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November 2001 Reviews by

 Gabriel "Naim" Amor
The Asshole Fairies
Bertrand Burgalat
The Bevis Frond
The Brought Low

Butthole Surfers
Chiller Twist

Cole Broderick Quartet
Comment Piece
Alice Cooper

Phil Coulter
Dead Meadow

Del Rey*
The Doodoo Blisters
Empire State*
Faith & the Muse

Jay Farrar
Pat Green
Elton John

Jump, Little Children
The K.G.B.
Carole King
King's X
Anita Lane*
Lava Baby

little a
Long Beach Dub Allstars
Lucy Loves Schroeder

Operation Makeout
Pressure 4-5

The Queers


The Strokes
Thought Industry
The Tigers

Toshack Highway

The Witch Haze Sound*
Victor Wooten

*Top Picks


November 2001 Comment Piece:
Amateur Hour...The 2001 Radio Music Awards

We were switching channels on the television the other evening when we came across a completely horrible and untalented band of nobodies cranking out a truly rotten song. As we watched, we couldn't believe how bad the band was and...particularly...how pathetic the vocalist was. We stayed tuned to the channel, thinking that we had tuned into some amateur talent contest. Plus we wanted to find out who this really horrible band was. As it turned out, we had accidentally stumbled upon the 2001 Radio Music Awards show. The amateur band that we were watching turned out to be...Sugar Ray (a band we never liked anyway, but we never expected they could be THIS bad in front of so many people!). The amazing thing was that instead of booing them off the stage (which would have been the only correct thing to do), the phony schmony audience was dancing and singing right along to their vapid lyrics. At this point we were intrigued. We are so removed from the world of commercial music that we don't even have a clue what's happening in "that other world" (thank GOD!). So...we decided to watch a little more to get a sour taste of the reality of the world of music currently being made for money. After a few asshole celebrities grabbed the microphone to say absolutely NOTHING that mattered, Bush took the stage. Man, what a ROTTEN band. Who listens to this kind of stuff anyway??? A couple of minutes later they announced the appearance of Craig David. At this point we thought, ahhhh...at least we halfway enjoyed this guy's last CD. Whoops...we got our hopes up TOO SOON. Mr. David made an absolute fool of himself, wearing a stupid sissy scarf around his head...trying WAY TOO HARD to impress everyone...and singing with such a nervous quiver in his voice that we had to write him off completely. As if all of this wasn't enough to bring our dinner down hard in a sloppy liquid mess in the middle of the floor, the crowd of morons then proceeded to present Elton John (puke!) with a "special award." The wrinkled old has been managed to stumble on stage and fart out a couple of his "tunes" before stumbling back off the stage to whatever nursing home he's staying in these days. (Readers should take note that being old is certainly not a bad thing in our minds--we have a great many friends who are seniors and we find them to be extremely interesting and fascinating. Note, however, that NONE OF THEM run around pushing a goddamn AIDS foundation that just happens to bear THEIR GODDAMN NAME so that everyone will keep buying their goddamn CDs.) We were getting sicker by the minute...as Stevie Nicks then took to the stage to "sing" a number. Ms. Nicks looked and sounded ten times worse than she ever has (which is saying a lot...seeing as how she started out at such a low point to begin with). Finally we could take no more...and promptly turned the television OFF. What amazes us is that anyone would even WANT to be on a ridiculous show like this and yet...as we all know...those sorry assholes are all CLAWING EACH OTHER'S EYES OUT to be included (?!?). All of this did get us to thinking however. Because we LOVE music so much...exactly why did we HATE everything about this show? The answer is simple. In our view, there are two important criteria for music. First, real quality must be present. Second, and even MORE importantly, the intent of the person (or persons) making the music is CRITICAL. Considering these two points, it is no wonder that everything and everyone on the RMA show sucked. First, all the songs stank and were severely lacking in creativity and imagination. But secondly, the motivation was ALL WRONG. These people were not making music for the love of making music. Nor were they presenting any sincere or genuine ideas. Instead, they were churning out phony dribble to make money or...even worse...to gain the attention and approval of all of their shitty peers. The one good thing that came out of all of this? This little experience made us appreciate EVEN MORE THAN EVER all of the truly wonderful and credible underground artists out there who toil away in obscurity...creating music that really IS valid and DOES matter. Even though most folks are not even aware that it exists, today there is more fantastic music being made than ever before in the history of mankind. The problem? It does require that you go out there and FIND it. (Believe us...you're not going to hear it on your car radio or on MTV!) So...rather then end here on a negative note...we instead opt to salute all of those genuinely talented and imaginative people out there who write and record music out for the love of doing it... Keep up the good work, folks. You KNOW who you are (and who you are NOT)...

Gabriel "Naim" Amor - Soundtracks (CD EP, Film Guerrero, Instrumental/ambient/pop)
Sparse and somewhat ambient instrumental music with a French twist. Gabriel "Naim" Amor is already known for his work with The Amor/Belham Duo (he is, in fact, half of the act). For this outing, Amor goes it alone...presenting seven lovely compositions that range from moody to light to introspective. The press release that accompanied the disc says it best: "Soundtracks is a patient and breathing score for a film that will never be made." In the world of instrumentals, it doesn't get much better than this. After hearing mind benders like "Galaxie" and "Iris," we'll be keeping our eyes peeled for a full-length release from this thought provoking gentleman... (Rating: 5)

The Asshole Fairies - Our Assholes Stink Pretty (CD, Baltivision, Twinky metal)
If you think you ain't heard nothing, then you must've ain't heard The Asshole Fairies. Each of these amazing little flying neutrons has a bunch of agendas to present, and present 'em they does. Produced by Phaeodron Markers, this album is the proof what was needed to punch the top closed on these fairies' coffin. They has them loud guitars and them glittery costumes, buy none of it don't do nothing to detract from the blight and frolic-like nature of two birds in heat on the muddle pond. Goddamn the song "Make It Merry and Our Porch Will Be Larger." And goddamn this song as well..."Our Oven Done Got Stuck Up With Patches Of Old Eggs." We don't think it's funny. In fact, we don't even think. (You already KNEW that though...ain't cha?) Actually, there ain't nothing we don't work up that ain't worth getting up to work in the first place. (Say THAT thirty times SLOW.) So now let's all grab it up and let it flax on down the parlor route. These Asshole Fairies are asking to get flushed to Russia and back... (Rating: 2)

