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A.C. Newman - “The Slow Wonder” CD 11/33:26
In case you were unaware, A.C. Newman is one of the main cats from that ultra-hip super-group, the New Pornographers; and if you didn’t already know that he was the brains behind that operation (with a little help from Dan Bejar of Destroyer fame), it will become overly obvious upon the first listening of this record. If you know and love the output of the New Pornographers, or even Newman’s previous band Zumpano, you’ll get along well with this album of glistening retro-pop. In fact, if you threw a couple of guest vocal spots on here from Neko Case, you’d probably assume it was a New Pornographers album. I have a feeling this is going to get played a lot in my house, car and walkman over the next few months. Jake
@ www.matadorrecords.com MP3 Download

A Certain Ratio - "Early" 2XCD
Back in the late Seventies, when Anthony Kiedis was barely a gleam in George Clinton’s bloodshot eye, Manchester, England combo A Certain Ratio was cooking up and throwing down a heady brew of urban alienation and hotfooted funk for any and all comers; the recently released Early is an outstanding overview of their first and finest moments. ACR's attempt at a fusion of spiky aggression and R&B bottom was nothing new for its time - Northern neighbors The Pop Group were scaling similar punk/funk pinnacles around the same time, while across the Atlantic, James Chance’s Contortions and Liquid Liquid -- to name two -- trod congruent paths. But ACR’s approach was a provincial blend all their own, combining the bleak, grey-shaded outlook of fellow Mancunians (and Factory Records compadres) Joy Division, with a unwavering, irresistible, floor-filling groove (take a bow, drummer Donald Johnson, whose joining the band was key to this then-newly-sprung hybrid). They were particularly adept at being able to emphasize one extreme or the other at will: early single "Flight" is brooding and ghostly, with ominous, son-of-Ian-Curtis vocals, while their minor-classic cover of the dance obscurity "Shack Up" is a joyous, nerdy-Brit jam (and those off key trumpets!). After their second LP, ‘Sextet", ACR’s material became more wallpaper-like and faceless, indistinguishable from other upscale bass-poppers and disco merchants of the early Eighties. For the most part, though, Early manages to catch A Certain Ratio at their rump-shaking yet mind-expanding peak. MLH
@ www.soundsoftheuniverse.com

A Frames – s/t CD 11/25:27
Reissue of the A Frames’ debut album, now on digital for they vinyl-challenged among you. Robotic post-punk-punk that seems like a young, somewhat punkier version of “Hardcore” era Devo, minus the concepts and more in the way of just getting on with the music . Can’t say it induced my sorry ass into fits of frenzied worship like some of my brethren, but pretty solid nevertheless. Methinks I’ll have to see them live before passing final judgment. David
@ www.s-srecords.com

A Global Threat – “Earache/Pass The Time” CD 6/9:33
Less stereotypical than earlier efforts- but I’ve played this four times and I can’t remember one tune. AGT was on the 77 punk/Discharge tip for a few years, now they’re more stripped down medium-heavy punk. Seems that they’re down to a trio after a lot of lineup changes, since this is only an EP; perhaps this is a sign of a more engaging, unique band evolving? “Social Quarantine” sounds like a tough Avail, if they continue exploring tunes like this they may become the newest Boston band to watch. For now, pass on this one but keep an eye out for their next full-length. Jesse
@ Rodent Popsicle Records, PO Box 1143, Allston, MA 02134

A Global Threat - "What the Fuck Will Change?" CD 15/25:30
The title of this disc is appropriate in a way the band probably did not anticipate. As long as bands keep trying to be GBH, nothing will change. Of course, there is nothing wrong with GBH. But why try to make music at all if you're just going to lift someone else's style note for note? If you already have the entire GBH catalog, don't bother with this. If you don't have the entire GBH catalog, keep an eye on the Captain Oi label. They seem to be re-issuing it, disc by disc. Mark.
@ Punk Core, PO Box 916, Middle Island, NY 11953

A Grape Dope - “Missing Dragons” CD 6/26:45
John Herndon sure does keep himself a busy man. Between working with Tortoise, Isotope 217, the Eternals, and producing and performing on studio albums for many other bands and performers, he finds time to record his own solo music under the guise A Grape Dope. Although similar in sound to his other work with Isotope and Tortoise, AGD is much more electronic and eclectic in nature, and instead of focusing on his talent of machine-like drumming skills it instead investigates a more avant-garde side of percussion. In addition, the album includes some guest vocalist turns from Dose One, Kathryn Frazier and Sally Timms, as well as an unnamed source (possible John himself?) on my favorite track of the album ‘I’ll Spread It’ – a song that sounds part Post-Tortoise and part vocoder-era Peter Frampton; a mix I’m wishing more people investigated after hearing this particular song. Fans of Herndon’s other output will not be disappointed, and those of you who fancy yourselves more fans of Dntel/Boards of Canada electronica stuff should do yourselves a favor and check it out as well. Jake
@ www.galaxia-platform.com

A.K.A.s (are everywhere) - "White Doves & Smoking Guns" CD 11/32:25
Fans of the Murder City Devils and, I think, Fugazi will likely appreciate this New York five-piece's efforts: dark post-punk with liberal use of '60s keyboards. I also heard an interesting mix of influences here, from Sabbath bass lines to the Cure's "Lovecats" as well as several breakdowns that were in the same vein as, ahem, Linkin Park. Lily
@ www.fueledbyramen.com

A.M. Vibe – “A.M. Vibe” CD 12/43:13
A.M. Vibe has been called the Sundays of the west coast. It’s easy to see why, though the vocals aren’t quite as breathy and tenuous as the Sundays’ but then you’d have to expect that the vocals would be brighter and cheerier from a San Diego band – the weather’s better. When every day is a good day for the beach, you can understand why A.M. Vibe sings about sunny days and being “all good`” with gentle hand claps as in the aptly titled “Good Times”. What made the Sunday’s great was a contrast: the softest, sweetest vocals singing about sadness, dark moments. Maybe that’s what’s missing from the Vibes’ music, a little bit of bad weather. Pam
@ www.silvergirl.com

A Planet For Texas – “Sprechen Sie Rock?” CD 10/25:00
Nothing new here - just your basic, terribly honest turbo-charged punk band roaring around in a sweaty frenzy. Look at the median list of punk influences for reference: Ramones, NOFX, Supersuckers: then throw in the experience of living in Ohio, which leads to an fun and obnoxious release of musical energy in the form of 2 1³2 minute punk anthems for folks without mohawks. Jump around, sing along, it’s been working for years. Xtian
@ Diaphragm, PO Box 10388, Columbus, OH 43201

A Static Lullaby - "And Don't Forget to Breathe" CD 10/40:36
Extremely loud, trudging, wailing, screaming new skool hardcore. Desperation is the overall tone, with guitars crying out in pain, while the vocals lament the futility of existence. There are no standout tracks here, but the musicianship is first rate. Mark
@ www.ferretstyle.com MP3 Download

A Study in Her – “Auto-Amputation” CD 15/62:22
Driving, melodic dreampop from Toledo with male-female harmonies and lots of fuzzy accoutrements. Some songs (“Bodies and Bodies”) set themselves up around dreamy guitar melodies and driving beats, while others (“Giant Robot”) sound like a cross between Beck’s “Midnite Vultures” neon-tinged tomfoolery and the harsh electro-punk of Atari Teenage Riot. The vocals are a bit thin and awkward at times, but the intuitive repetition and obvious love of indie hallmarks makes for a stunningly diverse listen. The studio wizardry hints that if they could settle on a particular sound, A Study in Her might have a masterpiece on their hands. “Stuttering and Simply Stopping” is a masterful blend of chiming notes and ass-tight drum loops that would be right at home atop college radio charts. Think Pinback with less focus and talent, and you’re close. John
@ Honest In Secret, P.O. Box 610, Toledo OH 43697

Aarktika - "Pure Tone Audiometry" CD 7/45:06
I'm tempted to think of Aarktika as Magnetic Fields' younger cousin on Prozac. It's partly because lead singer/programmer Jon DeRosa reminds me of a more blissfully melodic Stephin Merritt, and partly because the invariably synth-based underpinning of these songs alludes to myriad other genres and moods. But that wouldn't explain the slow guitar orgy of "The Mimicry All Women Use" or the experimental noisefuck of "Snowstorm Ruins Birthday," which is incidentally one of the best song titles I've ever heard, or the gorgeous echo and vocal party that is "Big Year." The ratio of slow-build-ups to orgasmic satisfaction to high enough on "Pure Tone Audiometry" to keep me coming back for more well into the future. John
@ www.silbermedia.com

