Be warned: this is a hefty album review. (Unfortunately for you, I found a lot of stuff to talk about.)
It’s from an America band called The Condors. I don’t know how interested you are in geography, but they’re from California. If you want to get even more specific about location, they’re from Burbank.
I know all of these things because the band’s singer/guitarist/chief songwriter, Pat DiPuccio (“Poochie” to people who want to call him that – I don’t, because Pat’s nickname reminds me of this) emailed me to tell me about the band and their latest album.
The album is called 3 Item Combo and I’ll let you know what I think of it before I get to the nitpickin’ full review:
It’s a solid power pop album. I like it.
That’s the mercifully short review.
And now, if you’re game (and have a spare two hours), here are my comments about each song:
The Condors – 3 Item Combo (2012)
1. “Here I Go”
The first two things I noticed about “Here I Go” are: 1) the instrumentation is pleasingly spare; and 2) it’s well produced. (I was originally going to say that it’s lean and the production is clean. But I don’t think the band would want their album described as “lean and clean”.)
I enjoyed this song almost wholehartedly. I say almost, because now I must offer some criticism. It pains me to say this, because Pat, the chap who not only writes the songs, sings the songs, and plays the guitar in the band, is a very nice chap to talk to via the wonders of email. But with reviews I do always try to be as honest as I can when discussing the music I’m asked to listen to, and here I must say, in the nicest way I can, not to put too fine a point on it, I, er, ah…
(Note to self: Just get on with it, Peter. Say what you need to say.)
OK. The singing’s not very good.
The background singing is fine (albeit a little quiet for my liking). It’s the lead vocals that I find troublesome.
It pained me to say that for three reasons:
- Everything else – and I mean absolutely everything – about the song is thoroughly enjoyable, from how the song is constructed, to the lyrics, the playing, the instrumentation, and the sound. I think it’s a mighty fine song. It’s just the singing that makes me emit sighs of slight disappointment.
- Pat’s a swell guy, and (possibly up until now) I’ve enjoyed chatting with him electronically. (Despite my terrible rudeness, I hope to keep chatting with him. Hi, Pat!)
- I’m a dreadful singer, so I’m in no position whatsoever to criticise someone else’s singing.
But I do want to stress that I think this is a good song.
Enough of this awkwardness. Let’s move on to the next song. (Yes, let’s…)
2. “My Slice Of Life”
Ah, this one’s better. Not in terms of songcraft (as a song, I prefer “Here I Go”), but because the singing’s better. Pat’s singing is still a little flat and sharp in places, but overall I think the vocals are an improvement on the first track. Plus this track has the added bonus of having louder backing vocals, just the way I like ’em.
By the way, when “My Slice of Life” began it reminded me of Lou Reed’s “Dirty Boulevard”. (It was the drumming that got me thinking of Lou’s song.)
I want to point out a few things I liked a lot about this song:
0:49-1:04 – I love – nay, LOVE – the combination of the drum beat and the guitar jangle in the chorus. I think it’s gorgeous.
1:06-1:14 – Very nice guitar harmonics.
1:18-1:23 – The nylon-string guitar fills. I thought that was a nice touch.
1:26-1:30 – I like how the electric guitar fills here illustrated the lyrics. “Work through the day, and practice at night” (1:23-1:26) was followed immediately by that electric guitar “practicing”.
They were the most noticeable things I liked.
Now I’d like to point out one thing I didn’t like about the song:
2:03-2:21 – I didn’t like the middle eight much.
But I did like the guitar solo after it (2:21). Incidentally, the melody the guitar plays here is the same as the “Tell Me What Do You Say” part of XTC’s “Life Begins At The Hop”.
So that’s a like-dislike ratio of five-to-one. I think that’s a decent ratio for a song.
By the way, I was a bit puzzled by 2:56-2:58, where the band sounded it came to a halt during the last chorus. To me it interrupted the flow of the song. But it’s a very minor thing.
I think I need to tighten up my commentary and ramble a little less than I’m doing at the moment, so I can finish this post in a reasonable amount of time (i.e, not six months after the album was released).
3. “Queer Fascination”
Now, I’m a traditionalist when it comes to the word “queer”. To me, it means “odd”. So I’m perfectly content to think that Pat has an odd fascination with something, not that he’s, er, fascinated with…
I’ll try to focus on the song here, and not the lyrical ambiguity.
This one’s a bit of a more straight-ahead rocker. I must admit that I wasn’t especially keen on it when it began, but as it went along I began enjoying it.
I must also admit that I would have preferred the song to keep its 4/4 beat throughout the section from 1:13-1:44. This is the kind of song I like to keep going steadily. Four-four to the floor, baby.
