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Spotlight on:
The Charismatics

The Charismatics and Cody Lee, Stomp Box Records Sampler
The Charismatics, Stop Rock and Roll

I don't remember what brought me to the Stomp Box Records website (now defunct), but upon first visit, there was a pop-up that advertised a "free sampler download" featuring the two songs each from the Charismatics and Cody Lee. The sampler is pretty good, with "Shell" and "Run" from the Charismatics' album and "Better Days" and "New Orleans" from Cody Lee's.

"Shell" and "Run" are both high-energy melodic tunes with thoughtful lyrics and a creative rhyming structure. They didn't make a solid impression on me to begin with, but they have grown on me to the point of thinking of buying their debut album, The Charismatics.

Cody Lee's tunes are more uneven with only "Better Days" making an impression of something worth pursuing--sounding as it does like a pop song from the early 1960s (dare I say "Beatlesque"?!). It's bouncy and eminently hummable and with the right promotion could easily be a hit single. "New Orleans," on the other hand, is a semi-acoustic introspective song that I can take or leave and generally choose to leave. I suppose these choices were meant to show his range--and according to the samples available on CD Baby, he definitely has range--but there's also nothing there that makes me want to buy the album.

I might have pursued Cody Lee based on "Better Days" had there been something cheaper than an entire album (Living Stereo) to experiment on. (I an unabashed cheapskate. Why do you think I got into reviewing? For the free stuff!) Lucky for the Charismatics (and me), they had an EP available on the Stomp Box website for only $5 called Stop Rock and Roll. (Read the weblog entry if you haven't yet for the story surrounding this purchase.)

Stop Rock and Roll consists of four covers: The Who's "Baba O'Riley" (download), Fugazi's "Public Witness Program" (download), Blondie's "Rip Her to Shreds," and the inevitable Ramones cover, "I Wanna Live." Each of these exhibit the Charismatics' ability to be faithful to their sources while leaving their personal stamp. The addition of Jill from Jill and the Rippers as lead singer of the Blondie song is a nice touch because a man singing those lyrics would definitely be labeled a misogynist. My favorite is definitely the Who song, with the Blondie a close second. (The fact that I never really liked Fugazi or the Ramones--yes, I know, I'm the antichrist--probably has something to do with that, but it is also likely that the band is too faithful and that a different version would have me paying closer attention.)

Still, it's a solid effort and one that continually finds its way back to my CD player. I'm interested to see what the band comes up with on its soon-to-be-released next CD. (For more information, including a new song from their in-the-works next album, visit the band's newly revamped website.)

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