Urban Warrior
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Urban Warrior

Band Alternative Rock


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The best kept secret in music


"Free City Media"

URBAN WARRIOR – The Subtle Revolution (SRS)

When I heard Neil Young’s brilliant, scathing new album Greendale, I was shocked to realize that it was the first thing I’d heard in some time that really takes on the current state of the world. Where are the younger people? Should Neil really have to take the responsibility for being the voice of yet another generation? With the exception of a few courageous songwriters such as our good friend Øyvind Holm of the Dipsomaniacs, the peace and justice contingent among musicians has been strangely quiet in the face of the Neoconservative unraveling. San Francisco’s Urban Warrior steps up admirably to help fill the artistic political void with a manifesto of progressive values.

The revolution on this concept album is indeed subtle. This is not The Clash, minutemen or Rage Against The Machine. The music is somewhat like late ‘70s progressive rock on the edge of going new wave. Renaissance made an album in this vein, and Tim Jones and Terri B. of Stone Premonitions have explored similar styles in their recordings with Body Full of Stars and The Rabbit’s Hat. The relative accessibility of the music here adds weight to the band’s point that the "urban warriors" are normal people trying to make it through life in the city while attempting to hang on to civil rights and ideals of freedom. Brocton Funke’s agile, inventive percussion provides the momentum beneath the dramatic yet pure vocals of Kevin and Josephine Amman. Kevin Amman plays guitars, bass and harmonica while Josephine plays keyboards. The songs on The Subtle Revolution form a larger cycle with repeated themes so I won’t go into a full track by track exercise. The everyday weary resignation of "Market" is particularly well observed, as is the song’s clever intertwining of personal and global concerns. Some of the other highlights include the twisted circus waltz of "City", Kevin Amman’s lyrical guitar solo on "Ego System", and Gregg Dessen’s melancholy trumpet and flugelhorn parts on "Inner Mission". A light, jazzy bass and piano counterpoint erupts into a heavy, Rush-like chorus on "Propaganda". "The War at Home" and ""Trance End" are detailed with touches of spacey dub.

The Subtle Revolution gets a little didactic in places like an impassioned graduate thesis and the melodies tend to venture toward the overwrought. However, those small quibbles don’t get in the way of this being a worthy and cohesive statement. Urban Warrior presents a rock solid anti-corporate, anti-war position accompanied by varied, tuneful arrangements. The government wouldn’t want you to hear this album. Isn’t that a pretty good reason to go to www.urbanwarrior.org?

Review © 2003 by Nick Bensen.
- Nick Benson


"Urban Warrior Prepare For Battle In San Francisco"
Band throws CD release party at Cafe DuNord.

August 12, 2003 -

Headliner: Urban Warrior
Opening Acts: The Duds
When: Sunday July 27, 2003
Where: Café du Nord, San Francisco, CA
Ticket Price: $5 at the door.

"The coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco" - Mark Twain

Sunday was a typical San Francisco summer day. We drove out to Stern Grove because my gal wanted to check out a free performance by the SF Ballet in the park. We arrived for the second set of dance, having missed the first while driving through the city and trying to find parking. Right before the third and final set of dance, the director of the Ballet took the stage, thanked everyone for coming and informed us that it was too cold for the show to continue. He told us that it is "dangerous" for ballerinas to dance in the cold, this despite the fact that the world's greatest ballet is Russia's Bolshoi. I guess Moscow in mid-winter is balmier than SF, especially in late July. Not wanting our afternoon of high culture to end, we motored over to our friend Katy's place to watch that new art film Old School.

Both the ballet and the film were merely precursors to the big event of the day: Urban Warrior's CD Release party at Café du Nord. The last time I had seen Urb War was probably two years ago at Last Day Saloon, another venerable San Francisco live music venue. At that time they were a trio, but now, a few years into the future, they were a quartet. The band still had the original three members: on drums, Broc Funke (just so you know, you pronounce the 'e' like a 'y', and, yes, it's the name he was born with), on keyboards and guitar, respectively, was the wife/husband duo of Josy and Kevin Amann, and the newest member was Gregg Dessen, who fills the roles of both bassist and horn section, specifically trumpet. (Apparently, Urb War once opened for Gregg's former band Motorholmes back during the dot com boom. He's been a fan since and has recently joined their ranks. Since he's a new member though, he only appears on a couple of tracks on Urban Warrior's premiere album. That's the same album they've been working on for the past year, the one they were releasing this evening for the assembled crowd).

The set kicked off with the fittingly titled opening song "Incoming." Urban Warrior's sound is hard to place, because it's quite personal and unique. There's a late 70s, early 80s quality to it, not in the sense of pop music like Wham!, but more in tune with the art house rock sound of the Talking Heads, although they don't have the bouncy energy of The Heads. Josy sits at the center of the ensemble, a Valkyrie mounted on her keyboard leading the pack. She's flanked on either side by bass and guitar, with drums riding shotgun in the rear.

I gotta say, this was a weird little crowd that assembled for this special event. At no point during the show did anyone other than the waitress get closer than 15 feet from the stage, and the only reason she got that close was she had to pass the stage to get to the wait station. Now, upon reading that, you may think "Wow! That must have been an insane stage show to keep the crowd back so far." Well, don't bother thinking that. The band was tame and there was nary any pyrotechnics. In fact, my gal and I were standing back around the 15-foot mark and were at the front of the audience. Maybe this is a new trend? I dunno.

