SPlo.gif (9k)


33Hz – s/t CD 13/55:33
Every once in a while, when this album is at its very best, it reminds me of classic Prince. Unfortunately, those moments don’t come often enough and there are more than a handful of times where this music resembles Jamiroquai, and that can be a real boner killer. For some reason I feel like this would go over well in Europe. Jake
@ www.33hz.com

A Is Jump – “My Ice Fingered Ghost” CD 11/38:44
Sometimes you get a stack of promos by bands you’ve never heard and if you’re not in the right frame of mind, after a couple of duds you’ll just expect them all to be bad. And then it is about that time that you run across something like A Is Jump and you get happy because all is not lost, there is good music out there after all. I’m hard-pressed as to lay down exactly what these cats might sound like – mellow, intelligent pop for the most part. A lot of the framing of their songs reminds me of Death Cab for Cutie without particularly sounding like them, and there are a number of moments where a feeling of classic psychedelic pop comes over you ala the first Shins record. Outside of the name of the band, I can’t think of a single bad thing to say about these guys. Well played. Jake
@ www.futureappletree.com

adversarywork (8k)
Adversary Workers – “The Inner Workings Of Change” CD 12/29:03
In the mood for a taste of skronk? Plug into the Adversary Workers and get your freak on with these spearminty noise rockers, but don’t expect total satisfaction. Uneasy guitars dart in and out of the amelodic vox on “Blame” and “International Warner Bros. Conspiracy,” and it’s more than just squealing licks, but that’s all it is. “Ralph” and “Full Stop” get gritty and drown the slight punk chords in the mud. Things take a turn left on the gnarly “Wise Up” but the songs lack a fluidity or tunefulness that might make them more approachable. The songwriting just isn’t there. It’s grade B fare. Consume at your own risk. Anthony
@ www.collectiverecords.com

AKA “The Hots” – “Touchy” CD 7/23:25
Toronto. A city in need of power pop. And now they have it, with this trio (if they still exist, since their Website has not been updated in 2005). They have everything that made the Cars and Cheap Trick popular in their own way. The songs are catchy and laden with melodic bounce. And singer Shane Quinn has a nuance to his voice that is compelling and makes it identifiable, something lacking in so much of music these days. RBF
@ www.akathehots.com

Alto 45 – “101101” CD 11/44:59
I hear tell they were favorites of the late John Peel. Boy howdy, that’s good enough for me. How their publicists, Slutty Pup, got it in their heads to promote them as “synth-pop” is a total mystery, but I’m past the first track and I’m not yet queasy. Song number two, “The Plan,” gets adventurous and balances mildly de-tuned Be Bop Deluxe vocals over a lo-fi bed of Sebadoh-ness. “Fell Down Stairs” shows off another attribute of singer James Boyce, namely his lighter touch. I sit here trying to think of a direct comparison for the freshly squeezed “Look Who You Know.” But I can’t. Oh wait, the last ten seconds sounds like Brian Jonestown Massacre. No, that’s not it. “Moses Gunn” and “Sleep & TV” fly around, with banjo in hand looking for Pinetop 7. How dare they go and get all creative and shit. How do they expect anyone to keep up the way they jump around? Ya gotta give ‘em props for doing something with synth-pop that is directed by neither of those two descriptors. Anthony
@ info@happycapitalist.co.uk

antiseenbad (11k)
Antiseen – “Badwill Ambassadors” CD 17/36:32
Growing up in North Carolina, I’ve known of the legend of Antiseen for years, and even caught a show or two by them during my high school years. And while I can’t say that I listen to them very often these days, hearing their new disc “Badwill Ambassadors” only proves to me that they haven’t lost a step. Their Motorhead-like aural assault mixed with all things redneck/white trash is certainly an entertaining combo, and I can just imagine ne’er-do-wells I grew up with getting a kick out of every note. Jake
@ www.antiseen.com

Apocalypse – “Going Up in the World – Apocalypse 1982-83” CD 14/61:21
This CD chronicles the ’82-‘83 works of this particular mod band (featuring Tony Fletcher among its ranks) that toured with the Jam (a band that, not unlike so many other mod bands of the time, they took their cues from) and whom Weller took a shine to, recording them for his Jamming label. Unfortunately the tracks on display here have more in common with the Jam’s ill-fated swansong/misfire “The Gift” than the heights of, say, “Sound Affects”; long story short the best use for this CD is as a prime example of how misjudgment and overproduction (bright & shiny horns and arrangements, etc.) can turn a batch of potentially good songs into a badly-dated period piece. The tracks featuring the Mad Professor’s involvement aren’t too bad though. David
@ www.cherryred.co.uk

Awkward Romance – “Covington” CD12/48:49
These kids today... who the fuck do they think they are? The idiotic swapping of names and album titles has completely fouled up my weltanschung. I didn't know which of the two was the name of this band, and what difference would it make either way? How many of these fourth wave bands on the Warped Tour will be remembered? T.A.R., as I’ve taken to calling them, acquitted themselves on “Little Cloud Dog” by actually writing a decent emotive song and not over-dubbing/over-producing it to death. Similar to other whiny emo-brats but their sense of structure is sufficient to be able to fold the guitars in clever ways. The songwriting is above average, but I wasn’t moved by the Afghan Whigs turn on the slow songs. I do have to admit that “Hearts and Sleeves” has a freakin’ sweet chorus. Anthony
@ Day Job Records, Atlanta, GA

bccamplight (9k)
B.C. Camplight – “Hide, Run Away” CD 11/41:23
This is what modern day soft rock should sound like…a little bit acoustic pop, a little soul, and all kids of mellow. Although they don’t particularly sound alike, I think of Josh Rouse’s most recent album when I listen to this, and I love that album. Both artists have an obvious love for 70’s AM rock, but where Rouse often veers into more Americana territory, B.C. goes a different direction towards twee/pop-type hooks. This is a very enjoyable record from the first listen. Jake
@ www.onelittleindian-us.com

Bang! Bang! – “Electric Sex” CD 5/16:00
There’s something very Toni Basil going on here…in fact, the first track on this Bang! Bang! CD made me think of “Mickey” and now that damn song is stuck in my head. And really, it’s only that first song that causes the comparison in my head, but you know what they say about first impressions…anyways, what you have here is an CD of dancey-rock with alternating male and female vocals. Given how much crap is out there populating this particular field of music, I would have to admit that Bang! Bang! aren’t that bad. I probably wouldn’t grab them out of the CD pile too often to listen to, but if I was making a party mix I would certainly be tempted to throw the title track from this on there, it would probably do a good job of making some bootie’s shake. Jake
@ www.bangbangband.com

belleand (7k)
Belle and Sebastian - “Push Barman To Open Old Wounds” CD 2XCD or 3LP
For those of you who have been living in a cave the past 8 years, B&S are the Scottish folk-pop group who have been the preeminent UK indie band for almost a decade. Although I’m totally a fan, I’ll admit that the best of B&S doesn’t reach the heights reached by the best UK bands of the 80s. These discs compile 25 tracks from 7 singles released from 1997-01. A booklet is included with complete lyrics as well as the covers the singles. Plenty of highlights here including “Dog On Wheels” and “Legal Man”, but I’d still have to go with “Fold Your Hands Child...” If I were only going to own one B&S album. Mel
@ www.matadorrecords.com

Big Bear - s/t CD 12/42:36
At first glance I thought this said Bugbear, like those mystical creatures in both scary tales from lore of the past and in the Monster Manual. I was like, "all right! A band named after some D&D monster. Cool." But no. They’re called Big Bear. I guess that’s cool too. Because big bears are kinda scary and when a lead singer shakes a tambourine at the same time he screams bloody murder into the microphone, that can be sort of traumatic and may make folks recoil in terror and wish they had a short pointed stick to annoy the guy with by poking him in the ribs as he performs. The soundtrack to this action is full blown noisy rock with plenty of "we’ll smash this old geetar on your head son if you don’t back up and buy us a PBR" attitude on top of the fuck it sounds they provide. This is the kind of music that makes that one dude in art school whom everyone is always worried about but good friends with go nuts at the show. Like the kind of going nuts where security comes out and says "keep it down boy" but then next day in class he’s like the curious hero or something. This isn’t angry music but more fueled by mass angst and creativity marred with paint huffing at an early age and being skinny and donning matted black hair. Big Bear in a sense are kind of like Bugbears where they skulk you out and then attack and really don’t give a flying rats behind what you think of them. This could be their one and only record just so they can look back one day and say "oh man...remember that?" You’ll do the same too flailing art boy! Mark
@ www.monitorrecords.com

blackjetts (9k)
Black Jetts - “Right on Sound” CD 10/34:12
This starts out with a scream, I like that! Outta Las Vegas, Nevada they follow in the footsteps of The Stooges and the MC5 with raw power. I appreciate a good screamer, and front man Gabe Stiff gives a great scream. Scorching guitars. Sloppy, trashy, raunch and roll, just the way I like it. Yeah baby. “Get Ready” is a cover of the Smokey Robinson tune. Laura
@ www.deadbeatrecords.com

Bloody Tears - “Downhanded” CD 12/40:51
Oh yeah, this is Austin, Texas fueled. Blues and r’n’b inspired party music, I can just feel the sweat. Crazy harmonica, Hammond organ, and hip shaking beats. If you don’t move your body while listening to this, then you’re dead. Reminds me of The Woggles (one of the hardest working bands in the business). Good rockin’ soul. Standout tracks include “Talkin’ With Your Baby”, “Glad You’re Gone” “Snooks Thing” and “I Got a Good Thing Going”. “C’mon Up” is a Rascals cover. “Treat her Like a Lady” is a rocking Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose cover. Laura
@ www.licoricetree.com

bloomos (5k)
Bloom – “Osinner” CD 12/48:54
This Orlando based band is commonly compared to Bowie and T-Rex. Perhaps in the production, but when it comes to the sound and especially Devin Moore’s vocals, it’s pure Milk & Cookies and The Quick. Never heard of them? Both are power-pop bands from the late 70s, the former on the east coast, and the latter on the west. What did they sound like? Well, like Bloom. And I’m this is very complementary, as both those bands were a ton of fun, as is Bloom. They use the pop form and put some real power behind them, with songs that work the sound to its max. RBF
@ www.fightingrecords.com

blueorchids (4554bytes)
Blue Orchids - "A Darker Bloom" CD 19/72:12
Blue Orchids were guitarist Martin Bramah, from The Fall, and Una Baines on Yamaha organ, fronting various lineups from 1980-85, with Bramah releasing a couple Blue Orchids titles on his own in the early 90s. Blue Orchids sound like The Fall with less strident vocals, and organ up front. It makes perfect sense that Nico used Blue Orchids as her backing band touring Europe, and also toured with them as her opener. This compilation of career high points includes all but one tune from the band's early Rough Trade singles, and the collection's final pair of tunes are from their 90s incarnation. This Manchester outfit were quite under-appreciated, and are a must-hear for fans of The Fall. Mel
@ www.cherryred.co.uk

Bob Mould – “Body of Song” CD 12/50:49
Now that Bob’s gotten the electronica bug out of his system he’s returned to what he’s best at: powerful guitar-driven tuneage. After the worrisome results of “Modulate” it’s good to know he still has both the fire and the songwriting genius in him. While some lesser moments also prove that he works best in an at-least-somewhat-democratic group environment rather than on his own (something he’d probably be none-too-keen to hear), this disc ends up being rewarding more often than not. David
@ www.yeproc.com

Boils – “World Poison” CD 16/29:53
Good name for a crustcore band. This is pre-Ritalin HC with rollicking 1-2 breaks and group vocals. A re-issue of a ’99 release, they might be straightedge goth-core, or beer-swilling hooligan rock. “Swift Annihilation” sure could be D.C circa ‘91. This kind of punk died a decade ago and was instantly reborn as things splintered into the various post-HC camps. There are more than a few different subsets that practice a very narrow brand that usually stays in it’s own yard. This is the snot-nosed, dog collared punk that may not be pure pop, but is still quite familiar to suburban mothers everywhere. Anthony
@ www.thorprecords.com

Brian Wilson – “Smile” CD 17/46:59
The collective may be gone, but the spirit (or at least the influence) of the Elephant 6 folks lives on, and has finally reached above ground (i.e. major-label attention). All their trademark elements are here, post-psych ditties (though the harmonies seem to be more AM-radio than acid-soaked), avant-kitchen-sink production (though they know enough not to overwhelm you), use of the production “studio” (or what passes for same) as an instrument in of itself, even a theremin thrown in for good measure. Despite a couple of cheesy parts, this guy manages to carry on the legacy of such folks as Olivia Tremor Control and Apples in Stereo quite well. David
@ www.nonesuch.com

Bright and Hollow Sky – “Gem State” CD 16/49:32
This is a pretty straight forward CD of indie rock straight out of the musical hotbed of Austin. Featuring former members of Silver Scooter, if you ever heard that band it’s a close enough start to the sound of The Bright and Hollow Sky. I also hear a bit of the more recent Death Cab for Cutie in there, mostly as their approach to melancholy pop songs are somewhat similar. By no means an amazing record, and I did space out from time to time when listening, but not bad either; will no doubt find an audience if the right ears hear it. Jake
@ www.popfaction.com

Cadiz – “Breakers” CD 13/43:50
Cadiz is the work of one man, Robert C. Lee, writing some pretty, country-tinged rock songs with a little help from his friends (Anders Parker of Varnaline and Joe McGinty who has played with Ryan Adams, just to name a couple). Nothing about this is particularly amazing, but it is good, and it makes me think of how I was sitting on my porch right now, drinking a tasty beverage, my cat on my lap, and a cool breeze blowing in the wind. One particularly good song is “Girl at the Zoo”, which sounds like it could have been taken right off of a Sparklehorse album. As a side note, I really like the packaging on this disc – great design, use of colors, all that jazz. Jake
@ www.cadizmusic.net/

Camille Davila – “World of Gliding Monsters” CD 12/49:57
Camille Davila is the sort of music I would normally write off as “latte music”, that mellow-electronic with a hint of world music sound that you always hear in coffee shops and probably a lot of Volkswagen Jettas. But somehow, despite my normal predilections on this sort of music, I don’t mind this at all. It sounds like the sort of thing you’d find on the Darla label, and although they don’t really sound alike, fans of Stereolab and Stereo Total and maybe even some other “Stereo” bands would probably really dig this. For me, the best part is her interesting take on the Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale” – one of my favorite songs turned into electro-pop would probably drive me up the wall 99% of the time, but it really works here. Great production and a strong voice help matters a lot, and this album has plenty of that. Jake
@ www.camilledavila.com

Catch 22 – “Live” CD 21/55:35
Now, I’m not saying that Catch 22 are not a tight machine that can shoot out little ska cheese-whiz butt rockets at a hundred mph, some of them even loaded with pop hooks, but someone needs to tell ‘em why less is more. First of all, on this live recording from the Downtown Club in Farmingdale, NY., they try to do way too much, jamming all the excess they can into a two-minute song. When they launch into fast-forward mode they go over the top with disastrous results (“On and On and On”, “Sounds Good, But I Don’t Know”). Trumpeter Kevin Gunther can play, but the horn parts are too boisterous and monotonous and the stupid snare drum is the loudest instrument in the mix. What monkey mastered this recording? There is a bonus DVD with photos, tour bullshit and three videos. If you have to have this let that be the reason. Anthony
@ www.victoryrecords.com

Channel – “Personalized” CD 10/30:53
You don’t get much more bubblegum/sunshine pop than this folks. I can see if I listened to this at the wrong time, its saccharine sounds might make me want to murder a hobo, but in the right context these catchy pop ditties are quite good. It’s as if they boiled down the whole “Beach Boys/Of Montreal/whatever other Elephant 6 band you want to include” comparison down into a very strong broth and then ate it with crackers. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but you may have to go to the dentist after listening to this album it is so sweet. Jake
@ www.thechannelsounds.com

Chi-Pig – “Miami” CD 12/46:33
Before British punk drove 70s underground music into a narrow vision, there was an American indie sound (sometimes called New Wave), which was more flexible and amenable as far as different styles are concerned. How else can Jonathan Richman be considered in the same category as the Cramps and Ramones? Well, out of the very hot (but underrated) Akron, Ohio, scene of the late 70s, there was Chi-Pig, a two-women led/male drummer trio that was, well, quirky. But a lot of the sounds coming out of the area, like Devo and Pere Ubu, were peculiar to their own microcosm. The CP came and went so fast, most people outside the area didn’t have a clue they were even there, but this collection of their material (recorded in Florida for some reason) shows that they were forerunners of so many bands, like the Waitresses, Salem 66, and even The Cucumbers. Songs bordered on the cha-cha, with titles like “B-O-Y, Boy!”, “Men”, “Stinking Skin Sac (Involuntary Body Functions)”, and one of my favorites, a dynamic cover of “Going to a Go-Go.” A definite gem of the period for those looking outside the “1-2-3-4” realm. RBF
@ chipigmiami@yahoo.com

Cinecyde – “Like a U.F.O.” CD 14/45:56
This record is proof positive that you cannot judge a book by its cover – the design is pretty bad, and the band looks like they would all be working with me in some boring office drone job (shit, maybe they do). But it only took the first track for me to realize I was foolish in trying to judge, and equally foolish in not knowing the history of this band – this Detroit band that has been around in one form or another since 1977. Knowing that now, the sound of the music they perform makes more sense to my easily confused brain - classic pop-punk, real catchy stuff, mixed with Pulsars-type indie rock and maybe a hint of M.O.T.O.’s pop savvy. Outside of the weird, overlong final track (performed with 4FR), this is a very good album, well worth checking out by punk fans both old and new. Jake
@ www.thomasvideo.comcinecyde/cine-frames.html

Copia – s/t CD 10/38:53
This Copia album would be a great choice if you were having one of those contests with your friends about who can find the worst music, and you’d probably win. It seems it’s been filed as “new age” and I guess those types would like it…this is the sort of thing your mom would buy trying to be “hip” and “with it” and it ends up making her look worse than if she would have just stuck with her Jon Secada records. Jake
@ www.copiamusic.net

Coquettish – “High Energy Politics” CD 13/26:31
Youthful Japanese skatecore that is more Anglicized and sterile than either Thee Michelle Gun Elephant or Guitar Wolf. They remind me of the Blue Hearts on the radio-friendly punk of “Caffienaholic” and “Brain Wash” and they inject some pseudo-ska into more than a few songs. The most entertaining thing about them is the way Hizde, the singer, stumbles over phrases and mispronounces words. I don’t know if these songs were originally penned in Japanese but the lyrics of “Sk8 Days” is a classic mis-translation: “I love to skate more than you do, you can’t ride well/You don’t know the tricks/And you are fucking clueless about the spots/Your deck’s still clean…” and so on. Keep writing lyrics like that and change that name. Anthony
@ www.asianmanrecords.com

