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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Veal

Hot Loser

Review by Gary Hill

Canadian band Veal (Luke Doucet, Howard Redekopp, and Chang) seem to have their hearts firmly rooted in alternative music, but they wander from one type to another quite a bit. Much of the disc comes across as similar to the music of Camper Van Beethoven and the CVB spin-off band Cracker. Still, the group also shows tendencies towards both grunge and hardcore. The funniest part, though, is that they have a pop sensibility about them that causes their music, although tilted at the access, to feel almost accessible. Although much of the material is strong, sometimes they feel a bit amateurish.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2002 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Sugar Pants
A killer, alternative rock melody starts this one with a vengeance. As the piece carries forward, the verse is in a stripped down alternative sound that feels just a bit like Cracker. These modes alternate carrying the song through.
Mexico Texaco
This one really feels a lot like Cracker/Camper Van Beethoven, but the acoustic, bluesy, almost country side of that sound. It gets quite lush as it continues.
Hot Loser (Part One)
A somewhat sci-fi oriented soundscape (again quite in a Camper Van Beethoven vein) makes up the intro, and is interspersed throughout this instrumental. This is a really cool jam sort of vibe with some definite spacey weirdness.
Cauchemar
This number has its roots solidly in alternative rock sounds, but it is set to an almost jazz oriented groove. The lyrics are kind of strange, but still interesting. It contains some intriguing musical changes.
In Bed With the Pope
Considering certain allegations involving Catholic priests one might have a certain idea about the lyrical content of this track. If you jumped to that conclusion, though, you would be wrong. The cut is lyrically just another piece of alternative strangeness. It doesn't seem to really mean much of anything. A retro sound begins this one, and then a mellow bit of musical strangeness ensues. It is another from the Cracker school. It rocks out pretty well on the chorus, feeling a bit like The Smiths meet The Cure. The piece has a tendency to get rather lush at times. The instrumental break/outro feels a bit like The Munsters theme song might have sounded if it had been an instrumental by The B-52's.
Down Again
Picture members of Nirvana hooking up with members of The Smashing Pumpkins to work on a pop rock tune. Add in Cracker's sense of humor, and you are on the right track to what this one sounds like. It has a great groove and arrangement, and the fuzz solo adds a wonderful retro texture.
Cheesecake
Percussion starts this one off and carries the piece for a while. Guitar enters tentatively, then begins to become more confident and insistent. The lyrics are more recited than sung and heavily distorted and processed. This is a spacey sort of cut that grows slowly, but works exceptionally well, even though the lyrics don't seem to mean much. This is actually one of the strongest tracks on the disc in all of its weirdness. It segues into a section that feels like another song as a quick snippet to end.
Nails and Snails
This is an acoustically driven alternative balladic cut with a drum machine type of rhythm track. It is a very interesting cut with an ever-so-close-to-accessible texture.
Two Head
A rocker with a great retro texture, this one again calls to mind Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker. It is an off-kilter take on a pop song. The instrumental break has a vintage Ventures/Duane Eddy kind of feel in an almost Dead Kennedys way.
Almond Joy
Slow and mellow, this feels a bit like something Mazzy Star might have done, but with different vocals. Radiohead also comes to mind. It gets heavy late, for a time, and even wanders into jazzy territory.
Girlfriend
The hardest rocking, most frantic cut on the album, this one crosses the newer alternative sound with the mode of all the old hardcore bands. It is wonderfully weird, and also feels a bit like something from Radiohead's "Pablo Honey" album.
Apples
This is a little acoustically driven jazzy ballad with a distant quality.
 
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