Friday, March 27, 2009

FDF Volume 2: Issue 132 - Ammonia - Mint 400

By: March

Album - Mint 400
Artist - Ammonia
Key Players - Allan Balmont - drums. Simon Hensworth - bass. Dave Johnstone - guitar and vocals.
Produced By - Kevin Shirley

Release Date - 1995

What caused me to blow off the dust?
Scanning the cd rack for something that I haven't listened to in a while..didn't have to get out of the A's this week.

Overview - This was the debut studio album for Australian band Ammonia. The record, named for the car race in Hunter Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" was a stripped down rock record capturing booming drums and guitar lines. The band would see a radio play with a strong single , and a little MTV play but being young guys, and touring a lot they'd be done after two records. Still, the band would manage to crack the top 30 US album charts.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - We slowly fade up with a guitar on "Ken Carter". The riff is repeated a little before the drum roll comes up and the bass joins the mix. Johnstone has vocally delivery that fits well with the sounds of the band, just that mixture of "high" and "gruff". Hensworth bass has a good steady punch. The lead off single "Drugs" opens with what feels like a wall of guitars and some cool, yet buried in the mix, bass riffs. As the verses are sung we keep it musically mellow but leading to the chorus they step it up to overdrive. The apathy towards drug use is focused and this song was looked at as both a pro and con about drugs in general. The formula is repeated but the band sounds full and alive, a great single from the record. As the song wraps up Balmont hits em hard and Hensworth runs the bass, a great closing. With a roll on the high hat "Sleepwalking" kicks off. This is more rocking at the outset with the bass once more getting pushed up in the mix. The track has a 30 second instrumental intro and the bands is really rolling as the vocals come up. Johnstone runs his voice thru some compression so the vocal track is a little less "up" but it is not buried either. They might not be a "power trio" in the classic sense, but they are pretty tight and keep their focus. The track ends abruptly before the far calmer feeling "Face Down" begins. There is a mixture of acoustic and electric guitar and the drums keeps a simple tempo. The band has hit their first "quiet" moment on the record. Everyone sort of sits back some, but suddenly it is like they get bored and we kick it off good. The guitars crunch and the drums get rolling once more. There is a big wall of sound again. In reading, the producer had worked with bands like Slayer, so he was no stranger to getting a big sound. Another stand out track is "In a Box". Opening with guitar before a "punched up bass" drops in. The lyrics are dished out quick, but the bass "sound" is the stand out to these ears. Balmont hits them hard once more and Johnstone tosses in some oohs and ahhs that fit the mold of the track. The guitar blends fuzz, buzz and crunch a cool vibe to the track. Balmont feeds off the single guitar on the intro to "Suzi Q". We have a very similar feel to prior tracks. The sounds is really full and Hensworth shows off his chops once more while Johnstone gets the first real feel of backing vocals on the track. Sure there have been some in the past but it sounds like he has more support here. "Little Death" is an odd track at the intro. Out of one speaker is a guitar, while the other appears to be a person really..ummm "enjoying" themselves. The vocals are slow, the tracks feel is dark and Hensworth bass feels like the lone instrument at times, as he is the most active. Single drum beats with occasional guitar riffs. The return to form 2+ minutes in to the track, but it feels out of place for some reason. The title track "Mint 400" and feels like music you'd hear in a car race. Everything is fast on this song, the vocal delivery the drum line, the guitar. Johnstone gets a stronger workout vocally later on the track bending his pitch some for a unique sound. The instrumental "Burning Plant Smell" follows. Once more Hensworth gets to be the focus at the outset before the band comes in, we do a little "rinse-lather-repeat" but the second time around a monstrous bass fill brings up that "wall of sound" that was very fitting to the music of the mid 90's. After the bass riff Johnstone gets a chance to show off his guitar chops. I've always dug this track for some reason. A very fuzzy bass opens "Z-Man" and the band bangs in before the lyrics come in. By this point we are used to the sound, feel of the band. Not a bad song, but pretty straight forward as part of the collection. "Million Dollar Man" follows the same suit. Not bad songs and all good fits for the records, but nothing new is happening. The payoff is the album closer "Lucky No. 3". Opening with a marching band drum and single guitar we do a few bars of that before the bass comes in and before we know it we are off. This could have been a massive single, it sounds like it should be out now. Johnstone really cuts loose on this track vocally and pushes himself. The guitar has a great fuzz and the band just locks it in. Musically it might be "simple" but its got a monster of a hook. Check the download and fire off..I think you'll be sold.

