SurrealNeil.com

TijuanaStripClub

Virus Zine
Strip Club - Cold Comfort
reviewed by Maytina
May, 2006

The Presentation: I like these kinds of cases, not a full out jewel case, sort of a glossy stock board case with a pocket inside holding the booklet. I dig the cover photo, with a disc called Cold Comfort, it just makes good sense to have a hiball glass involved. No nonsense inside; a tracklisting, lyrics and credits. Nothing busy to distract from the meat of the matter.

 


Track #1 - Outa Sight: On this one, for me it's all about the voice, the tone in Randy's voice is so true to the lyrics, you can almost see him snearing in the opening lines; Put down your defense / Talk to your friends / Use common sense / Let your poor heart mend.
Track #2 - Good Things Will Come: Sort of has a sad feel with the chorusThey say good things will come / but not for everyone, though the guitar and vocals keep it from being depressing.
Track #3 - The Way You Looked at Me Once: This song has a fun feel, with that stop/start guitar I love so much. The premise of this track is something everyone can relate to, The way you looked at me once / When will I see that look again?, and of course, all the uncertainty surrounding situations like this one.
Track #4 - Don't Blame it on the Rain: Overall I really like this song, for lyrics as much as music, really allows you to listen to - and hear - the lyrics.
Track #5 - Cold Comfort: Randy's vocal range is really something. Far from the more upbeat songs on this disc, Cold Comfort has Randy singing in a much darker, deeper voice, just what the track called for. Cold comfort left me here to die / like a frozen wind on a firefly.
Track #6 - Too Much Ado: This track is somewhere in the mid range between the lighter stuff and Cold Comfort.
Track #7 - And So Am I: I'm not even going to lie, this song leans a little to the country end of things. Good news is, if you're open to discovering something a little different than the usual, And So Am I will do the trick. Not the kind of country I'm scared of.
Track #8 - Something to Hide: I wasn't going to play the 'sounds like' card, but this track begs me to say Nick Cave and then run away. This is a good example of the other end of the vocal range with Randy.
Track #9 - Nothing At All: Also in the vein of Too Much Ado, literally a toe tapper, but a track you'll be playing over and over.
Track #10 - The Final Hour: Quieter, almost bluesy and the perfect way to cap off this album. There comes a time when we will understand what we have done / it wont take long till there comes a time.



Americana UK
Strip Club “Cold Comfort” (Independent 2006)
Mixed bag from SF band with great singer

Strip Club are bursting at the seams with potential. With a big twang guitar sound, sublime pedal steel, strong songwriting chops and above all Randy Cordero’s amazing voice all the ingredients are there. Unfortunately, and despite some cracking tracks on this CD, they still have to rise above their influences in order to create a uniform identity.

 

Based in San Francisco the band are led by vocalist/guitarist Cordero who has an alternative career as “Surreal Neil”, the singer in a Neil Diamond tribute band. His vocals do betray this but across the album he also reminds one of Leonard Cohen, Richard Butler and Lee Hazelwood. As befits his chameleon vocals, his songwriting also tends to reflect whichever persona he is inhabiting and this makes for an occasionally bizarre listening experience.

 


The album opens with “Outa Sight” which is the least successful song on it. With an anthemic string laden chorus and frantic wah wah guitar in between the song doesn’t bed in, far too much going on, at one point I expected a kitchen sink to appear. “Good things Will Come” calms things down somewhat although the song is not particularly memorable.

Things pick up with the fourth song “Don’t Blame it on the Rain”, a Cohenesque song that manages to come over despite the surfeit of synthesiser sounds that threaten to smother it. Paydirt however with “Cold Comfort”, the best song Lee Hazelwood never recorded.

Everything here fits with sly steel guitar and banjo plucking away, Cordero commands the song and throws in some biting lines, “I filled my glass with bittersweet, I chilled it nice doubled up with ice, Never liked it neat.”

“Much Ado” carries on in the Lee Hazelwood vein with a great country feel and the best-mumbled chorus I’ve heard in aeons.

On “And something to Hide” the Cohen side comes to the fore again with the vocals so like him. The writing echoes Cohen also, “Put me safe inside to face the future with my hands wide open, Do you have something to hide? Cause I have something to hide.”

 

One gets the impression overall that there is a great talent here that needs to find its own direction.

