The Pixo Control's debut CD "Probably Not"! Released through Tidal Records on December 12th during their CD release parties at LopLops Lounge, "Probably Not" was recorded earlier this year at Mission Control Studios with producer Dustin Jones, and was mixed and mastered by current bassist Dustin Goodall. The album features frontman Michael Mikus on vocals, guitar, and (in between lineup changes) bass, with Keeghan Rosso back on drums, and the CD also features guest appearances by ex-bassist Steve Edwards on "60" and cellist Emma N-K on "No". Copies of "Probably Not" are on sale for $10 at The Rad Zone, Case's Music, and at Pixo Control concerts, while you can also buy it online via Tidal Records' online store for the same price, and while you can stream the whole thing on the band's YouTube channel, support their work and buy a copy!
And yes, each song name below is linked to it's YouTube posting Featuring 12 songs running for about 56 minutes, let's begin with the first song, "Quick Little Quarter"! Opening with a catchy, siren-esque guitar riff and nice pounding drums, this song has effective building vocals from Michael, and a strong consistent tone that, if a little low early, nicely grows in vocal intensity and range! The song can be a little repetitive by it's conclusion, but it delivers what Pixo Control fans have came to love, and it's a fast paced yet casual number! Second is "Call Me A Liar", which opens with a Tool-esque stretch before settling into a lower and darker verse that probably translates well to acoustic performances, but I do find that the melodic chorus isn't a perfect mesh for the rest of the song's mood. Definitely channeling some classic grunge in the verses, Michael and Keeghan rock this one effectively and compliment each other well, but I'd have made the choruses angrier than they are on the final product. Solid track though!
Next up is "This Is Momentary, Forever", which maintains a steady, bass-heavy, 1970s-feeling riff until the verses kick in, with Michael singing in a low rasp overtop of low instrumentation, though the choruses ramp up the intensity and pace. Fun old school sound here, with the choruses definitely wanting to make you move, but a slow winding instrumental bridge late definitely drags the song down before picking up steam late, albeit sans vocals, which almost sound like they were accidentally left out of the second half. Still, this is a fun track that keeps things rolling! That's followed by "Land of the Moles", one of The Pixo Control's most familiar songs, and it maintains it's laid back yet edgy sound in studio form! Keeping a catchy rhythm and cadence through the verses, the choruses & bridge sound even grander here than they do live, which is an interesting shift! It's not a heavy or fast song, but it's memorable and catchy sound, and strong instrumentation, help it become a standout track!
The fifth track is "Reasons", which spends the majority of it's runtime as a reserved, folksy instrumental (by and large), with Michael providing echoed vocals, giving an eerie vibe of sorts before the full band finally kicks into their usual gear for most of the last minute, albeit at the same tempo. It's not a favourite track of mine just on personal preference, but it shows The Pixo Control's range and depth, and allows for some extra introspection and darker moods! Things pick up a bit more with the next song, "Vicinity", which has a Foo Fighters-esque vibe to it (I wonder if that was intentional?), but Michael and Keeghan acquit themselves well here, with an effective sing-along chorus, solid hooks, and strong drumming, even with a small solo spot in the bridge! A guitar solo might have helped break things up a bit, but this is another album highlight to be sure, and has that live intensity too!
Seventh is "60" (an abbreviated name for "Sixty Extra Chances Called Minutes"), which sees the only album credit for original Pixo Control bassist Steve Edwards, credited for fuzz bass. The song itself (another very familiar live track) maintains the same strong sound as we see live, including the bouncy guitar riff, strong raspy vocals, and a nice measured pace, and while not overly aggressive, it's alternative edge will appeal to many fans! Steve's contributions are nice to see and well done, and the song holds it's own well in studio form! Then we have "Tall Ships", a solid grungy original with nice vocal layering on the choruses and an authentic grungy feel that gives me a bit of a Nirvana callback! I like the addition of a guitar solo mid-way through this song, which is fairly reserved until the choruses, but Michael's vocals flow well, and it's another well performed track!
Ninth is the incredibly lengthy titled "Congratulations on Your Decision to Become a Pilot", which has a darker and gritter essence for the most part, but still retains the working Pixo Control flavour! Michael's singing has the extra note here to carry the lyrics, and there's some strong distorted guitar riffing before the song kicks into another gear for the final minute, taking on a fast and melodic theme that would be very fun to jam with live! The ending is a little abrupt though. The shortest song on "Probably Not" is next, that being "Scratch", and it's arguably the most punk-influenced song on the album to boot, harbouring a more aggressive sound that seems to have hints of skate punk on it, and it should appeal to fans who don't take to their alternative & grunge influences as much! Keeghan really shines on drums here, and Michael lets loose vocally in the second half, adding to arguably The Pixo Control's most explosive song yet, and it's a clear highlight on this CD!
The album's penultimate song is "No", featuring a guest appearance by cellist Emma N-K, who has joined The Pixo Control live on this song as well. If you liked "This Is Momentary, Forever", you'll take to the low melancholy vocals, minimal instrumentation, and slow pacing to start this song, but Emma's cello work does add to the dark feel early! The last two minutes build more to what I hoped "T.I.M.F." would have though, with more of a full-band presence, dramatic vocals, and a clear sense of purpose, before coming full circle at the end. Strongly done overall! The nine minute long "Potpourri" closes out the album, which opens (and closes) with the sound of radio dials being fiddled with. Building from Michael softly playing the riff to a mid-paced alternative jam, the song never really seems to get off the ground (and definitely feels overlong) until the last couple of minutes bring a higher energy performance, complete with a rare guitar solo, and a closer that feels like how live shows would! Fitting closer to the CD, but "Potpourri" still felt like it ran for way too long.
So, what are my final thoughts on The Pixo Control's debut CD? Overall, it's a very entertaining and diverse first release from this talented young band, and I will say that the production was excellent, with this album frequently maintaining the live concert feel from how the songs were performed! Some weren't identical to prior live versions (which we were warned about), but nothing was shockingly different. Michael Mikus showed a raspy yet well suited vocal style to go along with strong guitar and bass work that called back to his musical influences nicely, while Keeghan Rosso was a great and steady compliment on drums, so you can't go too wrong there! Songs like "Scratch", "60", and "Tall Ships" were among the highlights, but I would have liked to have seen more guitar solos, "Potpourri" was way longer than it needed to be, and at times, some songs could meander in one gear for an extended period. Originals like "Alphabetical Order" and "The Great Salute To Radio Edits" were also missed, but hopefully we see them in their next album.
The Pixo Control crafted a very good debut effort here, and this can only be a bright beginning for this promising trio, so here's to a huge 2016 and beyond! Buy "Probably Not" A.S.A.P., and I hope you guys liked this month's CD review! To kick off the new year, we will be reviewing a new local CD, but which one? As of right now, we're leaning towards a newer release from Dafter, Michigan solo artist SweetKenny, who released three new albums since our last review of his, but that may change pending other potential new CDs. In any event, stay tuned for updates, and for weekend concert previews next! Thanks everyone!