Where are they now? - The band released a second record and then toured but disbanded by 1999. In doing some searching there is some information, but not sure how updated it really is. What I have read is that Balmont is a tour manager for the band "The Living End". Johnstone is/was working with a band "The Lazybirds and Hensworth was in a band called Potato Stars in 2001. If anyone has any updated links etc please feel free to leave a comment and I'll update.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience)
- I saw the band two times. The first was May 5, 1996 at the Paradise in Boston. What stands out most regarding this show was how grossly undersold it was. I think there was 100 people there, if that. The band was still great. On that tour they were touring with Skunk Anansie and Skunk was the opener..but after a few shows Ammonia decided they should open. Skunk Anansie was a great live band. The second time was part of a WBCN River Rave show, but I am not 100% sure of the date..I'd assume the summer of 96 though at Great Woods in Mansfield.

FDF Overall Take - What grabbed me, like most was the infectious sound of the single "Drugs". It was similar to the rock/grungy stuff that was out at the time, but offered a slight twist somehow (perhaps being from Australia?) The record didn't break a lot of new ground, but its still a decent listen. If you can track it down, (it is out of print) it won't set you back much, grab it.


A fan created myspace page.

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

mp3s have been removed...
Lucky No. 3
In a Box

The tracks were taken from "Mint 400" which you can find here for as low as ONE PENNY.

Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request.

Friday, March 20, 2009

FDF Volume 2: Issue 131 - They Might Be Giants - Flood

By: March

Album - Flood
Artist - They Might Be Giants
Key Players - John Flansburgh, John Linnell as well as a huge supporting cast.
Produced By - They Might Be Giants with Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley

Release Date - January 5, 1990.

What caused me to blow off the dust?
- My kids love their "kids records" and honestly, so don't I. Every now and then I need to go back to their other works to hear something all over again. They might not be for everyone, but they are still making fun and relevant records to this day, so there is something to be said for that.

Overview - This is the third studio album from the New York based band They Might Be Giants and it was their first on a major label. The band would find success in both sales and on the chart with this record. The band would utilize their "different" sound to their advantage and make videos that would find there way to cartoon networks and be shown between shows on Nickelodeon. Known to college radio listeners the fun and quirky band would see the band grow only larger with more fans and critics joining the fold.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - Opening with a track not even sung by the band "Theme From Flood" sounds like you'd think without ever hearing it. Strong male and female voices singing with a light horn section giving you reason to stay tuned. A clever touch. What follows is the bands first single from the record "Birdhouse in Your Soul" an infectious pop diddy with splashes of violin and horns. The bass has a strong groove and the chorus has an infectious delivery that has you singing along before you know it. We speed up some on "Lucky Ball & Chain" a rock-a-billy feel at the outset you hear some mandolin? as well as the accordion gets tossed in to the mix. The track keeps its "march" feel throughout. Another recognizable track, now with the They Might Be Giants stamp on it is "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)"a cover tune originally done by The Four Lads. The violin opening with the taste of accordion before the band comes on one hard downbeat with the song title repeated many a time. There are vocals break downs and the guitars and drums fill in the void. A song that is still a live staple and gets it's way on to radio from time to time. The odd sounding "Dead" follows. We have changed moods. With the opening line of "I returned a bag of groceries accidentally taken off the shelf before their expiration date". The piano takes the lead on this as John and John sing in "around" and offer harmonies to one another. The track remains just the voices and the piano. A little more rocking from the band comes on "Your Racist Friend". The drums and bass are the focal points but the band flashes in bells and guitars at times. The lyrics are catchy and the drawl used on the chorus adds a nice touch. The very fun, funny and just flat out silly "Particle Man" is next. Various percussion instruments, hand claps and what feels like a tuba offering up the bottom. The lyrics start at particles and work to person(s). Who thinks of stuff like this??! One hidden gem is "Twisting" and it opens with the keyboards before the band comes in. The band name checks the db's and Young Fresh Fellows in a song that appears to be about unrequited love when you really listen to it, my interpretation at least. Another track using violin at the intro is "We Want a Rock" and the band has a relaxed while the lyrics say "everybody wants a rock to tie a piece of string around". Odd lyrics, but they continue to keep the subject both funny and important to the song. Funny how that works. We have very 80's feel at the intro to "Someone Keeps Moving My Chair" and the synth grooves prove my point. The backing band has been strong and the drums and bass once more keep things in check. We haven't really heard a lot of guitars, and you really don't miss them. "Hearing Aid" is the longest track on the record, still clocking in under 3:30. Single keyboard notes and a muted horn fall in to a strong bass groove. The vocals are strong on this track and the band is given a little more room on this, even with it being a long song, there are not a lot of lyrics. "Minimum Wage" is sort of a throw away the title is yelled and there are whip cracks..we are all working slaves. Cute, and clever but offers little else, the music sounds like it could be from a western film. Singing as quickly as you'd imagine "Letterbox" has a fun feel to it. Musically its fun and lyrically you are wondering what they are saying that fast (and under 1:30 to boot). The musical breaks add a strong punch. After two short tracks we get a little bit more on "Whistling in the Dark". The deep vocals with according return and the hard drum beats stand out. The band has trumpet and trombone adding to the musicality. "Hot Cha" feeds off what sounds like a heavy baritone saxophone line, but I see no indication in the liner notes. The song has shorter lyrics and has a nice piano fill towards the end. A sea-shanty feeling "Women & Men" will get you to smile. We have a lot of short staccato notes and then a soaring chorus (well about as soaring as TMBG gets). There are breakdowns with according fills and sing along. "Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love" is slower to build and fades up with percussion instruments before a funny keyboard and bass come up with the vocals. In an ode to themselves "They Might Be Giants" has a chaotic intro, before the band comes up and sings all about themselves in this funny sing along where they repeat their name and the back up vocals that have a "boy or "boing" tossed in for good measure. The record wraps up with "Road Movie To Berlin" a quiet track with acoustic guitar and whistling. We keep calm until about 1:30 in before the keyboards, drums and everyone gets real noisy for 20-30 seconds and then we return to the laid back delivery complete with long keyboard notes.

