Saturday, 18 August 2018

Crystal Drive - Crystal Drive

For someone who is constantly having a go at the "Guitar is Dead" mob, you may be surprised for me to be championing what is essentially a synth album. If I told you the artist was from Michigan, you'd expect them to be one of Keith Kingensmith's Futureman gang.

Well, George Szegedy is from Lansing in Michigan, he is Crystal Drive and the self titled album is wholeheartedly synth. Although, I've never been a lover of twee Synth Pop, I have always had a penchant for someone who comes up different.

Crystal Drive have a pop edge, very similar to the excellent Ooberon, but it's all synth riffs that border on Prog at times. Call it Prog Pop or Synth Rock, it certainly has hooks that grab you. You may have heard Execute on the radio show and that's just one example of the great riffs contained here.

Chemical Children could be early Numan, Moonlight could be a melodic 808 State, Function Like You could be something on Mute in the 80's and morph's into Sparks In Outer Space mode. However, the main theme is addictive pop. None more so than Knowing The Way which could easily be a synched up Buggles.

What a great album this is. I like being surprised. I was!  You can listen to and buy the album here.

The Glad Machine - The Glad Machine

Amongst this barrage of reviews over the next few days, there's a couple of albums that I've been meaning to tell you about for a while. First Up is The Glad Machine's self titled album, an album that rocks with a vengeance.

The four piece from Northampton, Massachusetts reside in a territory somewhere between New Wave and AOR, it borders on the likes of Cheap Trick and Sloan. Brad Thayer's vocals are in the mould of Robin Zander, particularly on something slower like the jangly, Cake.

There's a real pace to most of the 11 songs here, which is exactly what is needed. Very much, Classic Rock Territory, but full of melodic hooks and riffs. The opener, Homecoming even as a Cars like keyboard riff.

Tonight is a song that probably explains The Glad Machine best, built on a riff, tempo changes with a melting guitar solo. 18 Days is pure Brit Pop, Wake Up's verses are Squeeze like until the big chorus. Hooks aplenty here, expertly produced, this is a top notch affair. I love it.

You can buy the album at Amazon or CD Baby. You can also listen to all the tracks on the band's website here.

The Pretty Flowers - Why Trains Crash

Los Angeles's The Pretty Flowers have been gaining a growing reputation in the lead up to their debut album. Regular comparisons to Superchunk and The Replacements seem both fair and wide of the mark. Yes they can get down and dirty, but there are far more hooks and choruses here than you may have been led to expect.

Electrical is all riffs that can be compared to The Cult or Post Punk UK / New Wave. Chip My Paint starts with an ace riff and then romps into Australian Territory like a more melodic early version of The Church or a rocked up Go-Betweens.

Temple Of Gunpowder could be Robert Pollard on a bigger budget, Sitting Duck is Liam Gallagher like in it's sneer. Corner Of The Stars is all Glasgow Jangle. Although you can see the US Connection, think of The Strokes with better lyrics and melodies, there is something UK about the feel of many of the songs. The stand out is Some Girls, a splendid Power Pop joy.

I am blown away by Why Trains Crash. I expected Fuzz Rock and got it, but there is far more depth, far more hooks and riffs aplenty. This is a fine debut album. Don't expect any slow songs, it would just stop the roll they are on. Highly Recommended!

You can listen to and buy the album here.

Danny Wilkerson - Wilkerson

When we look back on the year, we may very well find that most of our favourite albums are from the last couple of months, indeed I'd expect many of these albums to be adored a decade on. Right at the front is the magnificent Danny Wilkerson debut album. Known, of course, as one of The Pengwins and to some as the ex Mayor of Annetta North in Texas, Wilkerson has fashioned up one of the great Pop Rock albums. The album features a who's who of collaborators and although, the feel is very much McCartney Pop, many more are brought to mind, 10CC, Andrew Gold and particularly, The Major Labels.

It's no secret that I pine for another Major Labels album, Aquavia remains one of my favourite albums ever. That influence is particularly prevalent on Carry The One and You Still Owe Me A Kiss and it'll be no surprise to find two thirds of the band are collaborators on Wilkerson. Bleu McAuley's Top 40 aims with other artists, can mask his musical knowledge and ear for a melody. but when you get him on Power Pop, he is an absolute master, he knows which buttons to press, He presses all of them here. The arrangements are superb.

