SAIGON KICK


"Bastards" (Pony Canyon; 1999)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Saigon Kick were once one of my favorite bands – and they still are if I only think about the first four records. Something funny must have happened by the time the band had peeled away to only Jason Beiler and Beiler's singular vision became the entirety of Saigon Kick. The fans and even the record company had pretty much left Saigon Kick behind by the time "Devil In The Details" sunk without much recognition – was it a function of the times or was it a function of the band's evolution? It's pretty obvious that both played a role in that.

Long gone is the famously savvy guitar crunch of the self-titled debut, the slick over-production of "The Lizard," the variety of the severely underrated "Water," and the failed anger management of "Devil In The Details." "Bastards" is a good rock'n'roll record and at the very least we can appreciate that it doesn't repeat any of the band's previous efforts.

What "Bastards" has going for it is Beiler's snappy song-writing and super vocal hooks. Granted these are the very same things that made Saigon Kick work so well in the past, but once the essence of Saigon Kick lost the extra parts that made it unique the band seemed to lose its luster. The majority of the songs never really get heavy or too sappy, but rather loosely fit into the same kind of rock'n'roll that lacks distinction. Beiler is also known for his wild choice of covers and "Bastards" is no exception – Beiler covers Billy Joel's "Big Shot" fairly much note-for-note albeit with a guitar more than a piano.

"Bastards" might have well just not been a Saigon Kick record and perhaps would have been a better fit as Beiler's second solo disc. "Bastards" is not a bad disc by any means, but it lacks the pizzazz that defined Saigon Kick's first four efforts.

For what it's worth, "Bastards" was only released in Asia (where Saigon Kick has always had a huge following) on the small Pony Canyon label.

Saigon Kick: Jason Beiler who seemingly handled most of the instruments and the entire production, engineering, and mixing.


"Devil in the Details" (CMC; 1995)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

This would be the last of Saigon Kick, except for Jason Beiler's one man band release, "Bastards." Beiler either worked himself out of a band or just wanted to run the show. 

The guitar hooks and solos are still here and the vocals are as expected. Beiler keeps the drum department going with Phil Varone who would later drum for Skid Row. The songs here are almost pop friendly. I like Jason's voice, but each album gets softer. Some said that the earlier release, "Water," was appropriately named.

The production is the most important element here. It is so well done that you just sit back and listen with awe. I miss the ripping guitar and equally ripping solos; they're still here but you have to wade through some experimental stuff to get to them.

A few acoustic tracks are peppered throughout but that's okay because they work, too. "All Around" will take you back to SK's earlier days.

The best songs here are "Russian Girl," "Killing Ground," "Edgar," and "All Around."

Saigon Kick: Jason Beiler - vocals, guitar; Chris Mclernon - bass; Pete Dembrowski - guitar; Phil Varone - drums.

For more information, check out http://www.saigonkick.com


"Water" (Atlantic/Third Stone; 1993)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

With the departure of lead vocalist Matt Kramer you might expect Saigon Kick's third album "Water" to suffer; however, this is not the case. Jason proves to be a decent vocalist who can carry the tunes with as much emphasis as is needed. Jason is also quite adept at educing a rousing set of emotions in every track – sympathy, anger, frustration, sentimentality, pathos, and affection are just some of the feelings expressed throughout "Water."

Once again, the band's versatility shines through on every track and the band is able to pull each song off without sounding like musical contortionists. "Water" provides music fans with a broad spectrum of genres and styles. Hard rock ("One Step Closer," "Torture," "My Heart"), a humorous ditty and trumpets ("Sentimental Girl"), dealing with the serious topic of genocide ("Fields Of Rape"), sweet ballads ("I Love You"), a choir on background vocals ("Water"), funk ("On And On"), strings ("When You Were Mine"), and Beatles-esque melodies ("Sgt. Steve").

