Review Thread

Re: Weekly Release

The Taj Motel Trio - Life of the Party


2. Once Again
3. Jenny's Song
4. My Girl
5. Life of the Party
6. Kick Her to the Curb
7. King of Wasted Time
8. Mr. Perfect
9. The Happy Song
10. Be Myself
11. Woo!!!
12. She's Mad
13. Purple 15
14. Rock Star

It's no understatement to say that it's not everyday you stumble across a band with that particular sound that any music fan craves, as well as a specific knack for crafting song after song that you can't help but sing along to, but The Taj Motel Trio break down the barriers of those requests with a sound of their own, and the end result is fantastic. Hailing from Georgia, the band released their sophmore effort, Life of the Party, in 2003 via Metal Skunk records, and have been touring in support of it ever since. However, with such a lack of promotion and buzz behind the album, it proves to be somewhat of a challenge to formulate high expectations before endulging yourselves in this product, but I assure you such expectations would not sit out of place. Life of the Party is fast, fun, and contains more memorable moments than any listener could ask for.

The record opens itself with "TTMT", which stands as a short acronym for the bands name. The track itself could be accurately described as an "insane, ska-punk frenzy", as the bands power, speed, and skill are mesmerizing. The energy in the opening track alone, which is complemented nicely by the bands four-piece horn section, is unmatched, and creates for an exciting thrill-ride from start to finish. Following the kickoff comes "Once Again", a song that follows in the bands same successful formula, but offers enough infectious hooks to attract the listener once more. The track opens with a hint of punk-rock flavour, before sailing perfectly into the bands signature, third-wave ska sound. Lead vocalist/guitarist Ben Sander's voice is raw, yet manages to retain the heart-pounding energy that so many vocalists often lack within this particular genre. On the fourth track, the band throws their own unique spin on The Temptations classic "My Girl". Although particular lyrics, including "I've got so much honey, the bees envy me", sound slightly out of place amongst the rest of the bands fist-pumping anthems, the band manages to successfully make the track their own, and best of all, they do it with ease. Additionally, it's nice to take a breather here and there as the band performs at a slightly slower tempo than we've grown used to at this point. However, on the title track "Life of the Party", the bands speed is back full-throttle, and although it only runs for just over a minute, it creates for a fairly exciting experience courtesy of the groups mesmerizing instrumentation.

Moving forwards, "King of Wasted Time", is without a doubt one of the most impressive listens you'll come across here. From the opening upstrokes, to the chaotic horn arrangement, to the powerful, sing-along chorus, everything about the track is performed perfectly and will be much appreciated by any fan. On the other hand, on "The Happy Song", we see the band embark slightly out of their usual territory onto possibly even more exhilarating ground. To be quite honest, the track is quite reminiscent of Reel Big Fish's Turn The Radio Off era, and wouldn't sound out of place during the records running time in the slightest. The song opens with a radio-quality intro before gradually transforming into the flawless sound the band has created, thus making the track an instant classic. Following "The Happy Song" comes "Be Myself", which although doesn't manage to unlock a new domain, still amounts to be listed as a personal favourite of mine when all is said and done. Lyrically, the track is descriptive of the way a specific gentleman acts while in the company of his significant other. Now, before moving onto a quick play-by-play of the next track, you've got to ask yourself a question. What would you expect from a track with a title that is only three letters long, what appears to be the sound one makes when they're excited, and followed by three exclamation points? If you didn't answer with a jaunty, ska-punk anthem, then i'm not exactly sure why you've read this far. But, for those of you who responded appropriately, you'll be happy to know that that's exactly what you'll recieve. Although the track isn't about WWE superstar Ric Flair (which is sort of misleading due to its name), it's not a letdown in the slightest. The energy is consistent, and the bands same formula is intact. However, on the records twelfth track, "She's Mad", I believe these musicians have finally risen to the challenge and found their time to shine. It's evident from the explosive horn intro alone that this is not an offering to skip over, and in reality, a gem that is waiting to be explored. To close off the record we reach "Purple 15" and "Rock Star", which will not only have you singing along, but clapping your hands, dancing around like a maniac, and waving your arms, as well, all the while bringing this release to a fantastic, accomplished finish.