Bertrand Bergalat - The SSSound of MMMusic (CD, Tricatel / Emperor Norton, Electronic/lounge/eclectic)
This is a beautiful collection of tunes recorded with superb taste and unique style. Born in Corsica in the 1960s, Bertrand Bergalat has definitely been around...living in several different countries, working with big name artists (including Air and Depeche Mode), producing upcoming artists, and creating his own record label, Tricatel. With all of this (and more) under his belt, it certainly seems an appropriate time for Mr. Bergalat to release his first album. And what an album it is. The SSSound of MMMusic charters a delightful path where lounge meets electronica meets mood music meets the experimental. Comparisons to Serge Gainsbourg are bound to arise, as the music does bear many similarities (Bertrand himself even sites Gainsbourg as an influence). This album gives the listener the feeling of floating in the clouds. The subtle and steady rhythms are counterbalanced by wonderfully abstract and spacey keyboards. Some songs feature vocals but many do not. In some ways, this sounds like the soundtrack to a film. In other ways, it sounds like mood music for the twenty-first century. A heady confection combining French influences with modern technology, this is a cool and breezy album that will please critics AND fans... (Rating: 5)

The Bevis Frond - Miasma (CD, Rubric, Pop/rock), Inner Marshland (CD, Rubric, Pop/rock)
Reissues of the first two (vinyl) albums from Britain's The Bevis Frond. Both were originally released in very limited quantities in 1986 and 1987 respectively. Nick Saloman (the man who is The Bevis Frond) is a true underground icon. Not only has he been recording and releasing music under his current band name since 1986, but he also runs his own independent record label (Woronzow), and co-publishes Ptolemaic Terrascope magazine. We were introduced to Mr. Saloman's music by way of the last Bevis Frond album, Valedictory Songs (released in 2000). The album slowly grew on us, and after a few months we found that we were hooked on this man's music. Now the Rubric label is releasing all of the early Frond material. Potential buyers and listeners should be forewarned that these are very early formative recordings. Miasma was recorded on a four-track machine in a bedroom. Inner Marshland is much better in terms of sound quality, but is still by no means a state-of-the-art recording. Both of these albums present a young British fellow experimenting with sound and songwriting. There are some astounding moments on these albums (we particularly love "Termination Station Grey" and "I've Got Eyes in the Back of My Head"). To be certain, there are some points where the experiments don't work as well...but that is to be expected from someone who was just finding his space. These CDs would be most appreciated by folks who are already fans of the band...but others may unexpectedly find themselves sucked in as well. Saloman's wonderfully melodic, strangely psychedelic music...and particularly his cool, urgent vocals...are refreshing and genuine. Whatever these albums lack in sound quality...they more than make up for with their imaginative spirit. The good news? Rubric will be reissuing the remaining Bevis Frond albums in 2002. We can't WAIT. (Rating: 5)

B.R.M.C. - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (CD, Virgin, Rock/pop)
Really cool mid-tempo groove rock with moody melodies and distant vocals. We particularly LOVE the live drum sound on this album...most likely made possible by the fact that the basic tracks were recorded in one of the band members own home studio. In some ways, B.R.M.C. reminds us of the music of the Dandy Warhols (who just happen to be fans of the band themselves). The main difference is that the Warhols are more pop oriented while B.R.M.C. are more of a groove rock band. Both, however, are highly skilled professionals in the area of melody development. B.R.M.C. songs have a slightly dark and hazy quality that is both curious and strangely inviting. At times the band's guitars seem to blur out in a foggy overdriven haze. We particularly love this band's vocals. The guys manage to get their point across loud and clear without screaming and without sounding like they are trying too hard. This album is chock full of superb rock tunes executed to perfection. Our top picks are "Love Burns," "Awake" (love this one), "As Sure as the Sun," and "Salvation." This is easily the best new band we've heard on the Virgin label this year... (Rating: 5+)

The Brought Low - The Brought Low (CD, Tee Pee, Rock)
The Brought Low is Dean Rispler (bass, vocals), Ben Smith (guitar, vocals), and Nick Heller (drums). The three got their start playing and touring with Sweet Diesel, Murphy's Law, and The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black...but don't expect their music to sound like any of them. Instead, these three guys play loud, genuine rock and roll with sincerity and style. We can hear traces of ZZ Top and The James Gang here...two bands that we admire greatly. The Brought Low write tunes that are simple, direct, and honest. And thank God Almighty...they don't muddy up their music with too much studio gloss and overdubs (!). Instead, the raw goodness of the music is right up front and in your face...making this album a pure dose of rock and roll magic. Great tunes like "Goddamn God Bless" and "Outer Borough Dust Run" make this disc a great one to crank up and just LET LOOSE. Only eight tunes here...but they all KICK MIGHTY GODDAMN ASS. The guitars sound GREAT. (Rating: 4+++)

B-Tribe - Spiritual Spiritual (CD, Higher Octave / Virgin, State-of-the-art world/new age mood music)
Beautiful, romantic, and impeccably recorded material. B-Tribe pick up where they left off on previous releases by combining more state-of-the-art electronics with traditional acoustic instruments. The overall sound is something like a mild version of Yanni, except these folks are not self-indulgent and the music is not overproduced and overblown. The compositions on Spiritual Spiritual combine elements of classical music with miscellaneous aspects from various music cultures from all over the world. The arrangements are meticulous, yet subtle. The production is astounding. Twelve exquisite tracks including "Adagio in G-Minor," "Las Salinas," and "She Moves Through the Fair." An audio delight, Spiritual Spiritual is the best release yet from this constantly evolving musical entity... (Rating: 5)

