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August 2005 Reviews by

Acid House Kings
Alice Cooper


The Bad Doggies
Blues Traveler
The Bomb

Kate Campbell
Comment Piece
The Cubby Creatures
Steve Dawson

Deep Dish
East Is East

Orenda Fink*
Tom Fuller
Kite Operations

Richard Hawley
Listen to Bob Dylan

Mikki James
The Len Price 3*
Nada Surf*
New Black

Faris Nourallah*
The Peasall Sisters
The Ribeye Brothers
Rock Star: INXS

Maria Taylor*
The Vinyltones

Viva Las Vegas

Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer

*Top Picks

Additional Items Received


August 2005 Comment Piece:
Manners Lost...Manners Regained.

Manners used to be an important part of society in the United States. In the small town where we grew up, we were taught to be cordial and polite to everyone and to treat others as we ourselves would want to be treated. Several decades ago there were certain standards that most people adhered to with regard to how folks treated one another.

That has unfortunately changed drastically in most large metropolitan areas over the past few decades. Most people who live in heavily populated areas have become very rude, thoughtless, selfish, pushy, and just plain hateful.

Last year we were still living in Shitlanta...the terrible, overcrowded, smelly, shitty city in the middle of the terrible, overcrowded, smelly, shitty state of Georgia. Being around so many anxious, selfish, nervous, rotten people for so many years made us anxious, selfish, nervous, and rotten. After dealing with unbearable traffic, jerks with too much money, trash, pollution, airheads, and way too much "diversity"...we finally made the wise decision to leave. And that's when our manners returned.

When we lived in Shitlanta, we had become so jaded by all the animosity and rudeness of its citizens that we too had become assholes. It was a sad fact, but it was the truth. Thankfully we recognized what had happened to us so we finally headed to Tennessee for some psychological healing. The change of location worked. We are now acting and behaving like we did when we were kids...before Shitlanta turned us into bitter antisocials. We hold doors open for folks again just like we used to...and they actually say "thank you" (!). We help folks in the world who need help when we are able to. We take time out to chat with older citizens. And when we have the choice of either being in a mad selfish rush or stopping to be kind to another citizen...why, we actually find ourselves stopping to help others. It's a really great feeling and it has made us realize something that we had almost completely forgotten. This is the way life is supposed to be.

Here in Tennessee most people still have manners. Not everyone...but most people do know how to treat one another. Amazing but true, manners actually seem to be the norm here...instead of being horribly out of place (like they are in Shitlanta).

We often wonder why anyone would choose to be in an overcrowded city like Shitlanta...particularly when it costs so much money to live there. Why would anyone want to pay loads and loads of money...to live in a place where the quality of life is HORRIBLE...? It just doesn't make good sense.

But now the days of rage and hatred are gone...having been replaced by contentment and a general appreciation of life.

Ah...the truly rewarding mental benefits of living in a better place...

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Acid House Kings - Sing Along With the Acid House Kings (CD & DVD set, 27, Pop)
Acid House Kings are currently dubbed as Sweden's number one guitar pop band. Begun in 1992, the folks in this group have gone through several transformations with their music...culminating with the band eventually building their own studio to record Sing Along With the Acid House Kings. The album features twelve smooth, ultra-hummable soft pop tunes with a keen emphasis on arrangements. An interesting twist is that this CD includes a bonus DVD that allows you to sing along to the songs. This band's tunes combine slight hints of 1960s radio pop with modern production techniques. The result is a smooth and easy listen. These songs seem to glide by effortlessly. Thankfully, there are no weird studio tricks or walls of sound to detract from the effervescent melodies. Top picks: "This Heart is a Stone," "Do What You Wanna Do," "Tonight is Forever," "Wipe Away Those Tears." (Rating: 5)

Alice Cooper - Dirty Diamonds (CD, New West, Rock)
Midway through his career, Alice Cooper seemed to lose steam and direction. Whereas his early albums with his original band were furiously groundbreaking...his early solo releases just didn't cut the mustard. Accordingly, it was utterly surprising that in the late 1990s Cooper completely revamped his image and sound...and ended up once again being credible and entertaining. Few artists who have been around as long as Alice could come up with an album as fresh and appealing as Dirty Diamonds. We have come to expect overproduced crap from legendary artists from the past...but this is one case where this is certainly not the case. Diamonds recalls Cooper's glory days...as the album is peppered with subtle hints of Love It To Death, Killer, and Billion Dollar Babies. This may not be Alice's absolute best album ever...but it sure as Hell stands up well on its own and makes us glad that this 1970s icon is still making music. Featuring a nice blend of hard rockers and slow pop tunes, Dirty Diamonds offers more proof that Cooper has yet to burn out...and will probably never ever fade away. (Rating: 5+)

Aroah - En El Patio Interior (CD EP, Acuarela, Soft pop)
Spain's Aroah returns with another satisfying batch of tunes. En El Patio Interior begins with a strange take on Lou Reed's "Caroline Says II" (from his Berlin album). The tune is presented in such a way that the listener almost forgets how totally depressing the lyrics are. The remaining five tracks are originals written by I. Tremblay and R. Fernandez. These folks continue presenting songs that are sung in either English or Spanish (the accompanying lyric booklet even features the lyrics to each song in both languages). Aroah has been a babysue favorite for some time now. With releases like this, it's no wonder why. Killer tracks include "Blue Room," "En El Patio Interior," and "A Dream." Excellent. (Rating: 5+)

