One-Eyed Doll is an Austin-based band that restored my faith in music this week at the Saint on April 16. Part glam, part punk and a whole lotta guitar talent; One Eyed Doll has the power to make you want to be part of their tribe, and it’s happening all over the country. Out on a jaunt that takes them through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri and Oklahoma, this is a seasoned oddity that knows how to draw an audience out if its shell and down the aisles of salvation.
From her direct interaction with fans in the audience to her dexterity on guitar, Kimberly Freeman is a curious dark star. At around 5’2” and weighing 98 lbs, this diminutive powerhouse emits vocal tonality and riff expertise rivaling any of the big boys out there today. And while she might be small, she has a larger than life story of experiences that gives her music a rough and beautiful quality. From medical testing for cash to living in a van and playing guitar for gas money, she’s lived through it all.
One cool thing Freeman likes to do is direct the usual audience focus into a different direction, jumping off the stage and saying, “I have something to show you, come with me.” She then led the entire Saint crowd to the back of the room, where she got up on the bar and sang “a capella” to the throng in one of the most soul-baring displays of intimacy this old dog has seen in years. It’s a risky move to leave the band and redirect, but Freeman pulls it off without a hitch as noted by the emotive audience gasps and head shaking.
But the level of ass kickery portrayed by this band began a good 45 minutes before that emotional point in the night, starting with the very first blast from these Texas anomalies. This is three-piece rock the way it should be done. No nonsense, no noodling filler or precocious fidgeting. One Eyed Doll hits you right in the face with what I perceive to be a cross breeding of early Jane’s Addiction, Siouxsie and The Banshees, and The Breeders all balled up into one intense, leather-gloved punch. The band’s level of presence is high, and you have to watch them closely because they really make it look too god dammed easy.
Guitarist/vocalist Freeman stomps, back splits and high jumps around the small stage like she’s memorized its boundaries hours beforehand. And even while she’s rolling around on the floor or whipping her three-foot ponytail in vicious windmills, she never misses a note. Her guitar playing style is reminiscent of Dave Navarro and has earned her an endorsement from Tregan Guitars, a solid American company out of Chambersburg, PA. The background machinery of bassist PJ Evans, aka “Number Three,” and drummer Jason Rufuss Sewell, aka “Junior,” rumbles like clockwork as she breaks down in her performance cacophony on tunes like “Suicidal Serenade,” “Murder Ballad” or “Fight.”
The band’s new album Break is the fifth release by the Austin trio and shows sick levels of originality and drive, featuring 12 tracks of well-produced madness. One-Eyed Doll is definitely on the fast track to major success.
Like Trains And Taxis — Tales From A Revolving Door
Like Trains And Taxis splash the Eastern seaboard with their latest, Tales From A Revolving Door. The band allows their compositional magic to talk the talk when it comes to the fickle world of popular music, and their unique slant is putting them way out front of the pack.
Led by the charismatic Chris Harris, Like Trains and Taxis have always had a complex story to tell, as can be heard in their two previous releases. But Tales From A Revolving Door is a departure that moves them into full-length territory, giving the band a continuity that until now has been limited by short EPs.
Harris’ skill of blending lyrics, melodies and dissonant chord voicings is a true gift, and it mixes well with the skin-tight rhythm intuition of Owen Susman and Mike Del Priore, creating an irresistible three-piece blend that sits on the outer ledge of jazz and ultra chic alternative pop. Their sound is imaginative and difficult to pin down. Influential culprits like Sade, Coldplay, Wilco, Band Of Horses, Aaron Neville and Steely Dan all surface to blow air before swirling down into the deep blue lounge melancholia that is the soul of this band.
“Bullet In The Brain” features chimed down, off kilter music box tones that step that waterfall down before coming out into the funk injected verse and U2-meets-A-Ha bridges. Harris and crew set up the lush chorus perfectly. On disc, the pianos are overdubbed tastefully, cascading over beats as Chris rides into the feel of this song with an experienced storyteller vibe.
Title track “Crooks” shows Del Priore and Susman in laid back cool funk aka Walter Becker and Jeff Porcaro with Harris laying it out smooth over the top. No one is in a hurry here as they bounce on this soul tinged pop track. This is a smart focus for airplay. The verse pulses to warm analog pianos while the chorus grabs you and pulls you right into the deep dark dirt of the lyrics.
“Charlie” is probably my favorite cut on the disc with its double tapped upbeat Stevie Wonder-meets-Carole King feel. Verses pop and sizzle on this track, giving Owen and Mike showcase time to set this up their way. By the time the chorus hits, its been built so well that there’s nothing to do but let it crash into the band’s velvety Phil Spector wall. The lush background “oohs” and “ahs” are an integral hook in this gem, bringing back ‘70s memories of The Carpenters.
“Emily” is another favored track here. Harris demonstrates his piano blues with an indelible vagabond feeling. Lyrical revelations of disappointment slide from an anguished chorus into the downer-fueled bridge. You can almost picture the band in some small club in New York City playing to the dim, smoky windowed life going by on the streets as you sip your bourbon, exhaling blue plumes into the despair.
“Day Wrecker” is another winner. Bryan Ferry and Chicago come to mind, and this song shows cool muscle and class. This band comes up with the coolest arrangements and soundscaped colors, and the outcome is both memorable and specific. You don’t really hear this anywhere else and it’s only the three of them. One of the more upbeat tracks on the disc, it twists and turns through soul, pop and ‘70s era prog rock quite well on its strange ride.
This is a band that you really can’t put a label on, and that’s what this is all about. The amount of people that I’ve seen at their shows tells me that they are becoming an important and vital addition to our music scene here in New Jersey and the rest of the world. The new CD is available everywhere including iTunes and the band’s home site. If you get a chance to see this band live, do yourself a favor and go check them out. You won’t regret it for a second.