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Jeff Riddle

16 Reasons to Kill Jeff Riddle

(independent)

Replete with 15 original tunes and one Yardbirds cover (“For Your Love”), 16 Reasons To Kill Jeff Riddle is a completely independent release, written, recorded, and produced by local punk rocker Jeff Riddle (of Steve Hit Mike). The punk DIY vibe is heavy throughout the album. It is, in fact, the roughness and the warts that gives his disc its charm. In a veritable sea of slick, overproduced polish, this thing is a breath of fresh air — the little demo that could. What it lacks in technicality, it more than makes up for in moxie.

16 Reasons is not for the faint-hearted, though. Not everyone will get it, which is kind of the point of punk rock. Much of the subject matter is unapologetically unscrupulous and dour, but it does its thing with its tongue firmly planted in its cheek (as evidenced in the title). Though the rock ‘n’ roll debauchery is in full effect on pretty much every song, it’s all in good fun. Riddle’s sense of humor shines through and turns the would-be darkness into a raging, off-campus kegger.

Modern punk conventions and undertones are strong on 16 Reasons; Green Day comes to mind. There are times when a familiar mid-tempo stride is hit and threatens to stay a bit long, particularly about mid-way through the album. But there are a few magical moments when we are treated to something special and get to see the real Riddle, as with the very cool “Black Cloud.” Raw and ballsy and right to the point, this is where Riddle shines within the writing, the playing, even the garage production. His vocals are most sincere here, and his tone is strong and confident. This is one of the only serious moments of the album, and perhaps that’s why it’s also the most effective. (myspace.com/anarchypancakes)

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As-If
Weekend at Bernie’s (Get to the Choppah!)

(Treeship)

Touting themselves as a “punk ’80s cover band,” Charleston quartet As-If embraces the novelty of taking various hits and underground favorites from the 1980s — from New Wave to hard rock to pop — and reworking them into something new.

Driven by an overly saturated guitar tone that’s more metallic/grungy than anything out of the old-school punk days, the trick is hit-and-miss. In a scene overflowing with cover bands, As-If deserves credit for attempting to put a new twist on familiar old faves. Unfortunately, most of the rockstuff on Weekend at Bernie’s comes off like a roughly mixed demo, unpolished in the wrong ways.

A fast-tempo take on “Take on Me” (originally by A-Ha) plods nowhere fast, with lead singer Mia Jenkins’ flat-toned shouting and guitarist Mackie’s processed guitar sound right out front. Lumbering covers of The Cure’s “Love Song” and A Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran (So Far Away)” seem emotionless and bored.

The only bright spot is a subdued version of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence.” There’s more chorus than fuzz-distortion on the guitars, and Jenkins’ vocal delivery is less screechy and strained (at least through the first two verses). The sudden rave-up/speed-up in the final chorus is a fairly cool move.

Closing things out is a head-banging rendition of “Comfortably Numb,” which sounds like a young, one-dimensional, modern pop-punk band clunking through a Floyd tune.

As a demo for their schtick, Weekend at Bernie’s works okay. As a potential album of creative twists and clever ideas, it flops. (www.myspace.com/asif80s

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Electric Wildlife

Falling Backwards Into the Beginning

(independent)

Singer/guitarist Michael Legere and singer/drummer Andrew Shaw spent most of the last few years gigging around the scene as bar-rock duo Big Hit & The Baby Kit, a guitar ‘n’ drum duo (with an under-sized toy drum kit). Veering away from the usual covers and party tunes with their all-original musical project Electric Wildlife, they show off some serious rhythmic chops and emotive vocal work.

Slide guitarist Matthew Chase and bassist Ben Markowitz (both of Black Eyed Susan) chipped in on the backing tracks, filling things nicely with bluesy, soulful riffs and sounds. Recorded and mixed at Charleston Sound, Falling Backwards has some polish and shine, but the organic acoustic guitar and drum kit base of Legere and Shaw’s early beginning are well intact.

From the funky and upbeat kick-off track “Angry Johnny” to the dynamic two-part closers of “Me and My Friends” and “Me and My Friends Part 11,” Electric Wildlife does a pretty nice job. (myspace.com/electricwildlifemusic