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April 2006 Reviews by

Against All Authority
American Heartbreak

Mike Andrews*
The AV Club
Bigger Bigger Bigger

Birdie Baby
Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise
Bugs Multiply
Candy Bars
Casual Fab Ignorance

The Church
Comment Piece
David Dault & Thad Thompson
Dirty On Purpose*
Dirty Rainbow
Father Fart
The Finals
Robin Guthrie*
Head Control System

Italian Realization
Denise James*
Jane vs World*
Knowledge Next

Linda Lewis

The Lovely Feathers
Man Mouse

The Melvins*
Nerve Swerve

Place of Skulls
The Poles
Bruce Robison

Secret Society
Sissy School
Small Sur

Dave Stoops
Sugarplum Fairies
Tits and Teeth

Mia Doi Todd
Ultra Tacky Space

Venice Is Sinking
Tamas Wells*
With A Corpse

*Top Picks

Additional Items Received


April 2006 Comment Piece:
Will CD Prices Ever Come Down...?

We've suggested this before but the issue warrants another attempt to try to persuade those who are pricing music these days.

More and more CDs with copy protection are popping up all over the place lately. But thus far these types of CDs seem to be causing more problems than they solve. Rather than helping the artists' careers and retain revenues that might be lost...they end up ruining careers and causing lost sales...all because some greedy people are hellbent on trying to milk the public for every buck they can get.

The truth of the matter is that CDs are OVERPRICED. Look at what has happened with DVDs. Sure, some of the newer ones are pricey...but many of the older and more common titles can easily be found now for about $5.00 or $7.00.

If music folks were to follow suit...and lower the price on most CDs to around $5.00 to $7.00...they would very well find that sales would go up, up, UP...because people would then be much more inclined to buy discs rather than download music and make copies.

The film industry has already lowered the prices on thousands of older DVD titles. As a result, they are selling MILLIONS and MILLIONS. Very, very smart. Just lower the price...and make up for it by selling millions more.

If music CDs were priced fairly...decision makers could stop snorting and bleeting about lost profits...and concentrate on the business they are supposed to be in...which is making great music accessible...and affordable...to the public.

But don't hold your breath. Instead of doing what makes sense, chances are that most companies will continue to dig the trench deeper...and deeper...AND DEEPER...until they finally end up pricing themselves right out of business.

It's funny how...even when a logical solution is being shouted at them from all directions...some folks just REFUSE TO LISTEN.

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

About - Bongo (CD, Cock Rock Disco, Pop)
Herky jerky modern pop that sounds something like an electronic version of The Kinks mixed with The Flaming Lips...if they were all 20 years old and nervous. The folks in About are obviously fond of mutating pop formulas. While the band's tunes are actually rather accessible and surprisingly melodic...the manner in which they are presented is decidedly unorthodox. While the light and breezy vocal melodies glide by, all kinds of bizarre electronics seep in and out of the mix...continually keeping the listener on guard. In the end, Bongo is a rather nice blend of the familiar and the unfamiliar. The songs are damn catchy and hummable...and the strange arrangements grow on you after a few spins. Thirteen tracks here including "Think Niles Drink," "Nogato," "You Got It and a Bit," and "Stack of Marshalls." (Rating: 5+)

Actress - Isolation (Independently released CD, Pop/rock)
Actress is a four-piece modern rock band from Chattanooga, Tennessee with decidedly British sounding songs. Playing believable arena rock is these guys' speciality. The tunes on Isolation are reminiscent of bands like U2 and Simple Minds. While the band's music may be out of synch with other bands in their home town, this album would not sound out-of-place in the least if it had been on the British charts in the mid to late 1990s. The band consists of Travis Knight, Todd Bridges, Aaron Ficchi, and Josh Ficchi. If folks could hear them, these are the kind of songs that could easily be appreciated by millions. Top picks: "Blush," "Imagine an Explosion," "The Feeling We Forgot," "The Academy." (Rating: 4++++)

Against All Authority - The Restoration of Chaos and Order (CD, Hopeless, Punk rock)
Still surviving with their essential energy intact after all these years, Florida's Against All Authority have come up with another winner. The band began in the early 1990s, but from the sound of this album you'd never know it. These guys play buzzsaw punk that is influenced greatly by British 1970s punk. Instead of calming down or changing their direction, the band continues with their straight-from-the-hip-pocket approach. Taken from a quote from President Dumbass (you know who), The Restoration of Chaos and Order features punchy, loud, catchy tracks played with genuine gusto. The rhythms are fast and furious, the guitars as thick as fancy applesauce, and the vocals spewed with appropriate attitude. Fourteen cool rockers including "All Ages Show Tonight," "Radio Waves," "War Machine Breakdown," and "Best Enemy." Great loud rockin' stuff. (Rating: 5)

American Heartbreak - American Heartbreak (CD, Liquor and Poker Music, Rock/pop)
Pure, classic, radio-friendly pop/rock played in the tradition of great bands from decades past...most notably Cheap Trick. It has taken the guys in American Heartbreak some time to get their career on track. They released their first EP in 1997 but have only offered music sporadically since that time. American Heartbreak is the band's second full-length release, but it was worth the wait. These five fellows play with enthusiasm...and their songs are instantly addictive and catchy. Folks who may be getting tired of bands who are too adventurous (or others who throw vomitty crap-hop elements into their music) will surely get a big charge out of this album. You don't have to think. You don't have to listen to the lyrics. All you need do is turn the volume up, up, UP...and you are guaranteed to get a MAJOR BUZZ. Killer oughta-be hits include "Somebody," "Raise Up Your Hands," "Unhappily Ever After," and "Isolation." (Rating: 5++)

