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Kansas City music

Album review: Gentleman Savage - Open Eyes (EP)

I always enjoy hearing new bands that fully understand their influences, but don’t crutch on them. True musicians don’t simply regurgitate what the greats of old have done—they nod their caps to their predecessors and then find a way to push the musical bar higher and higher. Gentleman Savage has figured that out. Its brand of bubbly, '60s-infused synth pop is a dynamic and powerful melting pot of old and new.
"Overlord": Two minutes and fifty-eight seconds of high-energy, guitar-driven pop. The song works itself up to a fever pitch in the middle through the playful interplay of a well-written, breakdown bridge. Followed by the closest thing to a "face-melting” guitar solo you can get in this style of music, the song ends by trailing off over the chorus. Definitely a solid opening track. I imagine it as straight off the soundtrack of the long overdue made-for-TV movie version of The Wonder Years.
"Open Eyes": This is my favorite song on the EP, as I am a sucker for the “chug” punk beat. It sounds like The Animals stumbling their way onto Oasis’s tour bus, only to quickly realize that they needn’t stay too long. Again, it features a great late song breakdown, with harmonized falsetto vocals leading the listener by his willing hand back into the final chorus. The vocals are a clear focus and strength of this band and they are used to greatest effect on this track.
"Death in the Springtime": The most “psychedelic” of the bunch, it’s also the hardest for me to put my finger on. The beginning immediately brings to mind the droning indie styles of Bat for Lashes or Feist. The stripped-down emotional choruses take me to nervously slow dancing in the high school gymnasium (well, at least how John Hughes would explain what dancing in a high school gym would sound like). But just when I accept my Simple Minds fate, Gentleman Savage once again picks up the intensity through a series of distorted strains. The effort bellows with a full head of dissonant steam until the falsetto harmony vocals once again emerge and offer a serene bridge of sunlight back down out of the clouds and all the way to the last satisfying chord.
The best part of this EP? It leaves you wanting more. It is a solid release worthy of many thorough listens. The music of Gentleman Savage comes out like Gemini Revolution, The Quivers, and Thee Water MoccaSins all wrapped up in one vintage psychedelic pop blanket (which, by the way, these four bands on a bill would be spectacular. Someone make that show happen. Do it. Do it now.).
Catch Gentleman Savage on November 9 at Czar with Molehill, The Future Kings, and Little Rosco (Facebook event here). And be sure to pick up a copy of Open Eyes, which is now available.

--Zach Hodson

Zach Hodson is a monster. He once stole a grilled cheese sandwich from a 4-year-old girl at her birthday party. He will only juggle if you pay him. I hear he punched Slimer right in his fat, green face. He knows the secrets to free energy, but refuses to release them until "Saved by the Bell: Fortysomethings" begins production.

He is also in Dolls on Fire and Drew Black & Dirty Electric, as well as contributing to various other Kansas City-based music, comedy, and art projects.

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Album review: Stiff Middle Fingers - Enemies with Benefits (EP)

Maybe it’s the economy. Maybe it’s the layoffs I recently witnessed. But Stiff Middle Fingers' Enemies with Benefits EP resonates. The guys in the Lawrence-based band live up to their name. It’s a big "screw you," but you can’t be mad because the band provides a good set.
Stiff Middle Fingers brings a nice combination of howling vocals, raging guitar, pulsating bass and pounding drums brought to you by Travis Arvey (vocals), Cameron Joel Hawk (guitar/some vocals), Barry Swenson (bass), and JP “Heeps” Redmon (drums). These local band stalwarts already have street cred; this is just another avenue to display their talents.
The opening song “Common Cents” is especially strong. You can’t help but feel the band’s fury at the concept of becoming a slave to money and the value society puts on it. “The only change I’ve ever found is when I see a penny on the fucking ground. Now that I’m old, I don’t waste my time picking that shit up unless it’s a dime,” Avery screams and laments while Hawk, Swenson, and Redmon concur in agreement through their instruments of choice.
Songs on the EP are short, but memorable as if to say: “We’re here to party our asses off and then leave just to make you wonder what the fuck just happened?!” The instrumental riff on “Love Song” is especially catchy. The song starts with a nice drum intro but doesn’t leave you waiting like that guy you met at the dive bar who swears you’re hilarious and will call you. It provides instant gratification. It’s short like most bar relationships. But it just lets you know it’s over by quietly fading out.
And if you’re looking for rage, listen to “World’s Biggest Guillotine.” It really can’t be missed. This song is what you should listen to after a bad day unless you are overly prone to suggestion. If that’s the case, you should probably listen to Yanni or Kenny G because you’re weak.
Overall, Stiff Middle Fingers give a stout recording debut. I recommend listening to this on speakers (not your laptop). Also, don’t listen alone. Invite people over, put plastic on the floor and then start full body thrashing, dancing and hip checking while drinking. I am certain this will greatly enhance your listening enjoyment.
If you're interested in an inexpensive all-out punk show, Stiff Middle Fingers will be performing with Mr. and the Mrs. and 69 Noses at Replay this Saturday at 9:00 pm. Facebook event page here.

