Tag Archives: alternative

Crosstown Chameleons – Plato’s Stepchildren


Plato’s Stepchildren is an album from Miami based band, Crosstown Chameleons. The group describes their music vaguely as being “rock oriented,” but that is actually a very apt characterization for the band’s sound, which isn’t east to compartmentalize.

Plato’s Stepchildren (possibly named after the iconic episode of the original Star Trek) is very chameleon-like in that it stylistically varies from song to song, occasionally even within the song. If I had to classify it though in the general sense I would say that it has a very 90’s rock sound, somewhere between grunge and avant garde alternative. The opening track, Summer has a peppy and bright power pop feel to it. Musicians are always taught to put their best stuff first because otherwise people will stop listening. I have no idea if Crosstown Chameleons are intentionally following that advice, but Summer immediately left a great impression. It’s probably my favorite song on the album, but I haven’t made up my mind completely.

The most comprehensive jam on here is Leather, which shapeshifts impressively throughout its 4 minute runtime. It begins with kind of arthouse, brooding performance art vibe and flashes to a heavier, amped up sound featuring a lot of warm guitar distortion and maximum crunch. The song continues transitioning through various styles. I’m not sure how they managed to make this collage work, but it comes out cohesive and memorable, a small masterpiece. I think this is the song which best embodies the band’s 90’s avant garde aesthetic.

Hope For the Universe has more of a hair band rock sound, with epic vocals and glam guitars. The best way to describe it is it’s the kind of song that would be playing during the climactic scene in a late 80s teen movie. Earth and Sky has a straightforward, adult contemporary rock ambiance, reminiscent of works by The BoDeans or even Third Eye blind, while Blackjack has a funky, night club, rock’n’roll lounge vibe.

Part of the reason the band is able to effortlessly incorporate aspects of different genres into their songs is that they appear to have achieved such a mastery over their instruments. There are so many killer guitar parts on this album, that you start to take them for granted. For example, Back to Life has some of the most colorful and vibrant guitar tones on here, and if I were writing about a different group these would be the highlight of the review, but as it is they’re just footnotes here. There are just too many interesting things happening on these recordings to mention them all. The vocalist on here is also pretty impressive. He displays a ton of versatility and range, really pushing the limit. At times, just when it seems like he’s about to bite off more than he can chew, he manages to pull back and hold steady right to the line.

Overall, this album provides a very panoramic and fulfilling listening experience. It’s a worthy enterprise from some skillful veteran musicians who seem to have no shortage of darkly creative energy.

For more info:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CrosstownChameleons/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CrosstownCham

The Twelve AM – Pretty Noise

TheTwelveAM Pretty Noise

Set to be released on January 18, 2019, Pretty Noise is the debut album of Connecticut based band, The Twelve AM. The title of the album itself serves as an apt (if minimal) description of the sound. It’s a noisy kind of alternative power pop with delightful melodies and occasionally romantic undertones. The distortion laden but impressively precise guitars compel the listener to take the album seriously from the get go. With the opening track, Punk Drunk one can immediately detect the instrumental skill here combined with top tier production quality and mixing and realize these aren’t just a bunch of kids playing around. Many of the songs have a pretty straightforward 90s alternative, post-grunge vibe, but the 6th track Guitar Boys pleasantly surprises as a crystal clear, pop gem. It’s the best song on the album in my opinion and has the most potential to be a hit. Empty is a later track which has a similar feel and is also very good. What’s notable to me about this album is how dynamic the songs are. Every song on the album seems to have its own musical personality. Even tracks which are done in the same style are still distinct and display a lot of variation in pacing, rhythm and content. Nothing here seems redundant. The vocals sound pleasant and emotive, and most importantly they are clean and haven’t been processed into oblivion (unlike many contemporary recordings.) This is a pretty solid debut album. There are indie bands out there who end up putting out 20 albums which may never come close to being as good as this.

For more info:

Official site: www.thetwelveam.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/TheTwelveAM

One Week 20 Years Ago


[Fran and Stephen are observing from the roof of the mall]
Francine Parker: What are they doing? Why do they come here?