Butthole Surfers - Weird Revolution (CD, Hollywood, Esoteric rock)
One of the most influential groups of the past couple of decades, Butthole Surfers became something like a modern version of The Mothers of Invention in the underground rock movement in the 1980s. Their intense sound and mindblowing live shows turned them into instant darlings as word of mouth spread about these nutty Texas gentlemen. Weird Revolution is somewhat of a change in style for the band, at least in terms of tempo. Whereas earlier Butthole Surfer albums gave the listener the feeling that their fingers and toes had been permanently jammed into an electrical socket, the new album is calmer...and even contains a couple of tunes that teeter somewhere in the middle of the road. The band's fans need not worry their itty bitty feathers about any of this. The basic haphazard and obtuse elements that made the band so intriguing initially remain intact. Weird Revolution presents a more mature band...but that maturity hasn't hampered their desire to experiment. Interestingly, many of the tunes on this album contain elements of dub and mild hip hop. Longtime fans of the band may scream that they have sold out because they are in the big leagues now...working with big-time professionals in music and film. In our view, entertainment is the key...and with this album, the Surfers still do their job. Sure, we miss the intense surges of loud energy in the early albums...but we are also willing to follow the guys along their new paths of exercise... This CD features fantastic MOVING artwork of a baby shooting down enemy aircraft with its eye sockets. Rather timely, eh? (Rating: 5-)

Chiller Twist - theWay (British import CD, PlumProjects, Dance/techno/electronic)
Dance music with a difference. This is an extremely impressive debut album from Chiller Twist. The band's haunting melodies and sound effects are layered squarely over intoxicating rhythms to create mind-bending swirls of heady treats. Many electronic dance artists are guilty of providing a boring drone...literally one samey beat mixed with the same old techno sounds we've all heard one time too many. This is definitely not the case here. These folks (or this person...?) provide plenty of fodder for the imagination. The beats evolve from one style to another...sometimes dropping out altogether, only to be replaced by wonderfully spacey ambient music (we love these sections the best). There's a lot of ground covered on this disc...making Chiller Twist a dance act that is anything BUT ordinary. Our favorite tracks here are "Strings Ultd.," "Bootsy Goes East," and "Driverz of the Deep." A solid, captivating, and refined effort. (Rating: 5+)

Cinerama - Health and Efficiency (CD Maxi-Single, Manifesto, Pop)
As more and more time passes by, folks are beginning to forget The Wedding Present...while becoming more and more absorbed with Cinerama. David Gedge has covered a lot of musical territory over the years. This, his current project, is an introspective pop band with intriguing arrangements and clever lyrics. While his fans are waiting for the next full-length album (Do The Hustle), the Health and Efficiency maxi-single is released to satiate the masses. Interestingly, this 5 song disc was produced by Steve Albini...but don't expect lots of harsh guitar noise, as this is a pure pop experience. Included are three versions of the title track plus "Swim" and a cover of the James Bond tune "Diamonds Are Forever." No burnout in this campground. Gedge just keeps getting BETTER. (Rating: 5)

Cole Broderick Quartet - Zone (CD, Cole Broderick Recordings, Soft jazz)
Cool, free-floating jazz with style. Although we were not fortunate enough to review a copy, David Broderick made quite a splash in the jazz world with his last release...a monumental 4 CD box set entitled Seasons in Saratoga (Broderick resides in Saratoga, NY). Cole is a pianist/composer with a difference. His writing style is reminiscent of a wide variety of folks, past and present. He surrounds himself with musicians with the chops to make it all happen. The quartet is rounded out by Keith Pray (saxophone), Pat Perkinson (bass), and Gene Garone (drums). Broderick wrote ten of the eleven tracks on this album. The remaining cut ("Accountability") was written by Jeannie Blake. Nice mid-tempo stuff that will please folks into easy listening jazz... (Rating: 4++)

Alice Cooper - Dragontown (CD, Spitfire, Rock)
We haven't heard an entire Alice Cooper album since...since... Actually it's been so long we can't even remember. What we can remember is that the last full-length we heard was so bad we wrote the guy off as no longer relevant or necessary in today's world. Accordingly, we expected this album to SUCK. Well color us both SURPRISED...and very, very WRONG. This is the best Alice Cooper album we've heard since...School's Out. Starting off with the power charged bubblegummy "Triggerman," it is obvious that this man is not trying to recreate the sound he is famous for (although some of the old familiar tricks do creep in from time to time). Alice The Man effectively combines current elements of rock music into his vision to present a strong album of tunes that ought to please old and new fans alike. It is interesting that Dragontown is basically a pop/rock album, because the death metal guitars churning away in the forefront would have one believe this is an excursion into industrial or heavy metal. In any event, melodies matter most...and melodies are what make this album such an entertaining listen. Tunes like "Fantasy Man," "Disgraceland," and "I Just Wanna Be God" prove that The Coop can still write and record some damn good music. This one took us totally by SURPRISE... (Rating: 5+)

Phil Coulter - Lake of Shadows (CD, Windham Hill, New age/piano/soft pop)
An impeccably recorded collection of soft orchestrated pieces centered around the piano stylings of Ireland's Phil Coulter. Lake of Shadows is a beautiful body of work featuring floating melodies and superb arrangements throughout. The title comes from the nickname given to Lough Swilly in Ireland. The lake has particular significance for Mr. Coulter as this is the area where he grew up. In addition, both his brother and sister drowned in the lake in two separate incidents. Coulter transfers his thoughts and feelings about the lake into music...and he succeeds marvelously. These compositions effectively communicate the ideas and feelings that one encounters when experiencing lakes in the wilderness. The instrumental pieces are particularly moving, but the tracks that feature guest vocalists are also intriguing. The album features guest appearances by Sinead O'Connor, Liam Neeson, the New Age Chamber Orchestra of Dublin, and more. A very serious body of work that comes straight from the heart. (Rating: 5)

Dead Meadow - Howls From the Hills (CD, Tolotta, Rock)
Really good druggy rock music that would be perfect for folks into altered states of consciousness. The three guys in Dead Meadow obviously like volume...but unlike many bands who can't control their volume, these guys can. The sound is big and loud...but the band's song structures and particularly the vocals are integral to the overall sound. The rhythm section is tight and hard, and those wonderful psychedelic guitars sound like they are dripping down from the liquid skies above. This album was recorded in a barn in Indiana and with a mobile recording studio in Virginia. It is perhaps the circumstances under which this was recorded which help to explain the strange sincerity and odd organic sound of these songs. We can't hear any particular influences here...and that in and of itself is intriguing. Into L.S.D.? If so...or even if NOT...you're gonna TRIP THE LIGHT FANTASTIC listening to this band Great stuff. (Rating: 5)