 

Second last song “Nothing at All” hints at a possible future, relatively unadorned with extra instrumentation the band lay a solid bedrock under the beat like vocals, “I like getting high, Take in a book, and drinking wine, I like to pat my dog, But when it comes to love, I feel nothing, Nothing at all.” The closing track is a pleasant country lope but the chorus starts to swell a la Diamond and one wishes that, as his mentor has done recently, Cordero would get rid of the trappings and record with a basic outfit and let his undoubted vocal and songwriting talents shine.

 

And a word of warning, if you want to check out their website go for the link otherwise your boss/wife/partner might want to know why you are wallowing in strip clubs.
Date review added: Monday, May 08, 2006
Reviewer: Paul Kerr
Reviewers Rating: 7/10
Related web link: Strip Club website



HybridMagazine.com
Reviewed by Embo Blake
TijuanaStripClub - Sparklers and Bottlerockets
Foggydog Records

When you take brilliantly disguised pop/country songs and force Leonard Cohen to sing them at gunpoint, what you get is Tijuana Strip Club. This album oozes brilliance at each turn. Soft and smooth darkly tinted vocals work their way effortlessly over glittering, sparkling musical soundscapes. The songs are cohesive, and the mood of the entire album is carried forth on the smoky voice of Randy Cordero, the principle songwriter/performer of TSC, and as far as I can tell, the man who put the album together and then created a band to support it. Not a new idea, but an amazingly well done one in this case.

 


Cordero's voice goes from Cohen smooth to Nick Cave gruff without a hitch. If I was to hear "Mercy Springs" playing on the radio or on a jukeboxin some seedy dive bar, I would be caught wondering what Bad Seeds record I had missed somewhere along the way. Complete with xylophone clanking along softly,

Cordero arranges songs that showcase from where his musical influences undoubtedly spring. But the songs don't fit neatly into categories. "Hate The Sound Of Rain" is full of wide sweeping feedback and deep electronic rhythms. Not a single song sounds like any of the others, which is quite a feat among fifteen tracks! Each song is original in its own right, and they run the gamut from fairly straight dark alt-country to full on sinister electronica; never does a song miss a beat or sound like it doesn't belong in the company of the other songs. There are songs here for the goths, the hicks, the rockers, the beat-heads, the indie rockers, and just about everyone in between.

 


The music is amazing, yes, but the lyrical content of Sparklers and Bottlerockets is as strong, if not more so, than the sonic aspects of the record. From lyrics as straightforward as "I have never fallen in love before/ not like this before/ how unfortunately" to the uber-poetic "explosion, like fireworks fired on a clear night/ 'cause making up can always make us feel alright/ sparklers and bottlerockets make me think of you/ we just remind ourselves".

The lyrics, whether complex or simple, are all delivered remarkably delicately, somewhat belying the depth and passion of the songs.
Short of going to San Francisco to try to track down this band, I suggest hopping online and finding this album. You won't be sorry you did.
-Embo Blake



Bandoppler
Reviewed by Chris Estey
TIJUANA STRIP CLUB - SPARKLERS AND BOTTLEROCKETS

This San Francisco-based band with a strong lead singer/songwriter was started in 2002, and this is their debut 15-song full-length. Some heavy names are thrown around pretty freely on the bio, due to the clarity and symbolism of the lyrics, and Randy Cordero's deep vocals.


But the music isn't as dark as is sometimes described by the press, and can't be nailed down into any one genre, startling the listener with a SoCal laidback C&W ditty ("Being In Love") after mesmerizing them with American Music Club-style rock-art-rap ("Ghostride"), and oh yeah, before that comes a less angular Stan Ridgeway narrative folk pop song ("Hate The Sound of Rain"). And just before that Waits' "Walking Spanish" brushes through "Hapless Suitor" gracefully....

But I'll stop playing spot-the-influence, because it's deluding and unfair. Cordero has a one-up on all those current depressing Mark Eitzel-style songwriters by having learned some real vocal technique while serving as Surreal Neil in Super Diamond, one of the best ND tribute bands. (Second only to Phranc's version in my opinion, besides the master himself.)

 


Cordero is actually a better singer than many of the greats he's compared to, which might be a great reason to encourage talented young singer/songwriters to do a little time as cover artists (and make a little loot that way, to be honest) before stepping out with originally-written projects of their own. Hell, Stiff Little Fingers was a covers band till shortly before their first record ... okay, I'm off the subject now.


Main thing is, for all the influences or imagined influences Cordero may or may not show here, there is one I like to ruminate on, due to the cover of Stephen Duffy's "Natalie" included.

