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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Alice Sweet Alice

Mandala

Review by Larry Toering

Take the romantic pop 80s and mix it with alternative 90s sound and that is what Alice Sweet Alice are all about on Mandala. This is a band from Kansas City, MO, with touches of everything from Joy Division and Portishead, to STP and even Pink Floyd clearly heard as influences. Being a top seller in Europe, this isn't a middle of the road act, they actually have all it takes. The vocals of Ali Cat are perfect for their musical backdrop, as she puts on an amazing showing of originality. Guitarist Ron Bales is not only clean, but just as dirty when needed. They are backed by Scott Martinez on guitar and vocals, and Billy Brown on drums. Altogether this is a very enjoyable current and classic effort in one, which is challenging to describe without completely giving everything away.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
21st Century Slavery

This is always the right way to start, with a solid opening groove to set the pace. The ambience is almost theatrical, which gives it sort of a gothic vibe that simply won't quit. All in all, this is a good way to lead the proceedings in. The guitars just do the business, as they soar at every opportunity. Cats comes on reasonably strong to establish the Alice Sweet Alice sound, which is at times intricate, and others very straightforward.

Burden Of Truth

I'm not as blown over with this track at first, but it picks up and gains a lot of ground and becomes an even better number than the opener. Fantastic lyrics are laid over an eclectic rock number. This is just a finely composed song that keeps the listener glued for the next one. An excellent guitar solo is included, as well here, showing off great work from Ron Bales.

Full Circle
This is an appropriate title for what is more or less the high point of the record. I love the use of both keys and strings on this. I also enjoy the bass line, heavy and very funky. I would say the vocals describe it all very well, and it contains a killer extended fade to top it off. This is a marvelous track!
Undone
A piano motif sets this one up, and the traditional balladeering vocals take over and steal the show. How beautiful this really is, as they attempt to emote and succeed with flying colors in doing so. This is very bold and brash beneath the beauty, which makes for an overall brutal piece.
3 Tides
More of that great bass playing keeps this one together, with male vocals kicking in this time with  haunting female harmonies. So far, this is quite abstract compared with what’s already on offer, with a soft but brooding feel throughout. “Endless persuit of never ending vision” is a lyric that describes it well. This is kind of like driving through a long tunnel with the same song playing. It’s spooky yet classy in every way. This is equally as good as anything here. And it's almost prog.
Falling Under
This track even opens with the bass, giving it a slight “Under The Milky Way Tonight” vibe. But vocally this sounds more like the band Garbage than the rest of the tracks. Toward the end of this it really starts to rock to the max, with some searing guitar work. Then it’s back to the chorus, and by then it's a done deal, another killer delivery with great chemistry going for it.
Broken Mirror
It's amazing how fast this disc comes and goes, and this track savors every bit of what the group is capable. They blaze through it with pure ferocity. This is one of a couple that lean metal, but don't stay there, by any means.

 

 
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