Likewise, Ducky Carlisle's involvement and mixing of half the album, shines through.Guest Appearances by Roger Joseph Manning Jr and Pat Buchanan only add to the quality. Special mention also to the Spyderpop label, a label close to my heart. Any label that has Lannie Flowers and Chris Church on it is worth your attention. You can now add Danny Wilkerson.

Wilkerson's songwriting shines through. There's also some fine song sequencing. On a debut album, it would have been easy to open something upbeat and chirpy to open proceedings. Something like the second track, Enough For Somebody, would have done the trick. Instead, Everyone Loves To Love opens proceedings. Everyone Loves To Love is a 5 minute extravaganza, it's like ten songs in one, almost a megamix of what is to come. The Andrew Gold reference largely comes from Too Much Of A Good Thing is Gold to a tee, a wonderful singalong.

I've played a couple of songs on the Radio Show, Carry The One being one, a particular favourite, it reminds me a lot of Velveteen Queen, the sort of song that Paul McCartney used to write, soothing and anthemic. How She Lost My Heart is a corking slice of Psych Pop with a harpsichord solo.

There's not a duffer amongst these ten songs, if you want to sing the choruses, there's plenty, if you want something slower and chilled, you have it too. Melodic excellence, beautifully written, beautifully arranged. Wilkerson is an absolute masterpiece.

You can buy the album at Spyderpop or the likes of Amazon. You can also listen to sound samples and buy the vinyl at CD Baby.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

I Don't Hear A Single News

There's been masses going on in the background IDHAS wise, hence the reason for being quiet over the past few months. Rather than announce it all with a big fanfare, you'll know as soon as the relevant parts are up and ready. I can tell you that I Don't Hear A Single is branding out in plenty of directions.

All should be up and running by the end of August. Part of the reason for the 2 week Radio Break was to get all this extra stuff down to earth.

The only thing to tell you about at the moment is a change of Twitter name for the Blog. It was @anythinghappens from when Anything Should Happen was rampant. As most of the contact is now IDHAS related, it makes sense to change it to something people can find easier.

The Twitter Account is now under the name, I Don't Hear A Single. The new twitter handle is @hearasingle

My Facebook account is amazingly getting near the 5,000 limit, so you will see a dedicated Facebook Page for IDHAS in due course.

The rest of the week will be spent getting the major backlog of reviews up on the Blog and from next week, you'll start to see some of the new excitement being announced.

Onwards And Upwards Blah Blah Etc Etc

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Mick Dillingham Interviews : Nick Piunti

It's great to have a new "Mick Dillingham Interviews" for your perusal. What better subject than Nick Piunti? His new album is a splendid affair, following on from the previous, Trust Your Instincts, which was an IDHAS Album Of The Year. Without further ado, over to Mick. 

In 2014 Detroit based musician and songwriter Nick Piunti unleashed “13 in My Head” on an unsuspecting listening audience and the powerpop community immediately burst into flame with golden loving praise. It became highly ranked in the year's best of the lists for the dazzling and sophisticated pop rock greatness on display.  More importantly the superb songwriting brought a unique and soon enough, unmistakable voice to the fore.

As with all the true greats, despite all the familiar and welcome musical influences, above all else Nick Piunti albums are unmistakably Nick Piunti albums. Here was a major new talent and as obviously proved on the three wonderful albums since then, a music force to be reckoned. A songwriter to be held close to the heart of music lovers everywhere.  Each new album has confirmed the greatness that went before while adding new layers and nuances into the already heady brew. Each album perfect in it’s own right and yet each new album more perfect than the last.

This years offering “Temporary High” effortlessly continues this trend and may be his best yet, which is saying something when you consider the glory that has gone before. The last few years have been a golden age of creative wonderment from Nick but it was now always so.  In fact it turns out Nick is very much an old hand having been in various, ultimately going nowhere musical projects, stretching right back to the seventies when he was still just a young boy.

Time to sit down with the man and find out all about was was, what makes him tick and what is to come.

