Good Music / Bad Music

Tag: The Specials

The Ott Band – Love Me

by on Nov.21, 2009, under Good Music

ottbandlovemeSo. The OTT Band. I was weary. Much like freesoulJAH, this one, too, underwent an evolving perception with me. The difference is that freesoulJAH is freesoulJAH. He is what he is, and it’s unexpected, but in the end, it really kind of works in some weird way. The OTT Band, on the other hand, has taken a very dire marketing misstep here.

I open up this London band’s CD and holy shit. This album art is terrible. It appears to be the equivalent of those over-the-hill American singer/songwriter guys who play in shit ass cover bands full time while pushing out the occasional disc of basement recordings that might have been good fifteen years ago before their ideas were so outdated. You know, cynical bastards that have nowhere to go but the sports bar? The OTT Band’s CD cover has a group of people, who I presume to be said band, in a cheap, candid, pulled back snapsot. The whole thing is soaked in the color orange, and stamped with fonts that apparently were included in Microsoft Publisher 98. How the fuck was I going to review this? If this band truly is comprised of those sports bar frequenting, cover band playing, old wankers, I can’t point all this out to them. I have sympathy for those guys, after all. Is the destruction of their rock star dreams not enough? Now they’ve got to take a verbal ass kicking from some punk ass snot shit American sitting comfortably behind his computer?

I’m happy to report that no…they do not. Hence it is confirmed that one truly cannot tell a book by it’s cover.

The vocals on the opening track, “Don’t Know,” are the last difficult hurdle to get over, but once you make it past, this is a very rewarding listen. It’s not any kind of style that is considered new. However, it is a style that is so difficult to properly execute, there are only a small handful of bands out there that have ever been able to pull it off…and nowadays no one even tries. I’m talking about the music of the 80’s. But not the 80’s you’re familiar with. Not that kitschy, coked out radio discomfort that you know in such forms as Dead or Alive, Thompson Twins or fucking Madonna. The Ott Band is tapped into something far more creative, pure and interesting. It’s that part of the 80’s that the cool kids were into. The early part that bled with the end of the 70’s and was more focused on an innovative, worldly and artistic sound. Music for music and change…not music for money and drugs. The OTT Band resonates loudly with the sounds of The Specials, The English Beat or Sandinista! era Clash.

Those are all UK bands. Maybe this is just a difference in form between the United Kingdom and America, where I was stuck. Maybe they take for granted this kind of sound over there. I just don’t hear anyone doing it anymore. Fortunately, The OTT Band relishes in it. They touch on that blessed sound that is not quite reggae, not quite rock, a little bit closer to dancehall, and strangely uplifting. There is a good use of what sounds like full choirs of people here. There are watery electronics, very notably applied on “Six Million Miles,” that serves as a testament to the detail put into these songs. The range of what they do with the music is also nicely expansive. On one end we have the head bobbing, ska-before-ska-was-ska, “Sending in the Lions,” mixed with odd modern notions of “getting bling.” It’s a playful antithesis to “Special,” a dubby, introspective gem of night music. Everything in between is a carefully laid landscape of pianos, guitars, horns and whatever else was needed to make these songs complete.

The only other complaint I can voice about this band is their website where they have a section called, “Who the **** are The OTT Band?” To this, guys, I gotta recommend that you just type out the “fuck” word. I mean, it’s 2009. Everyone knows what four asterisks mean and most people really enjoy the word “fuck” anyway.

As for the album cover, just ask me next time. I’ll work you up something more fitting…free of charge.

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Chicros – Radio Transmission

by on Nov.08, 2009, under Good Music

chicrosradiotransmission3I was very excited to receive a disc from French band, Chicros, as the French are quite often ahead of the curve when it comes to smooth music production. Plus they apparently had a track on a Record Makers (Air, Sebastien Tellier) compilation, which is instant credibility in my book. I camped out beside my mailbox for a week and then it finally arrived, a disc called Radio Transmission.

Despite being French,  every aspect of their album is in English. Through Wikipedia, their press release, their myspace page and Chicrodelic.com, I was able to draw a few conclusions about them. Apparently, they have been compared to every band that has ever existed. (Seriously. Music reviewers can’t ever make up their mind on this.) I also learned that the only way you can actually get your hands on this album (aside from their personal website) is by agreeing to review it or by traveling to France, Switzerland, Belgium or Japan. Lastly, they seem to be pretty no-frills, laid back and humorous guys, one who resembles a French counterpart of David Davis. (Their website bares the warning: “IF YOU DOWNLOAD ILLEGALLY THESE RECORDS, WE WON’T PROSECUTE YOU, BUT WHEN YOU DIE YOU WILL GO TO HELL.” Heh.)

Okay. So… The music. Listening to Radio Transmission one learns quite quickly why anyone who reviews this band tends to pull out so many disjunctive comparative names. It’s especially fitting here, considering that this is a concept album and the diversity of styles and genres is central to the gimmick. The concept, as should be obviously derived from the title, is that of radio, itself. Throughout its duration, there is not much of a song-to-song play through. Instead, we hear static bursts and fading in-betweens as an invisible hand switches the dial from station to station. Sometimes the fictional radio stays put for a bit, as in the case of “Radio Depressed,” which features the lonely ramblings of a Steven Wright sound-alike. He introduces the next song, a cover of the Dead Kennedys’ “Straight A’s,” which ultimately begins skipping, causing our down-and-out jock to stop the fictional disc and apologize.

These moments of silliness are listenable, but generally much weaker than the more seriously crafted and executed gems. Of particular note among those gems is the steady paced breakup song, “Without You,” featuring vocals by Brisa Roché. A piano base complimented by punchy Beatlesesque guitar work and dueling male-female vocals makes this an unconventionally accessible sing-along song. A few tracks later, we are graced with “New Orleans,” a macabre observation of said city immediately after (and maybe during) Hurricane Katrina. The lyrics point to evidence that Chicros apparently believes New Orleans is in Mississippi. This is easily overlookable, however, when surrounded by talk of death, destruction, zombies and lyrics as pointed and cutting as, “The white evacuees are far from New Orleans.” By the time they sing that famous George W. Bush line, “Doin’ a heck of a job,” the listener really does come to revisit something of a disturbed fear deep inside.

Chicros also conjures up other musical ghosts, most more welcome than Katrina. They channel The Specials on “Radio Drugs,” Belle & Sebastian on “What’s New On TV Today?” and Pink Floyd (or is it Explosions in the Sky?) on “If You Leave Me, Leave Me Running.” They also visit 1950’s era prom rock with “Why,” gospel on “Winos for Jesus” and even rap music on “Big Daddy Pimp Jr.” where they get away with saying the “N word” far more times than any group of white guys could get away with in America.

Despite the naive, unauthentic racism, Radio Transmissions is a thoroughly enjoyable listen. It’s playful and dark, at once. Having acquired distribution in four countries, and filling their disc up with English language songs while soliciting American review sites, I imagine their current goal is to take on The States. I wish them the best in this regards.

MP3:“What’s New Today on TV?” by Chicros

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