Mike Andrews - Hand On String (CD, Elgin Park, Progressive pop)
If you read the press release that accompanied this CD, your reaction would probably be similar to ours. Hmmm...there must be something credible and unique about Mike Andrews' music...? Surely enough, there is. This is an intricate album featuring songs that were most certainly created out of pure love and personal integrity. Mike's tunes recall some of the softer moments on Paul McCartney's first couple of albums as well as some of the more reflective songs penned by Roger Waters. His sound and style are all his own, however...and these twelve tunes make this fact perfectly clear. We are always impressed by musicians who don't seem interested in trying to please the public or write popular songs. This man is writing music that comes straight from his soul. Amazingly, many of the tunes come off sounding rather accessible and listener-friendly. Destined to be a cult favorite in the years to come, Hand On String is a mature, confident, infectious album. Killer tracks include "Something Already Happened Again," "Tracings" (our favorite), "Love Is Tired," and "Before the Echo." A truly great disc. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

The AV Club - The AV Club (CD, Insubordination, Pop)
Melodic catchy upbeat pop in the same general vein as Big Star and The Young Fresh Fellows. This is the debut album from New Haven, Connecticut's The AV Club. Instead of playing popular sounding modern pop or alternative noise, these fellows play pure pop straight from the hip with no unnecessary fillers. Songs are what make the band...and songs are what this band is all about. These folks aren't treading any new territory...nor are they trying to. Rather than attempting to be overly clever and innovative, these folks are just playing good solid rock and roll. Buzzsaw guitars, killer leads, spunky vocals, and a driving rhythm section combine to create a cool and upbeat catchy wall of sound. Neat keepers include "Sweethearts at 17," "Degrees of Grey," "Midnight Bus," "Don't Take That Part of Me." Excellent. (Rating: 5+)


Buildings are getting
Cars are getting
Everything is getting
Bigger bigger bigger.

(Rating: 1)


Birdies took her baby
And carried it away.
Birdies tore her baby up
And threw it in the

(Rating: 1)

Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise - What About That: New Year's Eve In Bloomington (Advance double CD, Kufala, Soul/pop)
Recorded the night of December 31, 2005 at The Bluebird in Bloomington, Indiana, What About That is the first full-length live album from Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise. Bradley began his career singing on the streets in Detroit before making the transformation to a professional musician in the 1990s. This double CD set is an instantly integral and essential part of Robert's body of recorded work because it makes it clear to those who have not seen the man that he is, first and foremost, a performer. This slickly recorded album features eighteen cool tracks...and Bradley's vocals are H-O-T from start to finish. In addition to the concert, the second disc also includes three tunes recorded during the soundcheck ("Once Upon A Time," "What About the Man," "Will the Circle Be Unbroken"). If you're looking for great soul music with real punch, you'll get a big kick out of these discs. The folks at Kufala sure know how to pick 'em... (Rating: 5+)

Bugs Multiply - Bugs Multiply (CD, Coma Gun, Pop)
Pure pop for positive people. Bugs Multiply is the trio consisting of Matt Cox (vocals, guitars, keyboards), Rick Shore (drums), and Hunter Kalman (bass). Rather than play noisy alternative rock, these guys present surprisingly radio-friendly hard pop that is immediately catchy and uplifting. Mr. Cox (the band's songwriter) comes up with songs that borrow from 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s pop...reinventing them with unusual chord structures and modern recording techniques. Fourteen smart tracks here including "Loveyougone," "If You're Wrong," "Perfect Scenes," and "All the Everything." Cool, clever, and upbeat. (Rating: 4++++)

Candy Bars - On Cutting Ti-Gers in Half and Understanding Narravation (CD, New Granada, Moody progressive pop)
Although we hear dozens and dozens of new bands each month...it is rare when we hear something that really doesn't sound like anything else. Florida's Candy Bars is a band with a unique sound and vision. The band consists of Daniel Martinez, Ryan Hastings, and Melissa Castellano. On the confusingly-titled On Cutting Ti-Gers in Half and Understanding Narravation, these folks have come up with a perplexing modern vision of progressive pop. The band sounds something like Johnny Society...if the music were sufficiently softened and funneled through a milky kaleidoscope. The most unique aspect of this band's sound has to be the vocals. Martinez has a strange raspy whispering voice that really makes these tunes come across sounding most peculiar. We always loved John Cale's vocal on the tune "Antarctica Starts Here" (from Paris 1919) and wished he had done more vocal tracks like that. With Candy Bars, it's like having Cale sing in that unusual timbre for an entire album. Slightly spooky and surreal, this band is definitely off to an excellent start here. Puzzling cuts include "Landscape," "The Flood In Your Old Town," and "You Were Always A Horse." (Rating: 5++)


Ignorance is calming,
Seductive, and

(Rating: 1)

