Tag Archives: phoenix music

The Blankz – (I Just Want to) Slam

the_blankz

It was only recently that we wrote about The Blankz’  instant Arizona classic,  White Baby  The impressiveness of that release set the bar pretty high. Bands often change, experiment and grow, which isn’t always a good thing if what they already have is working.  So when I discovered I had something new to review for The Blankz, I was curious if they had retained the magic that was captured in White Baby.

Thankfully, their brand new EP, (I Just Want to) Slam wisely sticks with the same formula of weirdo pop punk + synth, which won them some small scale critical acclaim. The first thing that came to mind when listening was that (I Just Want to) Slam would have been a perfect for one of the obligatory slam section parts of  just about any 90′s skateboard video.  It’s kinda too bad they don’t really make those kinds of skate videos anymore, and it’s all pretty much on youtube now (or maybe they still do, and I’m just too old and out of touch to know about it.)

One thing which defines The Blankz’ songs is how catchy they are. Even after only a single listening sesh, I find myself repeating the choruses in my head over and over. Hell, i’ts been almost a month since I heard White Baby, and that’s still annoyingly stuck in my brain. Time will tell what kind of mental staying power (I Just Want to) Slam has. It’s like they put drugs in these songs or some kind of MK Ultra style, subliminal mind control messaging. Anyway, potential listeners beware: these songs will stay with you.

I suppose I should talk about the actual substance of the music here. The title track (I Just Want to) Slam is fast paced right from the opening bell and maintains the same level of energy throughout. The vocal performance is among the better I’ve heard for this genre of music. Vocals are clear, on key and delivered with balls. What more can you ask for? This is music for moshing, just letting loose and having a blast in the pit….but of course it can be a metaphoric anthem for how to approach other areas of life.

the_blankz_band

There is a second song on the album, called Baby’s Turning Blue. It’s a short but punchy jam which gives a brief and peculiar narrative of a punk rock “baby” growing up to fall victim to drug abuse. The guitars in this song are awesome, tonally and technically. The timing here is great, with frequent breaks and pace changes which all go off without a hitch. This band is tight. Everyone is on the same page. If I have one criticism it’s that I wish this song was a bit longer and elaborated more on the interesting lyrical premise. The vibe of Baby’s Turning Blue reminds me of early 90s Orange County or San Diego punk music, even though there is nothing explicitly retro about this music, and I can’t think of any specific examples of bands these guys sound like. It’s more of a feeling.

Listening to The Blankz is like if you were to resurface a fond memory of being at the Warped Tour sometime before it started to suck. The good news is that The Blankz are in the here and now… and continuing to crank out cool stuff. Cover art has a great aesthetic by the way.

For more info:
http://theblankzband.com/
https://soundcloud.com/theblankz
https://www.facebook.com/theblankzband/
https://www.instagram.com/theblankzband/

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Treasure Mammal – Missed Connections

treasuremammal

I first met Abe from Treasure Mammal around 2002-2003 and briefly lived with him at a house known for late night pool parties in Tempe, Arizona. Before he had started Treasure Mammal, he had been in a number of more conventional and “serious” indie rock bands. Despite being a multi-talented and gifted musician, he probably found standard indie rock fare to be a rather stifling and boring endeavor. He was always the life of the party and someone with Four-Loko tier levels of energy, and so Treasure Mammal turned out to be the perfect creative outlet for him. Anyway, I didn’t intend for this to sound like an obituary and am happy to observe that 15 years later, Treasure Mammal is still around, even as a zillion other Phoenix bands have come and gone.

Treasure Mammal has always differed from other indie “fun” or “humor” bands in that usually these types of groups use theatrics, costumes and funny gimmicks as a substitute for musical ability. In Treasure Mammal’s case though, Abe is actually a very skilled and accomplished musician, who just so happens to prefer to let loose and engage in this kind of wild chicanery. Another thing which distinguishes Treasure Mammal from similar bands was the use of top quality recording and production. While most people would have been content to throw some crap together and record it on 4 track, Treasure Mammal worked on their releases with some of the top recording engineers in the valley (Mike Hissong, Ryan Breen, etc.) Nowadays, almost anyone can make a near radio quality recording (production-wise anyway) with the software available, but Treasure Mammal was insisting on the very best studio production even 15 years ago.

Over the years, Treasure Mammal has had a knack for capitalizing on faddish catch phrases as they become part of the popular lexicon, quickly turning them into songs while their usage is still fairly prominent among the public. Examples of this are Best Friends Forever, Spring Break, and Real TalkThe most recent example of this is the jam, Missed Connections, (from the 2015 album I will Cut You With My EBT Card) which appears to be  a musical satirization of  the kinds of bizarre messages one might frequently see in the Missed Connections section of Craigslist…and it’s epic.

Seriously, this track is awesome.  It combines subtle, ironic humor with an excellent and catchy  pop song. The chorus, where the female vocals kick in (featuring singer Lonna Kelley,)  channels its inner Olivia Newton John in the sense that it is simply magical. The style of the song blends 80s synthpop with avant garde spoken word.  Though it isn’t meant to be taken seriously,  Missed Connections  could be interpreted as a social commentary on the empty desperation that animates these kinds of classified ads.  I assume most people read these ads for amusement, but what about the ones that write them… and do so earnestly, without even a hint of trolling or irony? Who are they? What do they look like? What kind of low point are they at in their lives? There’s something deeper about contemporary society and atomization in this super fun time tune, whether anyone cares or not.

Like many of Treasure Mammal’s previous songs, one would easily envision this becoming a viral, chart topping hit. It’s one of those songs where you tragically muse to yourself, “I can’t believe that dumbass Travie McCoy ‘I wanna be a Billionaire’ song managed to become popular, and yet this crown jewel of a jam isn’t.”

 

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