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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Crocodile - His Name is Stan and He's a Bad Motherf**ker

For me, Austin has always been on my radar from some of the best progressive bands to come from the Lone Star state. Whether it’s Proud Peasant, Opposite Day, Thirteen of Everything, Stop Motion Orchestra, and this new band that launched two years ago of this new up-and-coming quartet called, Crocodile. The band considers; Greg Seale on Drums, Philip Spann on Keyboards, Kevin Sims on Vocals and Guitar, and Ted Thomas on Bass Guitar and Vocals. They’ve released their debut album this year entitled, His Name Is Stan And He’s A Bad Motherf**ker.

Crocodile’s music takes a lot inspirations from the realms of Gentle Giant, Haken, Jethro Tull, and Rock Progressivo Italiano band, Premiata Forneria Marconi. The quartet honors the legacy and the spirit of the genre by making sure the flaming fires of Progressive Rock keep burning more and more and never hitting the water. Their debut album is also a concept album, about a story that Kevin Sims wrote about a man named, Stan when he was 16 years old.

Stan is a Workaholic. And obsessive. What he wants to do is be the type of person who wants to get the job done right and making sure that Stan wants to reach towards the light at the end of the tunnel to survive and see how much he’s accomplished from a young age to adulthood. I’ve picked a few highlights on the album that really got my attention and keeping an eye out for this band that will hopefully get the word out.

You have this almost wacky time change of 3/4 along with some other odd changes coming through the xylophones and guitars on I Was a Worker. There are these Carousel-like arrangements from Stan’s like as a working man as the nod to both Gentle Giant and Haken’s background vocal arrangements flow well as if forming a tight circle as the walking up-and-down section of the stairs that is part of the melodic mode format.

The catchy beats on Sawhorse, rides off into a new chapter in Stan’s life as if he’s on the rocket ship ready to hurl through the cosmos while Kevin and Philip bring the puzzle pieces together by creating magic and working hand-in-hand as a band of brothers to know they got each other’s back. Then, there’s the gothic folkish nightmare lullaby instrumental with Mellotron chords with a Danny Elfman-sque score that is straight out of Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands on the short instrumental Interlude (lunchtime).

Stan, is a real killing composition. It describes the main character as if it was told through Samuel L. Jackson’s wallet from the 1994 cult classic of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. Kevin’s guitar goes from and rhythmic structures that at times has some bluesy vibes as the opening riff between him and Phillip’s keyboards shows how much hard work Stan goes through day and night.

With Stir the Stain (F**k the Door), there are these mysterious tones almost as if Crocodile are searching for more clues to see what the criminal left behind. Not to mention a late ‘60s vibe on the guitar chords with a psychedelic vibe, hypnotizing sounds, and bass-picking by Ted Thomas as if he and the band mates are picking up the pace to know they are on the right track.

The closer, I am Stan begins with this Bluegrass electric intro featuring the harpsichord. The song takes place 25 years later as Stan has accomplished for all the work he’s done, through the thick and thin, and the heart that he has inside of him. And it goes to show that he’s come full circle. The band come together to bring Stan walking off into the sunset and knowing that it is time for him to relax and take a long vacation.

Crocodile have really got something that not just took me by surprise, but how their debut album works on different levels. Whether it’s hard, gothic, progressive, or odd time signatures, they've completely brought it all to the table. And while this is my ninth time listening to their first album, the beginning for them to walk on the Yellow Brick Road is only just the beginning.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

A Tribute to Cuneiform Records

This year, Cuneiform Records are going to take a long hiatus this year due to the direction of the falling sales and deciding if they want to continue on where the future for the label to go into or not. Since launching back in 1984, Steve Feigenbaum is the heart and soul of Cuneiform Records. I’ve first discovered the label alongside MoonJune Records back in the 2010 documentary of Romantic Warriors: A Progressive Music Saga by filmmakers Jose Zegarra Holder and Adele Schmidt.

Cuneiform were on my radar list to be on the lookout for. I’ve discovered a lot of great music from the label. It wasn’t just a Prog label, but also Avant-Rock, RIO (Rock In Opposition), and Jazz at the same time. It was for me, as the late great Harvey Pekar mentioned about his views on collecting both Comic Books and Jazz Records in the 2003 film, American Splendor; It’s like the Treasure of the Sierra Madre or something. You go to Thrift Shops, you go to garage sales, because you go to find something that’s real rare and most of the time it’s a total waste of time, but once in a while, you’ll come up with something that’ll wet your appetite.

That’s the same thing with me, it wasn’t just the big names like Pink Floyd, ELP, Genesis, and Yes to name a few, but for me, it was supporting the little guy or some of the bands I’ve never heard of that would peaked my interest. Whether it’s Cheer-Accident, Present, Univers Zero, The Microscopic Septet, The Cellar and Point, and Alec K. Redfearn and the Eyesores to name a few, it’s always a treat to see what the label would peak my cup of coffee. Not to mention hitting the big gigantic push with the 12-CD/2-DVD set of Art Zoyd’s 44 1/2: Live + Unreleased Works.

Not only that but both Sid Smith's Podcasts from the Yellow Room and Prog Rock Deep Cuts with Ian Beabout, was making my wish list grow and grow even more to open my eyes up of what Cuneiform would think of next on their upcoming releases. I hope they’ll continue. We can’t let real good music die and keeping Independent music growing strong by not letting the flames in the water, but keeping the flames up and going more and more. So to Steve Feigenbaum, Joyce Nalewajk, and all the crew at Cuneiform Records, I tip my bottle of water to you. Here’s some of my top 10 lists from the label that I admire from the label.

1. Bent Knee – Say So
2. Led Bib – The People In Your Neighborhood
3. Chrome Hoof – Chrome Black Gold
4. Pixel – We Are All Small Pixels
5. Robert Wyatt – ‘68
6. Zevious – Passing Through the Wall
7. Present – Le Poison Qui Rend Fou / Triskaidekaphobie
8. The Muffins – Manna / Mirage
9. Happy Family – Minimal Gods
10. Alec K. Redfearn & The Eyesores – Sister Death

But Wayside Music is still up-and-going. Please show your support to buy music and keep the music train going more and more.