--Alicia Houston

Alicia Houston eats toast, drinks coffee and drives a car. Her view on the Oxford comma continually is up for debate. When she’s had a few beers, Alicia impersonates Katherine Hepburn. She has been writing since she was five and listening to music since she was born. She has a tattoo of a gray unicorn. The unicorn gives her advice and daily affirmations.

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October 2012
Midwest Music Foundation
"Midwestern Audio Vol. 1

Album review: Midwestern Audio Vol. 1, from Midwest Music Foundation

(Design and illustration by Ryan Comiskey)

With a generous helping of diverse musical ranges and genres, Midwest Music Foundation's Midwestern Audio Vol. 1 is undoubtedly The Deli KC's October CD of the month. Including 41 tracks from some of Kansas City's most talented musical acts, there's something for any musical fan.

The double CD compilation was assembled by Brenton Cook. It ebbs and flows between catchy pop beats and psychedelic freeform sounds, and then between metal and gentle folk tunes. The album bursts out of the gate with "Coming On" from Antennas Up. The band's smile-inducing, warm harmonies gear the listener up for what's to follow. Everyday/Everynight transitions in smoothly with "Body Electric," a more ambient, darker sound, but containing the same exuberance as the lead-off track. By track three, the listener is sucked in. Though "Fanclub" is tinged with a dark mood, it's an intensely danceable song that gives us a sampling of the characteristic style of Molly Picture Club.

And this is how smoothly the compilation rolls through. Each song flows into the other, even if it transitions from a straight hip-hop jam like Reach's "Move" to Be/Non's beatastic mindfuck "Yoko's Alright." One of the most brilliant parts of this compilation is the gems that can be found throughout. Some of Kansas City's most well-known bands like The Hearts of Darkness and The Latenight Callers are featured alongside newer acts like Schwervon!, relatively unknown bands like Eyelit, and established local legends like Howard Iceberg. Each track stands on its own feet but collectively breathes the spirit of Kansas City music today.

Les Izmore's rhythmic flow in "Debt on Me" delivers just as strongly as Marco Pascolini's squealing guitar in "Sparkin Your Mama Sweet 2," and also in "King of the Soapbox Derby." The album comes to a twisting downturn in Cowboy Indian Bear's "The Hunter and the Hunted," and briefly exhales at "Six Foot Dreams." And that's just disc one.

If unprepared, "Diablo Diablo" will blow the listener away with John Bersuch's tribal drum beats. The second disc gives no warning that it will relentlessly but pleasantly bash you with infectious pop hits from The ACB's and The Empty Spaces into fiercer, bolder rock from The Beautiful Bodies, finally toppling you over with Terra Peal's brazen, unbridled screams in "Blue Light." Then another short breath into Lauren Krum and Jimmy Fitzner's serene country vocal melodies, and the album takes a rootsier direction, which builds up to crotch-kicking screams from The Atlantic and double-bass tremors from Hammerlord. Yet again, it manages to cool itself off into an assuaging denouement.

First, it winds its way back into a hypnotizing tone from Expo '70 and Umberto and levels off with entrancing but accessible offerings from Akkilles and Katlyn Conroy's project La Guerre. In the last moments of the compilation, we get a prolific, sincere delivery from Abigail Henderson. There seems to be no more fitting of a choice to end this album than with the intimate sounds of Tiny Horse in "Ride." The honesty of this final track makes it an astounding culmination of songs from a bill of fine acts. The emotions gleaned from Henderson's words and Chris Meck's complementary guitar melodies speak the strongest volumes of any track present. And with that heartstring-tugging grasp, it lets go.

--Michelle Bacon

Michelle is editor-in-chief of The Deli - Kansas City. She also has a weekly column with The Kansas City Star and reviews music for Ink. She plays with Deco AutoDrew Black and Dirty Electric, and Dolls on Fire. Her favorite pastime is wearing hoodies and drinking hot tea.

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On The Beat with Solomon Radke

In a very short time, St. Joseph brothers Radkey has taken the Kansas City area by storm, and beyond. They recently wrapped up a headlining show in Lawrence, just finished a music video in Brooklyn, and played the Afro-Punk Festival. A third of the band’s success is due to Solomon Radke, who pummels the drums with purpose and can show up any veteran drummer. Find out a little more about one of the youngest, most talented drummers on the scene right here!

On The Beat is typically brought to you by Sergio Moreno, but has been overtaken this week by editor Michelle Bacon. This weekly interview features some of the many talented drummers in the area.

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