Sunday, May 28, 2006

DAMONE: Rockers, who -- Like Nixon -- went to China and were impeached

Damone, a four-piece hard-rocking pop band from Boston, have made all the mistakes that destroy hard rock careers. In 2003 and signed to RCA, they let the label run a tab on them. By running a tab, I mean it appeared that more money was spent than the usual excess in featherbedding the jobs of people whose task it was to develop the act in practical ways.

For instance, astonishingly, the band publicized a club tour of China. If you were from Boston and were on your first record with a major label, you'd want them to mount up an international logistical caravan and take you to three dives in Red China first, right? Certainly!! Why doesn't everyone think of that!

Second, they were saddled with one of the Lord-Alges as a "mixer." For those who don't already know my tastes, here the royal surname (belonging to brothers Tom, Chris or whomever) is a synonym for "eject." Every debut record I've had in the last half decade or so with the name "Lord-Alge" somewhere in the credits as pinch-hitter(s) on mixes has been deadly, one to toss after a couple listens. The Lord-Alges are supposed to be magic men. Tell it to the bands (Damone, Tsar, Other Star People, et al) whose debut's have them in the liner notes and who find that the only thing that's good for after the recording is spoiled is a cheap line in the promotional biography. The money gets spent, money that would have been better used paying for extra meals, equipment, lodging, a truckload of TastyKakes, booze, a small pig farm as a hedge or investment, anything (!).

Damone's In the Attic from 2003 was almost instantly impeached. (Used copies are selling for $0.95 on Amazon.) It was supposed to be memorably poppy and rock hard and failed at both. A Lord-Alge did make it sonically lightweight. And as teen pop, it wasn't as good as Skye Sweetnam or Hope Partlow, two artists who, in the intervening years, haven't done well, either.

So after In The Attic flopped, the pros managing Damone insure that three years elapsed before another record emerged from a different label, Island. And then the new label issues a preliminary EP with the same title as the finished LP. Great!

Nevertheless, Out Here All Night has arrived and the band back from hiatus. In the acrimony that must have followed the failure of In the Attic, a guitarist/main songwriter was fired or left and now the band sounds more muscled, determined to show someone they're guitar-rockers with a solid frontgirl, Noelle.

The new compensation is furnished by some double-bass drum work and layers of fast, chugging guitar riffs. "Now Is the Time" starts the album off with a grand arena-rock gesture. It doesn't stink, paving the way for the power metal title track. Damone have adopted batwings, shades and ugly brick walls to convey the visual image they're now semi-dirty, on the street and tough.

Fair enough, it works. You can listen to their songs alongside any commercial groups from the dedicated metal label, Napalm. (Naio Ssaion comes to mind, another act you haven't heard of -- a girl-led Euro hard rock group marketed as Goth-lite.)

Out Here All Night's best tunes come next, however. "What We Came Here For" is strutting rock and roll, "Stabbed In the Heart," a corny tear-jerker for someone, like me, who likes corny tear-jerkers, and "On Your Speakers" -- the finest of all, putting the group's "worn-out sneakers" on for going outside to have some fun hook-laden riffola. "Tonight" is the last tune that sticks, a song straight from the Joan Jett playbook.

Damone is still over-produced for the rock 'n' roll it's making but the CD still bats a little over .500 for the duration.

And my original review of "In the Attic:"

(Village Voice, 2003, abridged) Also fresh from the nine-buck bin [Out Here All Night is a nine USD squeeze-play, too] is Damone's From the Attic. RCA's stab at a heavy cover—oh, look at the Marshall stack—starts it off on the wrong foot. One expects brutal explosion, but what one gets is Noelle, a 17-year-old whose weaknesses include not being able to sing and a lack of gracious reticence in public. "One time in my eighth grade science class, I fell asleep and my own fart woke me up," she reveals in promo nose-gold.

The vocals are fixed with multi-layering, but it's hard to squeegee much more from Noelle's wet-carwash-girl-at-the-carwash shtick. The troublesome Lord-Alge is at work, too, adding liters of studio helium to an effort already light on muscle. "At the Mall"—brrrr—is one brief hit: almost like the Sweet, because the guys stop slacking off.

Read the original.


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