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Album Review: Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad — Country

Album Review: Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad — Country

From the very first track of Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad’s new album, Country, you’ll notice a sound that’s quite different from GPGDS’s usual comfort zone. Is that a banjo?  A fiddle?  Don’t be alarmed, this is their comfort zone. What some might quickly peg as a departure from their familiar lineup of roots reggae/psychedelic-inspired improv, Country is, in fact, an album that solidifies what the Rochester-based quintet has been doing all along: writing sincere, heartfelt songs marked by meaningful lyrics and stellar musicianship.  It won’t take long for even their most avid listeners to realize just how much roots-reggae and roots-Americana music has in common. As one could surmise from the title, country music definitely comes into play in their new release. But it’s less of a country music album than it is an album about our country, and for a band that has toured our great nation as much as GPGDS has over the years, this might be their most organic, natural musical output yet.

Americana and folk take center stage in Country, with the band trading in their electric arsenal of instruments for acoustic instrumentation that includes banjo, slide guitar, harmonica, and upright piano. Everyone trades off on the vocals, which are blended beautifully and seamlessly into harmonies and simple, yet poignant lyrical melodies.  Purists can rest-assured, there’s still plenty of reggae to be heard in Country, with the opening track “Sunshine” maintaining that familiar reggae guitar vibe under folky vocal harmonies.  Similarly, “In These Times” takes the off-beat reggae rhythms and transforms them into a honky-tonk shuffle, complete with jangly piano ditties and a Southern banjo twang that recurs throughout the album.  Songs like “Country” and “Kids in the Square” reflect a much deeper sense of time and place, recalling the revolutionary fever and call for change that have defined the recent Occupy protests. “It’s my country too/I can do anything I want to” they remind us on “Country,” which is almost certainly a call-to-arms for the 99% who have been cast aside by the system The band throws in a cover of the Grateful Dead’s “New Speedway Boogie” for good measure, paying homage to a band known for its own eclectic style and genre-skipping tunes.  Country culminates with “All Night Music,” shuffling along “’til the sun come up,” as they say, and it’s exactly the kind of laidback song you could listen to in those quiet wee hours of the morning.

 “We walked into Joel’s studio and he just pressed record,” describes bassist James Searl about recording with longtime sound engineer, Joel Scanlon.  “This is what got laid down.  It was unplanned, fun, and real.”  There couldn’t possibly be three better words to describe what Country represents.  In what is sure to be an expansive musical timeline for Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, Country makes perfect sense. —jon wheelock

Giant Panda will perform cuts from Country as well as previous favorites this Friday (Feb 3) at Nietzsche’s.

Review: Brother Keep – Patchwork Walls

Review: Brother Keep – Patchwork Walls

When listening to Patchwork Walls, the latest album from Brother Keep, it becomes clear that the band takes influence from several classic indie bands. You can hear the lo-fi aesthetic of Guided By Voices, the jangly guitars of R.E.M., and the minimalist atmosphere of Galaxie 500. Unfortunately, the album, while certainly decent, never rises to the level of any of those legendary groups. What we get is a solid album that falls a bit short of being great. Album opener “Casual Waters” begins the album on a soft, quiet note. At times, modern technology betrays their attempt to create a lo-fi sound. The production certainly isn’t as ultra-crisp as most mainstream releases, but it lacks the fuzzy charm that makes this sort of music work. Still, the band has a strong sense of melody, and that propels many of these tracks. On the third track, “Pulse,” the band gets as close to bombast as they ever could. The song has a bigger chorus than anything else here, and if they’re looking for a potential single, it would certainly get my vote. The same could also be said of the title track, which closes the album. These are the rare tracks where the band abandons their minimalism, and tries to write a big catchy rock number. They succeed in creating something fairly memorable, but I doubt either number will break into the mainstream anytime soon. Which is probably how Brother Keep wants it. One of the biggest problems here is repetition. There isn’t a single track here that I actively disliked, but at the same time, they all sort of blend together. The songs tend to feature the same guitar tone, and really the same general style. As it stands, the general sameness of this album brings it down. That’s not to say there aren’t a few really quality moments. The best song here is the soft, ballad-like “Anti-Joy,” which brings in a pleasant keyboard sound to switch things from the typical  guitar tones. It ends up working beautifully, sounding a bit like the gentle lullabies you’d find on a Brian Eno album. It’s the one time the band really comes out of their shell, and it produces a truly great moment on this album. If only they’d been a bit more ambitious. For all its flaws, Patchwork Walls is hardly a bad album, and certainly worth listening to for anyone interested in the future of indie rock. Brother Keep is a band with a ton of potential, and while they don’t fully realize it here, they certainly have a bright future. The band already has solid songwriting skills, and if they can diversify their sound, or just keep things from getting too generic, they could end up creating something truly special. —john hugar

Review: Best of Buffalo 2011 compilation

Review: Best of Buffalo 2011 compilation

With all the talented artists inhabiting Buffalo’s burgeoning music scene, putting all the best on one CD would be an impossible tasks. Still, Vergetone Records has done an admirable job of compiling some of the Queen City’s most talented artists on the new Best of Buffalo 2011 compilation album. The album features 10 songs by 10 artists in several genres ranging from pop to rap-rock, to funk-metal. The album serves as a reminder of the wide variety of musical styles that our represented in Buffalo.

