The Abe Lincoln Story | Abortion Discussers | Abstrakt Workshop | Analogue | Animals That Swim | Artcore 2 | Bad Religion | Bel Canto | Bile | Blanks 77 | The Blueberries | The Blue Eskimos | Tracy Bonham | Boyracer | Bum | Butterflies | C17H19N03 | Cannibal Corpse | Cardinal Woolsey | Casper Fandango & the Knees | Cast | Catherine Wheel | The Chainsaw Kittens | Chimera | China Drum | Clannad | Clarissa | Ken Clinger | Core | Jayne County | Coyote Shivers | Crankcase | The Daisygrinders | Dakoda Motor Co. | Death Ride 69 | Decoryah | Disappear Fear | Doctahri | Ryan Downe | Download | drivin 'n cryin | Edgar Schwartz | El Nino | Ether Bunny | Everlounge | Cesaria Evora | Fastball | Feyeraband | Finn Brothers | Fragile | French | Frente | Fu Manchu | Fun w/ Atoms | Gipsy Kings | Glass Candle Grenade | Global Basics | Godplow | The Gravel Pit | Gren | The Gufs | Gumdrops | Hampton Grease Band | The Handsome Family | A Robbie Hardkiss Mix | Havalina Rail Co. | Fred Hersch | Hayden | Dylan Hicks | His Name Is Alive | Robin Holcomb | Holy Barbarians | hugh | Charlie Hunter Quartet | Hurl | The Husbians | Husikesque | Idaho | Imperial Drag | Ivy | The Jesus Lizard | Joy Electric | Judge Nothing | Killing Joke | Bobby Kimball | King's X | Kiss | Land of the Loops | Bill Laswell | Lifter | Loomis | Loop Guru | Lotion | Love In Reverse | Love Nut | Lustre | Madball | Mad Daddys | The McRackins | The Meanies | Meat Beat Manifesto | Mill Valley Taters | Mineral | The Miss Alans | Modest Mouse | Monkey Feces | Mouth | Muzzle | My Head | NCRail | Nada Surf | The Nields | No Knife | Ocean Colour Scene | Orbital | Outrageous Cherry | Pain | Paleface | Peach of Immortality | Perfume Tree | Pitch Shifter | Planet Dub | Poundcake | Prescott Curlywolf | Primitive Radio Gods | Psyclone Rangers | James Ray | Real Punk | Reservoir | Rocket Fuel is the Key | 7 Year Bitch | The Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies | Shat | Shoegazer | The Sight-Seers | Skold | Skrew | Sleeper | Slobberbone | Patti Smith | Snuff | Epic Soundtracks | Robin Spielberg | Sponge | Spot | Russ Stedman | Stop | Suckerpunch | Super Deluxe | Super Junky Monkey | Survival of the Fattest | Dan Susnara | Svelt | Swirlies | T.H.C. | Telegraph | Thermadore | Johnny Thunders | Tinker | Titanic Love Affair | Townshend | Toy | Trip 66 | Triple Fast Action | Nik Turner | Type O Negative | Urusei Yatsura | Velour100 | The Verve Pipe | Weston | Yum Yum |
= VERY GOOD
THE ABE LINCOLN STORY - We're Havin' a Dance Party with the Abe Lincoln Story! (CD, Flipside, Pop/big band)
Absolutely INFECTIOUS music. Now HERE'S a band that sings about things the common man can identify with: obnoxious phone gimmicks ("I Don't Understand [*69]"), hand signals ("Rock Scissors, Paper!"), day-to-day life ("Get High & Go To Work"), and more. Not only do the song topics go down easy, the music is a bunch of crazy FUN. The Abe Lincoln Story play upbeat pop music that's infected with cool horns from an era gone by. Steve Moramarco has a husky, raspy voice that just pushes things right over the edge. Revival bands like the Squirrel Nut Zippers are coming from a completely different side of the universe than these guys. This is more like soul/street boy pop that has real heart and soul. I sure hope I get to catch this group live, because they sound like they might just be one of the best out there. A total feelgood experience, the Abe Lincoln story gets my vote HANDS DOWN.
ABORTION DISCUSSERS - Make Language Illegal (CD, Lawless, Spoken word)
Of course, as we all know by now, all "spoken word" releases suck SHIT. That is particularly true with the latest release from the Abortion Discussers, whose new CD is a direct response to recent federal legislation making discussion of abortion illegal on the Internet. In the end, my reaction to this is...who cares? Who cares about abortion? Who cares about government? Who cares about AIDS? Who cares about...ANYTHING? This ain't clever. It's a goddamn piece of shit.
ABSTRAKT WORKSHOP 2 - A Collection of Trip Hop and Jazz (CD, Shadow, Trop hop/jazz)
Low-key, trippy, and subtle. Twelve tracks, featuring artists like Jazz Con Bazz, Slop Shop, Rollercone, Sharpshooters, 8 From the Egg, Chugg and more. Good background music or stuff to put on for a sexy dinner by candlelight. As an added bonus (and I think this also comes with the commercially available version), there's another full-length disc of music called "Trip Hop for Jazz Junkies" with a whole slew MORE of great stuff. Much of this music is light and airy, I admit, but in my life there's always a place for that. Smooth and easy does it.
ANALOGUE - AAD (CD, Sonic Bubblegum, Pop/rock?)
Rare is the case when a disc comes in that confuses me. Analogue is the first band that the infamous Sonic Bubblegum label has signed over the Internet, and an odd band it is. The music is as confusing as the CD insert (none of the songs have titles...the lengths of the tunes serve as song titles). Actually, these "songs" are more like soundscapes...different moods and musical ideas appear with each track. Probably the biggest compliment I can give this band is that it doesn't remind me of any others in particular. Most of these tracks certainly defy any sort of commercial appeal at all. Still, the music manages to draw me in and and keep me entertained throughout. This is much more creative and unusual than most of the stuff I've heard lately. Experimental, yes...but in this case that's a very GOOD thing. I love this.
ANIMALS THAT SWIM - Workshy (CD, Big Pop, Pop)
Smooth, clean, well-produced British pop music. This band began in London about five years ago, and they've apparently had quite a bit of success with their music. Listening to this, it almost makes me think that this is what the Television Personalities might sound like if they weren't so quirky and obscure. Not exactly mindblowing, this disc is still quite enjoyable and pleasant. "Sway With Me," is probably my favorite tune here...
ARTCORE 2 - The Art of Drum & Bass (CD, React, Techno/trance)
I'm actually reviewing the British import release of this CD which is also being released domestically (the first Artcore CD was only released overseas). This is an interesting compilation of bands who share the same interest in laying down thumpy, energized rhythm tracks and then overlaying some very dreamy electronic soundscapes over the top. It basically gives you the feeling that you're taking speed and downers at the same time...not a bad feeling at all. This cool disc features twelve tracks from bands like Adam F, Foul Play, Cool Breeze, Optical, J Majik, Eugenix, and many more. Very nice production on these tracks. I suspect this will go over big in the more progressive dance clubs...
BAD RELIGION - The Gray Race (CD, Atlantic, Rock/pop)
More great music from the band that spawned a thousand bands. Honestly, it seems like each month I hear more and more Bad Religion clones. Lucky for the "real thing," they're getting better with age. Several of the tunes on this CD are almost played at a normal (i.e., slower) pace, and this is part of why this may just be my favorite Bad Religion release yet. When the band slows down, it's much easier to tell what's going on. Also, sometimes the lightning speed is unnecessary when you've got such good songs. Oh don't worry...there are still TONS of hyperactive tunes here, but the band throws a few curves in this time and they work. The cover and sleeve art is, as always, spectacular. If you've liked 'em in the past, you'll love this. If you've never heard 'em before, this is as good a place to start as any...
BEL CANTO - Magic Box (CD, Atlantic, Pop)
Bel Canto is the duo of Nils Johansen and Anneli M. Drecker. Nils writes, arranges, and plays all the music. Anneli sings. Both are from Norway. The music on this CD is extremely well-produced and slick. That usually bothers me. With this sort of music it doesn't though. Nils' writes some damn fine music. Anneli sings like an angel. My friends will probably hate me for playing this. That's okay. I hate them anyway.
BILE - Tekno Whore (CD, Energy, Industrial)
Me like BILE. Bile is band what play hard, noisy electronic sound. Very much like first CD, but second CD even better. You think Marilyn Manson hard and offensive? Think again. Bile seeming to not care about any commercial appeal. Only seem to want making UGLY music. Chaos and confusion caused for many by CD likely, but those able to listen get BIG SEXY SPURT from band (key/bassist R. H. Bear very hairy rear end). Even though make ugly, hard noise, band have BIG sense of humor. Check out song title like "No One I Call Friend," "Interstate Hate Song," and "Green Day." Will want to see band again in concert, get big, explosive hard on. Bile KILLER live. MUST SEE band. I happy to recommend Bile. Bile GOOD thing.
BLANKS 77 - Killer Blanks (Advance CD, Radical, Punk rock)
Let's do the time warp...again??? New Jersey punksters Blanks 77 certainly sound like they're heavily influenced by punk bands from 1977. Is this a BAD thing? No. This is NOT a bad thing. This is a GOOD thing. 1977 was a year when punk was GOOD. Many of the punk bands of the 90s are NOT good. They are BAD. So WHO CARES if this band is a throwback to an earlier decade? Not US. We just like GOOD things. This CD is good thing. Blanks 77 will be doing a major tour of the U.S. from June through August 1996. Catch 'em if you can. From the sounds of this advance CD, these guys are HOT.
THE BLUEBERRIES - Museum (CD, Spray, Pop/rock)
Very nice, clean, country-tinged pop from Lexington, Kentucky's The Blueberries. There's a lot to like about this CD. These three guys come up with some really cool vocal harmonies, and the production and arrangements on these tunes are superior. Pleasant stuff to play on a spring day that you may find yourself tapping your foot to. At first the somewhat country-ish tone of some of the tunes was distracting, but the more I listen the more I like that aspect of the music. "Mrs. Shame," "Rain," and "Rape" are my faves here. "Rape" has a nice, long section at the end which is just the sound of nature happening. Ahhh...beautiful. These guys have just the right sensibility about what they're doing...
THE BLUE ESKIMOS - Johnny Guitar E.P. (CD EP, American Standard Recordings, Rock)
This is the debut CD from San Jose, California's Blue Eskimos. Nice lo-fi recording quality on this one. The band plays instrumentals and skewed rock tunes, utilizing a very simple approach and even more limited instrumentation. You get nine tunes here...not bad for an EP, eh? I think what I like best about these here Eskimos is their guitar playing, which ranges from spacey to surf-like (reminds me of Television at times). A very solid debut. I'll be interested to see what these guys come up with for a full-length...
TRACY BONHAM - The Burdens of Being Upright (CD, Island, Rock)
Every so often a piece of music arrives in this office that really grabs my attention. Tracy Bonham's first full-length release for Island is certainly one of those discs. In fact, listening to this I can hardly believe that this is a debut! Ms. Bonham sounds like a well-seasoned songwriter, and she has a voice that'll blow your bananas off. Not only that, her songs cross over several different styles of music...and there's not a bad tune on the disc. In all honesty, all these tunes kick but the ones that I find of particular interest are "Mother Mother," "Navy Bean," "The One," and "The Real." Tracy Bonham is anything but a flash in the pan. This is one person who has the potential to either be a megastar or an incredible artistic success. Let's hope she chooses the latter. At this point, she has won me over completely.
BOYRACER - In Full Colour (CD, Zero Hour, Rock/pop)
Go ZERO HOUR! One of the things I like most about this label is that they have the BALLS to release stuff that bands record in their home studios, seemingly being more concerned with the actual feel of the songs than sound quality. This once again pays off for this adventurous label, scoring BIG TIME with Boyracer. Smooth, simple pop/rock music that is anything but affected and self-centered. This band comes across sounding very genuine and sincere on this 20 song (!!!) CD that spans a wide range of thoughts, ideas, and styles. Sometimes experimental and sometimes direct and simple, this band is completely COOL. Too many good tunes to mention. Just pick this one up and check it out. It's worth your while.
BUM - Can You Spare a Quarter? (CD, Streetlife, Folk)
In case you haven't already heard about this "success story," Streetlife took a portable DAT into downtown Chicago and recorded a retarded bum singing songs. The result? A stinky, slimey no-talent bum...coming off sounding like a stinky, slimey, no-talent bum. This SUCKS.
BUTTERFLIES - Bored Room (CD, Ng, Rock)
Atlanta's Butterflies are anything BUT a "formula band"! Breaking all the rules of songwriting, this band's obtuse, unusual approach to music is inviting and uplifting. Sometimes they play soft like a kitten, and at other times the band almost becomes a blur of chaos. It's this shifting of volume and tempo that reminds me very much of California's Timco, another band that is difficult to categorize. The Butterflies are Susan Holbrook (drums, vocals), Bryan Ciliberto (guitar, bass, vocals), and Bryan Terry (guitar, bass, vocals). Now before you go gettin' all upset thinking that girl drummers are all wimpy, you better hold yer goddamn horses...because Susan crashes and bashes with more hairy ballpower than most of the dumbfuck male drummers out there. This is a hazy, weird collection of tunes that just goes all over the place. Recommended!
C17H19N03 - Terra Damnata (CD, Fifth Colvmn, Electronic)
Just when you thought band names couldn't get any weirder... Seemingly oblivious to any sort of commercial appeal whatsoever, this unusual band catches my attention in a big way. Why? Well, there's not much here to grasp onto...and I like that. Electronic soundscapes that meander, wander, and drift by in a most peculiar manner... Vocals that sound like they're coming from inside the mind... A complete disregard for radio airplay... These are the reasons I like this very unusual CD. Ten tracks. Check out "Penetration" (this is beautiful) or "The Lords of Bone and Machinery." It's not pretty music, but then it's not meant to be. This is anything BUT easy listening...