The Bad Doggies - Hit Us With the Goddamn Newspaper Again (DVD, Planetual)
Hailing from Los Angeles, China, The Bad Doggies have their tails poised firmly between their hind legs. Hit Us With the Goddamn Newspaper Again, the band's final album, is like getting a shot of rabies in the rear end. Each song is named after a dog disease ("Distemper," "Tape Worms," etc.)...but not a single tune lives up to the promise of its title. We suppose the band figures wearing dog outfits in concert is enough to please most folks. Weak songs will always turn us off, however...and ultimately The Bad Doggies do just that. Thank God this band is no more. Terribly crappy. (Rating: 1)

Blues Traveler - Bastardos (CD, Vanguard, Progressive pop/rock)
Formed in New Jersey in 1983, the fellows in Blues Traveler had their biggest success in the 1990s with a string of popular albums. After finally taking a break for a year or so and reforming in 2001, the band eventually found themselves comfortably at home on the Vanguard label. You'd think--considering how long they've been around--that these guys' music would sound contrived and dated. But anyone with reservations will likely welcome the refreshing tunes on Bastardos. Some of the tracks on this album are surprisingly unconventional, while others are quite normal and accessible. The playing is tight and spirited...and the vocals sound fresh and vital. What impresses us most about Bastardos are the arrangements. Some of the tunes incorporate some very odd instrumental and vocal tricks...giving the songs a slightly eerie effect. Many dinosaur bands are no longer significant. With this album, the guys in Blues Traveler prove that their spirit is still intact and thriving. Fourteen cuts here, including "You Can't Stop Thinking About Me," "After What," "Rubberneck," and "The Children of the Night." (Rating: 5+)

The Bomb - Indecision (CD, Thick, Rock)
The Bomb is the latest project spearheaded by Jeff Pezzati who was formerly in the band Naked Raygun. Indecision is a decidedly refreshing and unpretentious album. Rather than coming off sounding like contrived post punk, the tunes are true hard rockers with steady beats that should drive most fans into a frenzy. In addition to Pezzati, the band consists of Jeff Dean (guitar), Pete Mittler (bass), and Mike Soucy (drums)...the latter two of which are also the rhythm section in the rip-roaring band The Methadones. Strong songs are what make Indecision such a pleasing spin. While the band rocks hard, songs are the real focus of their desire. Nifty intelligent rockers include "Up From the Floor," "Indecision," "Further From the Truth," "Won't Apologize," and "1000 Tons of Ice." (Rating: 5+)

Kate Campbell - Blues and Lamentations (CD, Large River Music, Blues/folk/bluegrass/pop)
Sounding somewhat reminiscent of a very subdued Janis Joplin or a more soulful Allison Krauss, Kate Campbell is the real thing. There are thousands upon thousands of artists playing bluegrass/folk/blues music...but rarely are they as genuine and as effective as Ms. Campbell. Blues and Lamentations features thirteen enchanting compositions that will stand the test of time. Campbell is fond of telling stories with her songs...and the veins are usually threaded with tales of the rural South. What is perhaps most impressive about Kate's tunes are how sincere and genuine they sound. For such a young artist, this lady has some real depth to her soul. Songs like "Pans of Biscuits" and "Wheels Within Wheels" easily stand up to some of the best bluegrass classics ever recorded. A truly magical album from an engaging new artist... (Rating: 5+)

The Cubby Creatures - After the Deprogramming (CD, Rodent, Progressive pop)
We've always been suckers for pop music laced with violins. San Francisco's The Cubby Creatures is a refreshing pop band whose music sounds something like a combination of Cockney Rebel and the Starlight Mints. Beautifully packaged in an orange and green embossed digipak cover (which includes an insert with lyrics), After the Deprogramming is a refreshing jolt of intelligent modern pop. This group writes tunes that are challenging, often quite complex, and generally don't fit in with the current scheme of things. Upbeat, uplifting, and thought provoking...this album gets better and better the more you spin it. Cool mental pop tracks include "Electric Goat," "The Caress of the Cathode Ray," "Pawn Takes Queen," and "Night Comfort Theater." Excellent from start to finish. (Rating: 5+)

Steve Dawson - Sweet is the Anchor (CD, Undertow, Pop)
Soft pensive classic pop in the same vein as Denison Witmer. Growing up listening to classic artists made a definite impact on Steve Dawson. Sweet is the Anchor is this young man's debut album...and it's a definite keeper. Dawson will undoubtedly be an instant hit among critics. His smooth, melodic, decidedly mainstream tunes are a far cry from your average modern alternative band. There are no weird sounds, no overtly cute studio tricks, no dumb haircut, and no stupid looking clothing to be found here. Songs are Dawson's central focus...and songs are what make Anchor such a pleasant and rewarding spin. These eleven compositions are soft and straightforward...and Steve's slightly soulful vocals are a perfect fit for the tunes he writes. Top picks: "Temporary," "Sweet is the Anchor," "Love is a Blessing," "Ten Thousand Pounds," "The Monkey Mind is On the Prowl." (Rating: 5+)

