Review Rundown: The Swerve, Who Cares, Prodigy, Oh No Fiasco, Duff McKagan's Loaded

This Review Rundown will offer up to you reviews of new releases from the Swerve, Who Cares, the Prodigy, and Oh No Fiasco, as well as a reissue from Duff McKagan’s Loaded.

Purchase - Wonder EP
File Under: Organic Electronica
The Swerve – Wonder (Pop Twist Records): Though underpinned pulsating currents of dark psychedeila resonate throughout the airwaves on Wonder, the latest EP offering from San Francisco’s the Swerve, it’s the use of real instruments (drums, guitars) that give the album its natural, mostly organic feel. The overlaying dark and haunting vocal work of Jana Hanavan manages to simultaneously stand at the forefront and lurk in the shadows of Wonder, leading to some of the EP’s warmest moments. Opening track “Bathe Me” is a soothing and charming killer, while on the subsequent title track, the listener is lulled into a trance by the noticeably subtle waves of synth pulsing in the background. The heavy analog production of “the Virgin” is almost ethereal; another song that highlights Hanavan’s lingering, evocative vocal contributions, one that should stay with you long after Wonder is over. Just about the only thing wrong with Wonder is that its only four songs (well, OK, three songs and an instrumental, but still) long, and will leave you wanting more no matter how many times you listen to it. In hindsight, that’s not really all that bad a thing. The Swerve’s self professed intention is to “create a vintage soundtrack to modern life,” and with Wonder it doesn’t seem they’re all that far off. (
Grade: A
Go Download: “Bathe Me”   

Purchase - Sick: Deluxe
File Under: Sleaze Rock
Duff McKagan’s Loaded – Sick (Armoury): With Sick, as was mostly the case with their recently released album the Taking, Duff McKagan’s Loaded is far better served to let the guitars fly, press the pedal to the floor, and kick the afterburners into high gear. Testosterone fueled, riff-driven tunes like “Sleaze Factory,” “I See Through You” and “Forgive Me” are such occasions, but when the band ventures into other territories, mainly mid-tempos rockers like “Flatline,” Sick falters and gets lost. There are exceptions to the rule however, as chilling numbers like the apologetic and uber-emotional “Mothers Day” and haunting “the Slide” serve as some of the albums standout tracks. Armoury’s reissue of Sick comes equipped with oodles upon oodles of goodies, including two bonus tracks (“Roll Away,” “Wasted Heart”) as well as a bonus DVD that features the bands entire 2008 performance at the Garage in Glasgow, with some backstage footage and interviews spliced in. There’s also a music video (“No More”) and a number of webisodes to satisfy those enamored by that type of stuff. Well worth the effort, time and money if you’re a fan of McKagan’s or Loaded, if not for the DVD footage alone. Sure, Loaded only got better from Sick to the Taking, but it’s still nice to be able to see where the band came from. (
Grade: B-
Go Download: “Mothers Day”  

Purchase - Out Of My Mind / Holy Water
File Under: Classic Rock for a Cause
Who Cares – Out of My Mind/Holy Water (Armoury): It’s been more than a quarter century since Deep Purple’s Ian Gillian and Black Sabbath’s Toni Iommi last teamed up, but, as they say, the good things in life are worth waiting for. The legendary duo are back at it again with Who Cares, this time writing music for a just cause - to raise funds for the rebuilding of a music school in Gyumri, Armenia that was destroyed in the 1988 earthquake. With Who Cares, Gillian and Iommi have surrounded themselves with the best of company, namely Deep Purple keyboardist Jon Lord, Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain, former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted, current Deep Purple guitarist Steve Morris and Him’s Linde Lindstrom, for their new two song offering. The first track, “Out of My Mind” is a slow-dirge along the lines of a Black Sabbath march, a tune complete with thick, brooding guitars, while the second tune, “Holy Water,” likens more to the Deep Purple playbook, though it boasts an overt worldly feel, rounded out by Iommi’s brilliant guitar playing. In addition to the two excellent tracks, the CD contains a video for “Out of My Mind” and a simply tremendous 27-minute documentary with Ian Gillan explaining the project and his interest in the Armenian people and the music school in Gyumri. With proceeds from the single going to benefit the afore mentioned Armenian music school Gillan and Iommi have long supported, this (hopefully) initial Who Cares release is a must-own. Let’s just hope this is the start of a beautiful friendship (and many, many, many more releases). (
Grade: A
Go Download: “Out of My Mind”

Purchase - Live Worlds on Fire
File Under: Electronica at Its Very Best
The Prodigy – World’s On Fire (Take Me to the Hospital/the End): For the unenlightened crowd, the thought of a live release from an electronic act such as the Prodigy seems pointless. Simple DJ’s standing in front of a laptop wearing oversized headphones? Well, the Prodigy isn’t your normal run of the mill electronic act. Captured at their very own Warriors Dance Festival last year, World’s on Fire is a testament to the duo of Maxim and Keith Flint’s sheer ability to control a frenzied crowd of 65,000+. The Prodigy’s live show is utter chaos, as the two exude more energy onstage that perhaps most bands you’ve ever seen in the live arena, as they shred through a too-short set of 17 tracks comprised of their best work - “Omen,” “Firestarter,” “Invaders Must Die,” “Smack My Bitch Up,” and “Take Me to the Hospital,” just to name a few. The closing “Out of Space” lulls the crowd into a reggae-inspired gentle sway, sending the massive crowd out on a subtle note. The bonus Invaders Alive DVD features a number of other live performances filmed around the world, as well as a few short films. By the time you get to the bonus DVD, consider it merely icing on the cake, because the first DVD of World’s on Fire is well worth your time and money. World’s on Fire is sure to hold up as one of the years very best live releases, and, for those who have never experienced the frenzied workings of this UK team onstage, World’s on Fire will bring you into the world of the Prodigy, a world that always has a sick beat playing.  (
Grade: A
Go Download: “Invaders Must Die”

Purchase - Oh No Fiasco
File Under: Powerpop-Punk
Oh No Fiasco – Oh No Fiasco (Fiasco Entertainment): Though Oh No Fiasco is fronted by Lindsey Stamey, a vocalist who sounds close to a mixture of the sheer pop sensibilities of Paramore’s Hayley Williams and the gruff textures of Flyleaf’s Lacey Sturm (with a tip of hat to the power of Automatic Loveletter’s Juliet Simms), it by no means classifies or pigeonholes this band as just another run-of-the-mill pop rock outfit. No, that’s not the case at all, and their self titled EP is attestation of that. Sure, Oh No Fiasco does come correct with some angsty, Warped Tour inspired fireballs (“Stand in Lover,” “Cardiac Resistance”), but the album does a pretty good job separating itself in some ways from the rest of ONF’s running mates by offering up a balanced, even-keeled sound complete with accessible mid-tempos and towering choruses (“Where You Used to Be,” “the Constant”), though it’s the back-to-back duo of the beautiful “I Have to Know” and piano-laced “Clarity” that should have you an instant fan. Oh No Fiasco might only be seven tracks, but it plays bigger than its track listing might suggest. This band has the ability and the range, and with this release, should have a pretty bright future ahead of themselves. ( 
Grade: B+
Go Download: “Clarity”