CANNIBAL CORPSE - Vile (CD, Metal Blade, Death metal)
See the pretty drawing on the cover of the CD. See the nice man who's had his torso split open. See the maggots flowing from his severed torso. See his penis laying amidst the maggots. Vile. Appropriate title for this CD. This music mirrors a harsh, ugly world. These songs are played at a blinding speed. The vocals sound like they're coming straight from hell. Kind of like Morbid Angel, but meaner. You can't get much harder or heavier than this. The song titles say it all: "Devoured by Vermin," "Disfigured," "Puncture Wound Massacre," "Orgasm Through Torture." Highly recommended for children under age 3.
CARDINAL WOOLSEY - Paralyzed With Happiness (CD, Puddle, Rock/pop)
I jumped on this as soon as it hit my mailbox, so I hope I'm the first reviewer to turn you onto this CD. I had already heard a single from Cardinal Woolsey that really impressed me...but this, their first full-length release, is a real mindblower. The band plays pure pop, and they write some GREAT tunes. Actually, what pushes me over the edge with this band are the vocals. Way, way, WAY above average lead vocals...and the harmonies are heavenly. Add to that the fact that this quartet comes up with some breathtaking arrangements...and you've got a CD that will stand up to many, many repeated listenings. This is certainly a case where a band has managed to bridge the gap between accessibility and artistic integrity. Thirteen songs that'll stick to you like glue...and they all kick ass. My initial faves are "Heavenly World," "Colors," "Hey Tell Me," "I Get A Rush," and "Something Right." This is one of the best things I've heard this year for certain. These songs give me chills. GET THIS.
CASPER FANDANGO & THE KNEES - Consumer LP (Independent cassette, Lookit Meee, Pop)
This must be the year for all good drummers to step out from behind their drum kits and take on solo careers. This is a collection of one-man home recordings by Jason NeSmith, drummer for Orange Hat (yeah!) and Feyerabend. I got loads of cassettes in the mail from home tapers, and to be honest...most of them SUCK. I suppose that's why this cassette is such a breath of fresh air. Though only recording with four tracks, Jason squeezes the most out of his machines and comes up with a very impressive (and widely varied) collection of tunes. Sometimes poppy and at other times wildly experimental, this tape is a BLAST. You won't find it in stores, so if you're interested write to Jason at 1226 Stoneybrook Dr., SE, Atlanta, GA 30316.
CAST - All Change (Advance CD, A & M, Pop)
This is John Power's new band, the ex-bass player for the band the La's (whose best known song was the incredibly uplifting "There She Goes"). After the La's split up in 1991, John took three years off to concentrate on songwriting. Now he's back with this pure pop British quartet. John's got quick the knack for writing catchy melodies, as evidenced on this band's debut CD...and his vocals are exceptional. Of course this stuff is only going to appeal to pop fans, because much of this is very happy and sing-songish. These songs are highly polished and well-produced, yet they still retain the human element so crucial to good pop music. This is pretty damned good for a debut CD, and it makes me feel like this band is going to really go somewhere...
CATHERINE WHEEL - Like Cats and Dogs (Advance cassette, Mercury, Rock/pop)
Catherine Wheel is a band that takes some getting used to. I've heard several releases from this band. While I find myself enjoying some of the band's songs, there's a part of me that's turned off by what comes across as a conscious attempt to appeal to a specific audience. Maybe it's just my imagination. Hell, what do I know? Not much, to tell you the truth. But after listening to this cassette, I'm much more pro-Catherine Wheel than I was before. Is the music better this time, or am I just in a better frame of mind while I'm listening to this? I don't know. I don't know SHIT. Make up your own mind, Bub!
THE CHAINSAW KITTENS - Candy For You (CD EP, Scratchie, Rock)
It is very easy for me to gush about the Chainsaw Kittens. Everything I have heard from this incredibly enjoyable Oklahoma band has been top notch and incredible. Tyson Meade is an incredible singer and performer, and the rest of the band is tight and energetic. But the thing that sets this band apart from the rest are the songs. Though this is only an EP, in four songs the Kittens display more passion and urgency than 99% of the bands out there today. The tunes on this EP are "Grandaddy's Candy," "Bones In My Teeth," "Strange" (a cover of the Galaxie 500 tune), and "Bury My Heart." The Chainsaw Kittens totally ROCK!!!
CHIMERA - Earth Loop (Advance cassette, Grass, Pop)
This group hails from Belfast, and their identifying trademarks seem to be chiming guitars (thus the name?), cerebral vocals, and soaring, dreamy melodies. At times reminiscent of the Cocteau Twins (but more accessible), this band has some absolutely remarkable tunes: "Liquid Star," "Catch Me," "All I Need," "Let Met Be Around," "Lost In Space." Though this may sound too "pretty" for a lot of underground music snobs, they'll be the ones missing out. This is a very talented band with a lot to offer. Like sitting beside a lake on a beautiful Spring day, this is a nice breath of fresh air.
CHINA DRUM - Goosefair (CD, 510, Rock)
England's China Drum have a really dense, really hard rocking sound full of energy. Apparently these guys are getting pretty hip lately, touring with bands like Green Day (ho hum) and Supergrass (yeah!). This falls in that same old Bad Religion category (Has anyone noticed how many bands Bad Religion has influenced lately? Jesus!), but these fellows pull off their thing well on their debut for 510 Records. Solid rhythms, good melodies... I really like what these guys are doing. That high polish may scare away the punks, but those guitars might just draw 'em back in...
CLANNAD - Lore (CD, Atlantic, World)
BIG SOUND. Gothic, heavenly, super-polished... Ireland's Clannad win hands down for the best orchestrated vocals around. This is the group's first CD since their highly-acclaimed 1993 release. Kind of like Abba, Steeleye Span, or even Robbie Robertson, this band obviously has so much experience and knowledge in the studio that they leave other folks in their dusty trails. This disc has lots and lots of high points. Maire Brennan's vocals are, of course, breathtaking. This is the kind of music that will hopefully cross over many barriers. Hell, this ain't the kinda shit I normally listen to...but that's EXACTLY why I like it. Everybody needs a change every once in a while, right? RIGHT. Most of this is fucking incredible.
CLARISSA - Silver (CD, Mammoth, Pop/rock)
This is produced by Don Gehman (who has also produced Hootie & the Blowfish, R.E.M., and John Mellencamp). Not a good foot to start out on (yukky doodle!), but after listening to this band I ended up liking them anyway. Rocking with a soft edge, Clarissa produce some very likable stuff on this disc. Sure, it's all very well-produced, layered music that sounds like money played a big part in making it, but it still comes off sounding okay. Hell, the guy's got a really good voice for this sort of thing and those chimey guitars are pretty damned cool. I bet radio stations are gonna EAT this up...
KEN CLINGER - KC.45/46 (Cassette, Bovine Productions, Eerie pop)
Ken Clinger is somewhat of a legend in the world of underground home tapers. I've heard various things he's done with other folks, but this is the first time I've heard Ken's solo material. Wow. Now I know what all the fuss is about. Curious about the title of the cassette? Well, this is Ken's 45th and 46th (!?!) projects in this series. Possessed to create? You betcha! I think we've got yet ANOTHER R. Stevie Moore on our hands. The music? Odd, atmospheric pop that doesn't sound unlike early Gary Numan, except not nearly as accessible. Ken really excels in his arrangements, and his vocals are downright spooky. Mr. Clinger prefers to trade tapes with other folks as opposed to selling his music. Contact him at Bovine Productions, 311 Stratford Ave., #2, Pittsburgh, PA 15232-1108 (or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org...also see his web page in our links section). This is mind blowing stuff for sure...
CORE - Revival (CD, Atlantic, Rock)
This is certainly an appropriately-titled CD. Hailing from the Jersey Shore, Core lists band influences like Led Zeppelin, Cream, Iron Butterfly, and Black Sabbath. Their music certainly has many of the elements of these dinosaur bands of the past. Big, overdriven guitars pulsate over thundering bass and drums to create the illusion that the seventies never really ended. Spaced-out, echo-drenched vocals complete the picture. That the band writes very simple tunes (often with only one or two riffs) plays very much in their favor. Thundering, pothead rock for the new generation of drugged-out misfits.
JAYNE COUNTY - Deviation (CD, Royalty, Rock)
With all the fuss over Pansy Division, one would think that there's never been an in-your-face homosexual rock band before. Jayne County is certainly one of the original fags to dress and play the way he does, and he's still at it after all these years. Well, actually it's SHE, since she's a transexual now (thus the name change from Wayne to Jayne). I remember seeing this guy's mug ALL OVER the pages of New York rock magazines in the seventies...and his (that was then) photos always made a big impression on me. Though I've always admired her, Jayne's music never did much for me in the past. This new one I really like, though. It's punchy, somewhat punkish rock music and Jayne's vocals sound better than ever. Hey, anyone who can cover "Cherry Bomb" and make it work deserves major points. Who said old ladies can't rock? Jayne County rocks like a goddamn motherfucker!
COYOTE SHIVERS - Coyote Shivers (CD, Mutiny, Rock)
This three-piece rock band (fronted by Coyote Shivers himself) has a really big, dense, hard sound. This CD has plenty of intelligent songs played with guts and vigor. I like the masculine sound of Shivers' voice. He whipers, he screams, he growls...and he somehow manages to sound believable no matter WHAT sound he's making with his voice. From the sound of this disc, I'd bet this band is a BLAST live. With ultra-hip tunes like "The Truth," "Happiness is a Warm Bong" (GREAT song title), and "She Drove Me To Drink and Drive," this trio is on their way straight up. Oh yeah...this guy had his nipples cut off and had them replaced with star shapes made from the skin of a goat. Now is that alternative...or WHAT???
CRANKCASE - Scrap EP (CD EP, Static, Rock)
I've been impressed by this Philadelphia quartet before, and they've done it again. Though only an E.P. this time (six tunes), these guys again offer up some mighty tasty rock tunes. My favorite this time around is the six minute "My Left Foot," which is musically quite complex and obtuse. On other tunes, the band is more accessible and rocky. Interestingly, outside the band these guys' occupations are audio/video technician, civil engineer, printer, and biologist (!). Just goes to show that some professionals DO know how to rock...
THE DAISYGRINDERS - Yo-Yo EP (CD EP, Half A Cow (import), Rock)
Punchy, somewhat noisy rock music. This EP features four tunes: "Yo-Yo," "Dodgy," "Hey Sally," and "Girf." "Yo-Yo" is my favorite with its cool intertwined guitars, but "Hey Sally" is also pretty damn neat...sounding something like the Young Fresh Fellows.
DAKODA MOTOR CO. - Railroad (CD, Atlantic, Rock)
You know...I normally HATE bands with combined male and female vocals. The sound of the two usually GRATES on my nerves. Dakoda Motor Co. is a band with combined male and female vocals. In this case, the merging of the two sounds GREAT. This could possible be because the female vocalist (Melissa Brewer) has a real SNOTTY voice which sounds super COOL. This band is led by Peter King (he's the host of MTV's Sandblast as well as a world-class surfer, having appeared on the cover of Surfer magazine four times). Because I HATE MTV, I figured this band would be PRETENTIOUS and HORRIBLE. But they're NOT. They're COOL and they ROCK LIKE HELL. In fact, this band is an incredible batch of fun. They beat the PANTS off most other rock bands out there. Honest. Jesus. Worth checking out...
DEATH RIDE 69 - Screaming Down the Gravity Well EP (CD EP, Fifth Colvmn, Industrial/techno)
Upon listening to this for the first time, I kept thinking that something was wrong. Then it finally hit me. A GIRL singing in an industrial band? Normally industrial bands have male vocalists. I'm not sure why, but that certainly seems to be the case. The female vocalist in this case is Beat Mistress, the drummer/percussionist from My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult. Ms. Mistress certainly has the pipes for this kind of music, and I definitely like the title track best. Big production, urgent alienation. Pretty damn cool.
DECORYAH - Fall-Dark Waters (CD, Metal Blade, Progressive rock)
What? A Metal Blade release that is NOT heavy metal??? Hey, more power to the record label that dares to release different styles of music. This band harkens back to the days of seventies progressive rock with elaborate arrangements and intricate musical passages. The band hails from Finland. Maybe that's why their sound is different from most of the stuff I hear lately. Sort of like baroque music for the nineties, this wall of sound is a nice change from what's currently out there...
DISAPPEAR FEAR - Seed in the Sahara (CD, Rounder, Folky lesbian pop)
Whenever any band labels itself as a "lesbian" or "gay" band, I just want to push it back in the closet and lock the door. This is definitely the case with Disappear Fear. No, the music isn't that bad...but the fact that these folks present themselves as an "openly gay band" is one big turn off. The lyrics on this CD are particularly STUPID.
DOCTAHRI - Einstein Was a Bullfighter (CD, Cash Only, Experimental/funk/electronic)
The new Cash Only label starts off with a mighty KICK. Featuring Bret Helm, formerly of P.I.L. and Jennifer Batten, guitarist for Michael Jackson's tours, this band is loud, smart, and heavy. This is a good example of an expensive studio used the right way. Yes, there are tons of effects on this CD...and there are LOTS of musical balls showing their hairy selves. But it's the sheer excitement that comes through in the end, making this batch of tunes both fun as well as challenging to listen to. Even the song titles are entertaining: "Life's Little Questionnaires," "Brain Dead Endorsee," "Coffee Saved My Marriage." This is certainly worth checking out, and it blows most modern industrial bands off the face of the earth. Honest.
RYAN DOWNE - The Hypocrite (CD, Rocket/Island, Pop/rock)
Bad midget rock.
DOWNLOAD - The Eyes of Stanley Pain (CD, Nettwerk, Electronic/industrial)
Just how far can one go in mutating and distorting the human voice? That seems to be the quest for industrial experimentalists Download. Combining industrial rhythms and trance-like electronics, cEvin Key and Mark Spybey throw human voices into the mix...coming up with some of the STRANGEST sounds I've ever heard people make. The industrial/electronic medium can often become trite and annoying because the folks making the music get so carried away that they end up overdoing and overplaying the music to death. Download avoids this pitfall by keeping their music relatively simple...and those vocal treatments really do sound like something from another planet! Some of the more interesting industrial stuff I've heard of late, this is simultaneously frightening and danceable...
drivin 'n cryin - Beats Me (CD, Bootleg, Spoken word)
This unusual bootleg is a recording of the members of drivin 'n cryin all masturbating together. Interestingly, this is not all that different from their studio recordings.