Accidental Superhero - “Full Circle” CD 12/56:44
This album represents to me all that is wrong with music today in one fell swoop. This band wants to make it so badly that it’s painful to think about, and even more painful to listen to. The music is bad, watered down, “groove rock” with “just a touch of hip hop” to help “keep it real”, and give it the most “crossover potential”. The most annoying aspect of the music is the hip hop part of it. It's so clumsily executed that you would think the scratching was some preset from a Casio keyboard that was thrown in at the last minute when some fat balding producer said, “you know what this needs, a little hip hop flavor, you know, for the kids.” It's like 311 or Sugar Ray, but without the hooks or even a good looking front man. I mean, if these guys had even one person in the band who was “hottt”, they might get signed, but they are all kind of ugly, so I don't think that's ever going to happen. This also has one of the most pointless “hidden tracks” I have ever heard, namely 15 minutes of total crap ass remixes, live versions of songs, and “phone message outtakes” that makes this band sound even worse then I ever thought possible. But much more distasteful to me then the music was the copyright notice. It's copyright 2003 to “Accidental Superhero LLC”. Yes, this band is literal “corporate rock” as the band itself is a Limited Liability Corporation. I hate this CD, hate it, hate It. Manny
@ www.accidentalsuperhero.com

Aceface - "God Save the Hooligans" CD 13/35:30
When I saw the word hooligans in the title, I was expecting some fast paced '77 style punk; when I saw the picture of the band I thought, "hmm maybe we'll have a female fronted Sex Pistols type thing". Instead, this British band relies more on some fairly straightforward rock licks from the likes of the Who or the Kinks to form their sound and transforming them into late '70's mod punk. They do a blistering cover of Pete Townshend's "Rough Boys" and keep the pace fast and furious when they're doing their best work. The songs occasionally lack melody, and the production is a little on the rough side and undermines the band's attempts at toughness, but there are a couple of gems here too, the best original tune is "Budgie", which actually fulfills the promise of what I was hoping for when I first looked at this. Worth checking out. Steve
@ www.aceface.org

Acid Lemon - 'Introducing..." CD 8/27:07
Not half bad 6T's garage rock revitalism from this Spanish quintet. A brace of moving originals and a few select covers like The Electric Prunes' Diddley-psych 'Get Me To The World On Time' make for good stuff to scuff your white go-go boots to. MLH
@ no address

Acid Mothers Temple – “Mantra of Love” CD 2/45:01
Starts off with a traditional mantra Occitan piece given the AMT treatment, wafting along with Cotton Casino’s haunting vox showing why she was missed during recent the US tour, occasionally bursting into a storm of guitar-freakouts and finally going into interstellar overdrive near the end. The second track may seem more serene (no freak-outs) but it still manages to weave a spell of its own, making you wonder what is going on in that forest anyway. Given that AMT don’t always escape the inconsistency notable of folks with such prolific outputs this is on of their better releases. David
@ www.alien8recordings.com

Action Now - "All Your Dreams...and More 1981-1984" CD 27/72:56
Action Now released one full length, but it only came out in France; maybe because the American public never seemed to have much of a taste for power pop. Unfortunately, doesn't seem like the French did either, and the group disbanded. One of the band members and songwriters was Paula Pierce, who went from Action Now to the Pandoras, and a couple of songs later recorded by the Pandoras ("Stop Pretending" was later the title track for the first Pandoras LP) appear here in slightly different form. The first 12 tracks are from the LP release in 1984, and they sounded like the Jags mixed with a touch of Mersey beat about 3 years too late. Good songs, full of hooks and a couple of tunes ("This One Chance", "So Much On My Mind") that could have been classics of the genre, had they come out at the right time. Uh, if there ever had been a right time, I guess. Pierce handles background vocals on most of the tracks, and lead guitar work, and about half of the songwriting chores. The rest is one song that appeared on the "Rodney On the ROQ" Posh Boy comp and a live show in 1981. The live show has some sound quality issues, but the hooks of the songs come through and there are a few tunes that weren't on the studio LP. Great lost power pop here, and between this and the Finders CD reviewed elsewhere in this issue, you really have to wonder just how many great bands have been lost to the ages. Steve
@ www.aveburyrecords.com

Add N to X – “Loud Like Nature” CD 13/51:09
The mad electro-scientists of Add N to X have seemingly made a career out of tweaking genres and throwing up surprises where others are satisfied to merely throw down beats. Even if the pieces don’t quite gel as successfully here as they have on past releases, tracks such as the glam-ish “Total All Out Water”, “(squiggle) Baby”, and “Large Number” show have haven’t lost their touch yet. David
@ www.mute.com

Addicted2Fiction - "Zero In" CD 6/27:50
Nevermind their horrible band name, this all girl darkwave outfit out of LA is derivative and boring as all hell. Imagine a less talented version of Switchblade Symphony's music with a more annoying version of Sleater Kinney's vocals and you might have some idea of what these girls sound like. Now that we're talking honestly, their lyrics are pretty crap too. Do not even make eye contact with this CD, let alone buy it. Mona
@ www.addicted2fiction.com

Adequate Seven – “Songs of Innocence and of Experience” CD 13/45:20
Adequate is an interesting word to be used with an outfit such as this. They should be called “Interesting” or “Diverse” or something. Basically it’s a total punk/ska experience with heavy nods to both factions and done very well. It will hit you smooth and silky one second with the funk and ska bit, a la Fishbone, then smack you around with absolute heavy punk. If you are a true ska punk head then I say this band will be in heavy rotation on your stereo for quite a time to come. The best part is their use of true UK sounding punk which offsets the horns and dance-abilities of each ditty. Oi! Whittaker
@ www.householdnamerecords.co.uk MP3 Download

Adicts – “Fifth Overture” CD 16/53:54
The 1986 album where the Adicts tinkered with their sound, going more a more mersh pop-rock approach and distancing themselves from their punk roots, most likely in hopes of hitting the charts and gaining that ever-elusive Wider Audience. Of course said scheme backfired, and this release ended up being one of their more obscure records. For good reason, too: this SUCKS! Managing to alienate their fanbase with their change in direction and not managing to pick up any new ones in return, this was as effective a career-sinker as anything. Think of this as their “Into the Unknown”, only not as good, and that should tell you all you need to know. Oh yeah, 4 bonus tracks from a later twelve inch are included as well, enjoy. David
@ www.captainoi.com

Adult – “Anxiety Always” CD 10/42:37
The “Second” album from this electro-punk outfit (the latter part more in attitude than musical style), though considering that the first was a collection of singles this is probably their first release meant to be a “real” album. As with many “sophomore” releases it suffers from comparison to their debut, but despite some filler it does manage to deliver the goods with such tunes “Blank Eyed, Nose Bleed” and “Kick in the Shin”. Newcomers should check out “Resuscitation” first though and then stop by here one they’ve sampled its pleasures. David
@ www.ersatzaudio.com

Adz - "American Steel" CD 15/37:13
No nonsense, unsafe and enjoyably unsavory set of one hard rocker after another from this longtime So.Cal outfit. Righteous references to heroes and inspirations abound: "Godzilla Stomping Rock and Roll" goes toe to toe with Handsome Dick’s mob, and "Momma Married a Mau-Mau" has some historical and hysterical hat tips to other LA punk vets. Then there’s "Just Like Dylan and the Hawks Blues", which in three furious minutes encapsulates the fuck-you attitude of ’66 Zimmerman as accurately as any hundred windy pages of sub-Greil Marcus tedium ever could. All this and more (little girl), including a fun Turbenegro cover. MLH
@ www.steelcagerecords.com

Aerovons – “Resurrection” CD
Sometimes Mel kids me about liking everything from the ‘60s, but nothing could be further from the truth. Most of the “rock music” from every era is pretty dreadful, as this record demonstrates. The Aerovons were a band from St. Louis who apparently worshipped all of the worst aspects of the Beatles during their late psych phase. Imagine Paul’s sappiest songs from that era, add a syrupy, lush, baroque production with annoying sound affects, and combine this with imitative and pathetically bad songwriting, and you might just get some idea of how terrible this really is. If this is any indication, record labels are now beginning to scrape the bottom of the ‘60s barrel and reissue god-awful shite that was never released back then – for very good reasons! Jeff
@ www.rpmrecords.co.uk

Afflictions - "Safety in Numbers" CD 10/30:58
The other day I was waiting in line at a movie behind two freshly scrubbed 14 year old girls in classic punk attire, it took me a moment to realize that they probably got their fashion sense from Good Charlotte, and not their parents or the Clash. It's worse to think that these girls are walking around thinking that Good Charlotte is punk, when there are bands like the Afflictions that are carrying the torch much better than those other Rolling Stone cover boys. The Afflictions seem to remember that those punks of yore had great songs, and are creating the same. These are loud and straightforward songs that make you nod your head, instead of creating a headache. Pam
@ www.killdeerrecords.com

