The Fire Apes
Sean O'Keefe Sessions
Even in their earliest recordings, Charleston rock band The Fire Apes pulled as much pure-pop magic from the most joyful, cheery, and melodic corner of the British Invasion and mid-'60s U.S. pop hits — from the McCartney side of The Beatles and the peppiest tunes by The Kinks to lovey-dovey hits of The Monkees and Burt Bacharach. In the recent years, frontman John Seymour — the singer, guitarist, and main songwriter — assembled a rotating local lineup, collaborated with various studios, and hardened some of his newer material with an edgier, modern pop-punk sound.
On the band's most recent studio demos with producer Sean O'Keefe (he produced recent discs for Fall Out Boy, Hawthorne Heights, and The Plain White T's), there's quite a bit more fancy instrumentation than on previous Fire Apes releases. "Don't Break My Heart" bounces with saloon piano, woodwinds, Ringo-style tom 'n' snare fills, Bacharachian brass, diminished chords. The riffy "Cause You Don't" bashes with more punkish garage-band aggression and fuzz, resembling some of the recent output from Swedish garage-rock band The Hives. The fast-tempo New Waver "Lori" sounds like a hidden gem on side B of Get the Knack. The slow-waltzy, kaleidoscope-eyed "Six and a Half Years" swings with beautiful accompaniment from members of the Chicago Symphony-Orchestra. So far, so good for the Apes this year. (thefireapes.com)
Rik Cribb & The Problems
Rik Cribb & The Problems
Veteran Charleston songwriter Rik Cribb and his comrades spent almost three years — on and off — arranging, recording, and fine-tuning this breezy collection of Southern-tinged pop-rock originals. Assembled as a substantial EP (or "mini-album"), the songs are a bit more sophisticated than his earlier work. While the strummy "Kuwait City" was written and recorded demo-style on location in the Persian Gulf during one of Cribb's excursions to the region last year (he worked there for several months with a private manufacturing company), the rest of the disc was recorded by local engineer Chris Chamberlain at his studio facility. Cribb tinkered with (and even stripped down) some of the six tracks on his home gear over the last year or so. The final mixes are crisp, but a bit trebly and thin. The melodic opener "Hey Baby" is a guitar-driven power-pop winner with a fiery solo from guitarist Doug Walters. The tune recalls the sparse, tight arrangements and soulful delivery of Elvis Costello & The Attractions' earliest work — and former Pixies frontman Frank Black's dry guitar-rock with The Catholics. With its buzzsaw power chords and sweet vocal lines, the loud/fast "There I Saw You" could've worked well on an older Green Day or Foo Fighters album. Taking a groovy detour, the harmony-laden soft-rock anthem "Carolina" reveals Cribb's romantic side — and drummer Jeff Mangan's crisp high-hat and cymbal work. The slower "I Want You" is a bit more lonesome and melancholic. "Shine On" grinds with more U2 polish and grandiosity. Overall, its a confident step ahead for Cribb and his mates. (myspace.com/rikcribb)
(B Squared Music)
"Struggle with the ones who are lost/mind the ones who are weak, be careful not to destroy your character/with the words that you ... speak." So goes the opening statement from guest rapper RaRa, one of several extra microphone men on the sharp and assertive debut album from local rapper and songwriter Righchus (a.k.a. Matt Bostick). Chaos Theory is a collaborative production between Righchus and Max "Benjamin" Berry. Track two, "Welcome to Chaos" further illustrates the duo's modus operandi: to rhyme and riff on the cultural and socio-political state of the world — and the grind and hustle of life for a youngster. Lyrically, Chaos Theory aims at a slew of critical issues: poverty, crime, loyalty, acceptance, religion, positivity, and, ultimately, righteousness (the inspiration for Bostick's stage name).
The album is peppered with bleepy synthesizer riffs (some of which sound right outta the New Wave '80s), stripped-down kick/clap rhythm patterns, and keyboard orchestral sweeps. Vocal echo/delay effects dominate the production style. Berry even gets a few vocal lines, groovin' on "deep thoughts" and "deep friends" on "Deep End." RaRa steps up on the interlude to "Bring You Back" and closing number "Live, Die, Fall, Rise." Richchus sounds confident throughout, whether he's dropping cultural references (George Foreman, Geico, MLK, Uncle Sam, and Muhammad Ali, etc.) or rhymin' on more serious life experiences. (righchus.com)