The Church - Uninvited, Like the Clouds (CD, Cooking Vinyl USA, Pop)
Hard to believe this band has now been in existence for over 25 years (!)...but it's true. Australia's The Church began playing in 1980 and have been active ever since. On Uninvited, Like the Clouds, Steve Kilbey, Peter Koppes, Tom Powles, and Marty Wilson-Piper play with the intoxicating vitality of a band that has just learned how to record. Rather than sounding dated and bored, these guys come off totally inspired and reinvigorated (this could be due to the fact that there has been a renewed interest in the band in the twenty-first century). Unlike many bands with only one sound or style of music, the guys in The Church manage to merge a wide variety of sounds and styles into their own unique brand of progressive pop. Uninvited is a nifty album full of uniquely fulfilling smart rockers...including "Block," "Overview," "Never Before" (our favorite), and "Song To Go..." Excellent from beginning to end. (Rating: 5++)

David Dault & Thad Thompson - Here is the Post Card (CD-R, Shoelag, Pop/rock)
Pop/rock in the same general vein as Richard Thompson and Bob Mould. David Dault and Thad Thompson traveled to Athens, Georgia to record Here is the Post Card. These ten tunes are the result. Dault and Thompson write and record guitar-based pop music with a nice organic feel. Some of the tunes are acoustic while others rock rather hard. The guitars are often dense and multi-layered...adding a slightly surreal sound to some of the tracks. We are particularly impressed with the vocals...impressive, heartfelt, and genuine from start to finish. Cool compositions include "Easting by the Psalms" (our favorite), "My Short Story," "Specific Gravity," and "Merkan Courage." (Rating: 5)

Dirty On Purpose - Hallelujah Sirens (Advance CD, North Street, Pop)
Blurry, somewhat muffled, slightly hallucinogenic underground pop that recalls certain elements of Kurt Heasley's Lilys. This Brooklyn quartet has a sound that stands out from the pack. They aren't playing any sort of immediately familiar music. Hallelujah Sirens contains spacey, obtuse tunes with strangely catchy melodies. The band consists of Doug Marvin (drums, vocals), Joseph Jurewicz (guitar, vocals), George Wilson (guitar, vocals), and DJ Boudreau (bass). Prior to releasing this album, these guys already had critics raving about their previous EP (Sleep Late For a Better Tomorrow). It's easy to see why. This band's tunes are light years beyond what we normally hear. Unusual arrangements and surreal vocals create a whirlwind of modern mental pop that goes down nice, smooth, and easy. Cool creative cuts include "No Radio," "Your Summer Dress," "Car No Driver," "Marfa Lights," and "Fake Lakes." The album seems to have been mastered poorly because you have to turn your stereo up a good bit to hear it. Perhaps this will be corrected on the final CD. But not to worry. This album is still highly recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Dirty Rainbow - Death. I Was Sure Of It (Independently released CD, Rock)
Playing it loose, loud, and full of attitude, the guys in Dirty Rainbow churn out rock that sounds something like a cross between The Stooges and Fu Manchu. By combining elements of early punk with 1990s stoner rock, these guys manage to write and record rock music that is brimming over the edges with focused enthusiasm. The band consists of Sterling DeWeese (vocals, guitar), Mitch Rackin (bass), Jeremy Schoenherr-Lachance (vocals, guitar), and Rashmi Viswanathan (drums). Death. I Was Sure Of It is instantly effective and infectious. Cool cuts include "Six in the Morning," "Sweet Jesus Why," "F is for Fake," and "Mama Said." Good stuff. (Rating: 5+)


What make donkey go?
What make punkish drool?
Thing what is murky, funkish

(Rating: 1)


Our Father
Who farts in Heaven.
Hallowed be
Thy farts.

(Rating: 1)

The Finals - Plan Your Getaway (CD, Immortal, Pop/rock)
Punchy loud melodic pop rock. The guys in The Finals hail from Bergenfield, New Jersey (which is just outside of New York City). The band members have all been friends since they were very young. Perhaps this is why they seem to have such a focused and unified sound. Plan Your Getaway is a surprisingly mature album, but even more so when you consider the fact that the band only began recording demos in their basement studio about a year before this CD was released. The album features upbeat, feelgood hard pop tunes with soaring melodies and articulate arrangements. Jason Sazer, Matt Reilly, Lou Bottone, Joshua Sazer, and Christian Kisala aren't playing for deadhead dummies. Their songs are smart and inventive...and recorded with finely tuned precision. Crafty compositions include "Right Here," "Not Now," "Extended Autumn," and "Black Market Babies." Good stuff. (Rating: 5+)

Growing - Color Wheel (CD, Mega Blade, Progressive/ambient/instrumental)
Swirling, heady, hypnotic instrumental music that brings to mind Brian Eno and Robert Fripp's groundbreaking album No Pussyfooting. The fourth album from Growing, Color Wheel is a soft, subdued collection of hazy instrumentals. The album features six lengthy compositions (the song titles are noticeably absent from the digipak sleeve). These folks are obviously playing for a specific, esoteric audience. There are no drum beats to dance to...no catchy choruses...no immediately recognizable song structures...only peculiar odd electronics that seep in and out of consciousness. Color Wheel is the kind of album that you put on when you want to create a mood. Creating moods seems to be the main intent here, as the soft and mellow electronics tend to bleed rather beautifully into the background... Intriguing stuff. (Rating: 4++++)

