Some reviews our releases received weren't tied to a specific date. Because they came out in magazine form, both paper and web, they're listed here instead of as a part of the This Day In History section.
A New Design for Living
Review by Dave Mandell of Jaded Times
There is something I really like and something I really hate about this record.
Unfortunately, I can't really put either into words. It's kind of odd, like I really want to like it but make fun of it at the same time. The music itself is relatively creative and technically impressive; the vocals border on ordinary, but at moments create awe-inspiring harmonies that are oddly uplifting, and the backing vocals are quite pleasing. Impressive drum work (though poorly e.q.ed and far too bass heavy) backs some really interesting and at times elaborate guitar melodies, creating a pretty decent alternative/rock sound; these are smartly constructed songs that are reminiscent of a cross between Alice in Chains and the Epitaph bands of the 90's. Lyrically, The Stepford Five often border on cheesiness (which isn't helped by the 90's grungified vocals) but then can shift as fluidly as the music, which (on track 5, entitled Ted Hughes) climbs from standard guitar rock riffs to an almost samba beat, met by cello and minimal guitar/bass.
Though it does at times border on that grunge sound and is slightly polished, it is still a pretty good record and well worth checking out.
Live Review: Midwest Music Summit by Laura Hamlett of Playback StL (September 2003)
August 8-9, 2003 Indianapolis, IN
We went to the Midwest Music Summit for the first time, expecting it to be a letdown after other festivals we’ve attended. Though it was on a significantly smaller scale with a different focus—where SXSW brought in as many hot, up-and-coming bands as possible, MMS prefers instead to focus on unsigned bands, in order to give them a broader audience—we left Indianapolis after the third day very impressed.
Now in its third year, MMS is both showcase and conference, offering industry-themed panel discussions and Q&A to performers and registrants. The real focus, of course, is the music, and MMS had plenty of that: over 250 performers in 22 venues over the course of three nights. Though unsigned and unfamiliar, a number of these bands were visionary, talented, and fresh.
Top on the list has to be Columbus, Ohio’s Miranda Sound. Their upbeat, fast-tempoed music is a striking contrast to the vocal interplay between Billy Peake and Dan Gerkin. Peake’s vocals reach high, evoking Sunny Day Real Estate in all its glory. When he’s not singing, Peake plays guitar with a manic, jerky energy. Instrumentally, the band’s music is far-reachingly melodic, rich, and textured; they play with a magic cohesiveness and creative vision. http://www.mirandasound.com/
Complex arcs of guitar and stutter-stepped, hard-hitting drums define The Stepford 5, yet another export outta Columbus. They also win for quote of the festival, as singer Keith Jenkins proclaimed, “Sooner or later, we’re going to prove to the rest of the stupid country that the Midwest is where all the good rock bands are.” Their music is a hybrid of shoegazer and harder modern rock, with strong vocals and harmonies. As TS5 play, the sounds become waves of chords and beats, all crashing on the beach at once. Nice stuff. http://www.stepfordfive.com/
Indianapolis itself has a couple of natives deserving of accolades; the first of these, Loretta, is a young quintet that falls somewhere in the realm of Bends-era Radiohead. Intense, almost possessed, vocalist Damon sings with eyes closed, body jerking, neck veins bulging—yes, they are that into what they’re doing. Strong guitars and stronger dual vocals—from Damon as well as guitarist/keyboardist/singer Jason—combine for a powerful indie-rock sound. Watching Damon onstage, you fear for his safety each time he jumps around the cramped space; he’s every bit as jerky/freaky/possessed as Thom Yorke. http://www.lorettamusic.net/
The Pieces are an Indy three-piece—lead singer/songwriter/guitarist Vess Ruhtenberg, bassist/vocalist Heidi Gluck, and drummer Devon Ashley. Think of them as the White Stripes of pop; Ruhtenberg even has that mussed-up Jack White look about him. He and Gluck traded vocals, often cleverly written lines, and he played guitar like a true rock star. For her part, Gluck, a gawky Rosanna Arquette–type, added just the right amount of feminine wiles and outright oddness to make the snappy pop songs even more memorable. http://www.thepieces.net/
We also caught sets by local boys Just Add Water and Somnia, both of whom put on solid, well-received shows.
We look forward to discovering more of the Midwest’s best in 2004!