EDGAR SCHWARTZ - Milk and Cookies (CD, Optional Art, Pop)
There are a great many people out there who could learn an important lesson from the band Edgar Scwartz. The lesson for the day is...you do NOT have to have an expensive multi-track studio to produce a great CD...but you MUST have great songs. Believe it or not, there are TONS of folks out there who have one but not the other. And without both parts of the puzzle, most folks unfortunately fail at home recording. That this CD was recorded on a four-track is nothing short of amazing. The tunes kick...the production is crisp and clear...and the vocal harmonies are astounding. Sort of like a cross between the Beach Boys and Frank Zappa (alright...so I DID get that from the press release...), this is an odd little band with more tons more talent and creativity than most bands with big recording contracts. From the bluesy "Uncle Blues" to the eerie "Monster Magik Show" to the haunting strains of "Carnival Connie," this CD never fails to amaze me. Of course, at this point I can certainly say that virtually ANYTHING on the Optional Art label is worth your while. Produced by the one and only Rich Arithmetic. Highly recommended!
EL NINO - El Nino (CD, Flat Earth, Rock/pop)
Another home run for the fine folks at Flat Earth. Over the last couple of years this obscure little label has been putting out some of the finest unknown pop stuff I've heard. Indiana must be LOADED with unknown pop talent, as evidenced by the totally inviting El Nino. On their self-titled debut, this quartet delves into pure pop, dreamy pop/rock, and psychedelia with ease and style. And some of the songs here are nothing short of KILLER. Want proof? Check out "Still the Same" or even better yet, "Fly." Exceptional vocals, spaced-out guitars, and way above average melodies are but a few of this group's strengths. If you can't find this in stores, e-mail the label at email@example.com. Mighty fine stuff INDEED.
ETHER BUNNY - Papa Woody (CD, Fifth Colvmn, Dub/Jazz)
Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, FUN! Twenty absolute gems with song titles like "Chauncey Gardener," "Tar Baby," "Tinkerbell Tramp," "Mr. Poopypants," and "Bunny Jump." The music? Well, the rhythm tracks sound very much like dub or even acid jazz. But the music that's layered over the top is WILD. Horns straight out of Louisiana (or even orchestral pieces) oodle and noodle all over the place in a crazy haze of jazz hysteria, creating some of the most fun instrumental stuff I've heard in quite some time. All the songs are written by a fellow named Daniel Vahnke (this guy must be a RIOT). Looking for something that doesn't sound like everything else out there? Ether Bunny is IT.
EVERLOUNGE - Vodka Content (CD, O-Rama, Lounge)
Lounge music is definitely getting entirely too trendy for this mind-blown little music reviewer. When I saw the name of this band, I thought "Uh oh. Pretentious, pretentious, pretentious." But hey...I WAS WRONG! This cool group does play lounge style, but the way they do it sounds very, VERY natural. And instead of sounding like music from the past, this sounds very current. I guess what really pushes things over the top for me with this band is the vocalist. Check out "Confabulations" or "Clammy Casino."
CESARIA EVORA - Cesaria Evora (CD, Nonesuch)
Wow. Where did they find this lady? Cesaria Evora takes you and carries you away to a different time and place on her latest CD. Smooth, sexy vocals abound on a CD that isn't likely to be heating up the airwaves any time soon. It's too bad that things like this most likely won't be heard by too many people, because music is such a great medium to explore other folks' lifestyles and ideas. Listening to Cesaria sing, it reminds me that there's a whole other world out there that I've never even seen. Not only does she have a great voice, but Ms. Evora has an odd look in her eye that is enchanting and bewildering. Do I like this? Hell, I've always had a thing for black women. Cesaria is hot, hot, HOT.
FASTBALL - Make Your Mama Proud (CD, Hollywood, Rock/pop)
ANOTHER great band from Austin? Once again Austin, this country's true hotbed of talent, produces a top quality rock band. Instead of the usual obtuse, noisy, twangy sound, however, this time around we get exceptional power pop! Fastball has been playing around Austin for the past two years under the name Magneto USA, but they apparently had to change their name for legal reasons (?). ANYWAY...this fast-paced trio comes up with some killer tunes on this CD, my faves being "She Comes 'Round" and "Boomerang." Occasionally the songs get a bit too commercial sounding, but for the most part these guys have a sound that comes from the heart and soul...with an unusual flair for good melodies. With almost no lead guitar playing, these fellows manage to get their message across with precision and style. I'm not quite sure why, but at times these tunes bring to mind the Merry-Go-Round (duh?). This is good stuff that holds up to many repeated listenings...
FEYERABAND - Bending Bars of Pure Indium (Cassette, Shoeleg, Rock/pop)
Damn, this is some mighty fine stuff for an independent cassette made from a live recording of the band on a local radio station. Lots of well written tunes, and the playing is tight and, at times, chaotic. The guys in Feyeraband create an interesting tension with their instruments, but things don't ever turn into a blur of noise. Instead, the interesting arrangements and inviting melodies add up to a sound that's just not like all the others. "Exterminator!" and "Six Words in 7 Days" are exceptional (Hell, they're all pretty damned good!). If this was a studio recording, I would've given this a "5." Hopefully this band will put out a studio recording soon. Their material is certainly deserving of it.
FINN BROTHERS - Finn Brothers (CD, Discovery, Pop)
By now everyone ought to know the names Neil Finn and Tim Finn. For those who don't, they probably do know the names Split Enz and Crowded House. Of course, Neil and Tim were the brains behind both of those exceptional bands (Tim has also put out some solo recordings). For their latest outing, the brothers choose to release a CD under their own names. What does this sound like? Strangely enough, this disc sounds very much like a cross between Split Enz and Crowded House. Instead of burning out and becoming tiring as most rock musicians do over time, the Finn Brothers maturity has only made them stronger, better musicians. These guys have always had a knack for combining catchy pop tunes with some really imaginative arrangements. Once again, they hit a home run. GREAT stuff. These tunes'll stick in your head like GLUE.
FRAGILE - Airbrushed Perfection (CD, Half A Cow (import), Pop/rock)
I can come up with an opinion on most discs that hit my desk within a matter of minutes. This CD took several listens to sink in, but I'm glad I spent the time to get into this band. Australia's Fragile is the new project of Simon Holmes, who writes very memorable (if somewhat unconventional) pop tunes that alternate between sounding very straightforward and very obtuse. The tune that blows away the most is "Dream Come True," which is an incredibly beautiful, dreamy pop tune. Penning tunes with an unbridled personal touch seems to be Mr. Holmes' true calling, and his vocals are very passionate and sincere. Looking for pop that doesn't just touch the surface? This is deep, cool, and very genuine music. REALLY NICE.
FRENCH - French (CD EP, Bear, Pop/rock)
Simple and direct. The approach that almost ALWAYS works. And for the band French, that approach sure works for them on their first EP. Playing basic rock/pop music with almost no frills, the band's simple style of music comes across sounding very fresh indeed. Six tunes here, with my favorites being "Strictly Dreamboat" and "Fondly." If you can't find it in stores, e-mail the label at BearRecs@aol.com. Good stuff? Yes, this is GOOD stuff!
FRENTE - Shape (Advance cassette, Atlantic, Pop)
A group that doesn't sound like all the rest, Australia's Frente is very refreshing. Featuring the breathy, dreamy vocals of Angie Hart, this band doesn't play radio pop...they play their own unique brand of hummable, somewhat dreamy pop music that pulls from a variety of sources. And although this is obviously a big budget production, the studio gimmicks add (rather than detract) from the music. Memorable melodies abound on this release, and the lyrics are often thought provoking. Almost every tune is worthwhile. My faves here are "What's Wrong With the Air" and "We Can Keep Her Safe From You." Frente is certainly one of the better pop bands out there fronted by a female vocalist...
FU MANCHU - In Search Of... (CD, Mammoth, Rock)
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, YEAH!!! GREAT GODDAMN BAND!!! I've loved every release I've heard thus far by Fu Manchu, but their debut for Mammoth Records may just be their best yet. It's so funny...these guys play and sing like so many others, and yet for some reason they have a certain spark or something that sets them WAY ABOVE the rest. Pulsating, ballsy rock music overdriven to the point of explosion, and those speak/sing vocals are JUST RIGHT. One of the tightest rock rhythm sections around sets the stage for wild guitar spirals and dynamic tempo changes. These guys sure made my nuts stand up and take notice. This stuff makes me want to jump in a truck with a hillbilly. I can't WAIT to see this band live. They are certainly one of my current top faves. This is one of the best PARTY CDs I've heard of late. Get down!!!
FUN W/ ATOMS - Northern Distortion (CD, Black Vinyl, Pop/rock)
There's definitely some major Beatles influences going on with the latest CD from Fun w/ Atoms. Produced by the Shoes' Jeff Murphy, this is a hot collection of pure pop tunes with enough harmony vocals to fill an ocean. These tunes are clean cut and well written, with plenty of hooks scattered throughout. Sure, these tunes are very calculated and at times lack spontaneity...but the melodies are way above average and the vocals are excellent. In addition to the excellent harmonies, this group's second greatest strength is their inventive guitar arrangements. Pop purists will certainly want to check this out. Twelve tunes of crystal clear pop.
GIPSY KINGS - Tierra Gitana (CD, Nonesuch, Gypsy/world music)
Most Americans know absolutely nothing about any music made outside of the grand old U.S.A. because we as a country are obsessed with ourselves. Somehow, though, a little culture slips in now and again...and in this case, it's the Gipsy Kings. How this talented bunch of French fellows became successful is beyond me. There are almost NO elements here commonly found in America's Top 40 radio fodder. I guess somehow somebody somewhere made a mistake and these guys hit it big by accident. Or maybe, just MAYBE, they did it on the strength of their sheer talent. This is a stunning and passionate collection of tunes that certainly gives me the feeling that I'm in a foreign land...and considering the direction our country's heading, that's a damn GOOD feeling. Upbeat and well-crafted. Hey...it's on the Nonesuch label. Need I say more?
GLASS CANDLE GRENADE - Glass Candle Grenade (CD, Auntie Trash, Pop)
Really nice pop band featuring the vocal talents of Trish Thompson. The band combines fat guitars and smooth rhythms to create a variety of inviting pop styles. Plenty of good danceable stuff here, but for me the real standout track is "Everchange" with its cool, flowing melody and breathy vocals that sound similar to Bette Midler. When I noticed that the last track was a cover of Bryan Ferry's "More Than This," I had some real reservations. Interestingly, I found that I like Glass Candle Grenade's version better than the original! If you can't find it in stores, write to P.O. Box 48743, Atlanta, GA 30362 or e-mail the band at firstname.lastname@example.org. Good stuff? Yeah!
GLOBAL BASICS - Dance Music For the Millenium (Advance cassette, Columbia, Dance)
Dance music. Either you love it or you hate it. I've always fallen on both sides of the solar system. For a good overview of what's currently hot out there in dance clubs around the world, check out the Global Basics compilation. Featuring eleven tracks of groove-heavy tunes, this collection certainly has one it takes to get your feet moving. Bands include Staxx of Joy, Loveland, Clubworld, The Daou, Bizarre Inc., Jamiroquai and more. My favorite track here is "I'm Gonna Get You" by the British trio Bizarre Inc. Really inventive fun electronic stuff.
GODPLOW - Soft Formal Static (Advance cassette, Grass, Rock)
Really nice fuzzed-out rock music with cool melodies. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, this quartet now calls Minneapolis their home (when they're not touring). Pulsing, throbbing, and beating their way through their tunes, these guys seem to know that underplaying works when playing hard pop/rock music. And what really propells this music beyond many of their peers is that this band is not afraid to sing on key. Admittedly not all that different sounding than a lot of other bands out there, these guys pull their thing off by simply sounding genuine and energetic...
THE GRAVEL PIT - The Gravel Pit Manifesto (CD, Q Division, Rock)
Yeah! This New Haven band is absolutely irresistible. Featuring this year's most unlikely candidate for lead singer of a rock band (Jed Parish looks more like a grocery store manager than a rocker), these guys look and sound like they're having a hell of a great time playing their music. And that good feeling translates directly from the CD into my brain. This is a band that, quite simply, makes me feel good. Organ-driven rock tunes that have more punch and oomph than anything I've heard this week, this release is a breath of fresh air amidst too many stale bands that all sound alike. Thirteen tunes that all kick butt, but my top picks are "New Haven," "Something's Growing Inside," and "Teenage Witch." At times bordering on bubblegum, these guys play hard but their music is based on infectious melodies and grooves that stick with you like glue. Exceptional stuff. Can't wait to see 'em live!
GREN - Camp Grenada (CD, I.R.S., Rock)
Well I guess I've had my head up my ass (one of my favorite places), because I didn't even know that I.R.S. Records was still in existence! I guess SOMEBODY better update their mailing list to include the folks that really MATTER, eh? Whatever the case...I sure am glad that I got hold of this CD, because Gren is one ROCKING band! Fat, juicy guitars...a throbbing rhythm section, and KILLER vocals are what make Gren a total BLAST. Of course, songs and melodies are what always count most in this little music reviewing world...and that's where Gren really shines. Ten absolutely KILLER tunes of swirling, driving rock music. They're all great actually, but my TOP faves are "Pop Songs," "Go Figure," and "Beat On a Friend" (GREAT song title, guys!). This is HOT!
THE GUFS - The Gufs (CD, Atlantic, Pop)
Well thought out pop music that could use a tad more spontaneity. That said, there are some really good songs on this CD. Led by two brothers from Indiana (Dejan and Goran Kralj, the latter looks at GREAT DEAL like Sean Penn), this band plays very radio-friendly pop music. No, this isn't breaking any new ground. Yes, this does reek of big studios and big money. It's not something I would go out and buy, but if I heard it on the radio I'd probably be entertained.
