Thursday, February 20, 2014

Broken Mouth Annie with Uglyography

As I said in my last post, I am not above reviewing shows that I am involved in or perform in! Uglyography rarely performs a show without another band, so this gives me a great excuse to write about all the great acts that join forces with ours.  And of course, blatant self-promotion is an unfortunate reality for DYI artists....

A few brief words about Uglyography's opening set on the night of February 15 at Belmont House of Smoke:

This was our first show since Halloween night (also at Belmont), and our first show with the new lineup of Albert on bass, DJ on drums, and myself on iWood Quirkatronic.  Months of development time in the practice room yielded us a brand new 45 minute set including 10 new originals and 3 covers.  Being our "first time," I was a little jittery about it and blundered up the first couple of songs pretty good, but we soon sunk into our groove and entertained the room ... I think.  After our set, friends and fans that had seen us before kept making a similar motion with their hands while describing our new sound ... the motion of coming together, cohesiveness I suppose.  Felt really good and it seems that we may be on to something ... onward marches the saga of quirkadelic rock!

Photo by Seamus McGrann

Ready to do their typical job of rocking the socks off the room, Broken Mouth Annie arranged all six of themselves on the cozy stage at Belmont and looked as comfortable as I've seen them.  And I've seen them a lot. Never have they appeared uncomfortable, but crowded up together and raising a ruckus they appeared completely at home and have obviously honed their performance into something that is natural for them. There has been an evolution over the last three years.  To me, they have always been a rock band.  For a long time, they used the "Americana" description, and I suppose that still applies some degree. But I would be more apt to go with the technical term I've already used once here:  "Rocking Socks off."

Photo by Seamus McGrann

In their beginnings, there was definitely a pretty strong acoustic and slightly twangy influence, especially in their debut 5-piece form where they did not have a bassist.  The chemistry between violinist Chris Samulski and lead guitarist Mike Howland was apparent back then as they took on dual solos and licks over the folksy but aggressive acoustic rock songs penned and sung by Anson Morris.  The rhythm section consisted of drummer extraordinaire Matt Scruggs and Victoria Hundley on the "kill drum??" (is that what they call it, for real?  it's a big floor tom she beats on) and tambourine. Without a bassist, Hundley's "kill drum" helped out filling in some of those bottom frequencies. The arrangement was fantastic.  They were entertaining.  It was in your face, but still had some certain laid back quality that stood them apart from many other bands outright.

Enter bassist Steve Jones.  Steve is that type of bassist whose face doesn't typically match what he is playing on bass. In other words, he could be pulling off lightning fast run, arpeggios and bends and if he was making eye contact with you his face might display zero effort or change. Naturally, when Jones came on board, he did his bass duties, learned the songs, and added his own touch.  He was a very easy fit, and the already great songs sounded full and complete.  Now, here is where my personal theory comes in, and it is just a theory:

The punch of the bass overtook the band.

In a good way, of course. I am familiar with how adding a new member or instrumentation can change the entire feeling and mood of what is being played.  There is no denying that adding a bassist also means adding a rock solid foundation and a certain indescribable power to an ensemble.   This power was undoubtedly felt by the original five members of Broken Mouth Annie, and as a result they began to play more powerfully.  The songwriting took a small step away from the Americana feel and a bigger step towards more straightforward rock n roll.  To put it simply, the band became a six-piece powerhouse.

So back to the show at Belmont ... the powerhouse performed at ease and managed to keep the room dancing all night long.  Even if the main dancing instigators were obviously there to get some tail by dirty dancing with whatever tail was willing, Broken Mouth Annie provided perfect music for getting your freak on.  For the fans ... they played several brand new songs I hadn't heard before.  They played a few original standards and of course a variety of well-chosen covers including songs by Weezer, The Pixies, Violent Femmes, and The Flys.  I am hearing very little Americana influence in the new material, and that is OK.  They have become what they have become, and nobody is complaining.  I am especially digging a lot of the new effects that Samulski is using on his violin.  Some of it sounds very synth-like and some sounds like trippy guitar rock. All the experimentation and evolution is currently being captured on a new album, recorded by Joe Welch at Studio J to follow up 2011's award winning album, The Frustration King.

Big thanks goes out to our friends Broken Mouth Annie for inviting Uglyography to join them for this show. Also big thanks to Patrick Walsh at Belmont for the most terrific sound job I've heard for a long time in this area.  Love the stage and your expertise!  Thanks to Seamus McGrann for not getting mad that I stole his pictures off the scroll n stare book.

Check out the music:

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