What are your earliest memories of first getting into music?

"Besides the obvious, Beatles on Ed Sullivan, I wasn't even four years old, but I have memories of watching TV at my Grandmother's house. It was probably a combination of The Monkees television show and listening to AM radio hits of the mid 60's that our teenage sitter and her friends played on transistor radios.

They also taught me how to smoke cigarettes at the age of six, naughty girls.  So the thought of playing music was quite intriguing, even before I ever picked up a guitar.  I think I got my first guitar when I was ten and I had a music teacher that had a really cool tenor guitar (4 strings). That was great to learn on and fit my small hands."

Which music artists first made you sit up and take notice?

"As mentioned, The Beatles, The Monkees. I related to Davy because he was the shortest and he got all the girls.  Short I had covered and I was crazy about girls as long as I can remember.  So music seemed to fit right into my plans.  My Dad owned a restaurant that had a jukebox and when the singles would be updated, we got the old ones.

So my older brother and I always played records at home.  I loved the pop songs of the day but I really took notice when I first heard Whole Lotta Love, Mississippi Queen, Born To Be Wild, all those Creedence singles."

When did you start writing songs?

"My childhood best friend Pete Madary and I started writing lyrics first if I remember correctly.  I remember my Mom found some lyrics and wondered what these love songs were about.
But the actual first song that I wrote was called "Rock and Roll Beat". I think I was thirteen. 

Dwarf was my first band.  School kids that wanted to play their 6th grade talent show.  We actually called ourselves Sunset, but when our manager, Merle, came into the picture he wanted us to be called Dwarf.  At first I said "no way" because I was the shortest kid in my class and I didn't really want to promote that in the name of the band. However, Merle was persuasive so we agreed to the name change.

We started playing a lot of Junior High School dances and it wasn't long before the young girls starting going crazy.  I think they weren't used to having bands their age come to their schools to play rock and roll, so when they saw us they really connected to us.  They especially loved our drummer Mickey.  I remember being asked to move by one young lady, because I was obscuring her view of Mickey."

"We released our first single Gotta Get Louder / I Won't be Back in the fall of 1975.  That's what local bands did back then, release 7 inch singles on their own label.  I think only 500 were pressed.  Sold out very quickly.  If you can find an original pressing, they're over $200.

A company called Sing Sing Records did a re-release a few years ago, but the originals are the ones that have value. Pete Madary sang and wrote the A side, while I wrote and sang the B side.  Mike Finn was our lead guitarist.  I didn't write a lot back then, probably a handful a year.  By the time I was a senior in High School, I started writing a lot.  It was all I wanted to do.  Well, that and hang with my girlfriend.

So we stayed Dwarf through high school and college and released three singles and an EP. We  recorded a lot of songs in the studio from 1981 onward, but didn't release any.  Looking back we should have, but we were looking for a label to put out a record.  I'm not sure if it was 1982 or 83, but we parted ways with our manger turned drummer Merle, as we were tired of the four set a night gigs where we would have to sneak our originals in.  I didn't want to be a bar band, so we found a new drummer, changed our name to "The Take" and moved to L.A. in the fall of 1984.

We stayed for two years, did quite a bit of writing and recording, looking for a record deal.  We played some showcases but we were definitely the wrong kind of band for the Glam Rock scene going on in L.A. at the time.  I became the only songwriter in the band after Pete left and it seemed like the right time to pack it in as a band and get on with my life.  I wasn't sure what was next musically but it was time to move on.

After I move back to Detroit, I started recording songs, which would become my first solo collection.  Eight songs released on cassette only titled "Cold Cruel World".  I haven't listened to that in a long time.  I re-recorded a few Take songs along with some new material, shopped it at MIDEM in 1988, but nothing really came of it."

"I'm a late bloomer in the singing department so it’s hard to listen to older recordings of mine.  We figured songwriting out early on, but getting it right in the studio took a long time. I kept recording, going into the studio and shopping for label interest, but by the early 90's I had enough, met my future wife, started a family, and really didn't write a song or barely touched a guitar for several years

It was 2000, I was a father of two young girls and I started becoming interested in writing songs again.  I wasn't sure what I was going to do with them ,but I started recording the new songs with long time friend, studio owner, Pete Bankert.  At first I was going to have another singer sing them, but he convinced me to give it a shot.  I was pretty happy with the record at the time, and released my first proper solo album in 2002.  Still a few leftover songs re-done, but a lot of new ones and it did garner a little bit of attention.  Really no marketing at all, just getting my feet wet again.