Robin Guthrie - Continental (CD, Darla, Instrumental)
Beautiful, absorbing, hazy, provocative atmospheric instrumental music. Many folks may not know Robin Guthrie's name...but all serious music fans are familiar with his previous band, Cocteau Twins. Considering how many modern bands borrow ideas and sounds from Cocteau Twins, it seems amazing that at the time the band began there was not another artist that sounded anything like them. Over time, the band's influence has continued to evolve and grow...touching and affecting multitudes of musicians. As guitarist and producer for Cocteau Twins, Robin Guthrie was primarily responsible for all those lovely, haunting, peculiar sounds in all those cool pop tunes that so many of us know and love. Continental is Guthrie's second solo album. It features ten spacey instrumentals that evoke distinct moods and feelings. The instruments and sounds are fuzzy and ever-so-slightly spooky. This album is a purely artistic endeavor in which Robin was apparently driven mainly by the desire to create. Fantastic mental soundscapes include "Continental," "Monument," "Radiance," and "Last Exit." This will easily end up being one of the best instrumental albums of the year. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Head Control System - Murder Nature (CD, The End, Rock)
Head Control System is the Norwegian duo consisting of Daniel Cardoso and Kristoffer Garm Rygg (Cardoso was previously in Sirius and Re:aktor and Rygg was previously in Ulver, Arcturus, and Borknagar). Murder Nature is the first album that the two have recorded together as Head Control System. Note that this does not sound like a two-man project. The tunes on this album pack a big punch and sound very much like a full band is playing. If you dig thick moody psychedelic guitars and powerful masculine vocals, you will find a lot to love here. Cordoso and Rygg write and record tunes that are obviously nonstandardized and unusually obtuse. But while the proceedings are intense and hypnotic, in most cases you can still dance to the music (!). Sounding something like a hard rock and roll version of Nine Inch Nails, the guys in Head Control System manage to be inventive, harsh, and purely driven. Punchy rockers include "Baby Blue," "Blunt Instrumental," "Kill Me," and "Falling On Sleep." (Rating: 5++)


Everything is
Everything has always been
Impossible and
Everything will always be

(Rating: 1)

Islands - Return to the Sea (CD, Equator, Pop)
Smart playful underground pop. Canada's Islands is an underground pop band with surprisingly hummable happy tunes. Packaged in a beautiful cardboard and plastic digipak sleeve (with lyric booklet), Return to the Sea is a positive and uplifting spin. Although the tunes on this album are basic pop, it is difficult to come up with comparisons. At times Islands sound like Built to Spill...at other times XTC...and at other times any number of underground pop bands from Athens, Georgia. The band's multifaceted approach to songwriting may leave some listeners confused. Exactly what kind of band is this...and which category does the music belong in...? Such questions are irrelevant, as intent and quality are what matters most. Accordingly, Return to the Sea is infused with just the right intent and tons of quality. Infectious and effective tracks include "Swans (Life After Death)," "Rough Gem," "Where There's a Will," and "Ones." An interesting note about this CD...there is no web site listed for the band nor the record label...that may be a FIRST in the twenty-first century (!). (Rating: 5)


Itza bad!

(Rating: 1)

Denise James - Promises (CD, Rainbow Quartz, Pop)
The first thing we thought when we popped this disc into our player was...wow, this reminds us of Outrageous Cherry and The Volebeats. It was only later that we realized the album was produced by Matthew Smith (who just happens to be a member of both bands and plays various instruments on this CD). Promises is the third album from Detroit's Denise James. What is most impressive about this disc are the songs. There are no cover tunes here, only originals. Yet when listening to these songs, you get the distinct feeling that these are classic hits from long ago. Ms. James has a superb voice that fits her tunes perfectly (she is obviously fond of double tracking her vocals). Anyone who loves the music of the 1950s and 1960s...or anyone who loves great female pop...is bound to go apeshit over Promises. This fantastic thirteen track album features killer tunes such as "What Happened to the Love We Knew?", "It's Never What You Say," "If You Weren't So Beautiful," and "Waited So Long." Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Jane vs World - 56k Hearts (CD EP, Popboomerang, Pop)
Playing upbeat bubblegummy pop that is as cute as buttons, the girls in Jane vs World are sure to turn lots of folks OFF. In general, pretentious underground music snobs DO NOT want to hear upbeat happy pop. These girls are about as happy and upbeat as you can get. As for our own peculiar tastes...we LOVE THIS...! Playing sing songy pop with genuine spirit, Kate Duncan and Jadey O'Regan's songs sound something like a cross between Ben Folds, Shonen Knife, and The Muffs. These girls aren't the least bit shy about being as clever and cute as humanly possible. Their effervescent pop tunes feature smart hooks and perpetually honest lyrics. It's a truly upbeat bubblegum world these girls are living in. 56k Hearts is instantly groovy and totally infectious. Killer tracks include "B-Grade Lisa Loeb," "Sebastian Says," and "This Song Is About You." Can't wait to hear more from these talented Australian ladies... (Rating: 5++)

Jetpack - The Art of Building a Moat (CD EP, Heatstroke, Pop)
Instantly catchy, powerful, melodic pop from Nashville's Jetpack. This quartet plays classic radio pop that is timeless and irresistible. There are no awkward noise passages nor is there any attempt to sound ultra strange. These guys produce pop that comes straight from the heart and soul. The playing is inspired and the melodies are exceptional. We couldn't help but notice that these songs were recorded at the end of 2004...and are only now seeing the light of day (?). Punchy, accessible tracks include "Mathematics," "All Hail the Clown," "Your Little Way," and "Stonehands." (Rating: 4+++++)


Knowledge is next to

(Rating: 1)

