Friday, May 18, 2007

CD Reviews: Boston Special

The latest batch of reviews are all from the Boston area, where they know how to support their local bands.

With Karen DeBiasse leading the Boston-based GIRL ON TOP, it shows how a good rocker can range from heavy to light, as with “Cherry Blossoms/Sakura” ( ), and still come out…er…on top. This band knows how to wave their axe high and strong (“Air Waves” and “Beat Myself Up”) and yet have a tender side (“Cherry Blossoms”), to just take the first three cuts of this rock-solid CD. The musicians in this band have passed the ingénue stage, and have enough solid experience to get the job done effectively. It makes total sense that there are two Stones covers (in a row!) from their post-Blues period, because they fit in so well here, including a smashing version of “Paint It Black”, which is loyal and yet Girl on Top make it their own, with Karen showing her range by singing in a lower register. The whole recording is catchy enough to get on the radio without selling out, which is a tough thing to do. – RBF/FFanzeen

MACH 5 are named as much for Speed Racer’s car as for lead singer Mach Bell, who fronted the seminal Boston first-wave punk-era band, Thundertrain. And he’s lost none of the power, growl or grit. This new combo has all the earmarks of hook-laden bar rock that would fit in well on the shelf with the NY Dolls and their ilk. Right from the start on "Meet Mach 5" ( , they pound you into the floor with “Get It Up”. Bell and the ridiculously monikered (but good songsmith) Dee Stroy wrote this and many of the others. “Deadly Combination” is almost an updated version of Wayne County’s “Max’s Kansas City”, looking at the wasted deaths of the likes of Thunders, Vicious, and Spungen. There are also some interesting covers, including Kirsty McaColl’s “They Don’t Know” (also previously covered by Tracy Ullman, and which seems a bit out of place here), Mose Allison’s total I-IV-V rave-up “If You’re Goin’ to the City”, and Alice Cooper’s “Under My Wheels” also make an appearance. But they’re local Boston boys, and they make it clear with shout outs to “Quincy Girl” and “Kenmore Square”. This CD is a fun flashback of pure rock power. Welcome back, Mach. – RBF/FFanzeen

So, what happens when a bunch of musicians centered in Worchester (for those out of the know, it is pronounced Wooosda), MA, who had previously been in metals bands, get together and decide to go pop? You get some wicked guitars behind a mainstream sound with a solid bottom and soaring vocals. While ALMADA's self title release ( is a little too sterile for my taste, I also believe that they deserve their props. The songs are catchy and I can easily see them right beside bands like My Chemical Romance. Actually, I heard the latest from MCR while getting a haircut this afternoon, and I think Almada blows them outta da water. Just from the strength of this first release, I am amazed I don’t hear them on some radio station, or blasting out of some retail store, bolstered by songs like “Killed By Cuteness,” “Japanese B-Side,” and especially “Radiator”. Note that since this release, Almada have changed their name to the ArkRoyal. – RBF/FFanzeen

The night I received the self-titled CD of PAUL HULTMAN (, I was fortunate to see him play at the Kirkland Café in Somerville, MA. Paul used to be in the band The Instagators (yes, that’s how they spell it), and that period along with he rest of the last 20 years (including some demos) are included in this collection of his work. The Instagators parts are solid ‘80s Boston bar band sound that is still accessible (such as the rave-up opening cut, “Where’s the Party”; the closer is the same song in Spanish), thanks in part to producer/label owner Joe Viglione. But I emphatically want to emphasize just how strongly Boston-based Paul’s work is, with lines that include words like “stahka” (stalker). While Hultman did an acoustic set the night I saw him play, his rock playing is melodic and catchy. His voice is unique and feels present and sincere. There are also some interesting choices for covers, like the Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit”, Zep’s “Ramble On”, Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away”, and “Down Town Talk” by Tom Dickey & the Desires (Paul’s pal Jon Macey was a member, as well as leader of FoxPass, who also shared the bill that night). There are lots of Boston staple players here, including Steven Paul Perry (who also mastered the CD), Paul Santo, and Brian “Taz” Durante (who was in the audience at the Kirkland). I’d love to see him play electric some time. – RBF/FFanzeen
Photos I took that night of Paul, Joe V, and FoxPass at the Kirkland:

I liked APPOMATTOX ( the first time I heard their CD, and it just continues to grow with each listen. A power trio from Boston, the band has a way with a song that is punk, melodious, and yet manages to stay wicked edgy. Yeah, they use a shredding guitar, dissonant notes, and sharp vocals, but the songs are memorable and powerful. Not a hint of a bad cut here. At six cuts in a bit less than 20 minutes, I’m looking forward to the whole she-bang. – RBF/FFanzeen


  1. Pertaining to the "Paul Hultman" CD the song "take my breath away" is NOT the Berlin cover. It is an original song written by Jake Gately (Co-Written by Hultman)
    I know this for a fact..Because I helped paul w/ the Lyrics back in 94 when we were in "THE ATTACK" together.

  2. Thanks for the update. I ALWAYS appreciate corrections because I want to be as accurate as possible. Is this Ron Scarlett? If so, I have a bunch of your stuff from way back when. You were on Varulven, if I remember correctly. Again, thanks for the update.