The Art of Self-Defense
Review by Melvin B. Strange of Idiot Press (December 2001)
One of the better efforts released by a local band in 2001. "The Art of Self Defense" is worlds beyond the last recording released "Mesh" in 2000 by TS5. This album shows a much more versatile and emotional side to the band. Another fine recording from Workbook Studios. The intro of this record alone lets the listener know they are in for an interesting rock and roll romp filled with changing time signatures and interesting song structures. If you only pick up one local disc in 2001 or 2002, pick up "The Art of Self Defense" by The Stepford Five.
Review by Matt the Greek at Action Attack Helicopter (December 2001)
This band is ok. They kind of remind me of new Bush a whole lot, except their lyrics seem to actually mean something. This band specializes in that heavy, early 90's guitar rock sound, but definitely with more emotion. I could see these guys being one of the better bands on the radio, but still nothing that I could see being in my regular rotation. If you dig like Three Doors Down or Fuel or something, this is that kind of stuff, but with more talent and heart.
Review by Scott at Poploser.com (February 2002)
Top 10 Records of 2001
#10 - The Stepford Five - The Art of Self-Defense
It's nice when you can forget all things emo for a second and enjoy an album that's a throwback to the early 90's alternative rock scene. Better produced than their promising debut, Mesh, The Stepford Five finally seem to be coming together on The Art Of Self Defense. While tight arrangements and crafty guitar hooks abound, the main theme of this Ohio foursome's albums always seems to be one thing: rock 'n' roll. Besides, how can you not love a band whose liner notes thank The Afghan Whigs, Catherine Wheel and The Cult?
Review by Sergio Ruiz of The Village Buzz (February 2000)
For those of you who have been involved with the buzz since the beginning, you might remember me gushing about a band called 10Watt. Coming out of Bowling Green, they reaffirmed my notion that modern music was not only still living and breathing, but it was evolving, and slowly leading me into a path of addiction. You might also remember my cardiac arrest when they had broken up shortly after I had caught only one of their shows (trust me, there is no connection here). Well, this month, I heard from Tim Minneci. It turns out that Tim has put another project together, in collaboration with Keith Jenkins and Jason Dziak. If those names don't ring any bells, they were members of 10Watt. After hearing from Tim, I could not wait to see what the band had come up with. I was not let down. To my surprise, there were even a few 10Watt surprises on the album. On Mesh, the band covers a full range of ground, from the haunting lilt of "Misplaced You" (one of my favorite songs ever written) to the straight forward rock groove of "Broken Skin."
The Stepford Five has been long in the making. Teaming up in the sixth grade, Dziak and Jenkins began getting their act together for a talent show. During their time at Bowling Green State University they met up with Tim Minneci and formed what would ultimately become The Stepford Five. Following graduation, the band members relocated to Columbus to pursue jobs and gigs. Recruiting drummer Mark Kovitya, the band was ready to take it to the streets. A year after forming The Stepford Five, they present Mesh. Years in the making, and worth every minute of the journey.
Review by Ian Stewart of AUTOreverse (Spring 2000)
Rock! Rock! Rock! The CD opens with a big fat beat that sounds kind of like an octopus with two floor toms. The drums sound damn good, like vintage Steve Lillywhite job like XTC BLACK SEA or that one Big Country album I'm thinking of. Much strumming of loud guitars playing open chords and backing vocals that remind me of Bob Mould. Many songs start with one guitar playing a riff or chord alone. Er, suggesting it's a singer/songwriter/guitarist's show here. The songs are fully-formed and rock where they're supposed to but me personally I was never a fan of The Replacements or any of the bands that formed in their wake and there's something very Mats-ish here. It's not you guys, it's me. I'm sorry. I just need some space right now to think about things.
Review by Fibi of Mutuant Renegade (April 2000)
The production is sparse - not lo-fi, but no exactly Backstreet Boys, either. The songs are rock-pop-punky, with distorted guitars, crunch bass lines and steady beats. Occasionally, a tasty guitar solo creeps through, and that's what sets The Stepford Five apart from the slew of post-grunge bands whose should they've copped and tweaked.