Landspeedrecord! - Intermission (CD, Ambiguous City!, Pop/rock)
Complex progressive melodic modern rock. This is a reissue of the Intermission album (originally released in 2004) which includes a second bonus CD containing previously released and previously unreleased tracks. There's a lot to take in here. Between the two discs, this package features a total of 30 songs. Landspeedrecord! tunes are slightly reminiscent of Built To Spill..mainly because the tunes are loud and rock, and yet the vocal melodies are ultimately catchy and uplifting. The band is driven by the songwriting talents of Charley Jamison. This fellow has a lot to say and almost always manages to say it in rather unique ways. Released to celebrate the band's tenth anniversary, Intermission is a solid and entertaining release from start to finish. Cerebral intelligent rockers include "Crack," "Guardian Angel," "Welcome to Baltimore," "Rat Race," and "Invisible and Invincible." (Rating: 5+)

Linda Lewis - Live in Old Smokey (CD, Market Square, Soul/pop)
Despite the fact that she has never achieved overwhelming worldwide success, Britain's lovely and enchanting Linda Lewis continues writing and recording music for her loyal and devoted fans. Live in Old Smokey was recorded live at Ronnie Scott's Club in London. Linda's amazing vocal range remains intact, as she and her band soar through fourteen tunes for an appreciative audience. Old favorites are featured in the set list (most notably "I'm In Love Again" and "Rock A Doodle Do") as well as new tunes ("I Keep A Wish," "Waving," "I Don't Do Don't"). This disc is sure to please folks who have appreciated Ms. Lewis and her music over the past few decades (that most definitely includes us). The only thing that we must mention is that you have to really crank up the volume on this CD to get the full impact (this is most likely a problem that occurred during the mastering process). (Rating: 5)

Lotus - The Strength of Weak Ties (CD, Harmonized, Progressive pop)
Lotus is Steve Clemens, Jesse Miller, Luke Miller, Chuck Morris, and Mike Rempel...five fellows who got together in 1999 to write and record their own brand of music. What is perhaps most interesting about this band is that--despite the fact that they are taking a rather unorthodox approach with their career--they have been quite successful thus far. Rather than play one particular style of music, these five gentlemen pull ideas and influences from all over the map...merging all the disparate bits and pieces into a rather intriguing style of modern progressive pop. Combining natural sounds with electronics seems to come naturally for these guys. The compositions on The Strength of Weak Ties are like modern dub/jazz interpretations of progressive pop/rock from the past three decades. Smart and inventive, this album should appeal to a wide cross section of listeners. Ten tracks here, including "Tip of the Tongue," "Long Legged Stumble," and "Sprout to Vine." (Rating: 5++)

The Lovely Feathers - Hind Hind Legs (CD, Equator, Pop)
This Canadian band has a sound that is similar to bands from Athens, Georgia. The gentlemen in The Lovely Feathers play overwhelmingly creative and exuberant melodic underground progressive pop with a difference. The tunes on the strangely-titled Hind Hind Legs are complex and unpredictable...and vary greatly from one to the next. We can usually decide how we feel about most albums in a single spin. But this disc took several spins for many of the tunes to sink in. Hind Hind Legs is an intriguing collection of songs, but the album is...overall...somewhat uneven. But we still recommend this disc because the good songs are really, really, really great. Top picks: "Pope John Paul," Wrong Choice," "Lion Eats the Wildebeest." (Rating: 4+++)

Magneto - Resistance Is Futile (CD, Popboomerang, Pop)
The guys in Magneto are playing pop for folks "with short attention spans who'll be able to digest our album in under half an hour" (a direct quote from the band). Hey...that's us! Actually, the band's short and sweet approach might not be so attractive...if it were not for the fact that they write absolutely killer and instantly catchy pop tunes that are OUT OF THIS WORLD. Folks who love Gigolo Aunts, Redd Kross, Big Star, The Shoes, and Teenage Fanclub (hey that's us...again) are bound to get a big mighty kick out of Resistance Is Futile. The album resounds with pure feelgood exuberance. These guys play with sincere focused excitement that is downright addictive. Hummable, totally infectious tracks include "Underground," "Stronger Everyday," "Falling," "Everything Has Gone," and "Incomplete." This will easily end up being one of the best pop albums of 2006. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5++++)


You are a man
And you are a

(Rating: 1)

Manual - Bajamar (CD, Darla, Ambient/instrumental)
Manual is Jonas Munk Jensen, a Danish recording artist whose music recalls Eno's early ambient works. Bajamar is a complex and surreal collection of heady ambient recordings that swirl in the brain and give the listener the feeling of somber meditation. We were impressed with Jensen's last album (The North Shore), but this one is even more inviting. Jensen may have been influenced this time around by ex-Cocteau Twins guitarist Robin Guthrie (who just happens to also be on the Darla label). Flowing and hypnotic, these tracks will appeal to folks who truly believe that music can alter their moods in a positive way. Five cerebral tracks here: "Bajamar," "Celebration," "Reminiscence," "September Swell," and "La Torche." Somber, hallucinogenic, and beautiful. (Rating: 5++)