Deep Dish - George Is On (Double CD, Thrive, Dance/pop)
Deep Dish is the duo consisting of Ali "Dubfire" Shirazinia and Sharam Tayebi. George Is On is a collection of intelligent pop/dance cuts that are highly reminiscent of late 1980s new wave disco/dance music. The overall sound is much slicker and produced, of course...but the idea is the same. Shirazinia and Tayebi apparently like to keep their tunes simple and to-the-point...which is what probably draws many fans to their music. In addition to recording their own songs, these two gentlemen also travel the planet as DJs (on CD #2 of this set they present remixes of their own tunes). Steady and infectious 4/4 beats and subtle arrangements add meaty substance to this duo's tunes. Even those who hate dance music are likely to find their toes happily tapping along to songs like "No Stopping For Nicotine," "Sacramento," "Say Hello," and "In Love With A Friend." Nice, solid, easy. (Rating: 4++++)

East Is East - Better Days (CD, eiemusic.com, Rock/pop)
What struck us first about Washington, D.C.-based East Is East is how much they don't sound like an unknown underground band. Rather than playing artsy underground crap that no one can understand, the guys in this band play very consumer-friendly rock/pop music that is catchy and uplifting. Gosh almighty...you've just gotta love a lyric line like: Gravity...always brings me down (haw haw!) (from "Gravity"). Better Days was recorded at bass player Jeff West's home studio and was produced by Frank Marchand. The overall sound is decidedly slick and professional...and PT Sevin's vocals are focused and impressive throughout all ten tracks. High points on this entertaining disc include "Mary's Gone" (a duet with vocalist Meg Murray), "Liar," and "Up and Down Mike." (Rating: 5)

Eel - People People (CD, Records of the Damned, Electronic pop)
Readers should be aware of the fact that Eel has no connection whatsoever with The Eels. This fact will be immediately obvious to anyone who hears People People. Featuring fifteen bizarre technology-rich tracks of nervous modern pop, the album is certain to frighten off most pop music fans. And this is most likely the exact reaction that the young Japanese lady who call herself Eel is seeking. Her songs are loopy, goofy, silly, fast, and very childlike. While the music is obviously too peculiar for the general public, folks seeking the obtuse and the unusual will find a lot to love here. Swirling electronic tracks like "Eel Start It Up," "Wannabe," "E Simples," "C'et la Vie!," and "Olives" are likely to leave folks giggling in the dust. A strange flavor indeed. (Rating: 5)

Orenda Fink - Invisible Ones (CD, Saddle Creek, Soft pop)
Who was the real brain behind Azure Ray...Orenda Fink or Maria Taylor...? Now that the two have split up the answer is obvious...both ladies were. It is curious seeing where these two ladies are heading now with their separate careers. Fink is probably veering off familiar paths the most. Traces of Azure Ray can be heard in Invisible Ones...but Orenda is obviously treading into some new territories here. Some of the tracks are haunting and sparse (and reminiscent of the past) while others have surprising commercial potential. Thankfully, Fink has not sold out. While she is experimenting in a wider and more accessible arena, she is by no means creating music for the masses. Invisible Ones is personal and genuine...and weaves wonderful threads of personal yearning. The vocals are, of course, exceptional throughout. Ten engrossing tracks here, including "Leave It All," "Invisible Ones Guard the Gate," "Miracle Worker," and "Dirty South." Recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Tom Fuller - Chasing an Illusion (CD, Red Cap, Pop)
Tom Fuller is a young man with a vision who is making things happen for himself. Chasing an Illusion, his independently-released debut album, has already produced the hit single "Back Again." Fuller paid his dues when he was younger playing in garage rock bands in Chicago...but eventually opted for a more mainstream approach with his songs. The soft pop tunes on Chasing an Illusion were written around a single acoustic guitar...and then bathed in appropriate arrangements, courtesy of producer Rick Chudacoff (who has worked with The Temptations and Allison Kraus, among others). While the album has a slick and professional sound, Fuller still comes off sounding genuine and inspired. Twelve tracks here, including "Dare To Love," "Missing You," "Chasing An Illusion," and "No Goodbyes." Nice smooth stuff. (Rating: 4+++)

Goldrush - Ozona (CD, Better Looking Records, Progressive pop/rock)
Oxford, England's Goldrush is a modern band with a true D.I.Y. approach to music. Not only does the band run their own label (Truck Records) and sponsor an annual festival (The Truck Festival)...but they also record all of their songs themselves in their own studio. For this album, the band found themselves in Ozona, Texas. Setting up a makeshift studio in an abandoned building, they recorded the eleven strangely compelling tunes that make up this album. These four gentlemen make music that seems strangely out of touch with what one normally hears from Great Britain. Actually and in fact, the songs on this album don't quite seem to fit into any easily defined category...although there are some definite slight hints of Americana peppered throughout. The songs on Ozona are heartfelt, pure, and genuine...and feature wonderfully sparse arrangements. This is one band that never overplays. Instead, they show great restraint as they present their tunes using only the bare essentials. The ultra-restrained vocals are absolutely beautiful. So many modern bands lack real substance. The gentlemen in Goldrush provide genuinely refreshing tunes with some of the most superb melodies around. Killer tracks include "Wait for the Wheels" (the disc also includes a video for this tune), "All the Faces," "Each Moment in Time," and "What I Thought." Recommended for fans of Neil Finn. Ozona is...magnificent. (Rating: 5+++)

