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Kansas City

Album review: Berwanger - Demonios

Josh Berwanger is one of those guys that is a local legend, but doesn’t have to be local. He is not just some Kansas City kid trying to make it. When I read that he is playing somewhere I frequent, I get nervous. I mean, it’s Josh Berwanger, FROM THE ANNIVERSARY. In fact, I went to see him earlier this year at a sports bar. He played with Matt Pryor. I watched in awe, took in all of his electro-acoustic brilliance. But, sadly I was too nervous to say hello. He’s just coming off of a national tour, opening for Matt Pryor and The Get Up Kids to sold-out crowds. Kansas City is more than lucky to call him ours.
Berwanger is a fantastic guitar pop project. And Demonios is the second effort from this project, a six-song EP, being released on High Dive Records. Deservingly so, “Demonios” is the first single from this EP. This track is super catchy. Almost an update on a ‘50s-style guitar and harmony-heavy pop tune, mix in some impressive tempo changes and catchy rhymes and you’ve got yourself an instant Berwanger classic (Picture me doing the dishes and singing along “please let these dishes get done. Please let these dishes get done. They just sit around and run, they ain’t havin’ any fun. Dishes get done. Na na na na na na”).
Another favorite track from Demonios is “Cherry.” A break-up, I’m-movin’-on, fast-paced, dreamy vocal, catchy 50’s-sounding pop guitar—stuck in your head but in a great way—hit. This song, live, is so good. I dance and dream of being cha cha cha Cherry.
Onto the next track, “Blackheart,” the most interesting transition on this album. Josh takes us on a ride, from electric pop guitar and catchy sugary lyrics, to steel guitar and sad drug-infested lyrics and beautiful country harmonies. “Oh baby, you’re gonna die.” This is one of my favorite tracks of the year. I can’t get enough.
The brands of guitar on this album are contradicting yet cohesive. They complement each other like nothing I’ve really heard. It was an ambitious and daring move and after listening, you walk away fulfilled. Put it on and take a journey through tempo changes and genre jumps with Josh and his dreamy vocals.
I can’t wait to get my mitts on that beautiful purple splattered vinyl tomorrow night at Mills. Maybe I will work up the courage to shoot Josh a really smooth “Sup” and get a signature. Don’t bet on it. **Cue Garth and Wayne “WE’RE NOT WORTHY!”
--Jess Barrett
Haver of sweet dance moves and stealer of t-shirts.
If you’re in the area this weekend, you have three chances to catch Berwanger:
Friday at The Blind Tiger, with The Conquerors (who are releasing their single “You Must Be Dreaming”; see our review here), Drugs & Attics, and El Rey-Tones. 9 pm. Facebook event page.
Saturday at Replay Lounge (Lawrence), with The Conquerors and Psychic Heat. 10 pm. Facebook event page. 

Album review: Not A Planet - The Few, The Proud, The Strange

(Photo by Todd Zimmer)

To say that Not A Planet puts on a show is an understatement. Led by Nathan Corsi and his extremely detailed, story-driven lyrics and oh-so-sexy guitar presence, Not A Planet brings something most bands in this region are unable to do without overdoing it. Corsi, backed by the fast fingered “Wild” Bill Sturges on bass and the one and only (dare I say handsome) Liam Sumnicht on the drums (see our interview with Sumnicht), this trio brings one hundred and ten percent of their energy to every show they play. Extravagant and catchy in all the best ways, Not A Planet’s newly-released twelve-song LP The Few, The Proud, The Strange shouldn’t have a problem winning over fans of rock and roll in a heartbeat.

