Hey everyone, it's time for my SpinTunes Round #1 reviews and the first round is all about Superheroes & Supervillains. (I apologize beforehand for any spelling errors or typos. It's been a long long day and I'm not proof reading).
Governing Dynamics - "Origin": This is a pretty good song. I like the musical composition. The lyrics leave something to be desired. They lack a bit of poetic language. Hearing lines like "this superhero shtick" take me right out of the song. "The needle is really quite large"... really? Is that a necessary line? As for a hero tale, it may have been a made up hero instead of an existing one but it was a decent (not spectacular but decent) origin story. If it was a comic, would I pick up issue #2, probably not. But it puts Governing Dynamics in a solid place in the field for Round 2.
Ryan Welton - "Underdog Blues": Musically, the synth choice is questionable. If this was a straight up piano sound, I could enjoy it more. Instead, it has this NES videogame feel that doesn't fit with the 1960's cartoon hero. I like the vocal performance, especially the way he delivers the line "Underdog is here". It's certainly a catchy tune but it's a song about Underdog and Underdog is not a very interesting character in the slightest. Shoeshine boy becomes superman...um, superdog and that's about it. So, in the end, it all adds up to mediocre.
Steve Durand - "Gamma Man": Steve uses his trademark horns to turn his superhero song to create a 70's style superhero theme song. Occasionally, there were some awkward lyrics and I can do without the skit in the song but this was good fun. I could envision the Gamma Man opening credits and this song could get me to watch the Gamma Man show. This song is one of the best of the round.
Caleb Hines - "Memoirs Of Clockwork Man": The intro is beyond campy to the land of annoying. I completely understand that since it is Clockwork Man that the beat is tick-tock tick-tock but four minutes of that is a bit much and by that time, the story in the song is thread barren. The chorus is kinda cute with the crime fighting automaton. But it's a cheery little chorus that ends with he has no heart. It's supposed to be a dramatic line but it's lost in the cheeriness. The emotion of the not having a heart is lost in the la-dee-da of it all. The sound effects are way over the top. I like the wrench tightening as percussion, that's smart. The spring is just plain annoying. This is all over the place and doesn't come together.
Kevin Savino-Riker - "Tough Jobs Vs Iron Gates": First off, I appreciate that KSR infused a little more of a rocking sound to your song. That sticks out in this field of competitors. Now to the issue at hand...it's a tale of Gates & Jobs. The challenge is about superheroes and supervillains. As much as the song pushes the "we're trying to save the world", I can't look at Jobs & Gates and think superhero. I cannot look at iTunes and the XBOX 360 Red Ring of Death and think superhero. As much as the song has topnotch musicianship, the content is dreadfully lacking.
Jenny Katz - "Blofeld's Beginning": I absolutely love this. The idea of taking the James Bond theme, making it barebones and turning it into the sad tale of Blofeld was a stroke of genius. Now, there is the problem of the word "Point of view". Clearly, it was supposed to be from the p.o.v. of the character and this is 3rd person. That's gonna be a minor deduction from the East German judge but it makes up for that mistake with a great performance, some smart lyric writing ("when the world doesn't love you back, stroke the white cat") and nice storytelling. Definitely one of the best songs in the field.
The Offhand Band - "Step Back Swooperman": This falls flat on so many levels. It's very long. The music leaves an awful lot to be desired. Not everyone has more than MIDI but the choices you make when you only have MIDI are very important. Offhand made some very bad choices. The vocal performance is littered with bad notes and this whole song is all over the place. I understand wanting to reference various things but by the end, it didn't all come together into something cohesive.
JoAnn Abbott - "Why": JoAnn didn't pick a hero and instead went for a rather generic profile. This song could be sung by any superhero or supervillain. The song doesn't stand out, nor does it offend. The vocal performance could use some tightening up but there is very little to harp upon nor is there a lot to praise. This song is just there. It didn't commit to being a hero or villain and as a song, it never stood out.
Ross Durand - "Don't Turn The Page": The performance is stellar. Musicianship is great. Now that that part is out of the way, let's dig into the content. This is about the death of Captain America. First up, it talks about a single man and a single bullet. No on both accounts. Three shots in the stomach by Sharon Carter. Minor gripe. Major Gripe is that this is not the point of view of Captain America. Even more peculiar is that it's not even someone in the comic talking about the death of Cap, nor is it a reader talking about the death of Cap, it's the point of view of a reader upset over what the death of Cap represents. Then the switches in the last verse and Cap is talking to the reader.... This doesn't fulfill the challenge. This is all well done which will keep it high on the rankings but it has some major flaws.
Sara Parsons - “Starlite (Ballad for a Noble Steed)”: Okay, so here's the thing. Rainbow Brite is pretty weak already as a superhero. Even Jem with her holographic earnings had more powers at her disposal than Rainbow Brite. This song isn't about Rainbow Brite as it's about Starlite, her talking horse sidekick. Starlite isn't the hero of the operation. Brite is. And Starlite wasn't a Snarf or an Orko, which was the sidekick who would often save the day too (though in a comedic fashion). Starlite was the horse that ran on rainbows and doesn't fulfill the challenge. Otherwise, the song is fine. Nice use of reverb to create some atmosphere in the song. I also like the harmonizing double track. Wish there was a little bass in this. If I had heard this outside the context of the contest, I would enjoy it more.
Bram Tant - "Kebab Shop": This is not a song. This is a bad monologue that was supposed to be funny. This is also not a supervillain, even with the whole "Turkish Kebob Strangler" thing. The real villain is Bram Tant who stole several minutes of my life with that. Even the music got grating and boring and that was within 2 minutes.
Godz Poodlz - "The Human Bomb": First off, the explosion was a little unnecessary. I like the idea of telling the tale of the Human Bomb and wanting to have human interaction. Too bad that this song goes astray in a serious way. That whole verse about the shrink was the song going the wrong way. It came back and that was much better but it still didn't hit all the emotional marks it could've. Musically, it's okay. the vocals weren't the best but they are far from the worst. I feel like it's missing something in the arrangement. Maybe some guitar lines or a more prominent bassline (is there a bass in this?)?
"Buckethat" Bobby Matheson - "Super Villain Blues": The song has a very plodding start that almost lost me but once that accordion kicks in, it's got me. It's a well arranged song that got my head bopping and my toes tapping and various other "I'm into the groove" clichés. There isn't a heck of a lot going on lyrically, but what's there is very solid. The "save the daaaaaaay" note needs some work. All in all, not a bad job here at all. It's not a round-winning, brought your A-Game masterpiece but it isn't anywhere close to the bottom of the pile.
Jon Eric - "Superman Sneezed": The challenge was left open to any superhero or supervillain and Jon Eric went for Superman. Really? Of them all, Supes? (Note- I am wearing a Superman shirt as I write this, so I guess I'm not that creative in my choices either) Musically, it's a simple guy & guitar song. There's nothing wrong but it's nothing very interesting. The vocal performance was reined in just enough that it worked. Clean. Crisp. Not my favorite but not a song for the trash heap. My biggest problem with the song is that it's just not interesting. It's milquetoast.
Gorbzilla - “Superhero Song”: The vocals of this remind me so much of Crash Test Dummies who have a great superhero song. This isn't a great superhero song. There is the challenge, Gorbzilla chose the Watcher. Is the Watcher a hero? He doesn't do heroic acts. He watches. And should I play my nerd card and complain about all the non-marvel characters being watched in the song? In fact, Uatu feels awfully tacked on like he wrote 2 verses and then said "Oh crap, it says ". The song with its simple g^2 (that's guy & guitar) set-up has grown on me over several listens. It's middle of the road. It loses points for not being about a hero or villain (Watcher is beyond all that) and it's a bit too cheesy for me (Capt Caveman, Sunshine Superman...) but it's not the worst thing I've ever heard.
Denise Hudson - "Invisible Girl": Let's imagine for a second that this wasn't a part of the SpinTunes competition. You just picked up the new DJ Ranger Den album and there was the song "Invisible Girl". Other than the fact that the title references the iconic Marvel heroine, does any other part of this scream out "this song is from the point of view of a superhero"? Okay, let's take Sue Storm out of the equation. It still comes off as invisible girl is more of a metaphor for the way the woman in the story is feeling in her relationship, not that she's really a person with powers. I enjoy Den's vocal style and piano. It fills a Tori Amos shaped hole in me (I'm not big on the last few Tori albums). If this song wasn't a part of SpinTunes, I would love it more. In this context, it doesn't fulfill the challenge (but I still dig it).
Heather Miller - "I'm Not Wearing Tights": A dance track. Nice. Not the strongest beat ever but it's got its charm, though it needs a little diversity. When the song got to the bridge, it didn't really change up much. Just a little change would do it good, especially because let's face it- the song is built around the fact that superheroes wear tights and that it doesn't produce a lot of material. So the 2nd verse is kinda sloppy and the bridge is as thin as thin can be. Then there's the story of it all. So, you wake up one morning and you see you have powers...your greatest concern is your fashion choices? Anyway. I kinda dig her voice. Please no more of the little I'm gonna stop singing and talk to myself lines ("Nope. I definitely was awake"). She's got potential but this song lands in the middle of the pack.
Edric Haleen - “A Letter to Humanity”: The delivery cries out for Broadway. It's a great vocal performance. Okay, I've got some problems with it though. So, we've got the big reveal. It's not a hero, it's a villain. I hate how this was handled, especially with the line that comes after it. The song is a crescendo and it ends with the big bang of... no, not the villain bit. It ends with it all starting the next day. So, the villain is going to kill all humanity but the big news as the music tells us is that he's gonna wait a day. It's as if he decided that everyone needed to die but first he was taking a trip to the 7-11 to get a Slurpee and maybe watch some Judge Joe Brown. If that one line wasn't there, it would be a perfectly fine punchline. Set-up the big hero moment and ta-da, he's a big lump, kind of like Aimee Allen ("I'd start a revolution...if I could wake up in the morning"). Instead it's set-up, big reveal and then extraneous bit that gets the energy from the crescendo. So, lots of good stuff leading to a fail at the end.
Emperor Gum - "Costumes": All hail the Great Lakes Avengers. I hate giving songs deductions on production. I believe you can have a good song with mediocre production. But if the production hurts my head, points start going away. It's like there's a sea of distortion or fuzz or something that is trying to drown me. And then the ending comes and there's like a head splitting something. It's a foggy blur of pain. And I listen to all the songs multiple times before I review, so I have endured some aches for this one. Now, why the focus on Squirrel Girl's costume? Her costume has never been much of a focus (unless you're a furry). All in all, interesting character choice. Musically, it was this experimental punk but I was lost in the production which didn't allow me to get any of the nuances. If this was put together better, I would probably get a lot more out of it. Shame.
Charlie McCarron - "Faster Than Superman": I love the cymbals. It gives the feel of someone running really fast. Musically, there's some fun things. The piano is nice and it's put together well. The story is questionable. So, it's the tale of someone with super speed. No mention of heroics. Then he starts complaining about having a restless mind and then in the end runs all the way into the afterlife (or at least, that place at the end of Lost). Umm. I don't get it. The story is very thin. I guess the idea is that being able to run at super speed has allowed him to see everything and now he longs to die and then just does. Umm... Does just having super speed constitute being a super hero? Nope. Just the super part. This could be an interesting tale but the way it's handled; the music doesn't match up with the story its trying to tell.
And now the shadows
Boffo Yux Dudes - "The Ballad of Henry Pym": Quizzical choice of character to run with. Damn, this song is long. And it doesn't vary from that same structure. Good god, this song drags like a dog's butt on the carpet. It's a humorous look at the odd life of the Avenger. But that's another problem, it's a look at and not a piece. This should've been Henry Pym singing and deciding to go from one gimmick to the next. Could have been a bit more amusing but still damn this song is long. It's less than 5 minutes and feels like 17.
Bryce Jensen - "Dearest Firestorm (Love, Multiplex)": A doo-wop tune portraying Multiplex as having a man crush on Firestorm (both personalities). Okay, I can't stand the doo wop. Only a few times can Doo Wop effectively put a joke over and this isn't one of them. And is it really that funny? So, the guy who can multiply himself wants to shag his enemy with the 2 people inside him, leading to two minutes of hilarity where the big ha-ha is that it may be two people but it's an orgy at the same time. Groan. At least, it fulfilled the challenge and it had to do with Firestorm.
Danny Blackwell - "Love Song From Robin To Batman": Way under the 2 minute min. I like the vocals. The guitar had some problems, especially when it comes to pacing as it just sped up at random bits. And the lyrics had some odd bits too (drowning in spunk...was that trip really necessary?). But the song was not without its charm, though that charm will only carry it so far.
Dr. Lindyke - "Save The World": Ah, the reluctant hero under some snazzy piano. This has got a great groove to it. It's very catchy and if this was actually a part of the contest, this song would have done very well. It's simple and straightforward. No gimmicks needed. A superhero who is tired but knows that it's his job and goes off to do it again. I like it. Nice job.