Cinema 8: The Future ain't what it used to be
It's the retro era. Again. And that's a good thing. Well, sometimes. When it's the White Stripes and Guided By Voices mining the rich veins of rock and roll past and almost present, it's okay. When it's wimpy wankers beating a dead one trick pony like the Strokes (all puns you can think of are intended) it's not okay. In rock and roll's years of innocence past, there weren't any Arbitron ratings. The marketing arm of the music industry lacked today's smart bombs of niche and cross marketing, and the elevation of demographic apartheid uber allis. In Washington, D.C., when I was a child, the black stations played "white" music, sprinkled liberally amongst The Meters, Funkadelic, and all that soul. You might have heard a psychedelic band like Rhinoceros, the Beatles, naturally, or Grand Funk Railroad. The white, mellow rock and easy listening stations would play some Motown, an Aretha Franklin ballad, and a James Brown instrumental mixed in with Tom Jones, B.J. Thomas, and Henry Mancini's "Song For Peter Sellers." It was a golden age for the listeners and the DJs, a time of innocence where a record got played because it was a good song, of good quality, and people like it. Not because of cross-marketing with soda and cell phones, owned by the company that owns the record and the band. Not because of an image and a sexy, butt shakin' video. Because of the music.
Cinema 8 draws from this rich past in music's heyday, and, contrary to niche-targeted retro approach of most of today's bands, takes a road less traveled, proving the future ain't what it used to be. That is startling to these ears so drenched in the type of stylistic apartheid and, even worse, homogeneous dregs (think Korn-style metal hip hop). The first couple of songs on the self-titled CD are hard rockers of sorts, then there are several more introspective, weirdly psychedelic songs followed by regrettably prefab rockers, and a signature song. And in one case all, of the above was contained in the same song.
Let me explain.
"Icarus" is the type of AOR rock that is what was the staple of radio back in the '70s. Trust me, I was there and I have the long-term memory of an idiot savant. This song brought a flood of memories - mom buying me and my toddler brother paisley turtlenecks at Sears and Roebuck, years later walking alone in the hip part of town (the one with all the "crazy white boys"), cringing in the student lounge of my hippy high school as the older kids played the Eagles and Carol King. Shades of culture shock.
"Give In to Love" puts me in my dad's Plymouth station wagon, stoned and settling into a long drive from Carlson's house, listening to intensely mellow heavy, heavy power ballads on the "head" station. This tune triggers a set of tunes by the stoned WHFS deejay - "Red" by King Crimson, "Kashmir" by Puff Daddy, er, I mean, Led Zeppelin, and the spacey shit by the James Gang. Now blend these tunes and have the song played by a Bachman-Turner Overdrive-influenced country pop band, and it's good. That's how Cinema 8 sounds on this jammy.
Psychedelic rock has made an indelible impact on rock and pop music of the '70s and therefore on the present-day indie/alt/new rock scene. In place of musical innovations or radical sounds, today's rock bands - not unlike their jazz brethren - get in the way-back machine. Cinema 8 picks up the acid temple ball vapors of this glorious past on several songs. "Piece of You" melds Jethro Tull and the power pop harmonies of CSNY in a homage to the tripping side of rock and pop. Then in a grunge-meets-acid rock moment, "Bleed" takes the soft-loud-soft rock formula but adds a rock "going to heaven" reprise of the bridge that is sure to get the audience clappin' and bellowin'. The lineage of hippie-country rock as played by the Band and the Byrds is picked up and ably run with on the song "Garden," one of the CD's highlights. There are a few digressions into songs that have the feel of fun songs to play live -"Faster Than Today," a by-the-numbers power pop song, "Lover" a hard-assed shit kicker from the Brand New Humble Pie Wave school of rock, and the Zeppelinesque "True Believer" - but on this record are filler. Ironically, these cuts are probably the one's that will get the big record companies to pay attention. If these don't get them, then the CD's finale, "Golden Boy" surely will. This tour-de-force, an encore for many of the shows in the band's future, leaves no doubt that the Cinema 8 signature sound of hard rock and soaring vocals is one to be reckoned with. Check them out at www.Cinema-8.com. Rock on!
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