Joe Gaydos, who played guitar on my solo album, was in between bands and we talked about having a band, going a bit harder in the rock department.  He was in a band called Mugsy when I was in Dwarf.  Mugsy were a much harder rocking band and more established than us at the time, so it was cool to actually be in a band with him.  Though it may have seemed like an unlikely pairing, Joe really liked my songwriting and we recorded a lot of demos at his place and started writing some songs together.

We recruited Donn Deniston (who I recorded with years before) to be our drummer and Pete Bankert played bass.  We released our debut album under the name The Respectables in 2005.  Joe's son Joey Gaydos Jr., who played Zack in The School of Rock, also appeared on the album for a cameo guitar solo.

The album definitely rocked but it didn't contain a lot of hooks in my book, so we started working on our follow up "Sibley Gardens" and that was the album that received some power pop love. I wasn't trying to make a power pop album, and didn't really know much about a scene for power pop fans, but that album seemed to strike a chord."

"From that album we landed songs in both a movie (Jeff Who Lives at Home) and a network tv show.  That was cool of course, but the band was starting to unravel as our live shows were infrequent and my voice was not cutting it live to be honest.  Pushing too hard, there were a couple shows where my voice didn't hold up. I also felt like the band was getting too ROCK and a bit dated and heavy handed sounding.  We released a three song ep in 2010, but it just seemed like too little too late.  My interest was waning and it was not my best songwriting period.  I really enjoyed working on the songs for Sibley Gardens, but the fun quotient wasn't there any longer.

After The Respectables, I was either done with music or I was going to give it one last shot, making a record that I wanted to make.  I spent over a year and a half writing and demoing songs for the album.  The kids got an iPad for Christmas and I soon found out that I could make some pretty good demos on Garageband.  So the songs and arrangements were pretty mapped out before I entered the studio in 2012 and I found a writing partner with Ryan Allen.

He was in a band called The Friendly Foes, which knocked me out and he was very encouraging to this old dude making another go of it.  I recorded the album "13 in My Head"  with Geoff Michael at Big Sky Recording and it was his suggestion to have Donny Brown drum on it.  That was really key, Donny was in a successful Michigan band called The Verve Pipe and I felt like I had to up my game if I was going to make a record with him.  He added some nice harmonies and ended up drumming on my next three albums.

I felt really good about the record, but wasn't really sure what the reaction would be.  The first reviews were amazing.  Definitely the best response I ever received.  A couple months after the album was released I received an email from Mojo magazine saying they wanted to include one of my songs on a cover mount cd honoring Paul McCartney.  (Songs In The Key Of Paul).

That was a big deal for me, to be included with some bands I absolutely loved and yeah, those year end lists were pretty great.  It's a small community, but to be thought of as one of the best albums of their year, that definitely got me on the map.  In 2014, Sugarbush Records released "13 in My Head" on vinyl.  So that was very cool as well."

Beyond The Static was up next another great album followed quickly by the wonderful Trust Your Instincts. You seem to be on a roll now…the creativity just flowing out of you

"Yeah, “13 In My Head" seemed to be the start of a very prolific period for me.  It's been seven years of a lot of songwriting.  I'll make records as long as I think the songs deserve to be recorded and released.  I wouldn't want to make a record if I didn't believe in the songs.  I think "Beyond The Static" was a good follow up to 13.  Probably not as hooky, but some more depth to some of the songs and I pushed myself a bit.

"Trust Your Instincts" came only a year later, but sounded fresh to me and I received a lot of airplay on Sirius XM The Loft.  Mike Marrone was the program director at the time and he was great in making sure the album was heard. Trust Your Instincts was my first album on Marty Scott's "Jem Records" and it's been pretty cool having him so involved in not only releasing the record, but sharing demos and ideas with him.

