Thursday, June 14, 2007

I wanna sleep right through the summer.

Artist: Kleveland
Album: Kleveland
Label: Unsigned
Release Date: 2006

A lot of female-fronted punk these days is highly polished and glamorized, monopolized by bands like The Sounds. Not Kleveland. This Oregon-based band is raw, dirty, and straight up punk, and it's wonderfully refreshing.

Singer Stephanie Smith has a voice reminiscent of Sahara Hotnights' Maria Andersson, while the style of the music is much more like '80s punk - The Clash, Sex Pistols, etc. Add the attitude of The Donnas, and you've got Kleveland.

Starting off with the driving "Jonny Is A Klepto," (Ramones much?) the album easily hooks in anyone with a passing interest in punk. This song sets the precedent for the rest of the album: fast songs overlaid with energetic vocals from Smith. There is some background harmonizing, but for the most part, Smith powers through the songs on her own. While the production leaves a lot ot be desired, particularly on the drums, the songs themselves are rough enough to let that slide.

Songs like "ESP" and "Sleep At Night" will get fans out of their seats and dancing in no time. There are also a number of slightly slower songs, like "Cursed" and "King Of The Drama Queens," but even these songs are nowhere near ballads, and all are worthy of a shake of the hips. The album's final track, "No Heart, Go Heart" is the closest to a ballad, bordering on pop-rock rather than punk. While the music isn't as fun to listen to in this slowed format, Smith's voice is stellar on this track and makes it an enjoyable closer.

A lot of the tracks in the middle of the album tend to blend together due to the lack of a great number of hooks. However, upon further inspection, each song has its own personality and intrigue.

Kleveland would have done really well in the early '90s, as their influences clearly draw on bands like Cheap Trick and The Pretenders. While this makes me like them a lot, it also worries me that people might write them off as a bit of a throwback band. While Kleveland isn't doing anything groundbreaking, they're still making good organic punk rock. And what's not to love about that?

01. Jonny Is A Klepto *
02. Summer Fun
03. ESP
04. King Of The Drama Queens
05. I Got A Date *
06. Room In Your Name
07. Flat Tax
08. Cursed
09. Pills
10. Be Prepared To Stop
11. If Your Friends
12. Sleep At Night
13. No Heart, Go Heart *

* - standout tracks

For fans of: Blondie, The Donnas, Hole.

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