Sunshine and lollipops

A kinder, gentler Professor K delivers the latest Local-CD Roundup

Who knows how long Professor K’s good mood will last? Send in your new CD now to Local-CD Roundup, Sacramento News & Review, 1015 20th Street, Sacramento, CA 95814.

Dearest students:

It’s felt more like spring than winter for the past week or two, which frankly makes me depressed. I’ve had my psychiatrist up my prescription, which certainly helps some, but there’s nothing like a sunshiny day to bring thoughts of darkness into the old brainpan.

My psychiatrist tells me I need to be more positive as I crest into my middle years, and so I’m breaking bread on a new me this semester. I’ve pulled three rather noteworthy CDs from the current stack on my desk in an effort to highlight the positive and eliminate the negative, lest my dear shrink try to overdose me on the happy pills.

On the top of the stack is Picket Line’s full-length self-release, Chapter:End. Picket Line is straight-down-the-middle alternative rock/screamo with all the dramatic sturm und drang of youth. We are sad; we are angry; we have passion; we are lonely; we occasionally scream about it. Granted, it’s not particularly original—lyrically or musically—but is that necessarily a bad thing? Such outpourings of teen angst have little to do with originality and much more to do with volume and accessibility. One can picture Picket Line packing one of the all-ages venues peppering Sacramento’s outskirts.

Of course, Picket Line’s inattention to melody might bore older listeners a bit. We were ruined by the Beatles and have expectations of melodic grandeur, after all. Picket Line’s choice of vocal melodies inhabits a very small range. As a result, one gets to the end of any given song, and there’s little to remember. It’s something of a disappointment considering that the album itself is well-produced. The songs could really shine with something more melodic to hook the listeners’ ears.

This is also a problem with Brown Shoe’s new album, The Wheat Patch. The CD is tailor-made for Coldplay’s legion of fans; the band sounds in many ways like a very good Coldplay cover band that happens to be playing originals. Melodic guitars, up-tempo rhythms and moments of nice harmony coalesce into something quite listenable. However, as with Picket Line, the band doesn’t offer enough truly memorable vocal melody lines to keep the listener interested for long. When it does, as on “Plains,” the whole project elevates to a new level. More of that, please.

Bringing up Coldplay brings us to one of the area’s more aggressive marketing machines: Sex on Sunday. The studio band is composed of local singer-songwriter Scott West and a group of well-known hired guns: Tesla’s Frank Hannon, Brian Wheat and Troy Luccketta; singer-songwriter Anton Barbeau; Th’ Losin Streaks’ Mike Farrell; and Cake’s Gabe Nelson, to name a few.

Sex on Sunday’s eponymous self-released album occupies that weird gray area where I find myself wondering, “Am I supposed to take this record seriously, or is it all just a weird joke?” I’m going with the second option here, an interpretation supported by the band’s name and the CD’s cheesy photos of West hamming it up with his hired guns.

If this interpretation is correct, then the sound of the album—something like campy 1980s-era British new-wavers ABC jamming with, well, Tesla—makes sense in a Spinal Tap universe. Make no mistake. The album sounds good, but it’s such a weird conglomeration of influences that it’s bound to make the casual listener confused. Is it good? I have no idea. Is it weird? Yep, but not quite weird enough for my tastes.

That’s about it for this quarter. There are other CDs sitting here on my desk, but frankly most of them are simply awful. Rather than throw stones at crippled dogs, I feel it best to let crippled dogs lie. A sleeping crippled dog is always easier to hit with a stone later on anyway.

Send your CDs in to the address on the left, and I’ll keep listening.

Best wishes until next quarter,

Professor K