GUMDROPS - High Speed...O.K.? (CD, Grass, Pop/rock)
There are a lot of Japanese pop/rock groups that I really like, but so often they all have one thing in common: bad vocals. Gumdrops is a band that doesn't fall flat in the area of vocals. In addition, this band's songs are much stronger than your average Japanese rock band. Instead of trying to sound cute or trying to be overly aggressive and noisy, this trio seems more concerned with writing good melodies and counterbalancing them with some simple yet very effective arrangements. In fact, if it weren't for the accents, you might mistake Gumdrops for an American band. If bands like Shonen Knife (which I really like, by the way) make you think Japanese girls can't sing, Keiko will make a believer out of you. Cool, upbeat, calm, and very cerebral. YEAH!!!
HAMPTON GREASE BAND - Music To Eat (Double CD, Shotput/57, Progressive)
This is a very nicely packaged reissue of a double album that was released on Columbia Records in 1971. Featuring Atlanta's answer to Captain Beefheart, Bruce Hampton is a true original. The man yelps, cries, and screeches like no one else. Meanwhile, the band goes ALL OVER THE PLACE...sometimes somewhat controlled, and at other times pumping out noise that sounds like spontaneous jazz. Interestingly, this double CD set contains only seven tunes...so the songs are rather lengthy. The booklet contains an excellent history of the band and some really great photos. This band is surely an acquired taste. The more I listen to this the more I like it...
THE HANDSOME FAMILY - Milk and Scissors (CD, Carrot Top, Country/pop)
Are lyrics important? The answer is, as with everything, sometimes yes and sometimes no. In this case, the lyrics are what pulled me into this extremely inventive band. In fact, when I first started listening to this I almost yanked it and didn't even review it. Fortunately, I opened the insert and began to read the lyrics. The words on this CD are ABSURD. Absurd in a VERY GOOD way. I've already told you I like this, so let's just let these folks speak for themselves with some lyrics from the tune "Drunk Poodle." "There once was a poodle who thought he was a cowboy, but he lived in a cage the size of his thumb. And, though his white horse was a box of toothpicks, he galloped around until hit by a car. Sometimes I flap my arms like a hummingbird just to remind myself I'll never fly. Sometimes I burn my arms with cigarettes just to pretend I won't scream when I die." Rennie Sparks has an INCREDIBLE sense of humor. This is very cool.
A ROBBIE HARDKISS MIX - Mixed Messages (CD, Hardkiss/Moonshine, Dance)
Smooth and grooooooooooooooooovy. This Hardkiss fellow knows his stuff. Robbie has a real knack for stringing sensual, moody dance tracks into one long mind-expanding experience, and this mix just may be my favorite he's done. Including such ultra-hip artists like Sundiata, Slam, the Drum Club, Walker, the Innocent, and Love Lee, this is one compilation where high standards were certainly a criteria considered. It's unfortunate that this will most likely appeal to a very select audience (young club kids), because I think that if older folks were introduced to this in the right setting they'd end up loving it. Maybe it will cross age barriers, though. Who knows? Hey this still sounds good to me...and I'm 75!
HAVALINA RAIL CO. - The Diamond in the Fish (CD, Tooth & Nail, Jazz/swing/pop)
A cross between the Squirrel Nut Zippers and Connecticut's Bud Collins. As weird as their name implies, the Havalina Rail Co. is one weird outfit. This six-person combo hails from Long Beach, California...and they have a sound like no one else. The press release describes the music as "neo-spy with a 60s euro jazz feel" and that's fairly accurate. What I like best about this band is their very loose approach to playing. At times it almost sounds as if things are going to fall apart midway through the songs. It's this looseness and ability to boldly go where no band has gone before that draw me into this music. Not for everyone, but I don't think that's the point here. These folks seem to be thriving on pure artistic integrity...
FRED HERSCH - Passion Flower: Fred Hersch Plays Billy Strayhorn (CD, Nonesuch, Jazz/piano)
Okay, so I'm ignorant. Until now I had never even heard of Fred Hersch or Pilly Strayhorn, but this is on the Nonesuch label so I figured it'd be good. My intuition served me correctly, and I'm fortunate to be introduced to a totally spectacular artist who is obviously quite well known to other folks who don't live in artificial environments. Hell, this Hersch guy was even a 1995 Grammy Nominee... Awards and popularity mean nothing in babysueland, however, but good, sincere music does. It's funny. Awkward, alternative rock types who are always so intently bothered by folks not being open to their music would probably shun at the meer mention of this CD--which just goes to show how small-minded cliques can be. The music? Oh yeah... This is smooth, piano jazz music that goes down nice and easy...reminds me of beautiful days I've spent lounging by lakes, basking in the sunshine. Some folks must be born with an innate talent to transmit their feelings through the keyes. Fred Hersch is certainly one of them...
HAYDEN - Everything I Long For (Advance CD, Outpost/Geffen, Folk/improvisation)
Jesus Christ Almighty what a REFRESHING change from too many rock bands all using the same goddamn formulas and all sounding just the goddamn same. This cool Canadian (Hayden is one man) recorded this project in his home studio, and it's only now seeing the light of day with respect to most listeners. Folky, Neil Young-ish (and at times experimental) folk guitar-based musical creations. I think folk has gotten a bad name over the past few years because of all the goddamn folk retardo idiots shreiking their political beliefs at all of us (as if we cared to hear them!). Hayden is a refreshing artist using a medium that is often trite and overbearing. This proves that folk music can be as valid now as it ever was. At times haunting and beautiful, and at other times just plain reflective, Hayden's songs hit right on target. Yeah...
DYLAN HICKS - Won (CD, No Alternative, Pop/rock)
God this is GREAT. Something like a cross between Jonathan Richman and Alex Chillton (but not really), Dylan Hicks is a true original in the world of music. From the opening strains of "Governor of Fun," this man stole my heart away. Combining a strong sense of humor with an even stronger sense of melody, Mr. Hicks has more personality and charisma than a thousand other singer/songwriters. And he makes it all seem so easy and natural... The song titles alone are priceless: "Screw You (And Screw Your Friends," "I Just Want You To Like Me," "Police State," "You Make A Better Door"... You can't go wrong with this one. I hope I get a chance to see this man live one day, because I feel certain it will be a great experience...
HIS NAME IS ALIVE - Stars on ESP (Advance CD, 4AD, Soft pop)
I heard one CD by this band several years ago that completely blew me away with its ultra-strange electronics and noise mixed with snippets of dreamy pop music. By comparison, this CD almost sounds like bubblegum! In anyone else's shitty little world that might be a cut, but in this universe that's a damn GOOD thing. This time around His Name Is Alive sounds something like a cross between Ivy and the Cocteau Twins. The music is much more subtle and the melodies and song structures are clear cut and straightforward. The ultra-simple musical arrangements do nothing to detract from the songs themselves...and they accentuate the very strong, well-written melodies. The female vocalist is cool and breathy, and the overall effect makes me feel as if I'm drifting off into Heaven...something I thought could never be possible. Fifteen KILLER tunes. My favorite is "The Bees."
ROBIN HOLCOMB - Little Three (CD, Nonesuch, Piano)
Bizarre in a very subtle way, Robin Holcomb is playing for a very esoteric audience. She's not flashy, she's not traditional...in fact, she's not what you might associate with most piano players. Instead, Robin's music is reflective and calming...yet underneath it all, there's always a certain discordant weirdness to it. This seven song CD showcases a lady with a passion for her work. Probably my favorite two pieces are the long ones: "Wherein Lies the Good" and "Tiny Sisters" ((both clocking in at well over ten minutes). Most of these songs seem to possess a total disregard for commercial appeal, which is always a plus in our little world here. Thought provoking and inquisitive without saying a single word, Ms. Holcomb has certainly touched my heart. This is completely COOL.
HOLY BARBARIANS - Cream (CD, Reprise, Rock)
This is the new band fronted by Ian Astbury (formerly of the Cult). You have to hand it to Mr. Astbury. Most folks would remain in a commercially successful band for the bucks, even if they hated the music. Instead, Ian wasn't feeling the music...so he walked. And, here's where I give him the most credit, he's building up a fan base without resorting to that "Featuring Ian Astbury, Former Member of the Cult" marketing shit. Being a former Cult member may be the dog that will follow him for the rest of his life, hopefully not. Ian's new band sounds DAMN fine. Urgent, swirling rock music and Ian's vocals are certainly the identifying trademark. It's interesting that this man grew up in Liverpool, Glasgow, and Hamilton, Canada...because at times you could almost mistake him for a rocker from the Southern U.S.A.! Recorded in Liverpool, this has a very American feel to it...
hugh - Lucky Drive (CD EP, Mafia Money, Pop/rock)
The problem with most rock bands is that they're pretentious and totally full of themselves. hugh is CERTAINLY a refreshing change from all that bullshit. Instead of trying too hard and pushing things to the limit, this cool San Francisco trio just lets things slide on this EP...and as a result, this is a blast of FRESH AIR. The drummer plays just enough to keep things going, while the guitars and vocals glide freely overhead. It is this band's ability to keep things simple that is their greatest strength. While everyone else is trying to outplay each other in a juvenile bout of silly competition, hugh comes out heads above the rest by simply playing from their hearts. Truly nice stuff. Initially, the standout tracks are "Ruby Cruiser," "Zoe's Grape Story," and "Alaska." Highly recommended.
CHARLIE HUNTER QUARTET - Ready, Set Shango (Advance cassette, Blue Note/Capitol, Jazz)
More sexy, inviting, smooth jazz from the infamous Charlie Hunter Quartet. Though I've only recently been introduced to this group of musicians (their last CD blew me away), this release pushes me over the edge. These fellows play as if they've been playing their instruments since they crawled out of the womb. They make it sound so...EASY, when I know it's really not. Funky, addictive, and utterly cool, these nine tunes all sound DAMN fine indeed and would be a great addition to ANY party. Best tunes: "Teabaggin'," "Let's Get Medieval," and "Shango...The Ballad."
HURL - A Place Called Today (CD, Third Gear, Rock)
As loud as a chainsaw and as soft as a newborn kitten's vagina. Though this band has released several vinyl singles, this is their first full-length release. Instead of offering up corn-fed alternative rock slop like many bands, these guys interweave textures and guitar stylings to come up with some pretty unusual tunes. That the band seems to thrive on either high-volume buzzsaw sounds on the one end and very soft, soothing guitar instrumentals on the other is very endearing. Not an easy band to figure, Hurl is defining their own sound and image through pure imagination. Nice, nice, nice...
THE HUSBIANS - Unpopular Flips (Advance cassette, Mutiny, Rock)
Hard, punchy rock/pop from a trio hailing from Boone, North Carolina. The Husbians have a pulsatingly good rhythm section, and the guitar playing is inventive and different. I have to admit that I've heard a great many bands lately that sound basically just like this, but somehow these guys manage to come off more sincere and real than most of 'em. Plenty of good songs here. I really like "Roy Spoon," "Mutilated," "God's Car," and "Couldn't Be Better." I'd like to see these guys live to form a more concrete opinion of them...
HUSIKESQUE - Green Blue Fire (CD, Astralwerks, Dub/trance)
Hmmmm... Now this IS interesting. Imagine sitting around your house listening to dub and trance music while taking L.S.D. and downers with Karen Carpenter. Sound odd? It is. It's a weird combination of different styles of music that effortlessly come together to create their own unique sound. Never afraid to take chances, once again Linda Husik goes off on some pretty odd tangents with her music...and succeeds. Her vocals are cold and detached, and layered over these funky beats it sounds awkward at first. The songs grow on you, though, and before long you find yourself drawn into the hypnotic beats. Recorded with British electronic producers Beaumont Hannant and Richard Brown, this collection of tunes is tripped out and cool.
IDAHO - Three Sheets To The Wind (CD, Caroline, Rock)
I've been listening to and admiring the music of Idaho for several years now. Each release from this obtuse and virtually unknown band gets better and better, and this may just be the best yet. Jeff Martin takes a different approach with this collection of tunes. Instead of recording at his home studio mostly by himself, for this CD he plays with a full band. The result? More excellent songs, but with a bit more punch than usual. Those incredible trademark Idaho guitars remain, and Jeff's voice sounds more mature and focused. Warning: Idaho songs are NOT catchy. That's right. You probably won't find yourself bopping around humming these songs. They are more like atmospheric pop creations, relying more on song structure than singsong melodies. Idaho hits a home run...again!
IMPERIAL DRAG - Imperial Drag (Advance cassette, Work/Sony, Pop)
Featuring two ex-members of the band Jellyfish, Imperial Drag certainly falls into the same musical territory. Pure pop, highly polished, and seemingly created specifically for radio airplay. Now that's not a bad thing necessarily, but to me this just sounds like fluff. But hey, I never cared for Jellyfish so... I'd suggest passing on this one...
IVY - I Hate December (remix) (CD Single, Scratchie, Pop)
This is the first thing I don't care for from Ivy. Ivy is a GREAT pop band. Cool songs, smooth vocals, and completely catchy tunes. Here, the band forsakes their basic rock/pop approach for dance music. The worst part about this is that I really like the original version of "I Hate December," and that makes it difficult to listen to these disco remixes. I hope this is not the direction Ivy heads in, because I know they can do so MUCH better...
THE JESUS LIZARD - Shot (CD, Capitol, Rock)
Call me Mr. Uninformed, but prior to hearing this CD I had only heard one release by the Jesus Lizard...a live recording which I liked, but it left me feeling somewhat lukewarm about the band. That's all changed now that I've heard the band's latest studio CD. This absolutely KICKS ASS. I've played this damn thing repeatedly and I still can't come up with comparisons. The Jesus Lizard is a band with a big punch and lots of attitude, but above all it's their strong, driving rhythms that draw me in. Sometimes angry, sometimes chaotic...this band swirls and reels all over the damn place with their songs. And they also seem to have a sense of humor about what they're doing ("Good Riddance," "More Beautiful Than Barbie," "Pervertedly Slow"). Of course diehard fans of the band are probably saying they've sold out by now and that the only good recordings are the old ones. It's their loss, because there's LOTS of meat on these here bones. And this old dog just likes to CHEW.