Saigon Kick's best asset is a willingness to try anything. And here they have a huge task on their hands as they tackle David Bowie's legendary "Space Oddity". In typical Saigon Kick fashion, the band has given a faithful, yet interesting treatment to the song – the song is restrained enough to avoid accusations of the band butchering the track, but special enough to be unique.

Saigon Kick rocks hard enough to be appreciated by metal fans, but is diverse enough to amass a wide variety of music fans who are particularly interested in hard rock or even pop for that matter.

"Water" was produced by Jason; engineering and mixing services were provided by Ron Lahti (Europe, Lake Of Tears).

Saigon Kick is Jason on guitar, keyboards, and vocals; Chris McClernon on bass and backing vocals; and Phil Varone on drums, percussion, and piano.

For more information visit http://www.saigonkick.com/home.html and take one step closer to the danger zone to learning more about this underrated band.


"The Lizard" (Atlantic/Third Stone; 1992)



Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

After their engaging self-titled debut, Saigon Kick's sophomore effort "The Lizard" features slick production and a dark mood. Overall, there are more good tunes than missteps on "The Lizard." The disc is thoroughly enjoyable to listen to and manages to avoid clichés which in and of itself is reason enough to place Saigon Kick ahead of other pretenders in the music scene. The daring, eclectic nature of the songwriting and adventuresome spirit makes Saigon Kick a remarkable band - it's a shame that Saigon Kick never really got the attention it deserved.

The first track, the sinister instrumental "Cruelty," starts the disc off followed by a faltering "Hostile Youth." However, the third and fourth tracks really get Saigon Kick back on track; "Feel The Same Way" and "Freedom" each has the heavy guitar and melodic vocals that make the band such a treat and separates them from other hard rock bands.

The light-speed punk of "My Dog" gives way to the twisted "Peppermint Tribe" which picks up the pace with a machine gun riff and terse yet clever lyrics. "God Of 42nd Street" fails to reach the high satisfaction factor that Saigon Kick are capable of - the vocals are flat and music leaves much to be desired.

Saigon Kick, never a band to shy away from a ballad, struck platinum with "Love Is On The Way." This single nearly made it into the Top 10 and is the band's defining moment of national recognition. As a slow number the tune makes an impact because it features a pensive mood that avoids the traps of standard power ballads.

Saigon Kick's ongoing track record of unexpected success is made evident with "The Lizard" which is a danceable hard rock number with esoteric lyrics and unusual musical sections. The defiant "All Alright" follows in the classic Saigon Kick manner with an unyielding rhythm and catchy melody. The instrumental "Sleep" allows the listener to catch their breath before a yearning confessional called "All I Want" teeming with naked emotions grabs your heart. "Body Bags" features the band treading treacherous waters by connecting government politics and the deaths of Monroe, Kennedy, and King during the tumultuous Sixties.

Two throwaway numbers, "Miss Jones" and "World Goes Round," merely exist to get the listener to a hallmark of Saigon Kick which is a humorous number called "Chanel." Since humor is a requirement of all Saigon Kick discs, the song fits right into the expansive catalog of styles Saigon Kick have mastered.

Saigon Kick are Jason Beiler on guitars, Tom DeFile on bass, Phil Varone on drums, and vocalist Matt Kramer. Jason Beiler produced "The Lizard" with engineering and mixing assistance from Ronny Lahti (Europe, Masquerade).

For more information visit Saigon Kick's official website at http://www.saigonkick.com/home.html.


"The Lizard" (Atlantic/Third Stone; 1992)



Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

One thing you can say about Saigon Kick is they have great music and harmonies. The production is incredible, the sound is full and rich and, even though there are many layers to a song, it's never too much.

Saigon Kick is one of my favorite bands because the guitar is in your face and strong like it should be. You can’t help but take notice to the monster riffs and screaming solos from Jason Bieler. He produces most of the music so he knows what he wants to hear. 

