Zykos, Young James Long, No Bridges to Cross, and Ghost of the Russian Empire
Reviewed by Austin Powell, Fri., Nov. 23, 2007
With any EP, there's a fine line between too little and too much. Zykos' Keep It Light EP (Cult Hero) is too long overdue for a mere four songs to suffice, however good they may be. "What You Know" balances jumping piano rhythms and fuzz-box guitar like Bowie circa '73; "Keep It Light" capitalizes on the stark contrast between lead singer Michael Booher's forceful sneer and the soft accent of pianist Catherine Davis. Mike McCarthy's stellar production shines during the bleeding melodrama of "October Rain." The Texas debut from P.W. Long of Mule and Wig fame as Young James Long, You Ain't Know the Man (Southern), hits fast and hard, packing five songs into less than eight minutes. Backed by Young Heart Attack's Taylor Young and Tenderloin's Kirkland James, Long transforms his trademark barbed-wire guitar to fit the sound of the dirty South for opener "In the Moanin'," while his hysterical, Pentecostal shouting on "Not Stillwater" sounds like Scott H. Biram backed by Amplified Heat. One second more, and this EP would detonate. The eponymous debut from No Bridges to Cross is an intriguing one-off collaboration between Leatherbag's Randy Reynolds and Driftin' Luke's Colby Pennington, meticulously detailed by artists from their respective labels, Superpop! and C-Side Records. "Jewelry" merges Pennington's off-kilter narratives and the Channel's Californian pop with Reynolds' Crazy Horse-influenced guitar and dry delivery, but it's the Reynolds-led "Picture You Like I Am" and "One Lonely Man" that shine. The self-titled four-song collection from Ghost of the Russian Empire teases an impending LP, but it feels more like a call to action. "A Decade Without a Death" opens with uppers and downers, driving rhythms, and a veil of distortion and reverb, creating a medicated stupor that carries through the acoustic "Hammer Hands," while the glacial contours of "Dresden" recall the dreamy ballads of Hail to the Thief-era Radiohead. Someone please put this album out, and soon.