In conclusion, while some tracks on Life of the Party are considerably shorter than most listeners would prefer, each track manages to offer something everyone can enjoy, and I applaud the band for their marvelous, successful efforts. The Taj Motel Trio have created an album packed from beginning to end with fan-favourites, and enough infectious energy to keep any listener raving for months to come. Each member of the band consistently shines at all given opportunities, and it's safe to say that these musicians have quite the futures before them. Additionally, and on a closing note, I'd like to quickly draw attention once more to the bands eruptive horn section, which without a doubt contains some of the most well-playing musicians I have ever come across. I'm undoubtedly excited to hear what the band will do next, but I assure you that if it gives me a feeling anywhere close to the one Life of the Party did, I'll find myself in awe once more.


1. Before I Die
2. Bwomp
3. Solitaire/Unraveling
4. These Filthy Hands
5. Never Let It Go
6. Xeroxed
7. The Wrist
8. Chancre Sore
9. The New Cult King
10. Empty Spaces
11. Born of Desire
12. 43
13. Fear Held Dear
14. Too Much Nothing
15. Episode 29
16-42. Silence
43. Secret Hidden Track (features another version of Bwomp)

Mushroomhead made their first major label debut with XX on Universal records in 2001. The eight piece band is well known for combing a mix of industrial metal, nu-metal, thrash metal, alternative rock, progressive rock, and hip-hop into songs that are dynamic in atmosphere and as original as the band members themselves. Compared to fellow nu-metal veterans Slipknot due to their use of over 7 members in a band and everyone wearing masks to hide their identity (except the vocalists, who wear make-up instead), it was actually Mushroomhead who originally came up with the idea of the masks, not Slipknot. Mushroomhead, before making it big, was a major local band in their beloved state of Ohio and had already gained a rep as a very mysterious band. With the release of XX, Mushroomhead compelled 16 different songs together of what best described their past work in self production in Ohio. The band has since carved a new path for themselves with the release of XIII, making more epical and progressive music.

Before I Die kicks off the album with some heavy thrash influenced riffs and industrial drum work. The song is then dominated by clean vocalist Jeffery Nothing and harsh vocalist J Mann dueting together in an aura of rap growls, nasal singing, and punk inspired singing. The song also immediately shows Mushroomhead�s use of keyboards in their backdrop, creating a very unique atmosphere for the band. Mushroomhead's famous song (probably for it�s ridiculous title), Bwomp, is next on the album. After some eerie and haunting ambiance and dark vocal chants, the song goes into a heavy industrial riff that sounds like it was taken right out of a night club. J Mann takes on rapping in the back ground before bursting into vicious screaming. Jeffery Nothing then takes spot light, singing over some heavily distorted riffs, only to lead the song into an apocalyptic riff that later shows why the song is Mushroomhead's most popular. J Mann then does some non growling rap singing before the song breaks back into heavy chugging riffs. The song does get a little redundant when Jeffery Nothing keeps repeating the lines �Separate the users from the whores!". The apocalyptic riffs are what stand out most on the track.

The nest song is Solitaire Unraveling, which has some soft synths and ambiance to start it off, only to break into a quick riff and then some up front vocal dueting. The song is a good representation of Mushroomhead�s nu-metal side, with a lot of nasal singing, rapping, and heavy riffage only during the chorus. These Filthy Hands begins with riffs fueled with keyboard backdrop, which is one of the things Mushroomhead does so unique. The song is much like the last vocally, but Jeffery Nothing�s singing is significantly better, and J Mann does more growling then flat out rapping. The song has aver dynamic and apocalyptic feel to if, and thus making it one of Mushroomhead's better songs (and the song that inspired them to name their record label Filthy Hands Records). Never Let It Go is a song very much like the track Nowhere To Go from XIII. The song begins with some very presentful, heavy guitar riffs and keyboard backdrop . Jeffery Nothing delivers a very god performance on the song, and J Mann�s backup singing helps make the song all the more presentful. The singers then go into a psychotic number, fueled with speed and rap growling only to return to the slower riffs again. The only downside to the track is the slow ending, in which the music plays, then gets cut off, then continues after about 5 seconds each.

