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The Willowz

Are Coming

(Sympathy for the Record Industry; US: 15 Feb 2005; UK: Available as import)

Sometimes I can be a sucker for various labels. This is one of those labels, perhaps best known as the label which was home to The White Stripes, which easily attracts me to several of their rock bands who waste no time putting things to tape and seem to continuously capture the essence of performing each song live. You won’t find a lot of ProTools on these albums, which is to the benefit of everyone. This trio of singer and guitarist Richie James Follin, drummer Alex Nowicki, and bassist Jessica Reynoza make each of these songs seem urgent and intense, beginning with the almost Pistols-meets-Stooges garage rock sound of “Equation #6”. Follin has a certain snarl or sneer in his vocal approach while Reynoza offers up a series of harmonies in the chorus. And considering that none of them were 20 when this was written is another huge asset.


Fortunately, they aren’t a one track band, as “Keep on Looking” sounds like it’s ready to burst out at the seem but keeps it all together for several moments. “I keep on looking for the world in my mind,” Follin sings in what sounds like a cross between the Sights and that Jack White character. However, it goes out with a whimper, nary a bruising, intoxicating riff anywhere to be found. This isn’t the case with the Mooney Suzuki-ish boogie rock of “Meet Your Demise”, which the band builds upon, but the chorus isn’t as strong as it could be. Just two minutes of very strong, but not excellent, garage rock. “Questionaire” is a sad state of affairs, though, as Follin sounds like he’s singing into a microphone stuck inside a Coke bottle. The ragged nature to this tune is in line with the likes of Neil Young, but Young pulls it off. These guys don’t. That isn’t to say that the guitar solo is worth skipping over, though.


The Willowz don’t get lost in the wind with the lovely and well-crafted “Interpretations”, which could be mistaken for the White Stripes doing a cover of Hendrix’s winding “Manic Depression”. Nowicki also goes to town on this tune, filling in every empty moment with either snares, cymbals, or anything else he can find during his drum rolls. “Put Together” sings about the flamin’ grooves, but Follin’s “false"tto is too over the top, something only a few bands with enough tongue in cheek can pull off (Re: The Hives). The track which is completely screwy but then smoothes itself out quickly is “Something”, a song that was originally on the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The Willowz are great here, but they seem to outdo themselves on the messy, shambles-oriented “Wake Up” as Reynoza and Follin trade lyrics back and forth. “What happened to rock and roll / I’m sick and I’m tired / Sam and Dave, where did all souls go?” they sing, as Reynoza sings about her ailments. The roots-ish nature to the song is also another plus, as if recorded in a Midwestern garage-cum-tractor shed.


The homestretch kicks off with the rollicking, Ramones-ish “Not You”, with the almost required “ba ba ba ba ba ba"s thrown in for good measure. The high-energy tempo continues with the ‘60s rock of “Get Down” as the band veer from the boogie of the Kinks to the earlier form of the White Stripes (if Meg was intent on being a dominant force on backing vocals). The black sheep of the album has to be the simple and woes is me feel on “I Wonder”, as Follin talks about his broken heart and Brian Jones. The Willowz won’t be blown around by the ever-changing flavor of the month rock. Instead, they will forge ahead quite nicely with boogie-fuelled rock that will cause gleeful shin splints for many prone to accent their listening experiences with leg gyrations.

Rating:

Originally from Cape Breton, MacNeil is currently writing for the Toronto Sun as well as other publications, including All Music Guide, Billboard.com, NME.com, Country Standard Time, Skope Magazine, Chart Magazine, Glide, Ft. Myers Magazine and Celtic Heritage. A graduate of the University of King's College, MacNeil currently resides in Toronto. He has interviewed hundreds of acts ranging from Metallica and AC/DC to Daniel Lanois and Smokey Robinson. MacNeil (modestly referred to as King J to friends), a diehard Philadelphia Flyers fan, has seen the Rolling Stones in a club setting, thereby knowing he will rest in peace at some point down the road. Oh, and he writes for PopMatters.com.


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