JOY ELECTRIC - We Are the Music Makers (CD, Tooth & Nail, Pop)
Wow. Keyboards may not be cool, but Ronnie Martin sure as hell is. This man (who calls his band Joy Electric) has blown me away with every release so far...but this one just may be his best yet. This is the kind of thing that you either LOVE or HATE. And if you can't take synthesizer noodling, then leave this alone. If, on the other hand, you liked the experimental, synthesized pop of the mid-1980s...then you'll want to CHECK THIS OUT. Crazy, peculiar bubblegum pop with supersweet, breathy vocals that will steal your heart away. Ronnie Martin is a pop genius for sure. With just one listen, I can already tell this will be one of my TOP favorite CDs of the year. Pop enthusiasts take note: This stuff is ultra-catchy and SUPERB. YEAH!!! Go Ronnie, Go!
JUDGE NOTHING - Riveter (CD, Thick, Pop/rock)
If there ever was a band that defines the word "punchy," it must surely be Judge Nothing. This three-piece plays powerful pop with such vigor and style that it sounds as if they've been playing together for centuries. On this, their second full-length CD, the band reminds me of Rush...except they sound much, MUCH better (and their vocals are good instead of annoying). Produced by Bill Stevenson (of ALL fame), this CD cooks. The big studio sound doesn't interfere with the energy level though. For a good example of what these guys' potential is, check out "Score Uneven" which sounds like a hyper-energized Badfinger. At times brilliant and at other times just pure fun, Judge Nothing is one cool band.
KILLING JOKE - Democracy (CD, Democracy, Rock)
What?!? ANOTHER "5"??? Yep, another "5" it is. I like good things. Hey, I can't help it...okay? Most bands don't age so well. Making music eventually becomes monotonous to them, and they begin to lose whatever it is they had in the first place. Killing Joke certainly don't fit the mold. They've gotten better. I've heard several of the band's prior releases, and I can honestly say that this is the best thing I have heard them do. The title song in itself is priceless, with a line that will hopefully have an affect on people ("Democracy is Changing"). These songs are driving, powerful, passionate, and urgent. The production is top-notch, and the lyrics are often thought-provoking. I've merely liked 'em in the past, but that's all changed now. This CD is an exceptional one that I've already played five times in a row. Now that IS something...
BOBBY KIMBALL - Rise Up (CD, Mausoleum Classix, Pop/rock)
Bobby used to be the singer in the band Toto. He was obnoxious then. He is obnoxious now. This is pathetic.
KING'S X - Ear Candy (CD, Atlantic, Progressive rock/pop)
The three guys in King's X seem to think this is the best record they've ever done. I'd have to agree with them. King's X has been making some incredible music for quite some time now, but this time they've really outdone themselves. This is one band that somehow manages to merge commercial and artistic success. Even though the band is popular as Hell, they still put out top quality music...pulsing with excellent vocal harmonies and inventive arrangements. There are few bands out there who continue to put out good stuff once they've achieved great success, but these guys somehow manage to make it all work. Much of this is exceptional pure pop (check out "Mississippi Moon"), but there's plenty of intriguing instrumental breaks to keep things interesting. In the world of popular music, King's X proves that success doesn't have to spoil things. GREAT stuff...
KISS - MTV Unplugged (CD, Mercury, Pop/rock)
I was never much of a Kiss fan. I bought their first album when it came out, thought it was okay, and then lost all interest in the band. Meanwhile, the rest of world swarmed, swerved, rocked, and pushed the group to the heights of rock and roll heaven. In addition to never really caring for Kiss, I had three problems with this CD right off the bat: (1) I don't like reunions; (2) I don't like unplugged shit; and (3) I don't like MTV. Given all of the above, I was certainly expecting to HATE this. Surprize! I don't hate it at all. In fact, I've never heard this band sound better. You'd think that minus those loud, roaring guitars the songs wouldn't even stand up at all. But in actuality, done acoustically they sound BETTER! Some of the rockers don't come off so well, but stuff like "Beth" and particularly "Goin' Blind" sound pretty damned good. Hell, it took 'em forever but they won me over...FINALLY.
LAND OF THE LOOPS - Bundle Of Joy (CD, Up, Dub/loops)
Sound collage may finally find its day in the sun with this, the first full-length release from Land Of The Loops. Actually a one-man endeavor (Alan Sutherland), this is one WILD collection of "music." Sound snippets trip in and out of songs and then reappear, while trance/dub beats gurgle away in the background. I've heard a lot of home tapers attempt to do what this man is doing, but somehow most of them just never seemed to work. In addition to all the loops and peculiar noise, we also get guest vocals from Heather Lewis (of Beat Happening) and Simone Ashby. Not easy listening but somehow still easy to listen to, this CD is not like anything else that's hit my CD player this year. Sixteen confusing tunes. I like this one A LOT.
BILL LASWELL - Sacred System Chapter One: Book of Entrance (CD, ROIR, Dub)
One of the best dub CDs I've heard in quite some time. Though widely known for his production (Yoko Ono, Iggy Pop, Brian Eno, George Clinton), Bill Laswell is not so commonly thought of as a musician. After hearing this, I think Bill's time would be best spent writing and recording his own stuff...particularly since this CERTAINLY beats the pants off anything Brian Eno has done during the last decade. Sometimes reminiscent of Scorn (but not as scarey), these tunes are subtle and hypnotic. The rhythms are simple and never detract from the cool soundscapes floating by. This will have you tripping around in a completely blissful state. Engineering, programming, and pre-production by Robert Musso. This is smoooooth and trippy as Hell.
LIFTER - Melinda (Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt) (CD, Interscope, Rock/pop)
Urgent, passionate rock music with an edge and a nice sense of emotion. I had to listen to this disc several times before several of the tunes began to grow on me. This guitar-based trio has a big sound, and the vocals are particularly good. The band writes some really good melodies, and they succeed whether they're crashing and banging or getting reflective. My favorite tune on this disc is "402," which swerves back and forth into both territories. Most of this doesn't really push the listener to new heights, but the overall sound is punchy and most of the tunes are amazingly catchy. Charged up and fun, I bet Lifter is a great goddamn live band...
LOOMIS - You're No Tiger | Meow, Meow, Meow (CD, Grass, Rock)
Wisconsin's Loomis combine elements of Boston rock bands with various other influences to create some damn nice sounding rock tunes that have just enough edge to them. Previously known as Sandbox (they released some DIY singles under this name), this is the band's first full-length release. The band throws in several unexpected punches in these tunes, like skewed guitars and peculiar stops and starts in the music. I like the fact that for all the fuzzy noise these guys produce, clearcut melodies seem to take center stage. Twelve tunes. Of particular note are "Kung Fu Girl" and "Melvin Purvis."
LOOP GURU - Amrita...All These and the Japanese Soup Warriors (CD, World Domination, World music)
Combining various items from a whole slew of musical styles, Loop Guru come up with a different sounding collection of tunes. Styles ranging from Indian, dance, trance, ambient, and jungle rhythms are present in this band's music. Where this group really shines is on lengthy track ten ("Fumi"), where they slow down the tempo and get really spacey. Hypnotic dance music.
LOTION - Nobody's Cool (CD, spinART, Rock)
I'm not quite sure why, but the title of this CD really sticks in my head. Don't you get tired of all these assholes everywhere going "so and so is SO cool"? I know I do, but even so I'd have to say that Lotion IS cool. Why? Well, for starters they aren't trying to show off. These guys play solid, aggressive, passionate rock music without ever sounding like they're trying to be clever or unique. Though this is guitar-based rock music (which we've all heard WAY too much of, haven't we?), these tunes have a certain honesty and integrity that you don't often hear. Sometimes reminding me of some of Bob Mould's better moments, this band is a nice, clean blast of pop/rock with super hummable melodies and super guitar playing. I love "Dear Sir" and "Rock Chick." Feelgood rock? You're damn right! Goddamn!
LOVE IN REVERSE - I Was Here (CD, Reprise, Pop/rock)
Love In Reverse is a very cool pop band, and this is their debut on the Reprise label. The group plays (for the most part) acoustic-guitar based pop with punch. Though only a trio, these guys obviously put a lot of work into these tunes in the studio...overdubs abound and studio tricks weave in and out of the speakers...but all of this never detracts from the songs themselves. Just about all the tunes are hip as shit, but standout tracks include "Super Car," "Blueprint For A Possible Song," and my top favorite, "Droning." The vocals on this release are superb!
LOVE NUT - Bastards of Melody (CD, Interscope/Merkin, Pop/rock)
Now here's a REAL winner! Baltimore, Maryland's Love Nut recorded this cool batch of pop tunes in a basement studio. This CD was originally released on the independent Merkin label, but the knowing folks at Interscope swooped down and picked this one up for re-release. Owing as much to sixties pop groups as alternative pop groups of the nineties, this band plays crisp, clear, melodic pop like you don't often hear. Chiming guitars intertwine with some really heavenly vocals to create a pure pop sound that'll have you tapping your feet in no time. Though this disc only contains ten tunes, that was more than enough to push me over the edge. This will appeal to fans of Marshall Crenshaw, the Beatles, and Squeeze.
LUSTRE - Lustre (CD, A & M, Rock)
These guys call what they're doing "muscle pop," and from the sounds of this CD I'd say that's an accurate description. Lush guitars, superb vocals, and a real knack for writing good melodies are what I find appealing about this North Carolina band. Big sound for a three-piece, due to those cool vocal harmonies and intricate guitar overlays. Plenty of great songs abound on this band's debut. For me, the top picks are "Musta Been Cool" (GREAT tune!!!), "Nice Overalls," "Kalifornia" (the single), and "Still Seems There." Not that different than a lot of other bands out there...just better!
MADBALL - Madball (CD, Roadrunner, Thrash/hardcore)
Angry, angry, ANGRY. Loud, loud, LOUD. This band play HARD. This band sound HOSTILE. Madball is band what is playing anxious music, non stop with explosive energy. Freddy Cricien have vocal style what is yelling to sing, screaming to evoke pain feeling. As good as best fried noodle, this CD is one of better hardcore offerings of year. Many thrash band not believable...sound like canned, commercial product. Not so with Madball. Madball REAL thing, not imitation. Guitars go crunch, drum go crash. Best song here are "Live Or Die" and "Pride (Times Are Change)." I am liking lyric that goes "Times are changing for the worse." This ALWAYS true in Asian culture. This CD go chop chop ALL WAY DOWN!
MAD DADDYS - Get Yer TaTas Out! (CD, Flipside, Rock)
This HAS to be one of the most fun live recordings I've ever heard. I've long admired this band's name, but this is the first time I've ever actually HEARD them. Wow. Rock and roll in the purest sense of the word. Sort of like a cross between the Cramps, the New York Dolls, and Gas Huffer. And the lead singer CANNOT be ignored. Stinky Sonobuoni has a voice that is IMPOSSIBLE to ignore. He's GOTTA be one of the most commanding singers I've heard in a long, LONG time. Even the song titles are cool ("Take A Trip to the Otherside," "Stoned For the Rest of My Life," "Porno King"). In the space of just one live disc, they've won me over COMPLETELY. DAMN!!! ROCK OUT!!!!!!!!
THE McRACKINS - Short and Sweet EP (Vinyl EP, Shredder, Rock)
The more I hear from the McRackins the more I love them. Simple, pure pop/punk played with no frills. This appropriately titled EP contains eight GREAT tunes. Fuzzy, buzzsaw guitars support snotty harmony vocals...and a throbbing rhythm section will have you moving from start to finish. Of course, the band still places a great deal of emphasis on their make-up and clothing (one of them now resembles a retarded dog). If anyone is filling the void left by the Buzzcocks, it must surely be the McRackins. Fun, upbeat, and catchy as SHIT. Highly recommended!!!
THE MEANIES - 10% Weird (CD, Frontier, Rock)
Pure feelgood singalong punk pop that's so good it'll make you throw up coffee tables. No kidding, Australia's Meanies play so simple that it's almost like being back in kindergarden. No weird time changes. No showoffy musicianship. No extended solos. No screaming vocals. No flashy studio tricks. Just pure, simple, straight-from-the-hip rock music played the way it OUGHT to be played. The band opened up for a Pearl Jam tour awhile back, but that doesn't make them BAD...does it? In this case, the answer is an emphatic "NO." This CD is most certainly one of the most fun pieces of music to hit my desk this year. I'll be playing this into the ground for the simple reason that these songs make me feel GOOD inside.
MEAT BEAT MANIFESTO - Subliminal Sandwich (CD, Nothing/Interscope, Collage)
Now on Trent Reznor's Nothing label, Meat Beat Manifesto sounds better than ever. I was going to categorize this as "world music," but then I thought it was more like dub. Then as soon as I had come to that conclusion, I decided it sounded more like ambient music. In actuality, this music fits into a great many musical categories and therein lies this band's artistic appeal. Actually the brainchild of Jack Dangers, this band flits in out out of one style to another so fast it'll make your head swim. And on this DOUBLE CD (over 140 minutes of music!), there's a whole lot of shit to sink your teeth into. Rather than making his musical meld a difficult listening experience, Mr. Dangers effortlessly melds and blends his music in a style that goes down as easy as blueberry pie. Very different, very eclectic...this is dreamy and cool.
MILL VALLEY TATERS - History of Rock and Roll (Independent cassette, Guitar/instrumental)
GOD. I wish some label would sign these guys. They've been making some of the most enjoyable instrumental guitar rock around for quite some time now, and they DESERVE a wider audience. Sure, their independent cassettes are GREAT but I always end up wanting MORE...which is probably just what these guys WANT. Yup, this band is once again more fun than a HUNDRED barrels of MONKEYS. FUN. Pure and simple. This is my favorite tape YET from these guys. You will WANT to contact the Mill Valley Taters and get some of their music. It is a BLAST. Write to: Bone Headquarters, 426 Highland Ave., Stratford, CT 06497.