Dealership - TV Highway to the Stars (CD, Keiki, Pop/rock)
It's amazing what these three San Francisco residents are able to do using drums, bass, and guitar. TV Highway to the Stars is a obscure yet superb and incredibly melodic delight. Dealership is a band in the true sense of the word, as all three individuals (Chris Groves, Jane Pinckard, Chris Wetherell) write the songs. The band's tunes range from soft and pensive to loud and punchy pop music. The arrangements are simple and basic, allowing the lyrics and vocals to shine through. This is something like a wild grab bag of hooky songs. On the first spin we were virtually singing right along with the band on many of the tracks. The louder stuff is great...but the softer material is even stronger. "California" is easily one of the most beautiful songs we have heard by any band this year. But there are many more highlights. Check out "Tetsuo," "Gia" (this one features some great vocal stuff), "I Start To Explode" (oughta be a hit), and "Faded Crushes." Dealership is a band without gimmicks...and they are not into wearing stupid clothes. These three individuals are pumping out tunes that come straight from their hearts. This is an album that is easy to love. (Rating: 5++)

Del Rey - Speak It Not Aloud (CD, My Pal God, Rock/jazz instrumental)
We admire all-instrumental bands. Playing nothing but instrumentals almost certainly means that a band will not have a hit...that their audience will be limited...and that the actual playing involved requires extra thought and effort. That said, it is truly amazing (and reassuring) that there are so many instrumental bands treading around at present. Chicago's Del Rey is certainly one of the more interesting and rewarding, as their unpredictable style of playing is an odd combination of elements from both rock and jazz. The band differs from most in that they have not one, but TWO drummers. This fact alone sets these fellows apart, as the layered rhythms are obviously integral to the overall sound of the band. The drummers are amazingly in synch with one another, playing rhythms that are much more complex than we are used to hearing in rock music. While the drums are somewhat manic, the guitars, basses, and keyboards almost seem to float in space. Most bands have a simple and steady rhythm upon which they layer their instruments and vocals. These guys do the exact opposite. Of particular interest is the subdued and hypnotic "List." This is not difficult listening...but rather music that requires an open mind. (Rating: 5++)

The Doodoo Blisters - Whispers and Whiskers and Sisters With Blisters (CD, Bonky-plah, Donkey marches)
Ain't many bands what play donkey marches no more. And that's a damn shame, 'cause it weren't that many year ago when a donkey march was all anybody ever wanted out of a radio. Helping to rekindle all them things that needed to be revived is The Doodoo Blisters. These four little redneck stinkers crank it up like Daddy used to in the 1970s, making it march all around the barney pole with magic puppy material. But even though the playing is top notch and the material is strong, we can't help but wonder about the motivation behind the Blisters' material. Consider the lyrics to "Wipe That Man's Mystery Hole Right Outa My Fairy's Hair" or "Fussy Negroes With Angry Dog Babies." You can't listen to this stuff without wiping yourself hard until you bleed. Maybe that's where they got their goddamn name from. This STINKS. (Rating: 1)

Empire State - Eternal Combustion (CD, Warm Electronic Recordings, Slightly abstract progressive pop)
How many bands can there be in just one tiny little college town...? Athens, Georgia...a city that we once DESPISED because of the vapid crappy music that it was associated with...is now home to so many great pop bands that we can't even keep track of them all. We're adding Empire State to the continually growing and increasingly lengthy list. This band has a precise and complex sound that sounds something a modern day poppy Eno with jazzy progressive arrangements. Studio effects are utilized to the fullest degree possible. But rather than being distracting, these fellows' knob twiddling adds extra layers of coolness to their sound. There seems to be an increasing number of progressive pop bands popping up lately. If that is indeed the case (which it truly does seem to be), then Empire State stand squarely on the top of our list of favorites. Trippy, heady, and atmospheric, this album is a fantastic fresh breath of air. The band consists of brothers Tim and Jay Nackashi and Alex McManus. Fantastic stuff... (Rating: 5++)

Faith & the Muse - Vera Causa (Double CD, Metropolis, Gothic/epic/baroque/pop)
This is a double CD set from Faith & the Muse featuring live material, unreleased tracks, rarities, and remixes. Because we were previously not familiar with this band, it would be impossible to rate this because it was created for folks who were already fans of the band. So rather than state opinions, we will attempt to describe what the band is about. Suppose Kate Bush wore ten times more make-up, had a darker spirit, and surrounded herself five other individuals who had similar tendencies. If you can imagine this, then you may have some idea of what Faith & the Muse are about. It is obvious from the audience reaction on the live tracks here that the band's fans are fanatical about them. Judging from the insert and booklet, it appears that this group is extremely theatrical in their performances...incorporating lots of face paint and costumes. The tunes are melodic, sweeping, gothic pieces with intricate arrangements. Progressive gothic perhaps...? We'd like to hear a proper studio album from the band to get a clearer idea of where they're at... (Not Rated)

Jay Farrar - Sebastopol (CD, Artemis, Pop)
Though this is his first proper solo album, Jay Farrar is by no means a newcomer to the world of music. Farrar was previously in the bands Sun Volt and Uncle Tupelo...so this man already has his solid base of fans congregated on solid ground. Fans of Richard Thompson and Varnaline (who just happen to also be on the Artemis label) will enjoy Sebastopol. Farrar's tunes are heartfelt and melodic...with tinges of country and a sense of longing that is affecting and effective. A great deal of time and energy went into recording and arranging this album and a wide array of special guests make appearances including Gillian Welch, Steve Drodze, Jon Wurster, and more. Farrar may have felt burned out in Sun Volt...but it is obvious that he is by no means burned out as an artist. The songs are strong and the vocals are outstanding. We do feel that some of these tunes would have benefitted from more sparse arrangements (for example, the keys on "Damaged Son" are distracting and seem to detract from the overall mood). We'd like to hear Farrar present his songs in a simpler environment next time around. Until then, this one is still mighty satisfying. This guy is a real talent. (Rating: 4++)

