Tuesday, 9 September 2008

High On Stress: A Mini Interview

On Saturday we reviewed High On Stress's new album "Cop Light Parade". Today (slightly later than advertised) we have an interview where I was fortunate enough to be able to direct some questions to the four members of High on Stress.

They all come from the Twin Cities, Minnesota and initially got together five years ago. Their first CD "Moonlight Girls" was released to great acclaim in July 2005 and their second "Cop Light Parade" officially released this month, we reviewed a couple of days ago (see below).

If you could have recorded your CD in any other decade when would it be and why? If there is a collective view that is similar discuss that decade. If it varies greatly from member to member please put forth separate opinions.

– I would say the early 70's would have been a pretty sweet time to record music. There were a lot of great records put out back then "Sticky Fingers" and "Plastic Ono Band" for example.

Jim - I would be particular to the New Wave sound because it wouldn't matter what kind of crazy ass thing you'd do. It would be creative. I would also love to make a Cure record. That stuff just has a vibe that gets to the sad bastard in you.

Mark – '70s. I think a lot of our music is rooted in the rock bands and singer/songwriters of that era. The more recent influences we have drawn from the 70's primarily, so that seems to be the most compelling time in music for us directly and indirectly.

Chad - I would say the '90s. I really love the drum sounds on the records during that time period.

Nick - I think I just found out why it took us three years for our follow-up. It took us that long just to agree on how our record should sound!

What was the first album purchased by each member of the band?

– Prince Purple Rain
Jim - Miley Cyrus Breakout
Mark – Beatles Red" Album
Chad - Nirvana Nevermind

How do you find the music scene in the Twin Cities?

The music scene in the Twin Cities is fantastic. There are a lot of different kinds of music that are accepted across the board. You should check out the Glad Version, the Red Flags, the Snaps, Tuesdays Robot and the Small Cities. There really is some great music coming from here.

Many thanks for the recommendations guys, we shall have a look and good luck with the success of the new album.

Interview: Debra47

The majority of the time this blog will only focus on powerpop music, but sometimes there will be a slight deviation. This is one of those times. Bands like High On Stress whose music loosely falls into the alt country genre will be more fully explored on my husbands blog: Hot Licks, Cold Steel and Cosmic Skies due to be launched in the next few weeks.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

High On Stress: That Difficult Second - Or A Brave New Voice?

Something about High on Stress's new album 'Cop Light Parade' makes me think of Wilco's 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot'. Maybe it's the similar corporate building detail cover shot, maybe it's the sometime throwaway delivery present on some songs, maybe it's the feeling that like Wilco's album, nothing really hits you square between eyes on first listening. Maybe too, there's some kind of irony at work that I've completely missed? Anyway you look at it, there ain't no doubt that this album is what we used to call 'a grower'.

That's no bad thing - you won't be over this baby in one play. Its tantalizing intrigue will keep you coming back for more - ensuring repeat playability. Vocalist Neil Leet leads the band into slight Anglophilia with his playful swagger and Jaggeresque dulcet tones, particularly on the third track "White Sugar". Then again I even detect a little Graham Parker in this laidback blusey country honk, reminiscent of Parker's similarly titled "White Honey". However maybe that's because Parker's dominantly ex-'Brinsley Schwarz' back up band evoke the same kind of understated instrumental interplay Nick Lowe's old crew gave their taste challenged audience (raised on Prog and Space Rock) back then.

The title track gives way to the wryly named "Abby Rose". However the first track to force this writer to wake up and take notice is #5 - "Table 8 in Queens" which begins with a familiar Neil Young type lope, but soon shifts to a short shuffle-like chorus. Great lyrics about divorce, in an understandable moment of near despair, Leet utters the classic immortal line: "Rock 'n' Roll can kiss my ass, it never saved anyone" Now, that's down, Neil - I hope you're over the hump that inspired that piece of ironic perfection?

"We Could Have Been Nobody" has a lovely harmony in the chorus which stays with you long after the album is over. Much of "Cop Light Parade" recalls one of Rock's other great hard-to-categorize-misfits 'Green On Red' and track #7 "Rhode Island" is no exception. For me it suggests the legacy of those LA troubadours most strongly than anything else here.

"My White Pages" (another cool rock pun) most recalls fellow Minnesotans 'The Replacements'. This is one of the best tracks on the album and grows with each play.

"Trample With Care" (yes, another groovy rock pun!) has a nice call and response chorus that further seems to occupy that Jayhawks/Wilco, sometimes WhiskeyTown vibe that pervades the whole album.

"Partner in Crime" most closely resembles that 'Gram Parsons/Stones' "Wild Horses" influence and is one of the definite stand outs of the entire album.

The final song, a postscript almost anonymously overlooked as "Track 12" or "Awakened By The Night" as it really should be called, draws a picture of a disappearing America swallowed up by endless out of town shopping malls and disaffected youth. For me, this is one of the best songs on this sophomore effort and should be elevated to greater prominence - however it is an excellent closer, so maybe not!

"Cop Light Parade" certainly veers towards the indie side of Alt-Country Rock. Sometimes I yearned for the cry of a pedal steel or the hint of a blue yodel but this isn't where these guys are coming from. The music is stripped down, bare and honest. Nobody could accuse them of ELO/Queen/U2 over indulgence - there's a truth, a blue collar, workman-like delivery that requires repeated plays to settle in the conscious.

Gone are the hooks, bigger instrumentation and instant appeal of songs like "Cash Machine" and "Harris County" from the first album. Yet this isn't a typical second album career flat-spot, just a brave alternative voice. Maybe a little fairy dust here and there will not go a miss next time, but for now "Cop Light Parade" will do just fine.
Mr Qwerty

Sample High On Stress here with title track from the new album "Cop Light Parade" and a choice track from their first album 'Moonlight Girls' called "Eyeliner Blues"

More can be found on their MySpace site
Short samples of each track from their first album can be found on their old official website here

Our last 2 part post seemed an unpopular move, but we imagine this was because there was a week between Part 1 and 2. Not so this time. We have an interview with High On Stress, it's already to go, but we'll publish in a couple of days to avoid blogpost overload!

Friday, 5 September 2008

I Didn't Mean To Leave You This Way

Apologies to all readers of the Power Pop Review who've noticed our absence this last couple of weeks. First, an already hectic schedule and then the shock of the sad news of losing my Mother a week ago has conspired to give me and my husband no time to devote to the blog. Currently we are in the process of arranging a flight to the USA to attend the delayed funeral.

Our next piece has been in preparation for well over a week and despite continuous delay will be posted tonight. Whilst we're in the States we'll be taking a much needed break, but through the miracle of wireless a quarter way around the world we'll still try to maintain a presence here.

Thanks for all the support and messages of condolence - it means a lot.

Debbie & MrQ