Courtesy Blush - "Sweet Modern Fairy Tales" CD 8/32:29
An emo-screamo band from Canada? Huh? They live in a country that's got free health care, virtually no crime rate, the government pays them for not working, and they can legally have sex and drugs with whoever wherever. What's to be pissed about? Oh, of course, "unrequited love". Silly me. At its best, "Sweet Modern Fairy Tales" conjures the intense math-metal of Dillinger Escape Plan, mainly due to Courtesy Blush's crazy-technical, dueling guitarists. At its worst, it's another album from an overly-sensitive emo band whining poetic about a girl. Miles
@ www.courtesyblush.com

cribsnew (7k)
Cribs - "The New Fellas" CD 11/34:19
So I wasn't too complimentary of their last disc; it was OK, had a couple of good songs, but seemed to lack focus and energy for what they were trying to do. This time around, they switched producers from Liam Watson and the Toe Rag gang, and went to Edwyn Collins, and the resulting disc does everything I could have hoped for. They've smoothed out the rough edges, written better songs, and rather than going for a Strokes faux garage sound, they've taken the more pop elements and molded them with a touch of new wave and indie pop, a la Orange Juice. Maybe it's another effort to do a soundalike thing, this time taking a page from the Franz Ferdinand book, but when a disc sounds this good, I really don't care if the Cribs are just trying to hook up with the next wave of popularity. Kinda funny too, because the first song is called "Hey Scenesters!", and they sure sound like the latest on this! They take jabs at compromise and the music industry on the third track, "Martell", and there are a several good songs that will force your head to bob that hearken back to the garage sounds of the debut disc. But the pop shines through it all, and this is one that is likely to make my top 10 list at the end of the year. Steve
@ www.wichitarecordings.com

Criteria – “When We Break” CD 11/36:00
A talented college radio band who sound great, but does not meet my, er, criteria. There’s just nothing new in the mix. Decent songwriting, high energy, just like most bands out there. Good musicianship and vocals like many other bands. Despite many changes within the songs along the lines of meter and style, it all just blends into singing/yelling into a mic. They should be very popular. Singer/guitarist Stephen Pedersen is a lawyer, so odds are they’ll get a good deal from a record company. Sigh. RBF
@ www.Saddle-Creek.com

Cruciform Injection – “Epilogue” CD 15/78:08
It’s good to see there are still folks out there producing industrial-techno type stuff…I guess. It would be better if it was actually good to listen to as well, but I guess you can’t be too picky. In their better moments, Cruciform Injection sound like old Nine Inch Nails, but those moments are few and far between. Although the album is 15 tracks, the last 5 are straight techno remixes, I’m pretty sure if you have a black light and some glow sticks and these songs you’ll have an instant rave on your hands. Jake
@ www.cruciforminjection.com

doalivefree (12k)
D.O.A. – “Live Free or Die” CD 20/55:25
Along with bands like Anti-Flag and The Nerve!, this Vancouver-based trio remains one of the premier political punk bands out there. They just kick ass, period. Lead Joe Shithead Keithley (make sure you read his book, “I Shithead”) has kept that rattle in his throat for lo, these many years, and has never lost his fire or ire. And that is equally true for the other members, Dan Yaremko and the Great Baldini. Just one ripping tune after another. Songs like “Fucked Up Bush”, “Can’t Push Me Around”, “Fat Cat,” and “We Don’t Need No God Damn War” are complemented by their choice of covers, including Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” and Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction” (updated). And when they aren’t punking out, they are well serviced by ska and, well just the bizarre (gruff Adam and the Ants-ish “Brigands and Pirates”). Haven’t heard a thing they’ve done yet that isn’t worth owning. RBF
@ www.suddendeath.com

darkbuste (10k)
Darkbuster - “A Weakness for Spirits” CD 18/33:39
This band comes from Boston and this is their 2nd release. Working peoples punk. I can’t stand the singer’s voice, it’s too atonal, even for punk rock. Guitars are good, though. They describe themselves as post-Ramones style, but I don’t really feel the Ramones influence at all. These songs are not very playful. All the songs sound the same to me, and lack dynamic fervor. Some Ska flavored, and I have a feeling they are big Rancid fans. Short-lived, with only two releases. I say eh, I’ve heard better. Lyrically the two main themes seem to be beer and broken relationships. They’re probably lots of fun live, what with all the drinking songs and such. Laura
@ no address

Denim & Diamonds – “Street Medics Unite” CD 8/33:38
Wow, this is pretty terrible; boring dance punk with nasally vocals is not my idea of a good time. And the liner notes are absolutely impossible to read. If you just really will dance to anything and this is all you have around, I suppose it would suffice. Jake
@ www.bloodlink.com

Destination:Oblivion – “Shock Therapy” CD 8/41:09
When I first put this CD in to listen to I thought someone had put in a jock Jams disc to try and fool with me…but no, that’s just what Destination:Oblivion sound like. Sometimes upbeat arena techno jams you could imagine cheerleaders performing routines to, other times mellower fare with vocals reminiscent of Trent Reznor. All in all, pretty terrible unless you need something to practice your dance team moves with. Jake
@ www.destinationoblivion.net/

dinosaurjr (9k)
Dinosaur Jr. – s/t CD 12/44:14
It’s about damn time they reissued these classic albums…not only are they some of the most important music released in the 80’s, they’ve been out of print for a while and the sound quality was pretty bad anyways. Take the masters, give them just a touch of polish, and re-release – seems like a goldmine to me. Thankfully Merge took on this task and we are all the better for it. If you have any sense you already own the originals, but the sound quality here is so much better it might be worth picking up. This album is my least favorite of the three reissues (the other two being “Bug” and “You’re Living All Over Me”), but in the grand scheme of things it’s still much, much better than most anything else out there. Jake
@ www.mergerecords.com

Dolour – “New Old Friends” CD 13/38:51
Shane Tutmarc is the man behind Dolour, and what a man he is – writing an album that is so instantly likeable that you want to start listening to it again the second it finishes playing. This is pop music exactly the way I like it full of hooks and reminiscent of Teenage Fanclub and Sloan and Big Star and the DBs and whoever else comes to mind when you think of the great Beach Boys and Zombies followers. I’ve listened to some of the older Dolour stuff, and while good, none of it sounds nearly as complete and fleshed out as the music contained in “New Old Friends”. Highly recommended for pop lovers. Jake
@ www.dolour.com

Dreadful Yawns – “Early” CD 13/46:35
Imagine you’re floating on clouds (whether through imaginary or hallucinatory means), or at least in a hammock on a sunny day, and there is a melodic plunking going on behind you. The vocals are equally smooooooth and soooooothing. Maybe there’s an occasional lite-jazz vibe, sometimes a folk feel, other times just a rhythm rolling. Energy is way above Muzak, but below Chuck Berry. The DY compare themselves to the Byrds. Hmmmm. Maybe Byrds influenced, here and there. For a first CD, this is pretty decent, but the vocals need to be more upfront, at least. Somehow, I feel like it’s my not being able to appreciate this more than the quality of their music. I can imagine this CD being played in health food stores across the country. Besides, it makes me want to put on Iggy’s “Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell”. RBF
@ www.undertowmusic.com

Ducky Boys – “Three Chords And The Truth” CD 16/36:37
For the uninitiated, the Ducky Boys are a notoriously brutal Irish gang in NYC that was immortalized in the 60s-era film, The Wanderers. I’m fairly certain that if they had a band they wouldn’t sound like lightweight, B-grade, bowling alley punk-a-billies. After a six year break Mark Lind and company return with a platter of Irish punk songs that don’t really ever lift their heads off the bar. “Scars” is hardscrabble street punk, but it’s not weighty enough, and “For The Underdogs” is too obvious. They tackle Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” and occasionally get somber and it all does nothing. Lind tries hard but remains a limited songwriter (like most of us). At least he owns that cool band name. Anthony
@ www.thorprecords.com

eerievon (8k)
Eerie Von - "Bad Dream...Number 13" CD 13/57:05
Eerie used to be the bassist for Danzig and was one of the founding members of the legendary Samhain, along with that Glenn Danzig guy too. Now that Danzig is preoccupied by being depicted on "Adult Swim" and getting knocked out by opening bands along with putting out silly album after album, Eerie here has taken the torch they lit quite a ways back and kept it burning. Although Eerie does do a grand vocal impression of Glenn himself (in fact, a bit too much at times, but we'll let it pass...) the music here is both dark and entrancing by use of simple electronics and deep musicality. I mean, the man uses a Theremin here and there and for that I raise my chalice of blood. This should keep the psychobillies and death rockers "happy" in the realm, being Eerie covers all the bases with each tune by use of voice, beat, occasional guitar and lyrics based around bad dreams (duh!), sinners, shadows and all that fun ass creepy stuff we'd come to expect from Eerie here. At times, the album recalls vintage Joy Division and even Johnny Cash, but there is no denying his roots. Eerie was massively influenced by Glenn Danzig and the effects have obviously worn off. I just hope Eerie doesn't start cavorting with slutty ladies and wearing bad gloves or even taking off his shirt at the first sign of a camera. Hi Glenn! Good to see ya! Mark
@ www.ghostlyrecords.com

Electra-Kill – “The Death Of Venus 292” CD 13/48:56
Uh, how come I’ve had to review two dozen electronic records of some kind or another for this issue? This homemade beer coaster is the worst, so far. The cover is a shot of a naked woman sprawled on a bed, evidently depicting the character in the title, and that’s the most interesting part of this turd. Recall that really weak, cheezy, third rate, local industrial duo you saw open for KMFDM, the one that was totally lame and people heckled and hissed them after a few songs. This shite is not even that evolved. The electronics are plastic and bargain basement. And the songs are just tweaky without the least bit of dirt or distortion. The title track accidentally mimics the Flying Lizards. There’s nothing else. Letdown. Anthony
@ www.electra-kill.com

electrisfrank (12k)
Electric Frankenstein – “Burn Bright, Burn Fast” CD 14/46:51
It seems like Electric Frankenstein has been around forever, and I guess 13 years is “forever” in the music business. Their brand of heavy bar-rock with just a tinge of punk hasn’t changed too terribly much over the year, so if you dig them then you know every album is going to be worth a listen, and that is indeed the case here. It’s not going to set the world on fire, but “Burn Bright, Burn Fast” is full of catchy heavy songs that instantly make me wish I was on a road trip with the windows down and the music blaring. As a bonus, the album includes three covers at the end, most notably their version of The Cars’ “Candy-O”. Jake
@ www.electricfrankenstein.com

erasurecd (9k)
Erasure – “Nightbird” CD 11/45:51
To be brutally honest, I can’t say that I’ve ever really been a big fan of Erasure, but having known folks that were I can appreciate their importance in the dance-pop scene of the 80’s and apparently still to this day, as they recently sold out five nights in a row here in San Francisco in support of this album. I figure at this point if you are buying new Erasure records you’re probably already well aware of what you are getting yourself into, and no twit reviewer is really going to change your mind. To me, this sounds pretty much like everything else they have done, in fact this record could be from 1988 and they just lied to all of us about it being a new release. This can be read two ways, either the group is stagnant or they are giving the fans what they want, which are both probably true statements. Jake
@ www.mute.com

Falcon Crest – “Taste The Thunder Raise The Flag” CD 8/23:22
Yee-ha! “Dickel Comes Through In The Clutch” can only mean that our heroes are drunk again and tearing shit up heading south somewhere on Interstate 75. The dirtball fraggle rock of the first couple songs are scruffy and disheveled but deliver a solid punch to the gut. It’s hard to relate what’s happening as there’s a neighborhood texture punk jam entanglement that can be hard to decipher. It’s part swampy and part soupy, and then “This Is Where The Crunked Comes In” suddenly gets all sewer-punk on us. “2 Legit” is a blast of rawk. “Crack Axeman” is a solid blooze knockaround and “Today I Feel Like A Real Witch” is unruly and detuned, death rock with an annoying metal-ish vocal. Unnerving in just the right way. Anthony
@ www.notbadrecords.com

Far Rad – “This Candy’s Gross” CD 12/27:02
I think I’m starting a new genre called “cocaine rock” and this falls squarely in it. Because I’m pretty sure you need to be hopped up on blow or something to enjoy this album. It sounds like electronic music set to a rock backbone, distorted vocals, hyper drum machine beats, cheesy synths…all good things at the right time but not necessarily assemble in a listenable fashion here. They have a couple of moments that are Devo-like that are tolerable but they are few and far between. Recommended if you want to equivalent to a bad dose of speed. Jake
@ www.johannsface.com

Faultlines - "Travelogue" CD 11/48:43
Its always fun to see sensi-boy punk rockers dress up like tough truckers and then play melodic tunes with some kind of rough edge but have lyrics about being all alone and falling in and out of love and all that. Its funny to see the gray race of music scenes begin. In any sense, Faultlines play decent indie rock punk with some good hooks and melodies and it should land them a spot on the Warped Tour or at least an opening slot for Built To Spill or something. These guys can play their instruments - that much is clear - to such a level that it almost sounds like they go off in key just to be cheeky and remind us that, hey, this is still supposed to be rock and roll and the rules were meant to be broken kid! The tunes are fairly heartfelt and should fill the club up with sound with no problem, but you can’t disco dance to it or mosh so there’s that kiddle ground to contend with: Just kind of standing there with one hand in your pocket and a cheap beer in the other nodding your head when a good rhythm chimes in. Indie heads, Emo kids and semi Punk Rockers... you guys will all be at this next show and when your buddy hands you this CD to listen to you’ll give it back going "it’s cool man...thanks." We’ll see what happens after this album for Faultlines. Who knows what the future has for stuff like this? Mark
@ www.actionheights.com

Faux Fox – “Cusp of the Precipice” CD 13/48:08
More synthy dance punk for the masses, especially if you like the boring variety. Fans of The Faint or Interpol or Franz Ferdinand (or whoever else manages the combo of danceable and dark) might like this, but even though I like The Faint I found this to be a snoozefest. Maybe this even counts as electro-clash; are people still listening to that anymore? Jake
@ www.fauxfox.com

Feller Quentin – “I Am Not a Monster” CD 12/40:33
San Francisco’s Feller is to folk music what Jonathan Richman’s second Modern Lovers’ album was to pop. Tales of insects, introspective camels during World War II, and one-legged people are just part of the cast of characters he brings to life. Feller’s anti-folk is broad and bizarre, with a high degree of studio work as he is a one-man-band, with overdubs and multiple sound effects, which sometimes work, sometimes not. Even his most traditionally folk-based tune, “Song For Any Old Lady” is about wanting to bleed to death via stabbing rather than live a culturally “normal” life. He seems to often be compared to “early” Beck. Maybe. I can’t listen to any Beck, but I liked this Feller. RBF
@ www.echelonproducitons.com

fiftyninevio (9k)
Fifty Nine Violets – “Prime Numbers” CD 11/40:31
Jangly, primal Brit-rock that’s damn full of itself, using similes like “The Only Ones taking it up the arse from Bootsy Collins” in describing their own sound. The economical and buzzy first track, “Yeah Yeah Yeah,” with similar energy to the Original Sins, was headed for the oldies section in search of vintage hard rock, but as the record continues they get diverted and end up buying a Hoodoo Gurus record instead. They are not at all like Sweet having a love-in with NIN despite what you might have heard. What I got was a poorly engineered demo by a band in need of more songs, especially since the best song is an out of character remix of “Yeah Yeah Yeah” that flows like Consolidated. That’s what they should shoot for. Anthony
@ info@fiftynineviolets.com

Fight – “Nothing New Since Rock ‘N’ Roll” CD 14/41:33
The name The Fight reminds me of the late 70s when single word band names accompanied by “the” were de rigeur: The Cure, The Damned, The Jam, The Pop... It takes a few songs to get their LA teeny- bopper, 70s pop-punkmobile rolling. Singer/guitarist K8 is a dark-eyed beauty with a limited vocal range. To her credit she sharpens up after a few songs and sounds better than okay on “Sid And Nancy”, “JB’s.”, “Mommy’s Little Soldier” and “Housewreck”, both of the latter two could ride alongside The Donnas. They don’t add much to the program, but they sustain an energetic sheen. They shout out to New Found Glory, and I’m sure they’re pals with Good Charlotte and other inexplicably rich musical cretins, but they’ve already surpassed both those bands (money machines) with this. (Not saying much, I know.) Anthony
@ www.thefightmusic.com

Fighter Pilot – “Atomic Anthem” CD 10/38:22
These SoCal guys don’t need any opinion from me, they’re heading straight for the charts. Shame, though, because as talented as this band is, they are just so vanilla. A slick package of pop rock that is equal in quality to the Backstreet Boys and the like. Have they been on Saturday Night Live yet (remember when SNL was actually cutting edge)? I found myself kind of nodding and thinking about my laundry about halfway through. Breakout song will probably be the ballad, “Perfect Day”, if it isn’t already. Sigh. They need to have the slickness bitch-slapped off ‘em. RBF
@ Bankroll, 17200 Burbank Blvd #327, Encino, CA 91316

Final Four – s/t CD 13/37:48
Great anthem punk from these SoOntarioites. Imagine the Clash if they stayed true to their original vision, with some SoCal hardcore mixed in to speed up the mix. Even when they do harmony, it never sounds wuss (or, heaven forbid, emo), but kicks balls right through the entire CD. The purity of their sound is heaven. Like D.O.A. and Anti-Flag, there’s the fight-rather-than-bow attitude (“We won’t do what we’re told/We can be in control”, from “Out All Night”), mixed with brotherhood (their word) and community (“These punks will keep me strong”, from “Glory, Glory”, which is musically based on “Battle Hymn of the Republic”). They never talk down to their audience, but are not afraid to stand face to face. Ya gotta respect that, when it’s backed up by songs this well written and performed. “Us Against Them” is just killer, and you’ll find yourself singing it to yourself long after the CD is over. Just go get it. RBF
@ www.insurgencerecords.com

fireworksgo (9k)
Fireworks Go Up! - "You're Welcome" CD 10/33:16
Decent, but unspectacular indie rock stuff that takes a little from the Promise Ring's later ablums and with vocals that sound like Josh Caterer's from the Smoking Popes and Duvall. I'd like this a lot more if the band worked a little more punch into the songs; they've all got decent pop melodies and a few hooks here and there, but at some point I like a disc to take off and have a signature song, and that's what is missing here. The lyrics show that lead singer and songwriter Dan Coutant has been through more than a few bad relationships (song titles include "Chewed and Spit Out" and "Just A Hate Song"), and the two best songs, "Me Myself", and "Delusionist" fall into the same category, with a slight jangle on the guitars on the former and a fun power pop hook on the later. It's one of those things that I suspect I will grow to like the more I listen to it, and in fact I'm on about my fifth listen now and it does indeed keep growing on me. Ask me again in a month if I've listened to it again. If I have, then it's a keeper. Steve
@ www.baryonrecords.com

Flaming Stars "Named and Shamed" CD 13/37:59
Max Decharne, singer for The Flaming Stars, could probably fool about anyone into thinking he is Lou Reed over the phone, as his voice is a spot on replica. This album as a whole is reminiscent of some of Reed's better latter-day stuff, combining lounge music aesthetics and Decharne's deep voice into an interesting stew. I'm also reminded of Howe Gelb/Giant Sand and even a little Nick Cave, and fans of most of these outfits might do themselves a favor in checking this out. Jake
@ www.alternativetenticles.com

flatmatespot (6k)
Flatmates - “Potpourri (Hits, Mixes and Demos '85-'89)” CD 22/78:05
The Flatmates out of England were one of the premiere bands from the C-86 era of indie pop, mixing jangly guitars, some punk riffs with girl group sounds, and the great voice of lead singer Debbie Haynes. They released a series of brilliant singles on the Subway label, and were garnering some major label attention at the time of their breakup. The CD contains most of their previously released material, about the only omissions I can come up with are songs included here as demos or alternate mixes, and there really isn't enough space for more. Several great songs on this, including the jangle pop anthem "Shimmer", about a girl telling her ex just how worthless he is (and how pissed off she is), a demo of "You're Gonna Cry" (pretty much the same, only a bit more raw due to the four track recording), covers of the Ramones' "I Don't Care" and Bob Dylan's "If Not For You", and plenty more great pop tunes. They paved the way for bands like the Primitives, the Sundays, Darling Buds and loads of others, and this is essential for fans of the genre who are familiar with modern day purveyors like All Girl Summer Fun Band. Steve
@ www.cherryred.co.uk

Fleshtones - “Beachhead” CD 11/29:52
Veteran Brooklyn NY indie rockers are back with their 13th studio album. Garage inspired, r’n’b fueled party music that gets one shakin’ to the beat. These veterans haven’t strayed from their keyboard laden pop gems they started playing in the summer of 1976. Vocals a la David Johansen and crazy psyched out guitars. Laura
@ www.yeproc.com/

Foetus – “(Not Adam)” CD 4/17:58
Haven’t heard from Foetus (J.G. Thirwell) in quite a while, not that I’ve been paying much attention. He’s got a new album on Birdman, and this EP is lifted from said album. The title track is milquetoast Foetus, with massively commercial production values. How much commercial potential it has is another matter. It’s a mopey hetero dance song, with a gay vocal. “Miracle” gets us into a technoey sequencer symphony of blips with guitar and violin, and sounds like NIN. “Not In Your Hands” is five minutes of bad The The. Can’t say I’m dying to hear the full-length. Anthony
@ www.thebirdmangroup.com

Folk? – s/t CD12/37:01
Yet another partially electronic duo (Illinois boys Mike Detmer and William Fletcher) that actually does more with the combination of acoustic instrumentation and electronics than the average bear. “Float Away” is sad and floaty; “Somebody Else” rings with mandolin and sounds a teeny bit like Hallowed Ground-era Violent Femmes; “Love At Point Blank” is like a trippy Weezer outtake. “On My Mind” is slippery neo-pop. This record is certainly loaded with interesting parts. As a whole it may come across as more of a novelty, but it’s worth a second listen. Anytime someone can say that about you, it’s a good day. Anthony
@ www.vibratingneedle.net.