Review by Jack Rabid of The Big Takeover Issue #46 (Spring 2000)
Reviews in the MESH press kit compare this Columbus four to Catherine Wheel, Bob Mould, and Dinosaur Jr., (and Afghan Whigs and Jeff Buckley), So into the player she goes! Put it on... Well, maybe not exactly, but there is an intrepid, thick wall of guitar here like Happy Days, The Last Dog and Pony Show or You're Living All Over Me, and like those blue-ribbon artists, there's a willingness to work with the nuances in the big sound, instead of just throwing up an inconsequential wall of alternarock noise. A tambourine adds a shakin' groove...guitars drop off. leaving a humming bass... a surprising, light funk beat drops by... a tempo retard is executed perfectly.. a short acoustic track sounds sad instead of gratuitous...and piano just barely peaks out of Need to Know, then replaces the guitars on "Making Sound." Singer/leader Keith Jenkins and fellow guitarist Jason Dziak have been playing together since a sixth grade talent show, which helps account for the streamlined tightness, the pinpoint guitar parts firing so precisely. The vocal hooks could work harder, and the production, while hearty, sometimes restrains the drummer's slam-bang combustion. But this isn't band, and they are probably exultant live.
Review by Steve Kaklamanos of Spill Magazine (August 2000)
The album starts off with some decent alterno-pop. Of course... while trying to pin down the band's sound, Third Eye Blind, Semisonic, Gin Blossoms, Matthew Good and Matchbox 20 did come to mind... but... the early going is still decent. Specifically, the first two songs are quite good (especially the pretty second one, "Need To Know"). They remind me of stuff by Sugar (the Bob Mould outfit). Unfortunately, the album starts slowly sliding into mediocrity from then on. A funk number entitled "Get Yourself Together" falters seriously. It's not the kind of thing the band should venture into. Then there's "Misplaced You," which illustrates how much the band should also NOT venture into "Mr. sensitive singer/songwriter" territory. Any adolescent teen in his bedroom could do that, and perhaps even better (the singer even SIGHS at the beginning!). Mind you, the song's just a 1 minute 44 second throwaway, anyway. What's really sad is that track 9, "Making Sound," always seems as if it's gonna work itself up into something really powerful, but it just doesn't. They should re-work the tune with the more climatic peaks in mind and play close attention to what seems to be working for them.
Review by Greg Cataline of MUEN (September 2000)
Though it is true, MESH is the debut album of the Stepford Five... the actual story of the band begins with two boyhood friends... two founding members, Jason Dziak and Keith Jenkins. The line-up of what would become the Stepford Five was put together while the two were attending Bowling Green State University in Ohio a few years back. Most of the songs that appear on this first album were written during that time.
After graduation, Jason, Keith and friend and fellow songwriter Tim Minneci, made the move to Columbus, OH. to find jobs and to, of course, be somewhere where a music scene actually exists. So like many bands before them (Howlin' Maggie, Scrawl, Watershed, Afghan Whigs... and more), the Stepford Five began etching out a music career in some form or another, with the final addition of drummer, Mark Kovitya.
Well, the "form" is now taking shape nicely! True, there is a great similarity to Afghan Whigs, obviously one of the bands biggest influences, but the depth of this band seems endless... Lead singer/songwriter Keith Jenkins echoes the stylings of BUSH, but after a very thorough acid bath. What lifts the band to even higher levels is the guitar work of both Keith and Jason Dziak. Aggressive and explosive riffs that are raw and slither powerfully within the crevices of modern guitar power rock. With that, a competent drummer (Kovitya), a roving bassist (Minneci), and little dash of The Stones, you have a magnificent concoction that is almost sure to rouse the spirit of many starving people who are desperately seeking alternative/indie music that has a "real" core and foundation.
The debut album MESH covers all the bases. From straightforward rock chops to smooth ballads accompanied by the piano of Dziak, it delivers flawlessly in all categories. There is an air about the music, in the songwriting, and in the pure assault of great melodies mixed with both aggression and tenderness that is delivered boldly and confidently. And on top of it all... the production of the album itself (produced by Neal Schmitt and The Stepford Five) is superb. This could only be matched by accomplished artists in the field.
Review by Frank Esposito of The Glass Eye (July 2000)
Exploding out of Columbus, Ohio, the Stepford Five go a long way toward making alternative rock sound alive-and-kicking, even after major labels have purged their alt-rock rosters, sending countless goateed love boys back to middle management gigs in the fast-food industry. The band - Tim Minneci on bass, Jason Dziak on guitar and keys, Keith Jenkins on vocals and guitar, and Mark Kovitya on drums - electrify a smashing batch of songs here, ranging from the alt-pop-rock glory of "Contact Illusion" to the percolating grandeur of "Get Yourself Together" and the seething urgency of "Need To Know." They take the best parts of ensembles like Afghan Whigs and Girls Against Boys, mix 'em all up and throw it right back at ya. They're Bush with guts and soul.
