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Steve Peltz

Sweet Lips

Review by Gary Hill

There are definitely people who like odd music. I'm talking about stuff that is often off-key or oddly timed. There was a group called "The Shaggs" in the 1960s who epitomized that kind of sound. They still have fans to this day and they were one of Kurt Cobain's favorites. The whole Rock In Opposition movement had a lot of that kind of jarring, non-harmonious clashing to it. This album definitely feeds off of a lot of that thing, too.

I have to say that this is a situation where less might be more. This album (essentially a double album, but listed as a single set because it's digital) has 30 songs. The thing is, the musical styles are all over the map - from near death metal to punk rock to folk music and all kinds of things in between. I can't imagine that there would be anyone who would like everything here. Perhaps releasing this as a series of somewhat more homogenous EPs would be a better idea. Still, these days a lot of people listen to just one song at a time anyway.

The long and short of it is that the musical style here is incredibly wide ranging. The vocals are often of the off-key variety and sometimes the music is, too. If you find yourself in the group of listeners who dig that kind of thing, there is plenty to like here. There is a genuineness to it, and some real charm. That kind of music isn't really my thing, but I found some songs here that I like quite a bit. That says a lot.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Get's Me Through Tonight

Acoustic guitar opens this. The vocals come in nearly screaming. It's punky, but also makes me think of The Who in some ways. This is hard rocking and extreme. I can almost hear some links to the Violent Femmes on this thing.

All Night Alone (Elevator Song)

This is a much mellower cut. It's more atmospheric in a lot of ways. The vocals, with their non-traditional approach, bring a definite DIY, punkish texture to the piece.

A Bad Boogie

The falsetto on this feels almost tongue-in-cheek. The music is more of a retro textured soulful groove. The ending is abrupt.

Sister Sateen

The rhythm section opens this. The cut grows out in a de-tuned kind of mellow groove. This is one of the more effective pieces here.

Back of the Truck

The vocals are more spoken on this number. This has some Americana in the mix. I like this one quite a bit. In fact, I'd say that it's definitely one of the highlights here. We get some more falsetto on this track, but it doesn't feel as tongue-in-cheek as the others ones did.

'Til the End of Time

The guitar riff that opens this makes me think of the Rolling Stones, but the vocals bring it more into hardcore punk territory with their odd delivery. There are more high pitched vocals bringing another element. At times this feels a bit cluttered.

Everyday in Love

The music on this is among the most traditional here. The vocals, though, tend to seem to struggle to find the right key. On the more raw, rocking numbers that lends character and a punk edge. On a balladic piece like this, they tend to ruin the number. It's a shame because this could be one of the highlights.

Ethereal Erudition

I dig the driving acoustic guitar vibe on this cut. There is an almost 80s vibe to this, but there are also some prog elements at play. The vocals here work better than on a lot of the others. That said, he seems to try to stretch beyond his abilities at times. Still, this is one of the stronger pieces on the disc.

A Long Road to Nowhere

Although it's a bit busy, there is a cool psychedelia turned proggy sound that opens this. It shifts out to a detuned kind of Americana that's got plenty of energy. This has a real alternative rock meets punk vibe. It's another that is among the more effective cuts here. There are some intriguing musical lines here.

Exit
This one is a bit rough to take. It's another stripped back cut. That makes the jarring vocals really clash because they stand out to much. At times this one definitely makes me think of The Shaggs.
Not Social

Now, this is cool. It has so much hardcore punk built into it. It's fast paced and furious. The vocals are almost death metal related. They work better than a lot of those on the set. This piece is one of the most effective on the disc.

Alien Abduction Blues

This arrangement has a lot of psychedelia built into it. It leans toward Rock in Opposition, too. It's suitably freaky, but is another track that seems to get a bit overly busy at times. At times the discordance on this piece is almost haunting.

Prehistoric Man

The super-low pitched vocals on this call to mind a lot of punk rock based stuff. The music is free-form and strange, but also tastefully crunchy. This is definitely weird, but there is something about it that works.

Show a Little Care

More of a folk song, this is a bit awkward at times, but pulls together at other points.

Talking Never Works

Coming in with more of an old school rock and roll sound, this has a definite energy. I dig the guitar soloing at the start. The vocals feel tongue-in-cheek, calling to mind a lower register Tiny Tim. There is almost a rag-time element to some of this.

Alive Immortal

There is almost a strange show tune vibe to this. The vocals are of the low register variety. This is weird, but oddly compelling, too.

The Fix Is Out

In some ways this makes me think of something Lou Reed would do. The high pitched vocals on this are the main element that doesn't really work well. Beyond that, this is one of the stronger cuts on the disc.

Sunshine Express

The opening on this is definitely the kind of thing that makes me think of The Shaggs. It has some of that same sort of timing to it. This has some tasty acoustic guitar soloing and some other intriguing elements. It has more of a folk rock vibe to it. The vocals work a bit better than they do on some of the other cuts. There are some proggy elements on some of the instrumental stuff later.

Discipline

Coming in harder rocking, this has some oddly compelling guitar soloing over the top. The low-register vocals are solid. Some of the screaming stuff with weird angular changes feels more like Rock In Opposition stuff. This ends very abruptly.

Death

Here's a cheerful title for you. This comes in with a definite hard edged modern prog kind of sound. It's almost along the lines of noisy modern King Crimson. The vocals bring it more into the death metal type of category. This is one of the strongest pieces here.  This has some strange shifts and turns, but it's very much in a metallic prog rock kind of sound that works really well.

Let's Go Fallin' in Love

Although there is a strange edge to this, it has a lot in common with things like power-pop. That said, the vocals are pure punk rock. This is another that ends abruptly.

Sundown at Noon

The vocals on this make me think of a low register version of Jello Biafra. The music is more of a folk rock styled thing. This is interesting and works pretty well.

Put Your Jesus On

Folk music is the idea here. The vocals really stand out on this song. They are a bit jarring to me. Again, I think the vocals work better where the music is louder to temper them. Here, there just isn't enough volume to properly offset the voice.

Soul Down

I dig the retro sound that the organ brings to this. Again the timing makes me think of The Shaggs at times on this. The low register vocals are the lead ones here. The other vocals here make me think of Frank Zappa's music. There is a definite soul music vibe here, but it's twisted with the kind of weirdness that Zappa always made work. This is one of the more effective tunes here, even though it's still quite strange.

This Is Heaven (Little G Major Jingle)

This seems to have just about all the kinds of vocals in a weird little jam that's part jazz, part country and part alternative rock.

Important Research

There is a science-fiction kind of element to this cut. The music is along the lines of a weird alternative rock kind of proggy thing. It's very strange, but oddly effective. It gets more chaotic and dissonant as it continues.

Zeppelin

Another that lands closer to the folk rock edge of the spectrum, this is a bit awkward. Yet, it works better than some of the other folk based songs here. There are almost some prog elements at play at times here.

Particular Way

This instrumental is a bit left-of-center, but also pretty cool. It features a lot of guitar soloing.

Strutting Buddy

Falsetto vocals are the driving factor here, but they turn out to screaming punk styled as the cut goes onward. There are some weird bits of music here, but also some intriguing stuff during the short instrumental section.

Metallic Green

Faster paced and harder rocking, the music that brings this in is some of the coolest stuff here. It's another instrumental. It works really well. There are some decidedly metallic things in this and a bit of a prog edge to it.

 
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