This ass-kicking debut EP from Boston supergroup The Shang Hi Los is busting down the door with both guns blazing. The band fuses power-pop melodies with a throwback yet refreshing approach.
Scene veterans Jen D’Angora (of Jenny Dee & The Deelinquents and The Dents) and Dan Kopko of Watts share fronting duties, both on vocals and guitar. Their vocal interplay takes center stage, with her Debbie Harry to his Rod Stewart – the harmonies are so hand-in-glove at times, you can’t tell who is singing the melody.
The leadoff “Sway Little Player” has an amped-up Buddy Holly vibe, with hot licks playing off of ’50s innocence. “Skipping Records” is straight T. Rex-style glam, decrying “Love is like a kick in the eye.”
“Funeral Home Mint” is a classic rock ripper with a chorus ready-made for radio. “Stay” is on the softer end, with breezy melodies that remind me of Aimee Mann.
Chock full of bangers, Kick It Like A Wicked Bad Habit makes it hard to know what the single is supposed to be. The tunes are deftly written and feature great musical performances by all – the rhythm section consists of drummer Chuck Ferreira and bass Lee Harrington.
The sparkly studio production mixed with the stylized vocals contribute to a sticky sweet, rock musical effect that’s super addictive. And they’ve got moves lyrically, with some super memorable lines (“My heart beats 45 RPMs/When will I ever catch my REMs?”) throughout.
Even the cover of Chicago’s well-worn “Saturday in the Park” would generate eye rolls when performed by lesser bands. Buy this album, stat!
Mutter – Imitation Crab
For another debut release closer to home, PVD’s Mutter draws on a music school sensibility and an unconventional mix of genres. At some moments noise-jazz and at others electrified beat poetry, the album throws in everything but the kitchen sink.
The opener “Naima,” features prominent tenor sax and high-octane noodling that culminates with vocalist Molly Halpin’s wailing. “Jaundice” has got a calypso dance feel, with interesting chords that I assume have a bunch of numbers and symbols in them.
“Celebrity” turns a dreamlike waltz into frenzied punk, and the ripping guitar solo capping it off is a nice touch. The highlight for me is “Waterbody (Think of Lee),” a cocktail lounge jam with some sophisticated bass guitar and drum spotlights.
I found “Teeth” to be fairly repetitive, and the glacial, eight-minute “Transit Street Lament” loses me, despite the soulful feel and colorful vibraphone.
Though Imitation Crab is excessive at times, Mutter has the musicianship to back it up.
Ziggy Gnardust – Bite the Bullet
Ziggy Gnardust, the project of local musician and Z-Boys drummer Zigmond Coffey, is out with Bite the Bullet, the follow-up to his 2020 debut Ziggy. These days, the 90s nostalgia that saturates this album seems to be constantly in vogue, and I don’t hate it.
Maintaining a Prince-like level of ambition, Coffey capably plays all the instruments on the record. His trademark is a viscous layer of distorted, psychedelic guitars under simple melodies and repetitive riffs.
Bite the Bullet is centered around themes of catharsis and pain, and could almost be called a woe-core concept album – the tracks deal with a lost love and a plunge into sorrow and self-harm (“Noose around my neck/this life I cannot stand”).
The album stands in stark contrast to the sensory overload of Z-Boys, and is way more measured and song-based.
The punk rock “Nothing Left” has Coffey letting loose, and “When I’m Gone” is a heavy, Dinosaur Jr. style rocker.
My favorite, “Under the Rug,” begins with acoustic folk-punk 3/4 reminiscent of AJJ, and builds to a fever pitch (I’m a sucker for dynamics). It also nails Billy Corgan’s Siamese Dream-era Big Muff sound – objectively one of the best tones of all time.
The overly long, melodramatic “Bite the Bullet” is a bit of a slog, but for the most part, the album swings for the fences and hits the mark.