1. "I was on the road to hell/everyone I met said they know you"
First things first: This is not like the Giraffes’ previous CD (loud, aggressive, in-your-face rock tinged with rage and sex); this EP is a detour (quieter, aggressive, in-your-face rock tinged with rage and sex). Reaching back to their surf-rock-metal roots, the Giraffes come crawling out of the mud and muck with sexy, understated, hypnotic tunes that find your darkest corners, dig their pincers into you, and feed.
Bookended by instrumentals, the disc (A Gentleman Never Tells) incorporates twisted southern-Cali Dusk to Dawn guitar soundtracks with creeping vocals and subversive sounds made to make you look over your shoulder. If their last CD was someone going postal in a crowded office building, this EP is Hannibal Lecter whispering in your ear just as you realize he might be a bit insane.
It starts off with "A Gentleman Never Tells," an instrumental romp with nice rhythm, tension, and mystery that evokes both Dusk to Dawn and some gypsy meanderings. The first time we get to hear a vocal is "On Lover’s Lane," a slow, sultry, dangerous tune recounting (what I believe to be) a murder between lovers. Lyrics such as "You can’t say you didn’t know," "I’ll never let you go," "Don’t cry, don’t fight/You’re mine, I’ve got the right," echo in your ears as the music slowly builds without ever exploding, maintaining a very deliberate tension. It disintegrates toward the end into a nighttime trance-inducing waltz with Aaron humming ever so loudly each time, "la de da, da, da," which is almost as scary as the earlier lyrics. This builds into an intense, fabulous, sad dance with a corpse— infectious and bittersweet and draining.
The other four songs continue with this exotic, edgy feel, from the demon spiritual "Of This Transaction," with its beautiful imagery and forlorn feel, to "Get in the Car," a tribal song that elaborates and twists and builds upon itself, to "Help Me with My Blood Count," a sick, jerky child’s dance that makes you sway involuntarily like a lounge version of surf-rock, to the closing instrumental, "Gentleman Says," which is fast and punchy and answers the first instrumental with tall tales of exactly what the gentleman wanted to happen.
The Giraffes EP’s differences from its predecessor was a risk, but it paid off because the edge, the rock undercurrent, and the group’s songwriting come through sparkling like moonlight on a cold evening. They create a scene for each song that is vibrant, the guitars and drums and bass painting shadows upon shadows, and layers upon layers, and then topping it off with vocals that sound like Aaron really is a tortured soul on puppet strings singing, narrating his own destruction— or someone else’s.
The Giraffes are preparing their next CD, which will return to balls-out rock, right now. www.thegiraffes.com
2. "don’t tell me what to do"
The Carlsonics have produced one hell of a record with their debut on Arena Rock. It is dirty rock the way it should be played; you can literally feel the contempt they have for all the other crap that is being promoted as rock today— and they have plenty of reason to feel that way. This CD is better than most "mainstream rock" being shoved down our throats.
The band show influences ranging from blues to old-school rock, old-school punk, old-school alternative, surf-rock, the Kinks, the Who, and the Violent Femmes— and arguably taking cues from the early Stones as well. This CD is what is meant by the term "rock band," and the underlying cohesion of rebellion and doing-it-yourself is what unites all these influences and songs into a fine CD.
From the pummeling of "The Leisure Class," with its grinding guitars and accusations of "You try to complicate me," to the crescendoing highs and mayhem of "Done In," to the nineties-alternative "Tonight We Dine on Fumes," to the nasty bass-line and surf-rock tilt of "Courage," to the incredibly romp-friendly sing-along "Senator Trudge and the Clap Division," to the pounding Van Halen–like push of "Malaria Drive Through," the Carlsonics have captured a sound that has been missing lately— swagger.
Each song is refreshing and not pre-packaged. It’s obvious these guys just want to make loud, good music; in fact, it feels like they have to get these songs out or the music will burn a hole right through them. This CD is about release. It’s so good to hear electricity again, to hear passion— and no pretension. Rock doesn’t have to be pretty— and the Carlsonics sure don’t make pretty songs— but their album is a sight to behold.
For more information, visit: www.carlsonics.com
Grant Moser is an art writer and frequent contributing writer for the Brooklyn Rail.