick rise to (transient) fame and fortune. Dean & Britta are everything unlike as L’Avventura boasts breathtaking work from two individuals; resulting in a union both gracious and cultured – a classy pair of aces.
(Jet Set Records)
Crossed Keys – Saviors
Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds
Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.
Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.
For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.
Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”
A glorious sound of a time gone by
Southern California’s Gameface were always a band that seemed perfect just below the cusp. Their brand of pop-tinged punk was somewhere in between the melancholy driven emo of the early 1990s to what would become of radio-friendly punk bands evolving from the Jimmy Eat Worlds of the… world.
I loved this band. It was songs like “My Star” and “When You’ve Had Enough” that captured my attention. They didn’t fit in with the punk explosion of the mid-90s and had more melodic chops than those that remained in the underground with bands like Quicksand and Texas is the Reason (the latter being the most musically similar).
To this day, I count their track “How Far Is Goodbye?” as one I can listen to on any given day and still feel the same way about it as I did years ago. It’s a glorious sound of a time gone by, and Jeff Caudill, who has been the backbone of their songwriting since the beginning, has still got the chops his ilk can only dream of. There’s a tinge of melancholy that conjures up a certain sadness, a scene in a movie where the protagonist is making their exit into the distance as the scene closes. Something about the song, the sentiment, and the lyrics that always reminds of driving away while looking at the rear view mirror.
Five years ago Gameface released a new album, Now Is What Matters, an album that perfectly encapsulated their ability to write with emotion, melody, and magnetism that only a select few seem to possess. I interviewed frontman Jeff Caudill before the album came out to chat about the band, an interview I think still holds up. Caudill has been busy since then with a lot of solo material, while the band themselves have been releasing music sporadically (mostly singles) since 2014.
While their catalog is deep, there’s one song I keep coming back to, and that’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”. Originally released on the split 10″ vinyl with Errortype: 11 in 2000, the song received an update in 2018, which you can hear below.
Gameface photo from Gameface facebook page.