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Nancy Sinatra – Nancy Sinatra

Nancy Sinatra’s self titled record combines several songwriting styles and employs the sounds of rock, country, jazz, cabaret and psychedelic to fashion a uniformly brilliant album.

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I was at the car was yesterday and out of terrible desperation, I picked up a copy of our local LA, left wing, entertainment rag or what passes for acceptable journalism in some circles, mainly crop. What caught my eye was that they featured a write up on Nancy Sinatra. I am not going to quote what they said in their article, nor was I predisposed to have an opinion that was good or bad. It was just mere coincidence that I had recently received her new record and it was on top of my “to do” pile otherwise known as Mount Vesuvius.

Beyond the legendary hit single “These Boots Are Made for Walking,” I know very little about Ms. Sinatra’s long term career except that she made the rounds on many a television variety show during the mid 1960’s. And, I am quite blissful in my own ignorance because it compels me to do a little research and is a sound reason to employ certain sections of my cranial endowments.

Now let’s just pretend that Nancy does not bear the legendary Sinatra name and suppose her promotional people sent this CD to me as a release called Unspecified Female Vocalist (UFV). Yes, and that they even sent it to me in a white envelop, with a stark white cover even whiter than the Beatles’ White Album. How would I review it? The same way I always do any other artist, with complete objectivity and creative aplomb.

The UFV record begins with “Burnin’ Down The Spark,” a track using the forever cool sound of sixties twang guitar; and creating a vibe that reminded me of The Beau Brummels combined with a taste of the old Tijuana Brass horn section. Sounds like an odd combination but it works well in supporting the easy going vocal talents of UFV. While the following two songs didn’t knock my white socks off, track number four did catch my cynical ear. This song is written by Pete Yorn, who plays every instrument with the exception of the piano work by Don Randi of “Wrecking Crew” fame. You know the guys who backed up Brian Wilson on Pet Sounds. Listen to this song two or three times and you may be inspired to call or e-mail your local AOR radio station urging them to give this one a spin.

Heading in a darker direction, UFV employs the song writing and musical talents of Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore on “Momma’s Boy.” This atmospheric track could be compared to Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow record, as well as the retro Airplane sound of Siouxsie And The Banshees.

Speaking of dark, UFV must have friends in high places. Our unnamed singer has been fortunate to collaborate with one of the darlings of the satirically morose set, Morrissey, who along with Alain Whyte have contributed their song “Let Me Kiss You.” This is the first single from the album and it is a humdinger that offers the melodic quality you have come to expect from the writer but is surprisingly well interpreted by the nameless vocalist. Although supported by a nice array of great guest songwriters, UFV’s own “Something About A Fire” is actually one of the best tracks on the record. This one also pays musical homage to the sound of sixties psychedelia and features the distinctive drumming of Elvis Costello and the Attractions band member Pete Thomas.

The UFV effort closes with “Two Shots Of Happy, One Shot Of Sad,” a tune originally written for Frank Sinatra (and for our purposes, no relation to Unspecified Female Vocalist). It would however be fitting if UFV was related to Old Blue Eyes, because he never lived to record this retro Rat Pack number that was written by Bono and The Edge. In the hands of UFV however, the musical styling is reminiscent of the great Peggy Lee who might have performed it in the same understated, yet completely self assured way.

UFV’s self titled record combines several songwriting styles and employs the sounds of rock, country, jazz, cabaret and psychedelic to fashion a uniformly brilliant album. Though the singer may be unknown to you, it is evident she has spent years honing her craft and is thoroughly adept at using her instrument to bring an original twist to the songs of journeymen writers like Pete Yorn, Bono and Morrissey. I highly recommend you give the kid a chance because when it comes to the dog-eat-dog music business, she may just have a crack at it.

(Sanctuary Records)

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Good Riddance – Thoughts and Prayers

The fire still burns brightly for Good Riddance

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It would seem that the current US administration has proven to be fertile fields for political punks. If there is a positive to have come out of the past few years, it is in the form of angry punk rock records. The aptly titled Thoughts and Prayers, the new record by Good Riddance, could very well be the best of them. For many like myself, Good Riddance was the gateway to a world of punk rock socio-political commentary; wrapped in aggressive, melodic hardcore that opened your mind as much as it punched a hole in the wall. 1996’s A Comprehensive Guide to Moderne Rebellion and the really terrific 1998 record Ballads from the Revolution, were eye-opening propositions for a wide-eyed kid. Good Riddance resonated because their songs were hard-hitting commentary that sounded like broken-hearted punk rock songs. They sang intelligently about inequality, human despair, and the sometimes broken system in which we live in. And when their broken-hearted punk rock songs weren’t about society and politics, they were broken-hearted punk rock songs about broken hearts (don’t think there have been love songs as good in the genre as “Jeannie” and “Not With Him”).

Four years since their comeback record, Peace In Our Time, we get the much more furious Thoughts and Prayers. 12 songs of trademark breakneck melodic hardcore that talks about the divisive current political climate without going as far as saying things like “Trump sucks”. But that’s never been the Good Riddance way. Vocalist and chief lyricist Russ Rankin has always found a way to express his anger and disappointment with poise and intelligence- sounding more like a well-read poet than a man yelling on a street corner.

