Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Last Lungs - Look At That Old Grizzly Bear

Look At That Old Grizzly Bear

Last Lungs
Label: Deep Elm
Released: July 30, 2010
Duration 10 tracks, 48:02

Among today’s indie instrumentalists, Last Lungs clearly stands front and center in providing an offering in Look At That Old Grizzly Bear with roots as deep as ‘70s progressive pych rock’s Jade Warrior and as impactful as Jeff Beck’s seminal works of Blow by Blow and Wired. Surprisingly, this is the debut album for the Preston, England based five piece band.

As a collective, this instrumental pop offering is excessively clean and airy with guitar interplay washing over percussion and bass. The album’s storyline paints an expansive musical adventure ranging from calming waters to storming seas. This is an awesome first effort giving their all - heart and soul.

The opener, “Oh, Good Morning”, is progressively emotional setting the mood for what is to come. “33” continues the hot pace with multi-layered guitars and a charge of musical energy while the title track “Look at that Old Grizzly Bear” builds, settles, and builds passion again. This could be a soundtrack for an epic medieval battle, immense in its message. “Inglend” (a trilogy) begins slowly and purposely with an echoing which haunts throughout, like beginning a journey down a quiet path to the unknown. Part two provides a steady reign of energy in its rhythm with a heavy bass line accompanied by light guitar and synth dancing in and out of the percussion. The occasional high strains of a lead guitar replace the rhythmic steadiness providing the songs momentum. Energy is sustained in the trilogy’s finale with a distorted guitar-leading climax giving way to heavy bass and percussion trailing to an end. The haunting electric guitar underlined by heavy bass and light rhythm guitar initiates, the pace quickens, and at nearly three minutes in the song explodes as the lead guitar paints a rainbow of sound giving way to quiet pastures of rhythm. Inglend is what this collection is all about, successfully painting an emotional picture of sound in one’s mind.

The album seems to have a second operatic act as “Wax & Wane” invites us to the remainder of the collective with a single guitar on reverb taking us on a slow, casual stroll through the woods. Have you ever lifted a kaleidoscope to an eye, slowing turning the outer tube to produce patterns, then slowing down to take in the parts of the pattern only to begin turning the tube faster to bring the pattern to life? This is “Kaleidoscope”, a song musically well painted. “Now Against the Staircase, Part 1 is a powerful musical image of leaving a calm lagoon while moving out to the ocean’s pounding waves. The song gives way to Part 2 which gently rolls along with the albums only vocals. The band’s rudimentary chorus layers its vocals adding a sense of helplessly hoping to the song’s story - ’ Here I step out of the sailing ride, and heel by heel take the hallway in my stride, and shed our clothes, a torn up paper lantern glows, and swing into the dark’. The vocals fade, followed by a gentle instrumental discourse again rising to a crescendo which plateaus to a low and peaceful place.

These songs are emotionally charged indie alt-rock, so well written and performed one can slip on the headphones, close his / her eyes and wonder off into adventure. Listening to Look At That Old Grizzly Bear brings me back to the days of listening closely, and I mean really listening closely without distraction. As in days of old with song lists of Pink Floyd on a good set of headphones, this music compels you to listen, to feel, to be a part of the music.

SS Mertens

Cup 'O Joy 21st Anniversary

Cup ‘O Joy 21st Anniversary, 1989-2010

A 21st birthday conveys a coming of age, a test of time, maturity, and respect earned.

While many ministries have sustained the test of time, few acting as a Christian concert venue can claim the same. Imagine a concert venue offering 104 concerts a year, 103 of which ask only a free will offering. All concerts are smoke free, alcohol free, family friendly, hosting everything from blues to gospel, mellow acoustic to hard rock. Now imagine this concert venue in its 21st consecutive year of operation in a moderately sized Midwest city. This hidden jewel does exist, waiting for you to come to its next offering. Located on one of the oldest streets in of the oldest cities in America’s Midwest, the Cup ‘O Joy concert venue can be found at 232 South Broadway Street in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Of humble beginnings, The Cup, as it is lovingly called today, began in September, 1989 housed in a rundown brick building of the late 1800’s which had served as a shoe store and a later a print shop. With the help of many volunteers and a good share of patience the Cup began to gain momentum. In 1999 The Cup moved to a new location, a former Salvation Army and Knights of Columbus building built in 1950, converted to a bar, then abandoned. Today the venue has state of the art sound, video, and creature comforts.

