By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
No matter how many times we swear that we're gonna start doing regular local-release roundups, no matter how many Black Panels our colleague Paul Friswold assembles, the local CDs keep coming in, and we keep not writing about them. Crushed together like so many Pruitt-Igoe dwellers in anonymous, teetering stacks, the local CDs glare balefully at us from dusty corners of our office. "Just give us a chance," they seem to implore. ("Zip it!" we mutter back. "Can't you see we're trying to come up with more pet names for Nelly?") Every day brings a new batch of voice-mail messages, all variations on the same "When are you going to write about me?" theme: "Don't you think it's interesting that my wife and I have been performing together for 25 years?" "I thought you'd like to know that I'm a female drummer, and that's pretty unusual, from what I understand." "My girlfriend thinks we've really got what it takes to take it to the next level!"
Like Third World babies, feral kitties and sick crows, there are just too many of 'em for us to make much of a dent. To quote former Vintage Vinyl employee Jon Taylor (who also has a new CD that we haven't yet written about), "There are too many people in the world, and too many of them make records." So we avert our eyes, forward our messages to voice-mail purgatory and try to put on a hap-hap-happy face for the people.
Every so often, though, someone pierces our pleasant little bubble of complacency. A couple weeks ago, the band Somnia actually sent us a singing telegram in a creative (if vaguely pathetic) attempt to get our attention. It worked. We even read the accompanying letter, which notified us of their upcoming CD-release party (September 21, Hi-Pointe) and urged us to check out one song in particular: "We feel that you will find the song 'Almighty' interesting. The lyrics may be found in the CD case."
Obviously the wise men of Somnia understand that the way to a writer's heart is through her ego. Critics are all shameless, attention-starved losers who secretly believe someone ought to be writing about them for a change. Radar Station, of course, is no exception, which is why it gives us no small pleasure to quote the following choice lyrics from "Almighty": All hail the advocate of it all/All hail the lady of the scene/All hail the bitch playing favorites/All hail the holy queen and I say/You're almighty ... She'll kill you .../free press for a price that you won't pay .../Goddess with a vice for Judgment Day/Hangin' at the Music Lounge downtown/Yeah, you better bow down.
Lyrically, it's barely idiomatic (a "vice for Judgment Day"? the "advocate of it all"? and since when are we "getting laid"?), and it's certainly no "I Killed Christgau With My Big Fucking Dick." (Note to Somnia: Sonic Youth, the authors of the aforementioned masterpiece, turned Robert Christgau into a fan for life with that song -- you might want to do some homework on the ancient art of rock-crit baiting). But, hey, we salute Somnia for trying, and we recommend that local musicians everywhere channel their irritation with Radar Station into something, uh, creative. Yeah, that's it.
Musically, there's not much to say about the song (or the CD in general) other than that it's competently executed, 101.1 The River-ready modern rock with an '80s power-pop sheen and an emotive, growly vocal style. Somnia actually covers a Greg Kihn number, too, the horrific "Break Up Song," which some of us are unlucky enough to remember from our freshman year of high school. That song choice pretty much tells you all you need to know about Somnia, but here's another fun fact: They all like to make devil-horn signs, and "God" is the first entity thanked in the liner notes. We asked a band member about the apparent inconsistency and were told that they're into being "lighthearted." Well, so are we, which is why we're benevolently refraining from "killing" them, as is certainly within our holy queen/bitch/advocate/goddess powers.
We couldn't disappoint Somnia by missing an opportunity to play favorites, so we'll tell you about a CD that we do like: the Rockhouse Ramblers' masterful sophomore effort, Torch This Town. It's old-fashioned hard country, played and sung and written with smarts and passion, with nary a pinch of retro-kitsch self-consciousness. As with their equally strong debut, Hayden's Ferry Records, an indie label based in Tempe, Arizona, is releasing the CD nationally. The all-important CD-release party takes place on Saturday, September 21, at Blueberry Hill. (Oh God! The same night as Somnia's! Once again, cruel fate forces us to play favorites!) Brian Henneman (Bottle Rockets, Diesel Island) opens the show with a solo acoustic set.