Against Me - "As The Eternal Cowboy" CD 11/25:08
I'll make a few comparisons first; Tom Gabel's vocal snarl reminds me of Joe Strummer crossed with Shane Magowan, the songs are along the lines of amped up Billy Bragg material, and the lyrics fit right in with Bragg's political work. There's also some more quiet stuff; with a country twang feel and nice use of an occasional keyboard. The best comparison I can make might be with Ted Leo; a diverse style defies an easy compartmentalization. Recorded at the legendary Ardent Studios, this has the feel of a Stiff Little Fingers record filtered through the Weakerthans politics, and with the amps turned to 11. Hard driving musically, with great vocals and left leaning political lyrics and a sound that defies convention...this is a great record that reminds me of what good punk is all about. Steve
@ www.fatwreck.com MP3 Download

Against Tommorow’s Sky – “Jump The Hedges First” CD 9/37:41
Borrowing their name from a line in a Van Morrison song, this Colorado Springs quartet sets themselves apart from the pack in more ways than one. They blow the doors open with the hyper-catchy “Eager” that takes the bad name of all things “emo” and makes it fairly likable again. In fact, the more I’ve played this disc the more it is has grown on me. It is lean and tight, and “Poison Tester” is about the catchiest damn song I’ve heard in ages. One of those melodies that worms it’s way into your brain and won’t let go. An emotive rock tune that could certainly stand among the Lifehouse’s of the world if only given a chance. They write songs that manage to exploit what they do best musically. That is a rare trait. Among the best reords of 2002. A pleasant surprise from the land of Birkenstocks and jam bands. Anthony
@ www.universalwarning.com

Agitated – “Go Blue, Go Die” CD 17/26:09
Ah yes, the kind of fast-paced and downright righteous hardcore, vintage ’83 (complete with screamed vocals), that made grown men spazz and inspired Pushead into vocabulary-building reviews. Unlike more than a few hardcore heroes, the material on display here still holds up after all these years. In a better world these lads (who hailed from Ohio) would have been at least as well known as Negative Approach, but the fact that they only appeared on a few tape compilations as well as the seminal “New Hope” compilation (hey Frank, when’s that one coming out?) pretty much doomed them to obscurity…until now. Granted the studio tracks stand up better than the rougher-sounding (duh) live tracks but overall you can’t go wrong with this in your collection. David
@ www.smogveil.com MP3 Download

Ai Phoenix – “The Driver is Dead” CD 13/49:10
It’s been a while since I’ve heard some good make-out music, and this Norwegian five-some is putting out (pun intended) some good stuff. It has the slow and quite drum beats with sparse guitar and breathy vocals that sound seedy and arousing in the evening and slightly sinister during the day. Ai Phoenix’s sound is reminiscent of Mazzy Star, but even better. The strums and beats of Mazzy Star are so slow that I sometime wonder whether the next one is coming. With Ai Phoenix, the tempo raises the blood pressure just enough to keep me nodding along in a nice lull. Pam
@ www.autonomyrec.org

Air Formation – “Ends in Light” CD 9/39:10
The songs on this record all sort of run together; they’re dense and layered, but they plod along in a mid-tempo range that makes them seem neither introspective nor fun. “Brightest Star At Night” – a mix of half-submerged lyrics, lazy keyboards and crunchy guitar parts – is a good example of what this record is, and what it could’ve been. This is just the band’s second effort, and they’re on to something good – exactly what that is, though, is anyone’s guess. Kevin
@ www.driveinrecords.com

Airiel – “Winks & Kisses: Frosted” CD 4/24:09
First of a planned series of 4 EPs from this outfit, said format apparently chosen in honor of the shoegaze heroes of yore who released some of their most notable works on not-quite-album-length slabs of vinyl. Said series starts off strongly, featuring good atmo-rock that runs both lush’n’languid (“Rainflower) and ethereal’n’noisy (“Liquid Paper”), with luscious waves of sound washing over the listener either way. They even incorporate the Oceanic Rock of the Cocteau Twins as well as the lush waves of sound perfected by MBV (“Halo”). Vox could be stronger at times, though they seem to fit the music fine I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to their next release. David
@ www.clairecords.com

Album Leaf - "Seal Beach" CD 5/24:40
Some moody, yet lovely electronic soundscapes open this CD; the Album Leaf is a solo project of Tristeza guitarist Jimmy LaVelle. Downbeat drum and bass style material dominates this release, with some guitar work that borders on melancholy acoustic classical stuff, while other songs include some very nice keyboard work. The final song takes most of the electronics out, and leaves you with a really nice guitar piece that would fit well with the Nick Drake catalogue. All instrumental, this is definitely rainy day material that won't exactly make you bounce around the room, but it does provide a nice background and there are some really nice moments on this. Steve
@ www.acuareladiscos.com

Alex Woodard – “Saturn Returns” CD 11/42:15
It’s amazing how some supergroups (like Loose Fur) have the ability to transcend their influences and become bigger than the sum of their parts, and how some just sound like a mess. Alex Woodard, which boasts members from The Posies, Gigolo Aunts, Sunny Day Real Estate and Fountains of Wayne, falls squarely into the latter. The album kicks off with “Every Road,” which wouldn’t seem terribly out of place on an album of Matthew Sweet B material. Unfortunately, that’s the best Alex Woodard can aspire to, as the rest passes in a blur where you can barely tell the songs apart, much less pick out a chorus that stick with you. If Saturn is to return once more, let’s hope these guys let loose a bit. Ryan
@ www.alexwoodard.com

Alice Despard Group - “Thinning of the Veil” CD 12/50:42
I’ve never been a big fan of women with deep voices singing over folky music, and unfortunately that’s exactly the type of voice that sits large and out front on this disc of music from the Alice Despard Group. The songs are all decent enough I suppose, and I’m sure if the right people happened across this they would be into it (read: people really into Joan Baez, Indigo Girls and that sort of stuff). I’d be quite remiss to say this is bad, and instead I’ll just say ‘not my cup of tea’ and defer you to look for some tracks on the web so that you might check it out and decide for yourself. Jake
@ www.arlingtone.com

Alice Donut – “Three Sisters” CD 12/37:02
When Alice Donut released their first Alternative Tentacles LP in ’88, they were one of the leaders of the post-hardcore/pre-alt bands. This self-release (recorded on a Mac) represents their sound now, 15 years down the road, and they still rock hard. They’ve managed to both grow as artists, and yet retain whom they were. With most original members still intact, the songs are more mature, and topically less whiney. “Wired” is a perfect example of this. New York is lucky to have this band. RBF
@ www.alicedonut.com

All Girl Summer Fun Band - "Summer of '98" CD 7/13:24
The band and CD are aptly titled. "Summer of '98" isn't just the title, it's when the CD was recorded, and the band was created as a side project, something for its members to have fun with during the summer. This may be the girly-est band in America, but I guess you would expect that from their name. The theme carries on songs like "Lipsmacker Kiss" and "Charm Bracelet", a silly but catchy song, and the handclaps on "Grass Skirt" and infectious and chaste, as are most of the songs. Pam
@ www.magicmarkerrecords.com MP3 Download

All Night – s/t CD 11/45:49
Tee Pee Records usually puts out an amazing array of heavy rock. And All Night is no exception… The only thing is that these four Southern boys take the lonely road of sluggish rawk and deliver it to a warehouse in the middle of nowhere. Not to say that I didn’t like it, because I did actually…it’s just that the whole feeling conveyed here is that of a sort of directionless amplifier set to possibly make you sway your swagger and bop your head, but in the end it has all been said and done and as a heavy rock fan I wasn’t all that taken. But they have skills and can slugbait with the best of them then turn it up and have you driving a little bit faster. But driving where? Ah…that’s the whole thing! Whittaker
@ www.teepeerecords.com

All State Champion – s/t CD 5/19:47
Man, was I ever happy and surprised when I popped this short player in the CD player! Apparently they already have something of a following in Canada where they’re from, but they were a totally new experience to me (plus, I stopped paying attention to what Canada thought was good when the Barenaked Ladies got popular…I’m still waking up in the middle of the night with nightmares over that band). All State Champion have found that intriguing balance of music that could appeal to both indie kids and the sheep who listen to Clear Channel-owned modern radio at the same time. The CD starts off with a bang with “The Greatest”, which has a great At the Drive In feel to it (sans afros of course), and then the release proceeds from there to show a wide range of influences, but the ones that most notably comes to mind are Braid, Texas is the Reason, and Fireside, all bands I have a great love for. Here’s to hoping that this CD is just the tip of the iceberg for these young bucks, because I eagerly await their next release. Jake
@ www.fiveoneinc.com

