When you listen to Michael Janus, the first thing you notice is his abundance of progressive ideas. His wide-open sound brings forth the particle charged imagery of Chris Isaak and the Moody Blues frontman Justin Hayward. Wrought Iron Soul solidifies Michael’s winding stroll through life’s claustrophobic bramble and the expansive rose spattered gardens that celebrate our best victories.
Janus builds his musical fortress with purpose and pre-meditated design. No beam has gone unsecured in his solid construction of Wrought Iron Soul. Mixing the lazy, summer day feel of America with the mystical musings of the performers mentioned above, Janus takes his fans on a round trip of melancholy, sunshine daydreams.
Michael’s eight-song production is a smooth drive through the mind of a writer who has a good handle on his musical GPS. Perfectly placed instrumentation never gets in the way of the lyrical theme and his voice rides each piece above the compositional curl of their rolling movements. Janus makes good use of dynamics and the overall quality here is lush without being too saccharine.
“The Girl With Sunshine In Her Eyes” rolls off the disc like a waterwheel turning slowly on a creek. Rambling, fluid and rhythmically soft, the song utilizes raw and empathetic vocals to rotate it into the deep and clear lyrical direction of Janus’ mind. Harmonicas are melodic and simple, a great change from the dirty, blues bleating blasts that are famous on the shore. Electric guitars gurgle up warm and subdued, ringing out pounds of feel from the single chord strums.
“End Of Summer” is a minor chorded look at the end of the golden days of the season and disillusioned look into the future. Once again, I love the way harp is utilized here. Janus uses a call and response method, moving around the trumpet player within the songs mourning dove feel. This well thought out song is what I consider the disc’s standout piece.
“How’s The Weather” uses acoustic guitar melodies to set up the tune. Steady and simple, the hook is set before you realize what is going on. The chorus comes on strong but seems to lose steam as it continues its repetitive and lengthy existence. Melodic choices could be the culprit here. The verse straightens everything into concise structure and it goes quite well until the melodically short chorus hits again. It may also be the juxtaposition of the minor chorded bliss of “End Of Summer” and this song. A small complaint that could be rectified with a song order change.
Janus is back on track with the quickened pace of “She Likes To Sing.” Horn arrangements are unrestrained, reminding me of ‘80s kingpin Phil Collins and his big band. Guitar upstrokes are dagger sharp and accentuate the lyrics quite well. Janus is in great, melodic form here as chorus-tinged guitars flow around and under the current of organs. Once again, Janus shows us that he has the ability to affect the minds interpretative mechanism for celebrating life.
“Chrome Poem” has a genuine, psychedelic vibe that is hard to top. Spoken word wizardry spills down the rabbit hole of magical mayhem as bongos report sharply and guitars pluck mixolydian scales of trance-like passage. The rhythm spirals into a galloping gait of determined finality as Janus wails away like a reverb-splashed banshee.
“Brilliant Girl” pulls the dynamic trigger, utilizing percussion and acoustic guitar pads to accompany Janus’ atmospheric vocal. “Brilliant Girl” uses simple theme and melodic tipsiness to work itself into a middle eight melee of spoken code. Poetry and expression are the rule of the day here and Janus does a good job of drawing you into his journey.
“Once Upon A Time” closes the disc and is probably the most memorable cut after “End Of Summer.” Janus chooses to end this dark, atmospheric record with his most upbeat of numbers. Acoustic guitars set up the vocals with their three-chord cycle. Drums remain rhythmically sporadic, shooting in for effect and staying out of the song’s path until the second verse, where they come in to remain until the end of the song. Cymbals splash brightly as Janus bashes away at acoustic guitars, creating a melodic foundation that builds with intensity.
Michael Janus demonstrates his best interpretations of storytelling and poetic prose on Wrought Iron Soul. In a format where he could have easily filled each track with instrumentation filler, he has chosen the stark and simplistic approach of keeping his message crystal clear.
Wrought Iron Soul is not a pop record. It does not follow a pre-determined formula for making hits and, as is usually the case with original music, runs the risk of the masses not getting the meaning of its overall message. But then again, many famous performers have gone that very same route and succeeded. Janus has the talent and style to push musical mountains and Wrought Iron Soul just might be the metal he needs to move them. For more on Michael Janus and his latest record, go to reverbnation.com/michaeljanus.
Spacehog Appears At The Brighton Bar On Saturday, May 12
Ever since their early ‘90s formation, Spacehog has always brought something different to the table. Their East Village shows were infamous and they stood far apart from the neo-grunge movement of the day. Spacehog’s 1995 CD, Resident Alien, sold millions and their inventive image was a resurgence of the best of glam meets punk. Idols such as Iggy Pop, David Bowie, and T. Rex brought this colorful rock band to life. Combining influential elements with sheer walls of distorted guitars created the band’s unique perspective.
The group’s 1998 release, The Chinese Album, also fared well on the charts, featuring symphonic sound that was more akin to the British Invasion of the psychedelic ‘60s. Spacehog made a third record on Artemis Records before struggling into the new decade and the changes that came. After the tragic events of 9/11, the band called it quits, succumbing to everyday pressures, responsibilities and the general difficulty of life’s trappings.
It has been roughly 10 years and now Spacehog is back in action. As with most bands that go away and manage to come back, a completely different level of maturity and clarity comes with that reformation. Part of that clarity meant going back to Bryce Groggin to create their brand new disc, As It Is On Earth.
Spacehog will be appearing at The Brighton Bar on May 12. The lineup is one of the week’s most interesting and will include performances from bands such as Frankenstein 3000, Tango Machina and Mars Needs Women.
FS3K just released their brand new CD, Allerton Avenue, a raucous romp around the inner city soul of rock and roll. Tickets for the event are available at the Brighton Bar or through individual band outlets. The Brighton Bar is located on 121 Brighton Avenue in Long Branch, NJ. Doors are at 8 p.m. and cost is $9 in advance, $12 at the door. For more information, head over to brightonbar.com.