Where are they now? - The band is still active in both the studio and on the road. In recent years the band has found even more success recording records geared towards children. Such great releases as "Here comes the ABC's and Here Come the 1-2-3's have gotten hours of spins in our home and are great for any music fan looking for "tolerable" and appropriate kids music. The band has won a grammy award for the 1-2-3's in 2009 and they have added music to film, and television providing the theme song to Malcolm in the Middle as wells as Higglytown Heros.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - I have seen the band live on two occasions. The first was May 25, 2002 as part of the "River Fest" concert at the Hatchshell in Boston. I was working for the radio station at the time. The band had a ravenous following and played a fun set in under 40 minutes. The second time was an "in store" at Borders Books in Providence Rhode Island. This was on March 13, 2005. The band was doing selections from Here Comes the ABCs and the packed bookstore was treated to 30 minutes (they had to extend the set because they couldn't get off the small stage). The adults, and kids had a great time. We are headed to see them again in June in Boston. My kids are still young enough..we are looking forward to this!

FDF Overall Take - I am a casual fan of the band but the childrens music has gotten me to pay attention more to them in recent years. I've enjoyed those records so I've gone back and gotten more of the studio albums or what have you. Some folks might have issues with the John/John vocal "sound" but it adds so much to the charm. Its fun and decent enough, you should have at least on They Might be Giants record in your collection.


There are a few great They Might be Giants pages like this and this. They are on myspace too. Also, there is a fun page from the band on this very cd right here.

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

mp3s have been removed...
Particle Man
Birdhouse in Your Soul

All the tracks were taken from "Flood" which you can buy here

Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request.

Friday, March 13, 2009

FDF Volume 2 : Issue 130 : The Ocean Blue - The Ocean Blue

By: March

Album - The Ocean Blue
Artist - The Ocean Blue
Key Players - Rob Minnig -drums. Bobby Mittan - bass. Steve Lau - saxophone, keyboards, backing vocals. David Schelzel - Lead vocals, guitar.
Produced By - Mark Opitz

Release Date - July 20, 1989

What caused me to blow off the dust? - This is a cd that I played and played and played for a solid year and a half. Each song holds a special place with me and always takes me back to that time (a very good/fun time indeed) A lot of good memories with this one, and with winter in it's final throw's I needed something to take me "somewhere else" for 60 minutes. This was the perfect fit this week.

Overview - Hershey, Pennsylvania band The Ocean Blue formed in 1986 and while still teenagers in high school singed a three record deal with Sire Records in 1988. Sire record founder Seymour Stein lobbied heavily for the band to be signed and the debut record was released in 1989. Early fans were surprised the band was not "British" and the label worked hard for radio and MTV play. The band would tour extensivley for the record and would go on to sell 150,000+ copies The band would tour and spend much time in the studio before releasing its next record (Cerulean) and it would bring the band a little more success in the sales department but grunge movement was just starting. The band released their final record for Sire in 1993 and Lau would leave the band the next year. The band would not resign with Sire but continue to release new music.