Garbage - Beautifulgarbage (CD, Interscope, Techno pop)
Butch Vig is an extremely talented man. He has produced some of our favorite records of all time, and there is no disputing the fact that he is a mastermind of the modern recording studio. That said, we have never been fans of the band Garbage. The band's first two albums were decent, but did not contain anything that really sparked our plugs. We'd like to report that Beautifulgarbage is a grand, mind-blowing departure...but it is not. This album contains more of the thickly produced pop that made the band famous. These tunes are not bad by any means, but they do lack originality. One thing is certain. Vig can do better than this. Perhaps this is just a project he is using to make bucks (that's our guess). In any event, Garbage fans will likely enjoy the album. All others are advised to seek other alternatives... (Rating: 3-)

Garrison - Be A Criminal (CD, Revelation, Rock)
The Revelation label has been coming up with some wonderful acts of late...and Garrison is a welcome addition to the roster. Rather than treading the standard route offering riffs and structures that have been pounded into the ground a million times before, these four Boston gentlemen approach rock from a different perspective. The band's hard-edged sound is offset by determined melodies and obtuse musical segments that are not commonplace in the world of hard rock. The album starts off with the frenetic hook-laden "Recognize an Opportunity" and then proceeds to fragment into all kinds of music territories. We are particularly intrigued by the offbeat and peculiar sounds of "Catch Your Breath and Have a Cigarette," a track which brings to light the band's more progressive tendencies. The band consists of Joseph Grillo (voice, guitar), Ed McNamara (voice, guitar), J. Morrissette (drums), and Jason Carlin (bass). Mr. Morrissette is one HELL of a powerhouse drummer...propelling this band into upper territories most bands are incapable of reaching. Cool, hard, hairy stuff. (Rating: 4+++)

Pat Green - Three Days (CD, Universal, Country/pop/rock)
Pat Green is already a new country music sensation...and this is only his first album on a major label (!). Prior to releasing Three Days, Green had already sold nearly 200,000 independently released CDs. Not bad for an unsigned artist. After hearing this record it's easy to see why. Pat Green sounds something like a country version of Elvis Costello. He's a master at crafting intelligent songs. The lyrics are smart and precise, the melodies soaring and dynamic, and the arrangements right on target. Green's vocals are masculine and self-assured. This album is chock full of oughta-be hits, including "Carry On," "Who's To Say," "We've All Got Our Reasons," and "Texas On My Mind." This album should appeal to fans of Toby Keith. A wealth of GREAT TUNES here... (Rating: 5+)

Halfcocked - The Last Star (CD, Dreamworks, Rock/pop)
We've heard a lot of bands with the same basic sound as Halfcocked...but few who have as good of an image. Reminiscent of The Runaways for a variety of reasons (although there are guys as well as girls in the band), Halfcocked hashes out arena rock as if it never went out of fashion. Speaking of fashion...this is definitely a hair band. (Although in this case drummer Charlee Johnsson has the best hair of the bunch!). Lead singer Sarah "Starr" Reitkopp obviously takes center stage here...with her vixen-like appeal and sensuous appearance. No new territory being torn away...but that's not really the point, because this band is obviously playing for what they hope will develop into a very large audience. With songs like "I Lied" and "Devil Shoes" in their hip pockets, they just might get their wish. Thickly produced and gushing with energy, The Last Star is a nice straight shot of melodic rock played with style. (Rating: 4)

Elton John - Songs From the West Coast (CD, Universal, Pap smear pop)
Sad and unbearable. Hard to believe this "man" (term used loosely) was once talented and entertaining. This truly doth stinketh. (Rating: 1)

Jude - King of Yesterday (CD, Maverick, Pop)
This guy has it all. He's talented, he has a killer voice, and he's as handsome as goddamn hell (especially with the beard). This man's full name is Jude Christodal but he prefers to just be known as "Jude." The tunes on this album are mature, honest, and extremely melodic...and this man really can sing his balls off when he wants to ("I Will Not Die" is a good example of this). While the title track is the most likely candidate for a successful hit, this entire album comes off like a string of AM and/or FM radio material. Jude successfully combines a great many elements from artists all the way from the 1970s on through to the present. His tunes are extremely poppy, but some tracks do contain strangely biting electric guitars. If you, like many, have grown tired of the ego inflated world of the initially amazing Ben Folds, Jude will likely fill that void. We can't help but be knocked out by songs like "Everything's All Right," "The Not So Pretty Princess," "Sit Ups," and "I Do." It's amazing that this fellow avoids sounding too cute or contrived, because much of this material here is extremely bright and happy. A strong body of work from a man who is destined for big success. We sure hope it doesn't spoil him like it did in Ben's case. This album is a MUST HAVE. (Rating: 5)

Jump, Little Children - Vertigo (CD, EZ Chief, Pop)
Extremely well orchestrated and well produced slick pop. Sounding something like a modern progressive version of early Squeeze (particularly in the vocal department), these guys obviously have their act together. Don't ask them about their recording contract with Atlantic Records. This was obviously a VERY BAD experience for the band. But in our opinion, they must have learned something...because Vertigo is a beautifully complex body of work that sounds much, MUCH better than most things we hear from major labels anyway. The compositions on this album are melodic and...despite the slick production...come across sounding thoughtful and genuine. This CD is chock full of great tunes such as "Too High," "Hold Your Tongue" (wow...), "Mother's Eyes," and "Pigeon." Songs are definitely the main event here. A truly worthwhile disc. (Rating: 5)

The K.G.B. - The K.G.B. (CD, Dreamworks, Pop)
Do young white boys have soul? And are they...funky? Well, that probably depends on exactly which young white boys you're talking about. In the case of The K.G.B., the answer to both of these questions is an undeniable...YES. Pumping out positive energy like there's no tomorrow, this youthful quintet has an upbeat fresh sound that should appeal to a wide range of folks. The K.G.B. create music that would make both Prince and Self proud. The band's tight, upbeat pop music is heavily rooted in soul and funk...but make no mistake, this is first and foremost pop music. The tunes are chock full of horns, keyboards, and heavenly harmony vocals. The arrangements are thick and complex, making this funky white boy soul a very heady experience. Eleven meaty tunes here including "Fortune & Fame," "Plastic Soul," "Longshot" (love this one), and "In Case of a Bad Trip..." These guys obviously had a great time recording this. Their enthusiasm comes through loud and CLEAR. Fun stuff. (Rating: 4+++)