Forced Reality – “Unheard, Unreleased and Under the Boot” CD 11/33:43
Not really sure what’s going on with these blockheads. Formed in ’86, they faded anonymously and returned briefly in the 90s. This CD collects some unreleased refuse. The poor man’s Dictators crossed with whatever moronic, pint-swilling, pub rock is called these days comes out the other end as flat and dull and goes right past me. I’m curious as to who’s buying this, other than a few of their drinking buddies. They’re not particularly loud or heavy or tough-sounding, just sluggish with no edge of any kind. Looser songs, “We’re Not Alone,” are as plodding as you can get and a weeper like “Mama Tried” is ridiculous. Singer Pete Morcey was really not very good, but it was his band, so... Anthony
@ www.thorprecords.com

frontlineass (8k)
Frontline Assembly & Friends – “The Best Of Cryogenic Studio” -2XCD 11/73:51/67:23
This is a whole lotta Bill Leeb. As one-half of Frontline Assembly, Delerium and Noise Unit (disc one), and pivot man for Equinox, Pro-Tech, and Synaesthesia (disc two) he is one busy-ass mofo who certainly doesn’t waste much time lounging around. This 2XCD set covers the waterfront of ambient-darkwave-industrial with two-to-four songs from each of the above. Frontline Assembly is the centerpiece and that stuff is slightly more refined and “fleshed out” than Delerium, for example. I can’t help but think how much of this sounds like Nitzer Ebb, especially a song like Noise Unit’s “Alle Gegen Alles.” And when it doesn’t settle there it’s speaks to all the mutations of every conceivable Kraftwerkian electro-mechanism. It means little which incarnation we’re speaking of because it’s all very ice cold and leaves me chilly. The pulsating techno beats can’t be covered up by gothic chanting or emulators. Disc two is much of the same with heavy reliance on bad repetitive beats to carry the day. Even the more ambient passages of Synaethesia’s music, for example, just drag ass after five or six minutes. There are parts that would work as suspense movie scoring but that’s not enough. Maybe he’s spread himself just a tad to thinly over the years. It’s time to reel it in a little. Anthony
@ www.cleorecs.com

Gabrielle Twenty Five – “Twenty More Fish In The Sea” CD 12/46:10
It’s cool that the band presents the credits in both English and Welsh (they’re from Betws Y Coed). Most of the CD is in English, though (with the exception of songs, “Lliwiau Lleol”, translated as “Local Color”, and “Cysgod ar y Ddinas,” or “Shadow on the City”). It’s all very soft and somewhat mainstream pop. Very pretty, especially with Don Amor’s soft-spoken vocals, which match the lushness of the sound. And for this kind of fare, it is quite remarkably well done. Their songs are well presented and produced, so as to appeal to those who like what’s on the radio, and to some of those that don’t (present company included). The final cut, “(You Will) Shine On” has a great catch, as well. RBF
@ www.ffvinyl.com

Galactic Heroes – “Every Sidewalk” CD 12/33:55
Reminiscent of They Might Be Giants, but crossed with Rank and File, and relying a bit more on folk pop rock than the Brooklyn boys or the country-punk brothers. This duo uses acoustic guitars and numerous other instruments to supplement their sound. And it’s quite a bit of a fun sound, yea, it’s a joyful noise. Their harmonies are tight, their songs breezy, and they sound really, really happy. If you want to hear growls and bitching, you’re in the wrong neighborhood. The thing that makes me like them, especially, is that while being upbeat and cutesy, they never ever get so mawkish or sticky. That is a line that is too easily passed. There is also a nice little Beatles homage in “Back in Love.” RBF
@ www.galacticheroes.com

generalrudie (6k)
General Rudie – “Take Your Place” CD 13/45:04
More Canadian ska, this time from Montreal. General Rudie, when they get the beat going, have a sound all their own. It’s polished without being overbearing, and the vocals are great. The opening cut, “Shelter”, is the strongest. And it just keeps going from there, for a while. A totally different feel from fellow Canadian (Toronto) skasters, The Planet Smashers, but just as viable, GR are a bit slower and have a less punk edge, giving a humane touch to the sound. As the CD plays on, they slow down to a more reggae beat, and then they start to lose me a little. As Ali McMordie, the original bass player from Stiff Little Fingers once said to me, “You’d really have to come from Jamaica to do real reggae.” That’s says it for me, as well. But the important thing, above all, is the dance, and this CD is totally danceable. Skank away, mon. RBF
@ Stomp, 78 Rue Rachel Est, Montreal, Que, Canada H2W 1C6

Geoff Lip Danielik - "Retrospective 1978-1981" CD 20/56:05
Danielik has been around for awhile, working as the main frontman in four different bands; The Now, Alter Ego, Peroxide, and T.K.O., and he's still playing today. This is another part of the Wizzard in Vinyl Power Pop retrospective series, and this is one that maybe should have been left in the vaults. Most of the material here sounds a little dated; sure, there are a few good numbers but either a keyboard will sound funny, or there will be a little horn section on a song... something that will make you go "eeewww". Some decent songs are undercut by the instrumentation; Danielik's work with Alter Ego probably tops the bunch, with a nice cover of "Tell That Girl To Shut Up (complete with some female vox), and there are a couple of other decent tracks, but as the disc moves on to the T.K.O. tracks, you end up with some pretty crappy rock. If you pick this up looking for a long lost power pop gem, you'll be disappointed. Steve
@ www.wizzard-in-vinyl

Goldie Lookin’ Chain – “Straight Out Of Newport” CD 13/38:27
What de fock is dis? Pasty-white, comic, Brit-rappers that can impersonate various other rappers? As a Two Live Jews-type novelty maybe this works okay. “Self Suicide” is either poking fun at or giving props to Kurt Cobain, Michael Hutchence, et.,al. “Guns Don’t Kill People, Rapper Do” hits up Tupac and Biggie while they goof on the Beastie Boys and others. “Half Man, Half Machine” and “The Maggot” are cool rhymes, purposely clumsy and juvenile. They also have some fun with disco-soul and the raps are quite musical. And I do like the bagpipe effect. That’s not something you ever hear on a gangsta rap record. This is like the hip-hop equivalent of a horny Splodgenessabounds. I have to give it up for “You Knows I Loves You” just for the stroke-victim vocal. But after hearing this once how many more times would I ever need to hear it again? Anthony
@ no address

Gordon B. Isnor – “Creatures All Tonight” CD 7/30:20
One of the important things the electronic music explosion created was a new language and vocabulary for rock-based songwriting. A new world dawned allowing one-person bands to maximize studio efficiency. This collection of hip tunes is built on heady melodies like those of “Notorious Double Dippers,” “The Ability to Spin” and “Always Come Back” add some post-rock spice to the recipe. I kept wanting to hear him pilfer Badly Drawn Boy or someone like that, but he didn’t. Every track has some element or another going for it. Anthony
@ no address

gparker (5k)
Graham Parker – “The Official Art Vandelay Tapes: Volume 2” CD 13/54:46
Picked out by Parker himself, this is a collection of unreleased alternate British and U.S. songs, live tracks, and remixes, plus a new one called “Sinkin’ Low” (live). The time frame for these is basically 1979 through 1988. Parker’s misfortune is to have come on the scene so close to Elvis Costello, who grabbed the “Angry Brit Man” mantle before Parker had the chance (like Bonnie Tyler’s version of “It’s a Heartache” trumping Ronnie Spector’s). This isn’t fair, really, because where Costello secretly wanted to be Burt Bacharach, Parker was more aligned with the likes of Eric Burdon and Eric Clapton. The cuts presented here actually cover a bunch of styles, from typical ‘80s bombast to soft reggae. Definitely an artist at his peak. And the sound is so pure, even the live cuts sound clear (though the applause gives it away). Some highlights include “Get Started-Start a Fire”, “Howlin’ Wind”, and the aforementioned “Sinkin’ Low”. George Castanza, the architecht, would be proud. RBF
@ www.lemonrecordings.co.uk

Gropers – s/t CD 14/26:41
Eek! They picked this for the first song?, I’m thinking as I hear the opening verse of “Huge.” Dud. Wanted: Over-aged, hard rockin’ alternative band with bad female vocalist to play backyard BBQ. Must be worse than the average run of the mill small town wannabes who’ve been at it for twenty years and still aren’t any better but continue to send out those demo CDs anyway. Singer Kathryn Lewis and guitarist Ben Sinister wrote the songs and they need to make sure they never ever quit those days jobs, as my mom would say. Anthony
@ www.thegropers.com

guitargang (5k)
Guitar Gangsters - "Let 'Em Have It" CD 14/48:25
Another solid effort from these lads from England; it's heavy on the guitars (as you'd imagine), melodic, has great singalong choruses, and although they do an awful lot of singing about punk, especially on the opener "It's Only Punk", these guys come off just as much as straight rock and roll. No doubt they've been influenced by the Clash, and plenty of other first wave bands, but you can't help but get the feeling this is what the Stones would have sounded like had they come along in the late 70's or early 80's, and grew up under the same influences. And frankly, they've got all the swagger of the Stones; from their records you just get the feeling that these guys ROCK live. They do a fantastic cover of "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You", and all of their originals bounce off your brain and will have you humming their punchy pop punk/rock melodies. Steve
@ www.captainoi.com

High School Sweethearts – “Heels ‘n’ Wheels” CD 15/52:11
There are some labels you know you can just trust to put out quality, be it SST (when it existed), Kill Rock Stars, or Get Hip. New Jersey’s HSS prove they’re home at Get Hip. They’re a pop rock band with garage tinges (the farfisa doesn’t hurt) and a strong sense of songwriting both in lyric and melody. Vocalist Cynthia Santiglia and guitarist John Steele posit a style that purposefully has the trappings of a tight pop song, but they take no prisoners with a sledgehammer hand. This is the real thing, with no posturing. Each song is a world unto itself in style and pleasure, and most have high post-song hummability. That includes the acoustic reprise of “Not Coming Back” as the coda. RBF
@ www.gethip.com

High Tension Wires – “Send a Message” CD 10/18:55
Pretty good (if also pretty brief) platter of boppable punk rock from this Texas outfit (featuring some former Reds, Marked Men, & Riverboat Gamblers). I know nowadays folks run for cover when “pop” and “punk” are used in the same sentence, but these folks manage to combine the two without coming off saccharine or anyway near Vanscore territory (the Kids cover should tell you where their allegiance lies). Let’s hope these folks stick around for quite a while. David
@ www.dirtnaprecs.com

holgerczukay (7k)
Holger Czukay – “The New Millenium” CD 9/57:35
Holger Czukay has remained the most visible and active member of German prog-psych giants Can, since the band’s early life three decades ago. He’s worked with/produced a busload of artists and has given birth to his own brand of world music with innumerable influences, eastern and western, seeping in; neo-techno-prog, constantly evolving while staying the same. On this German import he teams up with singer U-She and plays everything else. The title track is mass-consumable synth-pop, “Supernova” is throbbing industrial-lite, “Metropolis” is new wave, “Rosebud” is evil, Arabian techno. U-She’s voice is flat, but not without tone. She hints at Bjork on one song, Barbara Gogan on another. This is not my cup of tea. Too many computers involved, or so it seems. For Can/Czukay completists it’s a must have. I’m glad I could help. Anthony
@ www.fuenfundvierzig.com

Holly Golightly – “My First Holly Golightly Album” CD 17/56:47
A “greatest hits”-cum-introduction (hence the title of the record I’m guessing) to this particular Medway chanteuse. Tracks are either taken from Damaged Goods records or re-recorded versions of tracks that originally appeared on labels other than DG. As you’d expect, it’s mostly midtempo Medway garage, with some dips into slow-and-sultry and/or with a bluesy edge at times. There are some mind-boggling omissions (nothing from “Serial Girlfriend”? You would think that at least “’Til I Get” would rate a look-see) and some inclusions that I don’t think show Ms. Golightly at her best, but overall a solid, if not perfect, introduction to the works of Ms. Golightly. David
@ www.damagedgoods.co.uk

Home Grown – “When It All Comes Down” CD 6/20:46
They say they are punk, and their sound keeps changing. I hope so for the latter part. Man, that sounds worse than I mean it. In the present tense, they may get lumped in with emo, what with the crisp harmonies and pop sound. More pop punk than punk pop, if ya know what I mean. I’m talking a lot of harmony and a lot of sharp, bubbly sounds that blast, but don’t bust. Am I being clear here? A really good band, I’m just looking forward to the next phase. I’m concerned though, because they’re last release was called “Kings of Pop”. Their recordings definitely need the edge that I can hear just lurking in there. I just still here and hope. RBF
@ www.drivethrurecords.com

Howard Hello – “EP” CD 4/20:34
Kenseth Thibideau is a musician who wears many hats – as a member of Thingy, Tarentel and Rumah Sakit he has given the world many things math-rock shaped, in a number of different genres. But all that is right out the window with his Howard Hello releases; think of the mellower side of M83 with both male and female vocals and plenty of atmospheric moments. This whole CD is pretty splendid, especially the opening track “More of the Same”. If this song is the same, I certainly want more of it. Jake
@ www.temporaryresidence.com

I Can Make a Mess Like Nobody’s Business – s/t CD 15/52:38
This is the solo debut of Ace Ender, known in certain circles as the singer for the band Early November. I wish my mom would have given me a cool name like Ace, but that’s neither here nor there. Given that this is on Drive Thru Records, you can sorta guess what it’s going to sound like: something within the realm of that dreaded word “emo”. Specifically, it’s acoustic, singer-songwriter-type emo in the Dashboard Confessional vein but much better (not that that is a tough accomplishment). But it’s not a terrible record, it just doesn’t stand up and assert itself very often. The fifth track “The Best Happiness Money Can Buy” is a good song, and there is couple of other decent submissions, but much of this gets lost in too much sub-par material. Pare this one down to around 30-35 minutes of the strongest songs and you’d have a much more effective album in my opinion. Jake
@ www.icanmakeamess.com

iangomm (4178bytes)
Ian Gomm – “Hold On: The Very Best of Ian Gomm” CD 20/60:45
Welsh Stiff recording artist Ian Gomm has seemly disappeared to the behind-the-scenes world of recording, but he has still managed to release six solo albums since 1979. Part of the Brinsley Schwarz group, one can easily hear the Brit group’s pop influence of fellow BSers, Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds. Some of the sound/production seems dated and naive now, but one can understand the appeal. The songs are just so eminently danceable, without selling out. And while Gomm didn’t seem to stretch as much as Lowe and Edmunds (thou “What a Blow” and “You Can’t Catch Me” sounds so much like Edmunds), his material is catchy and it is easy to see why so many people have covered his work. Makes one wonder what would have happened if Gomm was also part of Rockpile. It’s great to hear his songs recorded by him rather than others. Plus there are lots of pictures, text history, and lyrics in the well-designed booklet. RBF
@ www.cherryred.co.uk

isrealvibe (10k)
Israel Vibration – “This is Crucial Reggae” CD 12/51:57
Rasta Reggae at it’s strongest. While not a “greatest hits” collection, their career is represented here by mixing newer material (as a duo without their original vocalist, Apple) and some of the older songs, such as “We a De Rasta” and “The Same Song”. There’s even a live cut version of “Strength of My Life.” As with much of Reggae, the strongest pieces are the political protest songs, such as “Poor Man Cry”. Produced by Doctor Dread, by being able to side-by-side compare the trio vs. duo, one can hear that they retain their strength, even though the difference is noticeable. And with most reggae, the songs just keep on going on the riddim, making the rudeboy soundscapes easy to groove on. I’m waiting for the 70-minute one-song CD. In that way Rasta reggae is very closely related to the rock music of such bands as the Dead, because they both are music meant to zone out on. But at least with Reggae, consciousness is raised at the same time. RBF
@ www.sanctuaryrecordsgroup.com

J. Page - "Goodbye Chapel Hill" CD 5/14:33
I won't even get into the band name. Not with a ten foot pole. OK, why the hell are they called J. Page?! Not a clue...not one guy in the band even has a "J" in their name. Now that I've gotten that off my chest, I can get on to the music. They seem to have a bit of a Jawbreaker fixation; the disc starts off melodic, with "Unlucky In Cards" definitely being the best song; but a lot of the snappy melodic punk of the song gets lost in the lead singer's gruff vocals; it's one of those voices, much like Frankie Stubbs of Leatherface, that you either love or hate. I normally don't mind the harsh screamy types, but in this case, it really gets on my nerves since it seems to go off key at times and the harshness goes over the top as well. The CD also falls short musically of the promise of the first songs; others fall into the emo trap far more quickly, and that, coupled with the vocals, just put me off to the whole thing. It's kinda like a lot of first dates; the first looks are intriguing, but once you get to know it a little more, it leaves you limp. Steve
@ www.niceguyrecords.com

jeffairplane (9k)
Jefferson Airplane - “The Essential Jefferson Airplane” 2XCD
The Airplane was the 60s band that showed there was no “I” in team. With their best known songs being written or sung by 5 different band members, San Francisco’s best band were tough to pigeonhole, but were clearly the band that defined American psychedelic music. Their second album recorded in 1966, was the enduring classic “Surealistic Pillow”, which they followed up with the brilliant suite of songs know as “After Bathing At Baxters”. So, by 1967 the Airplane had to their credit what was arguably the best pair of albums by any band, foreign or domestic. Strangely, the band didn’t do much after the 60s ended, perhaps due to personnel changes, lack of interest or whatever. I’d rate the Airplane as one of the 10 best American bands ever. Just like the title says, this double disc set is essential, and a fine introduction to the band. Mel
@ www.legacyrecordings.com

johnwilk (7k)
John Wilkes Booze "Telescopic Eyes Glance The Future Sick" CD 14/42:23
When you're a high concept project like JWB you're locked into being in character most of the time, or you should be. When the concept is that you're a cadre of revolutionaries who happen to play greasy, grimy, multi-faceted, radical, soul-inspired, way out rock you should be expected to live your politics, at least to some degree. People make fun of bands who pose as radicals, even the good ones (International Noise Conspiracy, Consolidated). Some will say it's about the music and the politics should be secondary, but if your politics drive and inform your music don't you owe it to yourself to try to live up to your ideals? Insofar as any human being can. Nobody is making fun of JWB, despite releasing a series of five CDs that celebrated the "Pillars of Soul" and included tributes to Marc Bolan and Yoko Ono among them. Their expression of the freeform blending of black and white music of the 60s should be celebrated alongside the counter-cultural critique of the world at that time. "War Drums", "Cultural Hurricane" and "Erasing Animals" all adhere to the theme of "know your enemy," I suppose. The cloudy Patti Smith-mystique of "The Rattler" is an unusual respite from the wailing-organ or-disjointed-guitar-skronk my-head-is-in-the-crapper 'cause-this-world-sucks-blues. Dipping their toes into more experimental waters more often will add density. "Can't Take It" is an example of that, with it's insistent bass line and guitar flanger dub effect. Telescopic eyes see ideas in the distance before they fully emerge. In order to keep this thing moving forward they will need to prick the sky and find those new beginnings. In life just as in art. Anthony
@ www.killrockstars.com