MINERAL - The Power of Failing (CD, Crank!, Rock)
Hmmm... Driving, powerful rock music from Austin's Mineral. The lead singer reminds me very much of the lead singer for Becky Sharp. On this, their debut CD, the band shows that they can competently play a variety of different styles of music...ranging from harsh and hard to soft and pensive. This doesn't sound like most of the bands I've heard from Austin. Cool guitars and a driving rhythm section are this band's greatest strengths.
THE MISS ALANS - Ledger (CD, World Domination, Rock/pop)
VERY COOL BAND! This is the fourth album for the Miss Alans. They put out two independent releases, and recorded a third one for the Zoo label before being dropped. Hailing from Fresno, California, this band is in a groove that I REALLY like. Well-executed guitars weave in and out of one another while a smooth rhythm section makes things boil. What REALLY pushes this band over the edge for me is the singer. Scott Oliver has a totally MESMERIZING voice--simultaneously breathy and masculine (sort of like Frank Black used to sound before he turned into an obnoxious, self-absorbed fuck). The band's arrangements are kept to a minimum, with each member seeming to focus more or creating a mood rather than overplaying their instruments. Nice production, excellent tunes. This is indeed EXQUISITE.
MODEST MOUSE - This Is a Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About (CD, Up, Rock)
Think all rock bands sound alike? If so, here's one to prove you wrong. This doesn't sound like anything I've heard before. Modest Mouse is a truly original band, creating sparkling, incredible music that comes from some unique part of a mind like I've never heard before. Not only are these songs some of the best I've heard of late, but the arrangements are KILLER. This band is from Issaquah, Washington. Maybe being from a smaller town is what helps make these guys come off so refreshing and original (it certainly didn't hurt Bracket!). Whatever the case, I predict that this is going to be a MAJOR cult band if they can keep this up. Urgent, passionate, unusual, and yet very accessible, this CD is a whirlwind of totally knockout music. Way, way, WAY above average vocals. Cool lyrics. Excellent rhythm section. Eighteen tunes. You MUST check this out. WOW...
MONKEY FECES - Experiment Until You Shit (CD, Banjo, Bluegrass)
Progressive bluegrass experimenters Monkey Feces sound shitty. Their songs are shitty, their lyrics are shitty, and the messsages they convey are shitty. This could possibly be because all five members of the band have shitty parents, grew up in shitty towns, and wear shitty clothes. I like monkeys (who doesn't?), and I KNOW their shit has to sound better than this. A failed experiment, aborting the gigantic manger...and fixations invading the tension delight. Pigmy.
MOUTH - Hole of Your Head (CD, Reprise, Rock)
From Sweden, this is a Pixies soundalike band. They've actually got some good tunes, but a soundalike band is still a soundalike band. If they can shake the Pixies sound, I think they may be onto something though...
MUZZLE - Betty Pickup (CD, Reprise, Rock)
Muzzle is an EXCELLENT band. The sound is basic nineties fuzzy rock, but what sets them apart from all the other bands are those HEAVENLY harmony vocals! Unafraid to sing instead of yell, these guys manage to come up with some GREAT tunes...really catchy stuff that just pulsates with energy and style. At times reminiscent of the Jam, this is the kind of stuff that I can listen to over and over again without tiring of it. What's kind of sad is that this band (like so many others) may very well get overlooked because they don't have gimmicks and they don't dress like morons. This band simply makes great music. Eleven tracks, including "What a Bore," "Free Trampoline" (this one's totally COOL), "Glug," and "Flying Lesson." A brilliant CD!
MY HEAD - Endless Bummer (CD, Capitol, Rock)
Upbeat fun guitar rock from a trio that sounds like they've played together a hell of a lot. There's not really a lot that I can say about this band to differentiate it from hundreds of others on the scene. But I get a super good feeling listening to this, and I don't have to explain why. Let's be brief here: My Head sounds good. This CD rocks. Check it out!
NCRAIL - NCRail (CD, Middlesex, Rock)
Experimental country rock? Or maybe progressive country pop? Whatever you call it, this band is treading in unfamiliar territory. This six-piece group has a big sound, and they cover a lot of ground over the course of this CD. Some songs work better than others. Some I like, some I don't. Hey...their live show just might push me over the edge though...cause these guys sound like they're having fun playing together...
NADA SURF - High/Low (Advance CD, Elektra, Rock)
Good driving, swirling rock music. Interestingly, this band got their big break by slipping a tape to Ric Ocasek (ex-Cars), who loved the band and produced this CD. These three guys play some really tight, powerful rock music with well-crafted melodies. Plus, they're rather imaginative with their arrangements (I particularly like the guitar stuff). While there's not a lot here to differentiate this band from a lot of other hard rock bands, I think these guys are onto something and I expect this is only the beginning for them. An impressive debut.
THE NIELDS - Gotta Get Over Greta (CD, Razor & Tie, Pop)
Fronted by two sisters from Massachusetts named Katryna and Nerissa Nields, this is one nice sounding pop band. The Nields sisters have crystal clear voices that, when combined together, sound seamless and perfect. And believe me, their vocal harmonies are OUT OF THIS WORLD. This CD contains plenty of upbeat music, but it's when the group slows things down that I really get charged up ("I Know What Kind of Love This Is" is certainly the strongest track here). Apparently this group has been having good success with their D.I.Y. approach and for good reason. This is a mighty talented band with lots of good tunes.
NO KNIFE - Drunk on the Moon (CD, Time Bomb, Rock)
Noisy but nice rock music from San Diego's No Knife. The band has a busy, unpredictable sound that is at times spastic and at other times assaultive. What I like best about this band is that while all the chaos is happening, they still manage to maintain clearcut melodies and song structures. At times so progressive that it borders on jazz, this group's music is hard to categorize. With only one listen, though, many of these songs grab me just where I like to be grabbed. Top picks: "Ginger Vitus," "Habits," "Kiss Your Killer," and "Titanic." Abstract and peculiar, yet still accessible and thoguht provoking...
OCEAN COLOUR SCENE - Moseley Shoals (CD, MCA, Pop)
Wow. I can't remember when I've heard a new band with so many GREAT songs on one CD. Britain's Ocean Colour Scene are somewhat like a cross between Crowded House and mid-period Bee Gees (with a little more soul than either of those bands). On this, the band's debut disc for MCA, these four guys show an incredible range of songwriting skills. Instead of playing one particular style of music, the band plays a timeless brand of pop music that will probably never grow old. Though virtually all the songs are good, standout tracks for me are "The Day We Caught the Train" (this one deserves to be a hit) and "The Circle," which has an incredibly beautiful melody. Musicians and songwriters in the truest sense of the word, these guys are heads above the pack in that they write some DAMN good melodies. Not only that, the lyrics are WAY above average...evoking specific emotions and feelings in a very genuine way. I also really appreciate that this band is not afraid to show their soft side... Beautiful pop stuff that'll probably sound just as good a decade from now...
ORBITAL - In Sides (CD, Internal, Electronic)
Orbital's latest release is one tasty electronic feast (say that ten times fast). This British duo has been making some of the coolest electronic music around for quite some time now, but this time they've really outdone themselves. This disc features eight new tunes, but that's rather confusing since tracks 3 and 4 (and 7 and 8) have the exact same titles. As an added bonus with this one, for a limited time this CD also includes the TIMES FLY and THE BOX EP (that's only true for the U.S. version). A lot of electronic groups could take a lesson or two from Orbital. Instead of spewing out predictable crap that sounds like digital trash, these fellows create orchestral soundscapes that continually change and evolve in a manner similar to classical music. This one should please old fans and bring in some new followers as well...
OUTRAGEOUS CHERRY - Stereo Action Rent Party (CD, Third Gear, Pop/rock)
I never heard this band's debut CD, but after hearing this I'd sure like to. For their second full-length release, Outrageous Cherry do cover versions of some VERY odd songs. Everything from Petula Clark to Television to 10CC to the MC5 and Eno get treatments here, and the results are staggering. Recorded in such as way as to sound much like a late sixties album, this sounds like nothing else I've heard all year. The band's vocals are especially good, harking back to the British invasion. If you think cover versions have to be bad, you need to hear this. These folks have a very firm grip on what they're doing, and the results are VERY impressive.
PAIN - Midgets With Guns (CD, Goggins, Rock/pop/ska)
The strains of the opening track ("Pose Ode") caught my attention immediately. As a prelude to the hepped-up, nervous pop on the rest of the CD, the introduction works. Though Pain produced a very good debut CD, this (their second release) is much, MUCH stronger. The production is crisp and clear...and the tunes are much poppier. In fact, it is this band's unique ability to combine straightfoward pop tunes with funky horns that is their greatest strength. The musicianship on this disc is impeccable, and the arrangements don't really sound like any other band I've heard lately. Excellent lyrics and vocals abound on this fourteen song CD. My favorite is "Square Pegs," which could easily become a smash hit on the college radio circuit. Also of particular note is "One-Legged Girl," which makes me feel like I'd love to hear this band produce a CD of softer pop stuff...
PALEFACE - Get Off (Advance cassette, Elektra, Rock)
If there ever was a man whose voice defined the word "snotty," it would surely be Paleface. "Discovered" by Danny Fields (who signed the MC5 and the Stooges), Paleface certainly owes some debt to the Stooges for his sound. Paleface and his new 3-piece band play simple, three-piece grinding rock with growling, snotty vocals. This sounds like it was recorded without overdubs, which is one of the most appealing factors about this release. For pure hard rock music, there are few bands I've heard this year that can match this man's intensity. Super simple and direct, these tunes hitcha right in the face HARD. Produced by Andy Paley. Rough and COOL.
PEACH OF IMMORTALITY - Talking Heads '77 (CD, Fused Coil/Fifth Colvmn, Noise)
If there is any band I've heard this year that stretches the boundaries of what can actually be put onto a compact disc and called music, it must certainly be Peach of Immortality. There is little to hold onto here. Noises stop and start, things speed up and slow down, and there's virtually no melodies or song structures to speak of. Oddly enough, this band's "noise making" sounds pretty good. It's certainly not for everybody. All of this sounds completely unrehearsed...like some people just fucking around with musical instruments and audio equipment. But hey...it sounds different. And around here, that counts for something. Warning: This is difficult listening material.
PERFUME TREE - A Lifetime Away (CD, World Domination, Trance/dub)
This is a band that likes to play with your mind. Shifting and mutating sounds collide and transform before your ears with varying dub tempos, creating the overall illusion of having taken some very heavy drugs. This unusual quartet hails from Vancouver, and apparently they're rather popular in their home country. To describe this? Hmmm... Imagine combining Scorn with the Cocteau Twins...and then throwing in Hawkwind and a handful of downers. Get the idea? Tripped out to the max, Perfume Tree is a very atmospheric band using more effects than a donkey camel. Ounce for dose and dose for ounce, this band is completely SPACED OUT.
PITCH SHIFTER - Infotainment? (CD, Earache, Electronic/industrial)
Pitch Shifter is one of the best industrial bands out there, and they just keep getting better. On their latest CD the band sounds as harsh as ever (and that's REALLY saying something), yet their music sounds more stylized than before. Seething with evil and intensity, these songs convey alienation and act as a sign of the times we're living in. This is one of the few industrial bands that will probably also appeal to punks, if only for those INCREDIBLE vocals. I caught this band live once, and that's what made a believer out of me. If you can take it really, REALLY loud and hard, then Pitch Shifter is the band for you. If you can't stand the heat, avoid this one like the plague. This rocks HARD.
PLANET DUB - Planet Dub (Double CD, Mammoth/Planet Dog, Dub/Various Artists)
Mmmmmm, mmmm. I sho' duz lak dat dub thang. Duh dub thang be goot. Reel goot. Yeh, hevveh base trax layuh wiff sum hevvuh-lee space-out sound maak fuh goot lissuh. Yoo bee trippuh? Dis stuff bee goot foe trippuh! Yoo bee trippuh yo brains out! Go, muh-fukkuh! You GO! Summuh duh ah-tiss fee-cha include 100th Monkey, Silicon Drum, Children of the Bong, Astralasia, Eat Static, Full Moon Scientist and plenneh moe! Plus, dissiz TOO CD fulluh dub! Dubbuh dub! Dubbuh dub! Dubbuh dub plenneh hot, Bub! Dis stuff duss muh nutz good...
POUNDCAKE - Aloha Via Satellite (CD, Q Division, Pop/rock)
Playing pop in the tradition of bands like Material Issue, Poundcake comes up with some damn fine tunes on their debut CD for Q Division. Playing basic power pop songs combined with vocals with a definite Beatles influence, these three guys prove themselves to be very talented and skilled. Where this band really shines is on the slower numbers, where the vocal harmonies come off sounding nothing short of...INCREDIBLE (check out "Big Brother Dandeline," my favorite tune on this disc). Question: When does a Boston band not sound like a Boston band? Answer: When the band is Poundcake. Lots of commercial appeal, but there's still a lot of meat here to sink your teeth into...
PRESCOTT CURLYWOLF - Six Ways To Sunday (Advance cassette, Mercury, Raw rock)
What makes a band good or bad? The difference between you and me is that you THINK you know, while I actually DO know. Got that? Now I'm not one of those pretentious, asswipe music reviewers that you hate...am I? Ummm... Back to reality. This is one ROCKING GODDAMN BAND! Usually too many cooks spoil the broth, but in the case the broth is better. Fronted by three guys who can ALL sing like hell, play their instruments like there's no tomorrow, and write some KILLER songs. The roots of this band began in Louisiana, but now the band is based in Austin. If you like in-your-face hard rock music, you MUST check this band out. Chock full of charged energy and INCREDIBLE guitar playing, this CD is one motherfucking ball of FUN. Too many great tunes to list, but some standouts are "Spaceman," "Rather Be," "What It Is," and "Bombshelter."
