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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Various Artists

Natural Selections Vol. 1

Review by Gary Hill

This is a sampler of artists from the Asheville, North Carolina area. The music is mostly along the punk rock boundaries, but it covers a lot of range within that field. Some of the stuff here is great, while other pieces are a little less than stellar. Only one track on the set is really subpar, and even that one has its charms. I look forward to hearing more from all of the bands represented here.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Dog Park - Pallas Cats

A noisy introduction gives way to something that calls to mind a punk rock version of early Grand Funk Railroad. The vocals have more of an 80s feeling to them. I can also hear the Ramones on this, but there are even hints of electro pop or even progressive rock like Hawkwind. I can also hear bits of The Dead Boys. All in all, it’s a unique blend of sounds in a very cool cut. There is a cool fuzz psychedelic jam later in the piece, too.

LeBaron - Pallas Cats
This is closer to pure punk rock, but perhaps a bit like Gary Numan meets the Ramones and the Clash. It’s a good track, but not as cool as the first one.
Chopper - Grammer School
This cut has a roots rock meets punk and Europop kind of element to it. It’s a cool tune with a lot of old school rock and roll built into it.
Mike Clair Theme Song - Grammer School
Here they create a more pure punk rock sound. It’s much like the Ramones, but a bit more raw. It’s a cool tune that is stronger than the previous one from this outfit.
Tuesday - Forty Furies

Far heavier than anything we’ve heard to this point, this one borders on metal, but lands fully on the punk rock side of that fence. There is a mellower movement that’s quite cool and a very metallic instrumental segment later, that even calls to mind the raw side of Rush a bit.

Louis - Forty Furies
There’s a jazz meets power pop groove here, but this has plenty of punk rock in the mix. It’s another strong cut and there are some intriguing shifts and changes. It gets pretty angry in a movement later.
Better – Solito
This is more like hardcore punk with a really fierce and aggressive approach. It’s definitely rawer than anything to this point on the set. There’s a sort of punk meets rockabilly instrumental section that’s quite cool.
Spit & Growl – Solito
They slow it down this time and bring in some garage band psychedelia mixed with a more stripped down hard rock style. It’s another killer track and I like this one better than the previous one from this group.
Tirades Injustice - The Machiavillains
First off, this band gets bonus points for their name. However, this grunge meets jam band kind of track just doesn’t seem to work. It isn’t bad, but it’s not good either. It’s just sort of lackluster. That said, there is a point later in the piece where the bass guitar really shines. It’s not enough to elevate that track, but it is a bit of a shining moment.
Razor's Paramour - The Machiavillains
Now, this is cool. A nearly progressive rock oriented bass solo opens this. The group come in and create some interesting drama from there. In many ways, this mellower number is quite close to some progressive rock. Sure, there is still plenty of punk rock to be found, particularly in the vocal department, but it’s also got a lot of prog built into it.
Fire in the Sky - Balloon Wars
The female vocals on this are a nice change of pace. This cut has more of a mainstream rock element to it, but there are still some punk rock bits to be heard here and there.
Blue Cheese - Balloon Wars
There’s a cool power-trio kind of sound here. There are both male and female vocals on this, and it might be my favorite song of the whole set. I really don’t hear a lot of punk rock on this, but it’s a real smoker with a lot of stoner rock built into it. There’s a smoking hot guitar solo on this.
Toms & Queens - The Spandrels
A progressive rock element is definitely present on this. The first sections of this cut are a bit hard to take, but as it grows upwards with a folk prog meets alternative rock element, it’s quite cool. This is one of the most creative numbers on show here. There are even symphonic strings present here.
Get Hungry - The Spandrels
Take the basic musical premise of the previous tune and blend in some Devo. You’ll have a pretty good idea of what this piece sounds like.
The Keeper – Muckrakers
The opening of this is more pure punk rock. In fact, some of it calls to mind The Dead Kennedys. That said, they turn and twist it out into some of the most purely progressive rock oriented music of the set at times, making one think of King Crimson. It’s an intriguing mix and this is quite a cool tune.
 
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