Johnny Dowd – “Cemetery Shoes” CD 11/36:48
By all accounts, this guy seems to be really well acclaimed, with comparisons to Nick Cave and Tom Waits and whoever else…but I don’t get it, any of it. He doesn’t sound like those guys, and his music is not very good. If anything it sounds like what you would expect Dwight Yoakam’s character in Sling Blade to play with the band full of misfits he hangs out with, or maybe I’ve just watched and thought about that movie too many times. It seems weird trashing the album of a guy older than my dad, but I find this totally unlistenable. Jake
@ www.johnnydowd.com

Julian Fane – “Special Forces” CD 12/56:49
There is something of an electronic Phillip Glass-meets-M83 thing going on here, and it’s really quite good. When there are vocals, they are very Thom Yorke-like, so a comparison to Radiohead’s Kid A/Amnesiac forays into electronic music would not be unfounded either. This is yet further proof that Canada is kicking our ass when it comes to producing great music. Jake
@ www.planet-mu.com

Junior Boys – “Last Exit” 2CD 14/72:30
More of the new breed of electro-pop? We’re being overrun, for chrissakes! The cold sounds of this chilly music gave me shivers as 1986 came rushing back like an ice storm. This new generation has taken all the fun out of Kraftwerk, New Order, even the Silicon Teens. So maybe the trendy, left coast white girls were all over this a few years back, I don’t know. That means nothing in my world. Other than the smooth moves of “Bellona,” or the ambience of “Neon Rider,” there isn’t much to get excited about. It’s all too nervous and there’s too much noodling. I hear Magazine, INXS, O.M.D., Howard Jones. I can’t escape the hollow feeling. Too Much Coffee Man zine would dig this. Disc two includes several remixes. Anthony
@ www.dominorecords.com

kaleidoscopesounds (9k)
Kaleidoscope (The Sounds of) – “Can and Do What They Will” CD 5/34:03
Dear god this is one of the best Kinks cover bands I’ve ever heard, maybe the second best after the Lilys. Yeah, I’m well oversimplifying things, but you catch my drift…that is to say, this is really brilliant psychedelic swirly rock with a catchy pop bent and a singer who sounds like he’s being channeled straight from late 1960’s England. Only to the original recipe they add some genuinely great noisy freak out bits, making me smile quite a bit. Highly recommended. Jake
@ www.thesoundsofkaleidoscope.com

Kennedys – “Half a Million Miles” CD 12/40:00
Maura and Pete Kennedy joyfully combine roots rock, country, and folk/singer-songwriter to present songs are that have their own little twists and turns. From the time I saw them play at Falcon Ridge Festival in Upstate New York, I knew they were something special. Double acoustic guitar-led, M&P imagine a world that is, to paraphrase them, neither nostalgic nor forward-looking. Well, there is some mixture of that here, as with “Everything’s On Fire”, which present a Buddy Holly-esque Texas rave-up imagining of a Buddhist sermon. In fact, much of this CD is faith-based on a universalist stance, without being either single-minded or preachy, relying instead on the wonders of stillness, life being a highway, and the Japanese expression “Namaste” (to name just a few). The colorful and glossy booklet not only has the lyrics, but lots of photos and commentary on the songs. M&P’s vocals, after all these years, fold and bend around each other in a beautiful dance, with fired-up guitar-work. Includes a bright cover of Bob Dylan’s “Chimes of Freedom”. RBF
@ www.appleseedrec.com

Kimberley Rew – “Essex Hideaway” CD 12/30:56
Rew will be forever haunted by his two previous bands, the Soft Boys (with Robyn Hitchcock) and Katrina and the Waves, as well as two of his songs (“Walking on Sunshine” and “Going Down to Liverpool”). Not that it’s a bad thing. Luckily, we get more from him than that. His new solo release (his fourth) relies heavily on all things British, including a lighthearted prayer hoping for a good collection of songs that bookend the CD, and a music hall-style traditional sound that crops up here and there. Reminiscent throughout of the Small Faces, Rew’s voice is even similar to Steve Marriott, though not as shrill, but more like a soft, er, boy. One of the points holding this CD is Rew’s flashing rock’n’roll guitar, in a very British late-‘60s style. As someone who remembers that period, I found this to be quite enjoyable in its own right. RBF
@ www.bongobeat.com

Kit! – s/t CD 7/19:48
Kids playing pop-punk goes together almost as well and almost as often as a peanut butter & jelly sandwich. This time around we have a Florida outfit called Kit!...three dudes and a lady singer, they sound like an upbeat and less interesting version of Ashes, or something like that. Man, I really loved that Ashes CD back in 95 or so when it came out, and I would have probably liked this some too, but not so much now. But I bet the kids in their town go crazy for them, probably writing their name on their backpacks in white-out and wearing homemade Kit! Patches on the jean jacket they bought at Hot Topic. Jake
@ www.purevolume.comkit/music

Kite Operations – “Dandelion Day” CD 10/47:44
Something about this record doesn’t add up to me…one moment it sounds great and the next, not so much. I have a sneaking suspicion that it is the vocals, as they’re a little overdramatic for my tastes. The instrumentation, especially the guitars, sounds great though; they really understand the shoegazer’s credo of a “wall of sound” and display a remarkable affinity of creating this sound with ease. But those vocals, they gotta go. Jake
@ www.kiteoperations.com

Knockout Pills – “1 + 1 = Ate” CD 12/30:57
Second album from this Tucson outfit, with former Weird Lovemakers among their ranks. Fun fun fun punk with both punch and melody (and by the latter I’m thinking more in terms of, say, Didjits than any post-Blink outfit you’ve had the misfortune to experience). Methinks if they set upon your local club-come-tavern they’d provide a fine evening’s entertainment indeed. David
@ www.estrus.com

KnowMassive – “Mood Swing Set” CD 17/35:12
KnowMassive is Jason Atkins and his sleek hip-hop mobile rolls through the hood with the visors down. This CD is dated ’03 and I’m not sure where it’s been for the last two years. Atkins delivery is mostly laid back, low-key singspeak rhyming that blurs the line between black and white. And some of the songs want to blur that line further with 70s white soul running with 80s club beats on indie rock juice. He loses his way on aimless shit like “Fly By Night”, “Sleephold,” could rope you in, though, if you let it. There’s some weird indexing of the songs labeled “movements.” I have no clue what that’s about. None of it is shit, and I’m bummed that I can’t trash it, but I can’t. He dedicates each track to someone or something and the shoegazers number several among them: Throwing Muses, Ride, Pale Saints and My Bloody Valentine along with Coltrane and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Okay. Anthony
@ www.moodswingrecords.com

Lagwagon – “Live In A Dive” CD 22/63:22
The dive in question is the Hollywood House O’ Blues on the Sunset Strip. Not exactly the Claremont Lounge. I’ve never understood how it is Lagwagon got to be so huge. Their version of the now ubiquitous All-American, Van’s wearing, punk rock kidhood is so middle of the road it’s colorless. How do you describe what it is they’re doing to punk here? Joey Cape has the plainest voice in rock and the pre-adolescent power chords and chugga-chugga breaks are trademarks of laziness and redundancy. Just listen to tired songs like “Never Stops” and “Island Of Shame” and you’ll catch my drift. Who are all the idiots who paid twenty-eight bucks to see this show? The same idiots who think discussing the merits of Papa Roach’s new album is a worthwhile activity. The fact that a band like this makes a living dumbing down music so thoroughly is enough to make me want to swear off music. Anthony
@ www.fatwreck.com

lcantrell (8k)
Laura Cantrell – “Humming By the Flowered Vine” CD 10/39:34
Laura is definitely a star on the rise. She’s been written up in Oprah, The New York Times, Washington Post, WSJ, Rolling Stone, and a whole bunch of others. This countrified singer-songwriter grew up in Nashville, became a VP at a bank in NYC, and then quit when she played the Opry. That’s class. While this CD definitely has the fiddle and slide guitar making their appearances, to just lump her into country would certainly not be fair. She’s about as country as Lucinda Williams (whose unrecorded song “Letters” she covers here, but LC is not as harsh as LW). In fact, Laura’s sweet voice is more hillbilly than country (did you know there was a difference?), as she croons nearly an equal number of covers as originals. This, her third recording, is easily one more step into getting that star on Nashville’s walk. RBF
@ www.matadorrecords.com

Left Alone – “Lonely Starts & Broken Hearts” CD13/30:58
Completely punchless cartoon punk. Elvis Cortez and his gang don’t get rolling until five songs in and nothing pulled me out of my chair until a stripped-down ditty called “Heart Of Mine” that could’ve segued into a chunkier Swell Maps kind of loose-meat punk, but our boys don’t really have it in ‘em to find the extra note or phrase. They settle for costumes and posturing. A few moments have that scumbag stench, but it dissipates quickly. Anthony
@ www.epitaph.com

Les Terribles – s/t CD 14/31:55
This outfit (some of whom moonlight in Operation S) specialize in familiar-sounding (ahem) garage tunes sung in French with female vocals. Fairly solid and not unboppable, if not quite the best French garage disc I’ve come across this month. Still, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think there wasn’t potential for them to eventually develop into something quite worthy indeed. David
@ www.dionysusrecords.com

lolassome (6k)
Lolas - "Something You Outta Know" CD 15/45:19
Another fave band that keeps plugging along, mixing the power pop of The Records, a little of the glam punch of Sweet, and a plenty of Byrdsian 12 string jangle. High energy material is backed with catchy choruses and backing vocals, handclaps, and hooks galore. Tim Boykin, the main songwriter (and former frontman for the Shame Idols) has fine tuned the material on this third full length from the band, and the melodies are a little less straightforward on this. There are some definite ELO influences showing up this time around when a piano kicks in, especially on the ballad "Light Up Every Doorway", but that makes for a more varied listening experience, and that never hurts. Lots of songs about girls (heck, we're talking power pop here, so what did you expect), so don't go looking for the latest political rant or deep meaning here, but we all need an escape from the weariness of the world, and if you've been looking for the perfect disc to put a smile on your face, this is the one to do it. Steve
@ www.jamrecordings.com

Lovethugs – “Babylon Fading” CD 13/50:21
Norway’s Lovethugs sound a bit like the Buckinghams (though not as slick) but with a strong ‘60s psychedelic edge and without the tight harmonies. It’s a sound that was used in so many hippie and mod exploitation B-films from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, or mainstream films trying to cash in on the movement, like “The Impossible Years”. You know, teens dancing around (possibly in bikinis around a pool, or in shaggy clothes under colored strobe lights). Okay, it may seem like this isn’t about the music, but it is. If you know the source, you know the style. Focused around Jorgen’s acid-drenched guitar and relaxed vocals, the songs are catchy and spot-on niche based. Closer to the Standells than to Strawberry Alarm Clock. RBF
@ www.RainbowQuartz.com

luciano (7k)
Luciano – “Jah Words” CD 15/62:20
Luciano takes back the dancehall style of roots reggae, and brings it to Jah. All the songs show the positivism of life, especially in the light of Zion, Despite some “say-what?” moments (e.g., theory of evolution, from the title cut: “…monkey manifest into man that’s a lie”), the message is one of peace and Rasti love. Now, I’m not a fan of CCM (contemporary Christian music), or any other music that preaches at me, so I’m listening to this CD knowing I’m looking through a filter of denial of Luciano’s self-righteousness, because I would listen to this again in a second before the secular crap like Shabba Ranks. Much of my opinion (and it is just opinion, remember) is influenced by his strong version of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”. RBF
@ www.sanctuaryrecordsgroup.com

M83 – “Dead Cities, Red Seas, & Lost Ghosts” 2XCD
Another French duo playing with their toys (analogue synths & drum machines) to give us some wondrous sounds indeed. Overall lush and warm-sounding, like an auditory bubble bath, but with enough variety and spark not to simply drown the listener in said suds. Overall pretty nice, though the title track gives fair warning that they could turn into this generation’s Tangerine Dream (and I’m not talking about the early Krautrock stuff here) if they’re not careful. David
@ www.mute.com

Made Out Of Babies - "Trophy" CD 12/38:09
I saw these guys and girl open up for Unsane recently and to be honest they kind of gave me a headache. The music itself is sort of sludgy and rocking with a twinge of noise and metal tossed in but it had to be the lead singer’s voice that got to me. It’s like a pretty good band that hired the drummer’s neurotic and highly abused girlfriend to squelch out her anger. But on CD it and she sound a whole lot better. Maybe it was just the sound system at the club. This album is put out on Neurot Records which was started by the guys in Neurosis (doy) so I suppose they see something in Made Out Of Babies that I just didn’t see when I caught them live and when I gave this CD a good listen. It does have a whole lot of promise and loads of young girls who don’t have a voice like this will be way pleased. Guys might be intimidated or strangely turned on. The rest just nod our head to the tunes and wait for the headliner to come on. Mark
@ Neurot, PO Box 410209, San Francisco CA, 94141

Mahi Mahi – “(re)Move Your Body” CD 10/48:02
Wishful thinking will only get you so far in this world. Wishing that Mahi Mahi was more like early Cabaret Voltaire and less like squishy neo-disco won’t make it so. “Stand Up and Walk” is fucked up and edgy enough to rise above the dancefloor, but soon the Cars dueling with Nitzer Ebb while Bowie looks on starts to get old. “654321” is scrapyard electroclash but the shiny, happy, dippy “Right Now” just plain sucks. “Acoustic Fence” melts into a gooey mess of charred wires, but it’s not enough to carry us home. Proceed with caution. Anthony
@ www.corleonerecords.com

Mainliners - “Bring on the Sweetlife” CD 12/40:59
This band is from Sweden, and the Swedes are master imitators. They also love to rock! Upon the first listen I was immediately reminded of The Sonics. I was unimpressed by the title song, but the rest screams/sings in the vein of 60’s garage. Swirly psych style guitars. Tracks 2-8 are good. Handclaps! High energy, with the energy increasing as the album progresses. Most songs are pretty smokin’. Get Hip usually releases the cream of the crop. Laura
@ http://gethip.com

themaker (6k)
Makers - “Everybody Rise!” CD 11/36:06
The Makers (Spokane, WA) are back with their original guitar player Tim Maker (now known as Timmy Killingsworth) and new drummer Jimmy Chandler. The first new tunes in 3 years, and their 10th album. I’d say it rocks pretty hard, with a lot of emphasis on vocals and harmony, but the guitar work stands out as well. I liked the title track a lot, it has a very sexy sound. The entire album contains a lot of subtle musical variations. Produced by Jack Endino. Laura
@ www.killrockstars.com

Marvel - "Five Smell City" CD 13/44:56
OK... now I'm totally confused. Is this some Japanese band that is trying real hard to be some knock off American rock outfit, donning masks and having loads of cartoons and even character record sheets of themselves and their buddies on the inside flap or is this really some American trio who geeked out so much they named themselves after their favorite comic book distributor and actually took on the roles of supposed "heroes" on their own accord? The point is, Marvel sounds like a retarded version of the Hellacopters and I swear to Gawd they are all about merchandising rather than putting out balls out rock. I never even heard of these dudes and already they have massive teeshirts and buttons and all that for sale on the inside. The worst part is they barely even sing about superhero stuff. Yeah, there’s a song called "Flame On" all about that kid from the Fantastic Four, otherwise it's a cornball retreat to bad sentiments, being a lonely nerd, er, man, and all that other kind of typical rot. Uber nerds should be like fixing my computer and getting mad at me when I usurp their RPG websites by saying I am a 12th level Demanoid with no pants and a sixer of Country Club to share with all the "ladies in the house" (i.e., your weird cousin who eats too much and was overly upset when they cancelled "Farscape"). Marvel at the wonder of crappy rock and let the big boys do it for you. Geek! Mark
@ www.soundpollution.se

Mayday - “Bushido Karaoke” CD 14/37:27
This is the 3rd full length release from this Nebraska band. Mayday is fronted by Ted Stevens, who also has associations with Lullaby for the Working Class and Cursive. While I enjoyed the use of horns and banjo that accompany these songs, I found most of the songs to be rather mopey and dull. The lyrics themselves tend to be on the depressing side, ala Conor Oberst (Brighteyes) who happens to be a label mate. Laura
@ www.saddlecreek.com

Midnight Laserbeam – “A Death In The Discotheque” CD 11/52:40
I think the kids are calling this dance punk these days. Two-man band, made up of Shawn Porter on vox and electronics and Leif Garneau on drums, create something akin to new wave disco, not unlike Radio 4 and Moving Units. The first song, “Turning Into Scenery” warbles and fuzzes along, “Melt The Day Away” finds NIN-isms in the humming hesitations. The next couple of songs opt for Cure-isms. There are some oily keyboards on “Swimming In The Lake” but it loses steam and on the last few songs the computer electronics overtake the whole thing. Not unlike everything else in our world. Anthony
@ www.midnightlaserbeam.com

mightylemondrops (6k)
Mighty Lemon Drops – “Rollercoaster: The Best Of 1986-89 CD 19/70:42
Folks who only know these folks by their later, more polished works might be surprised to find that these guys used to be a punchy and not-ungaragey outfit. Originally associated with the C86 crowd (thanks to their inclusion on NME’s seminal tape compilation of said name), they managed to produce quite a few gems (as well as their share on not-unwarranted Echo & the Bunnymen comparisons) in their time. Of course as time went on and they “grew out” of said scene they meet the same fate as many a former “indie” band: their sound became less distinctive, the songs didn’t reach the same heights as before, etc. (it’s probably for the best that the compilation cuts out before 1990). Fortunately the compilers knew enough to sacrifice chronology for flow, so you don’t find yourself desperately reaching for the “eject” button by a certain point in the disc. Those who only know them from their later stuff might find themselves surprised as they find themselves grooving to such (earlier) faves as “Uptight”, “Sympathise With Us”, “Happy Head”, “Now She’s Gone”, et al. David
@ www.cherryred.co.uk

milkncookies (7k)
Milk 'N' Cookies - s/t CD 18/47:16
Formed in New York in the mid 70's, Milk 'N' Cookies was managed by the same guy who was handling Sparks, played on bills with the Ramones, Talking Heads, and others in the emerging New York punk scene. Rather than try and replicate the punkier sounds of those two bands, these guys stuck to a pretty basic formula of pop hooks, wholesome lyrics, and simple melodies. There are plenty of influences here, including Sparks, Roxy Music (bassist Sal Maida had previously been in Roxy Music, and later went on to join Sparks), and some later Beatles. The band recorded an album for Island; the project got shelved, then had interest from Sire (one of the primary labels in the U.S. that was releasing early punk), but then Island unexpectedly put the album out. Since there was little promotion for the record, it died on the shelves, and it killed Sire's interest as well, and that was the end. It's hard to tell what would have happened to the band; I suspect they would have had a new wave hit or two, similar to the Knack, the songs were definitely working some early skinny tie power pop territory, only with a little more innocence. There are a couple of songs that fall into the "shoulda been a hit" category, especially the punchy "Not Enough Girls (In The World)". I'm not a big fan of the lead singer (the vocals are a little high pitched whiny for my tastes), but it's a good disc for people looking for that glam/power pop connection and for bands that could have made it with just alittle luck. Steve
@ www.rpmrecords.co.uk