Actually, you can pretty much strip the "alternative" from all signifiers here and just let their roaring blend of chords and rhythmic propulsion take you over. It's just rock. They also know how to use gaps and spacing - both overlooked tools - to build tension and room in their songs. The end result is fantastic.
Just as this correspondent did, the Stepford Five spent some time at Bowling Green State University on the windswept plains of Northwest Ohio before relocating to Columbus, which is easily the biggest college town in America, both in size and mentality. Appropriately, they make just the kind of catchy noise you need to wade through the pretensions and shortcomings - as well to celebrate the camaraderie and boisterousness - of Midwestern academia. Well done, boys.
Live Review by Sergio Ruiz of The Village Buzz (September 2000)
Next up on the bill was an all time favorite of mine, Stepford Five. I have been a fan of theirs since their days at Bowling Green under the name 10Watt. Their show was much more than I bargained for. I had forgotten what had initially made this band turn my head three years ago. Their current album, "Mesh," is one of the better albums on the market these days. Their approach to music is pure. They are making songs much in the way that a photographer makes an image. Not to record the passage of events, but to capture their essence. They do this better than most.
Their recorded material aside (a copy of the 10Watt bootleg is still in my car), this band is phenomenal on stage. Rather than run through a precontrived setlist, they formed the songs on stage. Breathed life into them. Rather than play live, they brought the songs to life. If you hate what is happening on corporate radio these days, if you you want to hear music by people who are not threatened by record company goons, check out: www.stepfordfive.com or listen to Buzz Radio for more details.
Review by Marcella Iovanni of Boston Soundcheck Magazine Issue 45 (December 2000)
THE STEPFORD FIVE? The Stepford Five? Maybe the addition of one more Stepford would give the group more character. It's been...one year since this band came out, and their sound is like that of the Bare Naked Ladies without the personality. I'm kidding, they're not that bad, but upon listening to the album there came from my lungs a mighty...eh. The problem is, once again, there's nothing to love about them and nothing to hate, and as I'm so famous for saying, indifference can kill a career more quickly then hatred. They are four more guys with interesting hair, guitars, and, a message. I've read the reviews from Columbus in hopes they might influence my feeling towards the band. Praying that they would help me find something I couldn't see. I really wanted to like them, but I couldn't get passed the monotony of it. I think they sincerely tried to break the mold and branch out. You could almost hear twinges of rebellion in the guitar-powered "Making Sound" and the Beck wannabe "Get Yourself Together". However following in the footsteps of such bands as the Goo Goo Dolls and Matchbox Twenty, they have no identity of their own. They are different, but in a safe sort of way. They walk toward the fire of oddity, but choose not to walk through it. They are a good band. Keith Jenkins vocals can be interesting at times, but just when you thought there was change in the wind, they become haunted by the spirit of Rob Thomas. Jason, Mark, and Tim are fully functioning machines of music, but they don't have the extra edge they need to make them stand out beyond the proverbial line drawn in the sand. I don't want to be mean, but I feel the need to stop musical malaise and help bands that are good, become better than the standard, and these guys have a chance to do that.
Review by Stephen Slaybaugh of Columbus CitySearch (June 2000)
Relative newcomers to Columbus, the Stepford Five began as a band called 10Watt that played at clubs around Bowling Green University, where its members went to school. Three of the band's four members—guitarist/vocalist Keith Jenkins, guitarist/keyboardist Jason Dziak and bassist Tim Minneci—moved to the big city after graduation in search of a larger audience and better day jobs. Adding drummer Mark Kovitya, they became the Stepford Five (go figure).
In the short time since arriving in town the band has already recorded a debut album with Neal Schmitt at Workbook Studios, and garnered a strong fan base at local clubs. That record, "Mesh," is steeped in the loud guitar sound of the past decade. Despite an obvious debt to bands like the Afghan Whigs, Dinosaur Jr. and Smashing Pumpkins, the Stepford Five doesn't come off sounding like a mere imitation. Songs like "No Chance" and "Tear It Down" demonstrate a sincere appreciation of those other outfits, but also the mastery of an arsenal of chops and lyrical hooks unique to the band.