It begins with ”Scenes Surrounding”, a seven-minute number by Funktional Flow which starts out mellow, and gradually builds up momentum before breaking back down again. It’s a strong, relaxing tune by one of buffalo’s stronger jam bands. Also embodying the jam band style are Steel Keys & Brass, whose song “One Two Three” closes the album. While both songs are solid, a slight edge would be given to Steel Keys & Brass, who establish an irresistible groove, as well as an impossibly catchy chorus. The track’s 6:25 length flies right by.

Of course, not all the songs here are from jam bands. Indeed, as the album progresses, its diversity proves to be the strongest point. We get the killer funk-rock of Autopunch, who’s driving number “Tom’s Song” recalls the intense grooviness of the Red Hot Chili peppers circa Mother’s Milk. Equally intriguing is “Anthem” by Super Killer Robots, which combines the angry, political lyrics you’d expect from, say, Rage Against The Machine with minimalist instrumentation. The juxtaposition of styles gives the track unique feel, and it just might the best tune here.

Fans of the garage rock revival of the early 2000s will also find a lot to enjoy here. The album’s shortest track is The Etchings’ “Bringing Home The Blues,” which lasts less than 90 seconds. It’s a brief, succinct number that wouldn’t feel out of place on an early White Stripes album (think “Little Room,” but less annoying).  Additionally, the Viva Noir’s pleasure combines the fuzz guitar of Is This It-era Strokes with the keyboards of Angles-era Strokes. Finally, there is Birds in Mines’ scorcher “Asbestos For The Rest Of Us” which brings the sinister edge of 1970s post-punk. It would fit in fine somewhere between Suicide and Wire.

It would be hard to name any truly weak tracks on this album, but certainly, some are stronger than others. The Corrections’ “Easy” is a little too dull to be especially entertaining. It’s reminiscent of 1990s alt-pop bands like Better Than Ezra or Toad the Wet Sprocket, but lacks the catchy hooks that gave those bands radio hits. Nelson Starr & the Benjamins’ “The One (Wishing You Were Here)” is a song that this reviewer didn’t know what to make of. It could be looked at as an emotionally resonant power ballad, and potentially a standout track, but it was too reminiscent of Hoobastank’s insufferable 2004 hit “The Reason” to be fully recommendable.

Even if not all oof the tracks are on an equal plane, this is still a very strong compilation. Anyone with a passing interest in local music should check it out. It will give listeners a good idea of what is going on with Buffalo’s music scene, and it’ll probably give them a few new favorite bands too. —john hugar

Click here to preview and purchase the album

Garden Walk Buffalo Applications for 2012

“Projects like these are contributing to the rebirth of our neighborhoods in the City of Buffalo,” said Beautification Grant Committee Chair Jeffery Tooke. He is talking about the dozens of beautification projects totaling more that $30,000 dollars in the past few years, funded by Garden Walk Beautification Grants.

Grant applications are once again being offered to block clubs and neighborhood groups working on various community gardens and other projects aimed at beautifying our streets such as hanging flower baskets, street corner planter projects, garden restoration and more.

Award projects will be highlighted during the coming year’s Garden Walk, which is held annually on the last weekend in July. In 2012, the free event will take place July 28 and 29 from 10am to 4pm. Over 370 residents and businesses throughout the West side open their creative urban gardens to tens of thousands of visitors from the U.S., Canada, and abroad.

Completed applications for grants are due December 30, 2011. Funding awards will be announced in early Spring 2012.

Applications can be found at

Current and past Garden Walk Beautification grant recipients can be found here.

Professional photography of Garden Walk Buffalo can be found here.

-ariel peters




Caption Contest: Three Guys Walk Into a Bar…

Filed under: Allentown

Taken late Saturday night on Allen Street. In the comments section, give us a caption or a joke that begins “Three guys walked into a bar…” Keep it clean, use your real name and email. Our staff will pick a winner, who will win some swag and a couple drinks on AV’s editor, Geoff Kelly.