Carole King - Loves Makes the World (CD, Rockingale, Pop)
This is an important album for a couple of reasons. First it marks the return of Carole King who, prior to this, had not released a new album in over a decade. Second and perhaps more importantly, Ms. King opted to release this album on her own independent label and market it through her web site...rather than release it through a major label (which she obviously could have done given her credentials). The fact that more and more well known artists are bypassing major labels marks an important new era in music. Our first introduction to Ms. King's music was the Monkees tune "Pleasant Valley Sunday." As children, we found the song wonderfully catchy and fun. When we got a little older and realized that Ms. King had co-written the tune, we were impressed. Of course Carole's biggest splashes came in the 1970s...when she had her biggest selling hits. Love Makes the World is an honest and intelligent work. Interestingly, the title track (which also opens the album) is the weakest song...mainly because the lyrics are so overused ("Love makes the world go round"...haven't we heard that somewhere before...?). Fortunately, the title track is the only throwaway tune on the album. As soon as "You Can Do Anything" comes up you realize that Carole hasn't lost her musical magic. One of our favorite tracks is the light and hummable "I Wasn't Gonna Fall In Love" which was co-written by Bayer Sager...and features Wynton Marsalis (!). Perhaps the most intimate and affecting track on the entire album is "Oh No Not My Baby" (co-written by King's first husband and early writing partner Gerry Goffin). The tune is right up there with some of Carole's best material. Her vocals sound absolutely superb throughout this album...proving that this lady is anything BUT past her prime. Not surprisingly, when she is not making music Ms. King donates her energies to two environmental organizations that support forest wilderness preservation. We salute you, Carole. Such a smart, beautiful, talented lady. It is great to see Ms. King back in the spotlight. In a world where big stars can so often be phony asswipes...Carole stands out because of her pure and sincere mind. (Rating: 5)

King's X - Manic Moonlight (CD, Metal Blade, Rock/pop)
We've been fans of King's X for many years and from our perspective, these guys show no signs of letting up. This album is quite different from previous albums, although many of the essential elements remain. The most obvious change this time around is that the songs are slower. Not soft and passive, but definitely slower...in fact, several of them almost grind in a slower rock fashion. Also absent this time around is the band's normally abundant use of showering harmony vocals. With these changes in place, what we now have is a band that sounds more like...a live band. Not only that, but the sound is probably going to appeal to more music fans. (Some of the band's early super fast and super complex music probably went over the heads of many folks.) Our favorites here are the funky "Believe," the moody "Yeah," the poppy sounds of "False Alarm," and the somewhat abstract "Skeptical Winds." Mainman and songwriter Doug Pinnick is in it for the long haul. As a result, he is delving into new territory. Hopefully the band's fans will follow along...as we find this album to interesting and entertaining... (Rating: 4++)

Anita Lane - Sex O'Clock (CD, Mute, Pop)
Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm....YEAH... Opening up with the moody sensual sound of Gil Scott-Heron's "Home Is Where the Hatred Is," former Bad Seeds member Anita Lane plants her psyche dead center in the craniums of her listeners and sets a definite mood. Mick Harvey collaborated with Ms. Lane on this album and plays most of the instruments. The compositions on Sex O'Clock have definite similarities to 1970s disco music, but the mood is much slower, more restrained, and purposely determined. The songs are provocative and sultry, and Anita's vocals are absolutely seething with intoxicating feminine resentment and love. As serious as some of these tunes seem, there is also a strange element of humor present that is puzzling and strange. The instrumentation on this album is nothing less than spectacular, and we must tip our hats to Bertrand Burgalat who is responsible for the incredible string arrangements. It is impossible not to love where this lady is coming from. One listen to "The Next Man That I See" or "I Hate Myself" will make believers out of the most jaded of listeners. Eternal and immediate, this is a truly wonderful effort. (Rating: 5+++)

Lava Baby - Big Muff (CD, 2-B Real, Rock/pop)
Crystal clear girl pop with a super thick heady sound. New York's Lava Baby is a band that has come a long way in a very short time, drawing rave reviews from their recordings and live shows. Big Muff is a surefire shot of pure rock that should please fans of female power pop. The band writes their songs as a unit, and the main focus seems to be getting in as many hooks as possible before the three minutes are up. The album opens up with the ultra cute "Sex Junkie" and then gets even sweeter with the melodic sounds of "Now That You're Mine." The lone cover tune is an interesting moody take on Neil Finn's "I Got You." No new ground being chartered here, but we don't think that's what this band is striving for anyway. Fun, upbeat, and easy on the ears, Lava Baby are sure to please fans of happy pop. (Rating: 4)

little a - Scene (CD, Say Aaahh!!, Rock/pop)
Boston's little a is back with another unusual journey into the world of modern guitar rock. Scene may potentially reach and appeal to a larger number of listeners than the last release we heard from the band. On the louder tracks, little a can sound (at times) reminiscent of Smashing Pumpkins (before the bad ol Pumpkins' rapid and permanent decline). The folks in the band mix somewhat conventional pop elements with slightly off-key sounds to produce pop/rock music that is simultaneously uplifting and puzzling. This, the band's third release, finds them in fine form...offering some great tracks like "Iowa," "Too Much Light" (a standout cut), "Pendulum," and "Silences." In addition to the ten tracks listed on the back of the disc, there is also a very brief eleventh acoustic track that is particularly appealing. Great vocals merge with driving rhythms and sometimes obtuse arrangements to create a fine album. (Rating: 4+++)

Long Beach Dub Allstars - Wonders of the World (CD, Skunk / Dreamworks, Dub/pop/hip hop)
Southern California's Long Beach Dub Allstars are a lot more diverse than their name might suggest. This, their second full-length album, showcases the band cruising through a wide range of musical terrain. There are elements of dub in the band's music to be certain, but also present are tunes that classify as pop, reggae, ska, and hip hop. Interestingly, the band's appearance would lead one to believe they are a hardcore band (lots of tattoos covering the arms, etc.). Many of the tunes on Wonders of the World have slightly trippy echo effects that add greatly to their effectiveness. The hit single on the album ("Sunny Hours") is pure pop confection, and features will.i.am from Black Eyed Peas. Top picks: "Wonders Dub I," "Every Mother's Dream," "Wonders Dub II," and "Grass Cloud." (Rating: 4++)