FDF Comments (aka the songs)
- The lead off single "Between Something and Nothing " opens up the record with a guitar chime sounding an awful lot like bands from the UK at the time. The drums are basic, but tight as keyboards fill in the background. Schelzel has an airy voice that fits perfect with the sound of the band and the track has a nice tempo, with the guitar really being the showcase that is really brought to shine during his terrific guitar solo. "Vanity Fair" opens with a bouncing drum line with Mittan falling in to a nice swooping bass groove. Minning keeps perfect time and Lau has the keyboards washing over it all. The rhythm section gets to shine on this track, although not overly "technical" the band keeps everything right in check and even closes the song by speeding everything up. Drums and saxophone open up "Drifting, Falling". Schelzel plays the acoustic guitar and the song has a very happy feel to it. The band sounds "serious" but the vibe of the song will only bring smiles, probably due to the perfect pitch of Lau's saxophone work. The bass/drum break down towards the end adds a technical feel, showing even more musical ability from the band. Heavily mic'd drums open up "Circus Animals" and the guitars swirl above. Once more, Mittan gets a showcase on bass. We are not at a breakneck speed but the bass is strong and pushed up. The guitar is also a has a trippy/airy feel about it and the keyboards over that add a strong touch. Schelzel gets a crunchier feel on the guitar later, but the bass/drums and keyboards remain at the prefect pitch. The keyboards (and bass) once more get to show off some on "Frigid Winter Days", the keyboard poppiest track on the disc. The groove and feel are only accented by some nice backing vocals of "oohs and ahhs". The track keeps at a solid clip, one of the faster tracks on the record, but its by no means an overly fast tune. A strong acoustic guitar opens "Just Let Me Know" and the keyboards blend individual notes to an atmospheric feel. The bass and drums have a strong punch and Schelzel sings in a higher vocal range than on any prior track. The most smile inducing song comes in the form of "Love Song" with Mittan and Minning get to play off one another. The soaring chorus of "ya-ooohs" is only more perfect with the keyboard chords. Lau opens up "Ask Me John" and the band follows suit with Minning getting the spotlight on some of the better engineered (sounding) drums on the track. The rolls/riffs are all perfect and fill the void wonderfully. Lau also comes in with a saxophone line once more (the second track to have sax) he spreads his wings a little more with a nice solo before the track returns to its groove. The aptly titled "Awaking To A Dream" has a groggy feel to it, with smooth and soothing bass and keyboards. The drums are eased up on, but brushes don't appear to be used. Later in the track we "wake up" and the band gets noisy again, but it calms quickly. Acoustic guitar and drums slap open "The Office Of A Busy Man". Lau has a very 80's sounding keyboard over the guitar and drums. The song appears to be about label exec Stein, but that could just me my take on it. The song sort of falls into all the cliches of every persons perception that the (record exec) is too busy. A decent song that has some good mood swings. We keep the acoustic out for "Myron" and Minning gets a work out once more. Lau keeps the atmosphere going and Mittan plays off Minning really well. As the record has progressed and I focused more on it, these guys really played very very well off one another. The record ends with "A Familiar Face" a track that slowly fades up with guitar and keyboards.

Where are they now? - The band is still recording and touring. David and Bobby have remained on board the entire run. Rob left in 2001 after growing road weary and Steve left the band in 1994 to peruse work in the music industry. The band reportedly has a record that was completed in 2007 but it has not been released.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - I saw them on January 26, 1990 as the middle band on the "Laughtour". They were opening for fellow label mates The Mighty Lemon Drops. The band was good and I actually met David near the back of the club and he signed the set list for me. The next time I saw them was a free show at the Cambridge Side Galleria (a mall) on a floating stage. The band didn't play all that long and I am pretty sure it was on tour for their second record, or it was still the summer of 1990. (anyone know for sure?)

FDF Overall Take - This record front to back means a lot to me personally. "Alternative" music was getting to be a little more mainstream and I was always looking for a new band, that would get more broad appeal. The band never got really big, but for a good summer this cd got a lot of play at parties (even if its not really a party cd). I was also in a band at the time and we did at least 3 songs from this record, so personally I look back on this record fondly. A fun, alterna-pop record that you should check out.

The band has an official site here, and a myspace page here

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

The Mp3's have been removed.
Drifting Falling
Just Let Me Know
Between Something and Nothing

All the tracks were taken from the Debut Record "The Ocean Blue" and you can buy a copy here.

Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request.

Friday, March 06, 2009

FDF Volume 2: Issue 129 Longpigs - The Sun is Often Out

By: March

Album - The Sun if Often Out
Artist - Longpigs
Key Players - Richard Hawley - guitar and vocals. Simon Safford - bass, piano, hammond, vocals. Dee Boyle - drums and vocals. Crispin Hunt - vocals and guitar
Produced By - Kevin Bacon (no not that Kevin Bacon) and Jonathan Quarmby

Release Date - February 25, 1997

What caused me to blow off the dust?
- I found myself humming a track off this cd a few weeks ago and it took me a few minutes to figure out who it was. I stood in front of the cd rack and said it must be this...nope..this...nope....then it came to me. There you have it.