 


Turns out those unpretentious little mechanical beats and whooshes and sound affects that accompany the band performances here may not just be an accident of experimentation thrown in to make the songs a little more textured. Duffy was an original member of Duran Duran, led the bands Tin Tin and the Lilac Time, and was considered by American mags like Trouser Press as one of the great unsung heroes of Brit New Wave.

 

Cordero gets the exquisitely poetic Europop spirit of "Natalie" down perfectly without going into recent twee territory. He saves a song that was actually pretty cool to begin with, but few modern American indie rockers probably know of or would dare to handle. This is very impressive, and when Cordero also writes a nifty little Wave number like "No Evidence" himself and includes it in the sequence without shame,

 

I have to admire his unexpected but superb assimilation of the late 70s/early 80s style. In this, above all, he reminds me of Paul Kelly, the Australian folkie-turned-post-punk-singer-turned-roots-rock singer, who could also belt out some gritty observations but also knew his way around a synth and drum machine if he felt like it.

 


Yes, this might be a little too diverse for one record by one band, maybe shows off a little too much, stretches too far between the heartland and the bedsit. But Cordero's songs really do offer unusual smarts and some surprises and an already expert voice to sing them. That's definitely something to look out for in the future.
WEBSITE http://www.tijuanastripclub.com/
FORMAT Compact Disc
RELEASE YEAR 2003



BabySue.com
TijuanaStripClub - Sparklers and Bottlerockets (CD, Foggydog, Pop)

An exceptionally strong independently produced project, Sparklers and Bottlerockets is unique...and its sublety is powerful.

 

This San Francisco-based quartet consists of Vince Littleton (drums), Randy Cordero (vocals, guitar), James Terris (keys, loops), and Kevin Witte (bass). True to the claim of the press release, these fellows' music does bear a resemblance to Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits...but Tijuana Strip Club is anything but a copy band.

They use their influences as a diving board to create their own unique sound...writing moody and effective compositions that have a slightly spooky and somewhat sensual vibe. The sound quality is truly impressive...rivaling the production of any major label release we have heard this year.

 

The vocals are superb. These gentlemen know what they're doing...and they know how to use technology to get their message across (rather than bury their songs underneath too many layers of crap...which is how many bands ruin their music lately...!). This album contains fifteen crisp, clear, melodic songs that feature some wonderfully subtle electronics which really make the tunes shine. Lots of great cuts here...including "Turnstile," "Hate the Sound of Rain," "No Evidence," and "Outline of a Man." Cool and effective./ (Rating: 5+)



Greenman Review
Reviewed by Christopher White
TijuanaStripClub, Sparklers & Bottlerockets (Foggydog Records, 2003)

Sparklers & Bottlerockets, with fifteen radio friendly songs, clocks in at just under an hour. I suspect some GMR regulars might read 'radio friendly' as 'damning with faint praise' which is definitely not my intent. The San Francisco based Tijuana Strip Club essentially appears to be Randy Cordero (producer, words & music, vocals, guitars, synths, etc.), with able support, especially from Gary Myrick (co-producer & multi-instrumentalist). Sparklers & Bottlerockets offers a well produced, solidly professional, listening experience with the potential to appeal to a large and varied audience.

 


Cordero's vocals sound a bit like Bryan Ferry channeling Leonard Cohen. Which is to say, he's often recorded with a close mic while reciting/chanting in a fairly quiet, husky, voice more than truly singing. But he can and does sing... and does so with a comfortable, pop friendly, panache. Others might find different examples, but you get the general idea.

 


The material is good, even if it sounds at times overly familiar. The opening tune, "Turnstile," recalls a Traveling Wilburys' tune by Tom Petty. The next tune "Mercy Springs" is where the Leonard Cohen reference comes from and so on. Despite this, Cordero is enough his own man that these discernible influences never become overwhelming. And there are enough different threads of influence that, taken as a whole, no one or two dominate. The third track, "Hapless Suitor," has a damped down fire that is allowed to flare up on the instrumental break. This is one where Cordero's vocal and acoustic guitar are augmented by a very full band sound, all instruments and 'sounds' courtesy of Myrick.

 


"Ghostride" tosses into the musical Cuisinart a tune that sounds like it was written by Rickie Lee Jones collaborating with Jazzy Jeff, then performed by Roxy Music. "Being in Love" and, to a certain extent, "Bottlerocket" sound a bit like they were written for Phish.