Despite the 15-foot permimeter, the band is tight. I mean you can tell that they're not just going through the motions, playing their songs, hoping to make it big. There's a level of communication going on between the musicians, which is what, in essence, good solid music is about. Kevin's guitar is used both for lead and rhythm; he's not pulling a showboat act. It's impressive since guitarists usually fall into one of two camps: background rhythm or soloing front man. Kev straddles a fine line.

Broc's drumming keeps a slippery rhythm running. He doesn't fall into a groove and sit on it until the next change in the song occurs. He's playing with his drum kit as much as he's playing it, working out the design of the music in real time, based on the feedback he's getting from the other musicians. This rhythm is complimented by Gregg's running bass, which is as fresh and playful as Mr. Funke's drums.

Josy's keys are the glue of this group. She's spreading the urban warrior essence, a strangely sinister vibe, not as in an overt threat, but more of an unpredictability of necessity. What does that mean? I guess, it's that city vibe of You Could Be Next despite how good your run has been up to this point.

Unfortunately, the acoustics at Café du Nord were less than stellar on this particular evening. The instrumentation shone forth, but the lyrics to the songs were sonically muddled. This is a shame because Urban Warrior clearly have something to say. The titles to their songs are a testament to this. Some lay the bedrock of the band's philosophy: "Propaganda," "The War At Home," "Drama pt. 2." Others combine seriousness and wit: "Ego System" and "Inner Mission," which is a pun that tips its hat to good ol' SF, particularly the Mission District of the city. I think. Maybe I'm just reading too much into it. If it's not a local double entendre, well, it should be.

The harmonies Kevin and Josy create are hypnotically tasty. Josy holds forth with eerily deep tones, while Kev belts out notes with a rockier edge, rockier being a definition I just coined meaning "having a rock 'n roll essence" as opposed to the original definition, "having more rocks than something else." The duo is well complimented by Broc's tireless syncopations and Gregg's melodic rhythm. Once again, that's Broc Funke: pronounced with a 'y', written with an 'e.'

For a couple of the tunes Gregg dropped the bass and picked up the trumpet. He has a jazzy muted style to his playing. We're not talkin' loud, belting New Orleans jazz here. We're talkin' something you'd expect on a Tom Waits album, from the later years.

One song that had me laughing, through no inherent fault of its own, was a number titled "Follow The Choppers". Every song I hear that references helicopters is forever branded with an experience I had at the Coachella music festival back in April. On our way in on day one, a guy was handing out free CDs for his band The Clams. If you ever hear of The Clams playing in your neighborhood, move. Trust me on this one.

Anyway, The Clams CD, or "EP", contained four whole tracks, one of which was a suburban white boy vision of what it would be like to live in South Central and be a crack whore. I'm not kidding. The song is AWFUL, yet like "America's Scariest Police Chases" it's frighteningly appealing. The lyrics are as follows:

"Helicopter! Helicopter!
Fly into my brain
Helicopter! Helicopter!
Driving us insane

My crack box is empty
It's 2 in the morning
And I need more crack

I'm at your door
Just like a whore
Cuz I want more."

But I digress. I can say, with all honesty, that Urban Warrior's helicopter song really ripped it up. It had a driving urgency to it, which was neither dogmatic nor pedantic. Kevin's guitar and vocals were dead on awesome. It was fresh. It was original. It was …well, not raw, but a little pink on the inside.

By the end of their set, Urban Warrior was fusing nicely. They played the last couple songs out, and delivered a fine set for the assembled audience, despite the fact that there was 15 feet of dead air between the musicians and the audience itself.

After Urban Warrior's set, a pair called The Duds took the stage. The Duds were formerly called The Milk Duds, but they dropped that name after some nasty lawyers made it clear that the band was in violation of something or other. The duo is Matt and Will Strickland, two brothers who jam on guitar and drums. Matt, the guitarist, is also a producing engineer, and he's the guy who helped to craft Urban Warrior's first album.

I liked The Duds' set. Anyone who still uses smoke machines is OK in my book and The Duds had theirs cranked up to 11, at least for the first couple songs. The music had some style, not bluesy, but a darker rock, that was neither too heavy nor too intense. It's the type of music to kick back at a table on the side with your lady and just look cool to.

Interestingly enough, this wasn't just a CD release show. The three original members of the band are relocating to New York City for the rest of 2003. Maybe they'll be getting some gigs out in Williamsburg; keep your ears peeled. Even if they don't reform until they return to the West Coast, I really think New York City will give Urban Warrior a bit more of the Urban edge, and it will be interesting to hear how they incorporate it into their musical stew.
-- Tom Anderson
- Tom Anderson

"CDBaby review section"

Urban Warrior: Powerful, Meaningful, and Addicting
Reviewer: Tim Villanueva
Incredible. With amazing vocal harmonies, powerful musicianship, and fascinating lyrics, Urban Warrior: The Subtle Revolution will blow you away. Suddenly, and Unexpectedly, I was captured into another world, another realization of life beyond my suburban bliss. Watch out for these guys, they are a powerful act. The professionalism of the mix is tremendous. From Spanish guitar essence, to hard driving angry rock, all with a melancholy attitude of a street warrior. You can't miss with this one. - Tim Villenueva


The Subtle Revolution - 2003


Feeling a bit camera shy


Urban Warrior is a San Francisco band. This is important because we uphold the ideals of our forefathers of the S.F. sound - Diverse songs and politically driven words, but with new twist of epic, emotional melodies. The city is our inspiration and it comes through in the music and mission of Urban Warrior.