Since they disbanded, each member has gone on to other projects. Bieler produces Nonpoint and Phil Varone is now the drummer for Skid Row. Most people heard "Love Is On The Way" and nearly puked at the candy sound that this band released as a single. I bought the CD for that song but I was floored when I heard the rest of the it.

You can probably find this CD in the used bin if you ever want to drop a couple of bucks for a great CD. I bought it for one song and loved the other ones that came with it. Jason Bieler writes almost all the music and lyrics on the disc. He has a great arrangement for hard rock. You should get this disc for the great guitar alone.

“Chanel” is the track that is best put at the end of this CD. Saigon kick can get experimental quick. This would become evident on the next few releases. But they do it in a way that makes you like it with great vocals and incredible production. "Chanel" is all acoustic and not a bit serious and it shows a side that some might like, while others may not. 

The best tracks are “Hostel Youth,” “Peppermint Tribe,” “Love Is On The Way,” “All I Want,” and “Miss Jones.”

Saigon Kick: Jason Beiler- guitars, Tom DeFile – bass, Phil Varone – drums, Matt Kramer – vocals.

For more information, check out www.saigonkick.com


"Saigon Kick" (Atlantic; 1991)



Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Jason Beiler and Matt Kramer headed the outfit known as Saigon Kick back in 1991 and burst on the rock scene with a smashing single called "New World." This metal/alternative track found its way onto rock and alternative stations across the country and briefly gave me hope that radio was actually going to play cool music for a change.  Radio may be missing one of music's true treasures, but Saigon Kick - despite some personnel changes - have kept up the good fight.

Saigon Kick truly did bring a fresh new sound to the music world with their debut album. The fourteen tracks present here managed to cover a vast array of sonic ground with heavy guitars, melodic vocals, stinging leads, and forceful bass guitar. It's rare that a band can bring heavy guitars (and solos!) and melodic vocals into one cohesive package - Saigon Kick are one of the rare exceptions.

The disc's best feature - diversity - makes its presence known on all tracks. From the near-punk speed-riffing of "Acid Rain" to the mid-tempo "For The Love Of God" to the slow and melodic "Come And Take Me Now" there's a little something for everyone. This disc satisfies at ever turn. Even after eight years, despite the occasional riff or production that makes the album sound a bit dated, there is an eager anticipation and excitement with each song.

"New World" is a tour de force of tribal drums and aggressive guitars. The chorus makes one pause for good measure; the vocal bridge introduces an apocalyptic setting that sticks to the listener's mind like glue. Hearing this song for the first time gave me the kind of feeling I've only had when hearing Metallica and Korn for the first time - "Whoa, something new AND different!" One tends to remember these moments with clarity and distinction.

"What You Say" provides an instant relief in the vocal melody. The contrast of anger and humor on "What Do You Do" is a bit unsettling at first, but the song's plea for understanding in the face of hypocrisy provides a nice message. "Down By The Ocean" deals with the confusion of sexuality in changing times. "My Life," solidifying the guts and confidence of the band in one song, features a kazoo solo of all things - and it works! - and the Beatle-esque harmonies of "My Life" remains a nice touch after all these years.

However, the album isn't entirely strong beginning to end; there are a few glaring weak spots. Only a magnificent vocal performance of Matt Kramer saves the generic metal riffing of "I.C.U." from becoming too tiresome. "Colors," despite a cool melody, is nearly ruined by the constant repetition of the chorus at the end of the tune.

Luckily for fans that had discovered the band, Saigon Kick have continued to produce music in their special and eclectic fashion.  Saigon Kick's debut was just a hint of things to come. If you haven't heard Saigon Kick, I strongly urge you to start with this debut and work your way through the band's catalog.

Produced by the indomitable Michael Wagener, the Saigon Kick debut features Jason Beiler on guitars, Matt Kramer on vocals, Phil Varone on drums, and Tom DeFile on bass.

Check out the band's website at http://www.saigonkick.com/home.html


Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

 


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Copyright © 2006 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 05 Nov 2017 10:28:12 -0500 .