Review Rundown 14: Strung Out, Chris Ayer, Something to Burn, Ludo

This time around the Review Rundown takes looks at new offerings from Strung Out, Chris Ayer and Something to Burn, a reissue from Ludo and a soundtrack for a new old TV show in 90210.

File Under: Idiosyncratic Pop rock
Ludo – ‘Broken Bride’ (Redbird Records): This EP is a fun ride of over-the-top songwriting and charismatic quirk, but what else can you expect from Ludo? With ‘Broken Bride,’ their re-released debut EP, the band incorporates a variety of wild imagery, including songs that tell of zombie uprisings (‘Save Our City’), dead wives (‘Part 1’) and even some ancient lore (‘Part II’), through the bands own outrageous pop rock blend, but it doesn’t simply end there. ‘Broken Bride’ plays host to some piano refrains and cheery bounce, and even a metal breakdown. On ‘Broken Bride,’ as with every Ludo release, there truly is a surprise around every corner. (
Grade: A
Go Download: ‘Save Our City’

File Under: New Music for a New Old Show
Various Artists – ‘90210: The Soundtrack’ (CBS Records): It’s confusing why television shows need soundtracks in the first place, but at least this new 90210 record is somewhat endearing since each song is original and is going to be played during an episode of the show. It’s a good collection of songs from a pretty diverse section of bands as well, which gives the disc merit. This soundtrack effectively balances new material from established acts (‘Sierra’s Song’ – the All-American Rejects, ‘A Perfect Tourniquet’ - Anberlin, ‘Love Seat’ - Red Jumpsuit Apparatus) and artists you not have on your radar just yet (‘Sunburn’ - Owl City, ‘Hearts Collide’ - Sarah Sdoway, ‘City Girl’ - Stars Crashing Cars). The record definitely flows effortlessly, even though there is some passable material along the way, but the pros outweigh the cons, leading to a successful listen in the end, but it would be nice if the remix of the show theme would run a bit longer.
Grade: B
Go Download: Anberlin – ‘A Perfect Tourniquet’

File Under: Old School Punk Done Right
Strung Out – ‘Agents of the Underground’ (Fat Wreck Chords): ‘Black Crosses’ is the perfect table setter for the rest of ‘Agents of the Underground’ as it leads the charge into the nearest dance pit. It isn’t coming into battle alone, no, it’s bringing with it a full plate of high-speed punk rock that only Strung Out could play this well; punk rock full of such a balls-out fury that it is easy to realize how and why these guys are so revered in the scene they call home. ‘Agents of the Underground’ is a record teeming with fast paced guitar frenzies and equally zealous drum work, topped off like a cherry on top of your sundae with eager and enthusiastic vocals. It may be hard to swallow that these guys have been plying their trade for so long (almost two decades), yet still manage to sound this crisp and unsullied, but that’s something you’re just going to have to deal with. (
Grade: B
Go Download: ‘Andy Warhol’

File Under: Cheery Singer/Songwriter Pop
Chris Ayer – ‘Don’t Go Back to Sleep’ (Another Record Company): Part of this record sounds like the Barenaked Ladies (‘Awake,’ ‘Roy G. Biv’), and part of it sounds like a cross between Chris Nathan (‘Opening,’ ‘In the Silence’) and Matt Hires (‘The Revealing,’ ‘Say what You Mean’), and it is that mix of tried and true pop sensibilities and bleeding heart songwriting that makes Chris Ayer’s latest, ‘Don’t Go Back to Sleep,’ a quality listen. This record offers its fair share of vulnerability, but for the most part it is a collection of hopeful tracks and optimistic song structures. With ‘Don’t Go Back to Sleep,’ Chris Ayers offers a glimmer of hope and sanguinity, while offering advice on how we can all keep our heads above water. This is an album we could all afford to hear, especially nowadays. (
Grade: A
Go Download: ‘On Your Way’

File Under: Radio Ready Modern Rock
Something to Burn – ‘Transitions’ (New West Records): Scott Weiland have never been known for making the right choices before, a completely different story for another time (see Velvet Revolver, rehab, etc), but this time around he got it right by adding his name as Executive Producer of Something to Burn’s debut disc, ‘Transitions.’ If you remember, Weiland did at one time front a highly successful rock act in Stone Temple Pilots, so the guy knows how to get things done, well, when he isn’t on the sauce at least, but again, that’s another story for another time. There are not many downfalls to this record, even though the forced screams of ‘Start Again’ leave a bit left to be desired. On that same note, there is more than enough to like on this disc. There are any number of songs that would introduce these guys to legions of adorers while killing at radio (‘Now & Forever,’ ‘Below,’ ‘Beyond’). Lead single ‘Below’ is a remarkable track that really propels the disc as a whole, but that’s just one song. Album closer ‘Home’ is another handful of minutes of rock flawlessness and still, the record has more to offer, such as crisp production, amazing attention to detail and sparkling hooks driven by frontman Greg Wayne. These guys should go far, and having Scott Weiland as one of your biggest fans isn’t a bad start, and neither is this record. (
Grade: A
Go Download: ‘Below'