The Melvins - Houdini Live 2005: A Live History of Gluttony and Lust (CD, Ipecac Recordings, Rock)
A while back there was a string of concerts given in the United Kingdom called All Tomorrow's Parties. Several influential artists were asked to perform. Artists such as The Stooges, Gang of Four, and The Lemonheads. One of the bands was The Melvins, who were asked to perform their entire Houdini album live. The resulting concert was so well received that the band soon decided to record the album live themselves (not live in front of an audience but live to tape/hard disk). The result is Houdini Live 2005. This CD is a must have for Melvins fans...as well as anyone else who appreciated what real 1990s grunge and sludge pop was all about. The Melvins are one of the true powerhouse rock bands on the planet...but what makes their music so effective is that fact that they inject their loudness with tons of imagination and creativity. The band's sense of humor is almost always in play, particularly so on this disc. So...which is better...the original Houdini...or this version...? Actually, they are both credible and entertaining...each in its own way. This band never fails to please, tease, and top with cheese. Yet another killer release from the mighty mighty Melvins. Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Minmae - Le Grand Essor de la Maison du Monstre (CD, Greyday, Progressive pop)
Minmae is one of the more peculiar underground progressive pop bands in America. You never quite know what to expect from the band from one release to the next. The band's last album (I'd Be Scared, Were You Still Burning) was most impressive and surprisingly direct...and really sat right with many folks. Le Grand Essor de la Maison du Monstre is a bit less direct, incorporating more reflective improvisation and less catchy passages. The songs are moody and fluid...almost jazzy in nature at times. Although not our favorite Minmae release, this is a strong album with plenty of satisfying tracks. Top picks: "Cold Steel Minders," "I Was at Johnnys and He Played Phil Ochs," "Cash Out (or Spin)." (Rating: 4++++)


The nerve of some people.
The verb of some people.
The curve of some people.
The swerve of some people.

(Rating: 1)

Place of Skulls - The Black Is Never Far (CD, Mainstream, Rock)
Loud heavy stoner rock that should appeal to folks who have pledged their allegiance to Black Sabbath's Master of Reality album. The third album from Knoxville, Tennessee's Place of Skulls, The Black Is Never Far is very loud and totally heavy. The band consists of Victor Griffin, Tim Tomaselli, and Dennis Cornelius. Griffin writes tough, masculine tunes that are centered around his huge overdriven guitars and deep macho vocals. While Griffin provides the focus, Tomaselli and Cornelius provide the tough pummeling drive that propels the sound. Many of the tunes feature wonderfully gliding lead guitars that would make Brian May proud. Hard rockers include "Prisoner's Creed," "Darkest Hour," "Masters of Jest," and "Changed Heart." Good meaty tunes. (Rating: 4++++)

The Poles - As Above, So Below (CD EP, Doubleplusgood, Pop/rock)
Sounding something like a modern underground version of Thin White Rope, the fellows in Asheville, North Carolina's The Poles have a truly unique sound. The band's music is driven by the exceptionally remarkable vocal talents of Todd Lemiesz. The man has a raspy intense voice that you have to hear to believe. Add to this the fact that the band has some killer tunes...and you have a great little EP that is simultaneously melodic and intense. The only bummer...is that there are only five tracks here (!). But fear not...a full-length is due Fall 2006. (Rating: 5+)

Bruce Robison - Eleven Stories (CD, Sustain, Pop/country)
Singer/songwriter Bruce Robison is, at least up to this point, better known as a songwriter than a singer. Though most folks probably don't know his name, millions know his music. Robison's songs have been covered by some huge names in country music (Tim McGraw, Dixie Chicks, Garth Brooks, Faith Hill, George Strait, and more). Eleven Stories is an immediately impressive album that features Robison's smooth melodic wordplay and gentle voice. These eleven songs were recorded with three different bands...yet the album as a whole has a solid and cohesive sound. If there is one word to describe Robison's songs, that word would probably be sincere. Completely lacking in pretentiousness, these compositions obviously came straight from this man's heart. Three songs are covers ("Tennessee Jed," "More and More," "Bandera Waltz")...the remaining eight are originals. (Rating: 4++++)

Secret Society - Sad Boys Dance When No One's Watching (CD, Acuarela, Progressive pop)
When we stop to think about it, we can't even begin to recall how many wonderful obscure artists we have been turned onto by the folks at Spain's Acuarela label. The folks at this esoteric operation have been exposing unique, quality, unknown artists for many years now. Their roster continues to grow...as well as their reputation for being able to pick the best of the best of Spain's fertile musical underground. And speaking of fertile...Secret Society is Pepo Marquez, a young man who has previously released three EPs and has also had his songs featured on several different compilations. Like other Acuarela artists, Marquez sings in both English and Spanish...which expands his potential listening base and adds extra zest to his music. Sad Boys Dance When No One's Watching is the debut full-length from Secret Society, and it' s a keeper. The soft and subtle sound of these tunes might fool one into thinking that the ideas behind the music are also soft and fuzzy...but they aren't. The lyrics to some of these songs are unusually harsh and sarcastic. Marquez has a great voice, superb songs, and a genuinely unique way of getting his messages across. Top picks: "Moving Units," "Fight Fire With Fire," "My Relation With Above," "Old Wooden Creaking Floor." Excellent. (Rating: 5++)

Seekonk - Pinkwood (CD, North East Indie, Progressive pop)
Dreamy, subtle, soothing progressive pop. Seekonk is Sarah Ramey, Dave Noyes, Jason Ingalls, Patrick Corrigan, and Todd Hutchisen. This Maine-based band began as a three piece ensemble in 2002 and eventually evolved into their current line-up. At times the band's music is relatively ambient in nature...while at other times they sound something like an atmospheric hushed version of Ivy. The overall tone and mood are much more progressive however. Impeccable arrangements and acute attention to detail are a big part of the Seekonk sound. While the music is soft and soothing, there is actually quite a bit going on in many of these tunes...but you have to listen closely. These compositions are deceptively smooth sounding. Pinkwood is an intricate album with real depth that gets better with every spin. Cool tracks include "Love," "Air," "Take My Wife," and "The Great Compromise." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)