PRIMITIVE RADIO GODS - Rocket (Advance CD, Columbia, Pop/rock)
Man. This is EXCELLENT. Thank God this CD finally saw the light of day. Interestingly, this recording project began in 1990 by Chris O'Connor and an old band of his called the I-Rails. The band began recording this collection of tunes, and then Chris finished it on his own...and eventually released it on his own label. Apparently it got overlooked, until some person at Columbia who was paying attention heard the disc and decided to re-release it. I've heard quite a bit of stuff by Mr. O'Connor. I think this is the best thing I've heard him do. At times pure pop and at other times somewhat experimental, this disc is clever yet easy to listen to. Great tunes throughout...and the vocals are stellar.
PSYCLONE RANGERS - Beatin' on the Bat Pole (CD EP, World Domination, Rock)
Noisy, noisy, NOISY. Sort of like a cross between Ed Hall and the Stooges. Once Philadelphia's Psyclone Rangers start "beatin' on the bat pole" they just won't QUIT. This EP contains six tunes (including covers of Minutemen and Gun Club tunes). Wired, spaced-out guitars and echo-drenched vocals are in abundance here. This is some hell raisin' stuff, and it just whets my appetite for the next full-length from this KILLER band...
JAMES RAY - Best of James Ray's Performance & Gangwar (CD, Fifth Colvmn, Industrial)
This 76-minute collection was produced by Andrew Eldritch (of Sisters of Mercy) and James Ray, and includes the first two 12" releases by James Ray's Performance (originally released on the Merciful label). Sounds nice, and is a bit poppier than you might think. Fourteen tunes, my faves being "Mexico Sundown Blues," "Texas," "Cadillac Coming," and "Santa Susana."
REAL PUNK - The Nasty Years (CD, Cleopatra, Rock/Various Artists)
THIS is nasty? This intriguing compilation of tunes from some early punk rock bands sure sheds light on one thing. Bands of the nineties sound HUNDREDS of times nastier than bands of the seventies. Not that this is a good thing or a bad thing, I just think that bands have gotten (and sound much more) extreme. Still, this compilation serves as an interesting look back at the way some aspects of the music business began to change. Featuring a slew of legendary artists like the Dead Kennedys, Vibrators (their "Dragnet" is my favorite on this CD), Sham 69, the Germs, and Broken Bones, this disc also sheds light on another thing. Some bands age better than others. Some of these sound as fresh as when I first heard 'em. Others don't. The good stuff here is really good, however...
RESERVOIR - Reservoir (CD, Zero Hour, Electronic/instrumental)
Hmmm... Can you say "no commercial appeal whatsoever"? You can. I KNOW you can. Can you say "bio with no pertinent information"? And can you also say "publicity photo of a baby instead of the musician"? If you can say these three lines, then you can begin to understand this disc. Meandering, wandering, seemingly aimless electronic landscapes that are actually quite enjoyable to listen to. No, this doesn't blow me off my uncomfortable little office chair...but I do find it quite pleasant. I always admire an artist who has no regard whatsoever for the media. This guy's doing some very subtle yet intriguing work (he's also in the band Space Needle). I like it.
ROCKET FUEL IS THE KEY - Consider It Contempt (CD, Thirsty Ear, Rock)
Hard, hard, hard rock. This Kansas City trio sounds angry as hell, thrashing, crashing and trashing their instruments like there's no tomorrow. This is so noisy and harsh that it's going to alienate most folks, but I'd say those wonderful little punks out there are gonna love this. Huh? What's he saying? It's hard to understand any of the words to these songs, but no matter. It's the thought that counts. Twelve tunes that you wouldn't want to take home to meet your mother. I like this, if only because it's going to drive most of my friends completely UP THE WALL... B=Much better than most of the thrash bands I've heard of late.
7 YEAR BITCH - Gato Negro (CD, Atlantic, Rock)
Four girls with plenty of attitude and more balls than most male rock musicians. Sure, there's that grunge factor happening here (they ARE from Seattle, after all), but these girls are more inventive than that. They toss around lots of different rhythms and styles of music, and then spew it all out in their own irrepressible style. I really like "Crying Shame" and "Miss Understood" in particular, but just about all of these twelve tunes rock out in a nice sort of way. Of course, what really sets these chicks apart from most other girl bands is that they can really play and sing. I've never seen 'em in concert, but after hearing this disc I'd sure like to. A fine romp through a bitchin' rock and roll swamp. Huh!!!
THE SCREAMIN' CHEETAH WHEELIES - Magnolia (CD, Atlantic, Rock)
I like the music, but that vocalist just HAS TO GO... Bleah.
SHAT - Are You Choking? (CD, Fuse, Rock)
Nice modern progressive rock music from Chicago's Shat. These four high-schoolers have a sound way beyond their years, playing intense rock music with lots of peculiar changes in speed and volume. Prior to releasing this, these guys put out a single after their freshman year in high school ("Quite the Whore" b/w "Showjumper"). Most kids in high school only dream of doing this kind of thing. These guys are actually doing it. This is a good collection of tunes from a group of fellows who seem destined for success.
SHOEGAZER - Two Boxing Brown Bears (CD, T.O.N., Rock)
The first time I put this CD in my player, I wasn't too impressed. Then the tune "Beautiful" started pumping through the speakers and my attitude changed completely. Combining all the best elements of British punk from 1977, the tune is pure bliss with the unforgettable lyric "We're all going to die and I think it's beautiful." Poignant, no? These guys are not a one song band, though. They've got plenty of meaty tunes to feast on here. Check out the introductory instrumental "Throw It" or the tongue-in-cheek "Butterworth." Combine a sense of humor with a sense of urgency, add about a pound of crystal speed and there you have it: Shoegazer. Tons of upbeat fun for the entire family. Contains unlisted bonus tracks...
THE SIGHT-SEERS - Fun-Seeking With the Sight-Seers (CD, Shotput/57, Pop)
Pleasant pop music with a great deal of commercial appeal. These guys are certainly competent musicians, able to create a steady groove and hold it for the entire song. While I like this disc, the songs are hits and misses. I don't care for stuff like "Gimme Five!", but I sure get a charge out of "Away (Gone For Good)" and "Continuum."
SKOLD - Skold (CD, RCA/BMG, Industrial)
This is actually a solo album by a guy named Tim Skold. Tim recorded most of this music in his bedroom studio, which in itself is rather astounding. Instead of sounding like some bad homemade project, this music pulses and vibrates with intense energy. These tracks sound BETTER than much of the industrial stuff I hear that is recorded in big studios. Pained, strained vocals combine with some nightmarish, harsh sounds to paint a picture of the world that's not so pretty. All in all, however, this one ROCKS. Ten tracks of industrial gloom.
SKREW - Shadow of Doubt (CD, Metal Blade, Industrial/rock)
Big, loud, harsh, and NASTY. Skrew once again dish up an ugly batch of music not intended for the faint of heart. Interesting industrial rhythms combine with screeching vocals and peculiar arrangements, and the result is a rather pleasant yet nightmarish vision of the world. Ten tunes, including "She Said," "Knotted Twigg," "Going Down," and "Crawl." This band is not for everyone, but then they don't try to be. These men sound like they mean it. This one's a MIND BLOWER.
SLEEPER - The It Girl (CD, Arista, Pop/rock)
I absolutely HATED the last CD by Sleeper. I'm not sure whether it was the music or just a bad mood I was in. Maybe I'm feeling better today or maybe this disc is just better than the last. Whatever the case, I rather enjoy this goddamn CD. Upbeat, very British pop music with female vocals and cool guitar stuff. Apparently this band has already hit it big in their homeland, but I don't think they've translated that same success to the states. Twelve songs here, and they display a rather broad range of musical styles. I guess this disc just goes to show that playing shows with bands like R.E.M. and the Cranberries does not necessarily mean that you are a pile of shit. It's commercial, yes, but I like it too. Best tune: "Dress Like Your Mother."
SLOBBERBONE - Crow Pot Pie (CD, Doolittle, Rock)
Hailing from Denton, Texas, this band plays country-tinged, upbeat rock music with passion and style. From the sound of this disc, it sure sounds like these guys can get a crowd moving in a bar. Thick guitars and gutsy vocals are this band's trademarks, but it's all supported by a strong rhythm section. Particularly strong are "Whiskey Glass Eye" and "I Can Tell Your Love Is Waning." This is pure beer drinkin' (make that swillin') music. Not that different than a lot of other bands out there, but for some reason these guys are a lot more believable than most... They sure sound like were havin' some fun recording this!
PATTI SMITH - Gone Again (CD, Arista, Pop/rock)
Get ready folks... PATTI SMITH IS BACK!!! One of the most influential rock ladies of all time has her feet once again planted squarely in the recording studio...and the results are astounding. Unlike any other female singer/songwriter that's ever existed, Patti has always had an unusual style...melding poetry with music in a most peculiar fashion. Though Patti made her biggest dent in the seventies rock scene, she's lost none of her passion, energy, and integrity. True, she's not screaming out tunes like "Rock and Roll Nigger" anymore... Patti's more mature now , and her music reflects that maturity. Softer but no less dramatic, check out the power of Patti on "About a Boy," with it's frightening sound effects or, better yet, "My Madrigal," which sounds very much like Eric Carmen (!). Ms. Smith is one of the most original artists ever to hit the planet, and she continues to follow her muse...always more concerned with her art than with commercial success. Wow.
SNUFF - Demmamussabebonk (CD, Fat Wreck Chords, Rock)
Can't wait for the new release from Bracket? If not, you might make a move to pick up the latest CD from London's Snuff. Hard rockin' power pop/punk with plenty of catchy melodies infused throughout, this music rocks hard but never forsakes melody for power. This band broke up in 1991 and then reformed in 1994, though this is the first release that I've heard from them. I'm usually not too impressed when bands reform, but when I've never heard them in the first place I simply don't have a reference point. Accordingly, this sounds damn fresh and fun to me, and I'd have to give Snuff a big THUMBS UP. They really do sound A LOT like Bracket...which is okay by me!
EPIC SOUNDTRACKS - Change My Life (CD, Bar/None, Pop)
Epic Soundtracks is a major force to be reckoned with as a songwriter. The guy's got some track record. Previously a member of These Immortal Souls, the Red Crayola, Crime and the City Solution, and the Jacobites, Epic set off on his solo career in 1992. Though the press release that accompanied this disc describes Mr. Soundtracks as a cross between Alex Chilton and Harry Nilsson, to me he actually sounds more like Lloyd Cole (which is by no means a cut!). These tunes are basic piano pop, with catchy, flowing melodies that are instantly likable. The only thing that didn't hit me right about this disc was the Big Star cover. As a teenager I loved Big Star too. But when is everyone going to stop beating a dead horse? This is a very good CD...but I think in another year or two this man's going to produce some REAL masterpieces. I feel certain he's got it in him.
ROBIN SPIELBERG - Songs of the Spirit (CD, North Star, Instrumental/piano)
I know, I know. You're saying, "'Songs of the Spirit'?!? Gimme a BREAK!" But hey, wait a minute and give this one a chance before you go knocking something you've never heard before. Robin Spielberg is a true talent. Her music touches on some very real emotions and thoughts that are shared by all of us, and she never has to say a word. Sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes reflective, Ms. Speilberg's melodies consume and amaze me. Thirteen tunes that'll touch your heart. I mean that. My initial favorites are "A Song For Jennie" and "The Photographer." Fantastic. This is the stuff that dreams are made of.
SPONGE - Wax Ecstatic (CD, Columbia, Rock)
DAMN THIS SOUNDS GOOD!!! I was impressed with this band's last full length, but this time they've REALLY outdone themselves. Sponge play a fuzzy, urgent sort of rock music that isn't all that different than a lot of other bands out there...but they've got TONS more passion and REAL ENERGY! In addition, they've got some really cool lyrics and PRICELESS song titles. How can you hate a band that has not one but TWO songs with "drag queen" in the title? My initial top faves are "My Purity," "Got To Be A Bore," Silence Is The Drug," "Velveteen," and the title track. Believe you me, these guys ROCK. But they're also quite versatile. Sponge is a band to watch, and this is a disc you'll want to hear over and over again. Hats off, guys! This one's a HIT!
SPOT - Removals...Other Isms (CD EP, No Auditions, Eclectic)
Primarily known for his production and engineering skills with bands like the Meat Puppets, Minutemen, Redd Kross, Descendents, Butthole Surfers and others, this CD EP just might surprise you. Instead of alternative rock music, Spot produces spontaneous, obtuse music that sounds like a blurring of bluegrass, country, and Irish folk music. And he melds them all together seamlessly into his own unique style of music. To say this is vastly different than anything out there is an understatement. In fact, the only negative thing I can say about this CD is that it only contains 5 tunes. This guy is GOOD. I'd love to hear a full-length release from Spot...
RUSS STEDMAN - Oscillate Wildly (Cassette, Jovial Milkman, Rock/pop)
Russ Stedman has become a legend in the underground, possibly because the man continues to put out creative self-released cassettes at lightning speed. Intent on out-creating and out-recording almost everyone, Russ is interesting in that his projects almost always turn out great. And the guy doesn't really sound like anyone other than himself. Always entertaining and original (and at times ridiculous and funny), Russ Stedman is a true original. As always, this tape can be had for a mere $5.00 by writing to Jovial Milkman, P.O. Box 89224, Sioux Falls, SD 57109-9224.
STOP - Never (CD, Bomp!, Rock)
Far too many bands never learn rule number one in writing and recording, which is to KEEP IT SIMPLE. New York City's Stop seem to keep this rule in mind throughout their debut CD, and as a result they get a definite thumbs up. I guess when you have good songs you don't have to try and gloss things over with technology, eh? Anyway...this trio is a GREAT deal of fun, playing (for the most part) buzzsaw guitar rock that's fun and funny to listen to. Hell, Handsome Dick Manitoba even handles the lead vocals on one track here (plus Lester Bangs' voice creeps in on one track). Featuring some of the better elements of 80s and 90s rock music, Stop gets the go ahead for CERTAIN. This rocks out TOTALLY.