Misery/Path Of Destruction - split CD 8/19:35
If you cop names like these two bands you better damn well live up to them. Misery, employs anarchy symbology in their logo and begins with the under-recorded “Fine Day”, which sounds like a shitty boombox inside a dumpster. It’s grimy punk that strays from standard HC. On “Bullshit” they resort to the Oi! formula that is only about twenty years obsolete. P.O.D., a near-blazing spazz-core unit, with a singer who sounds like John Brannon of the Laughing Hyenas on the “The Filthy Rich Feel Pain Too.” No fucking around here, get in, rip the innards out and exit in two minutes. Anthony
@ www.rodentpopsicle.com

Monarch - s/t CD 10/30:18
These guys are okay I guess. The tunes are a crossbreed between emo and noise metal with some guy screaming at you. The tunes are kind of all over the place and have this "we’re just following the leader" vibe to it... because there are just so many bands out there like Monarch. They have a real pretty cover, like some Elizabethan monotype that’s actually quite pretty and confuses the buyer into thinking their getting some kind of sophisticated embrace on new music or something. What they get are kids that grew up listening to Soulfly and now find the whole MetalCore scene really engaging. The album and concept on a whole isn’t bad but there is just so much one man’s ears can take of some decent music sent on bad treble with a dude trying out for the next Cannibal Corpse record. It’s like if emo shook hands with noise and decided to have a threesome with thrash. It goes in all circles from there. And maybe you like circles...like nailing one foot to the floor and trying to get away by going round and round... Mark
@ www.popfaction.com

Mothers Anger - s/t CD 13/44:55
You gotta hand it to bands that just consist of just two people. I suppose the White Stripes ushered in this whole new barrage of one buddy who looks at another buddy and goes "who needs a bass and keyboard or a trombone player? It’s just you n’ me kid!" The Mothers Anger is two guys, guitar/sings and drums and they rock it better than most out there. It’s like good heavy pop rock with some actual chops and grit and no pretense to make them all that marketable or even popular. And for that they’re gonna get big just on college radio stations alone. The cover confuses me though. It has this skinny and tall woman dressed like a 20s socialite standing next to some chubby kid with bad stretch marks on some cracked desert playa. At first I thought this was some kind of Burning Man band or record or something but if these two guys hit that overdone event, kids coming out of an all night X fest would hold their ears and wish it all away. So maybe they should go out there and crank it up. Till then, we can all enjoy them on a subtronic level and have a good time. That’s what I did and am doing now. Whee! Mark
@ www.dionysusrecords.com

mountaingoats (6k)
Mountain Goats – “The Sunset Tree” CD 13/39:36
Having been a Mountain Goats fan for some time, and having met some of the obsessives first hand, I could just about hear the collective gasp when John Darnielle released his last disc, which was his first for 4AD and first to have used, well, really any production at all. Gone was the tape hiss the obsessives loved, and we entered into a new world of Goats, the studio version of the Mountain Goats. As for myself, I loved the transformation, and was pleased to hear his witty lyrics in such a crisp fashion. But no doubt some fans were lost, as is always the case when a band makes a major transformation. “The Sunset Tree” is his second album for 4AD, and not only is it a lot like it’s predecessor – fairly clean production, additional instrumentation outside of just Darnielle’s acoustic guitar - but it is also possibly one of the best albums he’s ever recorded. “Dance Music” was an instant favorite the second I heard it, and will be considered one of his best tracks when Rhino releases his “Greatest Hits” album (release date Fall 2017). This album may well be listed on a lot of top 10 lists at the end of the year, and it will be muchly deserved. Jake
@ http://4ad.com

Mt. Gigantic – “Old Smiler” CD 7/35:01
These lunatics listened to way too much Flaming Lips during their formative years. The art-damaged Iron Butterfly trippiness is augmented by an “aren’t we silly being so silly” vibe. Yes, we know that you can scream and make funny noises and stop and start songs suddenly and with no regard for clarity. At least on “Dip Into My Daddy” they pound the drums and get a ragged beat going. Then they pull out the rug and explode the psychedelic effects. All the songs lag after the four minute mark and there’s not much coherence to the songwriting. When you hear something like this it’s easy to cite a dozen bands that do it better. Why can’t they hear that? Sorry, but I’m worn out, that’s all I got. Anthony
@ www.friendsandrelativesrecords.com

My Dad Is A Dinosaur – s/t CD 20/45:33
What we have here is Thad Moyer and Chrissy Young being all...you know, dumb and stuff. Slinky, elastic electro-pop (“Breed”) and silly guitar/vocal exercises share time with way off Broadway takes on Half Japanese (“Je Suis”) and Ween (“Pee Wee”). It’s geared toward eight-year-olds, the innuendo of “Banana In Your Fruit Basket” notwithstanding. The simplistic, shambolic presentation may be a combination of necessity and second grade levity. Reminds me of some of the under-produced vanity singles that were flying out of the northwest some years back. Anthony
@ www.prisonjazz.com

Neins Circa – “Sunday Anthems” CD 11/50:47
Canadian hotshots who toured with A.C. Newman last year and gained some notice. They liken themselves to The Decembrists. Shades of early Elton surface briefly on song one. Then they take a left onto the new post-folk, traveling vagabond circus road. No one acknowledges that this road made a stop at Elton’s first five albums, along with Tir Na Nog, Van Morrison and Donovan? These days it’s increasingly difficult to listen to what it’s become. A song like “Nora Nora” breaks it down to simple vocal, guitar and horn, but since Neutral Milk Hotel went belly up it’s so unrewarding to listen to bands that merely sound like them. Evidently, this band was compelled to change their name from The Neins, and this is what they chose? Hmmm. Anthony
@ www.theneinscirca.ca

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - “B-Sides and Rarities” 3XCD
The tall lanky crooner has released what he has said to be his favorite record. It spans the full 20 years of the bands fortuitous career. I am a huge Nick Cave fanatic, and I have most of these songs in various formats, but it’s really nice to have them all compiled into this neat package. Most of these tracks were only available in limited quantities, like the early “The Moon is in the Gutter”, “Scum” and “The Girl at the Bottom of the Glass”, and have long been out of print. The production focuses on minimalism, but the intensity of the full band remains, with Nick’s seething and often emotional lyrics brought to the forefront. Laura
@ www.mute.com

No Use For A Name – “Keep Them Confused” CD 13/35:23
Wasn’t this once a hardcore band ? Give ‘em credit for becoming Warped Tour staples. It’s too easy to say a lot of bands rip-off Bad Religion and The Ramones in some way just by dint of their existence. But if the shoe fits. NUFAR can drop a super-polished package like this for the 17 year olds without batting an eyelid. The punk side is revved-up and under-recorded guitars with ringing tones and the pop side is roller-rena melodies with pre-pubescent vocals. I admit “Black Box” has an upside-down allure. The build-up on every song is the same, and if you can spin around blindfolded ten times and distinguish any one of these songs from any other without the vocals I’ll give ya a dollar. Anthony
@ www.fatwreck.com

Odiorne – “Heavy Wish” CD 10/40:19
Jimy Chambers, of Mercury Rev fame, steps back in the spotlight with his new band Odiorne…or at least as much of a spotlight there might be when you’re releasing an album on a small indie label. I guess comparisons to the Rev are going to be the go-to, and it is somewhat reminiscent of their middle period stuff – not as noisy as the early work or as overly-dramatic as the more recent output. What started out as a side-project is now Chamber’s full-time thing, and while it’s not as good as his last band it’s worth checking out if you dig this style of music. Plus, he was involved with the amazing Rev album “Deserters’ Songs”, so he’s always got that going for him. Jake
@ http://file-13.com

Of Montreal – “The Sunlandic Twins” 2XCD
This newest, millionth release by Of Montreal has them mining the same vein of gold that has made them what they are, but with a new twist – added to their fractured pop is a backbone of, well, disco beats would be how I might best describe them. Seriously, I think you could throw a number of tracks from this album on at a dance club and there’s a good chance some booties would be shaking from it. In addition to the main disc, there is a “bonus” CD with four additional songs, although it is unclear why they didn’t just include these songs on the other disc and make it a single CD to keep up with (maybe that’s why I’m not in charge of such decisions). Jake
@ www.polyvinylrecords.com

One AM Radio – “On the Shore of the Wide World” CD 7/25:47
This is electronica music in very much the same way that Dntel is: firmly implanted in the indie rock scene but having the basic make-up that you expect from more traditional electronica artists. This short player seems to be a collection of remixes from the likes of Daedelus, Alias, Caural, and John Tejada among others. It’s a decent listen, good background music at the very least, even if some of the songs do run together. Hrishikesh Hirway, the man behind One AM Radio, has a voice somewhat similar to Sam Beam of Iron & Wine, and in fact most of this material is so mellow if you replaced the electronic aspect with acoustic guitars you’d probably think it was the latest Iron & Wine release, a good quality for an album to have as far as I’m concerned. Jake
@ www.level-plane.com

oneofloud (5k)
One of the Loudest Tragedies Ever Heard - "Situation Nowhere" CD 10/39:44
This is one of those rare bands where "influences" doesn't just mean "blatantly ripping off [insert 80's band name here]". Led by singer/songwriter/producer (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) Johnny Fisher, Loudest Tragedy's first full length mines from so many different styles/genres/decades that the end result is something strangely new. In a single song - hell, in a single chorus - the band can conjure up such disparate comparisons as Joy Division, Archers of Loaf, early Smashing Pumpkins, even current Blink 182. Don't ask me how, but it works. It's good, vaguely punk, energetic rock that will bring back memories you haven't had yet. Miles
@ www.fuckloud.com

Oosterdok – “Some Day We Will Part Forever” CD 4/16:30
“Boring, adult contemporary electronic music for people to drink lattes to” would have been this album’s title if I had anything to do with it. One dude writing and performing all of the music, and a girl-diva type to handle vocal duties, I think I’ve seen this recipe before and it rarely works. They compare themselves to Depeche Mode, Air, Bjork and Ladytron…but I don’t really see any of it. Maybe the music of Oosterdok is a little like the most boring of Air’s output at best. Jake
@ http://oosterdok.com

oppressed (9k)
Oppressed - “Skinhead Times” 2XCD
A retrospective covering the years 1982-1998. Formed in 1981, one of the original anti-fascist skinhead bands from the UK. OI! OI! OI! for the working class culture. Great lyrics, great political attitude, great delivery. The real deal here. They live what they sing, and have always been outspoken advocates of racial unity in the skinhead and OI! scenes. We’ve never seen them in the states due to a dodgy past with the law that makes it impossible for them to secure a visa. I love rebellion. Laura
@ www.insurgence.net/

Oranges Band - "The World & Everything In It" CD 11/39:04
Ahh, summer. Lazy days spent breaking into hotel pools; nights lounging on a friend's porch sipping cold drinks and talking about love and aliens (usually not in the same sentence). Yeah, it's a cliche to say, but certain bands (i.e. The Shins, Granddaddy, Spoon, etc.) have an innate talent for capturing that laid-back, piss-in-the-wind, wistfully romantic summer feeling. Welcome the new kid on the block. Led by occasional Spoon bass player Roman Kuebler, the Oranges Band's second full-length casts you out on a gentle sea of jangly guitars and soothing, refined vocals. It's the perfect summer fling: beautiful, stress-free, and impossible to get out of your head. Miles
@ www.theorangesband.com

Ostinato – “Left Too Far Behind” CD 8/46:29
When this record first started playing, I got excited thinking it was the second coming of Codeine. Well, it’s not that good, but this group is definitely mining a similar territory to Codeine and Rex in their mellower moments and then rocking out like June of 44 when their blood gets to boiling. And it is a decent listen, I can’t really expect anyone to come out with an album as good as “The White Birch” anyways. Jake
@ www.ostinatoproject.com

Output – “We’re All Wired” CD 6/19:50
Mostly cheesy electro-rock that had Junior Sanchez helping write the songs and manning the boards. Output sounds like everyone else who produces this kind of stuff for the most part, the only track that really stood out to me was “Step Away” which had a slight Devo-meets-The Cars vibe. Outside of that, a pretty run-of-the-mill bland CD of rock music with lots of keyboards. Jake
@ www.xmixprod.com

Pama International - "Float Like a Butterfly" CD 12/36:40
The third release from this all-star ska/reggae cast, featuring former members of classic British ska revivalist bands like Special Beat, Madness, Specials, Loafers, Paul Weller Band, and others. This is like what ska used to be: soulful, melodic grooves with a strong focus on writing engaging pop songs. Nothing like the recent slop of tone-deaf, snotty-nosed skankers shouting for revolutions in countries they've only read about on the Internet. Learn from your elders, boys. Miles
@ www.pamainternational.co.uk

parkerandlily (4401bytes)
Parker & Lily – “The Low Lows” CD 10/44:22
I’ve always had a soft spot for the pedal steel guitar, and this album is chock full of it. Parker & Lily sound like Damon & Naomi or Low or Sappington in their approach to minimal, mellow rock music, but with a slight country tinge. So perhaps an even better comparison would be My Morning Jacket at their mellowest, like on that solo Jim James disc that accompanied some copies of “At Dawn”. This is a pretty damn good record, very relaxing…makes me wish I was sitting in a field on a sunny day drifting off into a nap, hoping a squirrel doesn’t crawl up my pants leg or that birds don’t fly over and poop on me. Ah, nature. Jake
@ www.thewarmsupercomputer.com

Passporte – “File Under Experimental” CD 31/69:37
Found sounds, field recordings, samples of phone calls and decomposed “songs” comprise this experimental treatise that is part Negativland, part outmusic, part found noise. Shahab Zargari is the tapemaster behind this unsettling monstrosity and he does deserve credit for keeping the whole enchilada together. The political force behind Zaragri is summed up by an anti-Bush missive on the insert sheet, which is printed on crisp parchment, and titles like “Nationalism = Fascism” and “Glitch In The System,” and the Che Viva logo. I can’t rightly review this as anything more than a quick course in sound editing. It’s a static view of a work under construction. The minimalist cover and parchment make this an art object on the one hand. As a sound recording it’s an undergraduate project in Dr. McCormack’s engineering class, that probably got an C+. Anthony
@ www.gcrecords.com

Pearls Before Swine – “The Wizard of Is” 2XCD
Tom Rapp (PBS head honcho) cleans out his closet and gives us two CDs worth of demo, outtake, and live material, either previously unreleased or only available on bootlegs. Often called “acid folk” and finding a home on ESP, it’s not too hard to see how this outfit became the godfather of the avant-folk and New Weird America movements. Not quite the thing to blast out the car speakers as you’re zooming down the freeway, this is music that demands – and rewards – careful listening. David
@ www.buyrunt.com/water.html

Peppermints – “Jesus Chryst” CD 18/29:06
Second record by San Diego losers with cover art that mocks the last supper. They call themselves “experimental barfy trash rock” and have supposedly been compared to Melt-Banana, Joan Jett and The Fall. How that makes any sense I have no idea. The songs are rudimentary and slack. On some of this they sound like Old Skull, that band of seven year olds that was on Restless. Weirdo rock that wants to be as fucked up as Melt-Banana (“Rabid Frogs”) but isn’t. It’s not experimental, barfy or trashy enough. I can think of ten bands that fit the profile better. Maybe live they cultivate more of an Impotent Sea Snakes persona, but they don’t even get naked in the inner sleeve photos. Lame. Anthony
@ www.paw-tracks.com

Picastro – “Metal Cares” CD 10/38:18
This Toronto band gives us two ways to go. They’re adept at mining harmony in discord (i.e. the dissonant beauty of “Sharks,”), they also offer a brown, acidic, folk blues that can be tough to swallow. Some of their dejected droning could be compared to the Dirty Three or Grails, but Liz Hysen’s atonal vocals ruin “I Can’t Fall Asleep.” The violin and viola of Hysen and Owen Pallett perform adequately throughout and they have no trouble with the sleepier tempos, but her flat, lifeless singing is a turn-off. If you affect detached indifference on a song or two that’s fine, but if that’s all your vocals do, well, you be illin’. Liz wants to sing on “Skinnies”, but she holds back, not letting herself find a melody line. This would have been a spooky good instrumental record. Worth hearing nonetheless. Anthony
@ www.polyvinylrecords.com

Pleasurecraft – “Lost Patterns” CD 11/46:50
Pleasurecraft play 80’s inspired electronic-pop music that in its best moments reminds me a bit of the Magnetic Fields and at its worst is like bad dentist office music. But mostly it is somewhere in-between, pretty inoffensive and ineffective at the same time but not bad really. Fans of the Postal Service and their ilk might enjoy this. Jake
@ www.pleasurecraftmusic.com

Princess – s/t CD 10/44:26
The phrase ‘self-indulgent’ comes to mind when I read lyrics such as, “…ladi dadi fuck John Gotti drinkin’ hot toddies and pina coladees/move your body don’t be snotty” This is complete and total masturbatory self-immersion. A record bursting with ideas it wants to share. Massachusetts duo Alexis Gideon and Michael O’Neill are low budget versions of all of their sordid influences, rhyming and rapping like Eminem chillin’ with Beck at his crib in Silverlake while Dean and Gene Ween and the Meat Puppets pass out cookies. Crazy-white-dude-acid-rock-new-wave-hip-hop has found a new champion. I wish I could say they live up to the hope of all that they purvey, but it’s not to be. The banjo plucking of “Buildings” and the cat scratch noise of “Dylan” are unusual, but not all that remarkable. When they go heavy on the electro-beats on “Stroller Controller” they lose their ghetto passes. Anthony
@ www.zibbi.com

Quintron – “Frog Tape” 9/29:56
Quite a switch from his last “Are You Ready For An Organ Solo”, this is almost like one of those “Haunted House Spooky Sounds” tapes, with Quintron as your Halloween host. He manages to maintain said eerie atmosphere (including a credibly spooky take on “Stray Cat Strut”) without descending into cheesiness or novelty. If this isn’t Quintron’s long-rumored cover of the “Sounds of North American Frogs” (though you do get about 14 minutes of frogs at the end) it’s still worth slipping on at work, at play, or at your next party (depending on your intended guests that is). David
@ www.skingraftrecords.com

Quirks – “Amnesia Is A Drag” CD 13/32:25
Hook-laden college rock flava on song two, “Watching You,” shows promise, then, song three, “What Did You Just Call Me?,” goes for plodding meat-rock; “Miss Angeles” is sluggish emo-crud; “Big Sky” tries to roar kinda like the Hellacopters. Things bounce around like that for half an hour. When it’s over there’s only one other really good hook-laden rock song, “Still Standing Still.” Compared to the two good songs, the rest of this debut is moot. Anthony
@ www.thequirks.net