Governments (Dull and boring and worthless kind of things)
All governments are worthless. Whether they are federal governments, state governments, county governments, or city governments...they all STINK. Why do they stink? Because they are run by smelly scum at the bottom of the pond. Anyone with anything whatsoever going on in their lives would never ever want to work for any government. So...whose salaries do we end up paying with our almighty tax dollars...? Second rate morons...because they can't do anything else. And then we wonder why governments are so corrupt. It's because they are chock full of rejects. Governments. What a joke. They're just one more reason to hate humanity. (Rating: 1)

Kite Operations - Dandelion Day (CD, K.O.A., Progressive pop)
Kite Operations is the latest band sculpted by Joseph Kim and David Yang, both of whom were previously in the critically acclaimed Theselah. Dandelion Day features twelve beautiful pop tunes recorded with acute attention to detail in terms of composition and arrangements. In some ways, these tunes remind us slightly of the first School of Fish album. Kim and Yang manage to present some rather intense music that always manages to focus--first and foremost--on spectacular vocal melodies. These songs are not easy...but neither are they overly taxing and difficult. By combining abrasive tendencies with ethereal sounds, this album succeeds on many different levels. Dreamy hard pop with peculiar spontaneity. Top picks: "A Wonder," "Effervescence," "Washing Out," "Surprise," and "Play Undo." (Rating: 5+)

Richard Hawley - Coles Corner (CD, Mute, Soft pop)
What year is this...? Is this 1965...? Ummm...exactly what year is this...? Writing and recording music that sounds very much like stuff your parents (or even your grandparents) once listened to comes naturally to Britain's Richard Hawley. We admit that it took several spins before Coles Corner started to sink in. The music initially just sounded so...dated. But after you hear this album a few times, you begin to realize that this is exactly what Hawley intended. Richard's songs harken back to a simpler time when people wanted to hear music that was a relaxing escape. As such, his songs recall artists like Roy Orbison and Gene Vincent. It'll be interesting to see what kind of audience Hawley draws. Will it be older folks who are searching for a sound that is familiar to them...or will it be younger listeners who just want something out of the ordinary...? Whatever the case, Coles Corner is a well conceived reminder of a simpler time when things weren't as screwed up as they are now. Eleven cuts including "Coles Corner," "The Ocean," "Tonight," and "Last Orders." (Rating: 4+++)

J+J+J - They Hump While We Go Nuts (CD, Circle Machine / Johann's Face, Techno pop)
J+J+J is the band consisting of Joanna Jablonski, Johnny Ludwig, and...Jesus. The reason we opted to review They Hump While We Go Nuts is simply because the album made us feel good and laugh. Joanna and Johnny have a goofy sense of humor and their music sounds loopy and peculiar. The overall feeling of their tunes reminds us of a cross between The G.T.O.'s and Sparks...if they were performing twenty-first century pop on analog synthesizers and casios. Nervous and strangely intense, this duo is making music that is almost completely out of touch with everything else...and that is a very good thing. Crazy cuts include "Skeeball vs. The Mall," "High School? You Mean Inverted Caste System" (great title), "Portable Ultra Sound," and "Jobs That Require Headphones." Twisted, silly stuff. (Rating: 4++++)

Listen to Bob Dylan - A Tribute (CD, Drive-Thru, Pop/folk)
Having never been big fans of Bob Dylan, we may not be the best folks in the world to review this double disc tribute. One thing is certain, however...and that is that we have always found Dylan's songs to be much more enjoyable when they are interpreted by others. As such, there are some really cool gems to be found in this set. Immediate standout cuts include Steel Train's covers of "Don't Think Twice (Its Alright)" and "I Shall Be Released," As Tall As Lions' cover of "Girl of the North Country," The Format's take on "Simple Twist of Fate," I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody's Business's rendition of "Positively 4th Street," and RX Bandits cover of "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll." Sad but true, there is probably not a single band on this earth that could make tired old overplayed tunes like "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Like A Rolling Stone" sound good. Thus, for the most part the real keepers here are the lesser known songs. This is most certainly the best way to listen to Bob Dylan however...without having to hear his voice. An interesting project. (Rating: 4++++)

Mikki James - Guess What... (CD, Xemu, Pop/rock)
Mikki James came to the attention of many folks as the bass player in the criminally overlooked 1990s band Thin Lizard Dawn. That band was (unfortunately) far too explosive, creative, and intelligent for mass success and eventually splintered. Afterward, Mikki toured with Leona Ness and The Shetland Pony...before finally recording his first album (Sugar Daddy by Mike G). The album was a favorite among critics...but failed to sell well. From that point forward, Mikki changed the band name to his own name and continued releasing albums. Guess What... is a charged up intelligent collection of unusual rock tunes. Mikki's bandmates are strong contributors: Ivan Evangelista (guitar, vocals), Matthew Hagerman (guitar, vocals), and Jon Webber (drums, vocals). The band is tight and inventive...and the vocal harmonies sound amazing. Guess What... is a refreshing reminder of what a great songwriter Mr. James is. Ten cool cuts here, including "Hand on the Goose," "Guess What," "Can't Get Loose," and "The Wrong One." (Rating: 5)