Lucy Loves Schroeder - Lucy is a Band (CD, Vile Beat, Rock/pop)
Even though similarites to The Muffs are undeniable, Lucy Loves Schroeder is a rocking batch of quality fun with their own sound and identity. The band is led by guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Sara Radle. Not only can this lady write some punchy rock tunes, but she plays guitar like a muffukuh...and has a great voice to boot. This is very straight and direct stuff. The guitars are loud and thick and the drums and bass crash about with operative tendencies. If you want power pop without the gloss and extras, this band will most likely make your panties all tight and sweaty. Lotsa fun tunes here like "Some Other Way," "Not Worth It," and "He's A Fox" make this album a fun spin. (Rating: 4+)

Operation Makeout - First Base (CD EP, Mint, Pop/rock)
This CD features the most disgusting cover art we have seen in years. Have you ever seen snails screwing? It's one of the most disgusting sights in the universe. Until we saw the cover of this album, we never realized that human tongues caught in the act of french kissing look JUST LIKE screwing snails. EeeeeeyyyuuuUUUUUCHHH!!! Actually, the band deserves big points here for being able to gross us out (it takes a LOT these days). But...what about the MUSIC? Operation Makeout play punky little pop numbers with semi-snotty vocals. The music is simple, basically consisting of buzzsaw guitars and crashing drums and bass. Fun, upbeat, and energetic...this is one case where we had to PUT THE COVER OUT OF SIGHT in order to enjoy the disc. Congratulations, band members. You managed to make us crawl INTO OUR SHELLS. Funny stuff, worth checking out... (Rating: 4+)

Pressure 4-5 - Burning the Process (CD, Dreamworks, Rock)
These guys are off to a sizzling start. Even though they've only been around since 1998, they've already played the Ozzfest and opened up for some really big name bands. Burning the Process was produced by Jay Baumgardner, who is known for his work with such bands as Orgy, Slipknot, and others. The guys in Pressure 4-5 combine pop and slammer rock to create a sound that is both harsh and melodic. The guitars are cranked up to the max, and the rhythm section is tight and solid. The musicianship overall is impressive indeed on this album. The weakest link in the chain? The songs. While the band does come up with some keepers ("These Hands," "Proven"), there are also several songs that sound somewhat generic. Even though, these five gents still manage to entertain and prove themselves contenders for the future. With more original sounding material, they'll go far... (Rating: 4-)

The Queers - Live In West Hollywood (CD, Hopeless, Punk rock)
We rarely use the term "punk rock" because the phrase rarely seems to apply or have meaning anymore. Here we make an exception because The Queers truly are a punk rock band (at least in the manner that the term was normally applied in the seventies). The band's simple, throbbing, attitude-ridden loud rock music is heavily influenced by The Ramones. The band even recorded an entire cover version of the Rocket To Russia album...and a cover of "Kill That Girl" appears here. Fans of The Queers will most likely welcome this album with open arms, seeing as how these guys have always been such a crowd pleaser with their live shows. We caught the band accidentally a few years back and didn't even know who they were (can you believe it?). We were amazed. By the time the band had finished their first song, the entire crowd was huddled at the stage jumping and grinding in awestruck fantasy playtime. Live In West Hollywood is an excellent live recording of one of the band's sweat-producing concerts. The sound quality is great, and all the intensity of the performance comes through loud (make that VERY loud) and clear. The songs are short...thus, there are no less than 31 cranking little monsters on this disc. These guys are still the real thing. Non-stop loud energy for hyperactive kiddies... (Rating: 5)

PTSMC - Transmission #3 (CD, Voidstar Productions, Electronic drone)
Things don't get much more obscure than this. This is the current "musical" project by the man once known as The Prime Minister of Livestock and Heavy Machinery. The idea here is simple. Take the sounds of modern technology and let them growl back angry and distant at the general population in a hypnotic haze of constant nothingness. The happy liner notes on the back cover suggest subliminal messages and hypnosis. The music on the disc suggests a complete disregard for any intended audience. We refuse to rate something like this. Interested parties wishing to feel alienated may visit the web site (link above). (Not Rated)

Solarized - Driven (CD, MeteorCity, Rock)
Really rockin' loud pothead macho hippy rock music. These four individuals look and sound the part. Jumping off the diving board with the hot and heavy sound of "Dig the Ride," these folks blast off with resilient, tasty guitars...and cool and cocky vocals. If you hate the sound of draggy marijuana music like the Grateful Dead (snore...), you will dig the energetic jolt that Solarized provide. The band's rhythm section cranks and pumps their way into porno heaven...while the guitarists provide some absolutely mesmerizing riffs that will knock your snockers clear to high hell. But the real trademark here is the vocalist. James Hogan has a goddamn masculine vocal style that is simultaneously sexy and full of intense attitude. This band sounds something like a cross between Monster Magnet, Mountain, and Fu Manchu. This is some HELL RAISIN' stuff. A intense goddamn ball of fun. (Rating: 5+)

The Strokes - Is This It (CD, RCA / BMG, Rock/pop)
Easily the best band we've heard on RCA / BMG this year. The Strokes play a simple and restrained sort of throbbing rock music that bears slight similarities to The Kinks, The Feelies, and The Flaming Lips...although their overall approach is much simpler. This album has a nice hollow sound that is odd and puzzling...and for whatever reason, it seems to fit the band's sound and style perfectly. The basic idea here is to hammer the guitar incessantly and then inundate the listener with cool, progressive melodies. The Strokes' music doesn't bear many similarities to other bands. It's not retro...but neither is it modern... Instead, these guys have managed to capture some obscure and timeless quality in their music that is strangely inviting and instantly addicting. Wonderful vocals that sound as if they were recorded from a distance are balanced at about the same volume level as the vocals (a la Feelies style). The differences in this band's music are so subtle that they will probably not even be noticed by most listeners. Fortunately, we is NOT most listeners. We is us. And what us thinks is that these guys is goddamn WUNNERFUL. Wunnerful, wunnerful, WUNNERFUL. Heady, intelligent, and unique...this is a band to be on the lookout for. WOW. (Rating: 5++)

