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TonyDoug's CD Reviews

by tonydoug wright

High School Speeding, Hot Girls in Love EP (Self-Released, 2004)

THE BAND: Michael McDonald, Joey Cross and Jason Howard

THE HISTORY: High School Speeding was formed in Tennessee but later relocated to North Carolina. The Hot Girls In Love EP is the first release from High School Speeding.

THE REVIEW: Seven years ago, I attended a Guided By Voices pre-show party at a Newport, Kentucky motel. There was a fairly large sized group of fans from the Postal Blowfish mailing list and I meet up with some familiar faces and some not so familiar faces. One of the familiar faces was Michael McDonald, the lead singer of High School Speeding, who I had met at a Guided By Voices pre-show party in Cleveland the year before. Michael had an acoustic guitar with him so he did an impromptu performance of High School Speeding material. I really enjoyed the music especially 'Even Steven', which was stuck in my head for weeks. I had to get my hands on a recording of 'Even Steven' so Joey Cross, the band's bass player, mailed me a tape of High School Speeding demos that also included a live show. I was soon hooked and addicted to a four-piece rock band from Tennessee.

A year following the Kentucky pre-show party, I was invited to attend a gathering of Guided By Voices fans in Johnson City, Tennessee which was at the time the home-base of High School Speeding. We were supposed to meet up at a local club and a few of the attendees were to perform original tunes and covers. High School Speeding was on the bill and their set was fantastic mix of original material with a couple of Pavement and Velvet Underground covers.

I eventually lost touch with the band but in December of 2004 I was able to contact Joey Cross about High School Speeding. He informed me that they had relocated to North Carolina and they had recorded an EP. I took the opportunity to purchase a copy of their Hot Girls In Love EP so that I could spread the word on High School Speeding.

The Hot Girls in Love EP captures the energy and greatness of High School Speeding. This EP is an impressive debut collection of rock anthems ('You Say That Now' and 'Ex Tradition) and acoustic driven ballads ('Pony' and 'Christmas Party'). And I want you to know that when I say "acoustic driven ballads" I do not mean an ultra-sappy ballad like 'Carrie' by Europe or 'Heaven' by Warrant. We're talking quality stuff here, folks. High School Speeding is one of those bands that is not concerned about "indie cool" or being the next great "modern rock radio hit" because they are more interested in delivering a great rock song.

WEBSITE: www.highschoolspeeding.com

North Elementary, Lose Your Favorite Things (Sit-n-Spin Records, 2004)

THE BAND: John Harrison, J.W. Jaquiss, Margaret White, C. Smoak, Chris Bowman, and T. Stone.

THE HISTORY: John Harrison, founding member of The Comas, formed the Chapel Hill based North Elementary. He then added Margaret White (The Comas, Belle and Sebastian and Sparklehorse), C. Smoak and J.W. Jaquiss (Evening Pines) to the North Elementary mix which led to the 2002 release of Out of Phase (Sit-N-Spin Records). The band later added T. Stone and Chris Bowman. Lose Your Favorite Things (Sit-N-Spin Records) was released in 2004.

THE REVIEW: As a reviewer, I take time to listen to every CD that is sent to me for review. There are a few CDs that immediately catches my attention and I eventually find myself singing along to various tracks. But sometimes there are those CDs that irritate me at first but after a week of heavy rotation there is a song that changes my opinion and it kills the irritation. This is what happened to me when I reviewed Lose Your Favorite Things by North Elementary.

I was unimpressed when I first listened to Lose Your Favorite Things. Something was "off" for me when I listened to the CD and I could not figure out what it was. I knew that if I was going to review the album I had to listen to it again and again. So I prepared myself for another spin, with expectations of more disappointment and a possible headache. But something caught my attention during that second listen. After listening to the album five times I noticed that a few tracks were really good. You're a fine wine, North Elementary. I wanted to spit you out at first but it kept getting better with every sip.

Lose Your Favorite Things sets out to explore the indie rock universe by making stops at the following places: Planet Harmony ('Nothing in a Way' and 'Chemicals'), The Third Moon of the Angry Distorted Guitar ('Lazy, Daisy'), Planet Slacker Pop ('Heartbreakin' in Machine') and The Sun of Acoustic Tunes ('Supergirl'). The North Elementary album Lose Your Favorite Things can be classified as an adventurous collection of music but it can also be classified as an adventurous hit or miss effort. A majority of the tracks are definitely "hits" for North Elementary because the band was successful in creating an album of assorted indie tunes.

WEBSITE: www.northelementary.com


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