Money (Retarded kind of worthless crap)
Money. Money, money, money. Everyone wants money. And everyone wants to make more money. Money fuels everything in our lives and yet...in the end, it actually means very little. And yet people fail to realize this. As we all know, having enough money to live is important. But beyond that it is a very phony and artificial thing. And if you will notice...when you are out there in the world...people who are motivated entirely by money are totally pathetic. People who impress us the most are those who are driven by their convictions rather than the desire to have lots of money. One thing is certain. Money will always be the driving force in the world. And that just might explain why the world is, overall, a rather shitty place. (Rating: 1)

LA JR - LA JR (CD, Acuarela, Moody progressive pop)
LA JR is Borja Fernandez Fernandez (banjo, piano, melodica, percussion), Frank Rudow (bateria, metalofon, bongo, organ, percussion), and Rafael Martinez Del Pozo (vocals, guitar, metalofon, organ, percussion). One might surmise from the instruments used on this album that LA JR is definitely not a conventional band. These three gentlemen write and record soft and subtle moody progressive pop compositions. Their songs are, fortunately, sung entirely in Spanish...which only adds to the band's mystique. Great restraint was used in recording these tunes...which feature lots of airy open space and superbly hushed vocals. You won't find any "hit" tunes here, as this album spins something like a collection of modern mood pieces. Intricate and peculiar, the CD features ten tracks including "Cualquier Cosa De Este Dia," "Copo De Nieve Y Yo," and "Cuatro Pares De Caballos Blancos." Lovely and enchanting. (Rating: 5)

The Len Price 3 - Chinese Burn (CD, Laughing Outlaw, Pop/rock)
What would The Ramones have sounded like if they were part of the 1960s British Invasion...? Well...spinning Chinese Burn just may give you some idea. The debut album from The Len Price 3 features fifteen short kickass tunes that recall the urgency of early albums by The Kinks, The Move, and The Who. The band plays ultra-direct songs that are short and sweet. Interestingly, all of these tracks were recorded in mono...giving the album a wonderfully authentic retrospective feel. The overall sound of Chinese Burn is so authentic that you may swear that this material was recorded decades ago...but there's an underlying freshness and subtle static feel to the music that makes it obvious that these guys are playing thoroughly modern music that just happens to have kickbacks to the sixties. The band consists of Glenn Page (guitar, vocals), Neil Fromow (drums, vocals), and Steve Huggins (bass). These gents play with incredible conviction...and their songs totally kick ass. The guys in The Len Price 3 make music with real substance. Kickass cuts include "Christian in the Desert," "Viva Viva," "Chatham Town Spawns Devils," "She's Lost Control," and "Fire in My Heart." Great stuff. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Nada Surf - The Weight is a Gift (CD, Barsuk, Pop)
We have gone apeshit over the band Nada Surf in the past...but this disc really, really blows us away. The Weight is a Gift is possibly the best album yet from this brilliant pop band. If you think all modern pop sounds the same, think again. Contrary to popular opinion, pop tunes with real emotion are not a thing of the past...and the tunes on this CD are pure living proof. Cerebral, inventive, and genuine...this is pop music that is played straight from the heart. The arrangements are kept to a bare minimum...allowing the listener to absorb the soaring cerebral vocal melodies. The harmonies are so good that you'll have to hear 'em to believe 'em. On The Weight is a Gift the folks in Nada Surf have simply done everything right. Virtually perfect from start to finish, this will easily end up being one of the best albums of 2005. Classic tracks include "Concrete Bed," "What Is Your Secret?," "Comes A Time," and "Imaginary Friends." Highly recommended. (Rating: 6)

New Black - Time Attack (CD, Thick, Skewed Pop/rock)
Combining some of the wilder elements of 1970s punk and 1980s new wave with a hard modern jolt of intense technology, the folks in New Black play odd rock music that assaults the listener while remaining decidedly danceable. Time Attack is a frantic collection of tunes. The female vocalist (Patti Gran) has a nervous perky squeal that is simultaneously surreal and trippy. When she isn't spitting out lyrics, male bassist Liam Kimball sings. The main goal of the folks in this band is to just have a good time and entertain their audience. Wild jagged stuff that doesn't require too much thought...and yet it somehow enlightens. Killer rockers include "Mere Cats," "Khalil!", "Big Haus," and "Toaster." (Rating: 5)

