Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Thursday, July 18

Gapers Block

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The Coreys
Corey Sutra (Kissyface Recordings, 1987) ½

You might not remember the name, but you'd surely remember their 1987 hit "Cold Cut Combo." It peaked at #4 and seemed to be on everyone's lips that summer. The track, a silly departure from a more serious effort, was the Coreys' only Top Ten hit.

The Coreys, Kurt McDougal and Jeremy Vezzani of Bethesda, Maryland, recorded Corey Sutra to follow up their debut effort, Bottled at the Source. That first album, a strange mish-mash of Christian pop, white-boy rap, and power pop, got the Coreys noticed, but not necessarily respected.

"We were really struggling, you know?" says Vezzani. "We were really trying to find the true voice of the Coreys. And then, Kurt had that dream." Reportedly, McDougal heard the notes of "Cold Cut Combo" during his sleep, woke up, and played the entire tune.

The rest of Corey Sutra fell into place, track by track. But unlike their lunchmeat-themed hit, their other subject matter was deeper, but no less chewy. "Baggage" detailed a young man's Sisyphean struggle with Vivarin addiction. And an underrated track, "Red Carpet Club," illustrated a young man's Herculean battle to kick a nasty Anbesol habit.

But parts of it are just stupid. Vezzani's Barry White-style soliloquy during the middle of "sexytimes, part 1" is idiotic. With a voice coated with booze rather than honey, Vezzani stumbles through his part, intoning "stir me up/then chill me good" like so much instant pudding.

All in all, Corey Sutra's 53 minutes deserve a listen, but not necessarily a second spin.


The Avid Sportsmen
Reel and Rod (Bear Trap, 2003)

In college I was skeptical of any band that played rockabilly. It wasn't that I disliked the genre. I got sick of being disappointed every time a Bleed or similar band would come along, blow me away with their live antics, and frustrate me with an EP that demonstrated excellent song-craft in spite of shit production values, only to break up within a month after the EP's release. Disappointed, I abandoned the genre altogether.

Then along came The Avid Sportsmen. About two years ago, they burst onto the rockabilly radar with Backwaters, a rollicking, beer-soaked tribute to the sportsman's life of their native Minnesota backcountry. The record, while little known, offered some of the most exciting music in the rockabilly genre I've heard in years. Solid songwriting coupled with rapid-fire guitars and the occasional hoot or holler made this mostly instrumental record an amazing find among the usual crap polluting the bins at Reckless Records. But what was most intriguing about the Backwaters was a little surf-ditty that closed the package -- "Sour Vacation Blues." Lyrically, the song was profound -- delving deeply into the alienation these earnest, small-town huntsmen experienced while discovering the surf, sand, and scantily clad beachgoers in southwestern California's gold coast -� all while adapting to the very essence of quality surf rock a la Dick Dale. It was a surprising turn of events, musically, for a band dedicated to the purity of the rockabilly ethos. Yet, as an album closer and a character-defining moment for the band, it worked. And it left me wondering what was in store for these hardworking North Woods musicians.

After two years of touring in Field & Stream-inspired hunting and fishing gear with stage props that included a canoe, fishing poles, a deer stand and pup tent, The Avid Sportsmen hand us their latest inspired installment in the rockabilly canon, Reel and Rod. Don't be fooled by the bait 'n tackle title: if Quentin Tarrantino ever decides to film a remake of Deliverance and throw in a little Natural Born Killers, this record may just prove to be the soundtrack. Taking cues from such disparate influences as Los Straitjackets, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet and the Oklahoma emo-punk outfit Cursive, Reel and Rod tackles a darker and more brooding territory than you ever thought possible of a rockabilly record. Still unafraid to explore backwoods imagery, the record digs into the loneliness and anxiety prevalent in the hunt.

The playing evokes the readiness and impotence of the waiting hunter so profoundly you can almost hear the pages of the Cabela's catalog turn. On "Hunter's Creed," the band lashes out with strife-ridden guitars and rolling drums played against background samples of deer in rut. The title track is an exemplary offering from the album, offering with a surprising degree of swank and honky-tonk in what can only be described as a tribute to man's best friends in the fishing wilderness: a pocketknife, a tacklebox, and fly fishing rod.

But the standout track is the tearjerker, "Woman in the Woods." The album finishes with this winsome tribute to bassist Rhet Vonsvetter's wife, who, according to the liner notes, "cleans, smokes, and cures everything I kill." This overworked woman feels under-appreciated by her huntsman/musician husband, and the string-laden ballad is a gift from the heart that is long overdue.


The Kamikaze Saints
self titled OR how to assemble a broken heart puzzle (Navelgaze, 2004)

The Kamikaze Saints are something different. Well, actually they're not but we're giving them bonus points for their name. Instead of many atypical emo bands with names like Adam Ate the Apple, Ten Inches of Ron Jeremy and Gardener Sam Gamgee, this sextet sound like they could be a punk band; only the cover tips you off. Still, you're secretly hoping that when you pop this disc in, some magic will happen.

This is not the case.

Instead, you have a band with three singers who share duties on guitar, keyboards and bass, a drummer, a cellist and get this: a goddamn tambourine player. I managed to catch these guys live when they opened for Kill the Roadrunner and I was all set to watch this white kid with an afro sing. Instead he has this tambourine and does his best Liam Gallagher impression. As they kicked into the first song, I was thinking, "Alright, let's see how well this guy sings." But he doesn't. He just sort of lazily and spastically twirls this tambourine around. And you can't even hear it. I thought maybe he's a roadie, a friend out on tour with them, and they have him an honorary position. No. He's credited on this record.

Ahem, the music itself. This album sounds like one long 36-minute song. I couldn't tell when one song started and the next began; they all sounded so similar that I'd rather be strapped in a chair and have someone apply paper cuts to my eyeballs. Elevator muzak is better than this. Getting kicked in the balls by a donkey is better than this.

Okay, you have a good drummer, who's obviously technically proficient. A bass player who also has serious chops and is tight with the drummer (guys, if you're reading this, you two need to leave this band and join a jazz ensemble). That's where the good ends. The two guitarists (the bassist apparently does double duty on guitar as well) are obviously very intent on showing you how clever they are by playing off-time signatures and interweaving but neither interlocking nor melodic guitar "textures" (now you two guys have to stop twiddling with your arsenal of effects pedals and twiddle with yourself) -- I'm sure they'd describe this as "soundscapes" or some other such nonsense. The cellist, a girl (What's up with this lately? Is this a trend?) seems out of place, neither following the guitarists nor the rhythm section. Thus you have what sounds like a good groove that gets ruined by what sounds like the cheap effects off your first Casio keyboard. It's musical nonsense.

And then there's that goddamn tambourine player.


About the Author(s)

The Critics are Shylo Bisnett, Naz Hamid and Brandon Heckman.
Album art by Phineas Jones, Naz and Marc Needham.

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