4. “All Hung Up”
I thought this slow, slightly bluesy track was a bit disposable. And the choice of the D minor guitar chord after A major irritated me enormously. I kept on wanting to hear D7 instead, but that never came. Ah well.
Oh, by the way (sorry about this post being full of “by the way”s): “All Hung Up” holds the distinction of being the second song I know of that uses the “hung up” pun in a song title. The first is Fountains Of Wayne’s “Hung Up On You”.
Just before I move on to the next song, I’d like to mention that I liked the guitar solo (2:49-3:14) Very twangy. It made me think of Henry Mancini, and that’s what I call A Good Thing.
I think it was the mid-tempo beat and the guitar playing that had this song reminding me of Big Star. I’m not much of a Big Star fan, so I probably enjoyed this less than a proper power pop fan (I’ve been told that if you don’t like Big Star then you’re not a proper power pop fan). Which leads me to the blindingly obbsious observation: if you like Big Star, I reckon you’ll like “Holiday”.
(Note to self: Speed things up, Peter. You’re only halfway through the album.)
6. “What’s Wrong With That?”
Not much, actually. (Apart from the passing open G note on the guitar at 0:24 that sounds out of place in between the E major and D major chords. And Pat’s occasionally dodgy vocal intonation.)
7. “Angry Little Man”
The thing that sticks out for me in “Angry Little Man” is the funky drumming. The rest of the song is fine, but that’s what I enjoyed the most about it. The vocal melody in the line “Holding him while he’s sleeping” (1:38-1:40) reminds me of something, but at the moment I can’t figure out what it is. Grrr. I liked the layered guitars from 3:12-3:33. They reminded me of Blue Öyster Cult’s Godzilla”.
8. “Seraphina Why”
Oh-oh. It’s a “My girflriend and I are having difficulties at the moment” song. I’ve heard more than enough “My girflriend and I are having difficulties at the moment” songs to last quite a while, thank you. If I ignore the lyrics (which I fully intend to do), I find it an enjoyable song.
It’s mondegreen time: From 2:37-2:43 Pat sings “…as all the answers disappear into the blue”. When I first heard it I thought he sang “as all the ants just disappear…”. I’d much rather Pat sing about ants than the difficulties he’s having with his girlfriend.
9. “Full Blown Love Attack”
This starts off as a heap o’ fun. And I’m pleased to report that the whole thing is heap o’ fun. “Full Blown Love Attack” is equal parts surf rock and garage rock. One reason I like this possibly more than any other song on the song on the album is that it calls to mind the Hoodoo Gurus’ first album, Stoneage Romeos (1982), which was also equal parts surf and garage (with a dash of psychedelia tossed in).
Things to look out for:
1. The tom-tom action at the start of the song to get you in the mood (0:00-0:20).
2. The guitar pick sliding down the E string to get you even more in the mood (0:02-0:05).
3. The “Wipeout” drum fill (2:29-2:33)
4. The wonderfully warped guitar fill (2:35-2:38)
5. The bass guitar fill (2:40-2:43)
6. The band shouting “Stay away!” (2:59-3:00).
7. The deliberately-tripping-over-itself ending (3:15-3:18).
Yep. I like “Full Blown Love Attack”. Fun, fun, fun!
10. “Bad Tattoo”
Another slow, slightly bluesy song, but this one’s more of a dirty-blues song. I preferred this to the previous slightly bluesy song (track 4, “All Hung Up”).
It’s here that I must voice my strongest opinion about an aspect of the album. From 1:42-1:53 is a guitar solo. It’s actually two guitars trading solos – a guitar in the right channel plays something, then a guitar in the left channel plays something, then it’s back to the guitar in the right channel etc. But that’s all beside the point. The point is that while the band is playing E minor in the background, the solos are all tinkling away in E major. Aaaargh!
11. “Zzyzx Road”
This impossible-to-type-without-checking-the-spelling song is a fine, roots-rockin’ way to end the album (except for Pat’s occasionally dodgy vocals). And I now know how to pronounce “Zzyzx” (It’s “zizich”. Thanks, Pat!)
Just before I finish up, I’d like to mention a couple of things about the liner notes in the CD packaging. One’s intrigung, and the other is a slight case of “oops”.
In the liner notes is the following text:
All songs copyrighted by Condorosa Music (ASCAP) except “Telephone Line” and …
This leads me wonder if track 4, “All Hung Up”, was originally called “Telephone Line”. Hmm. I wonder…
In that same line of text about the mysterious “Telephone Line” there’s this unfortunately-missed-by-the-proof-reader typo:
…”Telephone Line” and “Queer Facination”…
Now, my question here is: Does that typo now make the CD a collector’s item?
I’m glad to say that this is the end of the review, which means you can go back to doing whatever it was you were doing before you got sucked into the vortex of this unhelpfully long review.