Dyin' To Be Jesus

Itch - Dyin' To Be Jesus ©1992 Nettwerk
1. Energy Vampire
2. Freedom 55
3. More Gimmicks
4. No Death
5. Good To Be Alive
6. Photosynthesis
7. No Life
8. The Club
9. Body & Head
10. Dyin' To Be Jesus
11. Suspended Reflections

Itch is the brainchild of Vancouver area pianist/singer Mark Critchley and features contributions from Rob Wright from NoMeansNo, which naturally should get some immediate attention from the more fanatical followers of that band. Itch's sound is an unusually dense, peculiar blend of piano and guitar in a wall of sound that also features erudite lyrics from Critchley. There are times when the sounds on the album are so dense and competitive that things boil down to a quagmire of noise, but for the most part the album is entirely full of infectious energy and baffling but deft arrangements. The piano inclusion into a primarily punk setting is intriguing and Itch pulls it off well. Critchley's vocal delivery is the only weak link in the music, as his voice is a thin, Biafra-esque wail that often resorts to reciting the lyrics rather than singing them. However, given the multitude of information presented by the music, a less than stellar vocal delivery can be overlooked. The album is also able to switch between slower, less clustered songs such as the excellent "Open Letter to Dr. Strange" and the thick molten slabs of chaos. Many of the arrangements allow for builds within the songs that create actual climaxes. The final track is a very impressive piano piece that shows off Critchley's ability on the instrument. While the album may sail past less patient ears, Dyin' to Be Jesus is a quite unique and enjoyable record that offers quite a bit to interest those looking for atypical punk infused hybrid music.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/2001

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Pull The Wool

Itch - Pull The Wool ©1994 Nettwerk
1. B Song
2. Stress
3. 88 Hammers
4. My Gang
5. Frankenmouse
6. Swampwater
7. B.F.D.
8. Daisy
9. Rhodaners

You can safely call Mark Critchley the Billy Joel of punk rock. Acting as Vancouver's own "Piano Man", Critchley released two albums in the 90s featuring a distinct and unusual blend of hardcore punk and piano playing with a serious amount of depth. Pull the Wool, the second Itch album, is a continuation of where 1992's Dyin' to be Jesus left off, only with a bit better sound quality.

One glance at the lengthy lyrics and one can immediatley tell Critchley has quite a few things on his mind. The liner notes also contain a ton of information on various political topics, similar to Jello Biafra's diatribes but better organized. Critchley's voice is still the one fly in the ointment, sounding like a thinner, wavering Biafra. He tends to recite his lyrics rather than sing them. It is the one thing a listener must endure to enjoy the record on a whole. Meanwhile, the band, which occasionally features NoMeansNo's Rob Wright on session bass, stirs up a whirling dervish of a sound, swirling with piano riffs, rampaging and speedy rhythms and often a wall of sound that nearly overwhelms a listener. At the same time, Critchley has a great sense of dymanics which can build the better songs into sweeping pieces. While everything sounds like it was recorded at ten, the production allows individual instruments a reasonable amount of clarity in the din.

Itch definitely will never find a huge audience. Either you will love the insane clustering of sounds or you will hate it. There isn't a whole lot of middle ground with their output. However, at the same time, you aren't going to find many other challenging artists within this realm and Itch stands tall as a very unique artist.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/2001

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