WHO ARE THESE CD-RELEASERS?A couple of years ago, I caught a gig by a then-new local band called Gaza Strip and wrote briefly about it in these pages. "Gaza Strip have obviously studied their Nirvana and Pixies textbooks," I wrote, "but seem to have skipped the chapters about incorporating hooks into their songs."
Ouch. Since then, the band--Keith Lamott (guitar, vocals), Geremy Cady (guitar, vocals), Brian James (bass, vocals) and Levi Misner (drums, vocals)--seem to have amassed a decent local fan base and have won runner-up in a few local battles of the bands. They've also recorded their debut album, All About the Lincolns, which will be feted this week at a CD-release party.
First things first: In the age of Pro Tools, when just about anyone can produce a decent-sounding album in their bedroom, Lincolns sounds pretty rough. There was a time, in the '90s and prior, when a self-produced local album was expected to sound like this, but those days are no more. On, then, to the music.
The album starts with "Orgy Rave," a self-mocking pseudo-rap celebration of the Tucson music scene, and of Gaza Strip themselves. "Pleased to meet you, we're the Gaza Strip / You probably never heard of us, we're easy to forget," the song begins, before logging the members' superhero skills and explaining how local bands are going to fulfill their plot to take over the world--or at least the music industry. It falls squarely into feel-good party-jam territory, and it is fun enough as a goof.
"Ophelia," which follows, fares even better. It's a propulsive ditty that swipes the riff from Blondie's "One Way or Another" to fine effect and incorporates a nifty bit of doo-wop to boot; it's one of the album's best songs. "Jenny" apes '70s hard blues-rock along the lines of Foghat (with a bit of Appetite for Destruction tossed in), inane lyrics and all: "Feels so right, you know it can't be wrong / Makin' love to you from the dusk until the dawn."
But "Suffer" is just plain awful. The verses, "sung" in a voice that sounds an awful lot like Jello Biafra's, describe a girl who's into kinky stuff, and it's not clear if it's supposed to be disturbing or funny--especially given the dichotomy between the earnest-sounding, grunge-y chorus and the silly lyrics about picking up said girl in "an overpriced Seattle-based coffee shop." "Redneck Gold" would seem to be a parody of a Kid Rock joint, as it documents a guy who lives in his pickup truck and uses his penis to shut up his "bitch," and opens with the lyrics "I love your / big-ass titties." Problem is, it doesn't work very well as parody, because it's not funny.
By the time we get to the relatively earnest "Want You to Know," with its surf-y guitar, I'm just plain confused. What, exactly, are Gaza Strip trying to be? Are they a rock band that just happens to have a few funny songs? Are they a comedy-rock act that keeps it real every once in a while? It occurs to me that maybe they're trying to emulate Ween, who are able to accurately mimic music styles so effortlessly from song to song that they earn the right to be earnest every once in a while. But there's only one Ween for a reason--it's really hard to do what they do, and they're awfully great at it. At least on All About the Lincolns, Gaza Strip have moved past ripping off Nirvana and the Pixies. Now if they could just figure out who they are--or at least make it a bit more apparent to the listener.
Gaza Strip celebrate the release of All About the Lincolns with a CD-release party at O'Malley's, 247 N. Fourth Ave., on Friday, Nov. 14. Rock Sauce and Alien Jane open at 8 p.m. Cover is $5. For more information, call 623-8600.
TWO GREAT BANDS, ONE GREAT PRICETucson's been getting its share of terrific double-bills lately (Vampire Weekend and Hot Chip, Vic Chesnutt and Elf Power), and this week brings another great one.
It's taken a full decade for Eric Bachmann to escape the shadow of his former band, proto indie-rockers Archers of Loaf, whose first few albums still sound as fresh today as the day they were released--this, despite the fact that his current BAND, Crooked Fingers, has been releasing albums since 2000. Its latest is the fantastic Forfeit/Fortune, which was released on CAI/Red Pig last month.
The album bears a marked evolution, as it is fleshed out unlike any Crooked Fingers album prior. The group has long been compared to Bruce Springsteen, and the opening track, "What Never Comes," does little to dispel that notion with its horns and "Hungry Heart" vibe. The next track, "Luisa's Bones," is made spooky by its juxtaposition of earthy female vocals (Bachmann doesn't sing at all on it) and antiseptic drum machine, while "Phony Revolutions" incorporates Eastern European elements that remind of DeVotchKa. (That band's Tom Hagerman contributes violin parts on the album.)
In other words, Forfeit/Fortune is quite the hodgepodge, and a great leap forward for Bachmann and company; thankfully, most of it works splendidly (despite an odd choice of '80s-style production on some cuts). By the time you reach "Your Control," the duet between Bachmann and Neko Case that closes the album, you'll feel as if you've been on a rather enjoyable trip to, well, various places unique and enjoyable.
Opening the current leg of Crooked Fingers' tour--which comes to a close following the Tucson show--is the Bay Area's Port O'Brien, co-fronted by Van Pierszalowski and Cambria Goodwin. In her day job, she's a baker, while he spends each summer working on his father's fishing boat in Alaska, both of which--especially the latter--inform the band's most recent album, All We Could Do Was Sing (self-released, 2008). You may have heard the disc's opening track, the ebullient, infectious group-sung "I Woke Up Today," which sounds like a cross between Arcade Fire and Danielson. But from there, things get a bit more meditative, as the focus falls largely on Pierszalowski's experiences on that fishing boat. "Stuck on a Boat" is organically eerie, a string-enhanced tale of isolation on said boat, while the lushly arranged "Fisherman's Son" opens with the lines, "I'm doin' fine in Alaska / I don't mind the storm," before Pierszalowski questions why he's there in the first place. In fact, the whole album is gorgeously crafted in a slightly chamber-pop way that suits the nautical stuff awfully well without devolving into typical sea-shanty territory. It's been in constant rotation in my CD player since it arrived in my mailbox, and that was about seven months ago.
Crooked Fingers and Port O'Brien perform at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Friday, Nov. 14. Sarah Jaffe opens at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $12. For further details, call 798-1298.
SHORT TAKESMarnie Stern merges guitar shredding with actual melodies at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave., at 9 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 16. All ages; $8. 884-0874.
Enigmatic guitarist and former Guns n' Roses member Buckethead is at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., on Saturday, Nov. 15. That 1 Guy opens at 8 p.m. All ages; $21 in advance, $26 day of show. 740-1000.
The eclectic lineup of Ghost Cow, Kate Becker and Mr. Free and the Satellite Freakout perform at a benefit for local poetry group POG at 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15, at The Hut, 305 N. Fourth Ave. There will be poetry between bands, too. $5 donation. 623-3200.
Elsewhere: Golden Boots and The Impossible Shapes at Club Congress on Wednesday, Nov. 19; Mason Jennings at the Rialto Theatre on Tuesday, Nov. 18; Jeffree Starr and others at Club Congress on Tuesday, Nov. 18; the Fourth Annual Boogie Woogie Blowout with Lisa Otey, Arthur Migliazza, Doña Oxford, and Carl Sonny Leyland at the Temple of Music and Art on Saturday, Nov. 15; The So So Glos at The Living Room on Wednesday, Nov. 19; Jason Mraz at the Rialto Theatre on Monday, Nov. 17; Eric Bibb at Old Town Artisans on Saturday, Nov. 15; The American Black Lung, Chainsaw Justice and the Fell City Shouts at The Hut on Monday, Nov. 17; Crossing Sarnoff, Geoffrey J and The Swigs at O'Malley's on Saturday, Nov. 15.