All-American Rejects - s/t CD 11/43:13
A couple of guys from Oklahoma; one plays bass and does the lead vocals and the other sings back ups and plays guitar. The rest of the accompaniment includes a drum machine (ick!) and synths (also probably computer programmed). I checked out their website and there were links to a couple of reviews that actually had the gall to call them pop punk. Sure, they're talented, especially since they are 20 and 18 years old, but so far they aren't going to the wall in terms of songwriting. The tunes have a similar feel to Jimmy Eat World with even less oomph; if anything they've got so much computerized bullshit going on that the only word that applies is sterile. They sing about heartache and loss and screwed up relationships, yet I can't imagine they've even come close at their age to anything resembling true feelings that they won't look back on and snicker at someday. C'mon guys, life gets harder, so you better toughen up. The best part of this are the vocals; the two of them work well together. "Emo" of the predictable type, but it seems that they're capable of a lot more, so I'll be interested to see what happens to then down the line. Pat
@ www.doghouserecords.com

Alli with an I – “I Learned By Watching You” CD 11/31:49
Suffice to say, Alli With An I should be pretty big soon. They have that sound, that pop ethic punk drop with audible vocals about triumph and sorrow that seems to drive the teen masses nuts and makes headway on the usual fracas of that beast gone corporate standard, The Warped Tour. These four boys from Raleigh, NC can dig in the tunes mighty well and survive with decent chops and a hankering for something beyond their Southern borders. Not that Raleigh is anything close to being a small Podunk township, but still…the grim lights of New York and LA seem to be much more appeasing to some that Arnold Chicken and Waffles. Fools! If they just played there they’d be set for life. But no. AWAI have to strike it big and thick with garners towards the main prize: A record deal, MTV airplay and your daughters heart as she kisses them goodnight before bed. In this series of bands that quite similar sound to this, I would recommend these kids other than the throngs of others who pose in tight black tee shirts and bright tattoos. Because the four here do not. See…. already they take precedence elsewhere! Whittaker
@ www.alliwithani.com

Allister - "Last Stop Suburbia" CD 16/39:05
The sophomore effort by this band, and the emphasis in their pop punk sound is the pop. They produce 2-3 minute ditties with lyrics that generally are about girls and relationships. And if they aren't about that, then they hit general punk themes about growing up and having your friends disappear into the corporate/mainstream world. Think of these guys as Green Day lite; the songs are all catchy, played quickly, are full of guitars, but lack the heart and soul of what still makes Green Day great, and that's a snarl. Take a lyric that might actually have a heartfelt emotion to it, and make it sound so perky and upbeat that you could be singing about unicorns and fluffy clouds instead of missing your girlfriend. You can't help but dig the hook, but it's that hook that undermines rest of their message, if they even have one. Lets give these guys some real pain someday, and see how they handle it. Maybe then they'll be worth a second listen. Steve
@ www.drivethrurecords.com

Allstonians – “Bottoms Up!” CD 11/37:51
The third (or is it fourth?) release from this longtime band (whose existence predates the recent Ska boom-n-bust) and their first since the fall of the mighty Moon empire. Breezy ska that’s refreshingly free of the hackneyed ska-punkisms that made “third generation” such a dirty word in some quarters. Won’t single-handedly revive the genre, but quite listenable nevertheless. David
@ www.forkinhand.com

Almost There - "She Was Like, And I Was All" CD 11/27:44
Another band that sounds kinda like Bad Religion. The lyrics are all very personal, but not terribly remarkable. The guitar work is good, not great. The singer has a cool voice, but would be better if he could break out and establish his own style. The drumming, however, is fantastic. Someone buy the drummer a beer! Mark
@ Bitch Slap, PO Box 952, Grover Beach, CA 93483

Alternative TV – “Live 1978 (remastered)” CD 13/72:11
13 tracks, all recorded live during the summer of 1978. Mark Perry’s zine Sniffin’ Glue is much more popular and well known then his band Alternative TV, who were always somewhat on the fringe of punk/post punk culture. Blending in the sounds of Zappa, Sabbath, and Can into the limited already codified language of the punk rock world, Alternative TV may not have totally succeeded at what they were trying for, but with moments of greatness at least they tried for something different. This live recording is of good quality and performance, and some of the between song banter is a wonderful snapshot of the time. Not an essential recording, but certainly worthwhile for fans. Conan
@ www.overgroundrecords.co.uk

Alternative TV - 'Strange Kicks' CD 18/57:16
In which punkzine and musical provocateur Mark Perry, at the insistence of Miles Copeland (fed up with Perry's increasingly outside direction on albums like VIBING UP THE SENILE MAN not bringing home the IRS Records bacon), reunited in 1981 with his more pop-minded ATV cohort and founder Alex Fergusson for a proper 'commercial' record. Well, as commerical as they were going to get anyway. The predominant keyboard-led arrangements do date it somewhat, but songs like "Fun City", "The Ancient Rebels" (whose Perry-penned lyrics disparage the loss of ideals among the early punk crowd, and are helpfully printed in the cd booklet) and the title cut fit in nicely alongside middlebrow pop contemporaries like Squeeze and Madness. Tacked on for this reish are cuts from one of this edition of ATV's few gigs to promote the album, including a version of their debut, 'Love Lies Limp", that delightfully tosses in some lines from Pere Ubu's "Heaven". MLH
@ www.overground.co.uk

Amalgamated Sons of Rest – s/t CD 6/35:18
I like Will Oldham – but with pretty much anything he puts out, you know what you’re getting into. This time around he’s part of an indie super group called Amalgamated Sons of Rest, a trio which also features Jason Molina (Songs:Ohia) and Alasdair Roberts (Appendix Out). This is a decent one-off CD, and while each member contributes two songs each, the overall feeling that emanates from this is pure Will Oldham. Sure, the other two guys work generally doesn’t steer too far from his work anyways, so it’s not like there’s a lot of competition here to sound all that different. Certainly worth looking into if you’re already a fan of any of the featured artists, as it’s a fine listen that will only add to their already well stocked stable. Jake
@ www.galaxia-platform.com

Amazing Transparent Man – “Print Is Dead” CD 11/39:20
Damn, print better not be dead, or this mag is in trouble. Have I officially said that I’m getting very bored with pop punk bands that sound like this? I’ve reviewed a couple of other discs from these guys, and when they first started, I had hopes. They had all the hooks, some decent material, and they were new, so there was some room for growth and a little more originality. Unfortunately, few of my hopes for them have come to pass, the songs are still merely decent, although there has been some growth in their songwriting. But it still sound like a million other bands out there; it can be nice ear candy for a bit, but there isn’t anything substantial here; I could just as easily be listening to a Blink whatever disc. Steve
@ www.doublezerorecords.com

Amazing Transparent Man – “Taking Back the Covers” CD 6/18:36
Those pop punks who prefer to wear pink, return with this release which is more of a novelty EP than a full-fledged collection. And what a hoot it is. Basically what they’ve compiled is six songs that were originally covered by female artists: Meredith Brooks’ “Bitch`” Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out for a Hero`” Fiona Apple’s “Criminal`” Shania Twain’s “Man! I feel Like a Woman`” Traci Chapman’s “Fast Car`” and Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U.” The first 4 are solid punk with a pop flair, tongue held in cheek. The last two are done closer to the originals, with some reverence. While it’s all campy fun, at the same time, it’s totally respectful to the originals, something not easy to accomplish. RBF
@ www.springmanrecords.com MP3 Download

Amber Pacific – “Fading Days” CD 5/17:56
Another band not too far out of their high school days, and another band that does the melodic faux emo-punk thing to marginal effect. Chugging songs that have a decent melody but lack any originality and ape the typical teen angst sentiments of most of this kind of material. It’s not bad, but I’m just so tired of this kind of music. It’s not like there aren’t a bunch of bands already doing this kind of thing, and although they seem to have their cues down pat, I’d much rather hear a band reach for something more original. Five or six years ago, this would have been all the rage, so maybe I’m being a little unfair, and maybe they’ll grow into something better. Steve
@ www.hopelessrecords.com MP3 Download

American Dream – “Punk Will Rise Again” CD 11/22:22
Lo-fi punk rock, with the emphasis on the rock. If Mikey Wild and the Mess had a $500 recording budget, they would’ve sounded this good. The simple, almost stiff songwriting reminds me of early Subincision tunes crossed with an early Screeching Weasel feel. The lyrics are pretty run-of-the-mill, all about how punk rock will rise again and how the kids wanna rock and roll tonight. This sounds more like a band’s first or second demo tape instead of a full-length CD; wait for the next one unless you’re a local who’s just gotta be able to say that you were there when American Dream started… Jesse
@ Mugshot, 1836 Humboldt Blvd. #2-A, Chicago, IL 60647

American Suitcase - “Summerman” CD 13/53:45
This group has some catchy enough tracks; it’s just that the vocals are so damn distracting. American Suitcase reminds me of a badly dubbed film from the 1970’s. The voice just doesn’t seem to match up well with its surroundings, namely the breezy pop music behind it. This is a compelling enough band with some good sunny material. It just needs to revamp the lineup. Matthew
@ www.americansuitcase.com MP3 Download

