Tuesday, September 3, 2013

East Bay Bands: Reid Saw A Ghost, Wizzz, Sarchasm

Still Haunted: Mad Scary Revisited
* * * *

One of last year’s more surprising Bay Area releases was Mad Scary, a 7-song EP from Fremont trio Reid Saw A Ghost that showcased their bizarre yet bracingly tight take on power pop and brought them the attention of promoters west of the Bay Bridge.  The three rerecorded versions of songs from that album that appear on their promotional EP Still Haunted: Mad Scary Revisited are stripped of much of the instrumental insanity of their earlier incarnations, casting the tunes as the solid pop songs they are.  “Fifties Girl” and “Esther Moser” are less raucous, with only the latter suffering as a result; closing ballad “Girl From Across The Sea” is vastly improved, featuring swirling shoegaze effects that make it sound less like a hormonal teen-love ballad and more like a lost Deerhunter cut.  The rest of the album brings the band’s affinity for the sound and dorky aesthetic of ‘80s college-rock (driven home with a competent cover of “Blister In The Sun”) to the forefront.  “TV Song” finds singer Alex Lefkort dropping Star Wars references over lovesick dream-pop guitars; “500 Days Of Summer” is bleak, ennui-laced pop punk.  Best of all is “Barbaroux,” an almost girl-groupy love song with a great guitar solo and a surprisingly touching sing-along coda.

Full Of Mistakes
* * * 1/2

Wizzz is the kind of band that’s frustrating to listen to if only because it’s impossible to take them seriously.  But the obvious instrumental fuckery of this Oakland quartet (plus Sun Clay’s Matthew Horton, who contributed almost the entirety of “I Saw A Dead Body”) has yielded one of the more enjoyable Bay Area garage-rock albums of 2013, loosely anchored by witty, self-referential lyrics and the occasional, striking Beatles-esque pop curlique.  The album’s first 18 minutes, prior to the 13-minute intermission “False Euphoria,” contain most of its best moments; its best song, “Nic Nak,” comes close to the end, but the journey there takes you through a rather uninspired middle section.  Yet it would be entirely beside the point to say that Full Of Mistakes could benefit from some editing--it’s not trying to be tight or great or even all that listenable, and the amount of fun you have listening to it is roughly proportional to how much fun it sounded to make.

“Point Blank Range”
* * *

The latest single from East Bay punks Sarchasm replaces the sloppy style of their excellent full-length We Interrupt This Broadcast with the Apple Loop-dry sheen that can only come from a recording session at Ex’Pression College; it doesn’t do them justice, robbing them of the thick bass throb that anchored their sound on previous releases.  However, the band itself seems to be in fine form, with Mari Campos’s voice retaining the disarming mix of urgency and apathy that give her political tirades extra power; they sound less like musical revolutionaries bringing on change than bitterly politically aware entertainers providing a raucous commentary to the world’s moral collapse.

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