Sugarbomb - Bully (CD, RCA / BMG, Pop)
Well the music may be sugary...but the band is no bomb. If you like Queen, there's a good chance you will enjoy the sound of Sugarbomb. The band's pumped up pop sounds very much like Freddie Mercury and company...particularly in the vocal department. The cover art features a great photo of some little miss who has just lost her front tooth...and looks pretty upset about it. But back to the music. Sugarbomb tunes are thickly produced, highly melodic pop nuggets that are upbeat and very hummable. The band's harmonies are virtually perfect (although a bit overused at times). The band hails from the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Entertaining and fun. (Rating: 3+++)

Thought Industry - Short Wave on a Cold Day (CD, Metal Blade, Progressive pop/rock)
Loud pop with thick guitars, thick keyboards, and vocals drenched in effects. That said, Thought Industry is a surprisingly melodic band. These guys have paid their dues (God...did we REALLY use that tired old phrase?) In the past, they have opened up shows for Skinny Puppy, Chemlab, Godflesh, and many more. They now seem steeped and ready to take center stage themselves, as Short Wave on a Cold Day presents a band with a solid and cohesive batch of mind-bending tunes. The arrangements in many of these tunes are quite complex and considerably progressive...and there's even a slight hint of psychedelia that occasionally creeps in. Our favorite track here is the cool, spacey, and surprisingly accessible "Tall Ships on the Rocks"...during which a great melody collides with subtle electronics to combine a stunning pop masterpiece. Interesting stuff, and not the usual fare by any means... (Rating: 4+++)

The Tigers - Shout & Testify (CD, Fireant, Shouting gospel with horns)
The obscure yet always relevant Fireant label continues in its mighty journey to release music intended for a small yet appreciative audience. The Tigers are, sadly, no more...as the leader of the band passed away. The band eventually changed their name to the Graceland McCullough Tigers, but that was after these recordings were made. This CD features tracks recorded by Fireant mainman Lew Herman himself, carrying his portable RDAT machine around to churches in the Charlotte area to capture the magic of bandleader Tim Brown and crew. This CD is dedicated to Mr. Brown and was released in his memory. We can sum this up in a nutshell. We wish WE had been there. (Not Rated)

Tizzy - Down With the Furies(CD, Vital Cog, Rock/pop)
Smart, cute but not cutesy, provocative, and totally entertaining. Tizzy had already caught our attention on the basis of their last release which was strong indeed. Down With the Furies picks up where the band left off, and is an even stronger album in terms of focused songwriting, playing, and production. As was the case with the band's last album, these tunes are part pop and part progressive rock. The band consists of Jen Stavely (bass, vocals), Teri Morris (drums, vocals), and Joel Boultinghouse (guitar). The vocals on this album are wonderfully on target...and those heavenly harmonies ought to have pop fans floating up into the clouds. Tunes like "Reminders for the Reactive," "Rushing Positive," "Work Ethic," "Econoline," and "Shopping Cart Joyride" give us cool rushes of spastic glee. This is a fantastic and...for the time being anyway...obscure band that is worth seeking out. GREAT goddamn stuff...! (Rating: 5++)

Toshack Highway - Everyday, Rock'n'Roll Is Saving My Life (CD EP, Space Baby, Acoustic/pop)
This is a four song EP of 4-track recordings by Adam Franklin who is also a member of the band Swervedriver. This collection of tunes represents the softer, acoustic side of Mr. Franklin. The recordings are lo-fi (usually the case with 4-track recordings, natch...). Four tunes here. The title track plus "The Hitcher," "Seize the Day," and "O Sweet Daughter." (Not Rated)

Waldeck - The Night Garden (CD, E-magine, Soft & moody electronic pop)
Waldeck is back...with another wonderful collection of moody electronic pop compositions. This Austrian composer has an extremely subtle style of songwriting. The melodies are haunting and relatively simple...and the arrangements are airy and light. But what makes this man's recordings so intriguing are the ever-so-slight technical nuances in the music. Upon first listen, the listener may not even notice the tinges of atmospheric stuff in the background. Upon closer inspection however, it becomes obvious that these these tunes are not mere pop fluff. We liked Waldeck's last EP a great deal...but The Night Garden is even more satisfying and intriguing. Rather than sing, Waldeck hands over vocal duties to Joy Malcolm and Brian Amos...both of whom rise to the task admirably. Soft, sensual, thought provoking and slightly eerie, this is a fantastic album for creating the perfect mood. Excellent. (Rating: 5+)

The Witch Hazel Sound - This World, Then the Fireworks...(CD, Hidden Agenda / Parasol, Pop)
Ohio's The Witch Hazel Sound has an overall sound that is almost completely out of touch with what is popular today...and that is a VERY GOOD THING. The band's hazy, sweeping, orchestrated sound has a lot in common with Van Dyke Parks, Harpers Bizarre, and even Mercury Rev. This is the third album from the band and the first that we have heard. Wow. This is top notch stuff. The band's melodies (which are right out front in the mix) are supported by all sorts of heady keyboards, strings, and guitars. Overall, the arrangements give the listener the feeling of floating in space. The vocals are right on target. Instead of pushing their vocal chords to the limit, the guys sing their stuff super soft and breathy. The lush vocal work combines with the other instruments to create music that's going to make pop fans ooze in their britches. The best part? There's not a bad track on the album. Check out "Music Becomes Vibration," "Fireworks" (yyyyoooowweee!), "The Guild of Splinters," or "The Boy With Green Hair." Smart, inventive, slightly coy, and full of heavenly imagination...this album is a MUST HAVE. (Rating: 5++)

Victor Wooten - Live in America (Double CD, Compass, Funk/pop/jazz/soul)
Two of the most accomplished bass players of our time most certainly must be Les Claypool (of Primus) and Victor Wooten. In addition to playing and recording solo, Wooten is also a member of the highly respected Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. He has thus far released three studio albums, this is his first live album. It's a whopper...two discs featuring 18 impressive tunes of bass throbbing electric music recorded over the course of a four year period. Wooten is joined by Regi Wooten (guitar), Joseph Wooten (keyboards), JD Blair (drums), and MC Divinity (vocals). In addition, Marcus Miller and Bootsy Collins make special guest appearance. This double disc set effectively captures the magic of the live performance, and there are many highlights here. Particularly impressive are "What Did He Say?," "Sacred Silence/The Jam Man," "Miller Time," "Imagine This" (our favorite), and "Pretty Little Lady." Our favorite segments are when Wooten plays it alone. Another fine release from one of the finest bass players in the world. (Rating: 4+++)

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