Amon Duul II – “The UA Years 1969-1974” 17/67:23
While Krautrock was capable of throwing up as much crap as any other genre (pick a reissue on ZYX at random and chances are good you’ll see what I mean), these folks were always one of the better outfits. While not quite up there with Can or Faust in terms of avantwerks, they manage to come up with their own ways of expanding on this thing called rock without quite falling into the pitfalls of prog (the line between the two genres not always as solid as you’d expect). Of course there are no unreleased tracks, so if you’re already a fan and have the albums (or CD reissues) this is pretty unessential, and there has been some muttering about some tracks being taken out of context. Still, this is a reasonably good sampler if you wish to be initiated into the sounds of Amon Duul II. David
@ Purple Pyramid, 13428 Maxella Ave., Marina Del Ray, CA 90292

Amps For Christ – “The People at Large” CD 23/59:57
Using some traditional music as its framework (e.g., “Old Lang Syne”, “Prince Charlie Stewart”), AFC experiments in various forms, from sitar-based psychedelia to Raga to electronica. It is an interesting concept and experiment. Sometimes it works, and occasionally it comes out muddy. Also, while there is a pro-God theme that occasionally pops up, it’s generalized, and not pushy. There are also a couple of acapella poems thrown in here and there. RBF
@ www.5RC.com MP3 Download

Anatomy Of A Ghost - "Evanesce" CD 11/50:22
A mix of hardcore scream-o vocals and guitars with more solitary, quiet moments throw this solidly into the post-punk, emo category. Hailing from Portland, OR this five piece works the occasional melodic moment into their vision of emo, and it works on occasion. The playing is all proficient, they change time and actually have some melody in a Jawbreaker style punk way from time to time. As always, the screaming stuff throws me off; I'm sure it works for some people, but it just grates on my ears. That being said, I think this is a decent effort and it beats the crap out that wussy garbage that most people pass off as emo these days, which is really nothing more than weak willed teensters and twentysomethings crying in their spilt milk. Steve
@ www.fearlessrecords.com

Anberlin - “Blueprints For A Black Market” CD 11/37:21
We have a winner. Opening with the awesome “Ready Fuels” and the panoramic vocals of Stephen Christian, this Florida crew is off and running. Yes, they can write swell songs, but wait, they’ve hit a snag. Guitar cords only stretch so far and by the third track they’ve begun to run out of slack. No matter, “Cold War Transmission”, “We Dreamt In Heist”, “Autobahn”, “Naïve Orleans”, are all exceptional and have some vocal turn or melodic spin that sizzles. And they do a beautiful cover of The Cure’s “Love Song.” They’ve been around for less than a year, so they still have plenty of time to get signed and dropped by a major, interviewed by that wanker Carson “I-jack-off-five-times” Daly, drink way too much, get fed-up with each other, married, pulled back into the real world and generally fuck up what might be an extraordinary band. But don’t let that stop ya, boys. Anthony
@ www.toothandnail.com

And Guppies Eat Their Young – “The Lost Aesthetic” CD 10/40:18
Dark, downbeat rock subscribing to an aesthetic that isn’t genuinely lost, just lurking somewhere in the shadows of indie rock. People have taken notice of the quiet, dwelling types like And Guppies Eat Their Young before with bands such as Low and Bedhead, but this band has remained largely unnoticed even with this being its 10th release since 1998. The music is bleak, almost sinister at times, giving a feeling similar to that whistling tune from Wild West gunfights. The vocals have a gloomy weakness that drives the point even further home. Xtian
@ www.andguppieseattheiryoung.com MP3 Download

Andrew – “Happy to be Here” CD 11/34:19
Andrew Sandoval’s brand of orchestral pop is so damn good it’s amazing that he isn’t some sort of huge indie star. Andrew, the engineer on a number of acclaimed Rhino reissues, is addicted to vocal harmonies and catchy choruses, and he wears his ‘60s pop influences proudly. This is a gorgeous, sun-drenched record. Kevin
@ www.andrewsandoval.com MP3 Download

Angelic Upstarts – “Still from the Heart” CD 17/56:41
A reissue of the fourth Upstarts’ studio album. This is the one that most of the band’s punk-as-fuck fans hate, since production-wise (thanks to EMI’s pressure) it sounds like an overproduced Soft Cell or Duran Duran record with its banks of synthesizers, saxes, horns, echoey sound, and weak (!!) guitars. Strangely enough, though, I kind of like it. For one thing, it makes it even clearer that, beneath their usual heavy, distorto-guitar sound and aggressive vocals, the Upstarts were capable of writing really good songs. I especially like “Never Say Die`” the reggaefied “Flames of Brixton`” “Wasted`” “Cry Wolf`” and – best of all – “I Stand Accused.” For another, Captain Oi has wisely added bonus tracks, including the punkier demo versions of three of the LP’s songs. And beneath the lush sound, the band’s lyrics are no less gritty. Jeff
@ www.captainoi.com

Angelic Upstarts – “Teenage Warning” CD 14/42:09
Reissue of the first album from this seminal street punk outfit, with their debut single tacked on for good measure. Produced by Sham 69 mainman and kindred spirit Jimmy Pursey (who, like Mensi, had no love for the growing bonehead movement), some of these tracks show the Upstarts still coming to grips with both songwriting and the studio (the twin peaks of “Woman in Disguise” and “Power & the Glory” were still a few years off) but you still get early faves as “I’m an Upstart”. All and all, a respectable debut by a future power. David
@ www.captainoi.com

Angelic Upstarts - "The Punk Singles Collection" CD 17/53:38
The Upstarts are one of my all time fave bands and have to be considered the best and most influential Oi band ever. Although their debut single, "The Murder Of Liddle Towers" came out in 1978, they were spititual leaders of the early 80s scene, the second wave of UK punk. This amazing collection of punk anthems includes the stunning "Woman In Disguise", an ode to Maggie, the powerful "Never 'ad Nothing", and "Last Night Another Soldier" from the band's third album, and career peak, "2,000,000 Voices". "I'm An Upstart", "Teenage Warning" and so many more classic tracks. Mel
@ www.captainoi.com

Angelic Upstarts – “We Gotta Get Out of this Place” CD 14/38:57
The second Upstarts’ LP, though arguably not as hard-hitting as their “Teenage Warning” debut, is nonetheless chock full of well-produced punk anthems. I mean, it’s really hard to argue with winners like “Never ‘ad Nothin’`” a re-recorded version of “Police Oppression`” “Shotgun Solution” (with its fabulous yobbo “Ding Dong’ bridge), “King Coal`” “Can’t Kill A Legend`” “Capital City`” and “Unsung Heroes II” (a bonus single track). There are a couple of relatively duff cuts, though, including their cover of “We Gotta Get Out of this Place`” which is no match for the Animals’ version. Jeff
@ www.captainoi.com

Ann Beretta – “The Other Side of the Coin” CD 13/47:51
I've always contended that punk and folk have many of the same attributes, and this CD is a perfect example of that. Ann Beretta (no women in the band, not to mention no one named AB), which is usually an electric punk band, re-releases their first record from 1999, which is performed acoustically. The songs, many of which are on their other CDs in electric versions, and a cover of “Long Distance” (by Bill Stevenson of ALL), holds up without having electric equipment, and without losing any of the punk power. Even the ballads come out strong. Fave cuts include “Haywire`” “Erica” and “Radio Sad Song.” I do have a contention with their claim of this being the “first attempt at an all acoustic punk record.” Ed Hamell’s been recording for a while now, and if you want to get technical, many of Bob Dylan’s and Phil Och’s songs could be considered punk (see “Positively 4th Street” and “Here’s to the State of Mississippi`” respectively). Still, the music here holds up, and that’s what matters. RBF
@ Thrown Brick, PO Box 4831, Louisville, KY 40204

Ann Beretta - "Three Chord Revolution" CD 12/47:24
This is most decidely Richmond, VA pop-punk. But it reminds me less of the drivel you'll likely find on MTV and more of the stuff you saw in crazy basement shows at midwest college campuses in the late 90s. I'm thinking Weston, maybe? I think you'd have to be young to love this band and to bother buying their CD. But you might have to be dead to not like them. Sharon
@ www.annberetta.com MP3 Download