 


I won't continue to make comments about each track. I've tossed out enough points of reference that you should've gotten a good sense of whether or not Sparklers & Bottlerockets might appeal to you.

 

I suspect it will be in regular rotation on my CD changer for a while. About the only aspect of Sparklers & Bottlerockets I'm not yet sure will wear well is Tijuana Strip Club's predilection for 'cool' production touches... 'sounds' buried in the mix, swirling effects, the odd rapid stereo pan. Then again, that's the stuff that made Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band both absolutely of its moment and a timeless classic. In the great scheme of things Sparklers & Bottlerockets is unlikely to rival Sgt. Pepper, but like that recording its eccentric flourishes might well become endearing rather than annoying.



Performer Magazine
Reviewed by Sherry Sly
TijuanaStripClub - Sparklers and Bottlerockets

Recorded at the Rec Room, San Francisco, and Studio City Sound Mixed by Tom Weir, Jamie McMann, and James Terris Mastered by Michael Romanowksi at Paul Stubblebine Mastering

 


It's tempting to not mention Tijuana Strip Club is led by Randy Cordero, aka Surreal Neil, aka head of the international phenomenon Super Diamond. But it's just too cool an aside. And aside it is, because Sparklers and Bottlerockets stands on its own as a damn fine collection of original material. Sparklers has an alt-country feel.

 

Cordero sings in a rich, low tenor that never distracts from the instrumentation and clearly enunciates sometimes colorful, always competent lyrics. Comparisons that come to mind instantly are Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash, Lloyd Cole and at times Nick Cave. Not bad company at all.

 

Cordero knows his way around a catchy chorus, and he shows a keen ear for knowing just when to stop production. Additional instrumentation is provided at various times by synthesizers, organs and drum loops. The result is similar to Jim White, another alt-country artist with electronica accents.

 

Sparklers opens with “Turnstile,” destined to be a classic, fast paced with great wordplay, starting each verse with a rhyme of “turnstile” (“meanwhile,” “freestyle”) wrapped up with “I've never seen you smile.” For the most part Cordero's lyrics are straightforward, e.g. on “Runs Deep” he sings “I'm gonna kiss you on the forehead / I'm gonna kiss you on the cheek / I'm gonna kiss you everywhere right now / 'cause my love for you runs deep.” Such unambiguity is a nice foil with the slick production.

His attempts at more poetic writing sometimes fall flat, for instance “Being In Love” contains a few confounding similies like “as petty as a wife without a spouse.” The exception is the oddly thrilling “Ghostride,” in which Cordero speak sings with manipulated vocals in a style reminiscent of the Nails such delightful word juxtapositions as “yeah hip-hop man from the trash town / missing person can't be found / uptown cold cocked coked out shout shocked.”

 

Sparklers' few clunkers are the slower songs, due to Cordero's lyrics being too simplistic when left to stand on their own. For instance “No Evidence” plods along without much melody or chorus, adding odd electronic effects that bring to mind Madonna's Ray of Light. Such a choice can work, but it highlights songwriting, and “people change / were you confused or was it that you lied / only change / when I received your letter I broke down and cried” is not particularly compelling.

Still, on an ambitious 15-song release with only one cover, Cordero can more than afford a few clunkers. Speaking of covers, he's got great taste, choosing “Natalie,” a gorgeous tune from Stephen Duffy's unsung pop masterpiece Music in Colors. Sparklers is a strong, solid release, and Tijuana Strip Club is worthy of comparison to Wilco and Whiskeytown. That Cordero does an eeriely accurate Neil Diamond impression is but a whimsical footnote to, not a selling point of, this wonderful album.



Impact Press
Reviewed by J.C. Carnahan
TijuanaStripClub • Sparklers and Bottlerockets • (Foggydog Records) •

Singer/songwriter Randy Cordero brings a set of lungs that sound a lot like Leonard Cohen.

 

This release is carried by Cordero's voice and the Œoutlaw on a lost highway' kind of atmosphere. Blending an alt-country, folk, alt-rock and electronica collective is a progression that sounds far past much of the basic singer/songwriter stuff out there right now.

 

"Hate the Sound of Rain" and "Hapless Suitor" provide a little insight on what is offered here. (JC)



Culture Bunker
Reviewed by Nate Fitz
TIJUANASTRIPCLUB - Sparklers and Bottlerockets (Foggydog Records)

When 10,000 Maniacs came out a few decades ago, you braced yourself for screaming zombie punk and got introspective folk-rock.

