Monday, May 13, 2013

Semi-Twang: The Why And The What For

About two years ago, I blogged a review of Semi-Twang's second release, Wages of Sin. I recall being a bit stunned - but very happy - that the band's release of their second album when their debut one was released about two decades earlier.

Fortunately, another 20 years wasn't needed to get a third release from the band from Milwaukee, WI. A couple of months ago, Semi-Twang released The Why And What For.

Before I provide a semi-unbiased opinion on many of the songs, I'll give you my bottom-line analysis right here, right now --

You should not semi-consider the purchase of this album. You should commit 100% do so. Purchase your MP3s at regular haunts such as iTunes or Amazon - or you can buy the CD directly from the band via their website and your PayPal account.

The Wrong Side of the Tracks - The lead-off number is a solid one. Forget hearing a mamby-pamby, minor-chord, melancholy ballad. Wrong Side includes many of the musical complexities found throughout the rest of the album: a great tempo, John Sieger's vocals that have changed little in twenty-five years, a solid rhythm section, horns and sax, and a lyrical cliche or two that actually work.

52 Jokers - I'm still somewhat perplexed by the overall message of this song, but it does include what may be my favorite stanza on the album.

Best man’s weaving — he’s half in the sack
The band just tried to murder Paint It Black
Oh 52 Jokers — Cut you down to size

The More She Gets the More She Wants - OK, I'm not a fan of this one. There, I said it. Though I enjoy this album taken as a whole, this one compels me to reach for the next track button. But hey, doesn't every album include at least one or two of those kinds of songs? But I will give ST bonus points to raise the grade for this one to a C+ simply because of the song title.

You Love Everybody - Although I'm not crazy about The More She Gets..., advancing to the next song lands me on one I truly do enjoy. The band makes frequent and an interesting use use of vibrato with guitar, vocals ... and stereo channels. Plus, the addition of of a prominent horn section gives the song a bit of a Ray Charles feel musically.

Contents Under Pressure - Now we're talking! This track is among my favorites of the album. First, the jangly guitar riff of the first few seconds took me all the way back to 1990 or so. I needed about a half-dozen listens to the opening riff before I could recall a similar opening to a song. Finally, it clicked with me the opening reminded me of the lead track, Let It Go, by a one-album band called The Peregrins. (Obscure reference, sure - but hey its my review, right?) Within a couple of of seconds, however, my flashback was gone as the maturity of John Sieger's vocals began. A couple of stanzas resonate with me as (1) an observation of our world today and (2) a thorn in my flesh that flares off and on throughout my life.

Sign on your head — contents under pressure
Someday you’re gonna blow sky high
People gonna point and say my my
The one that blew he was the quiet kind

Saying you won’t budge — contents under pressure
How can you hold a grudge for so long
It tears you up — it brings you down
The gauge on your head it’s spinning round

Making Everybody Cry - Sieger submitted a solo performance of this one to Couch By Couchwest and garnered several "likes" and the mopping of tears with tissues by many.

Miss Watson - As the band begins the final third of the album, they kick it up a notch with a great, rollicking, boogie-woogie number. Though I've never had the good fortune to see Semi-Twang live, I suppose this is the song in their setlist that jolts people out of their seats to bust a move on the dance floor.

Elementary Miss Watson
Let’s discuss this in my Datsun
You want love I believe I got some
Elementary Miss Watson

A Handsome Man - In what I hope was a genius, bullseye-planning song arrangement strategy for the album and for live performance set lists, the rocking Miss Watson is followed by this down-tempo number. I have to belief the no-inhibitions dancing with Miss Watson then moves to a slow dance with this one with thoughts of where to go after the show ends. With that said, the lyrics to this one don't exactly convey happy ending. Hopefully, the dancing couple won't fully realize this until the next morning over coffee.

The reason why I’m walking ‘round
Without a bloody trail
A handsome man
A handsome man
A handsome man can’t go to jail

Take a look at your average con
He’s ugly without fail
A handsome man
A handsome man
A handsome man can’t go to jail

Foghorn - The closing track has an appropriate title and somber tone. The overall feel of it reminds me somewhat of Blue Rodeo's Jokers Wild way back on their the way back on their Outskirts debut - albeit with a slower tempo.

As this entry posts, the band doesn't have many of the new songs on YouTube as official videos or fan-submitted ones. Until more emerge, you can sample the songs at Amazon. But don't overthink it. Hopefully these comments have given you enough of the why and what for to make the decision to get this album.


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