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Published: 2002/10/25
by Jesse Jarnow

Holding the Bag: Capsule reviews of Fuzzchunk, Jim Hudak, Robert Jacobson, Jam Sammich, Marlow, Mister Resistor, The Perms, Raisinhill, Sativa Gumbo, Sweatin’ Like Nixon

Funk ‘n Disorderly – Fuzzchunk
Fuzzchunk’s CD sat in my crate of discs for a long time. I seem have to have
acquired several copies of it, and all of them have a very obnoxious orange
down the spine, which is what got me to finally pick it up. Like a Mad
Magazine fold-in with "zzchu" down the middle, Fuzzchunk have fun
getting their smooth groove on with a little other stuff in the center.
There’s some decent Hendrix-inspired soloing here from guitarist Leon
Chetsas, but – for the most part – the band’s blend is a little too bland.
There’s little indicator of an original voice among the trio, with each
bandmember sticking closely to fusion tricks of virtuosity and groove. The
band slips into bar band theatrics from time to time, such as the blues-rock
wailing on "Dropped My Dee", but does very little with them. If they were
slightly more conscious of their rhythmic approach, enough to change it up a
little, they might be able to inject something new and exciting into the
Gratefully Yours – Jim Hudak
The best word to describe Jim Hudak’s piano interpretations of Grateful Dead
songs might be "precious". Another, of course, might be "hideous". While
Hudak occasionally strikes upon something sublime, he mostly just plays
cocktail versions of Grateful Dead tunes. With the exception of an
unimpressive original number, the material is exclusively drawn from the
band’s late 1960s/early 1970s output, as the band from their protozoic
psychedelic explorations full-bore into Americana-influenced rock numbers
that sounded as if they could’ve been lifted off some anonymous roadhouse
jukebox. Unfortunately, in his monochromatic delivery of the tunes’
melodies, the once distinct songs blend together in a haze of white wine and
dinner jazz. These rank among the lesser realizations of the Dead’s songbook
that have been released since Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995. For more
interesting interpretations, one should check out David Murray’s Dark
Star (adventurous out jazz readings) or the Persuasions}’ Might As
Well (warm, mostly a capella, renditions). More info…
Coldwater – Robert Jacobson
Guitarist Robert Jacobson leads his quartet through nine mellow funk/fusion
charts, often dominated (at least in the mix) by Hammond organist Wayne
Peet. Jacobson’s reverb drenched guitar is reminiscent of John Scofield,
while the band’s arrangements suggest a less adventurous Medeski, Martin,
and Wood. Still, the cats can play. Jacobson himself has quite a range, able
to keep the listener engaged through nearly eight minutes of "Dusk", a
gently wispy ballad. And though it is a contemporary jazz disc, there is
still some studio-induced depth to the recording. "The Airshow" features a
well-rounded mix of crisp acoustic and electric guitars, semi-ambient rhythm
tracks, periphery percussion, and jaw harp. Though, despite the attention to
detail, the music sure could use to kick a little bit more. More info…
self-titled – Jam Sammich
There’s really something oddly reassuring about the unfortunately named Jam
Sammich. Behind the picture of the four average guys in the liner notes – clearly none too happy in the drab, gray vacant lot – lies a generic
Midwestern cluster of parking garages and buildings melted unimpressively in
Photoshop. Ditto for the back cover, which comes off like a low rent take on
"Anthem of the Sun" or "Aoxomoxoa". The instrumental music inside is a small
comfort, a sensible distraction from endless commercial strips of cold
cement. The music comes from deep in the heart of Grateful Dead-land, though
updated with some of the ’90s jamband trappings of Latin grooves and
slithering white-boy funk. Nonetheless, each of the eight tracks seems as if
it coulda been grabbed straight out of a Dead show. It’s nothing strikingly
original, but it’s pretty good. Each song’s starting point seems like
someplace the Dead would only get after a good while of improvising. With
that, Jam Sammich finds a nice, comfy home in deep space. More info…
White Out – Marlow
Along with Lo Faber’s Henry’s House, this is what the great God
Street Wine/Ominous Seapods legacy has trickled down to. Fronted by
latter-day Seapod, Todd Pasternack (and backed by GSW’s Lo Faber and the
Seapods’ Ted Marotta and Tom Pirozzi), White Out is an intensely (and
obviously) personal collection of vaguely depressing rock tunes. As a ‘pod,
Pasternack never quite made it, coming off as a poor man’s Max Verna. "White
Out" shows him emerging. His songs rely a little too much on
singer-songwriter clich But, hey, when life deals you singer-songwriter