 

Tijuana Strip Club poses the same problem. The name conjures up something between The Reverend Horton Heat and Calexico, or at least some funky mustachioed organist out of a David Lynch movie. If you're going to name your band as if you should be serving up cheap margaritas to seventeen-year-old gringos on Avenida Revolucion, then where are the mariachis and cheesy striptease numbers? I suppose the lesson is you can't read a band by their cover.

 

Maybe singer/songwriter Randy Cordero should have gone for Cordero and the Commotions instead, for he picks up Lloyd Cole's mantle, drops it an octave and takes it for a drive through the Southwest.

 

This album often feels like a travelogue through Cordero's relationships, with mixed results. On "Mercy Springs," he sings "you are the reason for everything… you make the winter feel like spring" of love that works, and on "Bottlerocket," love is a terrible trap he can never escape: "…when it starts again, it's like a bad rerun."

 

While his lyrics aren't subtle, sung with Cordero's distinctive bass, they do resonate - as in "Last Words," when saying goodbye to a lover is the "…last taste of honey/ I'll ever eat." By this, the tenth track, they offer up some welcome Spanish guitar to the alt-country vibe. With "Runs Deep," and "The Love That She Deserves," that follow, this San Francisco quartet finally sound like they're having fun, delivering some cha-cha-cha maracas, wacky synths, trumpets, and still more Spanish guitar.

 

The day they kicked out these goofy jams was probably the day they named the band. Tijuana may be the place to go for cheap thrills, but Tijuana Strip Club is where you go for unexpectedly earnest vignettes on the travails of love in the modern world, with just a dash of kitsch.

--- Nate Fitz 8/11



Fufkin
TIJUANASTRIPCLUB Sparklers and Bottlerockets (Foggydog Records)

Tijuana Strip Club Sparklers and Bottlerockets (Foggydog) Randy Codero, the man behind the Strip Club, sings like Mark Eitzel, writes like Steve Earle, and generally does enough to keep the country-folk enthusiast's interest piqued.

 

There are choice softer acoustic moments - "Hate the Sound of Rain," "Bottlerocket" and Stephen Duffy's "Natalie" - that tug the heartstrings nicely enough. More sensitive than that ironic name suggests.



COSMIK DEBRIS MAGAZINE
Reviewed by Rusty Pipes
TIJUANASTRIPCLUB Sparklers and Bottlerockets (Foggydog Records)

With a name like Tijuana Strip Club I would have expected something bawdy and loud, maybe like the Black Crowes, but TSC is nothing like that. Mostly sedate and introspective, their music is much more akin to the moody poetry of Leonard Cohen. Indeed the low-register, slightly raspy vocals of TSC's frontman, Randy Cordero, can easily be mistaken for Cohen's and the lyrics of most songs follow that same seen-my-share-of-trials path.

 

A few of these bottle rockets fizzle, like Cordero is trying a little too hard to be capital-M Meaningful, but most cuts are quite deserving to be called sparklers. My favorite on the CD is "Hapless Suitor" where Gary Myrick contributes some spare but pleasing blues guitar, but I also enjoy the more acoustic-driven songs "Turnstile" and "Natalie."

 


[Pick this up at "http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/tijuanastripclub/from/blvds"© 2003 - Rusty Pipes



ZERO MAGAZINE
Reviewed by Mike Peaslee
TIJUANASTRIPCLUB Sparklers and Bottlerockets (Foggydog Records)

How can you hate clean, pristine, country-tinged rock? I liked the Wallflowers. I liked the Gin Blossoms. This is well put-together music, adult contemporary at it's most listenable and inspired. Vocalist Randy Cordero never actually lifts his voice from a husky drone until the last song "A Kind Word is Never Thrown Away," but neither does he overtly molest the mic or your ears with cheese.

 


Once you wade into this long album, you start to hear an odd, unexpected mixture of synthetic drums, synthesizers, production hacks, tweaks and sonic manipulation that completely contradict the purely organic instrumentation. At no point do you feel that they just set up a mic in the room and pressed record. It never feels unnatural—just deliberate. It comes off like a heavily sci-fi and LSD influenced Jimmy Buffet with a cold... sort of happy and jingly, yet subliminally morbid and bent.

 

Ultimately, this is a pretty good record, but it doesn't give enough of a fuck to be a great one. While the songwriting and production is spotless and moving, the emotions and artistic risks taken almost seem like photocopies of the real thing. This one is almost, but not quite.
-Mike Peaslee