Over time, the Cup transitioned from a coffeehouse atmosphere to a concert venue.
The first 5 to 7 years as an outreach saw the inclusion of music in the form of local talent. Then ‘Eli’ performed as the first national act, building a relationship with the Cup. John Cox, The Crossing and others began performing at the Cup. The list continued to grow with Super Chick, Sara Groves, Disciple, Building 429, Shawn McDonald, December Radio and others. Today, major acts come to perform on the Cup stage, with every style of music represented. Concerts are held every Friday and Saturday night, and admission is by free will offering only with one inexpensive benefit concert annually to help keep the lights on. No funds are received from the city, a church, or major sponsorships.

Here, artists find they can truly connect with people. The venue’s atmosphere lends itself to a close, one-on-one artist / audience relationship building a true channel of communication where both artist and audience share a mutual level of respect. Friendships thrive when the audience is physically next to the performer, seeing them live and sharing their art. This is what ministry is all about, building relationships by sharing Christian faith.

The venue, the artists, and the audience owe a vote of thanks to the volunteers. The unpaid staff, from the manager with 21 year tenure to those providing meals for the artists, maintenance, and administration, every one has a function and is a blessing. Roughly 100 volunteers representing 35 different faiths and all walks of life serve in various capacities. Sustainability is made possible by the volunteers - people bringing their gifts to the table with a love to serve. Each brings his or her talents willingly without reservation creating a sense of community too often lost in today’s culture.

The Cup has a ministry built with a greater focus than a small outreach. One that builds lasting relationships, crossing the borders of denominations forming Christ’s church. The
focus is faith-based entertainment for all comers providing an opportunity to grow closer to God and community. Reaching out to all with a commonly understood mode of communication – music. In the spirit of love and faith, the Cup reaches this goal. The audience grows in their relationship to Christ, sharing this relationship with family and friends, and planting seeds with others.

The Cup builds relationships and keeps relationships growing on an intimate basis. These relationships and friendships continue to evolve between individuals, artists, and volunteers. Their relationship with Christ is the focus of this ministry and will continue to be its focus for its 25th anniversary and on into the distant future. Join us at The Cup!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

There Came A Lion

There Came a Lion

Tooth & Nail Records
Release Date: February 5, 2008
Duration 11 tracks, 44:14

There Came A Lion represents Ivoryline’s first major release, which hit the streets in early February, 2008. This album fit the mold of power pop Christian rock of the time falling in with Storyside: B, Everyday Sunday, and Stellar Kart. And like others, they hit the charts hard with “Be Still and Breathe” and “Remind Me I’m Alive” while hitting the tour scene with the same velocity.

With a clean, hard rock-pop sound this LP is technically great with good production and song writing. ‘He will deliver, failure is not an option’ and ‘Our complacency won’t last much longer’ lead good lyrics framed by strong guitar work for the lead song “Days End”. The Storyside:B-like sound of “We Both Know” provides great radio fodder. “The Last Words”, the last song on the album, shows a change in direction, tempo, and message. Perhaps this is evidence of growth.

Despite its early success, There Came A Lion doesn’t provide a need to replay beyond once or twice. Why? The answer is found in the repetitiveness of its content. Hot guitars, singular vocal range and message don’t make for multi-play. The sound is spacious, but not dynamic. After two years, changes in personnel, and related seasoning Ivoryline may provide a new and improved sound with its next effort, Vessels, out July 27, 2010. Change is good.

SS Mertens