Rainbow Ffolly - “Sallies Fforth”- CD 15/42:52
This album was originally released in 1968 and it is the only extant album by this band ever produced. Upon playing I was immediately struck by the evident Beatles influence. “Drive My Car” could have been written by Lennon/McCartney, and does sound a bit like the same named “Drive My Car” from the Beatles’ ”Yesterday and Today” album. “Hey You” has a full on psychedelic sound with druggy guitars and swirling chords. This is the 2nd re-release of this album, with 2 additional tracks not found on the original. Soft harmonies mixed with intricate melodies. Although the album started off a bit slow, I was drawn in after the few first songs. This is early British psychedelia. “Sun and Sand”, “Labour Exchange”, and “They’m” were the stand out songs for me. There are also snippets of dialogue between songs. Laura
@ www.revola.co.uk

raquelsboys (7k)
Raquel's Boys - "Music For The Girl You Love" CD 12/34:23
The duo of Sean Hutton and Reg Carter produce most of the sounds on this disc (with a little help from Jam Recordings head man Jeremy Morris) and it's full of 60's pop; the first song and band I think of is "Needles and Pins" by the Searchers. As you listen more, you hear the Hollies, the occasional Phil Spector echo, some Beach Boys surf, and on the best song on the album "Knockout", the Jesus and Mary Chain. Yeah, the last one would be an answer in that old "what doesn't fit here" game (well, maybe not), but it's an apropos comparison because of the fuzzy garage wall of production on the disc as a whole. It's a disc that takes a few different turns, but falls squarely into the same camp as the Raveonettes, with some impressive songwriting and great retro sounds that maintain plenty of heart and soul in today's indie pop scene. It's a disc that grows on you the more you listen, and the melodies end up sticking like glue; totally great. Steve
@ www.jamrecordings.com

Real Tuesday Weld - "The Return of the Clerkenwell Kid" CD 17/56:19
Somewhere between Triplets of Belleville and Tom Waits' "Frank's Wild Years" lies British cult favorite Stephen Coates (aka The Real Tuesday Weld). With an odd assortment of old-timey jazz samples, electronic back beats, and a winking croon, Coates creates a mesmerizing musical accompaniment to every hipster martini party from San Fransisco to Paris. Imagine Stephin Merritt of Magnetic Fields doing French cabaret in the 1930's. Miles
@ www.tuesdayweld.com

Residents – “Animal Lover” CD 15/58:53
Another Residents record slips in under the radar of mainstream American culture, and, appropriately, no one gives a tinker’s damn. By this point it’s a matter of the machine itself taking over. I suppose the live shows pay for their studio escapades, but I’m hard pressed to recall the last time anyone said anything about the new Residents album. They put ‘em out and no one hears them. The studio records are now overly pregnant with their “retardo” post-rock songs, and they’re bloated with ideas, but they are often repellent in the same breath, clumsy and purposely awkward in tone. “Olive and Gray” and “What Have My Chickens Done Now?” are like that. Waltzing along on a super-vibrato buzz with developmentally disabled vocals. And it all becomes a big turn off when every song has to out-weird the previous with silly vocals. Why? “Two Lips” is even more awkward with goblin-vocals, and “Mr. B’s Bumble” is techno-corny and it all becomes too much to be anything but a novelty. That’s what their career has been built on, sure, but after 30 years they can occasionally drop the act and write some serious songs in these serious times. They should channel their clout and energies into developing a national touring rock opera in opposition to the illegal war against Iraq. Instead Cryptic/Mute sends this crummy disc without so much as a cover or song listings, so I had to go to a record store and write down the song titles. Such thoughtlessness doesn’t even warrant a review. Movin’ on. Anthony
@ www.mute.com

retching (6k)
Retching Red – “Get Your Red Wings” CD 11/27:11
Ultra-fast HC with a woman who calls herself Cinder Block (formerly of Tilt) on vocals. Not so-much abrasive, just compressed (“Battery Acid”) and filled with some standard-issue guitar breakdowns (“Bullshit Repellent”). The texture doesn’t vary a lot but enough to keep every song from sounding exactly the same. The one thing worth noting is Cinder’s delivery. She spits out rapid-fire word puzzles like H.R. and breaks up her phrasing, cramming words into tiny spaces in the music. She’s the only distinguishing factor involved here. Anthony
@ info@retchingred.com

Reverb – “Swirl” CD 23/73:28
The collected works of this mid-90s UK post-psych-indie outfit who managed to make a minor splash on the UK charts. They were seemingly cited as being “psychedelic” but a passing resemblance to the Bunnymen (which was apparently enough to attract the attentions of their guitarist Will Sergeant) was as psychedelic as they got. Overall they weren’t bad, but in terms of sonics and songwriting there’s nothing here to make them stand out from among all the other contenders from said time and place. Worth noting that two of these folks went on to, if not bigger, then at least better things in the Land of Nod (whose own retrospective has been released by this label as well). David
@ www.elephantstonerecords.com

rickspringfield (7k)
Rick Springfield - "Written In Rock" 2XCD
At first I thought Mel was playing with me; a Rick Springfield anthology to review? Sure, I love "Jessie's Girl"; I mean, who doesn't? Same with "I've Done Everything For You". Two great slices of the power pop pie, if you ask me. But a two disc retrospective seems like a little overkill. There are a number of good songs on here; you have to get past some of the schlocky keyboards or horns on some songs, not to mention the overproduced sound, but Springfield was more than just a one hit wonder too. It takes his career from wannabe rocker (opens with a near rock opera version of "Eleanor Rigby" by his band Zoot), to a couple of singer songwriter type tunes, and then the power poppers start up. There's a series of five or six songs that are all fun pop "Jessie's Girl" era numbers, with Springfield really showing some guitar chops and solid vocal performances. Aside from the two I already mentioned, there's a great song called "Love Is Alright Tonight" and a song on the second disc, "Love Somebody", which would have fit well on any Rubinoos LP. But the production kills a lot of the songs, and Springfield was a chameleon, changing with the times to disco and dance beat songs to songs where the production made it sound like he was trying to be a hair band star. If the guy had just kept it simple with the power trio stuff, he would have been fine, and there are some songs on here that had the production not gotten out of hand, might sound OK. Pare this baby down to one disc, and you'd be listening to a decent retrospective of a guy who has a lot more talent than he's given credit for. Steve
@ www.legacyrecordings.com

Rockwells – “Tear It Down” CD 6/24:11
This short but sweet CD has a very genteel feel. They’re soft pop, but they manage to pull it off without being treacle. “Breakout” is a decent song, as is “Letter of Marta”. Johnathan Kelly proves to be a decent singer, as well as songwriter, though “Theme From Miss Signal” seems to be based on that Randy VanWarmer song “Just When I Needed You Most”. Strange choice. RBF
@ www.rockwells.com

Roger Glover - "Mask" CD 8/41:12
Some dude from Rainbow has now put out a new New Wave record that takes us all back to the throws when Sting was cool and played with the Police and perhaps some long lost John Hughes film. This album came out in 84! Holy crap for crap! No wonder. Oh well...nevermind. The songs are totally cool for like 1985 or so and I suppose in the whole vein of an 80s throwback, both fashion and music, I suppose this fits. Otherwise it's completely funny and I really got a kick out of imagining this guy singing in like "The Lost Boys" instead of that buffed out sax player on the beach. I still prefer the sax guy because it just doesn't get any more head cheese than that, but ol' Rog here has a good shot at being some weird electro...oh wait. As far as a re-issue of some album/guy I never heard of, I, uh, suppose this is quite amazing. Yeah. Man...that explains it all. Maybe he was in "Tuff Turf" as the singer in the back as the Blades rolled down the street with that hot chick that was in the "Escape from Witch Mountian" films. Now it all comes back to me. And it'll all come back to you too. Maybe... Mark
@ www.lemonrecordings.com

rosemarys (7k)
Rosemary’s Babies – “Talking to the Dead” CD 25/38:27
Collection of studio (including their seven inch) and live tracks from this early (’81-’83) hardcore outfit from Lodi NJ. Their works can be said to be of Historical Significance since it features a young Eerie Von before he went on to Samhain/Danzig, but they still manages to stand up in their own right. Lyrics took a distinctly irreverent turn (don’t expect “Let’s Molest” to go over too well at the next Michael Jackson Fan Club convention), while the music was vintage blazing hardcore (you know we’re talking vintage when there’s an ode to Vice Squad’s “Becky (sic) Bondage”) that carried the excitement of the times. Not quite up there with Minor Threat or “up-to-and-including-Damaged’ Black Flag, but still a fun little platter nevertheless. David
@ www.ghastlyrecords.com

RPG – “Full Time” CD 13/29:13
I haven’t heard this kind of acid metal arena rock since, well, let’s just say one might expect to have seen them on the stage of the Fillmore. Lots of wailing metal guitar solos and growling vocals pushing their sound to max. Really interesting stuff. Total time warp. Black Sabbath, Iron Butterfly, Traffic, they all come to mind. The songs are consistently well-defined in its genre, and with names “Nazi Mindreader”, “Paralyzed”, Can’t Get Any Sleep,” “20 Year Old Idiot,” and “Song of Evil”, well, what more do you need to know? And yet, there’s more, in the form of an accompanying DVD of the band. Best of both worlds! RBF
@ www.archlightrecords.com

rubbercityrebs77 (6k)
Rubber City Rebels – “The Akron Years (1977)” CD 15/58:06
Akron was truly a hotbed of music action in the mid-late ‘70s, no less viable than cities like Boston and Athens. And among the very interesting were the RCR. Being temporally behind the New York scene as they were more metal influenced, they were really more advanced in pre-hardcore sounds, sort of a cross between local legends Iggy and Ted Nugent. Very listenable, even with the extensive guitar solos, RCR score high with “Brain Job” (great riff, though the song goes on too long) and a nice jab at the British punk scene with “Child Eaters”. The first half of this CD is the studio recorded “From Akron”, the second half is taped live at the Crypt “Live From Akron”, all from, obviously, 1977. Some songs overlap, and there’s interesting live covers of “Pipeline” and “Just Like Me”. Track 15 is also a 20 minute documentary in Quicktime, not present in earlier re-releases. A nice find. And after all these years, there is even a newer 2003 RCR release on Smog Veil Records. RBF
@ www.wizzard-in-vinyl.com

Ruins – “Vrresto” CD 15/53:42
The 1998 release from Y+Y has finally washed up on these shores, carrying two bonus tracks with it, cranking out their trademark spastic-elastic prog-on-45-with-the-pitch-cranked-up, with the occasional “effect” added to their basic drums-and-bass setup at times. I could nitpick over a few things (let’s just say that perhaps a “MIDI Controller” isn’t such a good toy to have after all) but overall it’s another quality offering from this outfit. David
@ www.skingraftrecords.com

Rumours - "We Are Happy" CD 11/37:39
Australian for the Libertines-lite. This Melbourne-based band has most of the ingredients to be a retro-rock pop band - catchy enough tunes, jangly guitar chords, bouncy bass lines, a drummer who's constantly riding his cymbals - they're just missing the most important one: attitude. It's well-produced, but over all it's rather bland and extremely sappy, sort of like the Goo Goo Dolls doing garage rock. I mean, the singer says the word "love" 14 times in the first five minutes. That pretty much qualifies the band as a drinking game. Miles
@ www.therumours.com.au

Sames - “You Are the Sames” CD 13/40:16
As a former resident of the great state of North Carolina, and the biggest fan in the world of their early-to-mid-90’s output, it makes my heart smile to know there are still some up and coming bands carrying the torch out that way. While not sounding particularly like Superchunk, they still remind me quite a bit of them, especially the Chunk’s more forays into pop on their last few albums. There’s also a bit of Brit pop feel and jangle floating around in there, and more than enough catchy hooks for any one album to have. The eighth track “Downtown” is a particularly stellar track, and will no doubt make it on to numerous mixes I make over the next few months. Jake
@ www.poxworldempire.com

Scarred – “Repression” CD 10/27:09
So Cal is still the hotbed for old skool, Brit-punk flavored punk and this band fits right into that schema. It goes without saying that if you play music like this you will invariably borrow from (rip off) Social Distortion. Wasting no time, they get that out of the way on track two. Having said that, this band is as good as a lot of the shit that made a name for itself at Gilman St. Anthony
@ Shogun 77, Box 2433, Anaheim, CA/92814

Scream Feeder – “Take You Apart” CD 13/43:51
I started out really liking this. I mean, here’s some pleasant pop with few bells and whistles; nice music with a nice sound, and some decent vocals. But as time went on, it started to get kind of cloying. By the end, I was checking my watch. The songs are all consistent, and if you like kind of – and pardon the oxymoron – mainstream indie sound presented by these guys, well you’ll be in hog heaven. I like (non-mainstream) pop, put my teeth hurt now. Just crosses the line of tolerability on the top 10 radio scale. Essentially, there is nothing wrong with this band, I just need some roughness, or at least power-pop, not this emo kind of store brand model. Hey, I really tried. RBF
@ www.rhythmacerecords.com

sweasel (6k)
Screeching Weasel - “My Brain Hurts” CD 14/29:52
The Ramones influenced SW released their masterpiece in 1990, and 15 years later it remains the definitive American pop-punk statement. The Chicago band recorded this with Andy Ernst while touring Northern California. Fast and catchy, that’s what the Weasel’s were all about. Ben’s vox are tough to beat and the keyboards add a lot of energy. Screeching Weasel recorded a lot of great tunes over the years, but with “Guest List”, “Veronica Hates Me”, “Cindy’s On Methadone”, “The Science Of Myth” their cover of “I Can See Clearly Now”, etc. this one is the one to start with. Mel
@ www.asianmanrecords.com

Secret Lives of the Freemasons – “This Was Built to Make You Dance (Here Is Your Revolution)” CD 17/46:26
Really decent Ashville, North Carolina postcore. They walk the line, being part emo (more), part screamo (less), and all solid. There’s the usual looks into confusion and angst, but the titles show they have a sense of humor (e.g., “Make Like a Door and Shut Up,” “Glazed Over Eyes Never Lie”, “I Fought the Broad and the Broad Won”, “Less ‘Tude, More Dude”, and Rodney with be proud with “If It Weren’t For Pickpockets, I’d Have No Sexlife At All…”. Not bad for a bunch of guys rising from the ashes of two bands, A Kiss Before Dying and Throwing Myself, especially considering the quality of this CD when taking into account that it was recorded in four days. RBF
@ www.astromagnetics.com

Sham 69 – “The Punk Singles Collection 1977-80” CD 26/69:37
As you can probably guess, this is a collection of the A/B sides to their seven inch releases. They were obviously still getting a handle on the studio during their first couple of seven inches, but eventually everything started to click and they were cranking out such rousing streetpunk anthems as like “Borstal Breakout” and “If The Kids Are United”. Whether you’re an old-time fan with some holes in the collection or a new listener looking for a point of entry, this will definitely suit your needs. Props to the good Captain for making these tracks available in one place. David
@ www.captainoi.com

Shesus – “Ruined It For You” CD 7/22:19
Don’t care for the name, but the Eco-pak packaging of this CD is nice. Three girls and a guy drummer do the post-90s rawk and squawk. I could cite Sonic Youthy-ness in the first few minutes, but as soon as I do they’re off on some weird tangent, with no discernible direction. It’s jumpy rock with bridges and changes in the songs that also involve complete alterations in tone. At times singer Heather Newkirk coughs up a bit of Siouxsie S. and, I hate to say, Gwen S.. I could do without “Weapons of Love Destruction,” but the short and minimal “For Now” is like a kinder Mecca Normal, not a horrible thing. This is a queer record (I don’t mean it’s a homosexual). Take, for example, the Pat Benatar-Meets-The-Residents design of “In The France.” Is it any good? I can’t tell. Maybe that’s my own prejudice, but I have to say, besides “For Now,” there ain’t much here. Anthony
@ www.narnackrecords.com

Shivaree – “Who’s Got Trouble?” CD 11/43:26
Ambrosia Parsley has a wonderful, traipsing voice just perfect for the torchy ballads presented here. Whether backed with a Parisian flair or soft rock, she melds and bends her vocals to meander along the melody, hooking in the listener at the same time. Fave cut is “Little Black Mess,” but it’s all worth hearing. There is a very cool cover of Eno’s “The Fat Lady of Limbourg”. If you need to catch your breathe between visit to the mosh pits, this is the perfect lettuce to cleanse your palate. RBF
@ www.rounder.com

Shroud of Lowell – s/t CD 12/53:52
I was not a fan of early 70s style heavy rock, but New York area-based SoL brings it back, and works it amazingly well. Made up of members of ‘80s bands the Nails, Dead Nude and Slag, this power trio uses their extensive experience to turn the sound around to fresh and accessible. The songs are a bit long, averaging near 5 minutes each, including the inevitable solos. But each song has its appeal, from the S&M of “Amanda” to a jarring bass-line in “Demon Haunted World”, the pure fury of “Broke My (Fuckin’) Heart”, right through the dark and wistful “Coney island Winter Blues.” Point is, each has its own distinct personality, keeping the listener’s attention. Michael Margulis’ vocals are growls, setting the tone. Even the ballads grind. Excellent work. RBF
@ waterlane@aol.com

Shy Child – “One With the Sun” CD 9/38:07
El Guapo were a pretty damn good band, but then they broke up/disappeared/I dunno what happened. Well, this is what happened to two of them: they moved to NYC and formed Shy Child. And as much as I liked their original group, this one might be even better. This is how dance-rock should be done, it would be nice of some of the more popular ones would recognize this fact and stop sucking. In a lot of ways this is a lot like El Guapo but with tons of keyboards and synths layered on top…catchy stuff, dancy beats, I have no doubt that if the cool kids catch onto this band they’ll be huge in no time, and it will be well deserved. Jake
@ www.shychild.com

singleframe (7k)
Single Frame – “Body/End/Basement” CD (+DVD) 17/33:57
This band appears to be a good signing for Volcom, who have consistently thrown good money after bad. I’m confused, because it’s not at all like what the Costa Mesa punx are cruising with on Newport Blvd. Am I allowed to use the terms ‘lo-fi’ and ‘deconstructed’? That is not this is but what else do you call “Slum Pioneer”? We need a term for novel, indescribable new “rock” music. An old friend of mine might refer to this as collegiate, post-Pavement, super-slacker, pseudo-intellectual morph-rock, since it can morph into any number of unnamable sub-species. It’ll turn itself inside out three or four times in a couple minutes, so be patient. Keyboardist Jason Schleter, guitarist Brendan Reilly and percussionist Adreon Henry have detached from every aspect of the Hot Topic mall-rat kiddie freakshow. I think they have. I’ve never seen mention of them anywhere in the trendy mags. I don’t know of a single 18 year old punk that’s mentioned them to me at all. The moaning of “Lost Pines” and the rattling of “Exact Copy…” slam into each other and stick, and we’re off and running. “Digital Witness” is backward Swirlies rock and “I’ll Lose Your Balance” and “Facts About Doors” are brokedown and post-lo-fi and two of the best songs of the year. Seriously. They have some chops and some imagination, and they cover a lot of ground with multiple layers and intertwined branches of sound. One partial comparison that hit me was Moneen, but that’s not right. Someone needs to get behind these guys and promote the bejesus out of this record. The DVD includes videos for each of the songs by various directors. Anthony
@ www.volcoment.com