Stephen: Some kind of instinct. Memory of what they used to do. This was an important place in their lives.
– Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Hard to believe it’s been 20 years since Barenaked Ladies’ One Week was a popular, chart topping hit. I remember driving around Tempe in the fall of 1998 listening to The Edge 106.3 FM, and it seemed like this song was on the radio every 5 minutes…sometime between songs such as Harvey Danger’s Flagpole Sitta and Third Eye Blind’s How’s It Gonna Be? These songs were heard many times on trips to and from Blockbuster Video (as well as Hollywood Video) to rent and return erotic thrillers, midnight outings to Denny’s, lonely drives to North Phoenix, my job at Abercrombie and all the rest.

One Week was one of those cheesy songs that I would have never admitted to liking but knew the words to and would secretly enjoy when it came on. It wasn’t passionately hated enough for me to like ironically, the way I later did with boy bands and Vitamin C, it was at least preferable to rapcore, a genre which I loathe to this day. In 1998, I would have complained about all the music on the radio sucking except the oldies station. This seems laughable in the context of today, when nearly every pop song is processed gibberish. In hindsight, we didn’t know how good we had it! One Week has the feel of a relic from a much more innocent and carefree era. It might as well be 100 years ago and a different country. The plethora of pop culture references in the lyrics are characteristic of Generation X works made at what Bret Easton Ellis refers to as the “height of the empire.”

Watchin X-Files with no lights on,
We’re dans la maison
I hope the Smoking Man’s in this one
Like Harrison Ford I’m getting Frantic
Like Sting I’m Tantric
Like Snickers, guaranteed to satisfy

I remember thinking these lyrics were so dumb, but not because I was opposed to the idea of cheesy pop culture references in songs. It’s just that the particular items referenced weren’t things that I personally was into. I did after all, write a song about Michael from Melrose Place. To revisit and paraphrase that memorable line from 1978’s Dawn of the Dead, such things had an important place in our lives.

I felt as though I owed it to Barenaked Ladies to write something about One Week, given how much enjoyment this jam gave me in 1998. 20 years later I can finally admit it.

Love Ghost – 24-7


24-7 is a new single from Love Ghost, a budding young alternative rock band from Los Angeles. When I say young, I do mean young. A couple of the band members are still just in high school. You wouldn’t necessarily guess it from the music though, which comes across as mature and professional.

24-7 deals with themes of anti-bullying. It has long been something of a paradox for bullied kids in school in that in order to get teachers to punish a bully who is tormenting them, they must have to be physically pummeled by the bully before the school will actually do anything. In order to prevent the bully from hurting you further, you must get hurt more drastically. If you yourself do something violent preemptively to the bully, well then you’ll be the one punished. It really is a no win situation. “There’s no escape from attack…Only after the bloody meat hangs on display will they give you, the time of day.” as the song’s lyric states succinctly. Another interesting line is “An elusive language sets the rules and governs the lunchrooms in school.” There is an entire framework and ecosystem at play in school cafeterias. One could write a whole dissertation on that subject, but what’s important here is that some student’s entire lunch experience revolves around evading bullies and avoiding humiliation. Of course, the teachers and lunchroom supervisors themselves take an elusive tact also. They tend to try to avoid confrontation or the uncomfortable responsibility of disciplining problem students. They map out their own “escape” route by looking the other way.

LG gig 1

Anyway, let’s get to the actual music. 24-7 is a pretty straightforward alternative rock song. The term “alternative” can mean almost anything these days, but Love Ghost actually has captured something close to the authentic original sound of 90’s alternative music. If I were to listen to this song without having any info beforehand, I would have guessed it came out around 1994. It could have easily found its way on to the Reality Bites soundtrack or maybe even one of the “angstier” teen episodes of Party of Five (thinking maybe season 2 with the Julia and Justin drama.) This music still fits with contemporary times as well. The whole emotive vibe here made me think of the show 13 Reasons Why. The singer here (despite complaining about bullies) displays enough charisma to make it work, as if the band is waging a kind of timid revolution.

The award winning video for 24-7 is worth watching. It features some excellent animation in the vein of a-ha’s Take on Me video. I wish more directors would bring back this style of animation instead of the 3-D, annoying filters or live action crap. Anyway, Love Ghost is a young band, but they’ve got a good thing going. I hope they manage to stay together for a while.

LG gig2

For more info: