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Album Review

Debbie Gibson – ‘The Body Remembers’ [Album Review]

In sum, The Body Remembers ain’t Electric Youth. Nor should it be. But it is a crisp snapshot of who Debbie Gibson is today. Which is pretty darn fabulous!

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After more than 30 years, it remains one of my most memorable concert experiences — one I still recount gleefully to anyone who will listen.

Orlando, Florida — November 1989. At 26 I found myself forced up against a cold brick wall, spread eagle and getting patted down by “the man.” I told you guys — I DON’T have a gun! Oddly, this wasn’t a late-night DUI stop. I wasn’t being interrogated at an international airport checkpoint. And I wasn’t involved in a drug deal gone bad. I merely was attempting to get through the turnstile at — a Debbie Gibson concert.

At the time, Deb was the center of my musical universe. It was her Electric Youth tour. My brother and I had front row center seats and I would have hacked off an arm before doing anything disruptive. However, with my waist-length jet black hair, piercings, backwards ball cap and Motörhead T-shirt, I’d raised immediate suspicions among the beefy members of the arena’s security staff. Even my brother was waved right in — which was particularly crazy considering that he was the one carrying the gun — relax, he was an off-duty police officer. It’s a super-long story, but I did (finally) get in to see the show that night. And despite non-stop security scrutiny, it was magical — even greater than that time I saw the New York Dolls.

I remained buckled up aboard the “D-train” for a few more years — her 1995 album, Think with Your Heart was my jump-off point. Yet, Deb remained on my radar, and I cheered her on as she achieved enormous success on Broadway in ensuing years. And when I was recently perusing one of my fave entertainment news sites, RewindItMagazine.com, and learned that Deb had dropped a new studio set, The Body Remembers, just a few weeks earlier, I skipped merrily over to iTunes in short order.

Contrary to Deb’s recent comments in the press, The Body Remembers is nothing at all like Electric Youth — which is not a criticism. Truth be told, it’s unrealistic and unfair to expect an artist to be creating the same style of work at 50-something as they were at 16, 18 or even 20. Hence, while the concept of “No More Rhyme Pt. II,” certainly seems appealing for a minute, the Debbie Gibson brand actually would be served best by her moving forward artistically. And that she does with The Body Remembers.

It’s been said that it takes a village to raise a kid. These days, it also takes a village to produce a record. And while Deb always occupies the pilot’s seat, with The Body Remembers, she has some serious assistance from a cast of qualified co-pilots, including EDM DJ/musician Dirty Werk, 19-year-old multi-instrumentalist Sean Thomas and Grammy winner Tracy Young. And throughout the 15-track collection, Deb reveals her ever-maturing artistry, while maintaining a youthful freshness.

An electro-pop dance floor delight, “One Step Closer” sets the stage nicely, while “Runaway” is an even sexier-feeling follow-up. A particular high point, “Love Don’t Care” seems a smidge sultry before going a bit “gaga.” Additional WOW moments include the signature Deb-style ballad, “Strings.” A songwriting collab with ’80s arena rock kingpin, Fred Coury, “LuvU2Much” pops off the grooves, with the former Cinderella drummer providing not only drums but also guitar work, keyboard tracks and programming. Great job, Fred!

The live concert duet between Deb and ’80s heartthrob Joey McIntyre on the iconic “Lost in Your Eyes” created nightly show-stopping magic during the 2019 New Kids on the Block reunion tour. However, the studio version here is about as compelling as a Robocop reboot.

Conversely, the record’s “money shot” is, without a doubt, “Legendary.” This modern-day epic soars with massive orchestration, glorious gospel-style backing vocals and a coliseum-caliber contribution courtesy of go-to guitar god, DJ Ashba. Bravo!

In sum, The Body Remembers ain’t Electric Youth. Nor should it be. But it is a crisp snapshot of who Debbie Gibson is today. Which is pretty darn fabulous!

The Body Remembers Track Listing:

1. One Step Closer – 3:22
2. Runway – 3:33
3. Love Don’t Care – 3:45
4. The Body Remembers – 4:03
5. Lost in Your Eyes, the Duet (with Joey McIntyre) – 3:39
6. Strings – 3:55
7. Legendary – 4:15
8. Freedom (featuring DJ Ashba) – 3:19
9. Girls Night Out (VegasVibe Remix) – 4:24
10. Dance 4U – 3:19
11. What Are We Gonna Do? – 2:33
12. LuvU2Much – 2:28
13. Red Carpet Ready – 4:05
14. Tell Me Love – 4:02
15. Me Not Loving You – 4:27

Run Time:e 55:09
Release Date: August 20, 2021
Record Label: StarGirl Records

Christopher Long is an author, show biz analyst, TV / radio contributor, award-winning musician and entertainment personality. Referred to once as “the rock and roll Erma Bombeck,” Long is known for his conversational, common sense writing style and passion for sharing his unique perspectives on pop culture. Raised in Missouri's rugged Ozark Mountains and on Florida's sunny Space Coast, Long currently lives in Cocoa Beach. (AuthorChristopherLong@yahoo.com)

Album Review

The Eighty Six Seas – ‘Scenes from an Art Heist’ [Album Review]

Overall, this album does exactly what it sets out to do in encapsulating a fictionalized version of a famous art heist. Well done, The Eighty Six Seas!

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The Eighty Six Seas ‘Scenes from an Art Heist’ album artwork
The Eighty Six Seas ‘Scenes from an Art Heist’ album artwork

On February 23, 2024, The Eighty Six Seas released their first 11-track full-length album, Scenes from an Art Heist. Each track on this album is meant to represent a fictionalized story of the paintings stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990.

The first track sets out an eerie aura that aligns with the track’s title, a dedication to Isabella Stewart Gardner. The next song is a quick switch up from the first, with flighty strings and a whispered voice from lead singer Nick Stevens.

Moving on to track number three, “Coffee and Art,” you’ll hear a faster-paced, nearly techno piece that feels like caffeine hitting your bloodstream for the first time in the morning. Their next song, “Jenny,” is a piano-led ballad spotlighting Steven’s melancholy voice. With “Lonely Afternoon,” the track transforms back into the techno feel of “Coffee and Art,” but with a darker twist.

The next song, “Cat/Mouse,” sounds exactly as you’d expect—like a tense cat-and-mouse standoff, with the music accenting this push-and-pull dynamic. “Hey Little Bird” is more or less an instrumental, with occasional lyrics included, but it is clearly meant to be the interlude.

Moving on, we arrive at a track called “The Day I Die,” a techno piece with a fabulous crescendo after its quiet beginnings. Following that, “The Eighty Six Seas” provides its track, “Portrait of a Smuggler,” which quite literally encapsulates the feeling you have while walking through a park on a sunny day.

Next, we come to “Ghost in the Cityscape,” which has darker undertones, a sorrowful cello, and a slower tempo. The final piece is titled “Frames,” which will remind you of a love letter saying goodbye or a beautiful lullaby. Overall, this album does exactly what it sets out to do in encapsulating a fictionalized version of a famous art heist. Well done, The Eighty Six Seas.

Scenes from an Art Heist Track Listing:

1. For Isabella, March 1990
2. Scenes from an Art Heist
3. Coffee and Art
4. Jenny
5. Lonely Afternoon
6. Cat / Mouse
7. Hey Little Bird
8. The Day I Die
9. Portrait of a Smuggler
10. Ghost in the Cityscape
11. Frames

Run Time:
Release Date: February 23, 2024
Record Label: Independent

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Album Review

Blind Channel – ‘Exit Emotions’ [Album Review]

While ‘Exit Emotions’ (Century Media Records) contains many of the tropes from the golden age of nu-metal, it still feels refreshing. Blind Channel continue to move from strength to strength.

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Blind Channel ‘Exit Emotions’ album artwork
Blind Channel ‘Exit Emotions’ album artwork

Cast your minds back to 2021; it was a dark time for humanity, with the entirety of the world still gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic, countries going in and out of lockdowns, and the entertainment industry being brought to its knees. Yet, in the midst of all of this, mankind fought on, with some events managing to take place. One of these was Eurovision, which has delivered, over the years, some incredible winners and given lesser-known artists global recognition. 2021 saw Måneskin take the crown, but on their heels was Finland’s own Blind Channel in sixth place with their song “Dark Side.”

The Finnish nu-metalers already had a handful of records to their name but it was Lifestyles of the Sick and Dangerous that contained their aforementioned Eurovision entry and made the world really sit up and take notice. With its mix of metal, hip-hop, synth and a touch of glam, it was a breath of fresh air from the European region better known for its output of, let’s say, the (much) heavier side of metal.

With Exit Emotions, Blind Channel now have their eyes focused on bigger things. Whilst they have broken through to the mainstream beyond their borders, it’s not enough for the six-piece, as they explore what it means to truly be on the global stage.

Exit Emotions kicks in hard with “Where’s the Exit,” with its distorted nu-metal beat laced with some techno elements followed swiftly by distorted vocals mixing rap and metal styles seamlessly. Dual vocalists Joel Hokka and Niko Moilanen bounce off each other in a symbiotic way, indicating how in tune with each other these guys can be. “Where’s the Exit” feels like it throws everything the band can portray at the wall from their varying influences, and while, on paper, a mix of metal, rock, hip hop, techno, and synth, if difficult to get right, Blind Channel nail it with absolute precision. Several songs on this record follow this formula, like “Deadzone,” “Wolves of California,” and “XOXO” (amongst others), and if the entirety of the record kept to this, whilst fun to listen to, it would run the risk of becoming samey. Thankfully, Blind Channel does mix things up throughout.

Blind Channel, photo by Christian Ripkens

Blind Channel, photo by Christian Ripkens

Keeping it Surreal” maintains a relatively heavy approach but dials it back a tad to give the hip-hop elements more of a chance to shine and deliver a more emotional element with the band, highlighting the surrealness of their current position. This is followed by the extra-emotional “Die Another Day.” The tune opens with a piano melody and slows the entire pace of the record, and moves into ballad territory. Hokka and Moilanen are accompanied by RØRY, ensuring the sensitive lyrics portrayed are emphasized to the max. Despite the relative negativity of the lyrics, the trio somehow makes this extra melancholy tune drive forward positive feelings.

Exit Emotions is a great follow-up to Lifestyles of the Sick and Dangerous, and although it contains many of the tried and tested tropes of what was delivered in the golden age of nu-metal, it still feels refreshing. The band has gone from strength to strength since their respectable placement at 2021’s Eurovision, which demonstrates they have lots more to offer than just their hit song “Dark Side.”

Read our interview with Joel Hokka and Niko Moilanen at last year’s Download 20.

Exit Emotions Track Listing:

1. Where’s the Exit
2. Deadzone
W3. olves of California
4. XOXO
5. Keeping it Surreal
6. Die Another Day
7. Phobia
8. Happy Doomsday
9. Red Tail Lights
10. Not You Bro
11. Flatline
12. One Last Time… Again

Run Time: 35:15
Release Date: March 1, 2024
Record Label: Century Media Records

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Album Review

The Western Civilization – ‘Fractions of a Whole’ [Album Review]

The Western Civilization delivers expressive vocals and a wealth of stylistic aromas with an existential richness on ‘Fractions of a Whole.’

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The Western Civilization ‘Fractions of a Whole’ album artwork
The Western Civilization ‘Fractions of a Whole’ album artwork

It was the Greek philosopher Aristotle who said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Applied to Texas-based indie-rock outfit The Western Civilization, the adage refers to the chemistry between Rachel Hansbro and Reggie O’Farrell, a chemistry on display in their recently released album, Fractions of a Whole.

Speaking about the album, Hansbro says, “The new songs were inspired by the amazing people who are part of my chosen family. Reggie has always been good at reminding me of the positive things. (He is) another voice saying, ‘Hey, it’s going to be okay.’”

Reggie O’Farrell and Rachel Hansbro first met while playing in separate bands. A friendship developed, resulting in two albums and performances at the Vans Warped Tour, SXSW, Halifax Pop Explosion, and, most importantly, an artistic alliance that survived a variety of obstacles.

Revolving around Hansbro and O’Farrell, The Western Civilization is a collaborative project with a rotating cast of musicians and collaborators who expose the actuality of Aristotle’s dictum.

The album opens with “Noctambulism,” a floating, folk-rock song with hints of Americana flowing through it. Driven by a sparkling piano topped by the voices of Hansbro and O’Farrell merging, the melody wafts and undulates like drifting clouds across the sky.

High points embrace “Bible Verses for Kids,” which reveals elusive Celtic flavors, a bit like The Cranberries. A rolling snare gives the rhythm a galloping motion as layered harmonies infuse the lyrics with choir-like textures verging on grandness.

A personal favorite because of Hansbro’s deliciously casual vocals, “Fool” resembles a child’s nursery rhyme reimagined as indie-rock – dreamy, drawling, almost discordant vocals riding over loose, garage rock harmonics. The imperfect, raggedy feel of the tune makes it wondrously genuine and gratifying.

Proselytism,” the closing track, travels on light, migrant surfaces as Hansbro’s soft, breathy vocals imbue the lyrics with subtle, eccentric whimsy, a kind of didactic reflection.

Expressive vocals, along with a wealth of stylistic aromas, invest Fractions of a Whole with an existential richness.

The Western Civilization in 2022, photo by Jack Potts

The Western Civilization in 2022, photo by Jack Potts

Fractions of a Whole Track Listing:

1. Noctambulism
2. Stitches (read our song review)
3. Bible Verses for Kids
4. She’s by the Sea
5. If You’re Lucky
6. Fool
7. My Mess
8. The Snake and The Saint
9. The Ocean’s on the Rise
10. Proselytism

Run Time: 42:18
Release Date: February 16, 2024
Record Label: Independent

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