Colonel Stem

Colonel Stem

Fifty Large Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Earlier this summer, I found myself in downtown Chicago covering MOBfest, a collective of local bands hoping to break into the big-time. I went to this show as a favor to a publicist friend of mine (and ended up hooking up with Steve, a fellow music enthusiast and Web-head).

As I sat through the first of many crummy acts, someone noticed that I was holding a bunch of CDs (which I brought to help promote "The Daily Vault"). This guy handed me one of his band's CDs, and introduced himself as a member of the group who was scheduled to perform next.

And while it's taken me a long time to fulfill the promise I made to Joe Zangrilli that night at The Vic Theatre, I've finally gotten around to reviewing Colonel Stem's debut EP - and if this band impressed me onstage (one of only two bands I saw anything positive in), this disc proves that these guys are no fluke, and are ready to launch a full-frontal assault on your eardrums.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The band - guitarist/vocalist Zangrilli, bassist Phil Stosur and drummer Abe Sanchez - remind me a bit of early Nirvana, though their music is much more fluid and interesting. At times, one has to wonder if you're actually listening to a trio, since the rhythm section of this band is so textured.

Although the opening track "Guy In The Bushes" starts off a bit slow, Colonel Stem quickly throws the switch on this one and sends it off into a direction that you might not have expected. This one song leaves little doubt in the listener's mind that Colonel Stem is a band destined for greatness. Tracks like "Sunking," "You've Got Male" and "Bottums Up" all confirm the suspicions.

What makes Colonel Stem unique is two things. First, this EP might only be 21 minutes long, but it solidifies the band's position as one of the most exciting things to come out of Chicago since Billy Corgan and Smashing Pumpkins. I normally complain that I can't form an opinion on such a small amount of music; in this case, I'll complain only because I want to hear more from Zangrilli and crew. Second, Colonel Stem doesn't copy anyone's sound, yet is able to create an air of familiarity around their music. When you listen to these songs, it's like listening to an old friend.

The only knock I can put on Colonel Stem regards the afterthoughts of weirdness following "Bottums Up". I can live with the Leslie Nelsen-meets-horror film montage; that's kind of entertaining. But the heavily-echoed voice right at the end, featuring a groan that sounds like a cat caught in a garbage compactor - sorry, gang, but that was a bit of overkill. Scared the hell out of me too, I'm not ashamed to admit.

Colonel Stem is the kind of CD that you'll want to own, simply so you can say in a few years that you were there when this band was just starting up, before they hit the big time. There's no doubt in my mind that Colonel Stem is primed to make a big noise on the alternative scene, and will be superstars. The question is: how soon?

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Fifty Large Records, and is used for informational purposes only.