Anti-Anti - "Hooray For Everything" CD 14/38:04
Pretty great pop punk from Florida, with some incredibly catchy Queers like material, like the song "I Want You Back", which is just about the perfect pop punk love song. Anytime I can imagine a '60's girl group like the Crystals singing a pop punk song, then I know the band has something good going on, and that's the case with more than a couple of tunes here. Another prime example of that is "Bubble Gum Girl", which starts off a nice doo wop flavor on the guitars; I can see some guys in suits in the background doing some "oooh wah wah" backing vocals...too bad they don't exist (either the suits or the vocals, which would have been a nice touch), but it was enough to conjure up the image. Not everything here is that pop oriented, there are plenty of speedy punk guitars and punk beats to satisfy the savage beast as well. A fun listen for pop punk fans. Steve
@ www.fastmusic.com

Anti-Flag – “The Terror State” CD 13/36:00
One of the Web boards to which I belong, www.punktemple.com, has members consistently logging this release as one of, if not the best of this year. On many levels I can understand why. With a heavy dose of D.O.A. influence on both the punk and political themes, A-F throws their leftist leanings into the ring and slams the message home with electricity. Harmonious, powerful, and righteous, they relate the war crimes of Bush, the WTO, and the present government both generally and specifically. Even the booklet is more of a manifesto than just a lyric sheet, as they explain their sources. I am also impressed and respect that they use a Pete Seeger lyric, one of the people who helped start the whole protest movement. Yet another link that shows just how much punk and folk share sensibilities. This is a gotta have. RBF
@ www.fatwreck.com MP3 Download

Antimaniax - "As Long As People Think" CD 10/24:38
Angry, loud ska punk with a hell of a lot to say; the lyrics are incredibly intelligent. "Chili Con Tofu" is a vegan anthem, offering up a recipe followed by the observation "As long as people think animals don't feel, they have to feel that people don't think". This thoughtful intensity continues into tunes about the mass media, the corporate monolith and personal freedom. A fine, pissed off record. Mark
@ Household Name, PO Box 12286, London, SW9 6FE, England

Antiseen – “Drastic/E.P. Royalty” CD 14/22:00
Reissue of some very early seven inches (originally released in ’85 & ’86 respectively) from a younger Antiseen, who were busy perfecting their brand of “Destructo Rock” even then. Some of this does admittedly end up plodding, but you do get early goodies such as “She’s Part of the Scene” and their cover of “Ruby Get Back to the Hills” available for your listening pleasure once again. David
@ www.tkorecords.com

Antiseen – “Eat More Possum” CD 18/31:08
Antiseen are ugly and so is their music. No no…that’s all wrong. I mean, yeah, the redneck boys in the band are not of the comely sort, but so what because the music matches their appearance and gait. You know, gritty, kinda greasy and chock full of possum meat to fuel the next album of hard licks and southern fried glory. I mean, they have this catchy tune called “Animals...Eat ‘Em” and that’s about all you need to know except that the lead singer gets on the washboard now and then and they can wrestle the rock with the best of them. I mean, Antiseen has been around for quite a while and seeing them live is a spectacle all unto itself. If you’re lucky, you won’t end up caked in their blood and backwash...but if you’re even luckier, you just may. Always a crowd pleaser and riot instigator, Antiseen have given us a re-release of this classic album and if you are smart you’ll steer clear of it. Unless you’re a tree huggin’ vegetarian to which you’ll have to buy this and see just who the enemy really is. Whittaker
@ www.tkorecords.com

Antiseen - “Here To Ruin Your Groove” CD 19/42:44
Antiseen are ugly, crude and have been around for a long time. The lead singer embellishes in the fact that he gets a head cut at every show and throws in pictures of him covered in blood inside almost every disc. This one is no exception. The music itself is full-adrenalized punk gone whiskey soaked southern barroom brawling cock rock. It’s fun in a sense but then all of the confederate flags they throw around kind of get to me and I’m not too sure what to think. But you have to give them chops for still putting out likeminded records and causing a ruckus at almost every venue they play. Fans of Antiseen will not be let down…at all. It’s all here kids. The others will have to heed my warning and take a few shots and beers before entering the smelly truck cabin you know will be the end of your career as a virgin. Just bring some napkins and a grain of salt. You’ll be all right in the morning… Whittaker
@ www.antiseen.com

Antiseen – “Honour Among Thieves” CD 20/38:11
Reissue of the previously-long-lost debut album from 1988 (though recorded during 1984-1986) with three bonus live tracks. Comparing this material to what was going in punk/hardcore at the time (especially when the tracks were actually recorded) the Antiseen lads certainly didn’t compromise their (firebird-blurred) version to the trends of the time (no crossover or x-gen Straight Edge for these boys), preferring to perfect their own unique brand of “Destructo Rock”. This might actually seem almost a bit tame (a relative term, mind you) in the post-Turbonegro era, but for the most part this is still some primo chainsaw-punk, and definitely superior to their more-recent works. David
@ www.tkorecords.com

Ants – “Victory Side” CD 14/42:28
After a few listens, I’m still unsure what to make of this Ants CD. Certainly not what I was expecting from Sick Room Records, a label more known for it’s math rock and punk stuff than weird & silly folk music. And not silly in the Dead Milkmen/funny lyrics type of way, but something about the singer’s voice just makes it hard to take the music seriously. And maybe it’s not supposed to be taken seriously, I dunno. A lot of the time the vocals have this singing/talking quality, which when combined with the off-kilter music, makes me think of what a folky version of the early Pavement might have sounded like. I’m still not sure if I like this, but either way it’s interesting if nothing else. Jake
@ www.sickroomrecords.com

Ape Has Killed Ape - “Acid Reflux” CD 16/52:52
Me thinks Ape Has Killed Ape is a big fan of Tom Waits. This record sounds like you took Waits, Skeleton Key, and Man…or Astroman? And baked them all together in some sort of pie. And it is a fairly tasty pie, even if it does get a little old after a while. I’m not sure if it’s just me or the record itself, but I can only handle a few songs at a time even though I like it. For all intents and purposes, AHKA is a one man band with the occasional help from friends, but it doesn’t sound that way; this release is as thick with sound as Los Angeles is thick with fake breasts. Not that I’m suggesting anyone in this band has fake breasts, but still…a decent listen, especially for those of you out there who like ‘junk rock’. Jake
@ www.apehaskilledape.com

Apers – “Singles and Outtakes 1997-2002” CD 25/68:34
Straight outta the Screeching Weasel/Queers sides of the punk pop family tree, the Apers have been putting out some decent snot-nosed tunes for awhile and these songs demonstrate some of their development. Although their recent recording history has put them on the Stardumb label and given them some U.S. distribution, they got a number of singles in Europe that never saw stateside release. They’ve definitely gone from a raw punk sound to a more polished sound as they’ve gotten older, adding both more melody to the songs and more harmonies to the vocals. If you are one of the few out there who still dig the melodic pop punk sounds of the Queers with a touch of snot to the vocals, then this band is for you. Dig into this one, because there are some solid gems here from one of the few bands today that’s stuck true to the classic pop punk sound. Steve
@ www.stardumbrecords.com MP3 Download

Apers - "The Buzz Electric" CD 12/31:31
More of that snotty Queers influenced pop punk on their third full length, the lead singer of the band sounds somewhat Reggie from the Beatnik Termites and the songs are all fast paced melodic tunes. Lyrically the songs are mostly tunes about girls, naturally. There isn't anything new here, they do a good job of writing songs that catch your ear and there aren't that many bands that do a good job on this style these days. The Apers do just that; two to three minute songs with harmonies, plenty of melody and more than enough fun and snot to keep your toes tapping. Steve
@ www.stardumbrecords.com MP3 Download

Apocalypse Pow! - "Smash The Superstition!" CD 5/13:41
These guys out of Richmond, Virginia remind me of Refused, but slightly heavier on the synthesizers. Their songs bring together the perfect balance of punk and danceability as well as a healthy dose of political undertones. It's the kinda music that makes you want to drive fast and throw your fists in the air...or something. Mona
@ www.popfaction.com

Appalachian Death Ride – “Hobo’s Codebook” CD 12/37:45
It seems like everybody and their father plays in a band with “country roots`” but ADR is the real thing. Blending fiddle, accordion and banjo with electric and acoustic guitars, bass and drums, this Ohio-based outfit makes fierce country rock. “Rail Road Penny” is a searing punk-tinged stomp and “Johnny Come Lately” would be a great last-call-at-the-bar sing-along. Kevin
@ www.anyway-records.com

Appleseed Cast – “Lost Songs” CD 9/40:00
According the liner notes, these are old unreleased tracks from 1999 with some 2002 (yep, post-Low Level Owl) flourishes, remixing, and rerecorded vocals thrown into the mix. Despite some evident post-emo touches, this almost comes across more as a demo than anything else; a demo of superior pre-Jimmy Eat World emo, but a demo nevertheless. Fans who’ve been along for the ride all along will enjoy, but it’s not something for those expecting Low Level Owl Pt. 3 or even a bridge between “then” and “now”. David
@ www.deepelm.com

