For too long, I have been tearing local musicians’ releases to ribbons, often to the chagrin, more often to the amusement of, the reading audience and the musicians themselves. Sure, once in a while you get the guy who wants to kick your ass in a dark parking lot at 2 a.m., but for the most part, everyone’s good-humored about it.
Still, as a tip of the hat to some of the bands I have taken a bite out of, and to give them a taste of revenge, I sent out copies of my new Dovetonsil double-CD release, Chant Unchant, to local musicians about whom I have written, and I asked them to review it right here in The Knife. Some submitted very lengthy critiques. Others kept it brief.
For the uninitiated, I have been writing, producing and performing music since I was in my teens. When I began writing original music – both commercial and personal – I distinguished my own material by using the name Dovetonsil. That band, in all of its various configurations, has released three albums.
Ok, on with the reviews …
We’ll begin with songwriter Summer Goodman, who has an EP out on Jacksonville University’s Dolphinium Records. She submitted a five-paragraph critique. Here are the highlights: “As some of you may be aware, the main man behind this album recently reviewed mine (igniting quite the internet scandal, I might add). [Chant Unchant is] a massive album, containing 33 songs. The second track is ‘Remi and the Runaways.’ I couldn’t find myself fully buying into this tale, and for some reason it reminded of the song from Rent that nobody really likes. It’s a little too melodramatic for my tastes. One of my favorite tracks is ‘Antahkarana.’ It’s a song entirely of vocals, all of which Mr. Citrone did himself. No easy feat. Apart from being flat at a few points, including the last note (I felt robbed), it was an almost seamless blend of harmonies that put a smile on this snobby vocalist’s face.”
Next up, Tommy Bridgewater, bassist for The Groove Coalition: “This CD is as close to a masterpiece as you can get. The vocal performances by Katie Sacks and Aaron DeCicco are stellar. Odd time signatures, straight funky stuff followed by Americana and punk. It reminds of the days when musicians really spent time to make the album an experience instead of a product driven by sales. Sonically, It’s the shit. I’m afraid most of this record won’t get any radio play because it just too fucking good for radio. But, if I know John, radio play was never the goal.”
Now a word from metalhead Phillip Newton, guitarist for The Noctambulant: ” ‘Gundown,’ ‘Kitty with a Man Face,’ ‘Seaside’ and ‘I Believe’ were my [favorites] off this album. One song will have super-tight harmonies, then the next will be a Dead Milkmen-esque punk song, a tune like something Dillinger or Mr. Bungle would put out, followed by a deceptively sweet-sounding jazz tune, an ’80s electric synth groove into a chill folk number. That’s what I enjoyed. I would like to thank John for letting me write a brief, if not grammatically incorrect and pointless, review.”
Sam Farmer, guitarist for Ursula: “Dovetonsil could be an exercise in self-amusement for John or an attempt to maintain sanity between professional gigs that range from apathetic restaurant crowds to animatronic penguins. John could have easily kept Chant Unchant to himself. I, for one, am glad he’s decided to share. Only a few songs miss the mark for me, but with 33 songs – from absurd musical theater to Aristocrat-esque, instrumental math-metal – I can afford to be picky.”
Justice Kragiel, drummer for The Embraced: “Spock’s Beard. Grandpa’s Cough Medicine. Tool. Genesis. Led Zeppelin. Dream Theater. Faith No More. Victor Wooten. My bad high school garage bands. Limp Bizkit. Buckwheat. Planet X. The Flobots. Miles Davis. Satan. Cheesy Musicals. Platypus. Pain of Salvation. Coffeehouse acoustic acts. Beck. The Mahavishnu Orchestra. Stoned-sounding musicians that are not stoned. Weird Al Yankovic. Elevator Muzak. And, of course, Frank Zappa.”
From hip-hop artist Mr. Al Pete: “Some of these joints, I would definitely ‘let my nuts hang and do some back flips’ (for you ‘Knife’ readers, reference back to when he ‘Knife’d’ me, and it means ‘kick some dope rhymes effortlessly’). Great work, Mr. John, let’s create something in the future.”
We’ll close with a few words from Grant Nielsen, leader of JacksonVegas. When I wrote about his latest effort, a generally favorable review, his fans were up in arms because I said one of his songs sucked. Well, it did. So this is what I got from Nielsen: “I figured you were gonna have enough people giving you the ‘compliment sandwich’ and kissing your ass on this thing, so I just gave you a paragraph roasting it instead.” Chant Unchant is a schizophrenic musical nightmare of epic proportion, laden with unnerving dissonance and sacrilegious motifs. There are also some bad points. I’m joking, of course … It’s all bad. I honestly can’t tell if this scattershot attempt at a record offers something for everyone or nothing to anyone. My only hope is that John Citrone can somehow forge a relationship with Jesus. Praise Him.”