June Divided – Backbone

June Divided are a band of humble origins. They are the first ones to tell you that they didn’t get involved in music to do “the rock star thing.” Interestingly enough, Melissa Menago and Chris Kissel met in school and turned to writing music as a way to stay sane during the post-college job hunt. Along the way, they found drummer Keith Gill on Craigslist and set the wheels of their future in motion.

From that point on, everything just seemed to move into hyper-drive. They hooked up with manager (and sometimes bass player) Lenny Sasso, released the highly acclaimed EP, The Other Side Of You, and proceeded to blaze through a series of heavy duty highlights. Some of their appearances include a spot on the coveted SXSW festival, a Warped Tour placement, performing on Viacom’s college aimed MTV U, and a slot on Philadelphia’s NBC 10.

The band’s sophomore release, Backbone, was produced by Alec Henninger (Aristo, The Killing Floor, and Hierosonic). This is a record that rolls across the mind with vacuum-tight continuity and intelligence, enveloping the listener with soundscapes of original interpretations and sonic power. Henninger, who worked on the first CD, once again gives this band free rein to explore their subject matter while providing an immense recorded feel and presence. I took a deeper dive into the CD and came up with a few interesting thoughts along the way.

The disc starts off with “Waves,” an eerie, plucked salvo of guitar dissonance courtesy of Chris Kissel. The band surges quickly as Gill drives the rhythmic nail home and into the intro. The thing I love about Melissa’s voice is that she never goes for typical melodies. She may be small in stature, but Menago is no lightweight when it comes to her craft. Her powerful voice moves through the full range of options as she reaches down deep for the tone that she uses. Think about singers such as Cassadee Pope (Hey Monday), Jenna McDougall (Tonight Alive), and Hayley Williams (Paramore), and she would fit comfortably into that A-list niche with no problem whatsoever.

“The Way We Started Out” crunches out of the speakers as the band pings dynamic hits and echoed guitar embellishments across the spectrum. Menago quickly falls into the job of pulling the song into its powerful chorus, dropping down into the end tag, ushering in the song title before smashing back into rhythm heavy shards of verse and bridge. It should be pointed out that Melissa is also no guitar slouch as she faces off with Kissel, showering power chords down all over his open chord, harmonic style.

“Secrets” jumps out of the gate with progressive, double-timed intensity before pausing to momentarily free fall, and then stabbing back into the forceful context of the verse. Choruses hammer full throttle as Melissa’s vocals fly high above the band. Gill is an important part of this band and his drumming style anchors and pushes the band like very few else can.

June Divided brings it down a notch on “Reset.” Acoustic guitars duel with Menago’s intimate whisper as shimmering electrics dart in and out of the mix, sprinkling multiple lines of analog phrasing into spaces left by the rhythm section. Harmonies are seamless and the song jumps just far enough out of the typical ballad zone to become a hybrid hit. Once again, it’s a true pleasure to listen to the choices made by Melissa as she planes into unchartered banks of melodic direction.

Title-track “Backbone” clicks off and kicks in quickly. JD gets right to the point with an infectious guitar riff intro before backing off and hunkering down into a chugged out verse. Menago’s coy, powerhouse vocals lure you in while drums and bass build into a blitzkrieg stomp. Electric guitars launch Menago’s mega catchy chorus into the eye of this perfect storm. “Backbone” is a major contender for label gold and a radio-friendly composition that will take June Divided far up the rock and roll ladder of success.

“Skin And Bones” spills fleshed out, reverb clean chords and harmonic guitar static before ripping into a savage vamp that surges under the controlled passion of Menago’s plaintive soprano. The middle eight pulses with harmonic guitar cacophony between bombastic drums and bass, escalating into a power build before Melissa centers the tune with intimate lyrical portrayals, disintegrating before the band swings back into their wall of sound outro. This is another great example of intelligent composition. The band uses a traditional structure as a guideline to stretch as far outside the lines as possible. It’s a sublime and irresistible song.

“Wreck” starts off with a sensory overload before backing off to refocus the verse. The guitar work on this is an irrepressible force. Kissel and Menago cycle around, alternating between chimey, echo-drenched lines and hailstorms of pentatonic fury. Influential ghosts of old school U2 and Thrice rise to the tumultuous surface as June Divided spins a strong web of aesthetic excellence. Once again, they throw their addictive, trademark chorus curves into the mix, locking musical puzzle pieces in a tight, arabesque pattern that you can’t stop listening to. The imaginative choices make “Wreck” the perfect sonic song to end the disc with. While it may seem a bit long, when this epic piece finally fades into its distortion fueled chatter at 8:20, you know the band has left the building.

In a world of so many groups fighting for the brass ring, June Divided are a band I love to champion. They are an extremely talented young group that has accomplished more in two years than most bands capture in a lifetime. They are the true example that doing what you love is so much more important than doing what you think is going to make you famous.

June Divided will be appearing at the Dewey Beach Music Festival on Friday, Sept. 21, at the Rusty Rudder (113 Dickinson St., Dewey Beach, DE). For more information, go to junedivided.com

Bebe Buell – Going Down To The Crossroads

Bebe Buell is a musical stylist that has left an indelible mark on the rock and roll world. From her early days recording with The Cars (they were her backup band on her first release) and touring alongside the Ramones, to her current role as lead singer in the Bebe Buell Band, she’s a survivor that continues to sidestep the pitfalls of the entertainment industry.

Buell recently filmed and released her blockbuster video for “Devil You Know,” which is from the album Hard Love. The record was recorded in Edison, NJ and features several outstanding tracks that are sure to be radio gold. Her studio and live band is a veritable who’s who and features players such as Pete Marshall (Iggy Pop, Samhain), Bob Pantella (Monster Magnet), Jimmy Walls (Das Damen, DGeneration) Keith Roth (Frankenstein 3000) and Zac Lasher (U-Melt)

The band has completed work on a track for the upcoming box set tribute for ‘60s legendary act, The Seeds. Her cut is the time honored and seminal hit, “Pushin’ Too Hard.” In addition, Buell was recently flown to Nashville to sing on a tribute album for country legend Eddy Arnold, recorded at the legendary RCA Studio B.

Bebe Buell continues her foray into the Garden State with a show on Sept. 22 at The Crossroads in Garwood, NJ. For more information on the Bebe Buell Band, her latest music and video, visit bebebuell.org. To get more details on the show, check out The Crossroads at xxroads.com.

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