Appleseed Cast – “Two Conversations” CD 10/41:37
I’ve enjoyed the Appleseed Cast’s output for some time now, specifically their Low Level Owl series. But I was in no way prepared for how much their newest release, ‘Two Conversations’, would sweep me off my feet. Known for changing their sound somewhat with every release, this album finds the Cast taking a much more straight forward approach to their songs, with the experimental noisescapes present in the Owl series at a minimum or incorporated fully into the songs. Some might still consider these guys ‘emo’ because of their lyrics about relationships and tendencies towards wearing their hearts on their sleeves, but their music is so far beyond and above the emo norm that you would be hard pressed to classify them as such anyways. The Cast come across like a three way brawl between Cursive, Radiohead, and Mogwai, and come out sounding like none of them. With the music they have putting out for the last few albums, you can mark my words that the Appleseed Cast will be a touchstone for a whole new generation of musicians in the years to come, and for good reason: they are simply playing some of the best new music out there, anywhere. Jake
@ Tiger Style, 401 Broadway, 26th Floor, NYC, NY 10013

Aqueduct – “Power Ballads” CD 10/49:37
Tulsa’s Aqueduct is a one-man band consisting of pop-songster Dave Terry. It has a real cutesy-cutesy vibe to it, as the percussion is mainly supplied drum machines that have an 80’s-era Casio clickety-blipety sound to them and most of the songs are led by clever lyrics, keyboard and pop guitar. Though not the focus, there are some fuzzy noises in there as well. It’s certainly an original sound, intriguing and odd to say the least, but really - history and the future will prove that Casio keyboards aren’t as cool as people seem to think they are at this minute in time. Xtian
@ www.aqueductisgoodmusic.com MP3 Download

Arab on Radar – “The Stolen Singles” CD 12/36:04
Taken from various now-rare tape, single, and compilation releases (all of which you’d probably have to scour eBay to find nowadays) this release provides a nice view of the band’s evolution (devolution? just-plain-warpage?) from the early tracks (which show a big Public Image Limited circa “First Edition” influence) and finding their way into their own distorto sound (if never quite losing the PiL undertones). A fine platter indeed, as well as being (sadly) a fitting epitaph for this now-defunct outfit. David
@ www.threeoneg.com

Arab Strap – “Monday at the Hug & Pint” CD 10/30:00
After being so impressed by the Delgado’s “Hate” this year, and seeing them at Bimbo’s in April, I was determined to like everything on Chemikal Underground, even though I was not previously impressed with Arab Strap. The previous release was dark and moody, ambient and quiet, but ultimately it was all similar quiet, speak-sing vocals, no actual songs, nothing to hum. “Monday at the Hug & Pint” comes closer to being hum-able with the help of Bright Eyes and Mogwai. The result is a combination of looping and wandering piano, guitar, horns, bagpipes and even a couple of songs (“Act of War”). It’s something I’ve come to like, sad and lovely. Pam
@ www.matadorrecords.com

Architecture In Helsinki - "Crossed Fingers" CD 14/37:26
Not unenjoyable, tuneful baroque pop experiments from this multimembered Australian combo. Kind of the Antipodean equivalent of Olivia Tremor Control or similar. Twinkles and bubbles most pleasingly, the femme vocalists are most appealing, like the occasional tasteful drapings of horns. Or maybe they're the Aussie Stereolab? Fun all the same. MLH
@ www.bar-none.com

Armitage Shanks - "20 Golden Showers" CD 20/61:35
Always good to know that out there are bands beyond the stifling reach of fashion and trendiness, unafraid to pick ‘em up and bash ‘em out. Bands like this London lot, pals with better known punk-rock refuseniks like Billy Childish, who know their way round cheap guitars, tube amps and real ale with extreme prejudice. Close your eyes - hear the yowled Cockney vocals, the occasional ham-fisted punch of Farfisa keyboards and beery harmonica blasts, guitars on full treble and drumming that makes one remember why they were once called pagan skins. Is it Marquee Club ’64? Nope, open your eyes, it’s London in the here and now. Ain’t the modern world great? MLH
@ www.damagedgoods.co.uk

Armitage Shanks – “Urinal Heap” CD 16/39:48
Nothing like starting a disc with “I’m drowning but you think I’m waving/so you just wave back at me” to set the mood. Armitage Shanks have been around for about 10 years; released a bunch of singles and about 4 proper full lengths, and this fits right in with the rest of their catalog. Snotty Brit garage punk, produced by Liam Watson of White Stripes production fame, who was at one point their bass player. They’ve got Billy Childish connections, and they do a blazingly great job of creating garage punk sounds with gruff hooligan-like vocals. There are some nice cover choices, with the Who’s “Circles” being the best, and there’s also a rough edged cover of “Knock On Wood” that maybe could have used a tad more structure. But there’s plenty of punk rock action on their original material that works fine, and the snarling lyrics fit right in with the music. Good working class garage punk as only the Brits can pull off successfully. Steve
@ www.damagedgood.co.uk

Armor for Sleep - “Dream to Make Believe” CD 11/39:12
If you ignore the fact that this release is supposed to be a concept album from a concept band (which I’m typically against, particularly for emo indie bands), it’s really quite beautiful. Yeah, the lyrics and songwriting focus on the “world of dreams as a world of escape`” but please put that out of your mind and just listen. This CD may be the very definition of modern emo (not in the emopop Jimmy Eat World sense, but in a natural progression from Sunny Day Real Estate and other similar bands) and this could be a turn-off for some. But for me it’s pure musical happiness (ok, sadness...we are talking emo after all). Sure, it follows the formula and you know what the next note will be before they play it, but it’s still good content for mix tapes everywhere. Sharon
@ www.equalvision.com

Arrogant Sons of Bitches – “All The Little Ones Are Rotting” CD 6/15:48
Unpretentious young-and-snotty ska-punk, with fortunately no apparent inclinations to follow in the Bosstones’ footsteps musically or commercially. Not earth-shattering, but something one can get into from time to time. Includes some live tracks playable on your PC so you can discover how goofy these guys can get in front of a paying (?) audience. David
@ www.asobrock.com

Arrogants – “Nobody’s Cool” CD 7/25:52
The normally reliable Shelflife Records plays host to a rather limp EP by fresh-faced pop quartet The Arrogants. It’s not so much that the songs are weak – “The Distance Between Us” has a winning chorus and loopy synth line and “Feels Like Falling in Love” rides a New Order bassline bareback through three minutes of bliss. The problem is the tepid production. The songs sound airless and pale, having only half the shimmer and spark the group’s new wave compositions demand. The wobbly synth leads and sturdy melodies set the Arrogants apart from everyone else in the tweehouse, but Jana Heller’s voice is bled of all feeling, and Jayd McFersons guitars sound as if they were recorded 350 feet from a microphone. The songs deserve better. Unfortunately, better never comes. J Edward
@ www.shelflife.com

Art Attacks - “Outrage & Horror” CD 20/69:18
I seem to be the only one on the staff who didn’t already have a copy of this release which has actually been out for a while. Back in ‘77 I wrote these guys off as a lesser UK punk band, and listening to them now I appreciate their arty brand of punk much more. The Attacks were fronted by punk cartoonist Edwin Pouncey, AKA Savage Pencil. “Neutron Bomb” from their first single is a minor classic of the period. All seven of the band’s studio tracks are here along side live takes of some of the songs from a ‘78 performance at the Vortex, and all three tracks from the single they did in a later incarnation as the Tagmemics, including “Take Your Brain Out For a Walk”, which Devo used to cover. Mel
@ www.overgroundrecords.co.uk

Arthur Kill - “Addiction” CD 10/34:04
Dear god I think this is the worst thing I’ve ever been given to review. I wasn’t exactly expecting anything spectacular after looking at the CD case and the picture of the band on the back (yeah, everyone does it get off my back about it already), but I was going to give it a chance. I couldn’t even finish listening to the entire album. I try to listen to everything at least a couple of times, but enough was enough. This music is some sort of shiny nu-metal/grunge/industrial hybrid that I’m sure will probably be really popular, but not to my ears. Jake
@ www.arthurkill.net

Arthur Lee and Love - "Five String Serenade" LP
Released originally in 1992 on New Rose, and it's a far cry from Lee's best work from early in his career with Love. Known as the first rock act signed by folk label Elecktra, they released three LPs on the label in the mid 60's, including the masterpiece "Forever Changes". Mixing folk, psychedelic rock and all kinds of baroque elements, the prime of Lee's work with Love ended after three records when Lee disbanded the original group. This is actually a pretty interesting listen; with "Five String Serenade" being a baroque pop song much along the lines of the early Love tune "She Comes in Colors" (maybe too much in fact...but it's OK for a songwriter to rip off themselves, right?), and there are several other songs ("You're The Prettiest Song", )on here that work well, with some layered arrangements and soulful rocking. It's a little disjointed at times, with maybe too wide a variety of song styles (sounds like he's delving into hip hop via James Brown mimicked vocals on one track, for instance...ugh) to make for a cohesive album, but it gives a strong glimpse at Lee well after his heyday, and shows an artist that retained a vision...hell, many visions...and some that were definitely 20/20. Steve
@ www.munster-records.com