Sleater-Kinney – “The Woods” CD 10/48:08
A bit of a left turn for this outfit (hence the title?). Not that they were necessarily a low-key outfit anyway, but this release find them cranking up the intensity to 11, sounding as powerful and raw as the sentiments behind the music, with production noisy enough to make Neil Young stand up and take notice. Granted perhaps not EVERY track needed the distorto production (what works for “The Fox” doesn’t necessarily work for “Modern Girl”, smothering it in fuzz instead of adding to the track) but the album as a whole ends up knocking you on your arse. Even for a band that weren’t slouches to begin with this is a significant step forward. David
@ www.subpop.com

Sleepover Disaster - “Loud Is the New Quiet” CD 11/51:09
This is a forgettable, but not necessarily bad album of British inspired Central Valley Rock. It sounds a bit like Radiohead’s first two albums, but not so much like their more recent stuff. Swirly guitars and a voice that sounds occasionally like Thom Yorke only further propel the comparison. You could do worse…and you could also just listen to Radiohead themselves. Jake
@ www.thesleepoverdisaster.com

Smittens – “Gentlefriciation Now!” CD 14/35:30
It would be easy to dismiss this Burlington, VT band by giving them the label bubblegum, but they are so much more than that. It is not all smooth and bland sailing with this mixed-gendered, mixed-orientation 5-some, as it’s obvious while they all play multiple instruments (as well as all being songwriters), that their skills are a bit rudimentary – which is just perfect for their sound. It gives them an edge that more than makes them interesting and very listenable (pure bubblegum is just too sanitized). Sexuality and its many gendered facets plays a large part in the song topics, like “My Girl”, “Doomed, Lo-fi and In Love,” “To the Enemies of Political Pop”, and “Twee Valley High”. Both fans of bands like the Ramones and the Archies ’ll probably misunderstand them, though the Smittens are probably the perfect bastard child of both. And that is a strong compliment. And to address one comment in their song “I Hate Vermont”, if you want a good bookstore, try Rivendell in Montpelier. RBF
@ www.dangerfive.com

So L’il – “Revolution Thumpin’ ” CD 12/37:03
At first, this crew might be described as a meeting of the minds between Daughter and St. Etienne. They don’t stay with the hip-hop groove of Daughter, however. The rainy mood and Deb Campbell’s backward vocal on “Bye By Zooey” smacks of Angelo Badalamenti’s work. “I’m Bored, Wanna Fuck” drags itself around a noir-ish loop. “De Apocalypso” percolates underneath it all in a reggae dub. “The Great Uplifting” closes things by dancing with the Dream Academy. A pastiche of styles and a joyride through the long night of lonely faces and blinking lights. Better than Dick Cheney for President. Anthony
@ www.solil.net

So Many Dynamos – “When I Explode” CD 10/31:00
Computer-nerdy power pop, it wears the urgent badge and has a cosmic quality with sci-fi quirks on “Heat/Humidity” and “We Panic In A Pew.” A dance theme plays out as they juxtapose sharp vocals with repeating keyboards and “When We Were Machines” and “Windows Facing Walls” raise the bar. It requires a keen set of ears to detect the line between inspired and insipid in this idiom. Marrying outmoded synth sounds to spiky guitar has become a cliché by now. For the most part, these guys hone their songs down to dense guitar and punch in the strangulated electronics instead of just leaning on the keys. Concise and well-executed. Anthony
@ www.skrockrecords.com

Stage Bottles – “New Flag” CD 13/47:11
This German band is apparently one of the (few) anti-fascist skinhead bands running around. They’re bent toward punk-ska with the sax playing of singer Olaf, but they’re a thick as a brick Oi! band too. “That’s Where It Comes From” gets a shot of the Mescaleros and slithers over the sand. “Punk & Disorderly” rocks the mic with a snarl and a sax line that sounds like X-Ray Spex. Too much of it just takes up disc space, however. Anthony
@ www.insurgence.net

Starfighter – “Orion” CD 11/41:30
Second album by a Belgian band that began life as the solo work of singer/guitarist Tim Brown (not the wide receiver). The opening instrumental, “Theme,” comes flying at you with flaming guitars that are kind of trebly/crackly like th’ Faith Healers. After that they hike through some light psych-pop territory on “Tired.” They get more mechanical on “#1 Today” and expand that to include the pulse-grind of “Access Wars,” which is enough to get this a passing grade. Yes, it’s loaded with hooks, but it’s also derivative of lots of things. So, what isn’t these days? I ain’t hatin’. Anthony
@ www.kinkystar.com

steadyups (8k)
Steady Ups vs. Doctor Echo – “Dub Disaster” CD 11/39:34
Doctor Echo is Justin DeHart from Sacramento. The material on this disc was recorded on 8-track between ‘95-‘00 and released on Doctor Echo’s own label. It’s mostly downtempo dub of the music of the Steady Ups, for whom the doctor was the original drummer. Not a lot of super heaviness or warped notes, just a shitload of echo. The doctor finds a core groove to exploit on every track. Steady Ups are not bad. “Fist of Dub”, “Long Dub” and “Oppressor Version” are all aces. Anthony
@ www.doctorecho.com

stiffed (5k)
Stiffed – “Burned Again” CD 15/43:37
DIY demo CD that’s hard to describe. The mix is rough but listenable, and the songs are surprisingly sprite and funky, bad girl rock (“Run”) with a dash of cocktail lounge disco (“It’s Unanimous”). Several songs feature vocal moves that hover around Debbie Harry and exploit the Blondie-era connection (“A Day With Andrew”). Are they shooting for an over-the-top No Doubt thing? Don’t know if I should like this or not. It’s loaded with pop hooks and the Rezillos-meets-the-new-millenium vibe is alright. I just don’t trust my instincts anymore. It’s all too much candy for one sitting. Anthony
@ www.outlookmusic.com

Straitjacket - “Modern Thieves” CD 13/29:51
Snotty and snarly attitude, I like that. Good solid street punk out of Portland. Comparisons can be made to 70’s style punk a la The Clash, Buzzcocks, Stiff Little Fingers. First full length. Screaming guitars, call and response. Every track had me boppin’ around. I dig it. They sound like they could be from London in the 70’s. Laura
@ ww.tko.com

Strange – “Things In Night” CD 9/48:13
Post-psych on the first song, “Ghosts of Germany.” On “Plant Life” they take on multi-leveled instrumentation, soupy but not dense. Vince Carmody and David Mueller’s guitar playing is supple and kept me listening for the next move. Between the synths and what appears to be “treated” trumpet on “1001 Erotic Nights” there is an ornamental art rock but different from, say, Mercury Rev. “Tri-Suicide” transports itself back to England in 1970 and jams with Jethro Tull and Status Quo. The songs build as they pass from movement to movement. The nine minute closer, “Over There”, is a mini-symphony in itself. The degree of difficulty involved in thoroughly inventing a “new” sound is off the board. There may be nothing new under the sun, but every now and then a band can leave a different shape of footprint than those that came before. The cover art is demo-crude and this has the feel of a genuine homegrown artifact. Anthony
@ www.pidgeonenglish.com

Sufjan Stevens – “Illinoise” CD 22/74:14
This guy has become such a beloved and revered figure in the past couple years among the hipper-than-thou-indie-record-store-employee that it’s sacrilegious to say anything the least bit critical. So I won’t. His previous records have built a passionate fanbase not without good reason. His music is conveniently attached to the new folk movement, for lack of anywhere else to go with it. (To call this folk or rock or pop music of any kind is to miss the point, and only acts as a commercial identifier.) Within the ranks of the new singer/songwriters Stevens falls into his own category. His conversational style as a writer and singer is much of what defines him. It appears this is some kind of concept recording in homage to all things Illinois (Come On Feel The Illinoise). He opens with a song entitled, “Concerning The UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois” and he closes with, “Out of Egypt, into the Great Laugh of Mankind, and I shake the dirt form my sandals as I run.” Starring Abe Lincoln, Black Hawk, Carl Sandburg, Al Capone and John Wayne Gacy. (“His father was drinker/And his mother cried in bed/Folding John Wayne’s t-shirts/When the swing set hit his head…” from “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.”) Densely-packed with a long libretto this is a modern opera with historical characters interacting with contemporary subjects. The breadth of the songs is so enormous it’s impossible to say ‘this song sounds like…’ Let me lay this on you, Stevens plays the following: acoustic guitar, piano, Wurlitzer, bass, electric guitar, banjo, drums, oboe, alto sax, flute, accordion, recorder, shakers. Oh, and he wrote all twenty-two songs and engineered and produced the record. As I sit here trying to absorb what I’m hearing it becomes an out of body experience to figure a way to the heart of this music, composed of millions of grains spilled down through decades, centuries. It’s pre-rock and post-folk. One song after another just knocked me out. It all becomes something else entirely on each song, but it holds together, and yet you can’t pin it down. It’s cumulatively complex in the psychological sense, though it may not always be technically complex. I give up. This guy has stumped me, period. Go discover some of his music. Anthony
@ www.asthmatickitty.com

Suzy & Los Quattro - “Ready to Go” CD 11/34:01
This five piece from Barcelona, Spain have an affection for the Go-Gos and it is obvious on this disc. They even cover “Vacation”. Fronted by vocalist Suzy Chain, comparisons can also be made to Nikki and the Corvettes and Josie Cotton. Lots of pop harmonies mixed with slashing guitars. Pretty low on my danceability meter for lack of “oomph”, and the songs don’t vary form much. Suzy is a sexy vocalist, but they’re probably much better live. Songs are all sung in English. Laura
@ www.notomorrowrecords.com

blocked (9k)
The Blocked - “Smashed Hits” CD 12/38:58
This is one of those lost albums. Although no dates appear on the release, this Welsh trio broke up in the mid-90s after releasing a couple singles and contributing a track to a comp. The Blocked play a Mod version of C86. The band writes solid melodies throughout, with the opening track, “Keep Your Hands Off Felicity” being the obvious hit, but “Louder Than London” will sneak up on you. C86 fans will want to grab this buried treasure. Mel
@ www.detour-records.co.uk

The Catch - "Get Cool" CD 10/31:57
The Catch are from the Seattle area and do songs that bounce back and forth between near riot grrl stuff to some melodic material that would fit in well on a bill on a Go Go's bill. Heck, I saw Bikini Kill and the Go Go's together at the Warfield in SF in the 90's, and it was a fun combo; and this is a pretty fun disc, even if it's flawed in places. A female quartet, there are a couple of songs that would be really great on this; "Between Friends" has a great power pop sound, but includes a couple of slow breaks smack dab in the middle that distract a bit from the bounciness of the song. But I do like lead singer Carly Nicklaus' voice quite a bit, it's strains to hit some of the notes, but with a charmed energy that hits the spot, much like Kim Warnick did with the Fastbacks. They certainly have issues with boys, whether they be cheaters, or don't pay attention, wanting to wash them right out of their hair, and the lyrics ring true to the music. It's a disc that shows off a ton of potential, and well worth digging up. Steve
@ www.madeinmexicorecords.com

The Go - "Instant Reaction" CD 24/70:14
This quartet from New York (at least I think that's where they were from, all the liners are in Japanese, so bear with me, and do not confuse this band with the one of the same name that has the Jack White-White Stripes connection) produced at least one single ("Don't Take Her Away" was compiled on Powerpearls Vol. 2) and from the sounds of this, a few other songs in the studio, plus they had a backlog of other songs that were ready to go. Unfortunately, the world wasn't ready for a band that took a few new wave and power pop hooks, sounding much like the Paul Collins Beat, and The Records, and songwriting that could have produced hit after hit. Nope, they were just another pretender in a long line of failed power pop bands of the late 70's. Thankfully, Wizzard In Vinyl out of Japan has unearthed this as part of their Power Pop Retrospective series, and it's well work picking up for the great hooks, melodies and catchy songs. Great energy leads the way, the influences are all over the place; ranging from early Beatles, Ramones, and they were easily as good as some of the contemporaries I mentioned earlier. Seek this out if you are a fan of early power pop; it'll be well worth your effort. Steve
@ www.wizzard-in-vinyl.com

theeheavenly (4783bytes)
Thee Heavenly Music Association – “Shaping the Invisible” CD 11/44:27
Given that it only seems old folks like me listen to it anymore, and the kids barely even know such a genre exists, I’m continually surprised at the number of “shoegaze” bands that pop up in every batch of reviews I do. I’ve heard bad, I’ve heard good, and then there’s plenty in-between, which is where I would place Thee Heavenly Music Association. It’s obvious they have digested a lot of My Bloody Valentine and Jesus and Mary Chain, while taking pacing and vocal cues from Mazzy Star. There are a couple of particularly interesting tracks here, “Angelic Disorder” standing out the most, and a cover of the Kate Bush song “Running Up That Hill”, but as a whole it’s nothing worth getting your panties in a twist over. Jake
@ www.rehashrecords.com

thor (12k)
Thor - "Thor Against The World" CD 11/43:46
I guess this guy is some bodybuilder in real life, so that means he has every right to put out some kind of rock record. He has the leather braziers, the hair, the fuzzy britches and, yeah, his name is Thor. But this dude can’t sing worth of crap and he seems to have an affection for "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and Meatloaf records, because this album comes off as some weird performance piece or perhaps a rock opera that actually never went anywhere. And if that’s the point, then this guy is a genius. I mean, dude has songs like "Creature Feature" which would make the kids in the Cramps roll their heavily black lined eyes. I mean, the tunes here are so cheeseball and poorly done it makes me wonder if I am actually missing out on some new faction of music or scene. Is there a He-Man / Dopey Musclehead In Tight Pants thing going on right now? Because if there is I wanna be A) introduced to it and B) find some way of totally eliminating the squadron with one mighty blow from my mystical hammer of doom! The same that Thor’s dad shot lightning at and made it all powerful and stuff. This is like riding in a broken Camero with your scary uncle as he recalls that pass he never caught in high school and the chicks he banged in this here car kind of music. Mark
@ www.smogveil.com

Tiger Bear Wolf – s/t CD 10/31:35
Holy fucking sweet jesus on a pogo stick, this is one brilliant album. Imagine the Hot Snakes with just a pinch of 70s rock thrown in there, maybe a dash of Jesus Lizard, and you’ve got a fantastic debut by this crew of North Carolinians. I’m nearly ready to wet myself with anticipation of listening to it again and again and again. How come everything can’t sound this good? Jake
@ www.tigerbearwolf.com

Tijuana Hercules – s/t CD 13/29:02
This Chicago three-piece band contains 2 former members of Mount Shasta. This is their 2nd full-length release, following up “When the Moon Comes up Wild”. Revved up sloppy blues a la The Black Keys and at times reminiscent of Killdozer. The singer sounds like he is really trying hard to imitate the gravel throated vocal style of the late great Howlin’ Wolf. Similar also to Mr. Airplane Man in both their approach to minimalism and in their enthusiasm for tweaking the delta blues style and making it their own. Nothing new or groundbreaking, but an enjoyable listen. Nice use of the trombone and the cowbell. Laura
@ www.tijuanahercules.com

Tilbury on Cloves – s/t CD 13/65:28
Outside of Yanni this is probably the first time I’ve ever listened to a Greek musician, or is suppose “musicians” in the case of this duo from Athens. They play mellow electronic music crossed with really subdued pop songs…mostly instrumental, but the occasional vocals pop in to switch things up now and again. Like so much work of this nature, it ends up being just so-so; nothing on the album is bad, but it is easily forgettable and not terribly special either. But it is a loooong album, so if you like this than at least you get a lot of it. Jake
@ www.bsbta.dk/

Trashcan Darlings – “Episode I: The Lipstick Menace” CD 14/49:15
Retro glam punkers, these Norwegians sound like the early British punk bands like Eater and the Damned, but wear make-up like the early New York Dolls. Uff da. However, unlike those early Brit bands, these guys know their way around their instruments. Tight songs and musicianship rule the day. With all the theatrics I’m assuming from the very glossy photos, while they sound great, I wonder about the formulaic nature of their sound. Their look come across as, well, manufactured, like when department stores started selling mechanically ripped jeans with safety pins included in 1977. Well, whatever, this is a fun listen, with effective songs like “Psychotic Barbie”, “Rock’n’Roll Horrorshow,” “Nancy Boys with Tommy Guns” (an answer to the Cramps “Bikini Girls with Machine Guns”?), and the very catchy “Call Girl”. This band is worth checking out, just close your eyes. RBF
@ www.wizzard-in-vinyl.com

Two if by Sea – “Translations” CD 9/38:32
This five piece from Baltimore have decided it is a good idea to mine the same territory as Interpol but add an electronica element to the mix. And it works on occasion, but mostly not so much. The best songs on the album are those where the electronic edge is minimized and they just sound like another of those upbeat Joy Division rip-offs that flooded out of NYC a couple of years back. There’s nothing particularly exciting about the record as a whole, but maybe it’s the optimist in me that sees a promise lurking under the surface of this group. Jake
@ www.speedbumponline.com

Ugly Beats - “Bring on the Beats!” CD 12/34:06
Debut release from this Austin five piece. Nice harmonies, jangly guitars, farfisa, and some steady rock beats make for a fun sound. Throwbacks to a more innocent time, I was boppin’ around the homestead within the first few songs. “I’m the One”, the first track on the album, sounds a lot like The Ramones. Turn up the volume and let loose. Laura
@ www.gethip.com

Unsacred Hearts – s/t CD 7/14:39
Pretty good garagey rock-n-roll. And when I say “garage” I mean the kind of stuff that gets cranked out in actual garages (that ol’ standby rehearsal space) and dingy clubs instead of on the set of fashion shoots. Of course for all I know they might have dreams of future MTV airplay and dates with supermodels, but for now they’re still worth time in your player. David
@ www.seriousbusinessrecords.com

vanermans (6k)
Van Ermans - "Under the Gun" CD 13/46:59
Another in a long line of current bands that try to tread the Weezer/Jimmy Eat World territory, and another that puts out an innocous piece of plastic; pleasant at times, a hook here and there, plenty of guitars, but in the end, just kinda lifeless. They used to be a ska band, and have been around for a long time, despite their youthful appearances, but it seems like the shift in their sound hasn't done them a lot of good. It's plenty competent, but just doesn't have any originality or spark. Steve
@ www.brokenspokerecords.com

Vanishing – “Still Lifes Are Failing” CD 12/47:28
Apparently this lot relocated to Germany, which is a shame because they seemed to be the ones on the forefront of the local “darkwave” scene (and considering the wealth of talent that’s been popping up that’s really saying something). Folks have been throwing the “goth” tag at them, though even if said tag is not an imperfect fit, they’re more a throwback to the like of early SF bands such as Tuxedomoon (especially when the sax and electronics kick in) than the likes of Bauhaus or anyone on the Cleopatra label. A tasty slab of death disco indeed. Comes with two videos if you have the proper technology. David
@ www.goldstandardlabs.com