SUCKERPUNCH - Suckerpunch (Advance CD, MCA, Punk/power pop)
Somewhat like a cross between the Sex Pistols and Bracket, Southern California's Suckerpunch are one hard-hitting rock band. The band has a penchant for playing unrelenting rock music with real passion, and they never forsake melody in their quest for making loud noise. The band's trademarks are buzzsaw guitars, snotty vocals, and anthemic choruses. There are way too many punk bands out there with no songs to back up their attitude. Suckerpunch is an exception to the rule, in that their songs are both hummable and catchy (many times bordering on power pop). I particularly like the opening track ("Shitlist").
SUPER DELUXE - Famous (Advance cassette, Revolution, Pop/rock)
ANOTHER band with the word "super" in the title? Hard to believe, yes, but even harder to believe is that this is yet ANOTHER superb "super" band. This is the first release on the new Revolution label, and what a way to kick things off. Pure, power pop driven with smooth, catchy melodies and way above average vocal harmonies, this brings to mind a whole slew of different bands...in particular early Squeeze. In my little world, one can never get enough of that happy, feelgood pop stuff...because it somehow has the effect of making me feel the world isn't horrible, ugly, perverted, and corrupt (which I know it really is). Still, anything that makes me forget about it gets bonus points. Good driving music, and excellent songs abound. My faves here are "Lizadrin," "Flustered," and "Holly's Dream Vacation."
SUPER JUNKY MONKEY - A I E T O H (Import CD EP, Sony, Hard rock)
This is the harshest all-girl Japanese band I've ever heard. Actually, this is probably the FIRST totally harsh all-girl Japanese band I've ever heard. Whatever the case (pant, pant, pant...) these bitches spew out a bunch of hard-to-listen-to noise on this little EP. If you think this is another Shonen Knife, think again. These girls have more in common with Sepultura than their other Asian counterparts. In all honesty...and although I do like this...this band does sound like a lot of other hard rock/noise bands out there. The live show may be the key here, however, so I look forward to catching these girls live to see how they come across in person. Until then, I'll be TRYING to digest these four tunes. Arrrrrrgh........
SURVIVAL OF THE FATTEST - Fat Wreck Chords Presents... (CD, Fat Wreck Chords, Rock/Various Artists)
For some of the very best in power pop/punk, Fat Wreck Chords almost wins hands down. I've yet to hear a band on this label that I didn't at least like. For a quick overview of where the label is at in1996, this CD will clue you in quick. Featuring no less than seventeen tracks (!), bands featured include Hi-Standard (these guys are GREAT!), No Use For a Name, Snuff, Lag Wagon, Tilt, Bracket (always a favorite here in babysueland), and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes (great band name, eh?). Pure, upbeat rockin' fun. A cool compilation indeed...
DAN SUSNARA - Would (Independent cassette, Pop)
Chicago home-taper Dan Susnara has been recording and putting out stuff for quite some time now. WOULD is Dan's latest full-length release, and it contains fifteen cool tunes. Mostly acoustic-guitar based pop, many of these tunes have an almost gothic sound to them. Dan's a creative songwriter, and even though he notes that he uses "no tape loops, sampling or percussion," this guy still manages to squeeze some pretty bizarre sounds out of his equipment. Contact Dan at 7806 S. Kilpatrick, Chicago, IL 60652.
SVELT - Souvenir (CD, Schizophonic, Rock/pop)
Svelt features two former members of the Sub Pop band Sprinkler, which I unfortunately never heard. This three piece band (bass/guitar/drums) has a big, punchy sound and a sometimes obtuse approach to songwriting. What pushes these tunes over the edge for me is the vocals. Chris Slusarenko has a great voice for this type of music...and the guy's got a KILLER falsetto that I'd like to hear more of. Hailing from Portland, Oregon, this band formed in 1993...but this is their first full-length release. In all honesty, this doesn't sound all that different from a lot of other three-piece rock bands out there. But what sets Svelt apart from most of the others is these guys' come across sounding sincere and real. Add to that the fact that they've got some DAMN good songs...and you've got a goddamn fine collection. Eleven tunes. This cooks. Goddamn.
SWIRLIES - They Spent Their Wild Youthful Days in the Glittering World of the Salons (CD, Taang!, Rock)
The always peculiar Swirlies are once again...peculiar. Since forming in 1990, the band has released a slew of recordings (mostly 7" vinyl singles). This, their second full-length, finds the band in excellent form. Without using a single goddamn synthesizer, this band manages to come up with more odd sounds than most techno bands. Possibly what I like best about the Swirlies is their ability to scrape away at their instruments as if they're looking for blood, while singing in such a subdued manner that you'd almost mistake them for the Cocteau Twins. And you can never predict exactly WHAT they're going to do next. These thirteen songs showcase a band with a firm grip on what they're doing, and yet you can tell they're still allowing accidents to happen in the studio (which only makes the music more charming). Not the easiest CD in the world to listen to, this one does take some effort. But believe me (please?)...it's worth it.
T.H.C. - Death By Design (CD, Fifth Colvmn, Techno)
Hyperactive electronic dance music. These folks sure aren't afraid to turn up the speed control on that drum machine! Psychedelic and drenched in effects, these tunes would fit perfectly into any nightclub catering to the "alternative" crowd. While most of this sort of music simply doesn't translate well to the home studio, for some reason T.H.C. does. It could be those ghostly vocals and simple arrangements. Urgent, passionate, and strangely distant, this electronic band pushes the right buttons on their machines and comes up with a winner. Best tracks: "Allopathic Medicine" and "Directly From Satan."
TELEGRAPH - Experimentfarmroad (CD, Brazil, Instrumental/experimental)
Many musician not creative. Not have many good idea, create music not good for listen. Darren Callahan VERY creative. Make instrumental music not sound like other people. Darren write PLENTY song for CD (22 for inclusion). Not only LOT of song, all song GOOD. Darren originally in band calling OO OO WA (apparent was commercial flop, critical success). This reviewer like OO OO WA okay, but like Telegraph much BETTER. In fact, this CD one of favorite instrumental CDs of year thus far. This man not afraid to take chance, not seeming to give damn about commercial appeal. Dream-filled and hypnotic, this fill rice bowl to BRIM.
THERMADORE - Monkey On Rico (CD, Atlantic, Pop)
Nice sounding rural-type folky pop music. There's certainly nothing here that's going to change your universe, but at the same time this disc has plenty of enjoyable tunes that are nicely arranged and well-played. Not unlike some of the Kinks' more countryfied releases, this band has its moments of homespun fun. Best song for me is the tune "Go," which makes for some good drivin' music...
JOHNNY THUNDERS - Have Faith (CD, Mutiny, Rock)
As guitarist for the New York Dolls and the Heartbreakers, Johnny Thunders is an undisputed legend. While this CD showcases Mr. Thunders great talent as a guitarist, it unfortunately also shows what a lousy singer he was. Recorded live in Japan, this CD contains a lot of raw energy and excitement. The vocals just don't cut it though. This CD is being released on the five year anniversary of Thunders' death. His guitar playing is surely missed. But thank God we won't have to be subjected to his singing anymore...
TINKER - Receiver (CD, Bear, Rock)
There are noisy bands and then there are bands that are noisy. Is there a difference? Does it really matter? Well, in the case of Tinker, it does matter. These folks make a lot of noise with their instruments, but they are not mere noisemakers. Not unlike St. Johnny at times, this band has the hooks and melodies to drive their noisy, chaotic music in directions where most bands won't or can't tread. The shifts and changes in intensity are intriguing and the production is just right. Eight tunes, and they all cook. I particularly like "Baba Zarda and "Blinder." Bear Records is a label putting out some DAMN fine stuff. Check this one out, for sure...
TITANIC LOVE AFFAIR - Their Titanic Majesties Request (CD, No Alternative, Rock/pop)
If the Replacements had formed in the 90s and had a stronger pop sensibility, they might very well be Titanic Love Affair. This band is, above all, VERY radio friendly. In fact, this stuff is so poppy and polished that it may scare many folks away. Perfection is a good thing, but at times the overly glossy sound comes across sounding sterile. Even though, these guys have some exceptional tunes and they've sure got those vocal harmonies down... When they're good they're REALLY good ("Pull You Through"), and when they're average they're, well...average ("Living On the Wrong Side").
PETE TOWNSHEND - Coolwalkingsmoothtalkingstraightsmokingfirestoking: The Best of Pete Townshend (CD, Atlantic, Pop)
To be one of the most influential rock songwriters of the past few decades, Pete Townshend's solo work (outside of the Who) has never seemed to find an audience. This compilation of tracks from Pete's solo career may change that, or at least make his work more familiar to a wider audience. Much of the Who's early and mid-period recorded work was exceptional, to be sure. For some reason, Pete's solo work has never seemed to measure up. Whether it's too calculated or too highly produced is up for debate. Some of this stuff is okay, but for the most part it leaves me cold...
TOY - Everything Seems... (CDI, Human Entertainment, Pop)
Smooth programmed pop music. This interactive CD contains four versions of the tune "Everything Seems." In the same general category as Kate Bush, Toy has several appealing elements: cool vocals, inventive samples, and above all a good sense of melody. It's hard to say much more based on hearing just one tune, but at this point I want to hear more...
TRIP 66 - Trip 66 (Vinyl EP, Ruffhouse/Columbia, Rock)
For other folks out there who feel that PJ Harvey sold out totally on her last disappointing CD, Trip 66 may just fill that void. Hard, crashing, masculine rock music fronted by a female vocalist who knows how to ROCK. The band recorded this EP in their basement studio, and they did an excellent job at the control board. Crisp, clean tunes pulsating with tons of energy. Of course, the tunes are what matter most...and the band comes up with some real kickass melodies on this EP. An excellent debut...and this just makes me want to hear MORE. On cool PURPLE vinyl...
TRIPLE FAST ACTION - Broadcaster (CD, Capitol, Rock)
Even though I don't keep up with such things, I'd betcha these guys are burning up the airwaves on college radio. Their songs contain all the variables that add up to college radio hits. Urgent vocals, heavy rhythms, anthemic choruses...this is the kind of stuff that most likely will only appeal to college students, but hey...there's nothing wrong with that. There are some good tunes here ("Anna" and "American City World" in particular). The only problem I have with some of these songs is that they aren't exactly the most original things I've ever heard. But what do I know? I don't know shit. Make up your own mind on this one.
NIK TURNER - Past or Future? (CD, Cleopatra, Space rock)
Wanna get high but don't like drugs? Here's some music that'll getcha REALLY high... Synthesized, spaced-out, trippy Nik Turner has become more and more influential over time. Originally one of the innovators of the legendary Hawkwind, Nik created the Space Ritual band to recreate some of the wonders of the past. The band includes members of Zero Gravity, Farflung (YEAH!), and Pressurhed as well as violinist Simon House. This live recording includes fourteen tracks, including such unforgettable gems as "Warriors On The Edge of Time," "Silver Machine," and one of my all time favorites, "You Shouldn't Do That." Call if jazz, psychedelia, experimental, whatever...Nik Turner continues to boldly go where no man has gone before. When I was listening to Hawkwind in high school, I wouldn't have ever guessed there would be so much interest in the band this many years later...
URUSEI YATSURA - Kewpies Like Watermelon (CD EP, Che, Rock)
Boy, I'm at a loss about the title of this one. I had heard another EP recently by Urusei Yatsura that blew me away. This one has the same effect. This must be Scotland's answer to the Young Fresh Fellows. Pulsating, passionate, catchy rock music stripped down and fast. This EP (on the notoriously incredible Che label) contains but four songs, but they all rock like holy hell. After two EPs, I'm ready to rock out with a full-length from this dynamic little band that has captured my heart and soul. This is punchy as SHIT. Yeah, Daddy likes this one...A LOT.
VELOUR100 - Fall Sounds (CD, Tooth & Nail, Pop)
Velour100 is a duo consisting of Amon Krist (vocals) and Trey Many (instruments). Trey is also a member of the highly experimental His Name Is Alive, a group that I regard very highly. I can hear touches of His Name Is Alive in this project, but the songs are much more accessible. Trey writes some damn good music, and Amon's vocals glide over the arrangements quite nicely like falling leaves. Though things do surge and get noisy at times, for the most part these tunes are soft and reflective. Interesting guitar and piano lines abound on this disc, and there's just the right touch of experimentation to keep things from getting boring. Nice stuff, and this doesn't sound like anything else I've heard this month. Smoooooooth and niiiiiiiice... Ah...
THE VERVE PIPE - Villians (CD, RCA/BMG, Rock)
Dense, commercial radio rock/pop music. The Verve Pipe hail from Lansing, Michigan. The band plays an urgent, passionate style of music that would fit very comfortably on most commercial FM radio playlists. I'd be interested to hear the band's prior two independent releases to see how they sound in contrast to this release, because in my opinion (once again) Jerry Harrison gets carried away with production and ends up making the band sound somewhat generic. There are actually a lot of things to like about this band, but it's hard to get a good grasp on this one because there's so much damn polish on these tracks...
WESTON - Got Beat Up (CD, Go-Kart, Rock)
Nice, spontaneous rock band that reminds me of the Embarassment (could be those obtuse speak/sing vocals). With song titles like "Retarded," "Your Summer Dresses Bore Me," and "Heartbreak Sandwich," you KNOW these guys have their hearts in the right place. Instead of sounding canned and overly practiced, this batch of tunes comes off sounding so fresh you'd swear the band recorded 'em in the studio (Maybe they did...who knows?). Go-Kart is certainly a label to trust, and once again they score with this release. Fourteen tunes of pure rock angst.
YUM YUM - Dan Loves Patti (CD, TAG, Pop)
Pensive, breathy, heavenly pop music. Basically the project of a fellow named Chris Holmes, this group has a flexible line-up that changes depending (probably) upon who Chris is hanging out with at the moment. The music of Yum Yum is acoustic-based, straightforward pop in the purest sense of the word. No atonal noise here...just smooth, well-arrnaged pop that goes down NICE and EASY. And Chris writes some KILLER tunes. Sort of like Matthew Sweet on downers, I find the more I listen to this the more I like it...