Lets talk about the latest Temporary High.  How was the recording process? How happy are you with the finished album?

I'm really happy with "Temporary High". Recorded it the same way, with Donny Brown on drums, Andy Reed on bass, and Geoff Michael recording and producing at Big Sky Recording.  Probably the difference with this album is that I had a batch of five songs that I focused on, then wrote another five songs and focused on them.  Plus there's quite a bit of keyboards on this album, (myself, Andy, Donny and Geoff all played keys) though it is still a guitar based album.

I even wrote a couple songs for my wife and a few for my daughters as well.  So very personal lyrically.  And though I played all the guitars on this album, (Ryan Allen joined me on a few songs each of the last three albums), Ryan did help me finish lyrics to a couple songs.  My friend Chris Richards sang on a couple songs and keyboardist Plink Giglio (how's that for a name?) added keys on a couple tracks.

"Temporary High was selected as the "Coolest Song in The World" on Little Steven's Underground Garage on Sirius XM radio.  That's a very cool thing.

What are your favourites on the record?

That's kind of like choosing your favourite child.  I like all the songs or I wouldn't have recorded them, and different ones rise up to the top of my list on different days. I like "You're Perfect and I'm Not" because that one seemed to get the songwriting for the album going.  I like the pop of "No Return" "If This Was Right" and "Contagious".

I like the rock of "Temporary High" and "You Invented Hell" has a cool Petty / Ryan Adams vibe.  I think Geoff and Plink did a great job on "Headphones", definitely a different vibe for me. "Deep Freeze" was the last song that I wrote for the album.  It was like those last songs you sneak in when you think the album needs "just one more".. 13 in My Head was actually the last song that I wrote and recorded for that album."

How does the song writing process work with you?

The best is when I have an opening line that I really like that comes to me at the same time as a riff and or melody that I like.  Those songs seem to write themselves and those are the ones that make it on the album.

Are you slow or prolific?

I'm not Robert Pollard prolific, but I do write a lot.  For every song that makes it on an album there's probably three that don't.  They don't all get finished, but there's enough of an idea for me to decide if it's going to be a contender.

What would you say were your biggest influences?

Great pop songs.  Tom Petty, Paul Westerberg, Raspberries, The Who, Beatles, Stones, Springsteen, Byrds, Slade, Ian Hunter, so many influences.  There's new music that influences me as well. Not what you'd find on Top 40 radio, but there's quite a few great indie rock bands out there. and my friends make great records.  They inspire me.

How’s the feedback to the album been so far?

Fantastic.  Four albums in five years, I would suspect some people might think "why doesn't he take a break" but I've heard a few "best album yet" so that's encouraging.  They're not sick of me yet.

Future plans

If there songs keep coming, keep recording.  I have a new live band that I'm having a lot of fun with.  More shows in the future with Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men and see if we can take this to some new arenas.  (Not like a football arena, but new places.)"

You can listen to Temporary High and Nick's three previous solo albums here. You can also buy those albums there. You can also keep up to date with the Nick Piunti world at his website here. For those who can get to the Temporary High Release show on Friday, details are above. It's a cracking line up.

You can also read the IDHAS Nick Piunti Reviews here.

I Don't Hear A Single Radio Update

I Don't Hear A Single Radio is now on a two week Summer Break. However, this week's show will be the last on KOR Radio. There is no animosity involved, indeed if it hadn't have been for the support and encouragement of KOR, I would never have started the Radio adventure. They have always been there to assist me and I am forever grateful.

On it's return, the IDHAS Radio Show will continue in it's present format, but it will be on a number of Stations to give the artists the widest exposure possible. It will allow the show to be broadcast at the most convenient time for the audience of most countries, bearing in mind the time differences to the UK.

It will also feature where most people expect to find Power Pop, Pop Rock and Psych Pop, as well as looking to expand listeners. It will still feature weekly on Mixcloud.

Following on soon from that will be details of a 2 hour show, the second half of which will feature the IDHAS Radio Show. There's lots more IDHAS news to come, but first let's get the current Radio Show bedded in.

I'll announce the locations of where IDHAS Radio 55 will appear as soon as all is finalised. In the intervening fortnight, you can listen to the archive on Mixcloud.