Overview - This is the debut record from Sheffield England's "Longpigs". After almost never making a record the bands contract was purchased by U2's new record label and in 1996 the record saw the light of day. Even with extensive touring behind Radiohead, Echo and the Bunnymen and some decent radio play in the US the band failed to really reach to a wide audience. The band would release a second album, the label would fold, and the band would break up.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - The disc opens with "Lost Myself" a track that opens with light guitar and rolling bass and drums. The guitars get a little more playful and as the chorus comes the vocals get pushed with a lot of strong chords and some start stop progression(s). Hunt goes from gruff to a falsetto voice before running a decent guitar solo. One of the first singles from the band was "She Said" and its easy to hear why. The brit pop feel is right at the outset with the buzzy guitars and piano before Hunt comes in with his urgent vocal. The bass line on the track is swooping and infectious but its Hunts vocals that get the biggest workout on the track. There is a great false ending section where Hunt growls and then hits the chorus before the band wraps up in a chaotic fashion. Another uptempo track is "Far". The guitars rush right up and the overall feel will be a welcome sound to fans of Britpop. The band eases up some on the verses but come the chorus everyone chimes in musically and vocally. The whole band really adds a lot to this track from a vocal standpoint. Another single was the ballad "On And On", a pretty track with acoustic guitars and subtle drumming but Hunt once more gets the show case flashing his strong vocal pipes. Get out your lighters (or cell phones now) its one of those tunes. A solo electric guitar opens up "Happy Again" before Hunt sings with the bass drum going off. The bass comes in and does a lot of long swooping fills before the rest of the band comes in. The hammond really comes out and plays nice with the bass. The guitar at times has a real great crunchy/compressed sound as well at times. "All Hype" is another quiet track with very hushed lead vocals and a single guitar until close to the 45 second mark before the band comes in with some nice harmonies. After about 1:05 the track picks up, but does a loud/quiet shift. We are back to mellow before you know it. "Sally Dances" wastes no time getting to the vocals but musically we are not all that interesting on this track. Its not a bad track, not a throw away track but it doesn't hit you one way or the other. A deep bass opens up "Jesus Christ" and the guitar chugs over the top and leading to the chorus the band gets urgent vocally and musically, really belting it out. We keep with a cool deep bass on "Dozen Wicked Words". The track follows the bass lead here and Hunt again is in fine form. "Elvis" is a quick track, perhaps the quickest vocal delivery as well as the band working overtime. The song even increases in speed as it nears the close. The last track listed on the cd is "Over Our Bodies" a track clocking in at close to 7 minutes, the longest on the record. Hunt begins hushed and the guitars are quiet and the drums use the ride cymbal for some chime. The bass gets pulled up more 3 minutes in and becomes the focus as it does some extensive runs while the guitar is pushed back in the mix, during this time the drums are gone totally before the snare clips everyone back in. At that point, the guitar gets the longer solo, but the vocals are still there, so the solo comes and goes. The whole track has a minute plus slow/long fade. There is a hidden track, its called "Sleep", you need to sit thru (or fast forward) thru 9 minutes of a silent track before reaching it. It begins with a solo guitar and it is conducive to sleep as it is not all that flashy. When the vocals come in they are started falsetto and done that way a few times. Its not that great a song, and if I had to fast forward an actual tape I am not sure I'd even know the track was there. You can ignore this one and not feel too bad.

Where are they now? - With the lack any site to check Wikipedia has some information but that goes back to 2004. In a nutshell from there, Hawley has a had a decent solo career and was nominated for a Mercury Prize. Stafford was in Joe Strummers band for a while and worked with Jarvis Cocker (Pulp). According to his myspace page he went back to school and now does lectures. Hunt sang on a few records and continues to write and record.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - I know I have seen the band one time, but the date is a little sketchy. I am pretty sure it was October 24, 1997 opening for Echo and the Bunnymen. The funny part is, I got the set list, I wonder if I wrote the date on that.

FDF Overall Take - There are a few great moments on this cd, there really is. Some great Britpop with great sounding drums and guitars. There are a few "ehh" moments as well, but really an pretty fun record if you are in to such a genre.

Links -
Richard Hawley official and myspace.

Crispin on myspace.

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

the mp3's have been removed..

On and On
She Said

The album is out of print but very easy to find and usually right

Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request.