We play parties for beer: Albums by UM bands

The names of our music reviewers have been changed for the sake of honesty (and to avoid drunken confrontations at Titanic). Cheers. – Life & Art Editor

In concert, the seven piece called Pencilgrass let out an energy that almost rivals the punk/party powerhouse of groups like !!!, but on this early first release they keep it a rather laid back affair. The disc opens with the sly “Girl On Curb,” full of tight horn arrangements, analog synth, a real optimistic groove, and some solid lyrics. Lyrically, front man Eddy Pren brings a rather fresh look on life and his chilled out singing style is ideal for this type of music.
There isn’t a weak standout element in Pencilgrass, and there isn’t one player that stands out over the rest. Pencilgrass is notable because they sound like a unit of one, not seven – impressive for such a young band. The nonsensical “Steppin On Snails” has a liquid bass line that will keep many feet moving and the way Victor Bottomsfeld locks up his playing with the incomparable Ricard Rockefeller’s drums is one of the finest aspects of P’Grass. After the dub style “Laser Lady,” the disc closes out with a much rawer and digital sounding track, “Beautiful Thing,” with Pren throwing out various observations on the ass of a fine woman before the sing-along chorus, “You’ve got too much booty for your pants. It’s overflowing out of your pants (like water).”
This is surprisingly the best example of Pencilgrass’ live energy, even though there isn’t much real live playing on the track, mainly because it keeps the raunchy flow going that one can expect to hear and see when they attend a P’Grass show. You can imagine the Juan Pantos jumping about like he’s in a hardcore group and the ever-smiling Cochise Stronghold tickling his guitar strings. Pencilgrass step far ahead of your usual college fare to provide an original sound that is overflowing with character. Their new disc is on the way, so lookout.
For more info, visit www.pencilgrass.com.

– Skip Wilson

Future Feels Good
The Day I Was Born
Future Feels Good are pretty decent on record, with an equally pretty unsurprising mix of jam and space rock dominating their sound. The obvious center of the group is Travis Atria, whose guitar playing and vocals are the most prominent part of the mix. He lays down some solid riffs over the course of six songs and his solos aren’t too polished and refined, keeping the music non-stale. His vocals are standard fare for a college rock group, and the rhythm section of Eric Atria on bass and Masatoshi Enomoto on drums don’t really hold down the fort tight enough for this type of music to hit you where it needs to.
The most confusing aspect of the disc is the lack of keyboard playing that is audible on the tracks, even though Future Feels Good is a four piece with Stacie Thrushman handling keys. Not until the third track, “Me Bastard,” do you really hear her, and even then it sounds more like subtle overdubs. In a lot of places, like the opener “The Day I Was Born,” there is overdubbed guitar when there ought to be some Rhodes or organ taking up the space. If this quartet didn’t sound like a trio, a lot of these songs would sound much larger and the band would pull off the spacey college rock sound to greater effect.
Yet, FFG delivers considerable punch. Rather than releasing a disk full of mediocre singing and limp grooves (for the sake of having one), the band has spent time making a record with promise. Hopefully they’ll keep at it, but right now, they’re certainly not the band at UM.
For more info, visit www.futurefeelsgood.com.

– Zach Monoke

Empirical Mile

It’s hard to know whether you’d feel a band on WVUM or even ZETA, when they go to your college and you’ve seen them at Titanic – albeit after six Boiler Room Nut Brown Ales – where am I? Anyway, Empirical Mile’s self-titled EP starts off with a little laughable whisper from their front man, Michael John Hancock, who goes, “Ugh, ok I got it now,” but then the band leaps into a catchy jam filled with guitars (Mathew Dingledine) and percussion (Noah Penn). The song is called, “Dead Babies,” and it rocks like your dad’s good classic rock, but for Budweisered college students.
Empirical Mile also stand out at UM because they avoid sap and irony – there are songs here that border on ballads, but with lyrics like, “drunks with paper bags,” they rock and also put a twinkle in her eye (which is no doubt good for them). And unlike a lot of college bands who imitate drivel like Three Doors Down or Dave Matthews, the Mile have class – able to torch weed jams like “Blood to Boil,” that float around (without ’60s stank), yet possess the intellect and urgency of NYC’s trendy rock punk. Hopefully the latter becomes more realized in later releases, but it’s a solid combination for another college weekend of beach-then-kegs.
For more info, visit www.empiricalmile.com.

– Tyrone King

The Linx
Millions of people think that they can rap. For most, laying out a few rhymes in a row while spilling beer on friends is their platinum evidence. I’m a victim myself, hating on many successful rappers because their style is “wack,” their rhymes suck or (worst of all) their skills had nathan to do with becoming a rich rapper.
Independent hip hop is a very treacherous minefield to walk through, there’s always a chance that something in there is going to blow up (clever). UM’s The Linx (about whom I have no information other than their liner notes and this three-song EP) have produced something far more interesting than the usual “I’m tight and you’re not” fare, without preaching or directly stating that they’re the saviors of hip hop.
The tracks on this disc are surprisingly solid: nice flows, “original” production and a strong sense that this was not put together to hustle some cash. While the single, “Nightlife,” adds a nice keyboarded-out (a little too synthy) instrumental (the drums sound straight off of Gang Starr’s “The Code of the Streets”), the true highlight here is “Me-N-You.” Smooth guitar and extra smooth female vocals on a surprisingly legit hook (the bars are “I see a little bit of me in you/ so how ’bout some of me in you?”) intertwine into a solid French-braid of beats, bars and bass.
The production is solid, for a UM group especially, which makes some of the so-so bars (example: “chilling hard like rock concrete”) slide by almost unnoticed. While not a groundbreaking take on rap, there’s a solid foundation exhibited by the Linx that could actually build into something galactic. If you’re in this group, e-mail HurricaneAccent@hotmail.com.

– Clarence Worley

The Life & Art staff can be reached at HurricaneAccent@hotmail.com.