Let's all go to
Sissy School
So we can be
Let's all go to
Sissy School so
We can be like

(Rating: 1)

Small Sur - Small Sur (CD-R EP, Beechfields, Soft pop/folk)
Nice, relaxing, subtle, sincere, intelligent soft folky pop. This is the first release we have heard from Small Sur. Obviously a labor of love, this EP features eight smart melodic songs. The light and airy arrangements are a perfect fit for these tunes. These compositions are as good or better than anything we've heard on larger independent and major labels. One of the greatest things about reviewing music is finding unknown treasures like this. Exceptionally rewarding tracks include "Raining in the Suburbs," "April Moon," and "Yosemite." Superb. (Rating: 5+)

Sool - Sooltime (CD, Dren, Pop/rock)
We've always been big fans of succinct songs. So we were naturally impressed by the fact that the latest Sool album features a whopping 52 short tracks. The band consists of Pete Weiss (of the Weisstronauts), Neal Spaulding (of the Dynamite Brothers and Two Dollar Pistols), and Kevin Quinn (of Mercy James and Weisstronauts)...along with various friends lending helping hands. Some might find this album to be a difficult listen because songs switch so quickly from one to the next...but we find the approach to be clever and satisfying. Sooltime is simultaneously accessible and artistically credible. The songs go all over the place yet they all manage to be sufficiently entertaining. There's so much here that we couldn't possible mention all the tracks without wearing out our fingers. Some of our initial favorites are "Sooltime," "We Could Be Happy," "Hot Banana," "Nudiste," "Timmy and the Twister," and "The Questionnaire." Creativity gone wild. (Rating: 5++)

Stereophonics - Live From Dakota (Double CD, Vox Populi / Nettwerk / V2, Rock)
The first live Stereophonics album. Recorded to document what the band considers some of the peak moments in their career, Live From Dakota is a smashing statement of what they sounded like on their 2005 world tour. The fellows in the band meticulously sorted through hours and hours of recordings to find the one particular performance of each song that they considered to be the most exciting. Many folks will probably be surprised at how rough and raw many of the band's tunes sound live. These are true live recordings...there are no overdubs or double tracking. If you hate Stereophonics and if you hate live albums...you may still find yourself drawn to Live From Dakota. This is a vibrant documentation of a band on top of their game. Killer tracks include "Superman," "Pedalpusher," "Hurry Up and Wait," "Jayne," and "Dakota." Really rockin' stuff... (Rating: 5+)

Dave Stoops - Spill Your Drink (CD, Sevrin, Pop/rock)
Instantly likable catchy pop rock similar in many ways to Redd Kross. Created and co-produced by Dave Stoops and Brian Berg (who is also in the band 44 Long), Spill Your Drink is a cool hummable collection of upbeat underground hits. Instead of trying to be outrageously clever and innovative, Stoops opts instead to present his songs using classic pop ingredients. The result is a timeless batch of tunes that--in a perfect world--would be great big hits. Considering what poor taste most people have, Spill Your Drink will likely be destined to be an underground favorite. Killer guitars and excellent vocals reverberate through all thirteen tracks here. Top picks: "Burn Too Bright," "Tarnish on the Plate," "Invisible Again," "Mercury Night." (Rating: 5+)

Sugarplum Fairies - Country International Records (CD, Starfish, Pop)
Immediately effective and impressive modern pop. Sugarplum Fairies is the duo consisting of Silvia Ryder (vocals) and Ben Bohm (guitars, backing vocals)...plus a revolving cast of additional musicians. Originally from Vienna, Ryder and Bohm now call California their home. These folks' songs are in the same general vein as Ivy...the vocals are immediately reminiscent of Dominique Durand. Sleepy, soothing, and seductive, the tunes on Country International Records are thoughtful and mature...and hold up to many repeated spins. The arrangements are a perfect fit for the vocal melodies. This is an album that is certain to stick. Ten intriguing tracks here. Top picks: "Villain of the Day," "I'm Just Fine," "Not Smart At All," "Polyester Poetry." (Rating: 5++)


Tits and teeth.
You only really
Think about them
When they

(Rating: 1)

Mia Doi Todd - La Ninja: Amor and Other Dreams of Manzanita (CD, Plug Research, Soft pop)
Mia Doi Todd is a genuinely refreshing new talent who is rising from the valleys. Her soft, poignant, sincere songs are refreshing and pure. La Ninja is a bit of a departure, as the album presents (mostly) other artists' remixes of Todd's tunes. While remix albums are not our usual cup of tea, in this instance the interpretations are valid and intriguing. Artists providing remixed tracks are Nobody, Adventure Time, Dungen, Ammoncontact, Dntel, Campanella/Hellie, Reminder, Flying Lotus, and Chessie. To make the album even more inviting, Mia included three brand new compositions ("Norwegian Wood," "Kokoro," and "Shikibu"). Another extraordinary release from one of the best up and coming artists around. Mia Doi Todd is purely entertaining and completely original. (Rating: 5++)


Ultra tacky people in their
Ultra tacky places.
Litter their bitterness
Regularly in their
Ultra tacky

(Rating: 1)