Adamczyk Off the Ballot Again

Today, the 4th Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court tossed Larry Adamczyk off the ballot for the Deomcratic primary for the Fillmore District seat in Buffalo Commons Council. Which I suppose means this is the last we’ll hear from his campaign, unless he’s already paid for and mailed another flyer.

Adamczyk was removed from contention because, by his own admission, he had not lived long enough in the district to qualify as a candidate. He appealed his disqualification, however, and Judge Donna Siwek reinstated him, ruling that, because it was a reapportionment year in which district boundaries changed, the city charter’s residency requirement should not obtain.

The Appellate Court ruled that the charter’s requirements for candidates were constitutional and did not provide any relief regarding reapportionment years, that the Erie County Board of Election did not exceed its authority in disqualifying Adamczyk, and that in nay case Adamczyk’s prior place of residence rendered the argument moot: He lived in the Delaware District, at an address that would not have been located in either the Fillmore District, into which his new residence was reapportioned, or the Ellicott District, where it was located prior to reapportionment—where, as a sponsored candidate of Mayor Byron Brown, he certainly never would have been a candidate, since he then would have been challenging the mayor’s ally, Darius Pridgen.

The court did not rule that last part. That was me. Here’s the court’s decision.

So the two candidates left in the Fillmore District are the incumbent, Council President Dave Franczyk, and community activist Sam Herbert.

Back on the Ballot, Adamczyk Attacks

Filed under: Allentown, Local Politics

Summer must be winding down: The politicians are beginning to maul one another with nonsensical accusations.

The first piece of spurious attack literature to be distributed in my neighborhood, Allentown—formerly part of the Ellicott District, now, as a result of  reapportionment, part of the Fillmore District—comes from Larry Adamczyk. Adamczyk, a long-time Dennis Gorski apparatchik and former commissioner of the Erie County Board of Elections, was tossed off the ballot almost two weeks ago because he had not lived in the district long enough, then was reinstated late last week by a judge who ruled that the residency requirement did not obtain because of it was a reapportionment year.

Wasting no time, Adamczyk’s campaign sent out a flyer in Allentown this weekend (click to enlarge):

Adamczyk’s opponent, Council President Dave Franczyk, can answer for himself on his longevity and the economic and social forces that have been so cruel to the East Side district in which he lives. But I’ll respond to some of Adamczyk’s claims:

1. It was Ellicott District Councilman Darius Pridgen, not Franczyk, who argued for Allentown to be added to the Fillmore District. Fillmore dropped in population and so needed to expand into neighborhoods with more bodies. South Buffalo was largely off-limits: Councilman Mickey Kearns did not want to give up any territory. So the only direction in which Fillmore could extend was westward toward downtown and Allentown. Pridgen, apparently uncomfortable with its politics and personalities, asked Franczyk to take Allentown from Ellicott.

But Adamczyk’s candidacy is sponsored by Mayor Byron Brown, Pridgen’s ally, so you can bet Adamczyk will not criticize Pridgen’s role in the redistricting. As if it’s big deal anyway. One can argue that the redistricting process should not be shackled to historical neighborhood identities and political considerations. But even if it were, disparate neighborhoods would be linked together in councilmanic districts.

2. I don’t like that Franczyk bothers with the Republican line. I won’t defend him on that. But it’s absurd to try to link Franczyk to Erie County Executive Chris Collins because he’s courted and received the Republican line on the ballot. Will Adamczyk similarly criticize the four incumbent city court judges, all supported by his ally, Mayor Byron Brown, who are also running on the Republican line? Will he accuse Judges Sue Eagan, Robert Russell, Dave Manz, and Joseph Fiorella of keeping company with Collins? Of course not, because the medium in which political attacks are engendered is hypocrisy.

3. “You have a chance to reject Dave Franczyk’s plan to make Allentown look like the rest of his Fillmore District.” I follow the Common Council pretty closely, and I’m not aware of any plan. Are there drawings somewhere? Does Adamczyk have some schematics he’s unearthed whereby Allen Street will become the new Broadway?

Of course he hasn’t, because no one expects to turn Allentown into the East Side. You couldn’t if you tried. Adamczyk is simply trying to play Allentown residents for rubes.

I wonder what I’ll find in my mailbox this afternoon.

UPDATE: Franczyk’s supporters are appealing the court’s decision to return Adamczyk to the ballot. The appeal will be heard Wednesday  morning.

News Alert: Robbery and assault in Days Park

If anyone has any information about a mugging and assault that happened in Days Park in Allentown at approximately 3:30am Sunday morning please contact the Buffalo Police Department, the neighborhood watch in that area, or our office.

The attacker has been described as a light skinned black male around the age of 30, medium build, wearing a black hoodie. His victims were three women. Any information could help. Be safe and be aware of your surroundings.

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