Matthew James and the Rust Belt Union “Impromptu Musicals for the Skeptic” Review + Album Stream…

MATTHEW JAMES
AND THE
RUST BELT UNION

Impromptu Musicals For The Skeptic – Vinyl // DD

Sump Pump Records – released September 14, 2017

Reviewed by Ric “Suisyko” Dorr

 

Formed:
January 11, 2016

Hometown:
Rust Belt, USA (roughly in a garage, somewhere on the east side of Des Moines, IA)

Genre:
self-described ‘Midwest Junk Soul’

Band Members:
Wrex – Drums.
Larry – Upright Bass
Nathan – Pedal Steel
Brad – Guitar
Matthew – Acoustic / vocal.

Previous Release:
“Live From The Loft” (2016)

 

 

Review:
When I hear the term ‘rust-belt’, I am immediately in mind of that region of the country that begins in western New York and traverses west through Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, ending in northern Illinois, eastern Iowa, and southeastern Wisconsin. Previously known as the industrial heartland of America, Industry has been declining in this region since the mid-20th century, leading to the unofficial labeling as the ‘Rust Belt’.

Including Detroit MI in it’s ‘snare’ that has served as home for Matthew,  a singer songwriter originally hailing from the ‘dirty mitten’, aka Michigan. He has been howling in microphones since 2000 and recording hand made lo-fi junk since 2006 with the formation of The Back Home in Michigan Band. He spent a few years touring with Rickett Pass, rambling around the country before settling in Des Moines Iowa. This album is singer Matthew James’ story of moving to Des Moines from his home of Detroit for a girl and leaving everything behind including music with his nationally touring string bands. The single “Goodbye” was written on that drive as heard in the lyrics. Matthew James & The Rust Belt Union refer to their brand of music as ‘Midwest Junk Soul’ and that description could not be more accurate.

Ten tracks that clock in at around 44 minutes.  Musically, what we are presented with here is a collection of compositions that fly up and down the proverbial scale of ‘type’ where we get everything from the elements of folk, gypsy, jazz, be-bop, country, bluegrass, blues, swing and rock to deliver what can only be described as a hybrid that could be described only as Midwest-junk-soul as they have aptly classified themselves.

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Filled from the get-go, opener ‘Goodbye’ has each element described above in full force from the raspy vocals flavored with battery-acid, jangly acoustic in tow, great swing beat setting the pace as a soulful wail of lap-steel flows in and out of focus giving the body of this, and each track here a flavor typically kept in the background. Much as Primus brought ‘eh bass guitar to a new level having it out from the shadows, MJ&TRBU have brought this obscure-to-rock instrument to the forefront as well and it is amazing!!

‘Little Light In The Big Rust’ opens with a surf-slide tone over that acoustic guitar and slams right into the body of a song that makes you move!  Like it or not as the beat is infectiously hypnotic and keeps you in hold as Matthew sings of a “child crying and a mother trying” on top of a band that is as tight as any and doesn’t drop a note among the slyly-placed time shifts keep you wanting more. ‘Enthusiastic Apathetic’ opens with a slower, bluesy cadence as MJ’s vocal paints his picture over the band behind him and this pace fits this oratory like a glove, where ‘Left Foot Fail’ is country to the core complete with an upbeat ‘two-step’ rhythm line that pulls your boots to tap at the least along in response.

Shifting gears again with ‘Dying Dogs In South Carolina’, we are given another diatribe of wondering ‘why’, and when ‘Holidays’ kicks in with it’s faster upbeat tempo, it is right on time and lifts the mood again, even as Matthew slides forth with what must be an introspective perspective of what I can only guess to be a typical holiday for as he states that he said “We’re all going to Hell”…

Band Pic 2

The final four tracks represent what I would hope would a block of songs played in this particular order and could very well be the perfect ‘end-piece’ for their live set. From the soft acoustic opening of ‘600 Miles’ with it’s “Cold-moon sinking” into the ‘So broke” exclamation of ‘Tough’ through the advice of ‘It’s The Kind Of Place’ that could very well be describing a day in the life and by the time closing track ‘And We Went Drinking With Ed Love!’ hits, it is the perfect wrap-up of one HELL of a story an I found myself hitting play again after the frenetic ending section to savor it all again.

If you are looking for something that is meaty and satisfying at the same time, cured with the purity of music for the sake of music and masterful storytelling hidden behind a vocal style that will make you listen harder to catch each word, THIS is the record for you. Support them live if they come to a garage / tavern / library / or any other venue near you, play it to death for everyone you know and keep it LOUD!!

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Traffic Death “Dead End” Album Review + Stream…

TRAFFIC DEATH

Dead End – Vinyl // Digital Download

Sump Pump Records – Released – Dec 10, 2017

Reviewed by Mike Hackenschmidt

Line Up:
Nate “Fetus” Phillips – Vocals
Andrew Smeltzer – Bass
Brian Greenfield – Drums
Garan Drozd – Guitars

Review:
Traffic Death is certainly an interesting band name. I figured I’d dig into this bad boy while I was stuck in the passenger seat of a large suburban-type vehicle on a long road trip as I tilted my seat back for a nap. Don’t let my nap fool you, this album is heavy as fuck – I just happen to sleep incredibly well with loud abrasive music in my ears. What I can’t sleep through is shit music. It wasn’t long before I nodded off and found myself in a very non-vanilla sex dream about Miley Cyrus that unfortunately ended too soon. Whether Traffic Death’s lullabies inspired my sweet images of leather and chains and Miley, I can’t say.

So now that I’m fully awake I’m giving Dead End a more serious listen. Traffic Death describe themselves as a “high speed, violent crossover 4 piece”. I see no reason to re-invent the wheel here as they’ve nailed their sound in six words though I will elaborate later. Near as I can tell, Dead End is their 3rd exclusive release but they also have a split release with The Lurking Corpses… whoever they are (I’m going to check them out for sure).

Dead End starts out with “Spontaneous Decomposition/Nothing to See Here” which reminds me a lot of M.O.D. and Billy Milano. I hear aggressive, thrashy, unapologetic hardcore with a touch of dark humor. However, it’s not long into this ingeniously titled tune before it steps up a notch, both musically and with the vocals leaving my comparison behind moving to a more Converge-cult sound.

Promo Shot

“Mandatory Sentence” opens with some seriously fun speed metal guitar work from Garan Drozd that I just was not expecting after hearing its predecessor. What comes next, though, caught me completely off guard. Nate Phillips rips a speed metal scream reminiscent of early Tom Araya. The rest of the track goes somewhere else but the change in direction is completely fluid.

I’m not going to track-by-track this album because the rest of it is more of the same. Clever and darkly comedic song titles perhaps over-use the “/” to translate multiple concepts. There’s a merge of, or shift into and out of, several styles. It seems to be random but if you go onto the band’s (hyperlinked) Facebook about page and read their influences and you know even half the bands, it all makes perfect sense.

My biggest complaint about Dead End is the fact that it’s only 24 minutes long. So even in waking, Dead End is a would-be wet dream cut entirely too short.

Additional Links:
https://sumppumprecords.bandcamp.com/album/dead-end

https://www.facebook.com/TrafficDeath/

Trafficdeath.bandcamp.com

 

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