Faris Nourallah - King of Sweden (CD, Western Vinyl, Pop)
Faris Nourallah returns with another enchanting collection of wonderfully inviting pop. Faris began his career as one half of the Nourallah Brothers (with sibling Salim). The two quickly went their own separate directions...the result being two distinctly unique songwriters now each recording and releasing solo albums. On King of Sweden, Faris' songs continue to remind us of early Ray Davies (particularly in terms of his vocals). The songs are personal and reflective...and they feature winding melodies that are absolutely killer. While Faris has yet to catch on in a big way in the boring ol' U.S.A. (no surprise there), in other parts of the world he is now being heralded as one of the greatest up-and-coming songwriters. This is most certainly the case, as King of Sweden solidifies Mr. Nourallah's presence in the world of underground pop. In some ways, this album is darker and stranger than the previous two and yet...threads of optimism prevent the music from ever sounding depressing or dull. Faris Nourallah's songs continue to astound and amaze us. These simple, straightforward tracks have a tendency to stick in the mind like mental glue. Thirteen peculiar cuts here including "Reverse Engineering," "Dreamers Do," "I Run Faster Than You Can," "Far From the Sun," and "Tattoo Your Woman." Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Oranger - New Comes and Goes (CD, Eenie Meenie, Pop/rock)
Exceptionally smart guitar rock. The provocatively titled New Comes and Goes features thirteen kickass pop/rock tunes that are bleeding at the seams with cool hooks and great guitar riffs. Main songwriter Mike Drake writes killer tunes...and his bandmates Matt Harris, Pat Main, Bob Reed, and John Hofer do an excellent job of fleshing them out. The guitars are fat, chunky, and totally irresistible. Possibly the best thing about Oranger is the fact that the band's music doesn't sound similar to any one artist in particular. The songs have strange familiar threads running through them...but we just can't seem to figure out who the influences are or might be...(?!?). That is, of course, a huge compliment. These songs have tremendous staying power and just get better with each and every spin. One of the best guitar pop albums we have heard in quite some time, New Comes and Goes is a real powerhouse of a spin. Killer tracks include "Crooked in the Weird of the Catacombs," "Garden Party for the Murder Pride," "Haeter," "Flying Pretend," and "Target You By Feel" (love those song titles, guys...). Comes in a cool black, white, and pink digipak cover. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

The Peasall Sisters - Home To You (CD, Dualtone, Bluegrass/pop)
The Peasall Sisters are Sarah Peasall, Hannah Peasall, and Leah Peasall. What stands out most about this trio is the fact that they are all very young. As of the release of Home To You, Sarah was 18, Hannah 14, and Leah a mere 12 years of age. These three young ladies sing together so perfectly that at times their vocals sound as if they were computer generated (!). While the tonal qualities of their voices give their ages away, the intent behind the music does not. Exceedingly mature in their mental delivery, these three ladies present songs that are classy and satisfying. And instead of modern canned bluegrass pop music in the background, the arrangements on Home To You are surprisingly authentic and real. Considering the fact that most youngsters want to sing and play nothing but pop and rock, The Peasall Sisters are a refreshing reminder that there are some youngsters out there who are willing to take a different path in life. Beautifully rendered cuts include "Home To You," "Logtown," "Gray County Line" (our favorite), and "Where No One Stands Alone." (Rating: 5+)

Retconned - IN ALL CAPS (Independently released CD-R, Electronic pop)
The man who calls himself Retconned returns with another batch of underground electronic pop designed to puzzle, confuse, and entertain. The tunes on IN ALL CAPS are reminiscent of early 1980s synthesizer pop...particularly artists like John Fox and Suicide. Odd spoken/sung vocals combine with strange analog synths to create a wall of moody modern pop. Because this disc will not be available in stores, the curious should visit the web site above. Clever, imaginative, and inventive. (Rating: 4++++)

The Ribeye Brothers - Bar Ballads...and Cautionary Tales (CD, Times Beach, Rock)
The Ribeye Brothers deliver the goods once again. Recorded on vintage equipment, Bar Ballads...and Cautionary Tales has all the abrasive garage rock qualities that made bands like The Zombies legendary. For those unfamiliar with the band, The Ribeye Brothers are Tim Cronin and Jon Kleiman (both were formerly in the band Monster Magnet), Jim Baglino, Matt Forman, and Neil O' Brien. Together, these five gentlemen play harsh, intense rock music that combines the best hard rock sounds of the 1990s with the simple, direct spirit of 1960s garage rock. Cronin's superb macho vocals are the centerpiece of the band's sound. The man is a deep growler and his presence just bleeds out through the speakers like deep red spicy steak sauce. The low gloss production works in the band's favor...allowing the real punch of their music to hit the listener directly in the crotch. These guys seem to be getting more forceful over time...while their songs just keep getting better. Tales features thirteen tracks and two interludes. Top picks: "Nothing To Show You," "Lonesome Rhodes," "Electric Chair," "Goddamn the Sun." (Rating: 5++)

Rock Star: INXS (Worthless television show kind of thing)
At the peak of their creativity, the guys in INXS were playing drab, boring, unimaginative dribble. It was always puzzling to us why anyone would want to listen to...let alone purchase...the shit these guys pawned off on anyone who would listen. One would think that after all this time people would have realized the inherent vapid nature of the band's tunes. Ah but this is, of course, not the case. Instead, idiots and assholes the world over still want to worship and idolize INXS. Just goes to show how stupid people are. But as the television show Rock Star: INXS proves, people are getting even stupider over time. What kind of idiot would want to sing for such a shitty band...? You might want to catch ten or maybe fifteen minutes (at most) of this pathetic show to watch young no-talent retards trying their hardest to "rock out" and "impress" the band. It's a sickening sight indeed...and it makes one despise INXS more than ever. They've always been sell out losers. But now that they're taking the American Idol approach to boost their farted out career...you just know with absolute certainty that money is still the only thing on their minds. But hey, the assholes of the world just love it. Here in babysueland, we just can't help but scratch our heads and wonder why... (Rating: 1)