clich that’s how the songs are gonna turn out, right? Pasternack does
well with melancholy melodic turns, finding an original voice within them,
though the arrangements are a little bland. More info…
Peace Day Resistance – Mister Resistor
Praise Zeus: a band that knows how to use the studio! Employing some of the
same genre-bending techniques as jambands, Mister Resistor genuinely throws
the rulebook out the window and admirably twists out a crazed stereo-panned
mini-masterpiece of funk samples, jazz grooves, intelligent hip-hop, dirty
drones, rolling classical, and a bunch of other skittering genres. On top of
all of that, the band serves up politics in just the right dosage, spitting
out righteously indignant lyrics that rarely fall prey to clich- and, if
they do, they are soon lost in a sea of gorgeous bleeps. The production is
top notch, a true headphone treat, with new and fresh sounds revealing
themselves at every turn (such as the subtly sampled
no-question-about-it-that’s-fuckin’-R2D2 noises that occur somewhere midway
through). With few credits on the inside, one gets the sense that this was a
collective effort by a genuine band. This is absolutely how it should be
done. Word up and hats off, gentlemen. More info…
Clark Drive – The Perms
I don’t really know if this album is any good, honestly. I think it is. It’s
appealing to my ear, but I’ve been listening to hippie funk all day
and anything outside that realm would’ve been a cleansing experience anyway.
And The Perms sure ain’t hippie funk, or even hippie at all. I’m not sure
how they ended up in the pile, but it’s sure okay. The Canadian trio (a
huh-huh, huh-huh) is pure sugar pop, sorta in the vein of The Apples (in
Stereo) and hoards of other Beatles-influenced outfits. In many places, the
music wouldn’t sound out of place as the theme song to a sitcom about a
bunch of wacky 20somethings — which is both good and bad. It takes a
definite talent to be able to craft a song like that, knowing how to pull
off brisk tempos, song alongs, and when to stop. The Perms pull it off well.
More info…
self-titled – Raisinhill
Raisinhill sound a bit like The Slip, minus the latter’s band recent
predilection for Paul Simon-influenced flights of pop fancy. The music on
Raisinhill’s four-song debut is mellow, no doubt, and dances warmly across
the hippie jazz spectrum. None of the trio’s tunes are particularly
attention grabbing, but their blend is top notch. Guitarist John Kasiewicz
uses just enough juice to keep his electric just at the edge of acoustic
warmth, which melds nicely with bassist Brian Anderson’s upright. They trio
could probably stand to be a little more extreme in some of their playing,
just for the sake of experiment (maybe in terms of playing extremely
atonally or, perhaps, ambiently) but it’s a fine start. And damn if the
chords in the head of "Soul Jive" don’t sound like the introduction to "John
Henry’s Hammer" by the Seapods. More
We’ve Only Just Begun… – Sativa Gumbo
Sativa Gumbo need work. And by "work", I don’t mean it in the passive sense,
like that they need more gigs. I mean it in the active sense. They need to
do work. We’ve Only Just Begun… is sprawling in all the
worst ways, though there is a good spirit underneath the music.
Instrumentally and vocally it comes off as amateurish, with poorly delivered
vocals, shoddy lyrics, and subpar musicianship, such as on the sloppy and
representative "Set Me Free". "Set Me Free" also happens to be the shortest
song on the disc, clocking in at roughly five-and-one-half minutes. The band
should start by doing some serious editing, trimming away extraneous playing
and sections, and figuring out what parts of the songs are essential. Yes,
this is a live album, but the songs themselves are meandering before they
reach the jams, lacking a rhythmic tension that might carry them on its
back. More info…
Fishing In Political Sewers – Sweatin’ Like Nixon
Just in time for the release of their new album, here comes a review of
their old one. See, I thought I reviewed this before. I meant to, but
I guess I just plum fergot. Fishing In… is just a whole lot of fun,
as the band careens from one genre freakout to another reeling in their own
snarky humor and absurd extra-musicality. The band could probably serve to
grab some pointers on how to inject s’more surreality into their smarm from
the late, lamented Hampton Grease Band (particularly their epic "Maria") on
songs like the three-part "The Bullfighter". The beginning of "Ode To Isa"
sounds like a gen-u-ine old-school Blues Traveler throwback before dropping
into some hard Authority-style rap-funk. Good shit, yo. (And, really, the
best thing about this band is that they link to the mindblowing KNEEL BEFORE ZOD page from their
website.) More info…

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