In the track “Don’t Have Time”, he sings about the futility of repeating history to trumpet nationalism; “And those same old fears arise / With eyes too drawn to counteract / The ghost in you comes rushing back / Too caustic to subside / Just what have we done? / We killed a mother’s only son / Just to remain at number one“. And lyrically, much of takes a similar route of well-written stanzas that question a lot of what is going on in the world at the present time. Songs like the opening “Edmund Pettus Bridge” (let’s hope everyone knows the significance of this landmark), replete with Michael Douglas Wall Street sound byte, sings of social inequality but does it with a trace of hope. While songs like “The Great Divide” are an example of melodic hardcore’s finest moments; unrelenting sonic pummeling that is as melodic as it is potent. “Wish You Well” takes cues from Good Riddance’s “softer” tones of catchy choruses and mid-tempo verses; akin to the track “Saccharine” (from 2003’s Bound by Ties of Blood and Affection). Perhaps the best thing about the 12 songs here is that they are all very succinct, potent, with rarely a moment of filler. The album is consistently good, and while it rarely deviates from the Good Riddance sound, it never lacks in the fire and fury we’ve come to expect.

The album itself SOUNDS fantastic, credit again to Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore at The Blasting Room for their production. The guitars rip at the right levels while the percussion work hits just right. The mixing levels are as close to perfect as you can get without any one element dominating over another- a constant the band have found since 1999’s Operation Phoenix (no surprise, the first of their albums to have been produced at the Blasting Room).

The appeal of Good Riddance has always been two-fold. Firstly, their music has shown steadfast quality, and the albums have found longevity due to the way Rankin and company write their songs. With lyrics referring to and talking about a multitude of humanist issues without having to directly reference them, they remain political, timely, writing music as urgent as it was through the 90s as it is today. That may be a sad indictment of society itself, but it doesn’t take away from their effectiveness and influence. Rankin himself has said that their music may not have changed the world per se, they continue to open eyes and minds. This writer can attest to the latter- and the importance of that can’t be underlined enough. Their early discography spoke to my generation about life, self, and the interconnected reality of the world we live- no matter how hard to try not to believe it. Thoughts and Prayers is a furious, timely, and potent slab of hard-hitting melodic hardcore and shows that the fire clearly still burns as passionately for Good Riddance as it did all those years ago. And perhaps it’ll be what A Comprehensive Guide to Moderne Rebellion and Ballads From the Revolution was to me for a whole new generation.

(Fat Wreck Chords)

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Hatriot – From Days Unto Darkness

From Days Unto Darkness is a relentless pummeling of thrash metal’s best qualities

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When it comes to Bay Area thrash metal, there are two bands that sit atop the mountain forever entwined to its history; Metallica and Exodus. Both bands linked together by Kirk Hammett, both bands crucial to the Bay Area’s most destructive form of music. Exodus may not have their name in lights as Metallica does, but Exodus’ influence cannot be mistaken- and many point to them as being the one true progenitor of Bay Area thrash. Hatriot, a band that was started by Exodus vocalist Steve Souza in 2011, are a real chip off the ol’ block. Surprisingly, it isn’t just musically that Hatriot follows suit from Exodus, its a family thing too. While Steve Souza left Hatriot in 2015, his sons Nick and Cody continue on percussions and guitars with the latter taking on vocal duties once the older Souza returned to Exodus.

Hatriot does more than just follow on the Exodus path; they’ve loudly carved their own slice of the thrash pie. Led by Kosta Varvatakis shredding guitar work and Cody Souza’s blistering (sometimes ominous) vocal work, Hatriot may have found their Fabulous Disaster, ironically, also three albums in.

From Days Unto Darkness is a relentless pummeling of thrash metal’s best qualities; machine gun percussion work (I’m a sucker for some great double bass drums), shredding guitars, soaring solos, and vocals that does the growling well, and the screaming even better. Tracks like “Organic Remains” and the blistering “Carnival of Execution” showcase the band’s ability to craft songs that are equal parts urgency and solid musicianship. Thematically, From Days Unto Darkness covers the usual thrash metal spread; the end times, death, destruction, and humanity’s failing graces- all done with equal breakneck, ear piercing destruction sonically. “World, Flesh & Devil” is perhaps the album’s best outing- a raging beast of a song, that if carnage could be written in music form, this is it incarnate. At 4:26, it is one of the shorter tracks of the release, but much of the album features in at the 6-7 minute mark- a trademark of thrash metal’s desire to not only showcase talent but to do it over extended periods.

What the album lacks perhaps is that one magnum opus of a track. Sure, it’s not easy for any band to write “Master of Puppets”, but From Days Unto Darkness rarely takes a breather. It’s mostly positive, but while Master had at times, slow interludes to let you catch your breath, Hatriot takes absolutely no prisoners- staying true to their thrash metal heritage. If you’re not quite up for it, this album will hammer you into a stupor.

The halcyon days of Bay Area thrash metal may be long resigned to nostalgic documentaries, but Hatriot are not interested in just being a throwback to their roots. From Days Unto Darkness is not for the weak and if this is the sign that thrash metal is alive and kicking, then the future and present are in damn good hands.

(Massacre Records)

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