VCR – s/t CD 7/16:34
With three keyboard players, a bassist and drummer, VCR occupy their own plot of land. Chad Middleton spits out his vocals on “Rad”, and the keyboards divide their time between Casio-tones and fuzzy tones. “Really Something” is bass-centered and angry but it doesn’t have any special zing. There’s a lot of “gritty” dance music out there right now and this ain’t the worst by far, it’s also not re-inventing the wheel anytime soon. Anthony
@ www.sideonedummy.com
vikings (7k)
Vikings - "The Best Head Ever" 2XCD
This overlooked band put out an album and a couple of singles in the early 90s, and members included Steve Baise of the Devil Dogs, Knute Schreiner and Happy Tom Seltzer from Turbonegro, and Morten Henrikson from my favorite band in the world, the Yum Yums. This remastered 2-disc set collects all their releases plus a live show on the second disc. The band took the 60's garage and punk edge of Turbonegro and the Devil Dogs and added healthy doses of pop hooks from Henrikson's influence, and produced a bunch of great songs, leading off with a real anthem for this disc, "Rock All". There are a couple of great covers that fit right in with the originals, Cheap Trick's "Surrender", and Bobby Fuller's "Let Her Dance", and there are plenty of fun moments among the originals, including the punky power popper "Cool To Rock", the soulful (and lyrically funny) "Four Eyes", and a track that would fit on any Yum Yums disc in "Tonight". Baise did the liners, which talk about the genesis of the band (including how he thought the Vikings recordings led to the end of the Devil Dogs), and definitely leaves you wondering what might have been. The live disc was recorded in 1996 in Oslo, and the recording is pretty muddy (definitely sounds like an audience taping) and despite the great energy that comes through, I'd stick with the fantastic studio tracks. Steve
@ Just Add Water

violators (10k)
Violators - "The No Future Years" CD 16/54:08
Violators combined the '82 Britpunk aeshetic with Joy Division and Crass influences. The result was one of the most unique and powerful bands in the history of British punk. Sadly, the original lineup recorded only 7 songs, all present here including "Gangland" which was named one of the 50 greatest singles of all time in a 2002 Shredding Paper article. Violators first surfaced on the No Future label's "A Country Fit For Heroes" compilation which showcased new bands. Violators anti-Thatcher "Government Stinks" was the standout track. Then came the "Gangland" single, followed up with the legendary double A-side "Summer Of '81/Live Fast Die Young." Then they broke up, and Helen and Mark formed Taboo, whose 3 tracks are included here along some tracks by the second Violators lineup. All great stuff, especially the 7 songs from what should perhaps be called "The No Future Year." Mel
@ www.captainoi.com

VMW – s/t CD 10/29:47
Former members of Das Oath and Charles Bronson get together to do what is in theory supposed to be some f*cked-up sh*t. Noisy synths, bass-driven beats, and edgy guitar-driven punk all show up from time to time, with a snotty attitude linking it all together. The only thing is that, despite some interesting moments, nothing ever really gels; they’re all over the place like a drunk trying to cross the street before the light turns red. Not that it’s bad per se, just nothing to throw out the Men’s Recovery Project discs for. David
@ www.coalition-records.com

Voices in the Wire – “Signals in Transmission” CD 12/37:02
This is some powerful post-hardcore rock punk from Pittsburgh, with members of ex-Teddy Duchamp’s Army. Haven’t seen them play, but this record kicks pretty good, with all the elements in place, so I can’t imagine them being anything but exciting live. The songs have melodies and great hooks, and lyrics that bite and don’t talk down to the listener, remaining accessible (“These old record sleeves leave angry marks on syncopation”, from “Better Days”), while using the basic elements of guitar/guitar/bass/drum/vox. They also get political at the end with the testament “Steel Town Fight Song,” which could be applied to so many areas now in the Northeast, from Buffalo to Detroit. Also, this is an enhanced CD, so if you have Quicktime on your computer, you can see the video to “Ash Black” (though I would have liked to have seen one for “Mark Each Word”, or “How It Works” as well). Yeah, based on this CD, I’d go see the band play live. Mosh-city, here I come. RBF
@ www.eyeballrecords.com

Wanted – “Let Go Afterglow” CD 11/44:39
Musically, this one-man band from Portland, Oregon is all over the map…one track sounds like Modest Mouse, another could be from a Sparklehorse album, another would fit on one of Marmoset’s lo-fi outings, etc. It’s not bad, mind you, just a little schitzo. He wears his influences on his sleeves, but a catchy song is a catchy song and I’m not going to complain about that. Jake
@ www.thewanteds.com

Warlocks – “Surgery” CD 11/59:05
Highly-touted seven-piece band that may or may not justify the critical hype. The atmospherics and the white-soul-pyschedelia has it’s day on “Angels in Heaven, Angels in Hell,” which brings together Snatches Of Pink and B.R.M.C. “Thursday’s Radiation” drones on for seven minutes, and has a big two-minute climax. It’s eerie how much “Evil Eyes Again” sound like So Cal dirt merchants True West. There is nothing on this record I would refer to as bad, as in not good, but I would tend to wonder if there are any new frontiers being explored. Being able to absorb and regurgitate Spacemen 3 and Hum is a skill, no doubt, but should it be valued as highly as those bands? If your songs don’t take off on their own they’re not fully developed. There’s genuine talent in this band, there’s nothing to suggest genuine originality. Anthony
@ www.mute.com

Windsor for the Derby – “We Fight Til Death” CD 10/49:47
I wanted to like this, and I’ve like Windsor for the Derby’s past efforts, and this even sounded good when it was coming through my earphones (probably the best way to listen to this band), but the second you turn the music off you’ve totally forgotten about what you were just listening to. All in all a very mellow affair, mixing Chicago post-rock with some slow rock like Tram or maybe even Yo La Tengo. I’m certain there are folks out there who will really dig this but if you’re not one of them you might get bored easily. Jake
@ www.secretlycanadian.com

wolfmother (8k)
Wolfmother – s/t CD 4/18:06
Groovy is the word of the hour. Groovy like if the Kinks were Blue Cheer, like if the Monkees were Monster Magnet. “Dimension” is one rung below Nebula’s “stoner tonnage.” I know everyone hates that moniker, but for Wolfmother it should be warn as badge of distinction. And besides, if you can play flawlessly, and improvise amazing solos as you go, while being completely obliterated on California sensimilla, well, that’s quite a feat. “Apple Tree” is loopy, 60s baroque rock melted into the modern rock framework. The other three songs could all be early attempts by some 90s band to expand the classic “stoned” rock purview. This record sounds like a rudimentary early installment in the life of a band that will one day put out a mind-blowing recording. I don’t want to give this a bad review, so I’ll leave it there. Stoned? Maybe. Burned out? Not hardly. Anthony
@ www.modularpeople.com

woodywhat (11k)
Woody Whatever – “The Great Pop” CD 11/36:31
How sad, and what a waste. There is so much potential that Erik Schmall presents with his pop rock group. But much of it is squandered by the use of programming that steals its thunder. On the songs where it’s used to a minimum, like “Drive An Uncle Through the Mountains” and “I Booked a Flight”, the songs are fun and strong. On most of the others, where it’s drowned in bleep and bloops, or that tinny beat, such as “When You Get Home” and “Jesus Kill These Bombs”, well for me, it’s practically unlistenable. Again, this is a shame, because I could have really enjoyed this CD. The songs themselves are good, and the production is fine (though the vocals need to be more up front). RBF
@ www.ionikrecords.com

xyzrk (5k)
XYZR_KX – “Falls Off the Curb, Chump Style” CD 8/33:33
This album is a tale of two musical entities: one that fancies itself an electronic pop artist with songs that approach the level of accessibility that has made the Postal Service so popular; and a softer side, one fascinated with Trembling Blue Stars/Field Mice-style whistful folk pop. Neither identity is anything amazing, but it’s probably worth checking out if the descriptors match up with your tastes; I’ve certainly heard much, much worse. Oh yeah, and the name apparently translates to “scissor kicks”, but I’m not exactly sure how. Jake
@ www.actuallyrecords.com

Yellow Second – “Altitude” CD 13/49:44
This is that modern feel-good emo like you expect to be played in the back ground of the latest Real World season…like Jimmy Eat World but less catchy. I’ve certainly heard worse in this genre though, so if you dig this stuff you could make worse picks out there. Jake
@ www.yellowsecond.com

Yellow Swans – “Bring the Neon War Home” CD 5/39:44
After a buncha self-released CD-Rs and whatnot, this Oakland-by-way-of-Portland duo (specializing in sounds considered to be most improper) has seen fit to grace us with their debut “proper” CD. Relatively crisp production (not quite a common commodity among recordings such as these) brings out the best in the swirling (like a hurricane) sonic maelstrom on display here. These pieces end up bubbling in your brain, resulting in one of the better “other musick” releases in the past few months. David
@ www.narnackrecords.com

Zatopeks - "Ain't Nobody Left But Us" CD 14/39:12
It's on the Stardumb label, so you pretty much know what you're going to get before you slip it into the CD player. Lots of high energy Ramones style pop punk, and these guys add few twists to the genre. Any one of these songs would fit well on a Queers record, and the band has some tight harmonies, which add a lot to their sound. There are a couple of variations on the theme, such as a slow break in a couple of songs, one ballad in "Jenny Kissed Me", and the occasional "oi!" chant. And just like any good pop punk band, there are plenty of 60's Spector/Beach Boys references. Although there are still a bunch of bands that try to do the pop punk thing, there aren't many that do it well, and based on this full length, these guys can be counted on to keep the genre alive and well. Steve
@ www.stardumbrecords.com

V/A - "A House Full of Friends" 2XCD
A great compilation of the recent past and current indie pop scene, all of the bands played at the house in Portland that housed the Magic Marker folks and label. The house shows were done on a sporadic basis, mostly out of need because at the time the shows started in 1997, most all ages places were shutting down in Portland. Advertised with word of mouth and flyers, the house shows (and bands appearing on these two discs) include the Lucksmiths, Mates of State, Decemberists, Softies, Shins, Dressy Bessy, Aislers Set, and Tullycraft, among others. This is a mix of unreleased material and recordings culled from other labels and Magic Marker, and includes a 24 pages booklet with photos from the house shows. The booklet also gives you a little primer on putting on your own house show. Great concept for a compilation, and some great material on here from some great bands. Steve
@ www.magicmarkerrecords.com

V/A – “California Republic” CD 16/36:09
4 way Split CD that features the Northern California bands Monster Squad (Vacaville), The Abuse (Vacaville), Whiskey Rebels (Sacramento), and Cropknox (San Francisco). Monster Squad plays fast punk rock with lots of guitars and a pounding drumbeat. In your face vocals, with lyrics to match. Guaranteed to make you want to start that moshpit. Whiskey Rebels play faster and slightly more aggressive in your face punk. The song “Lie Cheat Repeat” got me going for sure. I really like Nikki, the female vocalist in The Abuse. They played at Burnt Ramen and The Slaughterhouse a lot. Like the other bands on this CD, this is good fast street punk. They really make me want to dance crazy, and I found myself throwing my body up in the air a lot while listening to their four songs. Cropknox has a vocalist with a snotty, fuck you style. Lots of attitude in the lyrics, and heavy on guitar and drums. Fast and loud. Laura
@ www.rodentpopsicle.com

V/A – “Is It Rolling Bob? Dub Versions: Visions of Jamaica” CD 14/67:52
This is the companion piece to “Is It Rolling Bob?: A Reggae Tribute to Bob Dylan.” Instead of the full lyric’d songs, this is the longer, mostly instrumental dub versions, with lots of echo and electronic support. Produced by Doctor Dread, Dylan’s songs are stripped to their shells and bounced around like sounds in a steel drum. Some songs lend themselves to dubbing (such as Luciano’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door Dub”), and some are not (like Sizzla’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues Dub”). Amusingly enough, I’m in the middle of a book about Dylan’s performances through his career, so I have the songs on my conscious, and this is quite jarring. Not because the tunes are reinterpreted, per se, but all the electronica surrounding it, which is so much more distracting. Interestingly, this includes the last cut, “I and I Dub”, done by Bob Dylan himself. RBF
@ www.sanctuaryrecordsgroup.com

V/A – “Mohawks & Whiskey Shots” CD 27/70:07
This is an interesting compilation that has different types of styles contained within, mostly of the ska and punk genres. Coupla bands from Norway that play ska and goth metal, Queers soundalikes, an acoustic El Duce, and some arty rock types that reminded me of Swell Maps. One band sounds just like The Pogues. I had never heard of any of these bands, and it was a pleasant surprise that most of the songs were good. Nothing original, but not bad. Liner notes have brief bios about each band that I found useful. Laura
@ www.hussieskunk.com

V/A - “Pain in the Big Neck” CD 20/47:30
This particular disc features twenty groupings of the grandchildren of the Stooges, Dolls, Dead Boys, et al, with such folks as the Lost Sounds, Functional Blackouts, & the Baseball Furies helping to establish an emo-free zone. Not what I could call a consistently good rekkid (not every band bothered to show off their best wares) but it ends on a high note with the Catholic Boys’ rip-roaring rendition of “I Got a Right”. David
@ www.bigneckrecords.com

vapowerfor (4079bytes)
V/A - “Power For Passion” CD 15/42:33
If you can’t get enough of those gray market Powerpearls and Hyped To Death comps, here’s one that’s right up your alley. This legit release on Dionysus features 15 US and UK powerpop collectables (some from rare demo tapes) from the late 70s and early 80s. The Generation X influenced Headaches from Chicago are represented by the comp’s title track, and by 1981’s “Teenage Sex”, arguably the best American powerpop single ever. Ever heard of a Massachusetts band called Butch Minds The Baby? Neither did I, but their “Natural Cause” is a lost gem. The Reducers from Connecticut, and Foreign Objects from Massachusetts each contribute a pair of tracks. Contact info for 11 of the bands is provided. A great compilation. Mel
@ www.dionysusrecords.com

vapunkorama9 (8k)
V/A – “Punk –O-Rama Volume 9” CD 24/78:41
Volume nine already, holy cow! Dirt cheap compilations to promote dozens of band’s records at once suggests the indie/punk equivalent of K-Tel and K-Mart. Still, it’s a great marketing concept, huh? This one opens with a crappy Bad Religion song and we are treated to the good (Refused), bad (Hot Water Music) and the ugly (The Matches) from the catalog. There are tracks from Atmosphere and Eyedea & Abilities, but nothing really stands out. Of course, there’s a free DVD included as a bonus with eleven videos of other songs. The real treat is the video for Randy – “X Ray Eyes.” Find this in a used bin for $2 somewhere. Anthony
@ www.epitaph.com

V/A – “Punk Rock Explosion” CD 29/73:04
An amazing amount of great punk rock is here on this jam-packed CD collection. Also, it runs the full gamut of the sound, so there’s something for most listeners. There’s the Pansy Division, Wayne “MC5” Kramer (though with a metal twinge), and Youth Brigade, as well as great other bands, like Apartment 3G, Lag Wagon, Yuppicide, Slapshot, RKL, Refused, 108, and Ignite (one of the best cuts with “Turn”). My fave is the final “Special Message” by Propaghandi. But to me, what makes this collection is the Spanish bands, like Cerebros Exprimidos, Shock Treatment, and Senor No. One thing I found surprising is just how much melody many of the bands rely on in this CD. Scary, sometimes; I mean, I like melodic punk, but this is a high degree. Anyway, I digress, because there is enough kick in this to get your jams out (a small tribute to Wayne). RBF
@ Comforte, Marques de Santa Ana 17, 28004, Madrid, Spain

V/A – “Shakin’ In My Boots: A Texas Rock N’ Roll Compilation” CD 15/45:48
A collection of various Texas outfits cranking out sounds intended to shake garages and fill dancefloors. Unfortunately, there’s not much here that would make any part of my body shake; most of the songs range from mediocre to solid-but-not-exciting. Still, I have to at least give this record props for exposing the Dragstrip Bros. and their very cool instrumental “The Assassin” to my ears. David
@ www.licoricetree.com

V/A – “Smash the States” CD 35/72:37
Regional compilation focusing on bands based in the South, mostly from the Carolinas, giving exposure to folks you’ve mostly likely haven’t heard of (the closest you get to “names” here are My So-Called Band, New Mexican Disaster Squad, and Sick Sick Sick). As per course for regional compilations you get the good, the bad, and the mediocre (some bands probably could have waiting a while before committing themselves to posterity). It does offer a reasonable variety of styles, from fairly melodic to near-screamo. Averages out to “okay”, which is more than I can say for most of compilations of this nature, even if it doesn’t come near “Dirtnap Across the Northwest”, much less “Turn It Around”. David
@ www.suicidewatchrecords.com

V/A - "The Punk Pop Circus Is Back In Town" CD 11/26:58
Sometimes a comp like this that just features three unknown bands is a real ear opening experience. This is one of those, as the three European bands all bring something to the table that's unique. The Hunchbacks are from England and have a fun, upbeat fuzzy guitar sound that occasionally makes you think about the Phil Spector wall of sound, early 60's hooks with female vocals that are all done with seriously fuzzed guitars and pop punk pacing. They're the best of the three bands here by a mile; the Battledykes from Germany work a little of the same territory only without some of the pop chops (think more along the lines of the Bobbyteens crossed with a little riot-grrl anger here and there) and the Waukees, from Italy, veer into more straight up punk. It's the kind of disc that definitely exposes you to something new, and in at least one case, leaves you wanting more. Steve
@ www.all-nite-records.com

vaelvis (9k)
V/A - The Roots of Elvis" CD 27/76:45
Lots of familiar material here, but it's a great comp with nice liner notes that trace the roots and influences of The King. Lots of blues, country, doo wop and hillbilly music on this, from the likes of Red Foley, Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters, Lowell Fulson, Bob Wills and even Ray Charles. Plus there are a ton of other lesser known acts that produce some of the best songs on this. There's a great version of "Hound Dog" by Freddie Bell and the Bell Boys, which is a great R&B stomper here, and there are other Lieber and Stoller penned tunes, including two versions of "Love Me", one by Willy and Ruth, and another by Jimmie Rodgers Snow. The great Rufus Thomas does a wicked blues number called "Tiger Man", and Joe Turner's version of "Shake Rattle and Roll" makes an appearance as well. The liners are great; giving you some history of the songs and they tie each one to Elvis in some way; either through mention of his own version of a song, or his love for a particular artist. Like I said, a lot of the songs are familiar on this, but it's always nice to have a comp put a series of songs in context; and this CD does just that. Steve
@ www.revola.co.uk

V/A – “Until the Shaking Stops – A Salute to Jawbox” CD 14/48:59
For one of the greatest post-rock bands of all time, I would expect a much better tribute CD for Jawbox than this. If nothing else, it would be nice to hear a few well-known bands reinterpret their songs as opposed to this collection of unknowns. Not saying that the bands here are bad, but it’s just not as much fun hearing a band you’ve never heard of performing a cover of a song you like as it is hearing it done by an artist you already know a lot about. It would especially be great to hear some of the DC heavyweights interpret one of their contemporaries. That said, there’s nothing particularly bad on here or anything; most of the bands are of the heavier pop/punk variety, and given that style of play it would be hard to screw up a Jawbox song too badly. There are decent renditions by Great Lake Wrecks, Colossal (sound just like Braid), and Ourselves. Jake
@ http://twoshedsmusic.com

vavancouver (2714bytes)
V/A - "Vancouver Complication" CD 26/56:46
This 1979 regional punk comp showcased a diverse Vancouver punk scene that included DOA, Subhumans, Pointed Sticks and Young Canadians among others. The original LP with it's "understated" black and white cover was a project of local scenesters with a $1,750 dollar budget, largely raised through a benefit concert. The effort must have pre-dated the existence of the Quintessence label who later put our records for most of the bands here that stuck around long enough. As the original cover might indicate, this is a low budget affair with all the bands piling into an 8 track studio and documenting a great scene that the punk world might not have taken note of if not for this seminal compilation. Some highlights are Young Canadians' (K-Tels) "I Hate Music", "Mindless Aggression" from No Fun and "Pork U" by Biz. Mel
@ www.suddendeath.com

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