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Brooke Mason
c/o Bitchin' Music Reviews
P.O. Box 6442
Woodland Hills, Ca. 91365

Mindy Smith
CD Name: My Holiday
Artist Site: Mindy Smith

Mindy Smith’s Christmas album is a collection of sophisticated jazz, acoustic country folk, and adult contemporary production comparable to Sheryl Crowin her alt rock phase.

The jazzy tunes like It Really Is A Wonderful Life and Santa Will Find You have the sound of Rickenbacker based early rock and roll love ballads. The Christmas Song includes a pretty clarinet solo and piano for the jazz foundation, taking longer extensions for the phrases.

So where is the country? You get the old school yodeling on Follow The Shepherd Home and I Know The Reason. The title track is a countrified Christmas for city folk with a nice violin solo. The production on Silver Bells, like much of this album, is kept simple and subtle to highlight the vocals, so you aren’t getting full orchestras or doubled tracks.

That is why Smith’s soprano shines on I’ll Be Home For Christmas and Away In A Manger. Both songs are a combination of very light acoustic finger picking on guitar and almost acapella singing at points reminding me of Dolores O’Riordon and Enya. Smith has a very classic voice; clean with a bit of raspiness at the edges.

Smith is known as being a pop folk artist and this album should still satisfy if that is what you’re seeking. Songs like Come Around get a very alt rock sound treatment with very rich resonating multilayered vocals and unusual shades of psychedelic rock.

Artist: Gavin Mikhail
CD Name: : Like Normal People Do
Artist Site: Gavin Mikhail

Although the piano should be the centerpiece in these songs I felt the mix drowned out Mikhail’s musicianship in favor of spotlighting his vocals. Sure, they have a nice clarity and are definitely given the sound space they deserve, but what about Sight Unseen and Stay? Distorted guitar buzz is layered over the piano sustain in an unusual production choice that just sounds muddy where you would prefer the suspension and intimacy. Go On and Back For Me feel like they don’t have enough bridges or take enough risks although Back For Me was promising with some very Seal-like composition. But rather than going there the epic potential of these songs revert back to monotonous verse.

However, Mikhail is a gifted lyricist. The song More seems to address the disappointment in someone not being able to believe in you and your dreams, “I know, know you, you don’t like to hear the words that I might say of how I’m living, spending my days…” It seems to be a letter addressed to the one who always knocked your dreams down, either out of jealousy or passive aggressive behavior, “I know, know you, you’re waiting to hear someone say ‘you can get there, too.” Yes, some profanity here too as Gavin seems to tell off someone after reaching his breaking point: “Move on you’ve never been there for me/useless and complaining of why you don’t have more.”

The stand out epic tunes here are God In This Moment, One Of These Days and my favorite song on this album, Days Gone By, which all ponder love, death and regrets. As a songwriter Mikhail has a lot of promise for expanding upon these themes and the range of his melodies.

Artist: The Chimpz
CD Name: : On Parole
Artist Site: The Chimpz

It was said to be the coldest week of the year in California but that didn’t stop legions of glittery mini skirt and six inch heel wearing princesses from trekking through the thirty degree night towards The Knitting Factory for Club Vodka’s showcase with headliner The Chimpz. One of these girls in particular yelled out, “F*** its cold!” as the rest of her troupe laughed. To quote Parker Posey’s character Darla Marks in the film Dazed and Confused, “Suffer sisters, suffer!”

It was that quirky Hollywood club scene of aging glam rockers, emo kids and hip hoppers. I couldn’t help but laugh when a dominatrix walked passed me with a black leather corset, military boots and a Gestapo hat. I felt like I was at a Halloween costume party, but walking into the main room it was very apparent that this was a Christmas show thanks to the three Go Go Dancers dressed in fish net stockings, black thigh high boots, white and black striped fingerless gloves, fur trimmed mini skirts and tube tops revealing black lace negligee, and of course Santa hats! They were straddling metal poles on three makeshift platforms strategically placed throughout the packed room.

The first time I saw The Chimpz was at the All Access Magazine Music Award Show at The Knitting Factory. Booked between a myriad of metal/glam bands The Chimpz immediately caught my interest with their Rage Against The Machine style rap core. Their album On Parole captures their live sound on Jump Up: “Jump up now everybody in the room come up now…” The song is very much tailored to the live show and to get that involvement from the crowd. They are just too fun! Rollin Up is so a send up to Snoop it is not even funny with sound elements nearly direct imitation of Gin & Juice. “What what! So whatchya gonna do when the Chimpz roll up? Party with the band/got a fifth for your cup.” Ah yeah, laid back!

Their act is as tight as can be; working the crowd only briefly as they move efficiently between songs to get in their very strong set. It’s essentially a five piece band, with a six string bass player, lead rapper, lead singer who also plays rhythm guitar, lead guitarist and drummer. Lies, Suicidal and Tell Me Lies all have a dark edged alt metal sound similar to Alice in Chains, White Zombie, sometimes evenDisturbed. And then there are points where you feel you’re hearing some old school punk like on It’s Alright which is almost a send up to The Ramones.

Sweet San Fernando Valley reminds me of Limp Bizkit’s Life In the Fast Lane remake Livin’ It Up. It opens with a riff from Lynyrd Skynyrd’sSweet Home Alabama,” and then breaks into another one of those filter-heavy punk metal renditions with rapped verse. Sweet San Fernando Valley? I was almost half expecting to hear some Bom Chicka Wah Wah Girls in there for good measure.

Consistently On Parole alludes to previous rough times and unhappiness and the current delving into music not only to escape that pain but channel it into something positive. To The Beat Now: “Its an every day struggle in the streets of LA.” Again the theme continues on Realize: “Don’t you realize we gotta visualize… Reality’s not what you want to be.”

Like the bacon wrapped hot dog I purchased from a vendor for my dinner as I exited the club that night, The Chimpz are irresistible and definitely capture the flavor of LA.

Bitchin' Entertainment - 1989