Articles of Faith – “Complete Vol. 1 1981-1983” 20/54:06
The first volume of the complete Articles of Faith retrospective brings you the “What We Want is Free” seven inch and the “Give Thanks” debut album in their entirety, as well as compilation and unreleased tracks and a 2002 Guthrie-style acoustic reworking of “In This Life”. It’s been said before and it’ll probably be said again, but AOF were among the top of their class; even today the intensity and fervor of the era’s better hardcore are still evident within these digital grooves. Still holds up after all these years, which is more than you can say about certain other period pieces. David
@ www.alternativetentacles.com

Articles of Faith – “Complete Vol. 2 1983-1985” 18:49/08
Part two of the complete works of Vic and company, focusing on the later half of their career and featuring the “Wait” 7 inch and “In This Life” album as well as various compilation and live tracks. At this point (especially on the album) they were beginning to move away from the more primal roar of hardcor,e though fortunately they didn’t move into rock (at least not more than a little bit) or the dreaded metal/crossover that claimed many a formerly-worthy band. Not as fast and frenzied as “Five O’Clock” but there’s still some powerful and impassioned tuneage here for your perusal. David
@ www.alternativetenacles.com

Artisokka – “A Hiding Place in the Arbor” CD 9/34:29
Fey, unobtrusive pop from a group of young Finns, “A Hiding Place…” could be the soundtrack to a road movie about a group of earnest, pimply teens. By that I mean, this record doesn’t seem like much at first, but its simple, heady beauty demands attention. I like this band, if only because five of its six members have first names that end in “i” – that’s Jari, Topi, Jani and two Sami’s. When they sing, they all sound sort of androgynous, and they’re fond of strings and super-quiet percussion. A likeable, if not unforgettable disc. Kevin
@ www.shelflife.com

Ashley Park - "The Secretariat Motor Hotel" CD 12/37:46
Who would have ever thought a band this twangy would have ever been on Kindercore? Much like fellow countrymen The Band, this trio of Canucks has crafted a truly terrific slice of Americana music. They will make most anyone think of Beachwood Sparks instantly, but this album could prove to be the one to bring them out from under that shadow. Besides, even though both bands have obviously listened to The Byrd’s ‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo’ a few too many times, this record sounds like a band who has moved past that and into a territory all their own. It should also be noted that while this record is a concept album of sorts (all of the songs are based on fictional stories of the fictional residents that stay at the fictional Secretariat Motor Hotel), but you wouldn’t really be able to tell that unless you’re really paying attention. Easily one of the best records I’ve heard all year in the ‘alt-country’ department, and a welcome addition to my music collection. I expect to be singing along to this for some time to come. Jake
@ www.ashleypark.net

Askeleton – “Angry Album or Psychic Songs” CD 13/55:47
Askeleton is comprised of one Knol Tate, who started laying down tracks for some pretty simple electronic beats and keys around the time his former band was breaking up back in 2000. At this point the only live instrumentation was guitar parts. In the fall of 2002, he began to record the tracks for this disc and enlisted the help of a live drummer. Other live instrumentation began creeping back into the picture, and what resulted is a well-rounded disc of interestingly done electro pop tracks that find ways to rock. Unlike many of his contemporaries who sound like Ritalin is being pumped directly into their veins, this has an adult feel. In this instance, it seems just right. Xtian
@ www.goodnightrecords.com

Asobi Seksu – s/t CD 11/39:51
Debut CD of swirl-rock from this young outfit, with female vox singing in both Japanese and English. They’ve definitely been listening to their My Bloody Valentine records, but they’re more structured than MBV, focusing more on the song itself than the waves of sound their idols went for and with more of a pop sensibility to their works. Surprisingly good; while they’re obviously still finding their own way, this is still worth checking out. David
@ www.asobiseksu.com

Aspera - "Oh Fantastica" CD 11/46:35
Serviceably spacey, vaguely psych-via-early Bunnymen, dusted with electronica and attired in one of Bowie's post-Berlin castoffs, this is listenable enough but ultimately nothing that hasn't been done before more creatively or originally. Where's Steve Strange when you really need him? MLH
@ www.jagjaguwar.com

Astrid Oto - s/t CD 18/25:43
Another long running musical side project for Aaron Cometbus, full of snotty punk with vocal help from Cindy of Doris 'zine. Fast, furious, and full of plenty of spunk, this won't remind anyone of Aaron's work with Pinhead Gunpowder by any stretch of the imagination. Although there is plenty of melody here, the emphasis is on sloppy, loud punk, with no song clocking in at more than 1:58, and it's plenty fun. The booklet has a lot of typically Aaron touches, with his artwork and handwritten Cometbus style lyrics. Steve
@ No Idea, PO Box 14636, Gainesville, FL 32604

Atomic 7 – “…Gowns by Edith Head” CD 19/40:04
This is the new band formed by guitarist Brian Connelly (still trading in dem instros) in his post-Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet life. While there’s still that Shadowy feel (never a bad thing) they incorporate a wider range of styles into their arsenal from post-Mancini to spy to even some country twinges. If you’re still mourning the loss of SMoaSP then hopefully this should ease your pain. High-quality twangin’ stuff indeed. David
@ www.mintrecs.com

Aurore Rien - “Telesthesia” CD 4/34:05
Beautiful, measured post-rock soundscapes that breeze by in melancholic splendor. That is, until the self-indulgent vocals and obligatory audio samples crash the party. This talented trio would be well-advised to a) cut the singing altogether, or b) recruit a guest singer to handle the prickly task of adding a grounded element to this necessarily dreamy music. Alternately shoe-gazer, noise-rock, and effects pedal-obsessed drone, Aurore Rien are the perfect soundtrack for your hungover bus ride to work. John
@ www.sunseasky.com

Autumn Rhythm – “Secret Songs” CD 10/28:24
The Autumn Rhythm might come from Boston, but this ain’t no Pixies. Instead, these lads and lady base their sound more around the likes of Ida, Low, Cat Power, and as a stretch on my part, the Cranberries. The music is decent enough and Valerie Allen’s vocals are enjoyable, but as a whole the album doesn’t really hold my attention to any degree. It’s lovely music really…just kinda boring. I’m quite certain there is a crowd out there who would love this album, and hopefully they’ll become a little more engaging for me next time around because all of the basic elements are there for a terrific group. Jake
@ www.midriffrecords.com

Avail - "Front Porch Stories" CD 12/32:04
More blazing punk on this, their sixth full length and second for Fat. With roots in the hardcore D.C. scene, the band has been getting a tad more tuneful with each release; adding melody, a few thought out harmonies and occasional nuances to the songs, like a slide guitar, that add depth. The CD's title give an indication of the subject matter and style of the lyrics; they're more conversational than confrontational, with people often resigned to their fates and none too happy about it, but there isn't a helluva a lot they can do. Produced by Brian Paulson, who has worked with bands like Wilco and Beck, the band has a more full sound, and thankfully doesn't fall into the "Fat" sound trap that others who hit the label often find themselves in. It works for some bands, but it would be a disaster for Avail, since the power of their songs would be buried under the wall of guitars. Instead you have a guitar sound defined by simple clean chunks and hooks that accentuate the power behind the stories being told. I think it's their best release yet, accessible but full of powerful statements that stick to their roots. Steve
@ www.fatwreck.com

Avengers – “The American in Me” CD 12/39:26
Latest posthumous release by this seminal (and frigging kick-ass) SF punk outfit, composed of some outtakes/alternative versions, along with their third to last show at the Old Waldorf on 6/13/79. (early birds might have already grabbed the latter as the import “Zero Hour” album, released by Get Back). Most of the outtakes are okay, if not surpassing the “official” versions. The live show is where the meat is, showing the band still as passionate as ever at this late date (this does not sound like a band on its last legs), climaxing in a blazing rendition of “The American in Me”. The booklet features pix and liners from Greil Marcus and Ms. Houston as well. David
@ DBK Works, PO Box 2947, San Francisco, CA 94126

Azure Ray - "Hold On Love" CD 12/42:11
Two Georgia-born sisters stranded in the Midwest make the most earnest kind of femme not so fatale, Goth on a witches’ bootstring, adolescent darkling, fringed-shawl-draped splash on this disc. Sarah McLaughlan and Tori Amos have a lot to answer for. One thankful surprise hidden amidst the drear: the ambling, solo-Lennonesque charm of “If You Fall”. MLH
@ www.saddle-creek.com

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