Sciflyer - The Age of Lovely, Intimate Things (CD EP, Clairecords, Progressive pop)
Dreamy shoegazer rock in the vein of Swervedriver and early Starflyer 59. This EP consists of four songs from two lost singles the band released earlier in their career plus a thirteen minute droner called "Never Come Down." Sciflyer is driven by the ethereal guitars and reverb drenched vocals of Steve Kennedy. This EP finds the band sounding as smooth and satisfying as ever. Kennedy and company's subtle approach to progressive pop works exceedingly well, partly because the songs are neither overworked nor overproduced. The open space in these tunes allows the listener to soak up all the slight nuances in the songs. Packaged in a beautifully designed digipak cover, The Age of Lovely, Intimate Things is both lovely and intimate. (Rating: 5+)

Sex (Overrated stupid human idiotic kind of thing)
What's the big deal about sex...? It is the absorbing and intense desire of most people...and a constant source of humor and discussion among others. And yet...sex itself is really kinda boring. Yup, you read that right. B-O-R-I-N-G. So two people (or more) lick and kiss all over each other and then have ejaculations...so what? What's so intriguing, funny, and interesting about that...? Sex is just like everything else in the world. People exaggerate its importance because their lives are empty and meaningless. They focus on it because they don't have anything better to focus on. People get off on screwing each other because...in their pathetic little narrow minds...it somehow validates their existence and makes them feel as if they aren't the ugly little rodents that they really are. So go ahead everyone. Mess around and have all the sex you want. In the end it won't really matter...because you'll be dead. (Rating: 1)

Socratic - Lunch for the Sky (CD, Drive-Thru, Progressive pop)
What kind of rock band begins their album with a beautifully flowing piano composition...? The fellows in Socratic are taking a different approach to modern pop music. Instead of slamming out generic power chords while the vocalist screams anxiety-ridden dribble...these young fellows are writing and recording intelligent compositions that are surprisingly complex and effective. The folks at Drive-Thru seem to be taking more and more chances lately with regard to their artist roster. As a result, they will undoubtedly pull in a much wider variety of listeners. The tunes on Lunch for the Sky are classic in composition and presented with such class and style that they could easily be appreciated by almost anyone who enjoys pop music. But don't expect sappy trash or predictable commercial crap. While song structures are key here, the band never sells out or compromises themselves in order to make sellable music. They obviously have too much integrity for that. Top picks: "Theme From Your Mother's Garden," "Tear a Gash," "Lunch for the Sky," "Spending Galore." (Rating: 5)

Somerset - Pandora (CD, Punknews, Rock)
First reactions might lead one to believe that Somerset is nothing more than another generic twenty-first century flailing band with no identifiable sound. But upon closer observation, it becomes clear that this band's music has actual intellectual depth. Actually and in fact, it is the soaring roller coaster melodies on Pandora that make them stand out from the pack. The album features three re-worked tunes [one from This Thought Process (the band's first EP) and two previous demos] plus nine brand new tracks. While the band is loud and aggressive, the vocals are clearly up front in the mix...allowing the listener to not only follow the melodies, but to also understand the lyrics. While this may not be hip in today's slutty infested rock market, it is refreshing to hear a loud rock band who truly believes in the material they are playing. Gutsy and frenetic, Pandora features lightning speed pop played with progressive mental energy. (Rating: 5)

Maria Taylor - 11:11 (CD, Saddle Creek, Soft pop)
Considering how great Azure Ray was...it seems sad that the duo of Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink is no more. Our guess is that both creative forces were probably just too strong to continue as a duo. But the good news is that over time listeners will probably now get to absorb twice the amount of music. Maria Taylor's 11:11 is a logical extension of Azure Ray. The album continues in the same vein as the duo's later material, with an overall vibe that is a bit more accessible. Taylor's voice sounds as incredible as ever and her lyrics are continually puzzling and intriguing. Produced by Mike Mogis and Andy LeMaster, 11:11 has a nice thick sound and is peppered with plenty of modern technology. Some of the tracks are reasonably sparse, others are orchestrated with plenty of subtle surprises. Ten great songs here including "Leap Year," "Nature Song," "Xanax," "Speak Easy," and "Hitched." Recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

The Vinyltones - Memoirs of a Songbook (CD, Tru Artists Entertainment, Pop)
Smart, articulate, well-produced modern pop. Memoirs of a Songbook is the first CD to be released on the newly formed Tru Artists Entertainment label. Although The Vinyltones originally got together about a decade ago, the members eventually went their separate ways...until their creative sparks finally caused the group to reform. The timing must be right for these guys this time around, as Songbook is a thoroughly entertaining and engaging collection of tunes. The band's songs are peppered with just the right amount of studio tweaking. Despite the fact that this is a slick and polished album, many of the tracks still have quite an edge. These songs might best be described as hard power pop. The playing is spirited and ballsy at times...but the melodies are ultimately hummable and catchy. Excellent vocals throughout. Memorable tracks include "Hey Solomon," "Nashville," "So Far Away," and"Leaving Northport." (Rating: 5)

Viva Las Vegas - 2 (CD, Acuarela, Moody progressive pop)
Beautiful, gliding, dreamy progressive pop with spooky, sensual undertones. The folks in Spain's Viva Las Vegas write and record complex and slightly strange compositions that get better and better with every spin. The tunes on 2 are, for the most part, spacious and soft...but the band's music can get somewhat tense at times due to the occasionally busy arrangements. The vocals are breathy and hushed...adding just the right personal element to these tunes. This band's moody and peculiar songs won't be heating up the airwaves anytime soon...as they are much too intelligent and esoteric. Viva Las Vegas fans, however, will likely be delighted by these ten thoughtful and unusual tracks. Top picks: "Mis Tres Dudas," "Descanso," "El Sol Se Cayo," and "No Creo En Ti." (Rating: 5+)