Opening track “Greatest Show On Earth” kicks the record off with a whimsical bang. Lyrical metaphors of a grandiose circus reflect in the dynamic music that carries Corsi's voice. The line, “Climbing in the cannon, a smile on his face, he waves at all the sadists in the crowd” might explain why the album cover has a stunt man helmet on the front. The track serves as a proclamation of what to expect throughout the rest of this record: elaborate tales and massive instrumentation.
“Girl Comes Down” is a beautiful singer/songwriter ballad that I imagine would warm the hearts of lovers around the world. With its simplistic nature (vocals and clean folk guitar) a love story unfolds that just makes you want to hold your loved one close. If Wesley from The Princess Bride played guitar, he would definitely learn this song and play it for Buttercup.
The next track, “Kingdom Come,” shows off a punchier side of Not A Planet. Sturges’ groovy bass lines really shine on this track. His ability to hold down the low end is impeccable and it becomes even more apparent throughout the rest of the record. Sumnicht keeps the song fast and fun. If you’re a fan of air drumming, this song will keep you extremely busy. The band recently filmed a music video for “Kingdom Come” at the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum (see below).
“Bang Goes The Gun” is one of my favorite songs to watch Not A Planet play live. Here, they do an excellent job recreating the explosiveness that makes this song great. The dainty rim shots, deep bass, and smooth vocals that start the song out are abruptly interrupted by a chorus hits harder than Floyd Mayweather. “Bang Goes The Gun” packs a punch that makes The Few, The Proud, The Strange a force to recon with.
Without skipping a beat, “Black Dress” follows, and would give The Black Keys a run for their money. Oozing with swankyness and bluesy riffage, “Black Dress” will make you move. No if, ands, or buts. Well…maybe butts.
“Invisible Man” is an eerie track that is filled with haunting, reverb-soaked vocals, interesting time signature changes, and soaring guitar solos. After giving it a few listens, there is no denying that Not A Planet can write a catchy chorus no matter what the vibe of the song is.
A little slower-paced than the previous two tracks, “Low” would make Stevie Ray Vaughn proud. After bashing himself for all of his faults, Corsi sings the lyrics, “You don’t know how low I would go.” With its waltz-like rhythm, it develops into an evil carnival of self-observation. Conflicted and full of turmoil, “Low” shows listeners that Not A Planet has a darker side.
“There’s No Coming Back” begins with massive bass and drums, and a very sweet reversed snare drum track that adds a cool texture to this soothing song. This track sounds like the band recorded ghostly sounds from the spirits that hang out in Black Lodge, where the album was recorded. This is a consistent, easy listening track.
With the ninth track, “My Train Is Coming,” the NAP boys bring it back to their roots: straightforward train car ROCK AND ROLL. This high-energy song is classic rock to the core and makes me wish I had a six-pack and a few friends to drink with right now.
The interestingly tenth track, “Free To Be Chained,” is a bouncy song with dance-worthy drums and dreamy harmonies provided by Sumnicht and Sturges. If anyone out there is working on a Phantom of the Rock opera, this track would fit in well. I’m a huge fan of creepy, grittily recorded voices in songs and though I can’t distinguish whose voice it is at the end of the song, it definitely adds some mystery (and evidence to my case that Not A Planet recorded ghosts talking).
Ironically titled “The End,” track number eleven isn’t the last song on The Few, The Proud, The Strange. Similar to track two with its simplistic instrumentation, it has a little more production behind it and it lyrically demands to be heard. The final line, “Because in the end, love is the only truth,” brings an uplifting vibe to tail end of this record.
The album’s final track “I’ve Got A Secret” seems more like a fun “We are so happy to have finished an awesome record” studio jam. With a groovin’ piano, elephant noises, chattering groups of people, and long fade out, this is a song die hard Not A Planet fans will get a kick out of.
The Few, The Proud, The Strange was released on May 10. Not A Planet’s next show is next Tuesday, May 21, at The Bottleneck. The trio also has several tour dates in June. Information available at the band’s website, www.notaplanet.com
--Eric Augustus Fain

Eric Fain plays bass and is the most hairy/handsome member of Clairaudients. In December of 2011, he filled in on bass for Not A Planet for five shows. His compensation: a pair of Liam's Vans (I can't find one of them...), $60 (I'd have done it for free!), and the memory of Nathan trying to throw up out of a moving van (he failed and threw up all over my face instead. True story, bro).

On The Beat with Blaire Geenens

Blaire Geenens is an integral part of the depth, dynamics, and sheer force of Clairaudients. Check out our interview with him, and check out the band performing acoustic tunes this Friday, March 8 at Uptown Arts Bar. Catch the beat right here!

--Michelle Bacon
On The Beat is an exclusive feature from The Deli Magazine-Kansas City that showcases many of the talented drummers in the Kansas City area. 

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