Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The 99% (various artists) ~ Occupy Bellingham: Local Artists Songs Of Protest, Rebellion & Hope (comp)

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: folk, alt rock, ska, comedy, protest, rap, experimental
Label: self-released
Year: 2011
Home: Bellingham, Washington


Members: Ken Stringfellow, Dana Lyons, Pirates R Us, Police Teeth, The Dt's, Boris Budd & The Waterboarders, Keaton Collective, Sher Vadinska, Yogoman Burning Band, Porch Party, Sugar Sugar Sugar, Bob Paltrow, Jan Peters & The Monday Night Project, The Loyal Sinners, Black Eyes & Neck Ties, Kit Nelson, Kris Orlowski, Mostafa, Tim Mechling, stabbin hobo, The Red Umbrellas, Biagio Biondolillo, DJ Einstein, Snug Harbor, Clambake, 1985, Jesse Morrow, Enders of Ozone, Reverend Mathew, Acorn Project, The Offshoots, Neptune Skyline, bandZandt, Average Mammal ~ n/a


This massive protest album brings together 34 artists/bands from the small town of Bellingham, Washington, a must watch community of vibrant & new music from across the spectrum that has churned out onto the national scene Dana Lyons, the Posies, Morbid Angel founder Trey Azagthoth, Chris Riffle, Death Cab For Cutie & countless other bands that have glowing west coast reputations. Bellingham is a town known for its protests over the decades ... partially spurred by the dominating presence of the liberal university on the hill, also spurred by the isolated location allowing a bit more personal freedom for the unsocially minded, while the town is the last major stop on the way from Seattle to Vancouver, Canada that has been a stop off for beatniks, hippies & was even under the radar as a potential target on 9/11. Ironically, it's motto is 'the city of subdued excitement'. In the recent Wall Street based 99% movement Bellingham may have had more stand-ups against the police & protests than Manhattan, the home of the movement, & certainly has sparked community wide attention while in Manhattan the past social upheavals are now just part of another day of old news. Bringing the spirit of protest to an album this collection, credited to the 99%, it includes a few famous faces such as Ken Stringfellow of Big Star/Posies/R.E.M. & acoustic guitarist-songwriter Dana Lyons who became internationally famous for his comical vegetarian anthem "Cows With Guns". Alongside these two is an array of more regionally & locally musicians that span the musical spectrum from new & old styles of folk (i.e. Sher Vadinska, Tim Mechling, Porch Party, The Red Umbrellas, Biagio Biondolillo, 1985, Kit Nelson, Kris Orlowski, Jan Peters & the Monday Night Project, Reverend Mathew) & Americana bluesy rock (i.e. The DT's, The Loyal Sinners, Jesse Morrow, bandZandt, The Offshoots, Acorn Project) to retro surf (i.e. Clambake), alt rock bands spanning the genre(i.e. Police Teeth, Neptune Skyline, Enders Of Ozone, Black Eyes & Neck Ties, Sugar Sugar Sugar), shoe-gazing prog (i.e. Keaton Collective) to funk (i.e. Average Mammal, Snug Harbor), ska (i.e. Yogoman Burning Band), hip-hop (i.e. Mostafa) & trip-hop (i.e. DJ Einstein). In terms of diversity the collection diserves kudos & it surprisingly flows fairly well with an easy stride, though due to both the musical diversity & the number of artists this can be a bit much for a single listen. In its favor is the fact that it stays mostly away from typical in your face rock aiming instead mostly for the alt rock/blues rock/folk sound that dominates the Bellingham scene leaving the large jazz scene or more experimental or thrashy rock for another protest outing. If there is any distruption it comes in a few poorly recorded live tracks later & a few alt rock bands whose near screaming is unlistenable next to tighter neater folk harmonies, particularly when the vocals are obscured & thus obscuring the message of protest, & one instrumental that has no lyrics or any particular protest feel that is completely out of place. If nothing else this is a wonderful introduction, though far from comprehensive, to a little post-grunge town in the Pacific Northwest that truly could be one of the most important music spots in the region for new talent. & don't worry about too many obscure local references as they are few. For those curious Ken Stringfellow turns in a slow & moody "Everybody Is A Fucking Liar" with only voice & acoustic piano, in the same vein as the Posies, though for those unfamiliar with his band it'll sound more like a moment of cussing just to get attention. Pirates R Us open the album the accordian/violin pirate-esque sea shanty "Sam Walton's Blues" showing this is not going to be a normal listening experience as in this one song is humor, social protest a la such lines as "the streets run red with the blood of rich ... I can steal millions with just a laptop while you're stuck on ship swabbing the deck ... i'd rather be a pirate than a snooty corporate bitch", & no holds bar of what music is going to be featured. It's a great welcome to the show. There's a few comedic folksy rock groups of the same tongue-in-cheek vein as Pirates R Us, including Boris Budd & The Waterboarders, also the producer of the album, with "Conglomeratocracy". Budd & co create intimate music of the coffee house culture & compared to some of the more alt rock songs is a breath of fresh air with its carefully composed lyrics for a listening crowd versus shouts of profanity for a drunken crowd. Cover artist Bob Partlow also turns in a comedic "Stick It", while the always enjoyable king of musical satire Dana Lyons turns in the "WTO Disco" bringing the Bee Gees up to date with Wierd Al-esque delight. Stabbin Hobo's "The Last Crusade" is a dark & ethereal hip-hop against an acoustic guitar background with the chorus "We pay for gas" that is some of the more interesting musical fusion on the album. Traditionally, folk music has always been the music of protest a la Guthrie, Dylan, Baez, etc. to be later taken up with hippie groups like Jefferson Airplane, & folks-esque Country Joe McDonald, Richie Havens, before heavy metal became the music of angst. But, folk still remains the standard of the protest song as the vocals are the focus over the music. Though, perhaps its the plethora of folk music in our culture but the comedic songs here seem to jump out of the mix the fastest & have the biggest impact re the message & might be the future of protest music ... hitting home with laughter. While the few funk bands come in second place, albeit only because there's less funk than comedy in this collection. As this collection is about a message the message needs to be mentioned. According to the press release this album "salutes & celebrates the 99% in their pursuit of equality, which is the one word that summarizes the different, viable & important issues that people are working through by using the power of peaceful gatherings & demonstrations, fostering education & awareness." It's hard to say if all of this is in here musicially or lyrically, while some songs don't feel that much like social protest songs ... but just the fact that all these musicians gave their permission to be included is enough. They've got solidarity if not in the message then in the desire to be a part of the message. Further, this album has been released on bandcamp "free for the 99% ... it costs $1,000,000 for the 1%."





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