Venice Is Sinking - Sorry About the Flowers (CD, One Percent Press, Progressive pop)
Soft, personal, understated pop music. Athens, Georgia's Venice Is Sinking is a band with a slightly surreal sound. The band's vocal melodies are reminiscent of The Flaming Lips...while the instrumentation is more closely aligned with progressive rock bands from the 1970s. This is an impressive album...particularly when you consider the fact that this is the band's debut full-length CD. Moody, reflective, intricate tracks include "Pulaski Heights," "Undecided," "Buried Magnets," and "Blue By Late." An intriguing album that gets better the more you spin it. (Rating: 5)

Tamas Wells - A Plea en Vendredi (CD, Popboomerang, Soft pop)
Tamas Wells is an incredible singer and songwriter. His vocals are eerily reminiscent of one of our favorite vocalists of all time, Kirsty MacColl (who is sadly no longer with us on earth). Wells writes deep, beautiful, longing tunes that truly touch the heart and soul...occasionally recalling the overall feel of a couple of the softer tunes on John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band album. This man's vocals are totally out of this world. Sadly, this album probably won't get that much attention initially. The music is too subtle to receive a great deal of recognition this early in the game. In the years ahead, however, you can expect this album to be one of those that touches a great number of people on a very deep and meaningful level (in the same way that Big Star's Sister Lovers did). Yes, it really is that good. Nothing else needs to be said except that we HIGHLY RECOMMEND this album WITHOUT RESERVATION. A Plea en Vendredi is, quite simply, a beautiful and intricate masterpiece. (Rating: 6)

ADDITIONAL NOTE: If we were handing out a "label of the month" award...this month it would surely go to Australia's Popboomerang. Beginning the year with releases from Jane vs World, Magneto, and Tamas Wells...this label has thoroughly blown us away. 2006 is probably going to be Popboomerang's best year EVER. Hats off to these folks for releasing pure, quality music.


Dance with a corpse.
Snort with a corpse.
Pour quarts on a corpse.
Play sports
With a corpse.

(Rating: 1)


Additional Items Received:

Ambulance Ltd - New english EP
Anaananaan - Anaananaan
Animators - How we fight
Appleseed Cast - Peregrine
Backlash - Heliotrope
Beyond Fear - Beyond Fear
Big Tease - Beautiful addiction
Ellen Burr - Duos
Chris Carelli - Anthology
Nicky Click - You're already a member
Blair Combest - Blair Combest
Current 93 - Black ships ate the sky
Darling Downs - How can i forget this heart of mine?
Destroyed - Russian roulette
Ernest Goodlife Band - Good to be here
Evangelicals - So gone
Everchanging Nomad - Hero today...gone tomorrow
Evolutionaries - Exoskeleton
Five Mod Four - Whiskers
Follow the Train - A breath of sigh
Brian Gladstone - A time for new beginnings
Doug Gochman - Right onto the track
Gravehaven - Life as a verse / Past present past (CD single)
Grizzly Bear - Sorry for the delay
Hazard County Girls - Divine armor
Heavy Blinkers - The night and i are still so young
Hell Promise - Aim for hell
el Hijo - La piel del oso
Holy Fire - In the name of the world
Homeless J. - Three seconds to go
Greg Hoy - Tastemakers and heartbreakers
If All Else Fails - Don't forget to be angry
Irving - Death in the garden, blood on the flowers
Mike Johnson - Gone out of your mind
Killing Joke - Hosannas from the basements of hell
D.S. Lionfire - Jerusalem: A symphonic saga
Lokbra - Army of soundwaves
Lostep - Because we can
Dean Madonia - The light of reason
Dean Madonia - Madness and desire: One night in America
Manta Ray - Torres de electricidad
Richard McGraw - Song and void volume one
Fineian McKean - Shades are drawn
Miranda Sound - Western reserve
Missing Plans - In honor of your departure
Momzer - Goodnight nobody
Moonspell - Memorial
Nire - We all shine on
Object - The mirror world
Henning Ohlenbusch - Looks like i'm tall
OM - Conference of the birds
Marykate O'Neil - 1-800-bankrupt
Katrina Parker - Only dreaming
Partisan - The gothic and the gospel
Payola Reserve - One long apology
Pilate - Caught by the window
Pillows - Two step
Pinetop Seven - Beneath confederate lake
Polkaholics - Polka uber alles
Jo Potter - 8 circles
Radioinactive - Soundtrack to a book
Red Animal War - Seven year war
Rock Kills Kid - Rock Kills Kid
Royal Bliss - After the chaos II
Roy Owens Jr. - Good times
Run Chico Run - Slow action
The Ruse - Light in motion
Cameron Russell - Yesterdaydreamer
Michael Sanders and One Tribe Nation - Servants of a lesser god
Selmanaires - Here come the Selmanaires
Sexcop - Island of dreams
Shearwater - Palo santo
Sleepy River - The funeral birth of a tree
The Smacks - Protected by the ejaculation of serpents
Sodom - Sodom
Leeroy Stagger - Tales from the back porch
Stavesacre - How to live with a curse
Kara Suzanne and the Gojo Hearts - Aumsville EP
Televise - Songs to sing in A & E
Tiger Baby - Noise around me
Universe Narrows - Universe Narrows
Upwelling - Upwelling
The Vacation - The Vacation
Valumen - Science faction
Various artists - Dorm sessions volume 3
Various artists - 4boxs samplr.
Various artists - Invaders
Violins - Pink water
Chris von Sneidern - California redemption value
The Weisstronauts - Featuring "perky"
Western Civ - Regent kingfish slumperpad
What the...? - You have no idea!
The Year Of - Slow days


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