Xeroxed is 3 minute death metal (yes, I said DEATH METAL) attack. J Mann dominates the entire track with some brutal vocals amongst the heavy riffs and crushing atmospheres. The song is actually well done, but doesn�t fit as a Mushroomhead track. The Wrist is a personal favorite of mine, with some beautiful piano chords followed by J Mann doing some background rapping. The song then hits some chugging riffs and Jeffery Nothing with his unique style of singing. The song not only has some good lyrics, but the vocal performance by both singers is exceptionally well. By far one of the biggest stand outs on the album. Chancre Sore is another short, apocalyptic number, with some heavy chugging riffs, fast taps at the keyboard, and some dense atmospheres. The song is brought down a bit by the lyrics, but the vocals on the track make up with their perfect contribution of psychotic fury.

The New Cult King is another powerful keyboard based track, but also has a very powerful bass line. Also, Jeffery Nothing�s vocals are noticeably a lot different sounding on this track (no nasal in his voice). The song is very atmospheric and dynamic and stands out well on this album. One of Mushroomhead�s best performances. Empty Spaces is more or less a filler track with some powerful, sweeping guitar riffs, guitar solos, atmospheric keyboard riffs, and dark ambiance. The song does contain some backdrop vocals nearing the end, however, but are nothing strong enough to mention any further. Born Of Desire is another snappy riffage aura keyboard ambiance, dominant bass grooves, and heavy guitar riffs through out. The song has a very strong apocalyptic atmosphere (as do most of these songs by this point). The song is considerably another stand out track on the album.

The next track is 43, which is a very industrial sounding track. The vocals play along well with the dark �jump and stop� riffs throughout the song. The chorus then goes into a very alternative rock style sound. The vocals on the track though, are rather annoying, and the lyrics are also rather poorly written (and some of the only lyrics by Mushroomhead with a lot of swearing in it). Fear Held Dear begins with a dark keyboard intro that goes into an industrial sounding drum line and dueting, rap like vocals. J Mann then leads the song into some heavy chugging riffs, which eventually fade back into the keyboard riffs. Not one of Mushroomhead�s better tracks, but a good, solid track overall. Too Much Nothing is another apocalyptic song mixed with rap vocals and jazzy guitar work following it�s drum roll intro. The song sounds a bit like what Mushroomhead would be if they mixed hair metal into their sound, which doesn�t have a good click to it.

Episode 29 is another filler track, with some heavy guitar riffs and atmospheric keyboard back drops. No vocals, aside form some screaming in the background mixed with the vicious thrash riffs. After several silent tracks, the album ends with track 43, which is a remix of the song Bwomp. There is absolutely no difference between this version of the song compared to the other song, except the attachment of ambiance after 6 minutes and 30 seconds that leads into an ambient hip hop song that sounds both dark and catchy. The end of this �remix� is good ending to the album, but could of been better without the song Bwomp to start it off. The album overall has a strong atmosphere and should not be overlooked by any fans of nu-metal, industrial metal, or even thrash metal and alternative rock.

-- Amazing atmospheres and musical dominance.
-- Some very catchy songs that will probably get stuck in the listeners head for awhile.
-- Very original and productive.
-- Amazing keyboard elements.

-- Some of the vocals get annoying.
-- A lot of the lyrics are rather redundant.
-- The production is rather poor on this album.

Track Listing
1. Before I Die (4/5)
2. Bwomp (5/5)
3. Solitaire Unraveling (4/5)
4. These Filthy Hands (4.5/5)
5. Never Let It Go (4.5/5)
6. Xeroxed (4.5/5)
7. The Wrist (5/5)
8. Chancre Sore (4/5)
9. The New Cult King (4.5/5)
10. Empty Spaces (3.5/5)
11. Born Of Desire (4/5)
12. 43 (3.5/5)
13. Fear Held Dear (3.5/5)
14. Too Much Nothing (4/5)
15. Episode 29 (4/5)
16-42. *silence*
43. Bwomp (Remix) (4.5/5)