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Location: Anaheim, California, United States

Regular contributor ("Carson City Limits" and other content) for Random Lengths (circulation 56,000) in San Pedro, CA, 2001-present. Manga reviewer: LA Alternative (circulation 150,000), 2005-2006. Some manga reviews also ran in NY Press around this time. Entertainment reporting: Music Connection (circulation 75,000), 1983-1906. Travel writing: Oakland Tribune (1998) and Life After 50 (2006). Other bylines: Goldmine, Star Hits, Los Angeles Reader, Los Angeles Times, Long Beach Press Telegram, Blade, BAM, Daily Breeze, LA Weekly. Specializations include community news reporting, writing reviews (book, theater, concert, film, music), copywriting, resumes, editing, travel writing, publicity, screenwriting, lecturing, and content development. Education: B. A. Theater Arts, UCLA. Post-grad work, Education, Chapman University.

Friday, December 26, 2014

BAM Review: American Martyrs (1987)

Of all the dozens of unsigned rock artists I reviewed back in the eighties, one of  the ones I most often wonder "whatever happened to?" is the American Martyrs.  They were named after their Catholic school in Manhattan Beach, so maybe someone there knows.  The lead singer's name, Mike Kelly, is too common to easily single out on social media.  Things ended badly with their one-time manager and she (the last I knew) severed all ties with them, so she probably wouldn't know either. To represent my body of live club/concert reviews in those years--I've posted below my review of the American Martyrs that ran in BAM, Sept. 25, 1987. 

With a college-circuit popular EP behind them and four years of experience, the American Martyrs are poised to follow in Wall of Voodoo's footsteps.  The two groups are similar enough to attract the same audiences, and like Voodoo singer Stan Ridgeway, Martyrs singer Mike Kelly is more a talker, with sharp-imagined New Wave poetics, while his moves have that herky-jerky quality.

However, to say American Martyrs are simply Wall of Voodoo types would be inadequate, for they have enough variety in their overall sound and image that they can appeal to a broad spectrum with sounding schizophrenic.  They're folksy without being New Folk, they're energetic enough to dance to, and relaxing enough they'll lull you into a satisfied stupor if you're not careful. 

Putting their most compelling song first tonight, their college turntable hit, "Soldier," got their set off perfectly. Unfortunately their entire set was not perfect--and here's a group that perfection's not too much to ask of.  The pace was rough--not slow, just rough--and some of the songs could use some revamping and editing--notably "Spare Friend" and "No Politics."  The American Martyrs remain a group to be recommended highly, because of their eccentric-without-even-trying visual style, and their, well, melodic melodies over punk rhythms.


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