YMCK - Family Music (CD, Records of the Damned, Electronic pop)
Family Music is a bizarre album. YMCK is Midori (vocals), Nakamura (VJ, keyboard), and Yokemura (keyboard, composition). These three Japanese musicians write and record pop music that is mostly driven by the 8-bit Nintendo. The sound is purposely dated and peculiar...as monosynth lines cross and divide through the synthesized percussion. But what is most surprising about this band's music is how mature the songs are. Despite the odd outdated computer sounds, the songs themselves are amazingly well written and feature some wonderfully gliding melodies. These songs give one the feeling of listening to Burt Bacharach while riding the kiddie roller coaster. Family Music is a fun and enticing ride to be certain. The tunes on this album could easily be interpreted and presented by a mainstream artist...and turn out to be major hits. But don't expect to hear YMCK on the airwaves anytime soon. The way this trio presents their songs, their music is much too strange for the average listener. But don't let that stop you from sampling this disc. It is a decidedly groovy and goofy trip. Features twelve cuts, including "Magical 8bit Tour," "SOCOPOGOGO (YMCK Version)," and "Your Quest Is Over." Very unusual and unfamiliar sounding material here. (Rating: 5+)

Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer - The Popsicle EP (CD EP, Eyeball, Pop)
Anyone wanna take bets on how long it takes this band to shorten their name to Zolof...? Heh heh heh...probably not very long. Folks who enjoyed girlie buzzsaw pop bands from the 1990s will likely love the tunes on The Popsicle EP. The band's louder songs recall artists like Fuzzy and The Fastbacks (more the former than the latter). Being big Fuzzy fans (one of the great 1990s bands that never made it for some unknown reason), we were not surprised to find ourselves instantly intrigued by Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer. While we love the rockier tracks on this EP, the tunes that caught our attention most were the slower ones: "Oh William" and "Popsicle." There's a lot more going on here than simple buzzsaw pop. These folks write great songs. Can't wait to hear the upcoming full-length... (Rating: 5)

Additional Items Received:

Abner Trio - Distant thunder of the sacred force
A Change of Pace - An offer you can't refuse
Brandon Adamson - Bright colors that fade
American Princes - Little spaces
The Atlantic Manor - Sneaking up on the death scene
The Atlantic Manor - That trouble that you left
A Wilhelm Scream - Ruiner
Ben Reel Band - Sweet victory
Between Home and Serenity - Power weapons in the complex
Bottom of the Hudson - Holiday machine
The Car Is On Fire - The Car Is On Fire
Celebrity Pilots - Beneath the pavement, a beach!
Emmy Cerra - Metamorphic
Chicago Blues Reunion - Buried alive in the blues
Coffinberry - From now on now
Cold - A different kind of pain
Continental - What was gained...
Cordova - Lie until it becomes the truth
Coven and Crazy D - Gangsters and busters
The Cummies - Suicide tools
Deep Elm Records - The new crazy
Destination Oblivion - Decay
Dope Smoothie - Go strike
The Doublestops - The Doublestops
Doveman - The acrobat
The Early November / I Am the Avalanche - Split CD
The Ebb and Flow - Time to echolocate
Escape Velocity - Chaos theory
Eyes to Space - Eyes to Space
The Fair Store - The strugglers
Fizzle Like a Flood - Golden Sand and the Grandstand
Frontier Index - Frontier Index
Genuine Article - It's all in how you look at it...
The Get Quick - How the story goes
Ghorar Deem Express - Ghorar Deem Express
Himuro - Mild fantasy violence
Taylor Hollingsworth - Tragic city
Hollow Horse - Beggarstown
Hotness - We're taking over
Jim Jacobi - Solo you can't hear it!
Michael James - Everything we used to be
Kind Strangers - Still building
King Elementary - Kudzu
Latterman - No matter where we go
Light the Fuse - Various Artists
Limbek - Let me come home
Lozenge - Undone
John Ludi - rise above or fall below
Katy Mae - The Lightning and the sun
Marah-Mar - Marah-Mar
Matt Martin - Piechest
Lori Michaels - The lilac testament
Minamina Goodsong - The four farmer circus
Minutes Too Far - Let it roll
Mummy the Peepshow - School girl pop
Nine Black Alps - Nine Black Alps
Nural - The weight of the world
The Old Scratch Revival Singers - Oh, didn't he ramble
Parker - Parker
Parker Street Cinema - Parker Street Cinema
T. Raumschmiere - Sick Like Me
The Relief Effort - At your mercy
A. J. Rosales - Resistor
Seven - Drunk chicks
Charlie Sexton - Cruel and gentle things
Jack Shriner - For here or to go
Slim Baub - Ghost dawg
Slobot - Slobot vs. The Minotaur
Dan Smolla - Sky of my mind
Sock Angels - Let's be friends
II Big - In a Mendocino town
Television Hill - Twilight
Robert Temple and His Soulfolk Ensemble - What would you do?
Ten in Texas - XIT
Test Shot Starfish - Test Shot Starfish
Things Outside the Skin - You knew it all along
Towers Mute - Towers Mute
Wifey - Wify
Xiu Xiu - Xiu Xiu

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